Mint: aggregating personal financial data with ease

Mint is a free personal finance website and mobile app founded in 2006 that easily allows for budget setting and expense tracking. The site then categorizes each event (which can be changed or customized by the user) and creates a one-stop destination for holistic financial management across the many accounts that one might have.

Mint is a free personal finance website and mobile app founded in 2006 that easily allows for budget setting and expense tracking.  The site’s key feature is that it seamlessly connects to bank and credit card websites to automatically import each transaction a user makes.  Mint then categorizes each event (which can be changed or customized by the user) and creates a one-stop destination for holistic financial management across the many accounts that one might have.  Users can track spending patterns over time, get reminders about upcoming bills, set savings goals and see their investment portfolio.  

This rich trove of data grants users insights into their shopping habits and promotes financial prudence with minimal work required.  The site was the first web-based expense tracking tool that didn’t require a manual download of transactions from an online banking site.  And users get customized tips and notifications about unusually high budgets and possible ways to save money each month.

In this way, the company also gains incredible insight into people’s buying habits and what they are spending money on.  Mint can then leverage this data to target users with offers and promotions based on past purchases and typical spend by category.  If they know that I travel or eat out often, for example, they can offer me a credit card that has higher reward points for these categories.  Mint is then paid a referral fee when someone signs up for a new card.  The site also sells a monthly premium add-on subscription for credit monitoring and identity alerts.

This trove of customer data proved to be very valuable indeed, when finance software giant Intuit purchased the company for $170 million in 2009, just three years after its founding.  As the company grows and its transaction database broadens, its level of targeting and user segmentation will grow with it.  Potential security threats are likely the largest impediment to growth, however.  Considering the site stores the login information and password for each of a user’s financial accounts, if a hacker were to get ahold of this information there could be severe consequences.  Some users may find this perceived risk to be too high and forgo using the service rather than turn over their passwords and entire transaction history.  Yet with Intuit’s deep pockets and expertise in online security, it seems likely that this trove of data will remain safe.

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Student comments on Mint: aggregating personal financial data with ease

  1. Great post! I’ve followed Mint over the years and considered using it, but I was concerned about security. Do you think that Intuit was the best buyer of Minted? I’ve found that I mostly use my Amex and it provides similar offering to Mint by tracking my spending by category, etc. I assume this capability was developed in-house by Amex, but I wonder if Mint missed a significant B2B opportunity by focusing on B2C. Could Mint have partnered with Amx and Bank of America? While I like that Mint in theory provides a more wholesome overview of your financial spending, it does require a customer to actively seek this service.

    1. I have used Mint and never really thought about the security issue (yikes…). I agree that Intuit should be focusing on this area to assure users of the safety of their data.

      I am not sure that it would have been a good idea for them to partner with Amex or BofA. The value proposition for Mint is that it acts as an independent financial advisor. It will look for the best checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards for you based on your goals and spending patterns. By partnering with a bank or credit card company, it would then limit itself to recommend to customers products from those banks. As an example, Mint will oftentimes recommend high-yielding savings accounts through online direct banking, something that it would not be able to do by collaborating with these banks.

      One threat I can think of is digital wallets. If Google or Apple obtain significant traction through these applications they could presumably collect more data and surpass Mint in its ability to learn from spending patterns and make good recommendations.

  2. Thanks for the post! I was really excited when I first learned about Mint because I wanted to be able to look at my total spending and income across all of my different accounts, rather than doing it by Bank (to AJT’s point). I quickly stopped using the service though because it didn’t allow me to analyze spending across my household (i.e. with my husband). It would be amazing if they built in a feature or revamped their structure to make it possible for two or more partners to track their spending across different accounts.

  3. Thank you for posting. I am a HEAVY mint user, I have used it for over 7 years now and I am completely dependent on it. I think it has great applications and a fantastic interface. I have always wondered on the stats for their “ways to save” credit card offerings, I doubt that a big percentage of people using the application/website actually sign up for a credit card. Instead, in order to capture value, given the amount of information they have on a person’s spending patterns, they should focus on targeted advertising the way Facebook does. For example, if I purchase at X grocery store, they can send me coupons for a different store…

    I really hope they don’t actually do this since I like the relatively ad-free interface but I wonder to what extent they are ripping the profits they really deserve based on the amount of data they collect.

  4. Very interesting post. Mint is a great example of a company that leverages data and analytics to create and capture value. I am actually surprised by the “relatively low” price that it was sold for. We have learned in this class that data is king and I think given Intuit’s offerings (turbo tax etc.) that this was a really good purchase for them. Aside from the tailored offerings that mint can offer and the additional synergies that Inuit gains through this purchase, I wonder if there are other ways to monetize this wealth of data…? I’m sure it’s something they are looking into. Great read. Thank you!

  5. Thanks for your post. I have never used Mint before but I have been very tempted to try it on numerous occasions. Like others, I am also worried about the security. I recently came across a mobile bill payment company called Check (now renamed as Mint Bills) which was purchased by Intuit in 2014. Mint Bills automates the bill pay process and consolidates it into one place. With this acquisition, Mint is no longer just helping the consumer analyze their past financial history but also allowing them to transact. Automated bill pay is a good adjacency for Mint and I wonder what other acquisitions they could be looking at to further complete their already robust platform. Do you think they may enter the digital currency/mobile payments space? In terms of data usage, it seems that Mint is leaving a lot of value on the table and they are starting to be pushed out by big banks. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Bank of America and others have temporarily cut off financial sites and mobile applications that look to aggregate consumer data. While their rationale was over security concerns, you know they feel threatened by the influx of tech start ups that are providing better ease and efficiencies to their customers.

  6. I also was one of the early adopters of Mint hoping it would help me get a hold of my finances but then the app’s inability to categorize all my purchases made me grow cold of it (literally a big chunk of my expenses were in the “uncategorized” area, which defeats the purpose of the “analytics value add”). I still don’t see how they would be able to make money, because the customer who uses the services of Mint most probably doesn’t need yet another credit card. Whereas a company like Nerdwallet, to which customers go to seek specific information about what credit card is best of them, is much more successful because the analytics they run fir the needs of the customers. I see a case of mismatch of product vs. value cretion vs. customer needs.

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