Mint, a free online finance-managing service, is old news. I found it today after searching for free finance software as an alternative to balancing a check book with a pen. Frankly, I backed out of the service shortly after creating an account with them. Following is my rationale for those of you weighing the odds of online financial management.

First off, since I have very limited experience with Mint, I cannot offer a review of the service’s ergonomics. I very much want to use Mint. I still really like Mint! It’s fast, simple, free, and incorporates a minimalist design that is laden with information that is only relevant and useful. What more could one want? I researched forums and, of course, read Mint’s explanations regarding the safety of the service and the security of my personal data. Mint basically couldn’t be any more secure. Read-only service, no personally-identifiable information (short of an email address), secure data center with human security and biometrics, multi-level software and hardware encryption, etc. Locked down.

The problem for me lies with my banks and not with Mint. Consider the following scenario, but first note a critical section of Mint’s Terms of Service (as of March 24, 2011).

9. Rights You Grant To Us

[…] YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT WHEN INTUIT IS ACCESSING AND RETRIEVING ACCOUNT INFORMATION FROM THIRD PARTY SITES, INTUIT IS ACTING AS YOUR AGENT, AND NOT AS THE AGENT OF OR ON BEHALF OF THE THIRD PARTY. […]

There is nothing wrong with this from a business standpoint (it makes sense — they’re protecting their bases, and that’s okay — nothing wrong on Mint’s side). As many people would agree, though, nothing is guaranteed to be absolutely safe. There is always that one chance… I trust Mint’s security, and so do many others. A glance at forums regarding Mint’s legitimacy will show that tons of users have used the service for years and have never had a single issue with their accounts or information. However, in the infinitesimally small chance that someone obtains your account information with criminal intent, you have forfeited your finances.

The service may be held responsible to pay back all of the missing funds, but can one guarantee that will happen? As for banks, go tell your banker that your finances were stolen and all he is obligated to do is be truthful with you: look you in the eye and say, “you distributed your credentials” (remember, Mint acts as your agent and not your bank’s).

My intent is not to leave you with a negative view of Mint’s service. As far as I am aware, there is nothing wrong with the service itself. Mint is great! I trust Mint. I want to use it. But in the end, if anything were to happen, no matter how remote the odds, the compensation for my loss is my responsibility.

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