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Money management apps

Mint vs. Empower vs. YNAB

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Keeping a budget can be a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be! If you think tallying up your purchases with a pen and paper or spreadsheet is too much work, there's an app for that!

Mint, Empower and YNAB are all popular money management apps. You can connect them to your bank and other financial accounts to track spending, view all of your finances on one dashboard and more. All three offer both web and mobile apps.

I have spent time using all three of these apps for my money and still use two of them regularly. Each may be a good fit for different people, depending on their needs. Whether you are looking for granular control over your budget or a high-level view — or something in between — read along to find out which is best for you.

Highlights Empower YNAB Mint
Rating 4.8/5 4.3/5 4.3/5
Budgeting
Investment monitoring
Retirement planning
Bill payment
Manual entries
Bill management
Learn more Get started Get started Get started


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We've also taken a closer look at Mint versus each of the other two services: Mint vs. Empower and Mint vs. YNAB

About Mint

*Note: On Oct. 31, 2023, Mint announced they will be shutting down. They will "ensure a smooth transition for Minters who decide to onboard to Credit Karma."

Mint is the original online budgeting app, founded way back in 2006. Intuit, the owner of TurboTax and QuickBooks, purchased Mint in 2009. That makes it part of one of the most popular companies for personal finance apps. Mint is free to use and supported by in-app product suggestions.

This personal finance app is probably best known for its budgeting features. You can connect Mint to your bank, credit cards and other financial accounts, and it will automatically categorize your purchases into budget categories you choose. It isn't always perfect, but it's pretty good for a computer guessing how to categorize each purchase in your custom budget.

Mint can also automatically track financial goals, such as a debt payoff or down payment savings, based on linked accounts. Clicking on the “Trends” tab gives you useful graphics showing where and how much you've spent over time. I've been using Mint since 2007, so I know exactly how much I have spent buying Chipotle burritos… ever. Let's just say I've spent an embarrassing amount for burritos.

The app has an investments section that offers basic charts and graphs along with a history of your investments. It has offered a free credit score for a while and recently expanded that section to better compete with credit score-focused Credit Karma. The “Ways to Save” tab offers financial products that may be a good fit for your needs based on the information in your Mint profile.

Mint can act as a dashboard for all of your finances. It doesn't go as deep into credit or investments as some apps that have a primary focus in those areas. However, the price (free!) is right, and it does a great overall job of helping you understand and manage your money.

About Empower

Empower is an investment company that offers a free online personal finance dashboard app. Like the others, you can connect your financial accounts to automatically download and categorize your transactions. The app is free to use even if you don't subscribe to the investment management service.

I joined Empower in 2012 and have always been impressed with its detailed focus on investments. I used the mutual fund analysis tool to identify my most costly funds. I rebalanced my portfolio based on that information to save more than $300 per year in investment fees.

Instead of budgeting, Empower focuses on your cash flow. That makes it better for people who want a high-level view of their income and spending, rather than the detailed budgets offered by Mint and YNAB. I haven't seen a better free investment analysis tool anywhere.

Empower doesn't have ads like Mint. Instead, it may try to sell you its own investment management service if you have investable assets of $100,000 or more. This service is optional, but Empower can be a little pushy about scheduling a free consultation session with an advisor.

The cost for the online app and the great investment tools make it a good platform to use on top of Mint or YNAB for budgeting. If you're not as focused on the budgeting features or are wealthy enough that you don't care about a detailed budget, Empower may meet all of your online money dashboard needs.

About YNAB

YNAB is short for You Need a Budget. YNAB is an app that focuses primarily on budgeting with less emphasis on other parts of your finances. It uses the zero-based budget philosophy. This means you assign every dollar a job and get very detailed control over each transaction. For a long time, YNAB didn't support live connections to financial accounts, but it added the feature a couple of years ago.

The biggest downside of YNAB compared to the others: It's not free. This app charges you $6.99 per month, or $83.99 annually. On the bright side, paying means you don't see any ads, and YNAB doesn't try to sell you on anything else.

YNAB is best for people who want or need very detailed budget controls. Mint is excellent for budgeting by category, but it doesn't force you to categorize every investment, loan payment, and savings dollar. YNAB makes you be responsible for your money and puts you deep in the budgeting process.

Setting it up and getting started is a bit more complicated, but once you learn the YNAB system, it takes little time to keep things updated. The app is best for people who want to look at every single transaction and are willing to pay a fee for the software.

How are they the same?

All three services offer many features. First, let's take a look at how they're similar.

Budgeting
All three services offer at least one budgeting tool.
Investment tracking
All three services can help you stay on top of your investments.
Synchronization
All three services can sync with outside accounts.
Mobile apps
All three services shine in the mobile app department

How are they different?

