The Battle for Best Budget App: Quicken vs. Mint vs. Personal Capital

I’ve been thinking a lot about budgeting tools.

When I first starting working, I kept a “Budget Bible” that tracked my spending down to the penny. It was easy because I was single, had few financial obligations, and plenty of time.

Today, budgeting is harder and with less time for mundane tasks, I rely on automated tools.

When it comes to best free budgeting apps, I think Mint and Personal Capital are the clear leaders in the field. I wanted a head to head comparison to include one of the older entrants to the field, Quicken, which celebrates its 34th (!!!) birthday this year, because while free is the best price, it doesn’t automatically make it the best service.

If you’re most interested in seeing a head to head of Personal Capital vs. Mint, click here (let’s be honest, Quicken isn’t really in the running… is it?).

Table of Contents
  1. Investing Tools
  2. Budgeting Tools
  3. Retirement Planning
  4. Security
  5. Overall

Investing Tools

Quicken and Personal Capital are the stars in this category, largely because Mint isn’t an investment app, and therefore offers only incidental investment services.

Quicken. Quicken’s Starter Edition does not include investing, but it’s Premier Edition does. That edition provides features like their Portfolio X-Ray, showing performance vs. the market of your investments, and help with buy/sell decisions. It also provides up-to-date portfolio values, and tracks cost basis and capital gains.

Quicken also helps minimize taxes on your investments. They have a tool called the Capital Gains Estimator, that can help you optimize security sales to realize the greatest after-tax yield.

Mint. Mint is the weakest of the three platforms in the investing category, mostly since it is primarily a budgeting app. They do track your portfolio value, as they do with other accounts, but they don’t provide specific tools to help you in your investing activities.

Personal Capital. Investing is what Personal Capital does best. The free version has a wealth of investment tools, including a Net Worth Calculator and a Cash Flow analyzer. The app will track your portfolio, balance your portfolio allocations, key holdings, and list your top gainers and losers.

They also offer unique tools, such as their Fee Analyzer. You can use it to analyze your investment accounts to see what fees you’re paying for the account. This can include broker fees, as well as the fees charged by mutual funds, which may be reducing your net investment return.

Personal Capital also offers professional investment management for a fee. You can have a portfolio created, maintained and managed for less than what it would cost to have your portfolio managed by a traditional investment advisor.

Visit Personal Capital

Winner: Personal Capital because it does more than offer a tracking tool, you can use it’s free analytical tools for a relatively deep dive into your investments. They will pitch you their investment advisory service, that’s how the bills get paid, but you don’t ever need to use them. Quicken performs admirably, especially given its tax reduction tools, but just hasn’t kept pace.

Budgeting Tools

All three services offer budgeting features and while there are similarities between each, there are plenty of differences worth noting.

Quicken: Quicken provides a full budgeting suite. You can see, track and pay bills, all from the app. It shows both bank and credit card balances, and imports bank transactions securely. The app organizes your spending in categories, then projects income and expenses, helping you to create a budget. Like the other services, Quicken also reminds you when your bills are due.

Mint: Mint feels like it was designed for Millennials. Rather than simply track, it’ll help with budgeting and debt management. It provides a breakdown of spending by category and allows you to put limits on your spending in each. Mint then gives recommendations to help you save money. These offers, which you can think of really as advertisements, help pay for the service but also can save you money. This can include deals on insurance, credit cards, bank interest rates, and credit cards too. (we consider it the best Personal Capital alternative for a free budgeting app)

The app can link up with literally thousands of financial institutions, including banks, credit cards, various lenders and investment brokerages. This provides you with automatic tracking of your financial activity, and all in one app. It will also provide alerts to remind you of upcoming bill due dates to help you avoid missing deadlines.

Personal Capital: This service has a more limited budgeting capacity, since it’s set up primarily as an investment management platform, with some budgeting services. The app will link to your bank accounts, credit accounts, and investment accounts. It will provide account balances and transactions, spending by account and expense category, income and spending reports. Like the other services, Personal Capital will alert you on upcoming bills.

It will also enable you to set a monthly spending target and easily view where you are trending over or under your plan.

Winner: Mint is the clear winner. Mint is as powerful as Quicken but without the cost. Personal Capital performs admirably but their budgeting tool is relatively new and doesn’t have as many features as either Mint or Quicken.


