Personal Finance

Manage your Money with Logo

Following up on my WaMu review I wanted to take a minute and review a new money management tool called Mint is an account aggregation service. The concept of financial account aggregation is not a new concept as Yodlee has been offering this service to banks for a number of years. As a basic concept is not all that different. They even use the Yodlee service to run the back end of their application.

What makes interesting is the customer experience they deliver. I do user experience for a living and can tell Mint has invested heavily in this area. I signed up for an account and was up and running in less than 5 minutes. From sign up to seeing 7 accounts aggregated in one screen took 5 minutes! Now granted, I am an advanced user who already had all my online accounts setup, but still 5 minutes is impressive. I do need to run this through the “Mom” test and see how long it would take my mom to go through and sign up.

Mint’s business model is an interesting one: they sell space to financial institutions that make offers to help you save money. They know the interest rate on your accounts and will make offers from competing banks that offer you a lower interest rate. Since I carry no consumer debt and already have a high yield savings account this feature has no value to me but for some it might be useful. I just hope they can make this model profitable.

Right now Mint only has bank accounts and credit cards included in the aggregation service but they claim to be adding mortgages and others soons. Brokerages and mortgaes would be a great addition!

Categorization is a key concept in all money management software. You want to be able to quickly see at the end of the month where all your money went. They have a super simple interface for categorizing transactions and even putting rules in place so that the same transaction next time is automatically categorized. However, they have one fundamental flaw that really reduces the usefulness of mint: you can’t create custom categories! Hopefully they will add this soon, because after playing with my accounts for 10 minutes I quickly ran into problems with the pre set categories.

Mint also has a simple budgeting system where you can set your budget each month and then track your spending against it. I do my simple budgeting in Excel but I will have to see how usefull this aspect of the service is.

Overall I am impressed so far. I think with a few changes this will really become a great little web app for managing your money.