Mobile banking is currently used by just 13% of bank customers, but that number is bound to increase. Today’s young people — the most frequent users of mobile banking — will open more accounts and become more active, and older customers will adapt to the new technology as smartphones become more popular.
But as of yet, not every bank has jumped into the mobile banking market full speed ahead. Even some of the nation’s most popular banks don’t offer iPhone apps or mobile-ready websites.
In the search for the most convenient on-the-go banking experience, we checked out mobile banking offerings from four of today’s most popular banks. Here’s what we found:
Chase offers applications for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and BlackBerry as well as access to accounts via standard text messaging.
• Cost: Free. You must be enrolled in Chase Mobile to make transactions with app.
• Standard functions: Text banking allows you to see account balances, review transaction history and check credit card due dates. The mobile app is much more helpful: You can pay bills and schedule payments through Chase Online Bill Pay, transfer money between Chase accounts, wire money to outside accounts, and check your balances and history.
• Extras: The Chase Mobile app includes a helpful “Find ATM/Branch” feature that uses your phone’s geo-location capabilities to find the Chase branches nearest you. The app also provides the hours, contact information and number of ATMs at each branch. If you need help managing your accounts, the “Contact Us” tab includes one touch dialing to Chase’s help lines.
• Aesthetic appeal: The Chase Mobile app runs quickly on the iPhone and features easy-to-read white text on Chase’s familiar blue background.
Bank of America
Bank of America has a standard text messaging banking system as well as apps that work on the BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices.
• Cost: Free. You must be enrolled in Bank of America Online Banking to use certain features of the app.
• Standard functions: Bank of America’s text banking lets you check account balances, view credit card account details and see transaction history. The BofA app allows you to access account details and balances, transfer funds to other Bank of America accounts and pay bills.
• Extras: The BofA app helps you find nearby locations based on your phone’s geo-location abilities. You can also input a zip code or address in order to plan ahead.
• Aesthetic appeal: The BofA app uses smaller fonts and weaker colors than the Chase platform does. It also takes a bit longer to load pages.
Citibank boasts three separate mobile apps. One works on the iPhone and iPad, the second on the iPod Touch, BlackBerry and Palm smartphones, and the third on many kinds of basic cell phones.
• Cost: Free. You must be a Citibank member to make any transfers or view account information.
• Standard Functions: All three of Citbank’s apps allow you to view balances, wire money to others and transfer money between your Citibank accounts. The iPhone and iPad versions also allow you to track your Citibank credit card accounts.
• Extras: If you want to be reminded often of the status of your accounts, you can sign up for a pretty comprehensive text alert system. You can choose to be alerted when your balance dips below a certain level, when deposits are made, when bills are due or when your CD accounts are about to mature, for example. The iPhone and smartphone apps provide lists of the bank branches closest to the phone’s current location. You can also search by zip code or address.
• Aesthetic appeal: Citigroup’s app suffers from the same ailment as many other iPhone and smartphone platforms: Some of the fonts are too small for comfortable reading.
Wells Fargo users have access to apps for Blackberry, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, as well as the ability to get account info via text message.
• Cost: Free. To access account information or make transactions you must be a Wells Fargo Mobile customer.
• Standard Functions: The iPhone app allows you to check available balances, monitor your credit card activity, transfer funds and pay bills. The bank’s text service provides balance and account activity information.
• Extras: The Wells Fargo application includes bank-finding functionality and the ability to filter search results depending on what services each particular branch offers. If you don’t have any room for additional apps on your iPhone, you can visit wf.com, which has a fast and easy-to-use site that fits the iPhone perfectly.
• Aesthetic appeal: Wells Fargo’s mobile properties have a very standard look (not nearly as slick as Chase’s offering). But the apps load screens quickly and the app’s toggle menus make searching for branches easy.
The bottom line
The mobile banking apps offered by popular banks are more alike than they are different. If you’re using Bank of America’s app, the sleek Chase app is most likely not going to make you consider changing banks. But if you are currently a member of one of the many banks without mobile applications, these early entries to the market might be helpful enough to consider switching for.
Considering the fact that all the apps come free of charge and all offer similar benefits, a clear leader in the mobile banking market has not emerged.