If you haven’t heard, the popular budgeting app Mint is about to go away. Parent company Intuit will shut down the service on March 24, 2024. The company suggests folks migrate to its other personal finance app, Credit Karma. Mint had 3.6 million active users as of 2021, according to Bloomberg, and I’m one of them. I use the app to track all of my accounts in one place without having to log into too many disparate banking apps. But I’ve also used it to monitor my credit score, stick to a monthly budget, and set goals like building a rainy-day fund or paying down my mortgage faster. With that, looking for a Mint alternative beyond Credit Karma became a top priority.
Intuit has not commented on whether it intends to fold Mint’s budgeting features into Credit Karma but as it stands, Credit Karma is not a Mint substitute: It’s meant to monitor your credit and, Intuit hopes, steer you toward credit cards and various other financial products. I downloaded it, spent some time with it and wasn’t impressed.
So, in addition, I recently installed a good half-dozen competing money apps to see if any might cut it as a permanent Mint replacement. What follows is the guide I would have wanted to read: a comparison of budgeting apps that promise to track your net worth and spending in one place. I also pledge to update this guide as the various apps I tested continue to add more features and, in some cases, correct known bugs. Join me as I fall down a rabbit hole.
How we tested
First, I had to do some research. To find a list of apps to test, I consulted trusty ol’ Google (and even trustier Reddit); read reviews of popular apps on the App Store; and also asked friends and colleagues what budget tracking apps they might be using. Some of the apps I found were free, just like Mint. These, of course, show loads of ads (excuse me, “offers”) to stay in business. But most of the available apps require paid subscriptions, with prices typically topping out around $100 a year, or $15 a month. (Spoiler: My top pick is cheaper than that.)
Since this guide is meant to help Mint users find a permanent replacement, any services I chose to test needed to do several things: import all of your account data into one place; offer budgeting tools; and track your spending, net worth and credit score. Except where noted, all of these apps are available for iOS, Android and on the web.
Once I had my shortlist of six apps, I got to work setting them up. For the sake of thoroughly testing these apps (and remember, I really was looking for a Mint alternative myself), I made a point of adding every account to every tracking app, no matter how small or immaterial the balance. What ensued was a veritable Groundhog Day of two-factor authentication. Just hours of entering passwords and one-time passcodes, for the same banks half a dozen times over. Hopefully, you only have to do this once.
How to import your financial data from Mint
If only importing data from Mint were as easy as entering your credentials from inside your new budgeting app and hitting “import.” In fact, any app that advertises the ability to port over your stats from Mint is just going to have you upload a CSV file of transactions and other data.
To download a CSV file from Mint, do the following:
Sign into Mint.com and hit Transactions in the menu on the left side of the screen.
Select an account, or all accounts.
Scroll down and look for “export [number] transactions” in smaller print.
Your CSV file should begin downloading.
Note: Downloading on a per-account basis might seem more annoying, but could help you get set up on the other side, if the app you’re using has you importing transactions one-for-one into their corresponding accounts.
The best Mint alternative: Quicken Simplifi
No pun intended, but what I like about Quicken Simplifi is its simplicity. Whereas other apps try to distinguish themselves with dark themes and customizable emoji, Simplifi has a clean user interface, with a landing page that you just keep scrolling through to get a detailed overview of all your stats. These include your top-line balances; net worth; recent spending; upcoming recurring payments; a snapshot of your spending plan; top spending categories; achievements; and any watchlists you’ve set up. You can also set up savings goals elsewhere in the app. I also appreciate how it offers neat, almost playful visualizations without ever looking cluttered. I felt at home in the mobile and web dashboards after a day or so, which is faster than I adapted to some competing services (I’m looking at you, YNAB and Monarch).
Getting set up with Simplifi was mostly painless. I was particularly impressed at how easily it connected to Fidelity; not all budget trackers do, for whatever reason. This is also one of the only services I tested that gives you the option of inviting a spouse or financial advisor to co-manage your account.
