Jack Wallen takes a look at Mint, a free application that allows you to view your bank accounts information from your iPhone or Android smartphone.
When you're on the go, you still need to have access to your financial information. Trying to navigate through a bank's web site on a smartphone is not only a visual challenge, but it can also be a bit of a security risk. However, with Mint on your mobile device, you're viewing a read-only service that uses the same encryption banks use and is validated by Verisign and TRUSTe -- so, funds can be viewed but not moved around.
Mint is available for both Android and iPhone, is used by over seven million users, and has won enough awards to prove its worth. Let's dig in and find out how it's used.
What it can do
Here are a few things that you can do with Mint:
- View all accounts and transactions in one place
- View easy-to-read graphs
- Track investments
- View budgets calculated on average spending
- Find savings
What you will need
In order to get started with Mint, here are the things you'll need:
- Android or iPhone smartphone
- Bank (or investment) account information, including account ID and password
The installation of Mint is really a three-step process:Step 1: Create a free Mint account
When you register for an account on Mint.com, do yourself a favor and make sure your password is very strong.Step 2: Connect it to your bank account The first thing you must do is search for your bank in the Mint.com database. To do this, enter your bank name in the search field (Figure A), and click Search. Figure A
If your bank is already listed, just click the bank listing. If not, search for your bank name.From the results of the search, click the correct bank to move to the next section. What you need here (Figure B) is the user (account) ID and password. Figure B
This will be the same account ID you use to log into your bank's web site (not the numerical account ID you find on your checks).
Once you've associated a bank account with your Mint account, you're ready to begin taking advantage of the many features. You can view your account from the Mint.com web site or jump straight to the mobile app.Step 3: Install the mobile app Open up your platform's app store, search for "mint" (no quotes), and install the app associated with Mint.com. Once installed, open up the app and enter your Mint account credentials. As soon as you log in, you'll find yourself on the Mint mobile dashboard (Figure C). Figure C
Here you see Mint on a Verizon-branded Droid Bionic.
You can see the specifics of your accounts by tapping the Accounts button at the top of the screen. This will list your associated accounts, and you'll be able to get more in-depth information on each account.
One thing I strongly recommend is setting a passcode. Only people with the code will be able to view your account information. This is a read-only file, so no data can be modified -- but with the passcode, you can prevent unwanted users from viewing your information.
To set the passcode, perform the following steps:
- Open Mint
- Tap the menu button
- Tap Settings
- Check the box for User Passcode (Figure D)
- Enter a four-digit passcode
- Re-enter the new passcode
Once the passcode is set, you'll have to enter it any time you open Mint.
One of the drawbacks of the mobile client is that you can't do things like create or edit budgets. For this, you need to log onto the web interface. From there you can:
- Manage budgets
- Create goals
- Find ways to save (fees may apply)
- Get extended reporting
Although the mobile client is a bit limited, it's still an outstanding tool for being able to check on the status of your accounts while you're on the go. When you don't have access to a desktop machine, or simply don't want to access your bank accounts on an unfamiliar computer, Mint is a great way to keep track of your financial information.