It’s a new year and if one of your financial resolutions is to get a better grip on your cash, you might want to consider letting a personal finance app do all the heavy lifting for you. When your income and spending are recorded automatically, it makes it much easier to keep an eye on what’s coming in and going out each month so you can keep your budget on track.
Mint is one of the most popular finance apps available, with about 15 million users. When you register, you can link all of your bank and credit card accounts and Mint automatically tracks your balances and spending. You can assign expenses to specific categories, establish goals for paying down debt or saving and get an estimate of your net worth.
In an effort to compete with Mint’s popularity, a number of banks have developed their own money management tools exclusively for their customers. MyBankTracker decided to compare personal finance apps from four different banks to see how they stack up.
PNC Virtual Wallet
PNC Virtual Wallet takes online banking one step further, offering a users a complete financial snapshot right from their smartphone or tablet. Not only can you check your account balances, you can also schedule bill reminders, set up online bill payments, establish separate budgets for different spending categories, track what you’ve spent each month in a particular category and get closer to your savings goals using one of three different tools.
Compared to Mint, Virtual Wallet offers a lot of the same features in terms of setting goals and breaking down your expenses. There are some extras that Mint lacks, like the calendar feature, which keeps tabs on what’s due for the next two weeks and alerts you if you’re in danger of going into overdraft. The biggest difference and perhaps drawback is that you can only use it to check your accounts at PNC Bank, whereas Mint allows you to view your checking, savings or credit card accounts from multiple financial institutions.
Cost is another area where the two differ. Mint is always free but PNC Virtual Wallet users may pay a monthly service fee ranging from $7 to $25, unless they meet certain requirements. You can avoid the fee by maintaining a minimum average balance in your accounts or if you have a qualifying direct deposit each month. Currently, PNC Bank is offering a sign-on bonus ranging from $100 to $300 if you open a new account with Virtual Wallet, which is nice incentive that you won’t get with Mint.
Bank of America MyPortfolio
MyPortfolio from Bank of America is billed as a financial dashboard of sorts and it comes with a wide variety of tools to help you manage your money. You’ll need a checking or savings account to sign up but if you’ve got accounts at another bank, you can sync them into MyPortfolio by entering your online login information, which is the same thing you’d do with Mint.
In terms of what you can do with MyPortfolio, the budgeting aspect is very similar to Mint. You can see how much money is deposited to your accounts each month, what your individual expenses are and what areas you’re spending the most on. If you like visuals, you can create graphs and charts to easily see what the biggest pieces of your budget pie are.
In addition to your bank accounts, you can also link up your investments, credit cards and loans to MyPortolio. You can also enter other assets or liabilities manually if you want a more accurate estimate of your net worth. There’s no cost to use MyPortfolio if you’re already enrolled in online banking with Bank of America, but their regular account fee schedule still applies.
Citi Financial Tools
Citibank is also jumping on the bandwagon with Financial Tools, a free offering for new and existing account holders. You’ll need a Citi checking, savings or credit card account to use the program but you can also integrate information from outside financial institutions, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, credit cards and utilities.
Financial Tools allow you to set up monthly budget goals for different categories and view your actual spending compared to the amount you allotted towards a specific expense. You can also view your average spending overall or in a particular category for previous months to identify trends and spot potential problem areas. The personal expense analysis tool loads all of the information into a pie chart for easy viewing.
The Money Tracker feature lets you see your cash flow for the month, which is similar to Mint. Users can also establish goals, make note of deposits and payment dates on the financial calendar, check their net worth and manage their investment portfolio. One area where Money Tracker falls short is the fact that you can’t use it to track your investments so you don’t always get the most complete picture when it comes to your net worth.
Wells Fargo My Money Map
The last contender on our list is Wells Fargo’s My Money Map. Compared to the other options we’ve profiled, this one is a little more scaled down, but it’s still worthy of consideration if you’ve got a credit card or bank account through Wells Fargo.
There are three basic tools My Money Map uses to help you keep your finances in check. My Spending Report tallies up the purchases you make with your Wells Fargo checking account or credit card and automatically sorts them into categories like entertainment and transportation. It also includes a summary of your deposits so you can see how your income fluctuates from month to month and what expenses account for the biggest portion of your pay.
Budget Watch is what you’ll use to set up your budgets for the month. You’ll be able to see at a glance how much you’ve spent in each category so you’ll always know how close you are to hitting your limit. The feature also allows you to set up email alerts to let you know how you’re doing with meeting your budget goals.
The My Savings Plan tool lets you assign a specific goal to your Wells Fargo savings account and establish automatic transfers from your checking. If you have more than goal, you can also open new accounts through the My Savings Plan feature. Like Mint, My Money Map is free to use but it’s not as comprehensive since you can’t use it to track outside accounts.
Who’s the winner?
All four of these options have some strong points. The sign-on bonus that PNC Bank offers to Virtual Wallet users is especially attractive if you were planning to switch banks, for example. If you end up having to pay the monthly account maintenance fee, however, it detracts somewhat from that particular perk.
In terms of how they function, Bank of America’s MyPortfolio and Citi Financial Tools have an edge if you’d like to go beyond monitoring your bank or credit card accounts. Being able to see your investments and retirement accounts together means you’re not having to guess about your net worth or log in to multiple websites to check your balances. The fact that that you can also include accounts from other banks are big pluses.
Where all four fall short is the fact that you have to have an account at a particular bank to use them. For people who prefer to do business with local credit unions or live in an area that caters primarily to smaller community banks, they have very little appeal. Bottom line, if you just need a basic budgeting tool to monitor your spending and income and you don’t use a big bank, Mint still reigns supreme.