Faster Forward: adds cash/check transactions, Android app

By Rob Pegoraro
Monday, May 3, 2010; 5:05 PM

Intuit's personal-finance Web site has had a reasonably busy spring. Last month, it added support for entering cash and check transactions; a week later, it announced that it could download data from 16,000 financial institutions supported, or "nearly all U.S. banks"; and this morning, it shipped a new application for smartphones running Google's Android software.

Because I've been using Mint as my primary personal-finance tool since last summer, following a positive review I wrote, these developments are all of considerable interest to me.

Letting users enter cash and check transactions beforehand was on many people's must-have lists: The lack of that feature would have made Mint borderline unusable two summers ago, when my wife and I were writing non-trivial checks to cover work done on our house.

Nowadays, we rarely write checks, and so I've only had one opportunity to see whether Mint would match my manually entered check transaction with the figure on the bank's statement later on. It did not, unfortunately.

I haven't given the cash-transactions feature a meaningful test, mainly because most of my cash transactions are too small to bother noting.

As for the new, free Android application -- available in the Android Market as " Personal Finance" -- I can report that it crashed in multiple log-in attempts on a device running the old 1.5 release of Android. On the new HTC Droid Incredible I reviewed in yesterday's paper, the program provided quick access to recent transactions, trends and alerts, but not the site's "Ways to Save" suggestions for more cost-effective financial accounts.

You can lock access to this application with a separate numeric passcode, but it doesn't require that. Mint also lets you deactivate the program remotely from the main site; when I tested that, it took about seven minutes for the Android app to kick me back to its log-in screen, from which I could still reactivate the software by entering my user name and password.

After almost a year with Mint, I'm pretty happy with the site overall. But I also wish its would remedy a few oversights:

* Mint offers bill reminders for only accounts it can log into, which means it knows about my credit-card and mortgage payments but not those for utility services. The site should recognize that I pay Verizon, Washington Gas, Dominion Power, etc. about the same time each month and remind me accordingly -- or let me add my own reminders.

* Ways to Save -- the reason Mint is free, as the site collects commissions on accounts opened through those suggestions -- seems to overlook efficiencies possible by moving cash around existing accounts. In my case, it didn't notice that a credit union money-market fund's interest rate had dropped to the point where I'd be better off dumping that money into a savings account at another institution.

* Next year, I don't want to see Intuit's TurboTax Web application just advertise Mint; it needs to be able to extract tax-relevant data from Mint. (The Mountain View, Calif-.based company, which formerly offered a competing Web application called Quicken Online, bought Mint last year.)

* The site could also stand to offer simpler, faster export options -- and, at some point, it should deliver on its stated long-term goal of providing offline access through Intuit's Quicken software.

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