Money at 30: Money Patrol Review
These days there’s certainly no shortage of tools that can help you build and stick to a budget, monitor your investments, and otherwise keep a better hold on your finances. The latest of these services to come to my attention is Money Patrol. Like Personal Capital and Mint before it, Money Patrol is an aggregator that not only puts all of your money data in one place but also helps make sense of it and give you an idea of where you stand.
So, speaking of standing, how does Money Patrol compare to other options on the market? Let’s take a closer look at how to get started, some of the features you’ll find, and whether it’s worth giving this tool a shot.
Getting Started with Money Patrol
No mobile app
Before we get into the process of joining Money Patrol, I should note that the service is currently only available via its website. In other words, there is no mobile app available for download — although iOS and Android applications are in the works. That said, while the site is probably best served on desktop (although you may need to shrink your browser window a bit if you have a large monitor), it is relatively mobile-friendly in the event you need to log in while on the go.
The process of joining Money Patrol is pretty straightforward as you’ll just need to provide an e-mail address, create a password, and enter an American or Canadian mobile telephone number to get started. Note that “mobile” is key here as the service will be sending you SMS notifications. From there, you’ll need to confirm both your e-mail address and your phone number by entering security codes that will be sent to your inbox and phone respectively.
Demo and pricing
Once you create your Money Patrol account, you may be greeted with a pop-up asking you to enter your credit/debit card information in order to start your 15-day free trial. Incidentally, in my experience, you can actually close this pop-up and continue to explore the vast majority of the service’s functions without formally starting a trial period. In fact, despite failing to input my credit card info, I have still been able to link my various accounts, create a budget, receive spending alerts, and more. Granted that pop-up would still reappear every so often — especially when you navigated back to the dashboard — but I was honestly quite surprised how much I could do while getting around it.
In any case, as I mentioned, you can start a 15-day free trial of Money Patrol. After that, the service costs $7 a month — however this is billed $84 annually. This means that, if you don’t cancel during your trial, you’ll be charged $84 for the year. To cancel, just visit Settings by clicking the gear icon, going to Billing, and clicking cancel.
Meanwhile, if you’d rather take a closer look at Money Patrol without even opening an account of your own, the site does feature a clever demo where you can explore a mock-up of the platform prepopulated with various (presumably fake accounts). This could be a great way to see what Money Patrol has to offer before trying it out for yourself.
In order to use Money Patrol as intended, you’ll need to link your various accounts to the platform. This is accomplished by logging into your accounts through Money Patrol’s 256-bit SSL encryption portal.
One slightly frustrating aspect of this process is that the portal used to link your accounts closes after seven minutes — not seven minutes of non-activity but seven minutes total. Thus, if you’re adding several accounts, it’s quite possible that you’ll get booted out in the middle of the process. Luckily any accounts you’ve already completed the linking process for won’t be erased but you may need to restart whichever account you were adding when the window closed.
With that said, I was impressed with the number of financial institutions Money Patrol supported as I was able to add all of my accounts (save my Apple Card). I also like how all of your accounts display under the aptly named “Accounts” tab, complete with the type of account, current status, and the option to push a refresh. As small a detail as it may be, I was also taken aback that it rightly labeled my American Express card as a “charge card” instead of a “credit card.”
Money Patrol Features
Like other personal finance apps and tools, Money Patrol features a Dashboard where you can quickly consume data and get a snapshot of your finances. In this case, there are widgets featuring tables and charts displaying:
- Recent transactions
- Spending insights
- Budget updates
- Upcoming recurring payments
- Credit card utilization
- Transaction calendar
- and more
Of these different sections, I think my favorites (aside from another we’ll get to later in this review) are the credit card utilization and daily spend trends. For the former, I like being able to see how much of my available credit I’m using at any given time. Meanwhile the latter is useful for seeing if your spending is starting to run away from you.
If there are any notes I have for this main tab it’s that I could use some greater variety in color. Don’t get me wrong — the recurring blue hues aren’t displeasing but I could imagine an even more attractive landing page. But colors won’t fix your finances so let’s move on.
I’ll admit that I was initially a bit confused about the Transactions tab when I first navigated to it. Sure, as the title promises, there are indeed recent transactions listed. However my confusion came from the assumption that the “Type” option would have you confirm the spending category for budgeting purposes. In reality, however, “Type” is meant to differentiate things such as credit card payments and transfers from regular expenses. Once I realized this, it made much more sense to me (although there’s one complication to that we’ll get to later).
Beyond just viewing your recent purchases, you can also hit the checkmark under “Actions” to verify a purchase. Note that this step isn’t required in order for transactions to show up in things like budgets and trends but it could be a good way to keep track of what purchases you’ve already seen. Needless to say this could also get you into the habit of paying attention to your transactions, which could help identify fraud.
