With all the big news this week about Intuit (makers of Quicken software) acquiring the beloved new online personal finance management site, Mint.com, I thought it was high time we looked at the nuts and bolts of Mint’s iPhone (Stock Quote: AAPL) application.

Most commentators have said Intuit’s $140 million purchase of Mint was a great deal for the big brand, but they worry it will degrade Mint’s user experience or cause the service to start charging a usage fee, like most other Quicken software offerings. According to a statement issued by the two brands, Mint will remain free and continue to have the same user-friendly appeal. In truth, only time will tell what will happen as a result of this partnership.

At its very core Mint.com is an online personal finance one-stop shop. It allows you to access and monitor your bank, credit card, loan and investment accounts. You can also track your spending, cash flow, budgets and expenses all in one place.

Compared to other budgeting or expense tracking appswe’ve reviewed, Mint is simpler and more reliable because it claims to automatically sync all your transactions with your bank accounts. It does this by gaining access to your accounts after receiving permission from you and using federated third-party security software. Of course one of the main concerns with this kind of Web site (and mobile application) is the issue of security. Mint’s CEO, Aaron Patzer, makes a pretty solid case for how security is a top priority at Mint in this short YouTube video presentation.

However, questions still linger with regard to the security issue. Although Mint offers a way for you to instantly deactivate access to your mobile account on Mint.com should your iPhone get lost or stolen, there is still the issue of password-protected logins.

As the app works now, private banking information (without the power to withdraw or move funds) is just a tap away. Mint does not require you to log in each time to your account, but instead suggests you password protect your entire iPhone. This is an inconvenient solution for many users who only see the need to access the Mint app once or twice a day at most. One user’s review asks Mint to save login information in the username field but require he enter his password each time. This seems like a fair compromise but has yet to be included in recent updates to the app.

Mint is an absolutely gorgeous app. It is the king of pretty-looking, easy-to-use personal finance apps. One of the reasons for the great usability is its claim that Mint does all the work for you. With automatic updates synced to your app via your bank account, you shouldn’t have to lift a finger to see your up-to-date balances, right? This is where we have another issue. The vast majority of negative reviews on Mint’s App Store page reference the inability for the app to quickly and accurately sync real time account balances. Without this feature the entire app doesn’t do you much good in avoiding overdraft fees or overspending. To add to the frustration, it seems that the Mint app’s customer service system largely consists of ignoring your emails and cries for help.

However, despite these setbacks, the Mint.com app has gotten extraordinarily positive reviews and the majority of users seem very happy with the features and syncing time, with only a small percentage unable to sync their accounts properly (mostly with smaller banking institutions).

And besides, this is a free download and a free online service we’re talking about here. There’s no “limited time offers” or credit card payments required. You simply trust your accounts with the service and in return receive an all-in-one solution for your online banking and budgeting needs. I’d say it’s worth a test drive if that’s something you’re looking for.


Application: Mint .com Personal Finance for iPhone/ iPod Touch

Cost: Free

Use: Allows users to access bank accounts information, set budgets and monitor spending.

Download iPhone App via iTunes