HelloWallet and Mint.com have emerged as two of the most popular websites seeking to give consumers financial advice. Upstart HelloWallet recently fired a shot at Mint asserting that Mint does not truly look out for the best interests of their users. The claim is that Mint derives its revenue from advertisers — most of whom are seeking to sell financial services products. This presents for a glaring conflict of interest — is the Mint site featuring a given product or service because they truly believe in it, or because that company is simply an advertiser on the Mint site? Whereas Mint earns its revenue via advertising, HelloWallet accepts no advertisers and instead charges users a modest $5 fee per month for the site’s service.
HelloWallet CEO Matt Fellowes fired this shot at Mint as the war to gain financial advice market share heats up. Interestingly, Mint’s original business model did not include advertisers and involved a subscription fee along the same lines as HelloWallet currently charges. When Mint was bought by Intuit this was changed to the current advertising model after the initial subscription model failed. Nonetheless, this did not discourage the launch of HelloWallet. Industry analysts are closely following this skirmish, and opinion is split concerning which of these business models will win out. In the end, consumers are the winners now with two choices for free — or very inexpensive — personal financial advice.