With so many different budgeting apps and money tools out there wouldn’t it be nice to know which one is the best?
Take Mint vs. Personal Capital vs. YNAB – three top personal finance tools that are all known for managing slightly different aspects of your financial life.
YNAB is budgets, Personal Capital is investments and retirement planning, and Mint gives you a broad overview of where your finances are at. Each of these apps can clearly help you get a handle on your financial life.
I’ve been using each for a while and I’m excited to finally put them all next to one another and see if there is a clear winner…
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Mint vs. Personal Capital vs. YNAB: Which app wins?
About Personal Capital
Since being founded in 2009, over two million people are using Personal Capital to plan their long-term financial lives. Personal Capital also has over $10 billion assets under management through their paid wealth management services.
Personal Capital is free to use and has a strong focus on retirement planning – with some pretty robust tools that can help you lower fees associated with your retirement accounts, optimize your investments, and keep yourself on track for retirement.
One major difference between Personal Capital vs. Mint and YNAB is that it focuses on your cash flow instead of strict budgeting. You can still track your spending with Personal Capital, but the goal isn’t categorizing each transaction or balancing things to zero, it’s about the larger picture and maintaining a positive cash flow.
Even though Personal Capital offers free tools, once you hit $100,000 in invested assets, you can use Personal Capital for wealth management services. That’s available for a fee from 0.49%-0.89% of assets managed and it’s entirely optional.
Charging for wealth management services is how Personal Capital makes money and why they’re able to offer such great tools with their free service.
With over 10 million active users, Mint is one of the most well-known personal finance tools today. It’s owned by Intuit of TurboTax and QuickBooks fame, so it’s backed by a long history in the financial industry. And it’s 100% free to use – there are no upgrades or additional services to pay for.
Mint’s goal is to give users a full financial picture, and it does that by helping you with:
- Goal setting
- Free updated credit scores
- List of your assets and liabilities
- A broad overview of your investments
Like Personal Capital, you will need to link all of your financial accounts to get the most out of this app. I’m talking about your checking, savings, credit cards, home/mortgage, car payment, student loans, IRA, 401(k), investment accounts, etc.
Once all of your accounts are linked, you can see everything on your dashboard, which makes it easy to log in and check on your finances.
Learn more about Mint at Personal Capital vs. Mint 2019: Which Money App is Best?
YNAB (or You Need A Budget) is a budgeting app pure and simple. They have some pretty big claims about how much they can help new users, saying that “on average, new budgeters can save $600 by month two and more than $6,000 their first year.”
If YNAB didn’t have a cult-like following of super fans that describe the app as life-changing, I would question those claims.
The reason YNAB is so popular is because it uses a straightforward set of rules to help users take control of their finances:
- Rule 1: Give every dollar a job. You take the amount of money coming into your accounts, and allocate every dollar towards different budgeting categories until you’re back down to $0.
- Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses. Because everyone encounters unexpected or large purchases from time to time, YNAB helps you make and fund savings goals for these situations.
- Rule 3: Roll with the punches. This rule is all about flexibility. You can move money around if you over or underspend in areas.
- Rule 4: Age your money. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is a hard cycle to break. This rule helps you break that cycle by slowly teaching you to spend what you’ve earned last month.
The entire app is built around those four rules, and there are tons of articles and videos to help you implement them in your life.
YNAB, unlike Personal Capital and Mint, is not free. There is a 34-day free trial, but after that, it’s $84/year or $7/month.
Learn more at YNAB Review 2019: Most Effective Budgeting App Around?
Personal Capital vs. YNAB vs. Mint – Where each app shines
After having experience with all three of these money tools, I’ve noticed some standout features with each. I’m not alone on that either. When I talk to other users, the features below are what people love about these apps.
Personal Capital’s top features
After you’ve linked your accounts (checking, savings, investments, etc.), the Retirement Planner pulls information from each of your connected accounts, asks about your projected savings information, current retirement savings, your age, and planned age of retirement. The planner analyzes that data to tell you if you’re on track for retirement and how to make changes.
You can also play around with what-if scenarios – having kids, buying a house, etc. – to see how they will impact your plan.
