Two of the most popular web-based financial service providers available are Personal Capital and Mint.
The two provide a lot of similar services, but each specializes in a few areas of your finances that the other doesn't.
And both offer a free service, though Personal Capital has an attractive premium service in which they will manage your investments for you.
Which is the best service for you?
Both do a few things well, and omit a few others, but which will work best for you will depend on what it is you want to do. Both services are highly ranked in my The 11 Best Personal Finance Software to Get Your Money Swag On post.
But let's do a summary review of each, to help you see which will fit your needs.
Personal Capital Summary
Since we essentially have to cover two services in this article, we're going to do summary reviews of each platform. I've done a more detailed review in my Personal Capital Review – Managing All Your Investments in One Place post.
Personal Capital is a financial aggregator, which is to say that you can have all of your financial accounts on one platform. That includes investments, savings, checking, credit cards and other loan accounts. It does handle your investment management for you, but it goes well beyond that single function.
Personal Capital offers two versions, the free version and the premium version, which includes direct management of your investments.
With the free version you are provided a personalized analysis of your financial situation. Personal Capital will analyze your current investment mix, and perform an assessment of the risks and opportunities that may be available to you. They will then make recommendations based on that analysis.
The free version includes full use of the dashboard, and of many of the services included, which includes the 401(k) the analyzer, the investment check-up feature, and the retirement analyzer. You will also have access to the mobile app.
The paid version uses Personal Capital's Wealth Management program, in which the platform will take direct investment management control of your portfolio. Your investments will then be actively managed by Personal Capital's investment advisors.
Personal Capital fees.
Fees apply to the premium Wealth Management program, and currently look like this:
- 0.89% of the first $1 million,
- 0.79% of the first $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
One of the more positive aspects of doing business with Personal Capital is that the fee structure is all-inclusive – there are no additional fees like commissions, account administration fees, or other investment fees. And the fee applies only to actual amount that you have under management. Accounts included on the platform – but not actively managed by Personal Capital – such as a 401(k) plan or investments held with other brokerage firms, are not subject to the fee.
Personal Capital Account minimum.
Your minimum initial investment is $25,000, which applies only to the paid version.
Personal Capital investment strategy. Personal Capital determines your risk tolerance, life's goals and personal preferences to determine how much growth (risk) they incorporate into your investment portfolio. Like many investment management firms, they use Modern Portfolio Theory, or MPT, to manage your portfolio. MPT holds that asset class selection is more important than individual security selection.
They generally use index funds, invested in six main asset classes – US stocks, US bonds, international stocks, international bonds, alternative investments (including commodities) and cash. But they don't limit investments to index funds alone. They will also include a mix of 70 to 100 individual US stocks that they will use for greater diversification as well as improved tax efficiency. Though index funds are used exclusively for clients who have less than $100,000 under management.
Since Personal Capital aggregates all of your investments, they do consider your other investments that are not under their direct management in building your portfolio.
- Personal financial advisor. Everyone who uses Personal Capital is assigned a personal financial advisor, whether you use the free or premium version of the program. You can contact this person when needed for advice.
- Personal Capital's Private Client Group. This service is available to investors who have at least $1 million to invest through the platform. It offers personalized investing and wealth planning, and gives you direct access to a certified financial planner and a whole team of licensed advisors. This service level also comes with private banking services and legacy planning that can help you establish trusts for your heirs.
- Tax optimization. This is another perk of the Wealth Management program, and it seeks to lower the tax bite of your investing activities. They do this through use of individual stocks, which are more easily bought and sold, and can readily be used for tax loss harvesting, or TLH. TLH is the process of selling losing stocks to offset gains on the sale of profitable stocks. It creates a backdoor tax deferral system, that enables your investments to grow with minimal negative impact from income taxes.
They also employ a tax allocation strategy, in which income-producing investments, like high-yield stocks and REITs are held in tax-deferred accounts, while investments that generate capital gains – like stocks and ETF's – are held in taxable accounts, so that tax loss harvesting can be used to lower capital gains taxes.
The Personal Capital Mobile App.
Personal Capital's mobile app is available for your Apple iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Android. The mobile version has everything that is available on the desktop platform, and it's absolutely free.
Other Personal Capital features.
Personal Capital has a wide range of tools and features that provide real benefits to the users.
Some of those tools include:
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- Retirement Planner. This tool helps you to know if you're on track to retire, and even allows you to make adjustments for major life changes, such as job/career/income changes, illness, childbirth or saving for college.
- 401(k) Fund Allocation. Even though Personal Capital can't manage your employer sponsored retirement plan, they can analyze the plan and make asset allocation suggestions based on all of the investment options available in the plan
- Net Worth Calculator. Track your assets and liabilities so that you can quickly find your net worth at any time. This tool will help you to really know if you're on track to reach your long-term financial goals.
- Cash Flow Analyzer. Use this tool to create a budget, where you can track your income and expenses whatever the sources. This will help you see where you're spending money, so that you can free up income for savings, investing, and debt payoff.
