This week I will begin my review of Mint, the last of the free on-line budgeting programs I will be reviewing in this series. When I first went to log into Mint I was a little overwhelmed. Compared to the last two budget programs which were very simple. This one seemed to offer a lot of information from the get go. The sign-in screen gives you two options, one for Mint, and another for Mint bills, with a short description of each.
Mint, states that you can see all your finances in one place and create a budget. Mint Bills says you can organize all your bills and pay them on time. I choose the traditional Mint since my focus is on budgeting. Once you enter the usual sign-in information it then asks you to enter your bank or credit card log in and password for those accounts.
Whoa, hold on a minute. This is new. I’m a bit leery about entering my bank account information usually this is only something you have to do with a paid service. So I will pause for a moment to read up on their security protocols before I go any further.
Mint is created by Intuit, the same company that does Quicken, QuickBooks and Turbo Tax. At the bottom of the page under security I discovered that they use 128 SSL encryption.
According to Techopedia, “128-bit encryption primarily refers to the length of the encryption or decryption key. It is considered secure because it would take massive computation and virtually thousands of years to be cracked.”
They also state that they are monitored by Truste, and Verisign two companies that are known for site security monitoring seals of approval according to Wikipedia. For more information about Mints security click here.
Ok, now that I feel a little more safe about connecting my account I went ahead and put in my username and password to my most used accounts after a few minutes there it were my account balances. On the right side of the screen it showed a listing off all the different accounts you can add including credit cards, home and auto loans.
Again I felt a little overwhelmed in comparison to the other simplified budgeting programs I had used before. I noticed these groups were broken out under three tabs at the top of the page as financial, real estate and other. So I figured I would take it step by step. After entering all my financial account (I think). I then move on to the real estate tab. It asks you to enter your street address and zip and then performs a search in Zillow, and you are presented with your estimated value of your home. (I’m not sure what that has to do with budgeting.)
The last tab is “Other” this was very confusing to me. The first option was to enter a vehicle loan, the next one stated “Money (or loan) I’m not sure what type of loan or money this refered to so I left it blank. The last option was “other property,” again not sure what type of account would be involved in other property. wouldn’t most of this be accounted for under credit cards. For instance if you have furniture purchased using a low/no interest credit promotion, wouldn’t that be under credit? Maybe it is used to track valuables like artwork or antiques? I’m not really sure what this tab is used for other than vehicle loans.
On the right side of the screen you will find a completeness bar, mine says I am only 60% completed. Only 60%! Wow this is taking a lot more time then I was expecting. The next area says “Loans.” I figure this is the area where you would enter mortgage information or business loans.
The next area was kind of surprising. It is labeled “Vehicle.” Since we already entered any vehicle loan information in another area, this spot calculates the value of your vehicle. I thought this was a really neat and interesting feature.
Hang in there, are only two more areas to go. The next spot asks for you to set up your free credit report. I choose not to participate in this section. I don’t really feel comfortable with the Free credit report gimmick. In most cases you think you are getting a free credit report. (which by the way is free once a year from the three major credit bureaus anyway), but you end up getting enrolled into a credit monitoring service which is next to impossible to cancel. I’m not saying this one thru Mint is like all those other services, however I’m not taking any chances.
Finally, the last area is to complete your profile. Here they ask you to complete several demographic questions such as age, marital status, and household income range. Oh boy! This was a lot of information to enter. It took me the whole weekend to gather and complete all of the information requested. Since this post is already running long for me I think I will save the data analysis for next weekend. I know this was a lot of information, thanks for sticking with me.
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