Bills suck. As if taking all your money weren’t enough, they’re a nightmare to organize and remember. After I started using Mint Bills, however, it got a lot easier to keep track of my bills.
I have a confession to make: I don’t really use Mint all that much. Despite being one of Lifehacker’s go-to recommendations for budgeting software, I’ve never found it useful for much more than occasionally checking my credit score or glancing at where my car loan balance is at. Mint Bills, on the other hand, is a separate app from Mint that comes in web, iOS, and Android flavors. It allows you to plug in to your various bill companies, creates a calendar for your due dates, and even lets you pay bills directly from the app. Even if you’re a big fan of Mint itself, Mint Bills offers a ton of functions that can help manage your various payments.
The Problem: Managing Bills Is a Mess
Keeping up with your bills is easily one of the worst nightmares of being an adult. Between rent, gas, power, cell phones, credit cards, car payments, and a myriad of other expenses, it can get hard to keep track of who you owe what to. We’ve talked a lot at Lifehacker about how to automate your bills, but the companies that mange your accounts often don’t work with you. Here are just a few problems I’ve run into over the years:
Bills that don’t support auto-pay: It seems crazy that a bill provider wouldn’t allow you to set up automatic deductions from your account, but many don’t. I’ve encountered sites that offer no automatic payments at all, or (bizarrely) only offer the option to schedule one payment in advance. The latter was always the worst, as I’d forget which month I had already scheduled a payment for.
Terrible bill payment sites: If you’ve ever used a bill payment site managed by your local government, you’ve probably encountered some ridiculous browser limitation, login issues, or worst of all, inconvenient downtime when you need to pay a bill. The latter would often result in forgetting to come back later when the site’s up, which inevitably leads to late fees.
Unreliable payment schedules: Even when a bill doesn’t support auto-pay, I can have my bank mail a check, right? The problem is, this shifts my effective “due date.” Even if my bank automatically sends the check out, the money will withdraw from my account typically a week early, so I need to account for that. So, some of my bills show accurate due dates, but others need to be adjusted. This made chasing due dates an organizational mess.
If all of your bills support auto-pay, you always have enough money in your account to cover any bills at any time, and all the companies you deal with are honest and reliable about how much they withdraw from your account, managing bills can be fine. If even one gear doesn’t work, though, the whole thing can become a mess real quick. This is was often the situation I found myself in. Spreadsheets, calendars, and Mint didn’t fix the problem I had with figuring out when to pay bills so that I wouldn’t overdraw my account. Mint Bills, on the other hand, did.
The Solution: Mint Bills Connects Directly to Most Bill Accounts
The big reason that Mint proper is useful is because it connects directly to all of your accounts. Mint Bills takes the same approach to your bills. Rather than just reminding you that your bills exist, the app allows you to plug directly into your accounts (where supported) and pay your bills directly from a single app. If a particular bill isn’t supported, you can add its information to get reminders and put it on the calendar with the rest of them.
There are a few advantages to doing it this way that most other methods I’ve used don’t have:
A built-in calendar: The biggest problem with bills isn’t remembering that they exist. It’s when they’re due. Mint Bills offers a calendar view of due dates natively, so you can see when each bill needs to be paid.
Pay multiple bills from one app: If Mint proper had the ability to pay bills directly, I might have started using it a lot sooner. If your bill can integrate with Mint Bills, you can pay it directly from the app. Even if half of your bills can be paid this way, it’s a huge load off.
Credit utilization and other tracking tools: It wouldn’t be Mint if there weren’t some sort of data tracking. Within Mint Bills, you can see information about your credit utilization, available credit, and bank balances for various connected accounts.
Of course, it’s not perfect. There are some bills that I still can’t plug directly into Mint Bills because no one upgrades their systems slower than the companies that deal with your money. However, Mint Bills has a mechanism for this as well. You can add a “manual bill” that lets you input how much you need to pay and when. This is then added to your bills calendar and you’ll get notifications periodically to let you know when a due date is coming up.
So far, Mint Bills hasn’t been perfect, but for me it finally the psychological distinction I’ve needed between “bills” and “everything else.” Every budget I’ve ever put together treats regular bills as a distinct type of spending from, say, going out to eat. Between the due dates, late fees, and inconsistency between various companies over how you can pay, managing my bills was the most confusing part of my financial life. I was never a huge fan of the regular Mint app, but Mint Bills actually makes sense to me.