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.