What Consumers Love (and Hate) About Mobile Banking Apps

Why do consumers love some mobile banking apps and hate others? Deliver the right experience and people will rave about ease-of-use and features such as the ability to freeze credit cards, biometric fingerprint login, text alerts and expense tracking. So how does your mobile banking app stack up?

Every year MagnifyMoney publishes consumer ratings for the mobile banking apps of the 50 largest banks and credit unions. The average app rating on this list — using data drawn from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store — is a mediocre 3.7 out of 5.0. It’s the same average score as the year prior, meaning that overall banking apps haven’t improved — or perhaps that consumers expectations are rising.

Here is a summary of the winners and the losers in the bank app ratings war, according to MagnifyMoney:

  • Best Overall App: Discover (4.8)
  • Best App Among the 10 Largest Banks: Chase and Capital One (two-way tie at 4.6)
  • Worst App Among the 10 Largest Banks: BB&T (3.0, up from 2.8 the previous year)
  • Best App Among the 10 Largest Credit Unions: SchoolsFirst, PenFed, Alliant, BECU, America First (five-way tie at 4.3)
  • Worst App Among the 10 Largest Credit Unions: Star One (3.2)
  • Best Online Direct Bank App: Discover Bank (4.8)
  • Worst Online Direct Bank App: Ally Bank (3.4)

No app was rated horribly. The lowest rating was 2.0 out of 5.0. It’s not great, but not the worst either.

J.D. Powers also ranks banking apps, and their assessment generally aligns with MagnifyMoney’s findings — namely that Discover and Capital One are among the financial industry’s top performers. J.D. Powers also gives high marks to Bank of America and TD Bank.

Ron Secrist, head of online and mobile banking at Capital One, told Business Insider that “offering innovations that customers are looking for—not just innovation for innovation sake,” is the driving force behind their success.

Another study from UserTesting also gave high marks to Bank of America, ranking it above competitors JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. In their analysis, UserTesting notes what Bank of America customers had to say about the megabank’s app: it’s much faster and easier than visiting a branch. But one thing consumers really didn’t like in any of the three big bank apps — from BofA, Chase or Wells Fargo — was how difficult it was to find and set up fraud alerts. Many said they couldn’t get the feature to work, even if they could find it. (Community banks and credit unions, are you listening?)

In UserTesting’s study, the highest scoring factor was aesthetics: how clean, clear and consistent the app was (some might call this the “user experience”, not the more superficial sounding “aesthetics”). JPMorgan Chase customers liked that the blue and white color scheme was “easy on the eyes,” that the font size was easy to read and the personalized picture, and greetings based on customer location made them feel welcomed and less like a faceless “number”.

When asked if any of the apps delighted them, consumers gave thumbs down. Just meeting expectations won’t trigger delight. And “delight,” it seems, is both an elusive and subjective — perhaps something that financial institutions shouldn’t even aspire to as a goal, since banking is one of the most mundane aspects of life. Maybe that’s setting the bar a bit too high?

In Their Own Words

If you comb through the reviews in the the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, you can uncover some real insights and nuggets of wisdom. It’s both fascinating and revealing to hear what consumers have to say about their banking provider’s mobile app in their own words. These are the kind of candid observations you wouldn’t get from holding 100 focus group, but they are precisely what you need to know to shape your mobile banking strategy.

For instance, sometimes it’s not really the app itself that annoys consumers but rather the lack of customer service if/when they encounter problems. One user wrote a scathing review of HSBC about her experience with the bank’s mobile app.

“I decided to speak to someone in the chat who maybe could help, just to realize that the chat works through an overlay making it a real nightmare to control,” the frustrated HSBC customer griped in her review. “Finally, after many attempts, I was able to chat with someone who had little- to no interest in assisting.”

Another customer at BBVA was similarly annoyed that they have to repeatedly contact the call center.

“This app sucks. I have to call in at least three to four times a week to get a temporary password,” they wrote. “And when you call, they ask you what the amount of your last deposit was. I would be able to give you that if I could actually log into the account.”

Good point, don’t you think?

