• Thu. May 23rd, 2024

I tested the best Mint alternatives, and this is my new preferred money app

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ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • I checked out Monarch Money, NerdWallet, Rocket Money, Quicken Simplifi, and YNAB, and Monarch Money, at $99 a year, is my top pick.  
  • Pros: Easy to set up, with powerful tools for analyzing your finances and building a budget. 
  • Cons: The most expensive personal financial program.

I spent my Thanksgiving week looking at personal finance programs, but since Intuit decided to bury Mint — its popular and free money tracking and budget program — I didn’t have a choice. Mint was supposed to stop working on January 1, 2024. Intuit has since delayed Mint’s demise until March 24, 2024, probably because Mint customers have been slow to migrate.

Intuit would prefer it if I moved my Mint data to Credit Karma, but I’m not going to do that. While Credit Karma is good at working with your credit scores, it’s not a budgeting application. Even Intuit admits, “Credit Karma does not currently provide budgeting features the same way that Mint has in the past.” 

Credit Karma simply doesn’t cut it for my personal financial needs. I’m not alone. Many other people don’t like Credit Karma either. 

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With precious little time to move my years of financial data to a new service, I had to find a suitable replacement. Everyone’s financial needs are different. In my case, I needed a program that could handle multiple bank and credit card accounts, several 401Ks, and some stock and real estate investments. 

I looked for software that made it easy to import data from multiple sources. If you really want to, you can still key in your data to a spreadsheet. And I could also still write checks by hand. But I don’t have the time, and I doubt you do either.

So, I looked at Monarch Money, NerdWallet, Rocket Money, Quicken Simplifi, and YNAB (You Need A Budget). My top pick? Monarch Money.

Monarch Money provides a financial framework for zero-based budgeting. With this approach, you allocate every dollar you earn to expenses and savings. Monarch is more than just a budgeting app. It provides everything you need to manage your personal finances. 

View at Monarch Money

Monarch Money provides a financial framework for zero-based budgeting. With this approach, you allocate every dollar you earn to expenses and savings. Monarch is more than just a budgeting app. It provides everything you need to manage your personal finances. 

What I like most about Monarch Money

The program makes it easy to start linking your financial accounts, including credit cards, savings, loans, and investments. It does this by using Plaid, a secure third-party platform, to connect with your financial institutes. Except for other programs — such as NerdWallet — that also use Plaid, Monarch does the best job of working with your banks and credit cards. 

Monarch also makes it straightforward to import your Mint data. That way, you won’t lose your data. If you have trouble importing it, check out the Monarch-Mint FAQ. Just don’t wait too long. When Mint closes down, your data’s gone for good. 

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Monarch presents income and expenses clearly, making it easy to track your remaining budget. I’m not an emoji fan, but their use here for spending subcategories is not only charming but also functional, enabling quick identification of different categories. 

One nice Monarch feature is its transaction tracker. The tracker allows you to categorize spending into broad categories, such as food and dining; subcategories, such as groceries and restaurants; and specific merchants, such as Ingles Market and Five Points Diner. This detailed view of spending habits is a standout feature. The app’s auto-categorization is both precise and customizable, allowing users to set rules for future transactions based on the merchant or amount.

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Monarch also easily imports data from your bank accounts, retirement funds, stock accounts, and credit cards. It did the best job of all the applications I looked at in automatically importing data from other services. 

I also like that Monarch prioritizes savings. You can set a financial goal, such as saving for a house downpayment, and give it a deadline. The app creates a dedicated savings section on the home screen. Contributions to this section are only possible when expenses are lower than income.

The customizable dashboard provides an overview of your financial situation, with widgets for comparing monthly spending, viewing recent transactions, monitoring investments, and tracking savings goals.

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Another nice feature is Monarch’s Advice section. Here, Monarch spells out the steps you need to manage your money in the long run. This includes how to review your cash flow, how to set up estate documents, and what to look for in life insurance. 

The application also supports shared budgeting, making it suitable for couples or families. Adding another person to the budgeting platform is straightforward. I was able to add my partner to my dashboard without hassle.

I’ve now been using Monarch Money for four months. In a word, it’s “great.”  It does everything I need it to do and makes managing my money much easier. 

Monarch is better than Mint ever was. Mint would consistently have trouble importing data from several of my accounts. Every month or two, I’d need to reconnect my accounts to Mint. Those same accounts stay linked up in Monarch.

How to use Monarch Money

Getting started with Monarch is easy enough. You just link your various finances — checking, savings, retirement, and credit card and loan accounts — to the service. You can also incorporate assets like real estate, vehicles, and cryptocurrencies to assess your overall net worth. Once set up, they’ll automatically update future transactions. 

When that is done, you’re prompted to define your financial objectives, such as saving for a house down payment or clearing a student loan, along with the desired amounts for each. Monarch then helps you set up a specific line item for these goals, allowing you to decide how much to contribute every month.

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As I mentioned earlier, Monarch uses the zero-based budgeting method for planning your expenditures, urging you to allocate every dollar of your income each month. It suggests budget amounts for different spending categories based on your historical spending patterns, covering necessities like groceries and lifestyle choices like fitness. 

You can monitor the budgeted amount for each category and switch between your current spending and the remaining budget, giving you more control over your finances.