- Investment Checkup tool. This can provide a risk assessment of your portfolio, including your retirement plan. It will make suggestions to help you improve your asset allocation plan to make it consistent with your goals and personal preferences.
Personal Capital is an all-in-one financial management platform with a heavy emphasis on successful investment management. It's one of the very best services of its kind.
One of the big advantages of Mint is that the service is completely free to use. The service is easy to sign up for, and simple. Much like Personal Capital, Mint is an aggregator for your entire financial life. That includes checking and savings accounts, credit cards, loans and investment accounts. The service claims to be able to connect with “almost every US financial institution connected to the internet”.
The service is valuable for creating a budget, but it also helps you to track your finances, and to monitor all of your financial accounts on the same platform.
Some of the features Mint has include:
This is Mint's strong suit, and the primary reason you would use the service. Once you sync your accounts and transactions, they will be automatically sorted into the appropriate categories going forward. Updates then occur in real time. You can also set up sub-categories of certain expenses, to customize the presentation in a way that works best for you. Once you have your account set up, you'll be able to track, analyze and adjust expenses and spending habits as needed.
The site does enable you to make adjustments to your expenses even after they have been categorized. Once changes are made, Mint will automatically place similar transactions within the same expense categories.
Mint enables you to be able to connect an unlimited number of accounts which means you can add any and all bills you have, including credit cards and other loan payments. Not only does it provide you with alerts of upcoming due dates, but it also shows you your available cash and credit next to the upcoming bills. You can pay bills with either a bank account or credit card, and it even allows you to schedule payments. The feature is available on your personal computer and your mobile device.
Custom tips and savings. Mint analyzes your accounts and then makes recommendations that will save you money based on your lifestyle and goals. In fact, they have an entire page dedicated to saving you money on credit cards (in the “Find Savings” tab at the top of the main page).
But since they analyze all of your financial accounts, they may also be able to find and recommend banks and investments where you can earn higher returns, the lowest insurance rates, plus more attractive cash back offers from credit cards.
Establishing goals. You can create goals within the Mint application. This can include saving money for specific purposes (college, retirement, vacation, etc.), paying off debt, or paying off your mortgage.
Mint Alerts. By signing up for alerts, you will be notified by email or by smartphone when there are significant changes in your finances. Alerts will be sent when there is a large purchase, an upcoming bill payment, late fees, loan rate changes, and when you may be in danger of going over your budget.
Mint mobile app. The full Mint suite is also available on the Mint mobile app. This will provide you with all of the information and services that are on the website while you are on the go. Check into your finances anytime, anywhere. The mobile app works with Apple iPhone and iPad, and Google’s Android. And like Mint itself, all mobile apps are free.
Credit score monitoring.
Mint offers credit monitoring, and no credit card is required to participate. This makes it a truly free credit monitoring service. You can get your credit score in as little as two minutes, enjoy daily monitoring, and get credit alerts when Equifax (one of the three major credit bureaus) receive new information from your creditors. The service even shows you the factors that are impacting your credit score, and how to use them to improve your score.
Investing with Mint.
Mint doesn't actually manage your investments, but as an aggregator, they provide a complete picture of your investment portfolio, including charts and graphs. They do provide advice, tips and tools to help you better manage your investments, based on your own investment style. For example, Mint can provide an analysis of your retirement accounts and brokerage accounts to let you know about investment fees that may be buried in places you can't see them. They'll make you aware of these fees and suggest possible workarounds.
Mint may be the perfect service if you're looking for a budgeting program – with credit score monitoring – free of charge.
Personal Capital vs. Mint – Where They're the Similar
Both Personal Capital and Mint are financial account aggregators, which means that they each offer you the opportunity to keep and monitor your entire financial life on one platform. In addition, each offers its service free of charge.
Both services also offer mobile apps including valuable account alerts to keep you on track with your finances.
Personal Capital vs. Mint – Where They're Different
Where the two seriously part company is in regard to their primary missions. For example, Mint is first and foremost a budgeting program. In that regard, it is the superior platform if you are primarily looking to get control of your finances.
They not only help you to stay on track with your budget, but they also make suggestions as to how you can do that more efficiently. The free credit score monitoring feature is an added bonus, since so many people need both budgeting assistance and ongoing credit monitoring.
Where Personal Capital shines is with investing. While Mint offers supplemental investment assistance, Personal Capital offers professional investment management. This includes levels of investment help, from assisting you in your own efforts at do-it-yourself investing, all the way up to comprehensive wealth management.
And the Winner Is…It Depends
In most head-to-head comparisons, it's rare that any one service is better than another, and that's the case with Personal Capital and Mint. If your primary emphasis is on budgeting and monitoring your credit – which typically comes before you start investing – then Mint is the clear winner.
But if you’re looking primarily for investment expertise and management, then Personal Capital should get the nod. This is especially true for high net worth individuals, who may be particularly interested in wealth management, private banking services, tax optimization and estate planning.
As similar as these two services often appear on the surface, they each have specializations that make them very different platforms.
What are your thoughts on Personal Capital and Mint? Have you had experience with either?