I love it, and I’m scared of it.
In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Mint is an online personal financial management service that has been available to Canadians since December 2010. You provide your login credentials to all of your bank accounts, credit cards, investments and mortgage accounts, and Mint aggregates your data and presents a consolidated view of your account activity. It categorizes transactions and provides budgeting tools.
Being able to aggregate all my financial information into one application on my computer, an application that will analyze my spending data, create a budget and many more things from the info, makes me want to use this service very much.
Providing the login information for all my online financial data, to a third party to do this aggregating, scares the hell out of me. Not to mention that giving your login credentials to a third party violates some providers account agreements, which could leave you on the hook for fraudulent transactions. Large holders of private financial info have been compromised before (ala Target ) and if your login credentials to your complete financial world fell into the wrong hands, your whole identity could be at serious risk.
The fact that Mint is free to use brings out the cynic in me. They are using everyone’s anonymous spending information for marketing trends, etc etc which they no doubt sell.
I haven’t looked around for one yet, but I would love to have an app on my computer or smart phone that had the same functionality, but kept my data on my computer, and not some faceless third party’s server. What if that server resides in the United States, or falls under the American Patriot Act legislation in another way? That gives the US government carte blanche access to the data, if it resides within their borders. I don’t want that either.
Now, it is true that more and more financial institutions are offering this kind of service to their clients. I suppose even a financial institution could be compromised, and its clients personal information spread to the multitudes of unsavoury characters lurking in the dark recesses of the internet, but at least you would have some recourse in that situation.
For myself, there are too many potential negatives to using Mint, or any other third party service like them. I’ll wait until my financial institution brings this functionality to its internet banking product.