Between my wife and I, we have 6 banking accounts spread across 4 of the 5 largest Canadian Banks and we’d been updating our budgets using Excel. This provided the information we needed but was laborious and time-consuming. So we were excited when Mint.com recently launched (quietly) in Canada.
Mint.com has provided one central place to manage all our banking needs and arguably all our financial needs. We've consolidated all of our accounts into one site and can easily see all balances and transactions. Beyond this basic functionality, we can set-up budgets and plan for goals we’re working towards, like a vacation fund.
Setting up our (free!) profile and pulling in account information took about 15 minutes. Selecting our accounts from a list of Canadian banks was very quick. After inputting my information the transactions for each account over the last 60 days were pulled in within minutes.
After the quick set-up process thenI realized the real power of Mint. I was able to categorize all transactions into predefined ‘buckets’ that work like a General Ledger with sub-ledger items. After all the items were categorized I could use the powerful trends features that presented all the transactions in an elegant pie chart. All charts allow the user to click-thru to more granular details. For example, when I select the “Home” wedge, the pie updates to show me all items, such as the groceries, clothing and home insurance, a new chart. Selecting another wedge allows me to drill right into the transactions for that particular category.
After our transactions were automatically feeding in to our account, we could setup a budget. Tabs at the top of the budget screen allow switching between months to see how we’re trending over time. Although this interface could use a little work, such as providing more charts rather than the current numeric interface, the required basics are there.
Creating a “Goal” for saving toward our trip to Florida in the winter took about three minutes. Selecting from nine predefined goals such as “Take a Trip” or “Improve Your Home”, the interface is intuitive and provides estimates for each line item. After selecting “Take a Trip” the system prompted me to select a location, number of travellers, number of days and then provided estimates for Flight, Hotel, Food, Car and Activities. Upon completion a savings plan was setup in one of our accounts to track our progress towards the goal.
Lots of other great features, but I particularly like how Mint.com sends us emails for important items like when a bank fee is charged to our account, a notice two days in advance of the Visa payment being due, and a monthly overview of our account activity.
Having access to everything Mint offers demonstrates the opportunities our banks are missing. Adding features such as allowing users to categorize account items and adding budgets to manage their money shouldn't be too difficult. Mint allows me to see all of my account transactions on one screen or split them out by account. The closest the banks come to this, even when we have three different accounts with the same bank, is an overview page with balances. I’m not looking for the great pie chart interface that Mint provides, I’m just looking for better features to manage our money from the institutions where we keep it.
The biggest disappointment, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has decided to not allow its customers to connect to Mint. When I tried to contact the CIBC via their email submission form it gave me an error after selecting “Submit”. Paying my phone bill online is great, but helping me manage my money and financial planning would go a long way towards creating a better bank.
Have you used Mint yet? What’s your experience been like? Would you like to see Canadian banks provide these services?