Mint: Great idea, but obviously not a finished product

I received an email earlier today from my friend DJ Strouse regarding what I felt about Mint, a newly launched personal finance organizer, and I thought: why not blog it?

Overall, it’s a wonderful idea for a niche whose surface has yet to be even scratched. Personal finance is an area I feel I’m extremely disorganized in and Mint does an excellent job of presenting, in web 2.0 fashion, my income and spending trends. I especially like the ability to receive alerts if I’m spending too much, or one of my accounts gets too low. Set-up correctly, this has the potential to be a very valuable tool in itself and could possibly make personal finance a brain-dead task.

The ability to track purposes with both categories and tags follows along with the web 2.0 vein, and shows that the company is forward thinking in its organizational philosophies. The user-interface for changing categories, however, could be drastically improved. If a purchase from a company is miscategorized, the user has to select all of the purchases on the list one by one in order to do a batch update. The smarter way to do this would be along the lines of gMail’s “filter” feature. I want the ability to apply my setting to previous purchases, not just future ones!

Presenting ways to save with sponsored companies is a brilliant, and often under-utilized, business model. It is smart and sustainable primarily because, ideally, both the consumer and the company win. Although I’m somewhat wary of switching credit cards when I don’t want to, I’m pretty sure Citigroup’s claim that they can save me $560 is a valid one.

Furthermore, the web-app appears to be (or at least according to my uneducated audit) very secure. From their security policy:

  • We require only a valid email address for login registration for the service. Notice that our signup page never asks for your name, address, or SSN.
  • Your personal information is never sold to third parties. You will not end up on someone else’s email list.
  • You can delete your account at any time.

and:

  • All data storage is encrypted. Not only are our hard-drives encrypted, our servers are in a secure facility protected by biometrics palm scanners and 24/7 security guards.
  • We hack our own site. Mint runs thousands of tests on its own software to ensure security. We scan our ports, test for SQL injection, and protect against cross-site scripting. We also update and patch our software all the time.

With all of that being said though, it doesn’t work at all with my financial information. I got the service to recognize my credit card account, but the account shows up twice and I can’t figure out how to stop it from doing that. Duplicate charges are no fun weeding out. On top of that, Mint isn’t even able to access my bank account and presents all sorts of crazy errors.

Mint, the recently-public personal finance manager, is a wonderful idea conceptually, but it will probably be a couple of months before I can recommend anyone dedicating the time to making it actually work.

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