If you've read money blogs over the past five years, you've heard about Personal Capital. Personal Capital is a free money-tracking tool with a beautiful interface and — gasp — no advertising. (One of my big complains about Mint is that it shoves ads in your face.)
Many of my friends and colleagues promote the hell out of Personal Capital because the company pays good money when people sign up. (And yes, links to Personal Capital in this review absolutely put money in my pocket. But any Personal Capital link you see anywhere on the web puts money in somebody's pocket.)
I sometimes wonder, though, if any of my pals actually uses Personal Capital, you know? All of their reviews are glowing. While I like Personal Capital, I've been frustrated by the app in the past. Even today, I find that it's not as useful as I'd like.
What are my issues with Personal Capital?
- For a long time, I was frustrated trying to get Personal Capital to connect to my accounts. It still won't connect to my credit union, but that's fine. I can enter my balance manually. It was frustrating, though, that for years I couldn't get Personal Capital to connect to my Fidelity investment accounts. They work now…but I'm always worried that they won't. The app still won't connect to my Capital One credit card — and hasn't for over a year, which I find mind-blowing.
- Personal Capital, as an app, isn't robust enough to replace something like Quicken or You Need a Budget. The latter tools allow you to track and manage your money on a transaction by transaction level. Okay, maybe you can track your transactions, but you can't do anything meaningful with them, the same way you could with Quicken or YNAB.
- The phone calls! My god, the phone calls! Here's a not-so-secret secret: The Personal Capital app — while beautiful and useful — is actually bait. It's a lure. Its aim is to attract high net-worth users to connect their accounts. When they do, Personal Capital (the company) begins a phone campaign in an attempt to recruit the users as clients. Personal Capital isn't actually an app company; it's a wealth-management company. They want people with lots of money to sign up. (I can't comment on whether this is a good deal or not. I don't want a financial advisor. I ignore all of the calls from Personal Capital.)
- Personal Capital has pretty reports, but there aren't enough of them. My copy of Quicken 2007 — ugly as it is — has 23 different reports and 10 different graphs. (Plus, you can customize many more.) Personal Capital has maybe…nine ways to look at your money? (I can't tell for sure.)
- The security is over the top. I suppose I should be happy about this, but I'm not. It feels like I'm constantly having to verify my identity via email or text message. Some of my other accounts make me do this occasionally, but it feels like Personal Capital does this multiple times per week. That's crazy!
Now, these complaints aside, here's a confession: I've been using the Personal Capital app for 5+ years. For real. I can't remember when I started, but I do remember being cranky because a Personal Capital rep didn't know who I was at Fincon 2013 in St. Louis. “I use your app,” I told him. “And I have a big blog.” (I wince now at the thought of my arrogance.)
Despite the drawbacks, there must be something to it. Right? Today — using my current financial situation — let's look at the pros and cons of Personal Capital. [Read more…]