Money at 30: Mint vs. Personal Capital
Living into today’s FinTech-rich world, it’s almost difficult for me to think back to how things used to be. Using pencil and paper or even spreadsheets to manage budgets? Having to visit a bank branch or ATM to check an account balance? And I can’t even imagine actually balancing a checkbook! Now you can do all of that and much more from various personal finance apps — two of which include Mint and Personal Capital.
These two services are both ones I use on a regular basis. Although they share some stunning similarities, there are a few striking differences as well. On that note, let’s take a look at a few things you should know about Mint and Personal Captial and how they compare.
Comparing Mint and Personal Capital
What is Mint? What is Personal Capital?
If you’ve ever looked up a list of popular personal finance apps, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Mint. Owned by Intuit (whose other services include Quickbooks and TurboTax), Mint reported having more than 20 million users back in 2016. As I noted in my review, that success is well-founded as the app offers a number of helpful features, allowing users to manage their finances on many fronts.
Among the many features of Mint, users can monitor their account balances, track their net worth, set custom budgets, view billing due dates, check their credit score, and more. While it may be better known as a mobile app, the desktop version actually has more to offer in my experience. Plus, despite many sleeker and comparable options hitting the market, Mint has retained its spot at the top thanks to the numerous features it offers.
About Personal Capital
While we’ll be looking specifically at their free personal finance tools, Personal Capital is actually a wealth management company and roboadvisor. More recently, they also launched Personal Capital Cash, offering users 2.05% APY on savings. Of course, you don’t need to subscribe to any of these other services in order to take advantage of Personal Capital’s financial dashboard.
Personal Capital also puts an emphasis on tracking your net worth, putting it prominently at the top of the desktop site, with individual account balances following below. Additionally the service offers access to a number of charts that will give users a better understanding of their finances and how they’ve changed over time. On that note, individuals can also look to their future with retirement planning, savings planning, and other helpful tools.
Mint and Personal Captial Features
Obviously both Mint and Personal Capital boast several features worth discussing. That said, for the purposes of this comparison, I thought I’d focus on three areas where the two services have the most in common — plus their biggest differences. With that, here’s how Mint and Personal Capital stack up in some main categories:
Managing your linked accounts
Both Mint and Personal Capital allow you to link various financial accounts so that you can view them all in one place. Furthermore, for each of these services, the way you add new accounts is to log into them one by one. In that aspect, the process of setting up each of these services isn’t that much different from the other.
At the same time, Personal Capital does do one thing that stands out to me. As you add new accounts, they’ll show up in the left column where they’ll wait for you to complete follow up steps that may be necessary depending on your two-factor authentication settings. Under this arrangement, you can add more accounts in a shorter amount of time since you won’t need to complete each one before moving on. This is mostly a good thing, although it does mean you’ll need to keep an eye on the status of pending accounts as you’ll need to complete the authentication steps within a certain amount of time (usually about two minutes).
Since each of these services is relying on data from individual institutions, there are times when users will need to reconnect their accounts in order to get the full benefits. Once again, this is where I prefer Personal Capital’s method as it makes making these reconnections just a bit easier. Also, it may just be because I use Mint less than Personal Capital these days, but it does seem like I need to fix accounts with Mint more often.
Finally, while Personal Capital allows you to add a number of different financial accounts to your dashboard, Mint goes one step further by also allowing you to link billing accounts. For example, I’ve been able to add my Geico, T-Mobile, and other accounts to Mint so that it can more accurately display billing balances and due dates in the app.
If you’re looking to track your spending, view transactions by category, and set a budget, technically you’ll be able to use either Mint or Personal Capital to do so. However, to be honest, there’s a clear winner in this category: Mint. Although Personal Capital does feature a budgeting section prominently on its dashboard, its features are simply no match for Mint’s.
What makes Mint standout is that it not only comes loaded with a wide selection of spending categories but also allows you to create categories of your own. Then, you can set limits in each category and get alerts when you exceed those thresholds. All of this is what has made Mint such a popular choice among those trying to get a handle on their spending.
Meanwhile, while Personal Capital will allow you to filter your spending by a few popular categories, there’s not much in the way of adding new categories or even setting individual budgets. Instead you can adjust your total budget and monitor how your monthly spending is unfolding. Therefore, those looking for a more in-depth and customizable budgeting experience will likely be disappointed and want to look elsewhere.
Investment portfolio support
Just as Mint and Personal Capital both include budgeting tools, the same is true for investment. However in this case it’s Personal Captial that shines. Although you can link brokerage accounts to either option, Personal Captial’s emphasis on investments is apparent in the number of features and details they include.
To be fair, Mint does provide some investment portfolio support and even dedicates a tab on their desktop site to these accounts. Here you can view charts on your portfolio performance, compare your gains to various indices, and more, all in addition to seeing up-to-date balances. As a result, Mint’s investments section isn’t bad per se — it’s just that Personal Captial’s is better.
In addition to listing your brokerage accounts, Personal Capital goes a step further by allowing you view your individual investment holdings that make up your portfolio. As a result you can also access various performance charts for these instead of your account as a whole. On top of that, I also find the charts Personal Captial offers to be far more aesthetically pleasing (not to mention more useful) than Mint’s.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Personal Capital’s Investment Checkup and Retirement Fee Analyzer tools. The first of these features will provide you with an ideal investment allocation chart and let you know if your current portfolio fits the bill. More impressively, the latter will look at how much you’re paying in fees for your retirement investments and how those fees will impact your returns in the long run. This can be truly eye-opening and could lead you to reconsider some of your investments — especially if you (like me) didn’t quite know what you were doing when you initially set up your accounts.
Final Thoughts on Mint and Personal Capital
To me, Mint and Personal Capital are similar tools aimed at people in different parts of their financial journey. That is to say that, if you’re big on building a budget and getting notifications about your spending, Mint is probably the more comprehensive option. However, for those looking to grow their wealth and keep better tabs on their investment portfolios, Personal Capital seems to better support those goals. Therefore, Personal Capital has pulled ahead of Mint in my everyday life and become my go-to financial hub.
At the same time I do feel the need to mention that I do still actively use both applications, as can you. Despite the two services bearing similarities and some overlapping features there are certainly enough differences between them that make them both worthy in their own right. So, while I may use one more than the other these days, I’d recommend giving each a shot to discover which you ultimately prefer.
Also published on Medium.