Tag: Mobile Apps

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6 Ways to Spot an iPhone App Scam

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

If you’re planning on shopping via your favorite retailer’s smartphone app this holiday season, be sure you’re not setting yourself up for fraud.

Fraudulent app developers are flooding Apple and Android app stores with fake shopping apps just in time for the busy holiday shopping season. Fake apps have posed as legitimate retailers for luxury brands like Moncler, Celine, and Salvatore Ferragamo, the NY Post reports.

It’s hard for experts to tell exactly how many fake apps are present in app stores because they are constantly launching and shutting down, says Ashish Toshniwal, CEO of Y Media Labs, a Silicon Valley-based product design company that has developed apps for big brands such as The North Face, Home Depot, and L’Oreal.

Fake retail apps have been a problem for years, says Toshniwal, but “it gets pretty bad over the holiday season.” Two in three retailers don’t have an iOS or Android app, which has given scammers the opportunity to create fake apps tied to legitimate retailers in hopes of luring in unsuspecting customers.

Making matters more difficult, Apple’s move in September to introduce search ads into its App Store allows developers to buy search terms in order to rank higher when you look for certain words or phrases. That means you might see fakes apps listed ahead of or right next to real apps developed by the brand.

We spoke to industry experts about what you should look for so you don’t get duped by a fake app this holiday season.

Here are 6 signs that a retail app is fake:

You’re not shopping through a trusted app store.

You should only download apps from the official Apple App Store, whether that’s online or on your phone. Some developers may create third-party marketplaces that look very similar to the online App Store, so be sure to check the address bar to avoid those.

If you have any doubts about an app’s legitimacy, go directly to the retailer’s website and see if they promote the app. If they do have an app, they will direct you to the correct source.

The reviews are poor.

If the app you’re considering seems questionable, there is a good chance someone who downloaded it before you might have commented about it. If it’s ripping people off, then someone would have likely noted that in a review.

“Don't be the first to try a retail app out," says Charlie Fairchild, the lead software engineer at WillowTree, a mobile app development company whose list of clients include PepsiCo, AOL, and Time Warner.

There are tons of typos.

Typos can be a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with an app that is not being promoted by a legitimate company.

Take for example, Footlocke Sports Co. Ltd., a fake retailer apparently trying to mimic retailers Foot Locker Retail Inc. or Overstock.com Inc. Generally, the description of fake apps will include typos or incorrect information about the company. So if you see an app for a large brand that seems like a one-off, it could be a red flag.

Also, take a look at screenshots before you download the app (most apps have to include screenshots in the app store). If the screenshots are fuzzy or look low quality, steer clear.

The company only has one app.

The app you’re considering will be connected to a developer’s page where you’ll be able to see all of the apps that company or individual currently has in the marketplace.

Generally speaking, the more apps the company has, the higher chance it’s legitimate. Fakes are more of a problem for brands that don’t have much of an app presence. Dillards, for example, doesn’t have a retail app, but it is a big brand. So it may be more susceptible to fraudsters who would abuse that brand.

“Fake companies tend to not release a lot of apps under the same name because of the chances of them getting shut down,” Toshniwal says.

While there are many brands that have developed only one app, some large companies, such as The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, develop many apps for all of the company’s brands. Because the company has made that investment, they are more likely to have a team that monitors activity in the marketplace and flags fake accounts trying to misuse the brand.

They ask for too much information.

Some apps go even further than stealing your credit card information; they may also ask for permissions to access your photos, contacts, location, or social media profiles as well.

For a simple retail shopping app, there is generally no need for an app to access your contacts or images in order for you to buy something from them. If you absentmindedly agree to a permission without reading the request, you may grant access to information or files that could be harmful to you or others you are connected to.

There are lots of annoying pop-ups.

Lastly, stay vigilant for any sketchy activity when you’re using the application. That could mean an unusual amount of ads or pop-up forms, unusually priced items, a lack of contact information, or anything else that seems off.
Don’t chance your sensitive information this holiday season. If you think you’ve downloaded a fake app, delete it immediately, and report it to Apple or Google so it can be removed.


Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com


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4 Personal Finance Apps a Former Banker Uses

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Overdraft_lg_mobile vs trad

Gone are the days of doing all of our banking at a brick-and-mortar building. Sure, sometimes we still stop by our local bank branch to get a cashier’s check when we need one, but for the most part, our banking these days is done online.

The world of online banking is growing, and if you’re more than a little confused by all the different banking apps you can find in iTunes, we’re right there with you. Lucky for you (and us), Nick Clements, MagnifyMoney’s co-founder, spent years working for banks before launching his own business, so he knows a thing or two about the better products out there. The following are the personal finance apps he recommends trying out.

1. LevelMoney

Cost: Free on iTunes and Android
What it does: For staying on budget, Clements likes the way LevelMoney helps him track his cash flow. “I don’t like making a plan by expense category,” he said. “Instead, I like knowing how much I can afford to spend each day to ensure that my discretionary spending remains on target and within budget.” The LevelMoney app helps him accomplish this by calculating a daily “spendable” amount to help him stay on track. “So, if I spend a bit more than I should one weekend,” Clements explained, “my daily spendable allowance goes down.”