In practice, Simplifi miscategorized some of my expenses, but nothing out of the ordinary compared to any of these budget trackers. As you’re reviewing transactions, you can also mark if you’re expecting a refund, which is a unique feature among the services I tested. Simplifi also estimated my regular income better than some other apps I tested. Most of all, I appreciated the option of being able to categorize some, but not all, purchases from a merchant as recurring. For instance, I can add my two Amazon subscribe-and-saves as recurring payments, without having to create a broad-strokes rule for every Amazon purchase.
The budgeting feature is also self-explanatory. Just check that your regular income is accurate and be sure to set up recurring payments, making note of which are bills and which are subscriptions. This is important because Simplifi shows you your total take-home income as well as an “income after bills” figure. That number includes, well, bills but not discretionary subscriptions. From there, you can add spending targets by category in the “planned spending” bucket. Planned spending can also include one-time expenditures, not just monthly budgets. When you create a budget, Simplifi will suggest a number based on a six-month average.
Not dealbreakers, but two things to keep in mind as you get started: Simplifi is notable in that you can’t set up an account through Apple or Google. There is also no option for a free trial, though Quicken promises a “30-day money back guarantee.”
The best Mint alternative (runner-up): Monarch Money
Monarch Money grew on me. My first impression of the app, which was founded by a former Mint product manager, was that it’s more difficult to use than others on this list, including Simplifi, NerdWallet and Copilot. And it is. Editing expense categories, adding recurring transactions and creating rules, for example, is a little more complicated than it needs to be, especially in the mobile app. (My advice: Use the web app for fine-tuning details.) Monarch also didn’t get my income right; I had to edit it.
Once you’re set up, though, Monarch offers an impressive level of granularity. In the budgets section, you can see a bona fide balance sheet showing budgets and actuals for each category. You’ll also find a forecast, for the year or by month. And recurring expenses can be set not just by merchant, but other parameters as well. For instance, while most Amazon purchases might be marked as “shopping,” those for the amounts of $54.18 or $34.18 are definitely baby supplies, and can be automatically marked as such each time, not to mention programmed as recurring payments. Weirdly, though, there’s no way to mark certain recurring payments as bills, specifically.
Not long after I first published this story in December 2023, Monarch introduced a detailed reporting section where you can create on-demand graphs based on things like accounts, categories and tags. That feature is available just on the web version of the app for now. As part of this same update, Monarch added support for an aggregator that makes it possible to automatically update the value of your car. These features, too, are likely to appeal to power users who prefer a more hands-on approach to managing their finances.
The mobile app is mostly self-explanatory. The main dashboard shows your net worth; your four most recent transactions; a month-over-month spending comparison; income month-to-date; upcoming bills; an investments snapshot; a list of any goals you’ve set; and, finally, a link to your month-in-review. That month-in-review is more detailed than most, delving into cash flow; top income and expense categories; cash flow trends; changes to your net worth, assets and liabilities; plus asset and liability breakdowns.
On the main screen, you’ll also find tabs for accounts, transactions, cash flow, budget and recurring. Like many of the other apps featured here, Monarch can auto-detect recurring expenses and income, even if it gets the category wrong. (They all do to an extent.) Expense categories are marked by emoji, which you can customize if you’re so inclined.
Monarch Money uses a combination of networks to connect with banks, including Plaid, MX and Finicity, a competing network owned by Mastercard. (I have a quick explainer on Plaid, the industry standard in this space, toward the end of this guide.) As part of an update in late December, Monarch has also made it easier to connect through those other two networks, if for some reason Plaid fails. Similar to NerdWallet, I found myself completing two-factor authentication every time I wanted to get past the Plaid screen to add another account. Notably, Monarch is the only other app I tested that allows you to grant access to someone else in your family — likely a spouse or financial advisor. Monarch also has a Chrome extension for importing from Mint, though really this is just a shortcut for downloading a CSV file, which you’ll have to do regardless of where you choose to take your Mint data.
Coming soon, Monarch says it is adding syncing for investment transactions; bill tracking; a more detailed and “intuitive” approach to goal setting; and net worth graphs on mobile. Monarch hasn’t provided a timeline for most of these items, except to say that the improved goals feature is coming in early 2024.