For most people coming to Money Patrol, I assume that this tab will be the most useful. To that point, I personally enjoy the aesthetics and graphical data on display here. For example I really like the spreadsheet-esque usage table at the bottom of the page where you can quickly see how much you’ve spent across each category in each of the past three, six, or 12 months as well as the eye-pleasing blues and greens that represent your spending versus your total budget.
To flesh out this page and personalize it, you’ll need to set each of your individual budget categories and caps individually. Something you’ll notice when doing this is that you can only select from existing categories. However this doesn’t mean that you can’t generate custom categories — you’ll just need to go through an extra step.
Remember that Transactions tab that confused me because I thought it would have more of an impact on your budget categories? Well, as it turns out, it does but not quite in the way I thought. Instead, to create a new category or edit a transaction, you can click the pencil icon in the middle of the “Action” column. From there you can create a new category by hitting “Change” next to “Category” and then manually typing the name. You can select whether to apply this alternation to just that transaction or past transactions meeting that description. Finally, once you hit “Apply Changes,” the transaction(s) will be recategorized and that category will then show in budgets.
Honestly I do wish that workflow was a bit more straightforward but at least it’s capable of supporting custom categories. Similarly I appreciate the ability to set merchant-specific budgets as that’s mostly what I would use custom budget categories for anyway.
Even for someone like me that pays off their credit card bill in full each month, the Debts tab in Money Patrol still has a lot to offer. For one, you can view a history of your credit utilization over the past 30, 60, or 90 days. Also useful is the ability to see your recent credit card payments. By the way, you do have the option of viewing this data for all of your cards or looking at just one at a time.
Assuming that most people have recurring bills they’ll need to pay, this tab could be among the best Money Patrol offers. Featuring a calendar of monthly payments it’s already observed, you have the option of adding new reminders as well. Sure it’s simple but it’s quite effective.
If you’re connecting brokerage accounts, this section is where you can monitor portfolio value and more. Something to note here is that it seems that this tracking begins once you link your accounts, with back data not being reflected. Thus it will take some time for this feature to be useful if you’re just getting started.
In the event that the other tabs Money Patrol offers leave you wanting, the Reports section might just have what you seek. From here you can generate a look at:
- Recurring transactions
- Large transactions
- Cash available
- Credit usage
- and more
Funny enough, it seems that two of my favorite features on Money Patrol involve calendars. Joining the bills calendar is the transaction calendar you can find by clicking the calendar icon. Alternatively this display can also be found at the bottom of the Dashboard.
On the calendar, you’ll see the total amount you spent in Expenses each day along with Transfers, Card Payments, Income, and more. Furthermore transactions that deducted from your balances display in orange while those that added to it show in blue. Quite honestly I can’t say what exactly I like so much about this feature but it definitely appeals to me.
Somewhat hidden in the Settings is a feature I think could actually be quite useful. In the Account tab of Settings, you’ll see the option to grant access to another user. Doing this will allow them to view your insights and summaries but not your specific account data. Additionally they’ll be unable to add or remove any accounts. You can also revoke their access at any time.
Before you can invite someone to access your info, they’ll need to already have an account with Money Patrol. Then, after you’ve added them, they’ll be able to toggle between their account and yours via a “View Mode” pull-down menu that will appear in the top-center of the Dashboard.
Overall I think this is a smart feature that’s well-implemented as well.
Last but not least, Money Patrol will keep you updated on your finances even when you’re not able to get to a computer. This is done through various alerts and notifications. In Settings you can decide whether to receive these alerts via SMS, e-mail, or both.
One thing I can’t figure out is how you can dictate what types of events trigger notifications. While clicking the bell icon will show you what alerts you’ve received, I don’t see much in the way of selecting what you want to see more or less of. Therefore I hope this is something Money Patrol builds out going forward.
Final Thoughts on Money Patrol
Considering how new to the scene Money Patrol is, I think it shows a lot of promise. While it may bear a resemblance to Mint or Personal Capital in certain areas, there are some features that Money Patrol offers that I think help set it apart — namely the transaction calendar, easy-to-add merchant-specific budget categories, and the ability to grant another user access. That said, there are other areas where I think the tool could learn from its competition as well as make the platform a bit more intuitive overall. For example the hoops you need to jump through in order to add new budget categories show that there’s some room for improvement.
Something else I don’t love about Money Patrol is its price point. For $7 a month (or really $84 a year since it is apparently billed annually) I feel like the service needs to stand head and shoulders above the existing free options. Then again, this could be a small price to pay if Money Patrol helps you improve your finances whereas other available tools don’t.
All things considered, I’m very interested in seeing how Money Patrol develops. If you’re intrigued as well, I’d definitely check out their demo and perhaps start a free trial for yourself.
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Also published on Medium.
Based on this review, I would like to try this new app and its great to hear that there is a 15-day free trial.
Investing in apps like this can be good if in the long run, it will help you monitor your accounts and be able to save more.
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