Michelle Slatalla, the Erma Bombeck-David Pogue hybrid who writes casual articles about the Internet for the average person (she’s the mom who pestered her daughter on Facebook this past summer), has published a Chatty Cathy review of personal finance site Mint.com. Her verdict: it’s nice to not have to go to multiple sites; the aggregated information is a good feature; security worried her at first, but she’s okay now that she knows Mint is a read-only site and they don’t have her account numbers, just user names and passwords; and she has actually used the ads that Mint displays—not to open new lines of credit, but to negotiate lower interest rates for existing accounts.
Here’s what she writes about her security concerns, and the response from Mint’s founder:
What if a hacker gained access to the site?
I was so concerned that before even bothering to look at the colorful spending pie chart that Mint had created, I phoned the site’s founder, Aaron Patzer.
“Please don’t worry,” Mr. Patzer said. “I’ll make a bold statement and say that you’re safer on Mint, putting all your accounts in one place, than you are with online banking. We start with the same encryption banks use, but the difference is that on Mint, you’re anonymous. We don’t know your account numbers.”
I checked the Mint screen again. No account numbers.
“We don’t know your name,” he said. “Remember that when you registered, you just gave us a user name and password.”
I checked the Mint screen. No name.
“We have a read-only connection to your bank, so you can’t move money around using Mint,” he said.
She also keeps two spreadsheets in Google Docs, which she shares with her husband’s email account. We keep thinking you could do anything Mint offers on your own with spreadsheets and the built-in chart functionality of, for example, Microsoft Excel. The one area where Mint has this old-school method beat is automation, which is probably more important or necessary to certain people who, like Slatalla, “have never created a detailed household budget and… have not balanced a checkbook since high school.”