The money-monitoring masters at Mint.com have created a free Android version of their popular personal financial tracking service, and if you’re willing to share some personal details with the site, you’ll be rewarded with a tool that does a great job of keeping track of your cash flow.
To make effective use of the Mint app, you must have a Mint.com account, which requires you to divulge the log-in info for rach financial account you wish to monitor. The Mint app is a read-only tool (you can view account activity but you can’t transfer or withdraw funds), so even snoopy friends or phone thieves who sneak a peek at your Mint account would be limited to viewing your balance and transaction history.
The Mint app adds a layer of security specifically for mobile devices: Besides requiring you to supply a simple four-digit passcode log-in keyed to your phone, the app lets you block onboard Google searches and third-party apps from accessing your Mint account data.
If you’re comfortable leaving these options off, the app integrates your transaction history seamlessly into your phone’s search function. Search “BevMo” or “Burger King,” and your results will include a sobering account of how much you’ve spent in the previous month. Unfortunately, the mobile app lacks desktop Mint.com’s ability to offer automated suggestions for avoiding the specter of blowing your paycheck on booze and burgers. (Detail-oriented mobile users can, however, edit or tag individual items in their spending reports to keep track of their financial activity.)
The Android app also lacks the ability to schedule reminders and to display the various infographics (pie charts, custom graphs, and so on) offered on the Website, forgoing these features in favor of a basic chart that displays your account activity as a series of bar graphs. If you’re willing to keep basic financial data such as account balances and income/expense reports visible on one of your home screens, the Mint widget will codify your recent account activity with green and red bars–which may discourage you from indulging in ill-considered impulse buys.
I enjoy using the Mint app, despite the privacy risks. Look at it this way: if you trust the staff at Mint to handle your data with care, the Mint app may make you less vulnerable to fraud and identity theft because you’ll have quick access to a record of recent transactions and alerts based on unexpected or unusual purchases.