We’ve been using Quicken 2005 for several years, but recently it alerted us that it will no longer download our banking transactions after May 1. That means we either have to upgrade to Quicken 2008 or switch to one of the free personal finance software packages. I decided to check out Mint, Yodlee, and Wesabe to see how they compare against Quicken. Today I’ll cover Mint.
How Mint Works
Knowing that Mint is free, I expected some limitations, but I was surprised by how simple and robust it actually is. It took me less than five minutes to sign up and import both a credit card and a bank account.
It automatically pulled in data for the last 60-90 days (whatever was available from the financial institution). I could view an overall spending pie chart.
I could also view specific transactions. It labels transactions when it downloads them, but I could re-label them if it had chosen the wrong title. (For example, it labeled one of our credit card payments as a mortgage payment.)
The Positives of Mint
The simplicity of set-up was the part I liked the most. Quicken 2005 can be a bit wonky about pulling in data, but Mint made it seamless.
I really liked the alerts and budget tools on the Overview page. It informed me that my paycheck had cleared and that I’d overspent on food for the month (based on past spending.)
Mint’s strongest point is its recommendations for ways to save. For example, it recommended that we switch from Time Warner to Comcast cable to save $212 a year. The only problem is that Comcast was purchased by TW in our area, so we don’t have the option of switching (and actually, the buy-out lowered our bill significantly.) It also recommended a Citi card rather than our current card, which I will consider.
Finally, I liked knowing whether we were keeping up with US averages for credit card interest rates and other spending areas.
The Negatives of Mint
Mint was not without its negatives. Since it’s free, it wasn’t launched with all the features you might want. Some of the missing features seemed like pretty obvious necessaries to me, though.
- There’s no way to manually enter future transactions and track cash spending. Right now, you can only track account information that it can download.
- It can’t currently track loans.
- Finally, you can’t import your Quicken data. The fact that we already have several years of data in Quicken might be enough to prevent us from switching unless we can find software that will import the data.
I think Mint is great for people who really need to know where their money is going and spend only by credit, check, or debit card. It’s not good for people with investments, loans, or a long history of transactions. I expect the software will be more robust with time, and I might consider switching then. Because it’s free personal finance software, it would also be excellent for recent grads just starting out on their financial roads.
Until it allows us to manually enter transactions, including future transactions, and later associate them with downloaded transactions, we won’t be switching. That’s one feature of Quicken that’s a must have for us.