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I wrote a post a while ago about a new (in Canada) service called Mint.com, which took all your financial information from different sources and combined it into one easy to view site. It’s been extremely helpful for me to be able to view all my different accounts, and track my spending across different areas. Mint.com automatically begins to create a budget for me based on my spending habits, and alerts me when I have gone beyond my normal spending. It shows me my net worth, and has actually become a bit of a game for me, as I check it frequently to see how close I am to breaking even. (Currently around $ -3000, but I include the mortgage for the house that I don’t live in, so as soon as my name is off that house, my net worth will skyrocket).
I’m a huge fan of Mint.com, so it was quite a surprise to see an article titled Hidden Danger at Mint.com in my latest copy of Money Sense magazine. They warn that “by disclosing your passwords to such sites, you might be nullifying an important agreement with your bank that covers you in case of fraud.“ Ouch. To be honest, that never occurred to me. I suppose that it makes sense on some level. Of course Mint.com takes a different approach, reminding users that they use bank-quality security measures. And really, are the banks really taking as good care of your information as they could? Too many stories of lost laptops, or pages and pages of customer data being faxed to the wrong person. I think I’ll take my chances with Mint.com.
I did think that the end quote from a Toronto lawyer was interesting: “If there is fraud on your account, even if it’s not related to Mint or another aggregator site, there is still a potential that the bank will deny you fraud protection.” Can’t say that I agree with that, but I’ve never felt that the banks have had my best interests in mind. They seem to be doing quite well, though. RBC (my bank) posted record profits again in Q1 of this year. It’s nice to know that the pain I feel every time I see my service charge fees is going to a good cause.
Back to the issue of Mint.com and what it means for me, I’m disappointed that the banks would take this approach with the company, but it will not change my use of the service. For me, the positives outweigh the potential negatives, but when I read the article, I felt that I should make note of it here, because of my previous post championing the service. I’ll let you decide whether the bank’s bullying is enough to change your mind.
I’ve never been the best one to keep track of my expenses. That might be part of the problem that led me to financial trouble… albeit not the overwhelming reason. I’ve tried before to use different methods of tracking. I bought a file cabinet. I’ve used spreadsheets. I’ve bought more than one version of Quicken. I’ve tried to budget. And like in so many other areas of my life, I start off well-intentioned, and eventually get sloppy and give up altogether.
Then I noticed something interesting… Mint.com is now available in Canada! If this means nothing to you, it should. Mint.com is a company that was bought by Intuit (makers of Quicken). They allow you to track all your financials in one easy to understand website that syncs with your banking institutions automatically to show you everything you need to make proper decisions regarding your money. Best of all… It’s free! Second best of all… there’s an iPhone app that syncs with your Mint.com account. There’s even an Android app.
So what does Mint.com actually do that you can’t already do with your online banking or Quicken software? Well, I know that Royal Bank now has free online software through their website that allows you to set up budgets and track expenses. You can add accounts from other banks into your account listing (although I’m not sure if you can add that to the budget views or not). Mint.com goes a step beyond that… I have ALL my different bank accounts as well as my Sunlife Financial retirement account, my TFSA account, my mortgage… everything… added to it. It gives me access to everything. My Canadian Tire Mastercard is there as well. Not only do I see the balance of every single account, but I also get access to the transactions. Royal Bank isn’t going to give me that stuff… especially the retirement accounts from Sunlife. I imagine that Quicken does, but then again, the last time I looked at Quicken it was somewhere around $100. Mint.com is free.
I haven’t gotten into the budget aspect yet, but I see that the program is automatically starting to build a profile of my spending habits. It sends me an email if my account balance falls below a certain point. It notifies me when my paycheque has been deposited, if I have spent an unusually large amount on something, if my banking fees are higher than projected, etc… all of these things are configurable, so you can turn them off one by one if you aren’t interested in the notifications.
Another of the interesting things is that Mint.com offers you suggestions where you could save money. These are offers from different financial institutions, and presumably part of Mint.com’s monetization strategy. I haven’t been blown away by anything that they’ve offered me, but you never know. There might be something later. They also include a section to enter your credit scores. I need to update mine, so I’m not sure what effect that has on your Mint.com profile.
If you’re concerned about security (and you should be with anything you do online that involves your bank accounts) Mint.com is no less secure than any other online banking you already do. And even if someone did gain access to you Mint.com account, they can’t actually move money from it. Mint.com gives you a total view of your financial outlook, but you can not make changes from within Mint.com. You can not transfer funds, pay bills, or modify your accounts in any way.
I’m really enjoying Mint.com… I know that it sounds weird, but I actually check my account through the day to see my networth status as it changes automatically depending on how my retirement account is doing.
I really think that it’s worth checking out. It won’t cost you anything except a little bit of time to set up your accounts.