Mint and Personal Capital are two web-based, money management platforms that are frequently compared to one another. While there are some similarities, the differences between the two render them very different services. Which you will prefer to work with will depend entirely on what you are looking for the platform to do.
The Basic Comparison
Mint is an online personal budgeting platform. It pulls your entire financial life into one application. That includes your checking, savings, credit cards, investments, retirement accounts, and even your PayPal account. Mint enables you to look at your entire financial situation holistically, rather than in the bits and pieces.
Mint is one of the most popular budgeting applications available, and is part of the TurboTax and Quicken families. The application enables you to manage virtually all aspects of your finances. And perhaps best of all, the application is completely free to use.
Personal Capital has budgeting capabilities, but it’s primarily an investment service. They have an advisory team that can manage all aspects of your investments. But they also act as a financial aggregator, enabling you to link all of your financial accounts in much the same way that Mint does. That enables Personal Capital to act as an all-in-one financial management platform.
Personal Capital offers both a free version and a premium version. Both provide you with all of the tools and features available on the platform, however the premium version offers active investment management.
Check It Out: Our Review of Personal Capital
Comparing the Two – Budgeting Services
The purpose of these two management systems to is to keep track of your money and help you spend it wisely. A large part of that, of course, is proper budgeting. So, how do the two companies measure up?
The most important function of Mint is budgeting, and it is especially good in that department. You set up your account with Mint, then link all of your financial accounts. This will enable you to get the best use out of the service.
With all of your financial information available on the platform, you can get a snapshot of all of your finances using the Overview. It keeps totals on all of your accounts, so that you can see the big picture. While Mint can aggregate all of your accounts within the application, their access to that information is “read only.” This means that they have no active control over your financial accounts.
Mint categorizes all of your financial activity. You can either rely on the default categories, or you can customize them to fit your own preferences. The application tracks all of your transactions, which enables you to both categorize and summarize your activity in each category.
This gives you an opportunity to create a specific budget, and then to measure your actual spending against your targets. The service can also compare how much you spend in each category compared to national averages. That can serve as another indication that you may be going over budget in certain categories.
Mint will also provide you with alerts. These will let you know when certain bills are coming due, or when you may be going over a credit limit.
The application also has a feature referred to as Mint Goals. This will help you to create goals in certain areas of your financial life, such as saving money, paying off debt, or saving for retirement. They provide tools to enable you to establish your goals, as well as to track your progress in reaching them.
Mint can also analyze various financial offers. For example, they can help you find the best interest rates on savings, the lowest rates on credit cards, the lowest investment fees, and the best IRA rollover offers available. That will help you to save money in seemingly small ways throughout your financial activity, that could seriously add up over time.
Bonus: Credit monitoring. Mint provides you with access to your free credit score. You can also learn how to improve your score. You will also receive credit monitoring alerts, in the event of suspicious activity. It will alert you any time Equifax receives new credit information from creditors. And unlike many other credit monitoring services, you are not required to provide credit card information in order to have access to the service.
Of course, Personal Capital also offers a budgeting option, albeit a much more limited one. Their built-in function enables you to follow your cash flow easily. This can provide you with insights into your spending habits, as well as allow you to view transactions in specific detail. You can summarize your activity on a monthly basis, so that you know exactly where your money is going.
You’ll get access to their Cash Flow Analyzer, which helps you to establish a budget by tracking your income and expenses from all sources. This will make it easier to pay your bills on time, as well as track your spending. It can also help you to allocate money to long-term goals, such as saving for retirement or paying off debt.
Personal Capital also allows you to set monthly spending targets, so that you can see whether or not you are staying within budget. You can also set specific budget targets, and the application will allow you to drill down into your spending to see exactly where you may be going off track.
Once again, these are only tools to help with your budgeting. They’re not nearly as comprehensive as the budgeting function offered by Mint.
Budgeting Winner: Mint, hands down
Comparing the Two – Investing
If Personal Capital is soft on budgeting, Mint is similarly weak in regards to investing.
As you’d expect, Mint offers investment benefits… but they are very limited. Of course, the platform enables you to track your investment accounts, just as you would any other financial accounts. And while you can summarize your investments in one place, that’s about the extent of it. There is no investment advice offered, and no serious investment related tools exist on the platform. To actively manage your investments, you will have to use a different application.
