If you don’t have a Mint.com account (free), you’re missing out on the best personal finance tool on the market. Mint tracks your spending, lets you set up budgets in different categories, and helps you plan for your financial future. And, to keep tabs on your cash when you’re on the go, you’ll want to install the Mint mobile app (free); reviewed here is the Mint app for Android phones.
Mint is one of those solutions that instantly made sense as a mobile app. At its most basic, Mint gives you real-time access to all your financial account balances and transactions. This is the same data you can likely get from your bank’s own app and your credit cards’ apps, only, with Mint, they’re all in one place. Plus, those totals are summed to show your net worth or how much you’re in debt. Open the app, and Mint will show you exactly where you’re spending your money and how you might be able to save more.
You can add to your Mint account the value of assets you own, such as a home, so that Mint can calculate your true net worth. The full Mint website has even more tools for setting up financial goals as well as budgets in different categories to help you keep track of your spending, which you can access (but not change) from the mobile app. Mint is easily the most comprehensive personal finance mobile app you’ll find for Android phones, but, to get the most out of it, you’ll want to use it in tandem with the full Mint website.
If you’re new to Mint, I recommend setting up an account on Mint.com rather than the mobile app because 1) it takes some time to set up and customize to your needs, and 2) not all the features on the Web are available in the mobile app. If you already have a Mint account, you can simply log in on your Android phone, but your first stop thereafter should be the settings, where you can enable a four-digit PIN to keep your financial data extra secure.
On that note, you can’t do anything with your money in Mint. You can’t, for example, initiate transactions, which means neither can anyone who gets his hands on your phone. Mint never exposes your bank account numbers or credit card numbers either, so it’s pretty safe. Still, adding a PIN to the Mint Android app just keeps the information people can see—such as your net worth and the institutions where you have accounts—that much more private.
Newcomers to Mint will find that previous transactions, such as all credit card purchases from the last six months, are imported into the system automatically, giving Mint a clear idea of your spending habits. In other words, you don’t start with a clean slate, which is best for everyone involved. Your spending history informs Mint what kind of spending is normal for you, and what is unusual. That way, when unusual spending occurs, the app can let you know.
What’s Inside the App
The app looks straightforward and clean, with legible fonts and a perky green and white color scheme. The main overview screen lists totals for different types of financial accounts you have, such as Credit Cards (i.e., the total balance on all your cards) and Cash (which includes checking accounts, savings accounts, etc.). Below that is an overview of your budget and how much of it you’ve blown through for the current month already. Further down you’ll find cash flow (money in versus money out), the number of alerts Mint has for you, and a section called advice. You have to click these various sections to open them fully and actually get the advice or view the alerts.
Also on the overview screen are some charts and graphs that show the different categories across which you’ve spent your money, how much you spent across the past few months, and your net income across six months. Again, tap on any of these areas, and you’ll get more details about them.
Some examples of alerts that popped up for me include a bill reminder that my credit card was due in a few days, a flag that I made a large purchase, and a note that one of my accounts had a low balance.
In the Accounts area, you can tap on that area to see all the accounts connected to Mint and their individual balances, and then further tap on any particular account to see line items. In my experience, my credit card transactions generally turn up within a few hours (or less) of the purchase.
When you spend money, Mint automatically categorizes each transaction for you. Categories include everything from coffee to taxes. If Mint gets a category wrong, you can change it by looking through a list of possible categories, or by typing keywords into a search bar. I recently bought a number of gifts that were categorized as “books,” “clothing,” and “kids.” I was able to manually change them all to “gift” within a minute or so. You can also categorize any transaction as “hide from budgets and trends” if you want to exclude a one-time expense from throwing off your averages.
Transactions that are finalized (but not those that are pending) can be split using a menu option at the top right corner of the page. You’d want to split a transaction, for example, if you bought $75 worth of wine, but $50 of that was for gifts and $25 was for personal consumption (always reserve some wine for personal consumption). I like that Mint lets you easily divvy up the total and assign each part appropriately.
Budgets help you stay on track with your money so that you don’t overspend in different categories, and, while you can see your state with different budget categories with the Mint Android app, you can’t actually adjust the budgets here. You’ll need the full website for that.
Mint To Go
The Mint app is the best, most thorough, and simplest personal finance management app you’ll find for Android phones. Mint does take a bit of time and patience to fully customize and learn how to use properly for your specific needs, but it does a wonderful job of helping you keep an eye on your money and future money. For all those reasons, Mint is an Editors’ Choice among Android apps.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc