I read some interesting news this morning when I saw that Intuit will acquire Mint.com. I have been following Mint for quite some time mainly because I always wanted to track my spending in a simple and effective manner. However, it was not until a few months ago that my bank accounts were finally accepted into the Mint fold. I had been planning to review Mint in comparison to Intuit’s Quicken Online offering for ages, but this news changes my plan.

The question now is, why did Intuit buy Mint? Let me start with a basic comparison of the two online offerings. First, Quicken Online is basically an online version of its desktop sibling. So, it is a little heavy for someone that just wants to track their spending. However, that heaviness also means you get all of the date based alerts and tons of reporting. Much of the reporting functionality seems to have trickled down from the business packages of QuickBooks.

Mint takes a different approach. It does not have the staid design of Quicken, as it was born in the web 2.0 mold. Of course, Mint allows you to track your spending but the focus is not on paying bills. The focus of Mint is to track your spending against a budget and to see where you can save money.

The design aspects are also important here. Quicken took the standard Intuit approach that it needs to look like a checkbook, and makes it feel like personal finance is a chore. Mint has more of the flashy graphics, and generally makes the online checkbook look cool. One of the big differences is that the budget and saving money sections are on the main page.

I think there are two main reasons this deal occurred. First, Intuit bought Mint for online customer acquisition. If Mint really has more than a million users, a purchase is an easy way to quickly ramp up your online presence. However, that can only be a part of it because Quicken has a very well known brand and it already has Quicken Online. The second part of the reasoning is that Mint is really the online personal finance leader and it could give Quicken a major upgrade. It is a change of attitude from the software perspective, and Mint has continuously received excellent press coverage. Most people that use Mint absolutely love it, including me. A lot of this is due to the difference in focus. Quicken’s focus on how much money you have is a very business oriented approach. Mint takes a “friendlier” approach with its’ “this is how you can save money”.

Mint also gets some major benefits from this purchase. Besides the founders and investors making some good money on the deal, they now get the backing of a major personal finance player. Any questions of whether Mint will survive now become “will Intuit keep Mint running?” Intuit already has relationships with most of the banking institutions, so one of the few problems that Mint has had, whether they link to your accounts, now go away. In all honesty, both sides of this purchase will benefit in the long term, which does seem to be rare in this economy.

Obviously, I am a fan of this deal. What do you think? Did Intuit buy Mint to kill it? Or did Intuit make a big leap in the online space with this purchase? And what does this mean for other online personal finance tools like Wesabe?

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