2. CreditKarma

Cost: Free on iTunes and Android
What it does: Whether you’re trying to grow your credit score or not, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on it, and the CreditKarma app gives you free access to your VantageScore, which is calculated using TransUnion and Experian credit reports. “It also gives me access to a summary version of my credit reports from those two bureaus, updated regularly,” says Clements. “This helps me ensure my identity hasn’t been stolen.”

3. Ally Bank

Cost: Free on iTunes and Android
What it does: While Clements admits that the app itself could use some upgrades, it’s the perks of sticking with Ally Bank that have him continuing to use it. “I’m with Ally because of the great rates,” said Clements. “So I primarily do all of my banking and paying bills with the app.” (Check out what’s great about the online bank right here … hello checking accounts with interest!)

4. Betterment

Cost: Free on iTunes and Android
What it does: While it’s a nice idea to combine all of your retirement accounts into one system where you can quickly glance at the overall balance, try not to fall into the trap of checking them too often. “I have rolled over my old 401(k) accounts to Betterment, and I have the app on my iPhone, but I try to ignore it,” said Clements. “I don’t expect to use these funds until the year 2045, so daily stock movements are not that important to me.” However, when curiosity gets the best of you and you do take a peak, at least Betterment has a great user interface to help you out.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock |

Cheryl Lock is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Cheryl at cheryl@magnifymoney.com


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Banking Apps

2015’s Best & Worst Mobile Banking Apps: 100+ Banks & Credit Unions Ranked

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Overdraft_lg_mobile vs trad

Having a mobile banking app that works reliably is more important than ever as the number of consumers using mobile apps to deposit checks has grown over five times since 2011 according to a recent Pew study. Chase reported that last year more checks were deposited via phones and ATMs than in its branches, comprising 58% of deposits, including 45 million smartphone check deposits.

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, was used to create a composite 1 to 5 rating factoring a weighted average of the ratings from both the iOS and Android platforms. This is the 2nd year MagnifyMoney has compiled the ratings, and this year’s results include comparisons to 2014 to see which banks and credit union apps have most improved and deteriorated.

The best and worst mobile banking apps include:

  • Best Large Bank App: Chase (4.2)
  • Best Credit Union App: Eastman Credit Union, ESL Credit Union, SEFCU, VyStar, Redstone Federal, (tie: 4.7)
  • Best Regional Bank App: East West Bank (4.4)
  • Best Online Direct Bank App: BankMobile (4.6)
  • Worst Large Bank App: Citibank (3.2)
  • Worst Credit Union App: American Airlines Federal Credit Union (2.5)
  • Worst App Overall: Umpqua Bank (2.2)
  • Most Improved App: Visions Federal Credit Union (4.3, +37% from 2014)
  • Most Deteriorated App: Umpqua Bank (2.2, -43% from 2014)

You can read more about the findings below these graphics...

10 Best and Worst across all banks and credit unions reviewed


Best and Worst among the 10 biggest banks and credit unions


Credit unions top the ratings

8 of the 10 highest ranked apps were from credit unions. Five credit unions shared the very top average score of 4.7, including Eastman Credit Union, ESL, Redstone Credit Union, SEFCU, and VyStar Credit Union, a top ranking and rating they each shared in our 2014 study.

BankMobile and Simple were the only online direct banks in the top 10, while no traditional banks made the top 10 list.

Of the 10 highest ranked apps, 8 of them used an interface from an external app developer, Digital Insight. All 8 were credit unions who selected Digital Insight, and this is in contrast to internal development favored by larger banks and even some regional banks. The un-flashy Digital Insight interface (pictured below) was cited for simplicity and reliability by users.


Customer feedback about top rated apps includes:

  • Eastman Credit Union: “Easy to use, quite effective, does everything you might need. The biometrics is a great addition.” - 11/29/15
  • ESL Credit Union: “Now that Touch ID support has been added, this app is perfect. Simple and easy to navigate, it does everything that I need without gimmicky stuff getting in the way.” – 12/1/15
  • SEFCU: “Does what it’s supposed to, simple interface.” – 11/27/15
  • Simple: “The app is excellent. A total banking solution within the app. You never need to login via a web browser to do something which is not possible within the app.” – 12/2/15

Bank apps have room for improvement

Across all institutions surveyed the average rating was 3.8 out of 5.0, with traditional banks averaging 3.7, online direct banks best at 3.9, and credit unions at 3.8.

But credit unions are not immune. 6 of the 10 worst rated apps were from credit unions, and all but one of those had a substantial decline in ratings during 2015.

Banks appear to be managing the middle, with few apps in the very top or very bottom of rankings.

Among online direct banks we surveyed, EverBank was the lowest rated, with an average 3.0 rating, down 5% from 2014.

Chase has the best app among big banks, while Citibank lags.

Among the 10 largest banks in the country, the average rating ranged from a high of 4.2 for Chase to a low of just 3.2 for Citibank. Chase improved its rating 9% from our 2014 study, unseating Capital One as the highest rated large bank app.

