Mint.com In Canada – An Interview With Aaron Patzer

We’re here with Aaron Patzer to discuss Mint’s official Canadian launch that happened on December 1st. Thanks Aaron for taking the time to answer some questions from me and the Canadian Finance Blog readers.

Tom: For the Canadians that are hearing about Mint for the first time, can you tell them what you believe Mint is about and why they might want to sign up?

Aaron: Mint is a free, online personal finance service that aggregates all of your financial accounts, including savings, chequing, credit card, GIC, RRSP, TFSA, etc,  and helps you see where your money is going. Mint helps you keep track of your spending and reduce your debt by creating budgets you can stick with stick with. And Mint uncovers opportunities to save you money by looking at your individual spending and saving patterns and providing money-saving and money–making suggestions. For instance, if you’re carrying a big balance on a credit card, Mint will recommend a lower-interest card and tell you how much you’ll save on interest payments over the course of the year. Our bank and credit card recommendation data in Canada is provided by ratesupermarket.ca.

Tom: While I find it very convenient to have all my banking data in one place automatically, many people have valid concerns about privacy and security on the internet, especially when it comes to online banking. What measures does Mint take to protect user’s bank login and financial info?

Aaron: Mint uses bank-level security. If you’re comfortable with your banks’ online banking service – and Canada has the highest rates of online banking usage on the planet – you should be comfortable with Mint. Also, users are anonymous on Mint. We never ask for your name, SIN number or other personally identifiable information, and all data is encrypted.

As well, you can’t move money in or out of an account with Mint. It’s a read-only system. If I were to give you my access credentials (and I have done this as part of a demo in the past), you might see I have a chequing account and a credit card, but you can’t do anything with it.

In fact, Mint increases your security: Mint will send you an e-mail or alerts to your iPhone or Android phone to notify you of a large purchases or unusual charge. Maybe you did just buy a $4000 flat screen at Best Buy, but maybe it was someone else…

Tom: By far, the biggest question during the soft launch was the lack of CIBC and PC Financial access. These accounts were working for the first week and then were cut off. I’ve heard this was over CIBC’s concerns about client’s privacy. If this is true, what steps were taken to work things out in time for the official launch?

Aaron: As of December 1, we support more than 40 banks in Canada, including all the big ones. I can’t go into the specifics of our discussions any specific financial institution, but if you search for your favourite bank, it should be there and you’ll be able to add it to your Mint account.

Tom: Is work still being done to address accounts and credit cards that are not yet in Mint? Some examples are Scotia iTrade, Ally and BMO MasterCards if you don’t have regular bank account access.

Aaron: Yes. Mint supports more than 16,000 financial institutions in the US, but they weren’t all available on Day One.  Much like our launch in the US, we will continue to add Canadian institutions. If it’s not there today, users can request we add it from within their account.

Tom: In the US version of Mint, I believe it can automatically update your current house value. In Canada it’s a manual entry. Is this automatic version planned for Canada or is there no reliable data available to be pulled into Mint?

Aaron: In the US, Mint users who have added their home address see a Zillow home value estimate, and can accept the Zillow estimate or enter their own estimated home value. As of today, Canadian Mint users can enter their estimated home value. Again, as we did in the US, we’ve launched in Canada with a core set of features, and will add more. We’ll alert our users as we add more Canadian features in the coming months.

Tom: I noticed to be fully setup on the Canadian version of Mint, you need to choose Canada as your country when the account is created. For those who signed up when zip codes were the only option, should they close one account and open a new one? Or is there a way to have their account transferred over to Canadian?

Aaron: As of today there is no direct data port for Canadians using a US account. If you want access to Canadian-specific features and recommendations, your best bet is to set up a Canadian account.

Tom: Before Mint was sold to Intuit, you had mentioned being interested in Canada and the United Kingdom. Now that the Canadian launch has happened, is the U.K. next? What other countries are in your sights?

Aaron: Global has always been an objective of mine. Joining Intuit took us from a 30-person company in Mountain View to an organization with thousands of employees in countries around the world, which helped dramatically accelerated Mint’s globalization.  We’ll announce more countries in the near future.

Tom: Are there any plans to integrate Mint into other Intuit software like TurboTax and various Quicken products?

Aaron: I manage Intuit’s Personal Finance, which includes Quicken, and have already made significant improvements to the ease of use and categorization in Quicken. In fact, we launched our new Canadian versions of Quicken last week.

Mint helps users get organized to prepare for taxes. It’s very easy to tag and track tax related transactions in Mint. In terms of integration with Canadian tax products, stay tuned.

Tom: Thanks again Aaron for sharing your thoughts here on Canadian Finance Blog. I hope we can do this again sometime once the Canadian users have had some more time to really sink their teeth into all the tracking and budgeting available to them!

