The following is a guest post from Edward Antrobus. He is a construction worker, home cook, and writer. He writes about frugality and occasionally disagrees with the personal finance establishment at EdwardAntrobus.com. Thanks for helping while I’m memorizing the 1040 tax form!
I first tried using Mint when Intuit first bought them. I used Quicken and Microsoft Money for a number of years and thought I would try my hand at an online version. The idea may be solid for most people, but I quickly discovered that Mint and other online account aggregators aren’t for me.
If Mint, or SaveUp, SpringCoin, PageOnce, or Yodlee, works for you, that’s great. But before jumping on the bandwagon, stop and take some time to figure out if the service really meets your needs.
Reason 1: Your Accounts Don’t Work
Not all banks allow third-party log-ins. My student loans are through AES and I have had some difficulty with them back when I was trying different aggregators. It turned out that third-party sign-in was against their terms of service. Whenever they saw a service trying to log into a customer’s account, they would block it. Multiple attempts led to me getting locked out of my own account and I wound up having to call the company to get my account re-instated! Considering that I have signed up for e-billing for my .25% interest rate discount, not being able to log into my account could be big problems for the bank that holds 50% of my total debt.
If one of your accounts is through a bank that doesn’t allow third-party log-ins, what is the point of using an aggregator to aggregate just some of your accounts?
Reason 2: One Stop Shopping vs Different Categories
My wife works at a supermarket. It is one of those ultra-modern ones with a Starbucks, hot food, and a gas station. After the rent, that store gets more of our money than anybody else between groceries, dining out, gasoline, and my wife’s lunch when she gets on her occasional anti-sandwich, salad, or leftovers moods.
If I enter my receipts into Quicken or my trusty Excel spreadsheet, I can pick the category I want to assign that particular expense towards. In Mint? It will decide that it was a grocery expense and I have to go back and fix it. And if I don’t get around to doing that for three or four days, am I going to remember if that $20 was for gas or some in-between items?
Reason 3: Privacy
Privacy concerns here are two-fold. First, you are saving all of your passwords for all of your financial accounts in one place. Sure they use strong encryption, but hardly a month goes by without hearing about another website getting hacked and personal information shared. In the past year, I have had to change my LinkedIn password and received a notice from my alma mater that my social security number may have been divulged.
The second privacy concern is Mint’s business model. How they make money is personalized advertising. Oh, you spend 3% of your income on X, well maybe you would be interested in Y instead. They are selling your purchasing information to the highest bidder! In general, I don’t have a problem with personalized advertising. But not when it comes to that level of detail.
Do you use Mint or another account aggregator? Do you agree with any of these issues?