My favorite Mint alternative is still great 7 months later – and it’s 50% off right now

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monarch butterfly on yellow flower

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ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • Monarch Money is $99 a year but you can get it for 50% off until June 30th with code MINT50, plus there’s a 30-day free trial.
  • Pros: It’s easy to set up, with powerful tools for analyzing your finances and building a budget. 
  • Cons: It’s one of the more expensive personal financial program I tested.

I spent last Thanksgiving week looking at personal finance programs. Why? When Intuit decided to bury Mint, its popular and free money-tracking and budgeting program, I didn’t have a choice. I had to find another way to manage my money. 

Intuit wanted me to move my Mint data to Credit Karma, but I didn’t want to do that. While Credit Karma is good at working with your credit scores, it’s not a budgeting application. 

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With precious little time to move my years of financial data to a new service, I had to find a suitable replacement. Everyone’s financial needs are different. In my case, I needed a program that could handle multiple bank and credit card accounts, several 401Ks, and some stock and real estate investments. 

So, I kicked the tires of Monarch Money, NerdWallet, Rocket Money, Quicken Simplifi, and YNAB (You Need A Budget). My pick? Monarch Money.

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Monarch Money provides a financial framework for zero-based budgeting. With this approach, you allocate every dollar you earn to expenses and savings. Monarch is more than just a budgeting app. It provides everything you need to manage your personal finances. 

View at Monarch Money

What I like most about Monarch Money

Monarch presents income and expenses clearly, making it easy to track your remaining budget. I’m not an emoji fan, but their use here for spending subcategories is charming and functional, enabling quick identification of different categories. 

One of my favorite Monarch features is its transaction tracker. The tracker allows you to categorize spending into broad categories, such as food and dining; subcategories, such as groceries and restaurants; and specific merchants, such as Ingles Market and Five Points Diner. This detailed view of spending habits is a standout feature. The app’s auto-categorization is precise and customizable, allowing users to set rules for future transactions based on the merchant or amount.

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Monarch also easily imports data from your bank accounts, retirement funds, stock accounts, and credit cards. Of all the applications I looked at, Monarch did the best job of automatically importing data from other services. 

Note: If you already downloaded your Mint data as a CSV file, the default format, you can still upload it into Monarch or another money management program. If you haven’t downloaded yet, I’m sorry to say it’s gone for good now. 

I also like that Monarch prioritizes savings. You can set a financial goal, such as saving for a house downpayment, and set a deadline. The app creates a dedicated savings section on the home screen. Contributions to this section are only possible when expenses are lower than income.

The customizable dashboard provides an overview of your financial situation, with widgets for comparing monthly spending, viewing recent transactions, monitoring investments, and tracking savings goals.

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Another handy feature is Monarch’s Advice section. Here, Monarch spells out the steps you need to manage your money in the long run. This section includes how to review your cash flow, how to set up estate documents, and what to look for in life insurance. 

The app also supports shared budgeting, making it suitable for couples or families. Adding another person to the budgeting platform is straightforward. I was able to add my partner to my dashboard without hassle.

I’ve now been using Monarch Money for seven months. In a word, it’s great. It does everything I need and makes managing my money much easier. 

Monarch is better than Mint ever was. Mint consistently had trouble importing data from several of my accounts, so I’d need to reconnect them every month or two. Those same accounts stay linked up in Monarch.

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Perhaps the best reason to use Monarch is that, unlike Mint, which stagnated for years, its team has been working hard on improving it.

Specifically, Monarch has been upgrading its transactions. These include: 

New quick search filters: Now you can filter by debit and credit, include or exclude “hidden” transactions, include or exclude synced from institutions, and filter for transactions with attachments, splits, or notes.

New sorting on mobile: Mobile sorting is now on par with what’s available on the web, including the option to sort by date (old to new) and amount (high to low or low to high).

New buttons for quick review: With new buttons at the top of each detailed transaction page, you can hide or mark a transaction as reviewed in a snap.

More detail for quicker scanning: Category and account details are now included in your main transaction list, so you’ll have less to click through to find what you need.

You’ll also see more space on the page for transaction details, a new menu bar that consolidates filters, and the option to collapse the summary panel on the right-hand side.

Behind the scenes, Monarch has also made several significant improvements and fixes. In a Reddit post this month, the Monarch CEO listed the top ones as: 

  • Improved aggregation – He said the company has boosted data partners’ connection reliability, data accuracy, and sync times: “While we’ve made improvements, this is always an ongoing effort. Many of these issues come from the underlying institution or data provider. This doesn’t absolve us of solving them — and you shouldn’t have to care where the issues are coming from — it just makes it a harder problem to solve.”

  • Improved customer support – “We have spent a lot of time growing and training our CS team, as well as overhauling some of our internal systems. Our customer response times are back to under 24 hours and we’re resolving customer tickets with higher satisfaction levels. Our experiments with AI-based bots have admittedly been a miss for the most part, and we have humans answering the bulk of our support requests now. We’re really sorry if you previously had a poor experience with support. If that’s the case, please try again!”

  • Bug bashing – “We launched a lot of things very quickly after the Mint shutdown. This introduced some technical debt and more bugs than we had anticipated. We’ve spent many cycles fixing these behind the scenes. Thanks to everyone who has reported them.”

Monarch’s CEO also listed the following as new improvements coming soon:

  • Rules for split transactions
  • Rapid transaction review
  • Support for an alternative budgeting methodology called “Fixed/Flex”
  • The ability to view bills and dates for credit cards and other liabilities
  • A complete overhaul of goals and the planning system
  • Improved collaboration features
  • A new app design (Yes, it will reduce the whitespace for all of you exhausted by scrolling)

I appreciate a company that says it’s got something wrong and it’ll fix and improve things. 

