Mint Bills (Android) review: Easy mobile bill pay, but not for procrastinators

Mint Bills has more than 8,000 companies in its database, divided into six categories; banks, utilities, credit cards, insurance firms, investment companies, and loans. That list includes major banks and credit unions Capital One, Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and U.S. Bank; American Express and Discover (as well as Visa and Mastercard from most banks); wireless carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T; communication companies Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, and Cox Communications; local electric and gas companies PG&E, ConEdison, and Southern California Edison. There's a strong chance at least a few, if not all, of the companies you pay each month are available on Check.

Tap anywhere in the bills section to get a detailed list of each bill or to see your bills plotted on a calendar. I really appreciate the calendar view, because it helps me visualize how long I have before I need to make a payment. The list includes the company name, bill type (utility, loan, or credit card), time left until the due date, and amount due. You can select any bill to get a break down of the charges. Next to each bill, there's a Pay button, where you can make a payment.

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You pay your bills within the app and can use your bank account, debit or credit card. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You can pay your bill with a credit card, debit card, or checking account. It won't cost you anything to pay with your bank account, but Mint Bills charges a $4.99 service fee for payments up to $125 made with a debit or credit card. For credit or debit payments more than $125, you'll pay a 4 percent service fee.

If you need an expedited payment, you'll also pay a $6.99 fee. The best way to avoid all of these fees is to pay your bill early, at least a few days before the due date, and use your bank account. You can also schedule payments ahead of time, which ensure you won't miss the due date or incur a fee.

As well as paying large companies, you can also send money and make payments to smaller businesses or individuals in the app. Just enter the business or person's name, their contact information (either phone number or e-mail), and amount due. Once you submit a payment, the person or business will get an e-mail asking them to sign up for Mint Bills to collect the funds, if they don't already have an account.

It's worth pointing out that many banking apps can also do mobile bill pay and even send money to other people. However, at least with my bank, I can only add a new bill pay account on their Web site, not with their app. That's where Mint Bills has the advantage, as I can add a new company's bill at anytime, without needing a computer.

Security and privacy

When you connect an account with Mint Bills, the app encrypts the data to protect your login information. For payment security, Mint says it uses 128-bit encryption and other security measures that major banks use for payment processing. You can also set up PIN protection in the app, so no one else can spy on your bills or bank accounts.

Financial reports

From the app's main menu, you can view a handful of financial reports, including your bill payment history, a file cabinet of past and current statements for each account, and spending graphs. One graph shows a breakdown of how much you've spent in each category, such as utilities or loans, in a given month and if that amount has gone up or down from the previous month. There's also a pie chart that just shows which type of bills cost you the most money. Whether or not that information is helpful is up to you, but I didn't find the charts to be particularly useful.

Mint Bills will show you transactions from your bank accounts and credit cards, but unfortunately there is no way to set up budgets or set savings goals. For me, the transaction data isn't as valuable as the bill-paying features, so I skip looking at them altogether. If you need financial coaching or help with managing your budget, you'll want to try Mint's main app or You Need a Budget instead.

Conclusion

While many banks, cell phone carriers, and utility companies already offer mobile apps that let you pay your bills from your phone, Mint Bills' biggest draw is that it can organize all of your bills, from your bank credit cards and car loans to your wireless carrier and TV provider in one space, where you can easily manage and pay them. Another plus is that the app has a clean, thoughtful design, which makes it nearly foolproof to use.

Though Mint Bills does have some downsides, most notably that it can take up to two days to submit a payment, it's still a very helpful free tool for anyone who needs to pay bills every month and wants to take the pain of that process.

What you'll pay

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