(one good alternative for budgeting is EveryDollar, it won’t do any of the other things mentioned on this list but it’s a good basic budgeting tool)

Retirement Planning

Retirement planning is an extension of investment activity, so once again, Quicken and Personal Capital come out on top here as well.

Quicken: Quicken helps you plan for retirement by helping you to set up your retirement goals. It uses planning assumptions from other investment goals, like planning for college, or investing for special purposes. This enables you to switch over to retirement planning without having to add additional information.

They offer a Lifetime Planner feature, that incorporates expected retirement benefits and other income, as well as expectations for inflation, savings, investments, rate of return, current homes and assets and future homes and assets.

Mint: Not applicable, Mint doesn’t have a retirement planning feature.

Personal Capital: With its robust investment capability, it should follow that Personal Capital would also be strong with retirement planning and it is. It has a Retirement Planning feature, that will help you determine how much you need to save for retirement and does so for free. It’ll also tell you if you’re on track towards your retirement goals and you can even run “what if” scenarios.

Personal Capital also offers a 401(k) Fee Analyzer. That will help you to determine which funds in your retirement plan are costing you the most and help you lower your fees using other options.

Winner: Quicken and Personal Capital are too close to call in this category, though Personal Capital does offer advisory services that are an added fee. It’s not fair to compare that to a software package you pay for just once, but both will help you in the retirement planning department.

Visit Personal Capital


One big concern about putting all this financial data out into the world is security.

Quicken: Quicken stores the data locally and is the only one of the three that does this. While it will connect with your bank to collect information, none of it is stored elsewhere. This means that you still have to be careful with the device Quicken is installed, like your laptop, but you won’t have to worry about a third party server or service being hacked and your information stolen.

Mint: Mint is now owned by Intuit, who own TurboTax, QuickBooks, and were the former owners of Quicken; and are familiar with security. Mint uses encryption for data transfer and they offer multi-factor authentication, which is a must for any sensitive log in. On your mobile, there is a 4-digit PIN and/or Touch ID to access your data.

Personal Capital: Personal Capital encrypts all communications with their servers (this is standard) and encrypts your data with AES-256 with multi-layer key management, including rotating user-specific keys and salts. There are also internal access controls so no one at Personal Capital can access your information.

Winner: Quicken, by storing data locally, is the winner here as long as sticky fingers don’t walk off with your device. Mint and Personal Capital are on equal footing, though Personal Capital makes a bigger point to enumerate all the security features they offer. Personal Capital relies on Yodlee, as does much of the financial aggregation industry, and their security for maintaining your data.


If you are strictly thinking about budgeting app, Mint is the clear winner in this category. With budgets, alerts, and other tools, Mint has cornered the budget tracking space like no other. A very close competitor is You Need a Budget (read our You Need a Budget review), which is extremely powerful for changing your spending behavior. If you are spending more than you save and want help, YNAB is a service you should consider (it’s not free though).

If you don’t want Mint for budgeting and you don’t want to pay for YNAB, EveryDollar can be a good option in the simple budgeting but free category. We compare Mint vs. EveryDollar.

If you want expense tracking and a better suite of tools to look at investments, Personal Capital is the tool for you. That’s why I switched from Mint to Personal Capital, after briefly “dating” SigFig for investment tracking, and I’ve never looked back.

Quicken, sadly, is being left behind by these newer companies (Mint is 11 years old!). You can’t blame it though, it hasn’t gotten the same level of technical support as these newer, arguably “sexier” companies to invest in. We maintain a list of Quicken alternatives that outperform them.

Visit Personal Capital

What’s your favorite of the three?

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. Lars-Christian says

    I’m still waiting for a service to come along and offer international support, with full bank integration. None of these are of much use when you reside outside of America, which is the main reason why I do all my tracking in Excel.

    That said, I’m sure you can add up all the countries in the world, multiply them by 10 and double that again before getting anywhere close to the number of different solutions you’d need to support to import transactions globally from all bank providers. Hopefully someone will come along and fix this, soon.

  2. Brian says

    I’ve exclusively used excel, up until I found personal capital. I just like having a single place to aggregate all my accounts and spot check them. Personal capital is free and I find it easy to use.

  3. Jim @ Route To Retire says

    Nice to see this post, Jim – I’ve been using Quicken for just shy of 20 years now. As a guy in the technical realm, I keep feeling like I need to try out other services to see if there’s something better out there. Mint and Personal Capital, although great in different aspects, still haven’t filled the void for me.

