Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Refreshing Mint

I have been a Quicken user for many years, starting off in the days of DOS way back in the 1990's. When Microsoft got in to the Personal Finance software business with Money it spurred Intuit to keep upgrading Quicken.
I remember upgrading Quicken on a number of occasions and never being really wowed by the additional features. I often came away with the impression that upgrades were more about being able to put a tick in a box in the feature comparison charts rather than making the task of handling our finances easier. When I switched to a PowerBook 5 years ago Quicken seemed even more of a bolt-on to the OS X environment. Intuit weren't expecting competition from Microsoft on the OS X platform so where was the incentive to improve the application?
Amongst all this complacency a start-up has slipped in and re-written the rules. Yes, Personal Finances can be easy! At TechCrunch40 last year Mint walked off with the top prize for their web-based personal finance application.
I spend a good part of my day using different machines at work. As a result installed applications are an issue and increasingly inconvenient. Thank heaven for Web 2.0 and browser-based applications. I signed up for Mint a few months ago and have increasingly found it to be one of the applications I load in to a browser tab so it is readily to hand, alongside Twitter, meebo, Google Reader and Quotably.
Mint just received another endorsement. They announced a partnership with The Motley Fool that will include a joint branded version of Mint. According to TechCrunch Mint is seeing subscriber growth of 25% per month. The Motley Fool partnership will consolidate that growth and bodes well for the future of Mint.
Mint is a great Web 2.0 application. It takes a complex subject and makes it accessible. It starts off simply and reveals added richness as users become more familiar with the service. The business model seems simple. Provide free use of the service and use the data to target referrals to subscribers that could save them money. Mint gets the referral rewards and the subscribers get a deal. Everyone wins. Yes, Personal Finance has been set free. It is going to be fascinating to watch how Intuit and Microsoft respond to this new competitor.
What is the killer feature on Mint for me? It has to be the automatic updating of transactions from my bank and credit card accounts.
What feature will I be looking for? As Mint learns more about my financial picture I would expect to get tips on optimizing my tax position and come tax time I hope there is an integration with a tax preparation service.
If you haven't checked out Mint take it for a test drive.