One investment-related function that Mint does offer is fee analysis. They are able to highlight expenses that are hidden even on investment statements. This can include advisory fees, transaction fees, and 401(k) fees. It’s more an extension of the Mint budgeting function, but it does have a secondary benefit on the investment side.
Meanwhile, Personal Capital excels with investing. In fact, it’s what they’re mostly about.
The paid version of Personal Capital acts as both an investment management service, and a financial account aggregator. That means that while you can benefit from direct investment management, you will always have sight of the big picture of your financial situation, even apart from your investments.
Learn More: The Four Hidden Fees of Mutual Funds
But even the free version offers a personalized analysis of your financial situation (the “Investment Checkup”). This includes an assessment of the risks and opportunities that may be available to you. You are also assigned a personal advisor, whom you can contact at any time for advice.
Both versions come with the various features, including the retirement planner, the 401(k) analyzer, the investment checkup, and the mobile app. Let’s take a closer look at some of those features:
- Personal Capital provides a 401(k) analyzer. They don’t actually manage your plan, but they can analyze it to make asset allocation suggestions that are based on the investments available in the plan.
- The Retirement Planner helps you to know if you’re adequately prepared for retirement. You can build certain information into the planner, such as the amount of your annual contributions. You can also incorporate major life events into the plan, such as saving for college or the birth of a child.
- With all of your financial accounts entered into the platform, Personal Capital can evaluate your asset allocation. Then, it can either make changes in the accounts that it directly manages or suggest changes in non-managed accounts, such as your 401(k).
- If you do go with the premium service, you can take advantage of Personal Capital’s investment management. This requires a minimum of $25,000 under management, and is subject to the fee schedule listed below.
By determining your risk tolerance, personal preferences, and life goals, Personal Capital can design an investment portfolio to help you reach those goals. They make use of Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), which focuses primarily on proper asset allocation. Your portfolio is comprised of a mix of index funds, but will also include individual securities if your portfolio is at least $100,000. Your portfolio is invested in a mix of US stocks, US bonds, international stocks, international bonds, and certain alternative investments, including commodities.
Personal Capital has also incorporated tax optimization into the investment strategy, though this is available only for the paid service. This strategy makes use of tax loss harvesting, which involves selling losing investments in order to offset gains on the sale of winning positions. This strategy keeps short-term capital gains to a minimum.
It also focuses on tax allocation, which is the process of having various asset types in the accounts where they will have the lowest tax liability. For example, high-yield stocks and real estate investment trusts are held in tax-deferred accounts, so that the steady stream of income will not be immediately taxable. Meanwhile, assets likely to incur capital gains are held in regular taxable accounts, for favorable long-term capital gains treatment.
Personal Capital also offers its Private Client Group, for individuals who invest $1 million or more with the service. This will grant you a progressively lower fee structure, as well as personalized investment and wealth planning. They also provide direct access to a certified financial planner, as well as to a team of licensed advisers.
Investing Winner: Personal Capital, hands down
Comparing the Two – Fees
Mint doesn’t charge any fees in connection with the use of their service, so that makes it pretty easy to compare the two in relation to expense.
Meanwhile, Personal Capital also has a free version, as well as a paid version under their premium Wealth Management service. The fees look like this:
- 0.89% of the first $1 million
- 0.79% of the next $2 million (up to $3 million)
- 0.69% of the next $2 million (up to $5 million)
- 0.59% of the next $5 million (up to $10 million)
- 0.49% on balances over $10 million
One of the major advantages is that the above fees are all-inclusive. Personal Capital does not charge additional fees, such as commissions, account administration, or other investment fees. It’s all included in the one fee, which is based on the amount of assets under management.
However, since Personal Capital also serves as an investment aggregator, you can have financial accounts on the platform that are not actually under management. This can include your 401(k) plan, as well as any investments that you choose not to include as managed accounts. Personal Capital will aggregate those accounts, but the fee that it charges will not extend to the balances in those accounts.
Fee Winner: If you don’t want to spend any money, Mint is the winner here. But the Personal Capital fees may still be worthwhile to you.
Which is the Better Choice?
If you’re looking for a pure budgeting software application, Mint is by far the better choice. But if you’re looking primarily for investment management, perhaps with some budget assistance, then Personal Capital will work best.
In truth however, you don’t even need to choose between the two. Since each company hold strengths in very different areas from the other, you can choose Personal Capital for your investing activities and Mint for budgeting. Talk about a win-win!