REVIEW: Mint’s A Personal Finance After-Banking Treat

mint.gifIf you’re like me — tired of old-school personal finance software à la Quicken, you’re in for a treat. Mint, one of the best online personal finance startups I’ve seen, launched yesterday at the TechCrunch40 event. (It was the winner of TechCrunch40’s $50,000 award.)
I’ve been using the beta version for a few weeks now, and I am impressed with what the site has to offer. While competitors Geezeo and Wesabe are reasonably adequate for money management, Mint gets online personal finance right.
First off, the site makes it easy to connect checking, savings and other non-investment accounts. Sites like Wesabe require a software download for automatic updates, but Mint automates the entire process without any extra download hassles. The entire sign-up process for Mint took a few minutes, whereas it took me a good half an hour or so to get started on both Wesabe and Geezeo.
Once signed up, I really noticed a difference. Given design doesn’t matter much in the success of a startup (have you seen MySpace?), when it comes to a company that needs to earn the trust of an online banking audience, a clean, well-designed site could be its ticket to success. Mint not only has a better name for branding than its competitors, but a clean and easy-to-navigate site design to boot.
While Geezeo focuses mostly on mobile access to data and Wesabe is keen on providing a social networking experience, Mint’s site is geared at providing the best user experience possible in terms of breaking down where money has been earned and spent. The site makes spending patterns easy to track by automatically creating graphs displayed on a privately accessed site.
According to Mint, 65 million people in the U.S. use online banking today, and the average American has more than four bank relationships. It’s nice, then, to have one place to go to view spending on all of these accounts. Of course, not all of the 65 million online bankers in the U.S. will trust an online finance site with their banking passwords. Will enough of them trust Mint for the site to be successful? In this age of identity theft paranoia, I’m not so sure.
Mint will try to persuade those users to sign up for the site with a bunch of nifty features. Besides the graphs, my favorite feature is a weekly e-mail that reminds me of my balance and latest purchases on my various banking cards. If my account balance dips below a certain amount, they’ll send me an e-mail to let me know I need to be careful not to overdraw it.
And here’s where online advertising and user value fit nicely hand-in-hand: Mint partners with various financial firms that will offer users savings on their accounts. For instance, Mint informs me that I can save $403 a year just by signing up for its recommended offers, such as American Express (AXP) credit card or an E-Trade (ETFC) CD with 5.05 percent APY interest.
Mint, Wesabe and Geezeo have yet to make it possible to link up access to investment accounts. It seems Mint plans to eventually offer the ability to link monthly bills to the online account as well, as there is a grayed-out “monthly bills” graphic which leads one to believe this is a feature on the way. Mint is backed by First Round Capital and other angel investors. It was founded in 2006.