How would you feel if someone directed this comment toward your bank or credit union’s mobile banking app?
“These aren’t trivial bugs! If I released something that had a core function broken for this long I would definitely be fired.”
“The functionality offered is good, but the app being so stunningly slow makes it frustrating and confusing to use.”
“I’m experimenting with several app-based banking services, [and] this one ranks unequivocally as the worst.”
These skewering quotes come from actual user comments posted on the Apple App Store pages of selected mobile banking apps. Clearly these are not just run-of-the-mill rants. These, and many other comments, often reflect users who are somewhat knowledgeable about what mobile apps can do, possibly because of professional involvement, or simply because the performance bar is so much higher now.
What Bugs Mobile Banking Users About Their Apps?
The Financial Brand set out to determine what annoys consumers the most about the mobile banking apps they use — and what other banks and credit unions can learn from that to improve their own approach to mobile banking apps. Every app on the App Store has a numerical score, based on the average of all scores made by its users. Some users go beyond the rating and add specific comments about the app. Ten comments appear in each app’s listing.
We examined App Store pages and read comments posted about 18 mobile apps, including those from:
- 11 large banks, including one that is online only. (Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Marcus, U.S. Bank, PNC, TD Bank, Capital One, Ally Financial and Huntington.)
- 4 large credit unions, including one that is online only. (Navy Federal, Alliant CU, First Technology CU and Bethpage Federal.)
- 3 fintechs, including Chime, HMBradley and T-Mobile Money.
While commenters don’t always confine their remarks to the app itself, according to Apple they must be a bona fide user who has at least downloaded the app.
All but one of the mobile banking apps had ratings of 4.7 to 4.9 out of 5. The point is not the overall score nor what they are doing right, but the specific problems cited by people who criticized the app. In some cases the institutions involved responded by making the fixes requested and the users posted revisions to their comments — often complimentary. (For the sake of analysis, in nearly every case only comments applying to 2020 and later were considered.)
First this article lays out five common complaint areas about mobile banking apps. We’ll wrap up with suggestions based on what we saw.
Mobile App Love Is Not Forever:
Some people love their mobile banking apps at first. But then they start muttering about breaking up after an update comes out.
“I have loved this app but it’s not working!!!,” wrote one frustrated Citibank app user. “The app is glitchy!!! Please fix it!!!”
Two users of the Marcus app pleaded that a helpful spending chart left behind in an update be reinstated.
“If not, I’ll try and find something else or just make my own line graph,” one Marcus user said.
App Complaint #1: Mobile Deposit Function Goes Wonky
While mobile check deposit has become table stakes for mobile banking apps, it doesn’t work flawlessly 100% of the time, according to comments posted.
One T-Mobile Money user complained that the app was insisting that he write out “For Mobile Deposit Only” in endorsing the check for remote deposit. He’d left out the word “mobile.”
“I have been using mobile banking pretty much since it started allowing check deposits, and none of the banks I’ve dealt with ever rejected a check for not using specific wording,” the user commented. “…If it comes down to some logic, having an account in an online bank which promotes not needing brick and mortar locations [implies] that the deposits are ‘mobile,’ right?”
Mobile deposit also bedeviled a Bank of America small business user who said that up until his post, “the app has been amazing.” He complained that one customer’s poor handwriting apparently caused issues with mobile deposit and resulted in a five-day check hold. Subsequent deposits got the same treatment.
An Alliant Credit Union user complained that error messages resulted if images of the front and back of a check weren’t exactly the same size.
A Citibank user said the app told him he could work around a mobile deposit problem by doing a mail deposit: “Are you serious? Mail it? Through the post office? That would take days! I need my money available now.”
App Complaint #2: Human Response Remains Key in Mobile World
A noticeable number of users brought their complaints to help desks prior to posting their angry comments. A frequent beef was that staff were rude and sometimes tried to blame the problem on the user. This zinger directed to Marcus is typical of others.
“The first rep I spoke with told me it was my phone that was the problem. THAT’S NOT A GOOD ENOUGH ANSWER BRO LOL. All my other banking apps work just fine except for this one. I don’t think my phone is the problem. The second rep I spoke to said that he escalated my case to their tech department and that they would reach out to me. I’m still awaiting a response weeks later… not great service.”
App Complaint #3: Apps Just Run Too Slowly
Comments regarding the speed of apps and the service behind them had several variations.
Sometimes it’s just a literal matter of a sluggish app. “This app has become painfully slow to open, if you can get it to open at all,” complained a Bank of America user. The same user reported troubles getting the app to work with their Series 3 Apple Watch in spite of extensive time spent with both Apple and bank staff.
Blindsided By an App:
Users of some apps complained about delays in balance updates that actually caused them to overdraw.