The best up-and-comer: Copilot Money
Copilot Money might be the best-looking budget tracker I tested. It also has the distinction of being exclusive to iOS and Macs — at least for now. Andres Ugarte, the company’s CEO, has publicly promised that Android and web apps are coming in 2024 (more likely the second half of the year, Ugarte tells me). But until it follows through, I can’t recommend Copilot for most people with so many good competitors out there.
Copilot Money for Web and Android!
Thanks to the support from our users, and the overwhelming positive reception we’re seeing from folks migrating from Mint, we can now say that we’ll be building @copilotmoney for Web and Android with a goal to launch in 2024.
We’ll continue to…
— Andres Ugarte (@chuga) November 15, 2023
There are other features that Copilot is missing, which I’ll get into. But it is promising, and one to keep an eye on. It’s just a fast, efficient, well designed app, and Android users will be in for a treat when they’ll finally be able to download it. It makes good use of colors, emoji and graphs to help you understand at a glance how you’re doing on everything from your budgets to your investment performance to your credit card debt over time. In particular, Copilot does a better job than almost any other app of visualizing your recurring monthly expenses.
Behind those punchy colors and cutesy emoji, though, is some sophisticated performance. Copilot’s AI-powered “Intelligence” gets smarter as you go at categorizing your expenses. (You can also add your own categories, complete with your choice of emoji.) It’s not perfect. Copilot miscategorized some purchases (they all do), but it makes it easier to edit than most. On top of that, the internal search feature is very fast; it starts whittling down results in your transaction history as soon as you begin typing.
Copilot is also unique in offering Amazon and Venmo integrations, allowing you to see transaction details. With Amazon, this requires just signing into your Amazon account via an in-app browser. For Venmo, you have to set up firstname.lastname@example.org as a forwarding address and then create a filter, wherein emails from email@example.com are automatically forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the app is heavily automated, I still appreciate that Copilot marks new transactions for review. It’s a good way to both weed out fraudulent charges, and also be somewhat intentional about your spending habits.
Like Monarch Money, Copilot recently updated its app to make it easier to connect to banks through networks other than Plaid. As part of the same update, Copilot says it has improved its connections to both American Express and Fidelity which, again, can be a bugbear for some budget tracking apps.
Because the app is relatively new (it launched in early 2020), the company is still catching up to the competition on some table-stakes features. Ugarte told me that his team is almost done building out a detailed cash flow section, which could launch before the end of 2023, but more likely in early 2024. On its website, Copilot also promises a raft of AI-powered features that build on its current “Intelligence” platform, the one that powers its smart expense categorization. These include “smart financial goals,” natural language search, a chat interface, forecasting and benchmarking. That benchmarking, Ugarte tells me, is meant to give people a sense of how they’re doing compared to other Copilot users, on both spending and investment performance. Most of these features should arrive in the new year.
Copilot does a couple interesting things for new customers that distinguish it from the competition. There’s a “demo mode” that feels like a game simulator; no need to add your own accounts. The company is also offering two free months with RIPMINT — a more generous introductory offer than most. When it finally does come time to pony up, the $7.92 monthly plan is cheaper than some competing apps, although the $95-a-year-option is in the same ballpark.
The best free budgeting app: NerdWallet
You may know NerdWallet as a site that offers a mix of personal finance news, explainers and guides. I see it often when I google a financial term I don’t know and sure enough, it’s one of the sites I’m most likely to click on. As it happens, NerdWallet also has the distinction of offering one of the only free budget tracking apps I tested. In fact, there is no paid version; nothing is locked behind a paywall. The main catch: There are ads everywhere. To be fair, the free version of Mint was like this, too.
Even with the inescapable credit card offers, NerdWallet has a clean, easy-to-understand user interface, which includes both a web and a mobile app. The key metrics that it highlights most prominently are your cash flow, net worth and credit score. (Of note, although Mint itself offered credit score monitoring, most of its rivals do not.) I particularly enjoyed the weekly insights, which delve into things like where you spent the most money or how much you paid in fees — and how that compares to the previous month. Because this is NerdWallet, an encyclopedia of financial info, you get some particularly specific category options when setting up your accounts (think: a Roth or non-Roth IRA).