How to use Monarch Money

Getting started with Monarch is easy enough. You link your various finances — checking, savings, retirement, and credit card and loan accounts — to the service. You can also incorporate assets like real estate, vehicles, and cryptocurrencies to assess your net worth. Once set up, these links will automatically update future transactions. 

When that work is done, you’re prompted to define your financial objectives, such as clearing a student loan. Monarch then helps you set up a specific line item for these goals, allowing you to decide how much to contribute monthly.

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As I mentioned earlier, Monarch uses the zero-based budgeting method for planning your expenditures — it urges you to allocate every dollar of your income each month. Monarch suggests budget amounts for different spending categories based on your historical spending patterns, covering necessities like groceries and lifestyle choices like fitness. 

You can monitor the budgeted amount for each category and switch between your current spending and the remaining budget, giving you more control over your finances.

The app’s primary interface showcases your complete budget, including your net worth, recent transactions, and investments, and it compares your current spending against the previous month. The app also highlights your progress towards saving objectives. This dashboard is adaptable, allowing you to tailor the display of information to suit your preferences.

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Monarch also supports collaborative budgeting, making it ideal for partners or families to manage finances together. It’s easy to invite others to join your budgeting dashboard via email, and it’s just as simple for them to accept the invitation. Should the need arise, removing someone from your dashboard is also simple. 

What I’d like to change about Monarch Money

One oddity with Monarch is that it doesn’t offer credit score access. I get that capability via my credit cards, so I don’t miss it, but still, it would have been nice if Monarch offered it. 

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Monarch’s recent price hike to $99.99 annually positions it among the more expensive budgeting apps. Still, overall, I found Monarch to be worth the money. For my money, Monarch is the best money management program available today – especially right now during the 50% off deal

What I didn’t choose any of the other options

There wasn’t anything wrong with the other choices. They just weren’t right for me. 

NerdWallet is an interesting combination of an excellent free application and an informative website. It’s ideal for anyone new to managing their money. But, that’s not me. Still, you can’t beat the price. 

Rocket Money has an excellent interface, but I found its “pay-what-you-wish” model pricing misleading. To get the most from the application, you’ll need its Premium Membership, which costs from $47.99 to $59.99 annually, or $4 to $12 per month. I also found it difficult to import data into Rocket Money. However, it does a good job of finding and helping you lose subscriptions and other hidden fees.

Quicken Simplifi is not Quicken. Although its parent company still offers Quicken, Simplifi doesn’t resemble it for better or worse. Simplifi stands out by providing tailored spending plans. You can update these in real time to monitor your spending. But, like Rocket Money, Simplifi has trouble importing my data. If your accounts work with Simplifi (and with a free 30-day trial, you’ll have ample opportunity to see if that’s the case), the program is well worth its annual cost of $47.99 (also currently 50% off).

YNAB, short for “You Need A Budget”, is a straightforward, zero-based budgeting app. It will help you meticulously plan your spending by assigning funds to specific categories every time you’re paid. As such, YNAB demands more upfront work than the other applications. Yes, it can help you track your money, but the name of its game is to teach you how to budget using the zero-budget approach. For people who have trouble making and sticking to a budget, YNAB’s annual rate of $99 is well worth the investment. But, I learned how to keep a budget on my own. 

Quicken still lives

The old favorite financial program, Quicken, is still around, but it’s no longer supported by Intuit. Mint’s parent company, while still offering QuickBooks, sold Quicken in 2016. Under new management, the program lives on. 

Today, Quicken is one of the most comprehensive personal finance applications available. Quicken Classic, a desktop-based software complemented by a mobile app, provides extensive financial management tools. This software justifies its annual subscription cost by offering multiple features, including in-depth account management, budgeting, bill handling, and investment tracking.

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I can’t recommend Quicken for most people because you must be deep into personal finance management to make the most from the tool. While you can access Quicken via an app with Quicken Mobile and via the internet with Quicken on the Web, the full-powered versions are only available on PCs. 

That said, if you’ve used Quicken in the past, it’s still worth a look. The software is available in four different versions. To see if it’s for you, give the Quicken Starter for $3.49 a month a try. The more advanced versions come at different prices: Quicken Deluxe, for personal and small business finance, costs $5.99 a month; Quicken Classic Premier, for investors, costs $6.99 a month; and Quicken Business & Personal, for advanced users, will run you $9.99 a month. Only Quicken Starter and Classic are available for Mac users. 

What’s a credit score?

Your credit score is probably the most important number in your life. It determines how likely you are to get credit and your interest rates, how much you’ll pay for everything from a credit card to rent, and even whether you’ll get a job. Heck, there are even dating apps that consider your credit score! 

A credit score, also known as a FICO score, is a numerical indicator, typically ranging from 300 to 850, that predicts how likely you are to repay loans and bills. This score is calculated using data from your credit accounts. 

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There are five main criteria for determining a FICO credit score: payment history, current debt level, frequency of new credit applications, the length of credit history, and the variety of credit types. The two most critical components are payment history, which makes up 35% of the score, and the amount of credit in use. Payment history factors include the timeliness of payments, the frequency of missed payments, how late payments are, and the recency of missed payments. Applying for new credit can briefly lower one’s score.

What is a good credit score?

A score of 700 or more is a good score, while 800 and above is excellent. Most people have scores ranging from 600 to 750. To improve a credit score, you can open accounts that report to credit bureaus, keep low balances, pay bills promptly, and limit new account applications. 

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have a single, fixed credit score. The score can differ based on the scoring model used, the data source, and the date of calculation.

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Finance programs can help you build up your credit score because they put the information you need to control your finances in your hands. Without these programs, you’re operating blind.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have a single, fixed credit score. The score can differ based on the scoring model used, the data source, and the date of calculation.


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