The app’s primary interface showcases your complete budget, including your net worth, recent transactions, investment tracking, and a comparison of your current spending against the previous month. It also highlights your progress towards saving objectives. This dashboard is highly adaptable, allowing you to tailor the display and prioritization of information to suit your preferences.

Monarch also supports collaborative budgeting, making it ideal for partners or families to manage finances together. It’s easy to invite others to join your budgeting dashboard via email, and it’s just as simple for them to accept the invitation. Should the need arise, removing someone from your dashboard is simple. 

What I’d like to change about Monarch Money

One oddity with Monarch is that it doesn’t offer credit score access. I get that capability via my credit cards, so I don’t miss it, but still, it would have been nice if they’d offered it. 

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Monarch’s recent price hike to $99.99 annually positions it among the more expensive budgeting apps. Additionally, navigating the app can be challenging initially, with some features — such as toggling between “Actual” and “Remaining” in spending categories — being less than intuitive and requiring some exploration to discover.

Overall, I found Monarch to be worth the money. For my money, Monarch is the best money management program available today. 

What I didn’t choose any of the other options

There wasn’t anything wrong with the other choices. They just weren’t right for me. 

NerdWallet is an interesting combination of an excellent free application and a very informative website. It’s ideal for anyone new to managing their money. But, that’s not me. Still, you can’t beat the price. 

Rocket Money has an excellent interface, but I found its “pay-what-you-wish” model pricing misleading. To get the most from it you’ll need its Premium Membership, which costs from $47.99 to $59.99 annually, or $4 to $12 per month. I also found it difficult to import data into it. It does, however, do a good job of finding and helping you get rid of subscriptions and other hidden fees.

Quicken Simplifi is not Quicken. Although its parent company still offers Quicken, Simplifi doesn’t resemble it for better or worse. Simplifi stands out for its providing tailored spending plans. You can update these in real-time to keep a close eye on your spending. But, like Rocket Money, Simplifi has trouble importing my data. If your accounts work with Simplifi (and with a free 30-day trial, you’ll have ample opportunity to see if that’s the case), the program is well worth its annual cost of $47.99.

YNAB, short for “You Need A Budget,” is a straightforward, zero-based budgeting app. It will help you meticulously plan your spending by assigning funds to specific categories every time you’re paid. As such, it demands more upfront work than the other applications. Yes, it can help you track your money, but the name of its game is to teach you how to budget using the zero-budget approach. For people who have trouble making and sticking to a budget, YNAB’s annual rate of $99 is well worth their investment. But, I learned the hard way how to keep a budget on my own. 

Quicken still lives

The old favorite financial program, Quicken, is still around, but it’s no longer from Intuit. Mint’s parent company, while still offering QuickBooks, sold Quicken in 2016. Under new management, the program lives on. 

Today, Quicken is one of the most comprehensive personal finance applications available. Quicken Classic, a desktop-based software complemented by a mobile app, provides extensive financial management tools. This software justifies its annual subscription cost by offering a wide range of features, including in-depth account management, budgeting, bill handling, and investment tracking.

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I can’t recommend Quicken for most people because you must be deep into personal finance management to make the most from the tool. While you can access Quicken via an app with Quicken Mobile and via the internet with Quicken on the Web, the full-powered versions are only available on PCs. 

That said, if you’ve used Quicken in the past, it’s still worth a look. The software is available in four different versions. To see if it’s for you, give the Quicken Starter for $3.49 a month a try. The more advanced versions come at different prices: Quicken Deluxe, for personal and small business finance, costs $5.99 a month; Quicken Classic Premier, for investors, costs $6.99 a month; and Quicken Business & Personal, for advanced users, will run you $9.99 a month. Only Quicken Starter and Classic are available for Mac users. 

What’s a credit score?

Your credit score is probably the most important number in your life. It determines not just how likely you are to get credit, but also your interest rates, how much you’ll pay for everything from a credit card to rent, and even whether you’ll get a job. Heck, there are even dating apps that take your credit card into consideration

A credit score, also known as a FICO score, is a numerical indicator, typically ranging from 300 to 850, that predicts how likely you are to repay loans and bills. This score is calculated using data from your credit accounts. 

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There are five main criteria for determining a FICO credit score: payment history, current debt level, frequency of new credit applications, the length of credit history, and the variety of credit types. The two most critical components are payment history, which makes up 35% of the score, and the amount of credit in use. Payment history factors include the timeliness of payments, the frequency of missed payments, how late payments are, and the recency of missed payments. Applying for new credit can briefly lower one’s score.

What is a good credit score?

A score of 700 or more is a good score, while 800 and above is excellent. Most people have scores ranging from 600 to 750. To improve a credit score, you can open accounts that report to credit bureaus, keep low balances, pay bills promptly, and limit new account applications. 

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have a single, fixed credit score. The score can differ based on the scoring model used, the data source, and the date of calculation.

Finance programs can help you build up your credit score because they put in your hands the information you need to control your finances. Without them, you’re operating blind.

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It’s also important to remember that you don’t have a single, fixed credit score. The score can differ based on the scoring model used, the data source, and the date of calculation.

Finance programs can help you build up your credit score because they put in your hands the information you need to control your finances. Without them, you’re operating blind.


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