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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finances: Review

I've spent the last couple of weeks testing out, the new personal finance website that is similar to Quicken (or, Quicken Online).  It's free service that allows you to enter your information about your financial accounts, and keep track of your finances and spending habits in one place.

  • It's a FREE service, which is nice.
  • Most financial services companies seem to be represented.  In fact, I was able to get into all of my accounts.
  • Setting up your account is a no-brainer.  It's very easy to get in and use, even if you don't know a lot about this type of thing.  I was set up and looking at my spending in minutes.
  • Budgeting seems to be very easy.  You do have to go in and categorize your expenses, but once you've done that, just set up your budget and Mint will send you an email or text message when your budget is exceeded.
  • Lots of alert customization.  A good one is that Mint will tell you when a deposit becomes available for withdraw.
  • It's very nice being able to see everything in one place and get a true idea of your spending habits. 
  • Mint will also let you browse other credit offers to see if one is better for you.  Presumably, this is how they make their money.

  • The biggie, and the single biggest thing that is keeping people away - you have to enter in all of your sensitive login information for your financial accounts.  Passwords, security questions, PINs.  This is scary to have in one place.  While Mint assures us that their data is secure, you're now adding one more insecurity to the mix.  If only financial institutions would do a push of data down to Mint instead (with your permission), so that you didn't have to give up passwords.  Maybe someday.
  • You can't actually DO anything with your accounts through Mint.  While it would be nice to be able to pay your credit card from a bank account in Mint, that's not possible, so you end up logging into your accounts to pay online anyway.

Overall, I really like the service and I think it's a great idea for those that want to set up a budget and watch their expenses.  However, the security issue is a big one, so if you think you're not going to get much use out of it, I wouldn't sign up, or I would only use some accounts (maybe just credit cards, not bank accouts).  Since I'm horrible at sticking to a specific budget, I'm probably not going to stick with it.  I do OK at managing my spending when I need to even without a specific budget.  I'll write up how I budget without a budget another time.

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