Personal Capital and Mint are two of the most prominent financial services platforms. They both offer a free service that offers users powerful money management or investment tools to help manage their spending, investing and more. These two services are frequently compared. But while there are overlapping similarities between the two, each has a different primary function. For example, while Personal Capital is primarily an investment management platform, Mint.com is mostly a budgeting application.
Because these two programs offer a large number of robust features, I find them to be viable alternatives to Quicken, one of the original money management apps. In my opinion, Quicken has been surpassed by these, and other, software apps.
Personal Capital vs. Mint.com – what are the similarities? What are the differences? Let’s compare the two.
What Personal Capital Does
As noted above, Personal Capital is primarily an investment management service. Over 1.4 million people use the service to track more than $350 billion in assets. They offer two services, the free version and a premium wealth management service. Both versions offer you the various tools and features on the platform, but the premium version provides active investment management, similar to that offered by robo-advisors. There is no obligation to sign up for the Personal Capital Wealth Management service. So you can sign up for a free Personal Capital account and use their online suite of tools as long as you wish.
Here are the services that Personal Capital provides:
Budgeting & Cash Flow Management
Personal Capital does offer a budgeting function, but when compared that offered by Mint it’s extremely limited. For example, Personal Capital enables you to track your cash flow, as well as provide you with insights about your spending habits. It can also enable you to view and analyze the transactions in your budget, as well as to provide monthly summaries. This can help you to know exactly where your money is going each month.
You do this by linking your various bank accounts and credit cards to the Personal Capital app. They provide a Cash Flow Analyzer tool that enables you to establish a budget by tracking both your income and expenses from all accounts and sources. This will also help you to pay your bills on time and to track your spending. The app will alert you to upcoming bills, however there is no bill paying function on the platform.
You can also use the Cash Flow Analyzer to establish long-term goals, like retirement planning or to getting out of debt.
The budgeting function is available for both the free and the premium versions.
This service is only available on the premium version, and it’s what Personal Capital does best.
Where Personal Capital differs from typical robo-advisors is that not only do they manage the investments that you include in the service, but they also act as a financial account aggregator. That means that in managing specific investment accounts, Personal Capital also considers other investments that it does not manage, such as an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This gives you more comprehensive investment management then you typically see in automated investment management platforms.
The investment management service requires a minimum of $25,000 under management. When you sign up for the service, they start by determining your risk tolerance, your investment goals, and your personal preferences. From that, they design an investment portfolio that is based on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), which is typical of robo-advisor services.
The portfolio will be allocated between US stocks and bonds, international stocks and bonds, and commodities. The positions are maintained through index funds, but if your portfolio exceeds $100,000, they will also include individual stocks.
Tax-loss harvesting (TLH). Personal Capital offers this with the premium investment management service. TLH is an investment strategy involving the selling losing investments in order to offset gains on the sale of winning positions. The strategy keeps short-term capital gains to a minimum, which minimizes your tax liability.
They also include tax allocation with the investment service. This is the process of having various assets held in the most tax-advantaged account. For example, assets that produce interest and dividend income are likely to be in tax-sheltered retirement plans. Capital gains generating assets are likely to be in taxable accounts, where they can take advantage of lower long-term capital gains tax rates.
Private Client Group. This is the investment service offered for individuals who invest a minimum of $1 million on the platform. It provides a progressively lower fee structure, with fees declining as your portfolio gets larger (see below). Private Client Group provides personalized investment services and wealth planning, including direct access to a certified financial planner.
Investment Checkup. This is a personal analysis of your financial situation, including an assessment of both the risks and opportunities that may be available. You enter all of your financial accounts onto the platform, and then they are evaluated. Personal Capital will suggest changes in those accounts in order to create an optimal allocation. (Or make changes directly in any accounts that they manage under the premium service.) You are also assigned a personal advisor who you can contact at any time.
Retirement Planner. This will help you to determine whether or not you have enough money saved for retirement. It enables you to determine spending goals, income events and projected future portfolio value. It also enables you to create “what if” scenarios, in which you plug in different variables to determine what the outcome of various strategies might be. Here is more information on the Personal Capital Retirement Planner tool.
401(k) Analyzer. This tool analyzes your 401(k) plan, to determine which investment options within your plan have the lowest fees. It also makes allocation suggestions, though it cannot actually implement those changes as it does not manage employer plans.
Personal Capital Dashboard:
Personal Capital has one of the most useful dashboards among financial apps. When you log in to you Personal Capital account, your dashboard will display the following:
- Net Worth
- Account Balances and Transactions
- Cash Flow
- Spending by Account, Category
- Portfolio Balances
- Income Reports
- Portfolio Allocations
- Key Holdings
- Investment Returns
- Top Gainers and Losers
- Projected Investment Fees
- Spending Reports and Upcoming Bills
While this may seem like a lot of information, and it is, it is not overwhelming. The information is easy to view and understand, giving you a quick overview of your finances without having to search through the data to make sense of your financial health and current progress. Even more detailed information is available with a few clicks of the mouse, giving you access to a wealth of information you can use for financial planning.
