If you’re thinking about downloading a budgeting app or signing up for a budgeting tool online, Mint may be a great option to consider.
In this article, I’ll take a close look at five things to know about Mint so you know what to expect before you create an account. I set up a budget on Mint.com, checked out what resources it offers for free and looked at other popular budgeting tools to see how Mint compares.
5 Things To Know About Mint
Budgeting is a crucial step toward achieving your financial goals. It’s important to keep track of where your money is going so that you know which categories need the most attention. While you can set up a budget on your own, there are plenty of free tools available that can set one up for you. Mint is a great place to start.
If you’re curious about where your money has been going, looking for motivation to start saving, need alerts to remind you of upcoming bills or simply want to see all of your investments and net worth in one place, Mint may be the perfect resource for you. Plus, it’s completely free!
If you’re thinking about signing up for Mint online or downloading the app, here are five things to know:
- What Is Mint?
- How Does Mint Work?
- How Does Mint Compare?
- Tips to Get the Most Out of Mint
- Final Thoughts: Pros and Cons
Below, you’ll find more detailed information on Mint including how to start budgeting for free and what to expect once you’ve created an account.
1. What Is Mint?
Mint is a free, ad-supported money management tool that’s helped millions of Americans stay on budget for more than a decade.
The personal finance app is owned by Intuit, the company behind TurboTax, QuickBooks and Credit Karma. It stands out from competitors like YNAB (You Need a Budget) and Empower for its easy-to-use budgeting and bill-tracking features.
What’s so great about Mint is that it brings together all of your accounts in one place to give you a snapshot of your financial life.
If you’ve been following money expert Clark Howard for a while, maybe you’ve heard him talk about how Mint’s website and mobile app can help you create and stick to a budget.
In Clark’s opinion, Mint is the best of the budgeting apps:
“Mint has stood the test of time and will help you categorize your spending in so many different ways, and so much of it is done automatically to help you get control of what you’re up to.”
2. How Does Mint Work?
According to the website, Mint works by bringing together a full overview of your finances: from spending, balances and budgets to your credit score and investments. It’s free to use and makes money from “partner offers” (advertisements).
Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to link accounts to categorize transactions, set goals, check your credit score, begin a budget, track your investments and more.
In this section, I’ll take a closer look at how to begin using each of these five features that you’ll find on Mint:
Bill Payment Tracker
You can use the bill tracker on Mint.com or on the app to see upcoming bills and available balances in one place. After you link your accounts, you’ll see all of your upcoming bills, payments you’ve already made and the monthly total due for bills. You’ll also see the amount of cash and the credit you have available.
When you’re logged into Mint, you can click on the “Bills” tab and click “Add Another Bill” to get started.
From there, you’ll be able to search for a financial institution or choose from “popular” options in your area if you haven’t already linked your accounts. If you’re adding an offline bill or a property payment, you can do that too.
Once you’ve selected your bank, you’ll be redirected to sign in on its website and connect the accounts. If you’re adding an offline creditor, you can enter a name for the creditor, the type of bill it is (rent, bills, educational, etc.), the amount due, its due date and how often it needs to be paid.
Once you’ve linked your bank accounts to your Mint profile, the website/app will automatically analyze your spending and suggest budget goals personalized for you. Of course, you can create and adjust the budget goals at any time.
Spending is categorized into things like bills, education, entertainment, food and drink, kids, personal care, pets and shopping. You can also use these categories to create custom goals and build a budget on your own.
To get started, click on the “Budgets” tab and then click “Create a budget.” There, you can enter the category you’d like to budget for and some additional details including the amount. Mint will then calculate how much you need to set aside each month so that you can stay within your budget. Finally, click “Save” to add that item to your budget.
This is also a great tab to use to track your past spending habits so that you can set realistic goals for the future. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure all of your transactions are categorized correctly.
Free Credit Score
Mint offers a free credit score based on your TransUnion VantageScore report.
You can click “Get your free credit score” when you first log in or visit the “Credit Score” tab from the homepage. You’ll have to complete a two-step form to verify your identity. Once it’s been verified, you’ll be able to see your free credit score along with the factors that affect it.
Mint highlights key factors that affect your credit score including on-time payments, credit usage, age of credit, total accounts, credit inquiries and derogatory marks. You’ll also see suggestions on how to improve your credit score.
Having all of your accounts linked on Mint makes it a great resource for getting alerts. If you’re using the app, make sure you’ve allowed notifications to come through on your phone. If you’re just using Mint.com, you can still sign up for email and desktop notifications.
To customize your alerts, click on “Settings” and then “Notifications.”
On the Notifications page, you can sign up for weekly or monthly summary emails that include an overview of your balances, budgets and stocks as well as bill reminder alerts, credit score updates and spending alerts.
Additionally, you’ll get alerts when balances are low, when fees are charged, when you’re exceeding your budget and more.
Another feature that Mint offers is the ability to track your investments and portfolio. You can link your brokerage accounts to see all of your investments in one place alongside your other assets.
Mint can also help you catch hidden fees from investment advisors, brokerages and 401(k) providers.
