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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?

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