In the last year the Chase Mobile app has added Touch ID iOS login and pre-login for easy previews of balances without a full login for its 20 million plus mobile users


Citibank’s app was cited for inconsistent mobile check deposit functionality and a low limit for mobile deposits of just $1,000 per day, both issues consumers cited last year as well. In comparison online direct bank Ally's mobile deposit limit is  $50,000 per day.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.20.44 PM

The average for all traditional banks surveyed was 3.7.

HSBC had the lowest rated iOS app among the 10 largest banks at 2.1, while PNC bank had the lowest rated Android app at 3.5.

Customer feedback about large bank apps includes:

Chase: “Easy to use, easier to understand, and has me contemplating changing all my banking to Chase. Shows my car loan and credit card activity all in one convenient app. Once I confirmed my app with my online profile I couldn’t believe the convenience. Well done Chase, well done.” – 10/11/15

Citibank: “Overall a good banking app, but the fact that you can’t access your statements is infuriating.” – 11/23/15

Wells Fargo: “I’ve been using this app for more than three years now with minimal problems. I deposit more than 15 checks per month using the app without any difficulty, occasionally some problems with handwritten illegible checks…Sure the UI is outdated, but I love how powerful Wells Fargo online banking is compared to PNC and all the dumbed-down, simplified and useless apps.” – 9/30/15

BankMobile leads online direct banks.

Among the online direct banks reviewed, BankMobile had the highest rating at 4.6, just ahead of Simple at 4.5, though with far fewer ratings in its pool at fewer than 200 versus 5,000+ for Simple.

For both apps, customer comments tended to be more about bank service and the lack of fees rather than the apps themselves. 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. Simple is now a division of BBVA and its app rating of 4.5 is almost identical to last year's.

EverBank had the lowest rating among online direct banks at 3.0. EverBank's app received complaints for a lack of Touch ID, no external transfer functionality, and issues with operating system updates.


Umpqua Bank takes the bottom.

The lowest rated app overall was from Umpqua Bank, with a 2.2 combined rating, down over 40% fro last year. Umpqua had challenges updating both its web and mobile banking systems earlier this year, including adding mobile deposit functionality and merging with Sterling Bank. More recently, users complain about an interface that doesn't take advantage of more recent phones, and ongoing mobile deposit bugs.


Customer feedback about the Umpqua app includes:

“As other reviewers have said the mobile deposit function will probably save you drive time but is by far the least useful mobile deposit feature I have used. The app decides when to take the picture and not the user.” – 12/2/15

“This app seems like someone’s first attempt to write an iOS app. The keyboard is the one from iOS 6. Nothing has been updated for the iPhone 5 let alone the iPhone 5s, 6, or 6s.” – 10/26/15
“App is extremely buggy and slow. Often freezes and does not seem to function with basic features like transfers or check depositing. Customer service in branch and over the phone has significantly degraded. I have had a much better experience with Chase. Sayonara Umpqua!” – 12/9/15

Android users are more satisfied

Across banks, credit unions, and online direct institutions, Android users were significantly more satisfied, with an average 3.9 rating versus 3.1 for iOS users. iOS users tend to have more complaints about apps not leveraging the latest hardware and operating system capabilities.

Visions, Wings Credit Union most improved

Visions Credit Union rolled out Touch ID support, person to person transfer, and a more modern interface to good reviews from its customers this year, increasing its rating 37% from 2014.

The Wings Credit Union app for the first time added mobile deposit, playing catch up with most large banks and credit unions, and increasing its average rating 21% from 2014.

Customer feedback about the Visions and Wings apps includes:

Vision: “The new Visions FCU app is easy to use and makes banking convenient. Love the card controls feature and Touch ID. Keep up the great work, Visions!” – 11/17/15

Wings: “This app makes my life so easy since I don’t live in a state with a branch. I love that I can keep my favorite FCU and have most all of the same functions as branch, just without the actual branch. Every time you make upgrades the app gets better and better. Thanks for making it easy for those of us who no longer live near a branch.” – 11/20/15

Troubled upgrades lead to deterioration

The two most deteriorated app ratings were for Umpqua Bank and American Airlines Credit Union.

Umpqua's 43% decline stemmed from a buggy upgrade and simultaneous conversion of both its web and mobile banking interfaces.

American Airlines Credit Union's app rating saw a 38% decline from last year, on the back of an update this summer that led to many complaints about reliability. An update this fall seems to have addressed some of the issues, but negative feedback continues.


App ratings were recorded the week of November 30, 2015 in iTunes and the Google Play store and include ratings for all app versions. Overall ratings are a weighted average of iOS and Android ratings based on the number of reviews for each platform. Institutions with no mobile apps were excluded from ranking summaries.

The 50 largest banks are defined as those with the largest deposits per FDIC data June 2015 were examined, with those not offering consumer checking accounts excluded.

Among credit unions, the 50 largest by assets according Bauer Financial were examined. For online direct banks, 10 of the largest Online Direct Banks were chosen by number of app ratings.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at brian@magnifymoney.com