    I like that Quicken lets me track everything and I can keep an eye on pending transactions that I’ve entered manually into it. Mint or Personal Capital don’t generally give that much flexibility in that aspect. I’m pretty neurotic 🙂 and like to know exactly where I stand on everything.

    Good analysis on the pros of each solution!

    — Jim

  4. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says

    I don’t use any of these apps. For some reason, I just don’t like the idea of having a third party accessing my bank accounts. Maybe I’m just old-school, but my husband and I never have a budget. We live way below our means and have never had any consumer debt of any kind.

    • Jenny says

      Not arguing your paranoia over having 3rd party access your accounts, but you are definitely in the minority regarding being able to manage your finances and live below your means without a budget. Just think, you could probably do even better WITH a budget!

    • Jim Wang says is owned by Intuit and Intuit used to own Quicken, they sold it to H.I.G. Capital a few years ago. They’re a private equity group.

  5. Marc says

    Since your title is Battle of the Budget Apps, I think you should let people know about You Need A Budget (YNAB). I’ve used it now for a couple years and their approach is excellent, their service and support unparalleled in my experience. It does cost $55/yr. Well worth the fee if you ask me. It requires a change in mindset but it has apparently helped a lot of people get off the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

  6. Adele says

    I’m still using Mac Quicken 2007 for one feature only. The HISTORY of every single buy/sell/dividend, including the account in the listing, price of security, and amount of transaction. I simply absolutely need this history and CAN’T FIND IT IN ANY OTHER APP… even the new Quicken 2018, which I also use as Treasurer of organizations.

    Does this HISTORY OF TRANSACTIONS exist in any other app on earth???

    • Jim Wang says

      Do you really need that information going back 11-12 years? Dividends and interest are reported on 1099-DIV and 1099-INTs annually. Sells, for capital gains purposes, only matter for the year you have them and you will get a 1099-B. So really all you need it for are the buys, which your broker will have. I imagine your broker docs are more reputable than Quicken.

      • Mark Miller says

        Not my original comment, but… “Broker docs?” Do you know how many different investment companies you accumulate over 40 years, between different employers? I have entered in Quicken every investment transaction I ever made dating back to 1983, when I got married. This allows me to analyze every investment decision I made, good and bad, and glean valuable lessons from that experience. How valuable? I can say that if I ever lost that database, I would pay $10,000 to have it back. Several times, I’ve almost allowed rose-colored recollections guide a decision, until I ran a report in Quicken that brought me back to reality.

  7. Ed says

    If you want a quick overview of your finances, Personal Capital is fine (if it actually works downloading balances). Quicken is for those who want to actually manage their money. Custom expense reports, investment tracking, account monitoring. It works. I’ve used both and PC has issues with some of my finanacial institutions.

  8. kari says

    Even if you don’t use software, you should still budget. There are budget books available at any office store for personal use with prefilled out categories and instructions. I used them when I started working and living on my own. Keeping track of credit card receipts I’ve actually found a few bad charges and had them reversed.

  9. Mike says

    I was almost sold on Personal Capital until I read about how ALL of your finances stored online in one place, no matter how secure and encrypted requires a lot of trust. All kinds of highly secure places have been hacked. It is in the news all the time. Yes, much of my data, if not all of it, is online already but not in one place. I guess I’ll have to stick with Quicken.

  10. Paul Driscoll says

    Quicken uploads your transaction to its cloud servers. It defentially keeps a copy an monetizes your information. Its privacy statement clearly states it uses your personal information.

  11. Markc says

    I have used MS Money (great tool) switched to Quicken once it went out of support.
    I had a problem with Quicken’s “forced upgrades” from the beginning. Now they wanted Quicken subscription fees yearly. To boot they disabled the import function in Quicken so you can’t download your banks transactions and upload manually into Quicken. What do you expect from a hedge fund?
    This is comparable to Excel disabling your File/import features because you don’t pay up – its Extortion! So, I switched to mint in March ’20 and am very very happy. Disabling paid for SW features is kind of like paying for a tool and unless you pay a yearly extortion fee it stops working. This is a new precedent for all SW apps to follow – stay tuned.

    • Jim Wang says

      These funds have to show that their investment is worth it and they don’t have the loyalty that a founder might – so they try to extract what they can from the business. I understand it but they should also understand if customers decide to go elsewhere.

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