As big banks shed brick-and-mortar branches left and right, it’s never been more important for financial services to reach consumers where they are: their smartphones. In the past five years alone, adoption of mobile banking more than doubled, while the number of people banking on tablets increased more than eightfold, according to recent findings from Javelin.
That being said, mobile banking technology is still relatively new. And when it comes to creating a digital banking experience that is as simple as a quick trip to the local bank branch, some banks are certainly doing better than others.
In its third annual Mobile Banking App Study, MagnifyMoney compiled the ratings of iOS and Android banking apps from over 100 of the biggest banks and credit unions, including the 50 largest banks and 50 largest credit unions along with a selection of top online direct banks.
The data, collected from iTunes and Google Play the week of November 30, 2016, was used to create a composite 1 to 5 rating, factoring a weighted average of the ratings from both the iOS and Android platforms. We ranked each app based on its rating score. This year’s results include comparisons to our 2015 results to see which banks and credit union apps have most improved and deteriorated.
You can read more about the findings in the charts below:
Credit unions nearly swept the top 10 rankings for all apps this year, taking 9 of the top 10 spots. That’s an even better showing than last year, when credit unions nabbed 8 out of the top 10 spots. A 2% ratings improvement was just enough to give Eastman Credit Union the edge this year, securing the no. 1 spot for 2016. It’s a familiar position. Eastman was caught in a five-way tie for first place in 2015. The bank’s most recent update in September added Apple Watch compatibility to its list of features. This year, four banks tied for second place with a score of 4.7 — ESL Credit Union, Redstone Federal Credit Union, SEFCU, and Wright-Patt Credit Union.
Still, credit unions aren’t all bulletproof. Four out of the top 10 most deteriorated apps in 2016 were from credit unions. VyStar Credit Union was the least improved of all, stinging from a 57% ratings decline year over year, from 4.7 to 2.0.
Sample customer feedback from credit union iOS app reviews:
Eastman Credit Union: “Love the convenience of the app! Mobile check deposits are great and being able to check account balances & transfer money between them on the go is amazing.”
ESL Credit Union: “I check my account quickly with the fingerprint scanner. I love the ability to look at checks that have been written and current balances. The ability to mobile deposit [sic] checks is great for me because I never get to the bank to cash them.”
Redstone Credit Union: “It just keeps getting better and better! I have other bank apps and they don’t even come close to how good this app is!”
SEFCU: “Transferring funds, depositing checks, checking balances is straightforward and the app is sleek.”
Wright-Patt Credit Union: “The WPCU app has improved immensely since I first downloaded it.”
The average rating for all large banks remained unchanged year over year at 3.7. Android users, however, remain happier with their big bank apps than iOS users. Average Android ratings were 3.8 vs. 2.9 for iOS.
Citibank’s average rating improved by 19% in 2016, increasing from 3.2 to 3.8 year over year. The app’s most recent iOS update boasted improvements for brokerage account holders, offering up-to-date market data and allowing them to buy and sell stocks and mutual funds directly from the app.
Bells and whistles like these matter greatly, but overall app functionality and ease of use should come are crucial to banks’ ability to win over customers. “People want speed, ease and convenience so they can get in, get the task done and get on with their lives,” says Steve Shaw, director of digital bank marketing for financial services technology firm Fiserv.
Samples of Citi user feedback from iOS users:
“They have really made a lot of awesome improvements.” — Dec. 8, 2016
“It has come up a long way. Each update better than the last. Because of this app I rarely have to physically go to the bank.” —Dec. 7, 2016
Chase made a strong showing again in 2016, performing best out of the top 10 largest banks for the second year running and marking an 8% ratings improvement. With an impressive 12% ratings improvement, Capital One effectively tied for first place along with Chase, boosting its rating from 4.0 to 4.5, but with a lower Android rating at 4.5 vs. 4.6 for Chase.
It was a good year to be an Android user and Chase bank customer. In 2016, Chase added long-awaited support for Android Pay and made improvements to fingerprint sign-on for Android users.
Sample Chase feedback from iOS app users:
“Love this app & the convenience of being able to quickly check my balance, pay my bill & find answers to the majority of my questions within seconds.” — Oct. 31, 2016
“The interface is well designed [sic], intuitive and responsive. I cannot think of a single issue.” — Nov. 21, 2016.
At the bottom of the big bank rankings were BB&T and HSBC. BB&T’s rating fell 25% year over year, from 3.8 to 2.8, while HSBC saw a 6% decline, from 3.7 to 3.5.
2016 marked something of a fall from grace for last year’s #1 direct online bank, BankMobile. A stinging 19% ratings decline sent the app tumbling from first place to no. 7 this year. That opened the path for First Internet Bank to nab the top spot, despite not seeing any significant ratings improvement year over year. Its average rating remained steady at 4.5.
First Internet Bank has been around since 1999, one of the early internet-only banks to hit the scene. Launched in early 2015, BankMobile is a division of Customers Bank in Pennsylvania, but available nationally and designed to be the first fully mobile native bank.
This year, First Internet Bank was among several regional banks and credit unions to add new “eye print” sign-in technology, in which users sign in by pointing their smartphone camera at their eye. The app then compares their eye to an existing image of their eye on file.
Shaw says customers should expect more high-tech advancements to their favorite bank apps in the near future. “Some banks are leveraging the photo capability of the phone to not only enable check deposits, but to enable people to capture photos of receipts for filing or to take a picture of their driver’s license so they can verify their ID while opening an account,” he says.
The lowest rated app overall belongs to First Tech Federal Credit Union, with an overall rating of 1.9 marking a 42% decline year over year. The app performed equally poorly among both Apple and Android users. Some reviews of the bank’s app in the Apple store pointed to disgruntlement with an update that was released in the fall.
“This app used to be OK but with the new update it has become so very slow,” one user commented in October. Another user complained about losing Touch ID password access. To be fair, the bank released an update most recently on Dec. 13, which promised “General performance improvements” but there have been no reviews of the latest update yet.
Last year’s worst app, Umpqua Bank, saw some improvement in 2016 but still landed among the worst apps. After facing a 40% decline in ratings in 2015, the app managed a 3% ratings improvement in 2016, enough to move up four spots.
*MagnifyMoney is an affiliate partner of Chase credit cards, and does receive advertising compensation from Chase. However, compensation from advertising partners did not impact the methodology or results of the mobile banking application survey.