Let's take a look at the areas where Mint, Empower and YNAB differ.

Pricing
While Mint and Empower offer free services, YNAB charges $6.99 per month.
Credit score monitoring
Only Mint can monitor your credit score.
Bill management
While Mint and YNAB both offer bill management tools, Empower does not.
Investment management
Empower is the only app of the three that can manage your investments (for a fee).

Unique features

Features unique to Mint

Mint offers the most general personal finance features of these apps. It is the only one to provide you with your credit score, and it has the most in-depth goals feature. Even if you sign up for an account with Empower and YNAB, adding Mint as a general personal finance dashboard may be helpful.

Features unique to Empower

Empower is the only one of these apps that will manage your investments for you, but that feature costs money. As for the free money management app, its detailed investment analysis features are unique. The app helps you understand your asset allocation, investment fees, and other details by account or across your whole portfolio. This app is useful for investors to better understand their portfolio even if they also use Mint and YNAB.

Features unique to YNAB

YNAB is unique in its detailed budgeting tools. It's also the only one of the three that charges for its basic version. However, if you need really detailed help with fixing a spending problem or getting out of debt, it may be worth the price.

Annual fees

Mint is totally free. Empower is free unless your portfolio tops $100,000. YNAB charges $6.99 per month, or $83.99 per year.

Winner: Mint is the winner, since there are never any fees.

Standout features

  • Mint is beloved by users for its pretty darn accurate budgeting features, as well as its goal tracking and the ability to see your credit score.
  • Empower, on the other hand, offers analysis of your investments, as well as showing how you're spending money.
  • YNAB uses robust zero-based budgeting to help you get your spending in line.

Winner: Mint offers the most features and is free to boot.

Get started with Mint

Customer service

Mint offers email support. This is probably the biggest weakness of Mint, compared to the others. Sometimes you just want to reach out to a live person in real time. In addition, some customers have found Mint's support to not always be entirely helpful.

From my experience, Empower's free app support has been timely and helpful.

However, YNAB really shines when it comes to customer service. The company knows you are paying for the service, so the support is topnotch. The YNAB team is fast, friendly and very helpful.

Winner: YNAB is the clear winner here.

Get started with YNAB

Security

All of these apps use bank-level security, SSL, for a secure connection to your web browser and the most secure method possible to maintain a connection to your bank. However, some people may not want to hand over the passwords to their online financial accounts. If you don't, you won't be able to access some of the most useful features. Only YNAB offers an option that doesn't link to your accounts.

However, in more than a decade, these types of apps have shown they take security seriously. While there is never a 100% guarantee that hackers won't get in, I trust each of these apps with my information and would not hesitate for security reasons to recommend them to friends or family.

Winner: Mint, Empower and YNAB are all equally safe and secure.

Get started with Empower for free

Who are they best for?

Mint is best for most people and the average user. If you're looking for just personal financial management, Mint is a good fit for you. The app offers a wide selection of budgeting, tracking and goal-setting tools. Plus, it's free!

Empower is best for investors. If you're looking for a way to manage and analyze your investments, this is the right pick for you. Although the free version offers some budgeting features, Empower is really an investor's app.

YNAB is best for people looking for very detailed budgeting. If you're serious about tackling your finances head-on — and find free services such as Mint lacking — YNAB may be a good choice for you.

Highlights Empower YNAB Mint
Cost 5/5 4/5 5/5
Customer Service 4/5 4.8/5 3/5
Ease of Use 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5
Synchronization 4.5/5 4.5/5 3.5/5
Accessibility 4.3/5 4.5/5 4.3/5
Promotions Join for free First two months free Join for free
Price $0/month $99. 99/year $0/month
Trial Period 30 Days 34 Days 0 Days
Refund Policy
Budgeting
Bill Payment
Bill Management
Investment Tracking
Retirement Planning
Tax Reporting
Reconcile Transactions
Credit Score Monitoring
Zillow Tracking
Custom Categories
Manual Entries
Import QFX, QIF Files
Currency Support N/A Multiple US/Canada
Access 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.3/5
Two-Factor Authentication
Customer Service Phone: 24/7; Email Email Email
Learn more Get started with Empower for free Get started with YNAB Get started with Mint.com

Which is the best?

So which app is the best?

I use both Mint and Empower regularly. If you're a money nerd like me, you should definitely sign up for both.

Sign up for Empower and make your money make money

If you want just one, Mint is your best choice. YNAB is good for people who want to keep the most detailed budget, but for most people, what you get free from Mint is more than adequate.

In the end, the choice is up to you.

Eric Rosenberg Freelance Contributor

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel and technology writer in Ventura, California. He is a former bank manager and corporate finance and accounting professional who left his day job in 2016 to take his online side hustle full time.

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