Aaron: Thanks for having me.


Hope you enjoyed my interview with Aaron Patzer. Why not give Mint a try and let us know what you think about it in the comments below?

Written by Tom Drake

Tom Drake is the owner and head writer of Canadian Finance Blog. While you’re here, consider signing up for the RSS feed or email subscription. Both deliver the latest articles directly to you everyday! Have a Twitter account? Then follow me for all the latest posts or to send me any comments or questions!

17 Responses to Mint.com In Canada – An Interview With Aaron Patzer

  1. Great interview.

    I was frustrated with the lack of PC Financial account information.

    Additionally, being in development when doing a slow launch they should not have had the the Housing tab in their application. It was confusing to see 401K references as well.

    They should have registered a Canadian domain as well.

    • Tom Drake says:

      A Canadian domain would have been nice, but since the Royal Canadian Mint has mint.ca, the most obvious choice is taken. I do see that they have geo-targeting to display a Canadian welcome to us so that does the job.

  2. Sean says:

    I thought it was a great interview and like the company.
    Thanks

  3. Jessica07 says:

    Great interview! I’ve been looking forward to this post, and I was definitely not disappointed. Thanks for all the great information!

  4. Ray says:

    Horrible interview, you never asked him why Mint has been non-functional for the entire last quarter.

    satisfaction.mint.com/mint/topics/cant_add_or_edit_financial_accounts?utm_content=topic_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=reply_notification

  5. Stewart Rand says:

    Steve, the PC Financial accounts work correctly now, for me at least. I think you are referring to the US site. You need to re-register for the Canadian version, and you won’t see any references to American stuff, plus PC Financial will work.

  6. SylviaLH says:

    I agree that 401k reference is annoying/confusing for those who don’t know what that is.

    Also many american banks that have Canadian banking don’t work, ie

    MBNA (canada)
    Ally.ca (Canada)
    Fidelity (Canada)

    Also, as for PC only SOME of their accounts work, so the chequing and savings accounts will work, but any RRSP/GIC/etc won’t be brought into Mint. So basically I can only use Mint to track my everyday spending (which is very useful) but not my overall networth. When money is transferred from one of my accoutns into an investment account it comes up as a “Expense – Finance” rather than an investment, which means I can’T use any of the goals features.

    Great product but is seriously lacking

  7. schultzter says:

    I have to admit that since I went through quite a few hurdles when Canada Mint was announced I find this article very puffy. There’s a lot going on in Mint’s GetSatisfaction forums and there’s a lot you could have asked Aaron by reading through those forums. A simple question would be “when are you going to address the issues being raised in the forums?”

  8. Ryan says:

    I think it was a good interview. With any software package, I am sure there are 5 million things one could ask. Keep in mind this was a general interview, not an in depth technical software review. Nice work Tom!

  9. Fernando says:

    Tom,
    Nice interview. Thanks!

    Unfortunately one of the key points about security was not raised beyond a minor reference to CIBC: how do the banks and other institutions view the use of Mint by their clients?

    When I contacted TD to ask them about Mint, their position was, and I quote:
    “As a TD Canada Trust Access Card Holder, you’ve agreed to not provide your confidential information to third parties. This would include divulging our password and Access Card number to Mint.com. So, this would include companies that try to aggregate your financial services under one roof.

    We view the aggregation of services as a security issue and generally do not support it, so while you may be able to access your accounts initially, there will likely come a time when your information becomes blocked.”

    People should be aware that using Mint (or other aggregators) may place them in jeopardy with their institutions should there ever be a need to dispute transactions on their accounts.

    Until Mint (and others) addresses this issue specifically, I consider it too risky … Too bad…

    • Jeremy says:

      This is why I don’t use Mint.com currently – I hope Mint.com strongly pursues an agreement with major banks to cover this…

  10. tiwa says:

    I found this site in researching MINT — and would come back for further Canadian finance info. However, you violate what is ( imo ) a cardinal rule for software analysis. You do not DATE your interview. Dec 1 is noted — which year is not. Do your part to keep the value of internet commentary UP by clearly showing post dates in your analysis! thank you.

  11. nahum says:

    Well done Fernando and Tiwa, most interesting issues raised. I was considering to sign up for Mint.com account to gain some help with my financial management and budgeting needs. Before doing so, however, I spent two hours, if not more, to research on how secure and trustworthy using mint.com would mean. I am rather compelled not to sign up until significant security level or/and environment is achieved in regards to my/our privacy on financial institutions’ information.

    I would recommend everyone to check ‘daveramsey.com’ for all the financial information and help you needed.

    Thanks

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