To begin, visit the “Investments” tab after logging in to Mint. There, you can click “Add Account” to begin linking your investment accounts to your Mint profile. Then, you’ll be able to see all of your investments in one place including 401(k) contributions, mutual funds, brokerage accounts and IRAs.
While you won’t be able to manage your investments through Mint, you will be able to monitor them in order to compare your portfolio to market benchmarks.
3. How Does Mint Compare?
Money expert Clark Howard is a fan of Mint and says it’s great for automatically tracking your expenses. Still, it’s far from the only personal budgeting tool available. If you’ve been searching for the best budgeting tools, you’ve probably also come across apps like Empower, YNAB, PocketGuard, Quicken and Honeydue.
Here’s a quick highlight of what to know about the features available with each of these budgeting tools:
|Best for||Tracking expenses||Investments||Budgeting||Avoiding overspending||Budgeting with a partner||Premium features|
|Free to use||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Monthly budget planner||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bill payment alerts||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Free credit score||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes|
As you can see, all six budgeting apps offer a variety of different features that help you track your spending and net worth to build a practical budget. But they each specialize in different areas of your finances.
Mint is a great resource for seeing what you’ve spent, categorizing your transactions and watching your overall financial health. The free credit score feature is unique to Mint, and it’s really user-friendly.
However, if you’re mostly focused on watching your investments or planning for retirement, Empower may be a better budgeting tool for you. Of course, you may want to use a few features from each and sign up for both. Fortunately, both Mint and Empower are free.
For paid premium features focused on personal budgeting and investments, Quicken Deluxe is worth checking out.
If you’re more interested in strict monthly budgeting and don’t mind paying for a subscription, YNAB (You Need a Budget) may be worth it. The app offers a free trial, so you can decide whether or not it works for you before paying.
PocketGuard automatically sets up a budget for you and categorizes your transactions in real time. If you’re budgeting on your own and need these automated features to avoid overspending, PocketGuard may be a great choice for you. To manage your finances with a partner, I recommend downloading Honeydue.
Overall, compared to other popular budgeting apps, Mint is a great option that’s worth trying out first. It offers a great variety of tools to track your financial health, set practical goals and motivate yourself to achieve them. Plus, it’s free!
You can check out a more detailed comparison of these budgeting apps on our website.
4. Tips To Get the Most Out of Mint
Whether you’re just signing up for Mint, decided to try it out after filing your taxes with TurboTax or you’ve had an account for a while but aren’t sure how to get the most out of it, here are five tips to keep in mind:
- Link As Many Accounts As Possible. This is the best way for Mint to get the most accurate picture of your finances. You will have to provide your usernames and passwords for this, but they will be stored securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption according to the website.
- Add Other Accounts Manually. If you have an account with a financial institution or creditor that isn’t listed on Mint, you can add it manually. To do this, click “Settings,” “Property,” and “Add a property.” From there, you can select the type of property you’d like to add, including real estate, vehicle, cash or debt or other. Then you can fill out the additional information. Note that these accounts won’t be updated automatically, so remember to update them yourself when there are changes.
- Fix Transactions That Are Not Categorized Correctly. When Mint pulls your spending data and automatically categorizes your transactions, it may make a mistake. You can edit it by clicking the “Transactions” tab, selecting the transaction, clicking “Edit details” and changing the category.
- Track Cash Spending From the App. If you budget with cash, you can track your transactions manually in the Mint app. When you log in, simply click “Add a transaction” and enter the details. This way your budget and expense tracking stays accurate and up to date.
- Customize Your Alerts. Whether you’re using the Mint app on your phone or visiting Mint.com to track your budget, be sure to set up notifications and alerts. This is a great way to get the most out of linking all your accounts in one place.
5. Final Thoughts: Pros and Cons
Budgeting is essential if you’re serious about reaching your financial goals, and Mint provides everything you need to get started. After checking out Mint myself, here are the biggest benefits and drawbacks that I’ve found with this free budgeting tool.
|Features: Mint offers a huge variety of features that hold up pretty well compared to similar budgeting tools. |
Spending: You can link financial institutions to automatically track your spending and create a sample budget.
Price: The website and app are completely free to use.
Comprehensiveness: In addition to budgeting tools, Mint provides a full financial overview including investments, a free credit score and more.
Alerts: You can set up alerts to help you catch unexpected fees, stay within your budget, and pay your bills on time.
|Personal Info: You will have to enter usernames and passwords from your accounts to link them to Mint, but this data is securely stored and protected. |
Investments: You won’t be able to actively manage your investments with Mint. The most you can do is link your investment accounts so that they’re all displayed on the same page.
Ads: Since Mint doesn’t charge a fee, you can expect to see some ads and promotions across the website and app.
Compared to other budgeting tools like Personal Captial, YNAB, PocketGuard, Quicken and Honeydue, Mint is a great balance of all the features you’d hope to find. And it’s free!
“If you have trouble knowing where your money goes, and more importantly, how to get your spending under control, add Mint to your smartphone and take back control of your wallet,” Clark says.
Do you use Mint or another personal finance tool to stay on budget? Tell us about it in the Clark.com community!