One thing that is always scarce when running a small business is time. I’ve been constantly looking for tools and services that can automate some of the routine tasks I do, hoping that they would save me some extra time to spend on the more interesting activities. A few months ago I learned about one such service: Mint.com. The idea sounded quite interesting: you give it the login details to your online credit card and bank accounts, and it would keep track of them, giving you the high-level overviews, notifications of various events (such as when new bills become available), etc. Although it seemed somewhat risky to give a third party online service the login details to my financial accounts, the promise of the potential savings in time seemed significant enough, so I decided to give it a try.
The service was (and still is as of this writing) in a beta phase, so I expected a few hiccups now and then. To my surprise,the setup went rather smooth: after providing my login details to various bank and credit card accounts, Mint.com downloaded the transaction history for those accounts, and I could see my financial picture in one place. I liked it! When a new credit card bill became available, Mint.com would display a notification both on the online dashboard, and it would also send me an email message. That was the most useful feature of Mint.com for me, that would allow me to free myself from the regular routine of going through the bills every few days and checking their due dates. With Mint.com, I could just wait for an email notification to arrive, and when it did, I would open that online account directly, paid the bill, and forget about it till the next notification.
Well, a few minor hiccups did happen during the few months I was trying it. For example, it was supposed to automatically download the new transactions from my accounts at least once a day, but sometimes it would not update the history for 3 or 4 days. That was easy to fix by pressing the Update button on the Mint.com dashboard and force it to download the latest transactions. Sometimes it would characterize the transactions inaccurately (for example, it described payments for the web hosting service as travel expense). However, those were the minor things, and the primary function of Mint.com that I liked the most (keeping track of the credit card bills) seemed to work well.
Until last week.
Two new credit card bills arrived a few days ago and I was unpleasantly surprised to see the LATE FEE lines on each of them. Turns out Mint.com did not send me any notifications about them, even though I checked its dashboard almost daily. Now I’m stuck with two missed credit payments. Sigh…
I guess, the moral of this story is, I should not had trusted such an important procedure as keeping track of the credit card bills to a service in beta. For now, I’m going to close my Mint.com account, and set up the email notifications with each credit card company directly. Maybe I’ll give Mint.com another try when they end the beta period and start doing business “for real”.
I hope this story will help someone be more careful when trusting credit card bill payments to the third-party services.