As a budgeting app, NerdWallet is more than serviceable, if a bit basic. Like other apps I tested, you can set up recurring bills. Importantly, it follows the popular 50/30/20 budgeting rule, which has you putting 50% of your budget toward things you need, 30% toward things you want, and the remaining 20% into savings or debt repayments. If this works for you, great — just know that you can’t customize your budget to the same degree as some competing apps. You can’t currently create custom spending categories, though a note inside the dashboard section of the app says “you’ll be able to customize them in the future.” You also can’t move items from the wants column to “needs” or vice versa but “In the future, you’ll be able to move specific transactions to actively manage what falls into each group.” A NerdWallet spokesperson declined to provide an ETA, though.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that NerdWallet had one of the most onerous setup processes of any app I tested. I don’t think this is a dealbreaker, as you’ll only have to do it once and, hopefully, you aren’t setting up six or seven apps in tandem as I was. What made NerdWallet’s onboarding especially tedious is that every time I wanted to add an account, I had to go through a two-factor authentication process to even get past the Plaid splash screen, and that’s not including the 2FA I had set up at each of my banks. This is a security policy on NerdWallet’s end, not Plaid’s, a Plaid spokesperson says.
Precisely because NerdWallet is one of the only budget trackers to offer credit score monitoring, it also needs more of your personal info during setup, including your birthday, address, phone number and the last four digits of your social security number. It’s the same with Credit Karma, which also does credit score monitoring.
Related to the setup process, I found that NerdWallet was less adept than other apps at automatically detecting my regular income. In my case, it counted a large one-time wire transfer as income, at which point my only other option was to enter my income manually (which is slightly annoying because I would have needed my pay stub handy to double-check my take-home pay).
Budgeting apps we also tested
YNAB is, by its own admission, “different from anything you’ve tried before.” The app, whose name is short for You Need a Budget, promotes a so-called zero-based budgeting system, which forces you to assign a purpose for every dollar you earn. A frequently used analogy is to put each dollar in an envelope; you can always move money from one envelope to another in a pinch. These envelopes can include rent and utilities, along with unforeseen expenses like holiday gifts and the inevitable car repair. The idea is that if you budget a certain amount for the unknowns each month, they won’t feel like they’re sneaking up on you.
Importantly, YNAB is only concerned with the money you have in your accounts now. The app does not ask you to provide your take-home income or set up recurring income payments (although there is a way to do this). The money you will make later in the month through your salaried job is not relevant, because YNAB does not engage in forecasting.
The app is harder to learn than any other here, and it requires more ongoing effort from the user. And YNAB knows that. Inside both the mobile and web apps are links to videos and other tutorials. Although I never quite got comfortable with the user interface, I did come to appreciate YNAB’s insistence on intentionality. Forcing users to draft a new budget each month and to review each transaction is not necessarily a bad thing. As YNAB says on its website, “Sure, you’ve got pie charts showing that you spent an obscene amount of money in restaurants — but you’ve still spent an obscene amount of money in restaurants.” I can see this approach being useful for people who don’t tend to have a lot of cash in reserve at a given time, or who have spending habits they want to correct (to riff off of YNAB’s own example, ordering Seamless four times a week).
My colleague Valentina Palladino, knowing I was working on this guide, penned a respectful rebuttal, explaining why she’s been using YNAB for years. Perhaps, like her, you have major savings goals you want to achieve, whether it’s paying for a wedding or buying a house. I suggest you give her column a read. For me, though, YNAB’s approach feels like overkill.
PocketGuard is one of the only reputable free budget trackers I found in my research. Just know it’s far more restricted at the free tier than NerdWallet or Mint. In my testing, I was prompted to pay after I attempted to link more than two bank accounts. So much for free, unless you keep things simple with one cash account and one credit card. When it comes time to upgrade to PocketGuard Plus, you have three options: pay $7.99 a month, $34.99 a year or $79.99 for a one-time lifetime license. That lifetime option is actually one of the few unique selling points for me: I’m sure some people will appreciate paying once and never having to, uh, budget for it again.
