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Learn how Mint, one of the most popular budgeting apps, can help you control your finances.
Mint is owned by Intuit, the same company that owns TurboTax and Quickbooks. Intuit purchased the startup in 2009 when it was only 2 years old. Already, it was one of the most popular personal finance mobile apps in the United States. The mobile application connects to your bank accounts and credit cards, logging and categorizing each of your purchases.
The app gives you an updated credit score every month, alerts you about bills and lets you know when they’re due, and tells you when large transactions are processed. You can set also set your own budgets and monitor all of your spending, all in one place. Like any budgeting tool, though, it has its pros and cons. Here, Debt.com reviews the Mint budget app and how it really handles your financial needs.
Mint began as a startup in September 2007 and won that year’s TechCrunch40 Top Company Award. The founder, Aaron Patzer, took a creative approach to his idea for a financial planning app. He consulted friends, strangers, and anyone else who would listen about his ideas. He found out what would make people want to use it. Phrases like “bank-level security” really drew people in.
Patzer then evaluated the current market for personal finance apps. He found that most of his big competitors had issues with complicated sign-up processes and transactions that were labeled as “uncategorized.” He set out to make something better that could solve these issues for consumers that wanted to accurately and easily track their expenses.
After putting a huge amount of effort into marketing, Mint was successful and had more than one million users in only two years. Their success attracted Intuit as a buyer, and the rest is history.
Mint securely connects to your financial institution and records how you spend to make saving money easier. On their website, they explain the main tenets of their app:
The app sends notifications about bill pay, low funds, and more. It will even tell you when you’ve spent an unusually large amount, so you can check for identity theft.
You can create your own budgeting categories and all of your transactions will be funneled into that specific section. Mint tracks how much you spend under a certain category and lets you know when you are near to (or go over) the budget you set.
Through TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus, Mint reports your updated credit score every month. It also reviews the six major factors that go into that credit score and tells you how you measure up to each benchmark.
Besides getting alerts for bills and low funds, Mint will also send you alerts about ATM fees and how you are doing with your budgets. You also get an alert when your updated credit score is available.
Mint comes with some automatic categories set up, like food and rent, but there are also plenty of other categories to choose from, so you can personalize how your transactions are recorded. Mint also learns the custom categories that you create and categorizes future transactions accordingly.
Monitor your investment accounts with Mint and you can see all of your assets in one place. Mint also has investment advice available and helps you identify unnecessary fees.
According to the Mint website, the app is a safe place for your financial data. It uses multi-factor authentication and Norton’s VeriSign.
Mint was designed to have a smooth sign-up process. Here are the steps you need to take to get started:
Especially after Intuit acquired Mint, the design and function of the app became pretty great. Fingerprint login is convenient, and the dashboard is the first thing you see. It lists your recent transactions, your accounts, upcoming bills, credit score, spending, and cash flow for the month.
Your first step after registration is to set a monthly budget, which is great for people who don’t usually track their income and spending very closely. Creating the budget in Mint is straightforward, especially if you already have a good idea of what you make and what you spend.
Creating spending categories is easy and the credit score function makes it simple to check up on your financial health. Often, the automatically generated categories are pretty accurate, so you won’t have to make too many edits. The notifications are timely and usually relevant. The bill due date reminders are arguably the most useful.
On the surface, the user experience design is thoughtful and the navigation is intuitive. The graphs that convey your finances are easy to follow, so a quick glance at the app will usually give you all the information you need.
Mint also displays special offers in between all your info. For example, it could recommend a credit card with terms that complement your financial situation. The app is also available online, so you can access everything you need from a desktop computer as well.
The security on the app is tight. It uses encryption and multiple levels of verification to protect your financial data. If your account does get hacked, Mint becomes a read-only app, and no transactions can be made through it.
The biggest pro? Mint is completely free. Unlike other personal finance programs that require a fee, Mint won’t charge you a dime.
There are a few hang-ups we have with Mint. The first involves security. Last year, we reported on tax filing software that was vulnerable to fraud. TurboTax was one of the programs listed that did not use any identity theft protection. Since Intuit owns both Mint and TurboTax, we are wary despite their claims of high security.
Additionally, one of our employees who tried the app noticed that her cash flows section was rarely accurate. Because of the way her Direct Deposit paychecks were scheduled, Mint always told her that she was spending way more than what she was making. The lack of accuracy sometimes put her on edge about her bank account balances.
Accuracy can also be a problem if you’re self-employed. The monthly budget feature works best for those with a steady and predictable income and can be more difficult for freelancers or business owners. And if you need help, many reviewers said you can’t count on Mint’s customer service, which received 1 out of 5 stars on GetHuman.com.
The automation can also cause issues for people who aren’t used to budgeting. Instead of truly learning to budget, automatic categorization can take away some of that responsibility and make it more difficult to learn.
Then there’s the investment feature. For full disclosure, we have to admit that we didn’t try Mint’s investing features. Investor Junkie gave Mint a score of 8.5/10. They said that its investing section is “simplistic at best,” so this app might not be the best choice if you are looking for something investment-focused.
If you prefer online budgeting to physical budgeting systems like the cash envelope system, this app could work for you. It’s easy to set up with your financial accounts and customize your spending categories. The Mint app enables you to create a budget that works for you and sends reminders, so you can stick to it. You can monitor your credit score and find out which factors are making it go up or down. Although there are some issues with accuracy and those with sporadic paychecks may find it difficult to plan with, it’s a fantastic tool overall and stands out among other budget apps.
As with any budgeting app, how well it works comes down to how well you use it and if you are consistent. The alerts mean nothing if you swipe them away and ignore them every time, but if you pay attention, Mint could be the money manager that helps you organize your financial life and curb your spending.
Article last modified on May 30, 2019. Published by Debt.com, LLC