Why would Nordstrom and GE Capital block their customers from their Mint.com accounts? And why are consumers saying it’s about more than canceling the links, but they’re upset too because they weren’t given fair warning. For Nordstrom especially, there’s a lot at stake. It has a remarkable customer service record, and one it surely wants to maintain. Interestingly enough, it says it’s commitment to its customers is the very reason it made the decision.
As many know, Mint is a site that allows users to keep up with all of their financial accounts in one convenient and easy to use place. Those accounts can include checking and savings accounts, credit card accounts, automobile loans, mortgages and even their retirement accounts. Users simply register and then set up their accounts. The convenience of a single user name and password is an added bonus. Launched in September, 2007, the company boasts more than one million users, which is a testament to fast growing company and its loyal users. Mint has also received top awards from Kiplingers, Money and PC World magazines and is PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice.
GE Capital says there are security concerns with Mint and said in a statement,
We have established a core set of requirements before permitting cardholder participation in aggregator services via the GE Capital Retail Bank system and are actively working through those requirements with the aggregators and conducting comprehensive evaluations,
said Dori Abel, a spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
Our primary concern is ensuring the safety and security of our customers’ personal information, and all of our actions are being taken with this objective in mind.
For its part, Nordstrom says it feels it’s simply time to explore other options for its customers. Other than that, the retailer is mum. It did say, and then rescinded, that it had been paying for the Mint service as courtesy to its customers; however, in a follow up statement, it said it was actually referring to vendor costs associated with the service and that it could not provided anymore details, other than it was in the best interest of the store’s customers to discontinue the service. There are other services for those looking for ways to better manage their finances and customers are always welcome to use Nordstrom’s own online financial sites it “explores a variety of options for financial management services”.
Meanwhile, Martha Shaughnessy, a spokeswoman for Mint, said consumers have never been charged to use the website and further, the retailers or service providers are never charged, either. Revenue comes from referral fees and advertisers. The referrals can come from banks or other financial entities and if a customer takes advantage of different offers, Mint is able to pull from those payouts in the form of commissions.
According to that same spokesperson, GE Capital and Nordstrom are the only two retailers who have prevented their customers from using the Mint website.
Now, accusations are surfing that suggests the card companies’ moves are similar to efforts being made by airlines to prevent internet sites from collecting information on frequent fliers and their mileage information.
GE Capital’s retail bank, includes well known brands such as Amazon.com, Brooks Brothers and Gap. None of those retailers’ customers can use the Mint site any longer either. Mint boasts ten million (and growing) consumers who use the site partly because of these hefty security efforts – despite what Nordstrom and GEC are suggesting.
So are these concerns legitimate? There could be something to it. To use Mint.com’s money tracking services, you need to enter your bank account user names and passwords. Most banks include in their terms and conditions that you must not share your information, including passwords, with third parties. If money goes missing from your account and the bank discovers that you use Mint, it could potentially use that as a breach of the terms and conditions and refuse to reverse the transaction or compensate you for the lost money.
To throw another dynamic into the mix, word broke this past summer that Mint would be debuting its own debit card for users. It also is advertising a 2 percent cash back bonus for purchases made using the card, which is another competitive advantage. Could this be part of the reason GE and Nordstrom have pulled access? And if so, is it really worth the upset customers? Most likely not, especially considering recent tweets. Many Nordstrom cardholders have voiced their frustration over the decision of the retailer with tweets like,
So disappointed @Nordstrom has decided to end @Mint account access. Not a great move.
So what are your thoughts on this mysterious move by Nordstrom and GE Capital? Sound fishy or legitimate? And do you use Mint? What has your experience been with the online budgeting tool? Share your stories with us.