Mint drops bill payments as its service narrows

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Bill payment proved too unwieldy for Intuit’s personal finance app Mint, and the feature will be discontinued in June, about 18 months after it launched.

Mint will continue to support bill tracking and reminders to pay bills, but it’s ceding the direct bill payment landscape to banks and other providers, Mint said in a recent blog post.

Mint’s arc illustrates some of the challenges financial services companies, beginning with its launch in the pre-smartphone era in 2006. At the time it was powered by Yodlee's account-aggregation software that appeared to herald a new era for consumers controlling their finances through one online channel.

The concept quickly gathered tens of thousands of users, prompting Intuit to acquire Mint in 2009 for $170 million. Mint has since grown to several million users, with an emphasis on long-term planning and wealth management.

Intuit signaled broader ambitions in May 2014 when it purchased Check, a mobile bill payment app. In a blog post announcing the deal, Mint suggested Check could be a useful tool for consumers using both Mint and Intuit’s Quicken to manage finances.

Mint added bill payment to its free services in December 2016 and it will shut down that offering on June 30.

In its latest blog post Mint promised to help users find alternative payment solutions for bills, including bank websites. Banks have the largest share of the $4 trillion U.S. bill payment market, followed by payments made directly to billers’ websites.

About 75% of all U.S. bill payments flow through digital channels, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. And payments volume to biller web sites is growing faster than bills paid through banks’ bill pay services, Aite Group said in a study last year.

Third-party bill payment providers are a small but growing force in the market. Examples include Handle Financial, which offers a free real-time bill payment app called Prism; and Paytm Canada, which recently launched a similar concept offering rewards for consumers using its service to pay bills.

“Banks control the bill payment market, and it’s theirs to lose if they don’t come up with some more innovations,” said Mark Schwanhausser, director of digital banking at Javelin Strategy & Research.

Execs at Handle Financial, which also owns the walk-in bill payment service PayNearMe, say Intuit’s decision to eliminate bill payment from Mint is no surprise.

“Our customers tell us that having a lot of extra financial services functionality is confusing, because paying bills that come due at all times of the month in different amounts is complicated enough,” said Richard Kang, Handle’s senior vice president for its consumer channel.

Prism, which Handle purchased in 2016, is still marketing its service primarily by word of mouth and so far only has a tiny slice of the bill payment market, but Kang is undaunted.

“I think the whole population is moving toward mobile apps, and handling bills will be one more thing people want to do quickly and simply in one location, without a lot of clutter,” Kang said.

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