From the main screen, you’ll see tabs for accounts, insights, transactions and the “Plan,” which is where you see recurring payments stacked on top of what looks like a budget. The main overview screen shows you your net worth, total assets and debts; net income and total spending for the month; upcoming bills; a handy reminder of when your next paycheck lands; any debt payoff plan you have; and any goals.
Like some other apps, including Quicken Simplifi, PocketGuard promotes an “after bills” approach, where you enter all of your recurring bills, and then PocketGuard shows you what’s left, and that’s what you’re supposed to be budgeting: your disposable income. Obviously, other apps have a different philosophy: take into account all of your post-tax income and use it to pay the bills, purchase things you want and maybe even save a little. But in PocketGuard, it’s the “in your pocket” number that’s most prominent. To PocketGuard’s credit, it does a good job visualizing which bills are upcoming and which ones you’ve already paid.
PocketGuard has also publicly committed to adding some popular features in early 2024. These include rollover budgeting in January 2024, categorization rules in February and shared household access in March.
Although PocketGuard’s UI is easy enough to understand, it lacks polish. The “accounts” tab is a little busy, and doesn’t show totals for categories like cash or investments. Seemingly small details like weirdly phrased or punctuated copy occasionally make the app feel janky. More than once, it prompted me to update the app when no updates were available. The web version, meanwhile, feels like the mobile app blown up to a larger format and doesn’t take advantage of the extra screen real estate.
Of note, although PocketGuard does work with Plaid, its primary bank-connecting platform is actually Finicity. Setting up my accounts through Finicity was mostly a straightforward process. I did encounter one hiccup: Finicity would not connect to my SoFi account. I was able to do it through Plaid, but PocketGuard doesn’t make it easy to access Plaid in the app. The only way, as far as I can tell, is to knowingly search for the name of a bank that isn’t available through Finicity, at which point you get the option to try Plaid instead. Like I said: the experience can be janky.
What is Plaid and how does it work?
Each of the apps I tested uses the same underlying network, called Plaid, to pull in financial data, so it’s worth explaining in its own section what it is and how it works. Plaid was founded as a fintech startup in 2013 and is today the industry standard in connecting banks with third-party apps. Plaid works with over 12,000 financial institutions across the US, Canada and Europe. Additionally, more than 8,000 third-party apps and services rely on Plaid, the company claims.
To be clear, you don’t need a dedicated Plaid app to use it; the technology is baked into a wide array of apps, including the budget trackers I tested for this guide. Once you find the “add an account” option in whichever one you’re using, you’ll see a menu of commonly used banks. There’s also a search field you can use to look yours up directly. Once you find yours, you’ll be prompted to enter your login credentials. If you have two-factor authentication set up, you’ll need to enter a one-time passcode as well.
As the middleman, Plaid is a passthrough for information that may include your account balances, transaction history, account type and routing or account number. Plaid uses encryption, and says it has a policy of not selling or renting customer data to other companies. However, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t note that in 2022 Plaid was forced to pay $58 million to consumers in a class action suit for collecting “more financial data than was needed.” As part of the settlement, Plaid was compelled to change some of its business practices.
In a statement provided to Engadget, a Plaid spokesperson said the company continues to deny the allegations underpinning the lawsuit and that “the crux of the non-financial terms in the settlement are focused on us accelerating workstreams already underway related to giving people more transparency into Plaid’s role in connecting their accounts, and ensuring that our workstreams around data minimization remain on track.”
My top Mint alternative picks: Quicken Simplifi and Copilot Money
To conclude, you might be wondering what app I decided on for myself after all of this research. The answer is actually two apps: Quicken Simplifi, my overall top pick, and Copilot Money. For now, I am actively using both apps and still deciding, long-term, which I feel more comfortable with. I tend to prefer Copilot’s fast, colorful user interface, but as I explained above, it’s too lacking in table-stakes features for me to go so far as to name it the best overall option.