What Mint.com Does
Mint was purchased by Intuit, which is the creator of Quicken and TurboTax (Intuit has since sold Quicken to a private equity firm). Mint is an online personal budgeting platform, that essentially brings your entire financial existence into one application.
You link your checking and savings accounts, investments, retirement accounts, credit cards and even your PayPal account to the application. You can then view your entire financial situation on one platform. It is one of the most popular budgeting apps available.
This is what Mint is most known for, and what it does best. What’s also good to know – since they have all of your account information assembled in one place – is that that information is presented as “read only”. That means that while you can access the information yourself, Mint has no control over any of the accounts that are included.
The platform categorizes all of your financial activity from the various accounts. They have both default categories, as well as the ability to customize them in a way that will work best for you.
With all of your financial information aggregated on the platform, Mint can categorize and summarize your activity. You can then create a budget, that will enable you to measure your actual activity against the predetermined spending targets that you have set. Mint can even compare your spending in each budget category with national averages.
The platform will also provide you with alerts to let you know when bills are coming due, or even when you might be in danger of going over credit limits on a credit card or credit line. You can even schedule bill payments in advance to make sure that you’re never late.
Mint Goals. This tool will help you to create goals in your financial profile. For example, you can establish goals such as getting out of debt, or saving money for specific purposes. Once the goals are established, the tool will track your progress.
One of the tools that Mint is best known for is its ability to analyze financial offers. For example, Mint can tell you where to get the highest interest rates on savings, or the lowest rates on credit cards. They can also tell you where you will find the lowest investment fees, or where the best insurance and IRA rollover deals are.
This is a service that Mint provides that Personal Capital doesn’t. Not only will Mint provide you with your free credit score, they will also give you suggestions as to how you can improve that score. The service will also provide credit monitoring alerts in case any accounts show suspicious activity. It will also let you know anytime Equifax receives new credit information from the various lenders that you deal with.
One of the most attractive aspects of the Mint credit monitoring service is that they don’t require you to provide credit card information in order to get access to the service. It’s truly free, and you don’t need to provide any kind of payment information.
Limited Investment Management
Mint is very limited when it comes to investments. In fact, the platform does not even offer an investment management service, comparable to that of Personal Capital.
Mint allows you to track your investment accounts, as well as summarize them on the app. No investment advice is provided, nor are there any of the investment tools that are offered by Personal Capital.
However, there is one investment service that they do provide, and that’s fee analysis. The app can highlight fees that may be hidden on investment statements. This can include advisory fees, transaction fees, and 401(k) fees. But in truth, this service alone is insufficient to justify the use of Mint in the management of your investments. It’s just not what Mint is about.
Fees – Personal Capital vs. Mint.com
It’s important to make sure you are comparing apples to apples when considering fees. Mint.com is free to use, and Personal Capital offers two levels of service: one is completely free to use, and the other charges an investment management fee based on the total assets under management.
Mint doesn’t offer a comparable investment management service, so comparing fees is really a comparison between apples and oranges. Instead, you need to consider the total value the apps and services offer you.
Mint.com Fees – Mint provides their budget app free of charge.
Personal Capital Fees – Personal Capital has both a free version (online and mobile) and a paid version – the Wealth Management service.
Here is the fee structure for the Personal Capital Wealth Management service:
- 0.89% of the first $1 million under management
- 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
Personal Capital’s fee structure is a good bit higher than what you will pay for other automated investment management platforms – a.k.a., robo-advisors. But at the same time, the fee is all-inclusive. They do not charge additional fees, like commissions and other investment fees.
In addition, Personal Capital will aggregate investment accounts that are not included in the wealth management service. For example, Personal Capital will include your 401(k) plan assets in their portfolio allocations, but they will not charge a fee for this service. The fee structure applies only to the actual assets that you have under management by the service.
Mint vs. Personal Capital – The Better Choice Is…
Actually both! Mint is a very strong budget application. If you’re looking primarily for budgeting software, you can’t go wrong with it. And the fact that the service is completely free means that you should at least give it a try.
Personal Capital also features a robust budgeting tool, so PC makes a great choice for those who want to track their household budget, while also managing investments, tracking net worth, and handling other financial tasks.
If investment management is your primary objective, then Personal Capital is the obvious choice. You can also get many of the investment services on this platform for free. The asset allocation tool is incredibly valuable for DIY investors, and is included in the free online version of Personal Capital.
Should you opt for a more hands-off investing approach, you can opt in to Personal capital’s Wealth Management service and let Personal Capital manage your investments for you. Their platform makes it easy to allow them to manage everything, or you can turn over a portion of your portfolio and they can make investment decisions based on your risk tolerance and inputs, as well as take other investment accounts, such as your 401k, into consideration.
Verdict: You can use either Mint.com or Personal Capital, depending on your own needs, or you can use both apps. There’s no real conflict here, since each provides its own specialization.
Visit these sites for more information or to sign up for a free account:
You can also read our Personal Capital Review for more detailed information about Personal Capital.