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Mint.com from Intuit is a free service that makes money management ridiculously simple. The application lets you gain useful insights into your finances and manage your budget in one centralized location. The features and benefits of Mint are impressive, and the whole system is flexible enough to accommodate any budgeting style. From basic budgeting to investment tracking, the website helps you to better take control of your finances and help you make money-smart decisions.

Mint.com brings all of your financial information into one easy-access location, but it’s also completely secure. For starters they use bank-level security backed by VeriSign, TRUSTe, Hackersafe and RSA Security. Your account is password protected, but more importantly is anonymous because it doesn’t include your social security number, account numbers, address or even your name. It works with your bank to let you access your bank account information securely, but your actual account information is stored in a separate database maintained by Yodlee, another trusted secure online financial service. And even if someone were able to hack into your account, it's “read-only,” so they could only see what you’ve spent, not move any money around. Furthermore, because the service monitors all of your accounts and knows your spending habits, you can get alerts if unusual spending occurs, to help you quickly detect and rectify any fraudulent charges.

Getting started with Mint is easy, and lets you take advantage of several unique features specifically designed to help you save money. One way to save money is simply by spending less. Everything you spend is organized into logical categories like shopping, automotive and food. Or you can create your own categories. If you shop at superstores and need to separate your purchase into separate categories (i.e. groceries, clothing, entertainment) you can easily do that as well.

All of your organized spending is presented in charts and graphs that will let you re-evaluate where your money is going. Perhaps you notice that you spend far too much on entertainment, so you set a goal to spend $20 less a month. The program will track your budget goal and you can see your progress at any time so you aren’t surprised at the end of the month.

Another way to save money is to make more on your investments. There are tools to help you track your stocks and other commodities. The investing section is a great place to learn more about investing, learn basic market investment strategies, or just find out if you’re even ready to invest.

But even if you’re not interested in stocks or mutual funds, they can help you use the money you already have better by finding additional savings. Mint can analyze your spending habits and let you know if there is a better credit card you should apply for, better interest rate on savings accounts or if it’s time to rollover your 401k to an IRA. The service can help you find the right CD, checking account, or even auto insurance. You can even find customized results based on the type of rewards (cash back, points, miles, etc.) you’d like to earn. Best of all, the company isn’t just pushing one account or service that gives them the best affiliate deal, but the legitimate best deal for your individual situation. Furthermore, these savings suggestions are easy to find, but they aren’t constantly popping up like annoying advertisements.

This free personal finance toolkit can also save you money by helping you avoid unnecessary payments. Alerts (via text and/or email) will remind you if you’re funds are getting low, a bill has arrived or even if your interest rates have changed. These warnings can help you avoid overdraft charges and uncover any hidden fees, effectively reducing the amount of money you might waste without even knowing it.

The website is very versatile, and can easily help you manage your money regardless of your current budget or stage of life. Whether you’re trying to save for college or retirement, pay for a car or pay off debt, invest in the stock market or get your first credit card, Mint has the tools to help you take control of the situation.

The best part about it (aside from the free price tag) is that it is so easy to use. Even though there are features for advanced financial management and investing, you won’t get lost or over your head in financial jargon or complex tools. The whole interface is very intuitive, and easy to navigate. The tools and features are comprehensive in scope, but comprehendible in practice.

The only thing that Mint.com needs to work on is improving updates. In our tests it took quite a bit of time to manually update accounts, and there were several times when it wouldn’t update at all with our (fairly standard: Wells Fargo) accounts. The company has expressed their dedication to being able to work with all accounts that are online banking capable, and we’re confident that their updating schedule and speed will continue to improve. For now it’s a bit frustrating for some users, but certainly not a deal breaker.

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Mint.com Summary:

Mint.com is specifically designed to make budgeting simple and accessible for everyone. If you’ve failed at keeping a budget before or are afraid to try, this personal finance application is a perfect way to manage your money without getting overwhelmed. With understandable tools and additional help always available, it’s pretty easy to plan, create and track your budget.

Overall, users and other reviewers have very positive things to say about the personal finance website, and with our hands-on time we have to agree. Mint is a sleek personal finance application for managing your finances. Strangely enough it adds a great deal of utility while still simplifying your budget.

If you’re interested in Mint on the go, see our review of the Mint.com iPhone app.

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Mint.com

Top Ten Reviews no longer updates this category and keeps it here for archiving purposes only. It was last updated in March 2011.