You also shouldn’t force consumers to use a feature that they don’t want and/or don’t like. One BofA customer doesn’t like that the new “Erica” chatbot is always listening.

“This has always been an excellent banking app, but a recent update added an AI bot they call ‘Erica’ that provides no benefit for my use, and only gets in the way,” the customer complained in their comment. “There appears to be no way to disable the feature. I’ve tried to move it to a spot that is less annoying, but it resets its location every time you open the app.”

In the Eye of the Beholder

Ever go to a movie that you hated and your friend loved? Or wonder how the Academy of Motion Pictures can bestow a Best Picture Oscar on that film that you fell asleep watching? Well with apps just as with movies, it’s tough to please everyone. Taste and preferences are deeply personal.

Even the highest rated mobile banking apps have detractors. For instance, one anonymous commenter in the Google Play store didn’t have anything positive to say about the Discover app: “Don’t depend on it to remind you of making your payments, even if you set it up to alert you. Waste of space.

And another user echoed the criticism, albeit with a more snarky tone: “If you like staring at a loading screen and never getting to use the app when you log in, this is perfect for you.”

While not everyone will agree on an app’s rating, MagnifyMoney has found the highest rated apps have a few things in common.

“The top performers have reliable apps, especially when they upgrade features,” observes Brian Karimzad, Vice President of Research at MagnifyMoney. “Many low or declining ranking apps are dealing with buggy upgrades that break essential features people relied on, like mobile deposit or bill pay.”

A quick look through the ratings on the Apple App Store and Google Play supports Karimzad’s claim. Consumers giving a one or two-star rating often bemoan losing a feature that used to work and now doesn’t. Take away a feature and consumers get angry.

For instance, one user was particularly crabby when Capital One eliminated a feature found in their Capital One Wallet banking app. “I used to love this app, when I could get instant notifications anytime my debit card was charged,” the user bemoaned. “Super disappointed this feature isn’t even available in the Capital One Wallet app. Now no way to see all of my charges in real-time via iOS notifications.”

Another theme of the top performers — especially among smaller institutions — is that they outsource their app development, says Karimzad.

“As consumers rely more on mobile apps to perform tasks they once trusted branches to perform, they become more demanding,” Karimzad explains. “For many users, banking apps are as vital — if not more vital — than basic communication apps (like email).”

What Everyone Wants: Security and Mobile Account Opening

Even among consumers who use mobile banking, many still harbor concerns about the security of such apps. This concern is actually highest among younger Millennials, according to Javelin, a research firm.

Security may be a top priority, but that doesn’t mean consumers are willing to suffer through an identity verification process that is long or complex. In fact, Javelin says that a slow identification process was the second-most common reason consumers cited when asked why they abandoned their bank’s mobile app.

Jenifer Valdivia, Global Marketing Product Manager for Jumio, says biometrics may be the best solution. According to Valdivia, biometrics addresses consumers’ security fears while also providing a frictionless identification verification.

“Banks are smart to take strides to incorporate features that make mobile banking customers feel secure,” she says. “In particular, our study found that customers consider biometrics to be the most secure and effective way to keep their accounts safe. Therefore, security measures such as facial recognition may prove beneficial at lowering customer concerns about online security.”

So what do consumers think are the most important qualities they are looking for in a mobile banking app? J.D. Powers says it’s ease-of-use and navigation, hands down (i.e., UX). Specifically, consumers look for a login processes that is simple, quick access to basic account information, and the overall ease of managing the account. Features such as fingerprint login, streamlined access to account balances and account transfer are incredibly important to earn consumers’ love.

Another feature that gets consumers to use their banking mobile app (and hopefully love it) is the ability to open accounts. Currently 61% of financial institutions in North America say they offer mobile account opening for personal accounts, up nearly double from two years ago, according to data from Avoka. Only one in five offer mobile account opening for small business banking products, but even that number has also doubled in the last two years.

Marianne Lake, the CFO at JPMorgan Chase, believes that adding digital account opening has been a likely driver behind the bank’s increased consumer use of digital banking. The bank has grown to over 30.9 million active mobile customers, up from 27 million just one year prior.

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