Retirement Fee Analyzer
Retirement accounts, like a 401(k), typically come with some pretty hefty fees. Personal Capital’s Retirement Fee Analyzer shows you how those fees affect your overall investments. There are tools to slide those fees up and down by tiny percentage points to show you the impact on your retirement savings.
The analyzer also lets you adjust:
- Annual growth
- Employer matches
- Additional investment fees
- Projected retirement age
Depending on the rates and how fees are charged, the smallest percentage point can result in either saving or keeping a significant amount of your money. That means this tool can literally save you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as you plan for retirement.
This is essentially a check-up on the asset allocation of your investment portfolio. Personal Capital looks at where you’ve invested your money to ensure that you’re optimizing your investments. If you aren’t, they will recommend a better mix of investments to shore up your portfolio’s long-term health.
Mint’s top features
Free credit score
Your credit score is an important part of your overall financial health, and Mint updates your credit score every few months. You get your credit score and credit report so you can see what’s either helping or hurting your score.
Mint can help you keep track of when your bills are due so you never miss a payment. Here’s how Mint’s monthly bill tracker works:
- Set up a bill by linking an existing account, entering an offline bill, or property payments
- Name, categorize, set due date, and amount due if needed
- Mint sends you notifications through the app when due dates are coming up
- They also send notifications if your funding source is running, there are overdraft charges, or suspicious activity
With Mint, you can set any number of financial goals for yourself – build an emergency fund, pay off credit debt, etc. – and Mint will help you create a plan to get there. For goals like saving for an emergency fund, you tell Mint which bank account you will be saving through so they can track it.
Mint breaks down your goal by how much you need to save each month and shows your progress in the app.
YNAB’s top features
YNAB’s first rule is to “give every dollar a job.” The idea is to take your income and subtract each of your expenses until you’re down to $0 – this is zero-based budgeting.
Zero-based budgeting is a powerful budgeting technique that works really well for getting out of debt because it makes sure you prioritize extra payments instead of seeing what’s leftover at the end of the month. The same goes for saving money.
You take a very active roll in your finances when you use zero-based budgeting, and that’s always a good thing too.
Education and support
When you compare YNAB vs. Personal Capital vs. Mint, YNAB hands down has the best education and support department. There are straightforward… and sometimes funny… videos, podcasts, articles, and weekly webinars.
They cover how to use and get the most out of the software and help users understand different personal finance topics.
YNAB offers six different goal categories – two for spending goals, two for savings goals, and two for debt. When you set a goal, it becomes part of your budget, and when you budget your funds for the next month, you put money towards each. YNAB then tracks your progress in the app.
What you might not love about each
In the Mint vs. Personal Capital vs. YNAB debate, each of these tools has strong features and devoted users. But, let’s talk for a second about what’s lacking with each money tool.
Personal Capital doesn’t have robust budgeting tools
My wife and I have been using Personal Capital for a few years now, and I love everything about it… just being honest here.
But, the thing most users complain about is that Personal Capital doesn’t have the kind of budgeting capabilities Mint and YNAB have. Like I said earlier, Personal Capital uses cash flow budgeting. You can still see spending categories, but the priority is having more cash flowing in than flowing out.
This is a very flexible approach, but for people who need more structure and discipline, budgeting with YNAB might be a better fit.
Mint has lots of ads
Personal Capital makes money from wealth management services. YNAB makes it by charging a monthly fee. And Mint makes money from ads. The ads on Mint are for financial products like credit cards, bank accounts, and insurance companies.
I’m not a big fan of the ads, and they are often listed as “Ways to Save.”
YNAB is only budgeting
YNAB does budgeting really, really well, but that’s all they do. The other two money tools in this Mint vs. YNAB vs. Personal Capital comparison just gives you more tools.
The final word, who wins? Mint vs. YNAB vs. Personal Capital
If you were hoping to get a clear answer, I’m about to disappoint you. Honestly, I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all financial solutions, and that goes for money tools too. Everyone has different needs, and these apps all work in really powerful ways.
Instead of one winner, here’s how each app wins:
Personal Capital is the best app for long-term planning.
Mint is the best app for seeing a full financial picture.
YNAB is the best for budgeting.
There’s no reason you can’t use more than one app either. It’s about finding the tool that’s going to improve your financial life.