The best free budgeting app for tracking your money

Some people love to track their spending, and others find it a time-consuming and stressful chore. There are more and more apps on the market that can do the hard work of organizing your spending for you. At just a glance, you can see where your money is going and how much you have coming in.

 

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But with so many different apps on the market, it can be hard to know which one is the best. CNBC Select compared over a dozen options when rating the best budgeting apps and best expense tracker apps, and we found that the most popular ones have nearly 5 out of 5-star ratings and hundreds of thousands of customer reviews.

We ranked the Mint budgeting app as the best free option out there. In addition to offering basic budgeting features, Mint also provides bill payment reminders, customized alerts when you’re over budget and a credit monitoring service.

Below, we review the Mint budgeting app to give you all the details on its features, including the tools, perks, safety, pricing, availability and ratings so you can decide if it is the right app for managing your money.

Mint budgeting app review

  • Budgeting app tools
  • Perks
  • Safety
  • Pricing
  • Availability and ratings
  • Bottom line

Mint budgeting app tools

Mint syncs to your bank accounts, credit cards and retirement accounts to track your income, purchases and savings.

The Mint budgeting app comes with a daily budget planner, which suggests budget goals based on your spending. You can adjust your goals (and/or add new ones) as you use the app.

Mint will automatically update and categorize your expenses for you, but you have the option to revise and add categories as needed. You can also create your own savings goals and track your investments in the app.

Perks

Unlike many other budgeting apps, Mint stands out for going beyond just budgeting and offering credit monitoring. Users get 24/7 access to their credit score for free, a credit report summary, as well as notifications of changes in their TransUnion® credit report.

Mint will also send alerts if you’re being charged an ATM fee, going over budget or if there’s been a large or suspicious transaction on your account.

The app’s monthly bill payment tracker allows you see all your bills at one glance, and you can get reminders on upcoming due dates and alerts if your funds are low.

For those looking for more resources to help them along their financial journey, Mint has its own educational blog, as well as tools you can use, like a home affordability calculator and a loan repayment calculator.

Safety

Safety features include security scanning with VeriSign for transferring data and multi-factor authentication for accessing your account. Mint will require a 4-digit code to view your account or Touch ID.

It’s also worth noting that Mint is an Intuit brand, which is the company behind TurboTax® and QuickBooks®, which millions of people use to store sensitive financial data.

Pricing

While the Mint app is free to use, there are in-app ads. Be prepared to do a lot of ad-watching with any free budgeting app. There is not an option to upgrade to an ad-free version.

Availability and ratings

The Mint budgeting app is available in the App Store (for iOS) and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple Watch. It is also available on Google Play (for Android).

Rating in App Store at time of writing: 4.7 out of 5 (over 625,000 ratings)

Rating on Google Play at time of writing: 4.5 out of 5 (over 180,000 ratings)

Bottom line

If you’re new to budgeting apps or tired of paying for the one you currently use, Mint is the best free option for you.

Users have access to all the typical budgeting app features, plus credit monitoring, customized alerts and educational tools to coach them along the way.

For those more serious about budgeting who don’t mind paying a monthly or annual fee, consider the You Need A Budget (YNAB) budgeting app. Instead of using traditional budgeting buckets, users allocate every dollar they earn to something (known as the “zero-based budgeting system” where no dollar goes unaccounted for).

Our methodology

To determine which budgeting apps offer the best user experience, CNBC Select analyzed over a dozen apps offered by the top companies in this market and looked at their pricing, features, user reviews and ratings.

We narrowed down our ranking by only considering apps that sync transactions from users’ bank accounts, come with low (or no) cost to sign up, are easy to use and can be accessed on multiple devices so are accessible and compatible for most.

The five apps we selected for this ranking are either free, offer a free version or have a free trial for users to test out before signing up.

All of the apps in our round-up have a sizable number of user reviews and high ratings. Each app on this list has at least 1,000 reviews in both the App Store (for iOS) and on Google Play (for Android), as well as a rating over 4 stars (out of 5) on both platforms.

Other factors we looked at included apps’ security features, user customization and educational tools offered.

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