Note: This is not a sponsored post, though I'd love it if mint.com did pay me. I just really love the site and think that it's been instrumental in helping me control my financial situation.
In my learning links pages, I've listed www.mint.com as one of the top websites I use. In fact of all the websites I visit, Facebook and google are probably the only two websites I visit on a more regular basis. Mint is a website that compiles all of your financial accounts into one location. The idea behind the website is that by seeing what you have available and what you owe, you will be able to make better financial decisions and possibly even save money by being aware of where your money goes on a regular basis.
Little warning: in order to use mint, you have to be willing to give the website the login credentials to all of your bank accounts. This is a little disconcerting for many people and it is a cause for pause. They say they establish a read-only connection with the bank and don't have the ability to do anything with your accounts beyond reading out the data. They also say that they use the same encryption as banks to login, so the chances of someone intercepting the data are minimal. I thought about it for a while and decided that it was worth it for me. At the time, 2009, I only had a few bills and even then I could see myself losing track of my bank accounts. I've never thought twice about it since then.
It's free to use the site, so of course it's important to understand where they make their money, since it's not by selling your login information. Mint makes their money by making deals with financial institutions and featuring their products on certain parts of the website. I find this information useful and although I'm not applying for credit lines and mortgages, knowing what's out there and having a central location to look at rates and offers is nice. They compare all of the products and show you how much money you might save if you switch to the lower rate card that they are offering or perhaps you won't save anything by switching when rewards are included. All of this is based on your spending habits and personal profile.
Mint has a lot of features that are extremely useful to me, and I have no idea how I would keep track of everything without them.
Transactions: This is the main area of the website, and probably the most important. Here all of your transactions that show up on your statements are compiled into one list. This even includes pending charges, which are critical to be aware of in order to prevent overdraft fees. This also keeps you from having to log into all of your accounts on a regular basis to keep track of everything. I check this list at least once a day, and on more than one occasion I've been able to find a strange transaction that I didn't recognize. Since my spending was still fresh in my mind I was able to figure out what it was within minutes instead of trying to remember what it was weeks later when I received my statement. While everyone should be concerned about identity theft, I sleep a little better at night knowing what's been charged to my accounts everyday. Additionally, you can add cash transactions manually to include those in budgets and other features.
Balances: Another big part of personal finance is knowing where you stand. At any given point I know exactly how much money I have in each account and how much is due on each credit card and loan.
Budgets: Here's where Mint really shines. Mint allows you to set budgets for hundreds of predefined and custom categories. Each transaction is automatically categorized and associated with any budgets you've established. For this reason I almost exclusively use credit cards for purchases. I pay them off at the end of the month, but between reward points and accurately tracking my spending, this system works for me. Everyday I know exactly how much I can spend on lunch, groceries, housing supplies, electronics, bars and clubs, and numerous other items. Sometimes I go over, but when I do I know it. Mint sends an email letting me know.
Bill Reminders: This is somewhat of a new feature and it is amazing. After scanning through your transactions over a few months, Mint creates a list of what it thinks are monthly bills, including the average cost. It then populates a calendar and sends out email reminders a week in advance of each bill. Currently, I have 15 reminders (Yea I have that many bills, and only 3 of them are actually credit cards...) and I know exactly when each of them are due and how much each one is. Once I saw that many were due at the same time, I moved some of the due dates around to spread them out evenly over the month.
Goals: Mint give you the ability to attach different accounts to custom goals. Want to save up for a car? Open a separate savings account at your bank and assign that account to a goal at Mint. Now a progress bar will keep you up to date on how you are progressing toward your goal and at your current rate when you will reach it. Handy.
Mint.com isn't perfect; there are a few glitches here and there, and a few features that could definitely be refined (I'm looking at you Investment Section). But for a free product that is as good as it is, I'm very satisfied. And they are constantly improving the experience and adding new helpful features, so I'm really happy about that.
There are tons of features, including many many different types of graphs for all you analytical people out there (shhh don't tell anyone, but I study my graphs all the time) and other cool little tidbits that I won't get into here. I suggest is checking the website out and seeing if it might be something you're interested in. I don't think you even need to include any of your accounts to get started and look around.
Oh and they have mobile apps available. The iPad one is beautiful.
Any of you use mint.com or have thought about it? Let me know what you think in the comments.