Budgeting your funds is a very important aspect of financial planning. Because it’s such an important task, you can never really have too much help at hand. Even if you are an astute and disciplined spender, it always helps to have another set of eyes on your expenses. Despite budgeting being so important for financial success, an astounding 59% of Americans don’t use a budget, a 2016 study by the U.S. Bancorp reported. However, among the ones who do, Mint emerged as a popular budgeting tool. It’s easy and free budgeting services made customers flock to it. However, it goes without saying, safety is a concern with Mint (as it is with any financial app). With users linking bank accounts and sharing other private financial information, the question “is mint safe” is a very valid one. There are a lot of nuances to the answer and important things you should keep in your mind. Let’s find out what they are.
Is Mint Safe? Find Out More
What is Mint?
Mint is a financial budgeting tool that helps you manage all your incoming and outgoing money in one place. You can add all your accounts, credit cards, debit cards, PayPal wallets and other financial units on to Mint.com. By adding all these accounts, you can keep tabs and track your money to know exactly where you are saving and where you are investing.
Simultaneously, Mint also helps you to manage your bills and other payments by giving a message alert so that you never miss your payment or pay a fine! This is the best part of Mint as it always allows you to stay on top of your money and time. Not only that, Mint.com has over 20 million users and there is also an online version that helps you manage your finances directly from there. Starting around the year 2006, it is an old-timer in the world of financial apps. And it’s free to use, helping many learn the basics of budgeting.
How Does Mint Work?
Mint is a finance aggregation app. It helps users create and manage budgets. It does so by accessing information from bank accounts, bills, credit or debit cards, and PayPal (PYPL) and other accounts. After it gets the information, it tracks the total income and expenditure of the users.
Once the account is created, Mint users can enter financial information from any American financial firm. Mint users can also enter their debit/credit card details, along with any bills they want to get reminded for. Mint users can also use the app for tracking loans and investments, including 401(k)s and IRAs. In order to help users track better, the data downloaded by Mint usually spans several months, including all transactions. Mint users can also track cash and ATM transactions to ensure they are keeping an eye on all of their expenditure. With all the funds accounted for, Mint also allows users to segregate different areas of spending. On top of all that, the customization feature on Mint helps users tag certain transactions in order to acquire a more in-depth analysis of the transaction.
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Some of the chief categories on Mint are: overview, transactions, bills, budgets, goals, trends, investments, and ways to save. Users can set up alerts for bills or other financial goals from there.
Mint’s main draw is definitely the budgeting feature. It allows users to create categories that track their own budgets on the basis of their financial and transaction history and data. The time period of the budget is flexible, with users having the option to set up weekly, monthly or even longer budgets. In case a Mint user overshoots the budget or misses out on paying a bill, Mint sends a reminder. This is especially good for Mint users who lack financial discipline. To encourage saving, Mint recommends credit card deals, insurance and a variety of other financial deals. Mint also helps users keep track of their investments, such as 401(k) or IRA. It also suggests brokerages. On top of all that, Mint also provides regular reports on debt, spending, income and even net worth. A free credit score is also provided by Mint for its users.
Is Mint Safe?
Now, let’s get to the burning question, is Mint safe? The famous budgeting app works by aggregating financial statements, bills, bank accounts and payment accounts like PayPal. WIth the steep rise in hacking and security breaches in recent years, the distrust and fear towards apps like Mint has only risen. Even big banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. aren’t immune to hacking. So it only makes sense to worry about your money’s security when Mint gets access to all of your financial information. But how dangerous is aggregating all financial information on one app, really?
Mint utilizes many types of financial institution-level security measures including 128-bit SSL encryption. Mint also monitors through third-party sites like TRUSTe and VeriSign. On top of that, Mint also utilizes 256 bit encryption to protect all of the company server files. The app also uses multi-factor authentication (including security questions), passwords and Touch ID to provide customers with additional security.
An interesting safety measure used by Mint is the quarterly hiring of hackers to test the security system.
Even after all of that, is the information vulnerable to data breaches and hacking? Big banks have come out and said that people’s financial information is vulnerable if they share their bank account passwords with third party sites.
JPMorgan Chase has warned its users, “If you give out your chase.com user ID and password, you are putting your money at risk.”
But competition may be more of the bank’s concerns than safety, according to commentary by Mark Ranta, a Mint user and head of digital payments at ACI Worldwide Inc.
“Mint makes it so I don’t have to go to the individual bank sites,” Ranta told Reuters in 2015. “They [banks] don’t have the opportunity to cross-sell me.”
One crucial thing to remember about mint is that even though it collects your transaction history data, it isn’t authorized to make any transactions on behalf of the users. This goes a long way in alleviating the concern about hackers making transactions from user accounts by hacking into Mint.
“When you give Mint your bank password, you don’t give them permission to make transfers,” Lauren Saunders, associate director and managing attorney of the National Consumer Law Center, told Reuters. “You don’t need to be a lawyer to understand that you are not a consumer who ‘grants authority to make transfers.’ You are still outside the provision about giving someone an access device because you didn’t give the hacker permission.”
Despite all of that, are there still any remaining safety concerns with Mint? Since Mint is designed in a read-only format, even if hackers do gain access to a user’s financial information, they won’t be able to do much with it since full account information and username won’t be visible. This is done by virtue of Mint sending a token to the linked bank for receiving user information in a read-only format at the instance of the user signing up for the first time. However, users should remember that they are proceeding at their own risk when they share any bank information with Mint. However, the plethora of banking-level security measures will definitely help keep user information safe.
What are some other problems associated with Mint?
Here are some of the other problems associated with Mint:
- Mint has one of the biggest problems with customer data sync. It does not connect with smaller banks and your connectivity with different banks is interrupted. Mint.com often asks the users to rebuild the connectivity with banks and your data might stay without being updated for days or weeks.
- Mint vigorously shows ads on its website related to your search and preferences which hinders the user interaction with the dashboard and leaves a bad experience.
- They do not even provide any fine investment tool when compared to its alternatives. It’s OK to use Mint’s investment tool for a short period but one cannot continue using it for the long term.
- They also have very poor customer service support which is claimed by many users. There are several unresolved complaints, unanswered questions, and a lack of support for users.
- Lack of reconciliation i.e. the data you downloaded is assumed to be correct and you cannot reconcile against your transactions or bank statements.
Is Mint Safe: How to Avoid Major Risk?
In case you are extra concerned about the potential risk to your critical financial information, you can take certain measures. The first thing you need to do is ensure that you have a strong password. Most of the accounts that are hacked (whether it’s bank accounts or Facebook accounts) are hacked because of old or weak passwords. Mint recommends keeping passwords private and switching them regularly. The passwords should also be a good mix of letters, symbols and numbers. In case a user’s phone is stolen while the Mint account is still active, risk of exposure can be avoided in a number of ways. A four digit passcode used by Mint can be activated through “Settings” on the app and that provides extra security. Mint’s extensive online presence also allows users the option to deactivate, delete or switch off mobile in the event of device theft.
So those were some of the important things to know about the safety of using Mint. In case you were wondering “Is Mint Safe”, a lot of that curiosity would have hopefully been satisfied after reading this. You must always remember, when it comes to any online financial tool, you always enter information at your own risk. Yes, the tool can have great safety measures, but you need to always be extra careful while sharing financial information online. Create and use strong passwords and always be mindful of all the information you share online. In the end, Mint can only be as safe as the manner in which you use it. Use it carefully and pragmatically and you can enjoy this great budgeting tool to the fullest. As Captain Planet would say, “The Power is Yours”.