Written by Bryan Faulkner on 24 February 2012 at 14:27
One of the great things about the internet has been the way its changed how we handle our money. There really isn’t a need to balance a checkbook anymore when you can have instant access to your accounts online. Want to know your current savings account balance? Check your banks website. Want to know the APR of you credit card? Check the credit card companies website. Wondering if your friend sent you that money through PayPal? Use the mobile app and find out. You get my point. There is almost nothing you can’t do with your money online, with the actual exception of getting some of the cold hard variety. For that you still need to visit an ATM or I guess you can get it at a merchant that will give you cash back. Either way you can’t get cash directly from the internet.
With so many different money related accounts that I can access online, I went looking for a way to track them all in one place. I didn’t know if this was possible because it would require really good security and the trust from all the individual banks to allow a third party into their system. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a couple different websites that did exactly what I was looking for and the best part was they were free. Hit the break to find out why I chose Mint.com.
After some research I decided to give Mint.com a try. I checked out it’s security and found it had as good as, if not better, encryption standards than most banks. It also had a long list of approved banking institutions that had given Mint access to their website. As I looked deeper I realized it wasn’t just banks with your savings and checking accounts and credit card companies that Mint could interface with, but a whole host of money related accounts from mortgages and car loans to investment accounts. I figured if all these banks gave Mint access to their system, it must be safe. I decided to give Mint a try.
After signing up you have to go through the initial process of adding all your accounts in which is usually just a matter of finding your bank and adding in your sign in information. They made it as simple as possible, and once you have your information entered it usually pulls all of your information needed without a hitch. If it’s your bank it will grab any savings accounts, checking accounts, loans or other accounts you have, so you don’t have to do each type of account separately. Once you have all your accounts entered you can pretty much sit back and let Mint do all the work for you.
Mint will track your spending based on categories, either predefined ones, or custom ones you create. It’s smart software so it learns that if you enter that a certain type of transaction is always a car payment, it will do it automatically for you. The only time it can’t do this is for checks you have written, and that’s because it doesn’t know where it was written to, just that it was withdrawn from your account. You can setup any number of budget categories you want, and see up to date info on how much you have spent in each category. It will give you some pretty neat looking pie or bar graphs so you can visually see where your money is going. It’s a really great tool to track all of your finances rather painlessly.
Now you might be saying that all that is great, but why are you writing about this on a tablet site? Well I’m about to get to that. I have been using Mint for a while, and of course I have the mobile apps for my phone and tablet. It gives me instant access to all my accounts wherever I am. However the tablet app was severely lacking in the function department. They didn’t have a separate app for tablets, so I was stuck with the phone version, which we all know never translates well to larger screens. You were stuck using it in portrait mode, and it just wasn’t very pretty. All that changed with the last update.
There is now a dedicated tablet app, and I was very surprised opening it up after the update. I usually don’t check the change logs for most of my apps when they get updated, so I don’t know what’s different until I open it up. The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t immediately jump to portrait mode. And then I saw the beautiful graphs and new layout. I noticed they did a very nice job laying everything out on the main page. You can see the home page in the screen shots below, obviously with all my personal information removed.
There was immediate access to any information I might want. It has my top spending categories listed with how much I have spent, a pie chart showing the breakdown of all my expenses, my current cash to debt ratio, and my total net worth. It also shows me how far into the month I am, and how much of my budget is left. With a quick swipe of the pie chart it brings up a graph showing my spending over the last 6 months so I can see if anything is out of whack. I can tap on any part to get more detailed information and quickly access my account list. Tapping on the spending categories takes you to more pretty pie charts that breaks down each category even farther. Basically just about anything you want to know about your expenses at any given time is right there at your fingertips. Kudos to Mint for making an app that is designed, and designed well, for tablets.