Trends

A User’s Perspective on Mint’s App for iPad

So, the new Mint.com app for iPad is here, and it’s making me hungry.

I don’t have any contact with the app developers at Mint, but I think I know what their favorite morning snack food is. That’s because the signature feature of the iPad app is what I’m calling the doughnut—and if anyone tells me it’s not called “the doughnut” internally, I don’t believe them.

Sure, the doughnut is just a pie chart, like you can get on the Trends tab of the Mint website. But as smartphones, tablet computers, and Tom Cruise have taught us, there’s a difference between clicking on your data and touching it with your hand.

Mint for iPad puts you more in touch with your spending habits than ever before—literally. That can be good, scary, or both. I sat down with the iPad and a chocolate old-fashioned to see what’s new, what’s improved, and what needs work.

Give it a Whirl

From the home screen of the iPad app, tap on the doughnut to zoom into the Spending by Category view. Now put your finger on any part of the doughnut and spin it around as fast as you can. This is completely useless but it kept me entertained for far longer than I’m going to admit.

You can spin or tap to highlight any category and find out how much you’ve spent in that category so far this month. From the black pop-up, you can zoom in on that segment graphically or see what transactions it’s comprised of. If you see a miscategorized transaction, you can fix it on the spot.

(You can’t change the category for every instance of a specific merchant within the app, however. For example, if you find that Mint always considers Jack in the Box to be in the Entertainment category, you can fix one particular charge on the iPad, but have to go to the website to fix them all at once. I’d like to see that feature available in a future release.)

Using the stripe along the bottom, you can change the date range you’re looking at. It defaults to the current month, but you can easily expand it to look at a longer range or slide it to look at a previous month. Tap on the calendar icon to quickly jump to this month, last month, this year, or all available data. Do I want to know how much I’ve spent on food and dining this year? Too bad—I just peeked. At least Mint isn’t smart enough to tell me how many apple fritters I’ve eaten.

The Supporting Players

The feature I use most often on the Mint web and smartphone apps is the ability to quickly see my balance across all my accounts. The iPad app supports this, of course, and it works exactly as you’d expect. If one of your accounts needs a password or your mother’s aunt’s dog’s maiden name, you can fix it from the iPad. One gripe about the account list: it’s not entirely obvious how to get to it, especially if you’re in landscape mode. (Answer: scroll up until you see the balance summary, then tap on it.)

Searching your transactions from the iPad is fast and intuitive. You can search by merchant, category, or tag, and then restrict the search to a specific time period if you want. There’s no better way to search your Mint data, period. Because the app caches your transaction data, you can even search without a wireless connection—a good reason to set a PIN for security.

You can also check your budgets. The app will tell you how much more dining you can squeeze in before the end of the month—or whether you’re already over the limit. Tap on any budget category to show the latest transactions in that category.

Finally, you can add new accounts and manual transactions (like checks and cash transactions) directly from the app.

What’s Still Missing?

The iPad app doesn’t yet support Mint Goals (one of my favorite features) or the Upcoming Bills feature, and it doesn’t analyze your investment performance. If you want to play with any of those things, you have to go to the website.

Also, if you’ve entered any manual transactions, they show up in the ledger but aren’t reflected in the available balance. In other words, if I write and enter a check for $100, my balance for that account doesn’t go down by $100. (On the website, the “available cash” balance reflects any outstanding manual transactions.)

In short, the Mint iPad app isn’t missing anything a doughnut-fueled coding all-nighter couldn’t take care of. (Programmers: Just kidding! I’ve been there.) I intend to use the app frequently, as long as my wife doesn’t catch me getting greasy fingerprints on her iPad.

Matthew Amster-Burton is a personal finance columnist at Mint.com. Find him on Twitter @Mint_Mamster.