But sometimes the slowness is elsewhere in the process. A Chime user complained that the app “doesn’t update your account balance right away. For those of us with bad memory it makes it a little more difficult to budget. I recommend using a notepad app to keep track of your funds until the app updates your account info.”
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App Complaint #4: Navigation Is Clunky or Dumb
User comments on this factor can get detailed. But the overall message is that developers need to be cognizant of issues that leave users with an apparent dead end that can only be solved by starting over or doubling back a screen or even two.
They also have to watch out for processes that may make sense to the compliance department but not to busy users.
A Wells Fargo user: “The biggest issue and constant annoyance with this app is that every single time you log in it wants you to update your personal information. It doesn’t matter if you update this information or not as it always pops up asking you to update it again. This is very frustrating when needing to access the account quickly.”
A Chase user: “The screens are all tiny and you can’t zoom in!! You can’t download documents from your phone, either.”
App Complaint #5: Users Get Mired in Security
A subset of #4 in some ways, users at times complain about security routines.
A Navy Federal user suggests this: “Other banks I’ve worked with allowed for all business and personal accounts under the same login and it made it much easier to manage accounts and transfers. If not having everything under one login, at least having a way to quickly switch between logins after they’ve been authenticated and stored on the device/app would really speed things up.”
An Alliant user: “If I have authenticated, have 2-step [authentication] enabled, and I’m on a trusted device it’s ludicrous to not allow me to copy and paste my account numbers. It’s 2021 and account numbers are needed for various aggregators, forms. This is a showstopper level inconvenience that I’m willing to bet an executive or product manager or misguided compliance team insisted upon. Please, fix it.”
7 Key To-Dos for Mobile Banking App Improvement
Advice based on what we read:
1. Don’t ignore user comments but don’t fake it either.
The mobile app online ratings and comments are a form of social media. No brand can ignore what is being said about its app nor about the institution’s practices overall if the app user takes advantage of the “podium” to rail about their dislike of the brand.
Even so, some banking organizations don’t respond to user comments. This seems odd given the potential upside and that no response could be seen as not giving a hoot. On the other hand, sometimes responses are so canned and saccharine that they simply feed user skepticism.
The user citing major mobile deposit problems and check hold issues at Bank of America at the beginning of this article received this bland reply: “Hello, we apologize for the troubles you’ve had with making a deposit. We continually work to enhance the mobile check deposit functionality in the app, so please watch for future updates.”
But many financial institutions do take comments seriously and ask to discuss the issue with the user offline. Some commenters who revise their posts based on fixes also increase the number of stars awarded to the app. That’s a win-win.
2. Prioritize interoperability with outside services.
A number of commenters cited difficulties connecting an app with Zelle, for example. Consumers have come to expect seamless integration of everything and comments often stress that they can drop you for another provider.
3. Resist the urge to make changes just for the sake of change.
Some banks make a virtue of how often they update their apps. Yes, many tech companies do this, but that doesn’t mean people like it. A common theme seen is: “This function used to work fine. Why’d you mess with it?”
You don’t want to read a comment like this one regarding Bank of America’s app: “This update has a ‘beta’ feel displaying poor form, function and usability. Really embarrassing for a big bank.”
A Chase user, claiming that an update introduced bugs, concluded a long complaint with: “If it ain’t broke, DON’T BREAK IT!!!!”
4. Take disabled users into account.
Granted, out of all the comments analyzed, only one person, with failing eyesight, brought up the difficulties of using one institution’s app with a screen reader. However, mobile banking app developers should have a word with Compliance about the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act to mobile apps and mobile websites.
5. Test, test and test again before releasing fixes. An uncomfortable number of commenters suggested that updates weren’t tried out on all common potential platforms.
“Did your programmers not test the new changes on an iPad?” asked one unhappy bill pay user. “It is like when amateurs back in 2005 would make a website, but forgot to test it on different browsers, and when you pulled it up the text was overlapping.”
6. Recognize that users also use other apps and will move if your app doesn’t improve. A common theme is “I use XYZ Bank’s app for my auto loan or my credit card” and I’m thinking about moving everything there because it’s a better user experience.”
Said one unhappy user, under the subject line “Least User-Friendly Banking App I Own”: “I have used Ally, USAA, SoFi, Chase, and now PNC and this one is the worst of them for my purposes.”
One Wells Fargo app user noted how much they liked the app, but then proceeded to name features on competitive apps (Chase and Capital One) that they thought Wells should copy.
7. Think carefully before adding marketing messages or actual ads to functional pages. Going by a handful of comments, what’s merely pesky on a desktop computer becomes an impediment to using the app on a mobile screen.