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Banking Apps

The Best and Worst Mobile Bank Apps of 2016: 100+ Banks & Credit Unions Ranked

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The Best and Worst Mobile Bank Apps of 2016

 

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.

Summary of key findings:

  • Best Overall App: Eastman Credit Union with a score of 4.8, up from 4.7 in 2015.
  • Best App Among the 10 Largest Banks: Chase with a score of 4.5, up from 4.2 in 2015.
  • Worst App Among the 10 Largest Banks: BB&T with a score of 2.8, down from 3.8 in 2015.
  • Best App Among the 10 Largest Credit Unions: PenFed with a score of 4.3, down from 4.4 in 2015.
  • Worst App Among the 10 Largest Credit Unions: First Tech Federal Credit Union with a score of 1.9, down from 3.3 in 2015.
  • Best Online Direct Bank App: First Internet Bank with a score of 4.5, unchanged from 2015.
  • Worst Online Direct Bank App: EverBank, with a score of 2.7, down from 3.0 in 2015.
  • Overall Most Improved App: BECU, whose score rose 58% year over year, from 2.5 to 3.9.
  • Most Improved Traditional Bank: Citibank, with a 19% ratings increase year over year, from 3.2 to 3.8.
  • Overall Most Deteriorated App: VyStar Credit Union, whose score dropped 57%, from 4.7 to 2.0 year over year.

You can read more about the findings in the charts below:

10 Overall Best and Worst Bank Apps

(Across all banks and credit unions reviewed)

2016mobileappratingsgraphic-best

10 Best and Worst Bank Apps

(Among the 10 largest banks and credit unions)

mobileappratingsgraphic-1-v3

Credit unions dominate the ratings for the third year running

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.”

Big Banks Coast into 2016; Citibank is the Most Improved Big Bank for 2016

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.

citi-2 screen696x696ciit

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

10 Most Improved Apps (among credit unions and banks)

  1. BECU: +58%
  2. America’s First Federal Credit Union: +27%
  3. Citibank: +19%
  4. PNC Bank: +17%
  5. Nationwide: +15%
  6. Capital One: +12%
  7. Fifth Third Bank: +10%
  8. Chase: +8%
  9. American Airlines Credit Union: +7%
  10. Delta Community Credit Union: +6%

Chase #1 Among Big Banks for 2nd Year Running

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.

The Top 10 Largest Bank Apps Ranked by Ratings:

  1. Chase: 4.5
  2. Capital One: 4.5
  3. SunTrust: 4.1
  4. Wells Fargo: 4.0
  5. (tie) Bank of America: 3.9
  6. (tie) TD Bank: 3.9
  7. (tie) PNC: 3.9
  8. Citibank: 3.8
  9. HSBC: 3.5
  10. BB&T: 2.8

First Internet Bank Steals the Crown from BankMobile for Top Online Direct Bank

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.

First Tech Federal Credit Union Earns Worst Overall App Ratings for 2016

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.

The 10 Worst Bank App Ratings Overall

  1. First Tech Federal Credit Union: 1.9
  2. VyStar Credit Union: 2.0
  3. InvestorsBank: 2.1
  4. Patelco Credit Union: 2.2
  5. Umpqua Bank 2.3
  6. Logix: 2.3
  7. Tinker Federal Credit Union: 2.6
  8. American Airlines Credit Union: 2.7
  9. First National Bank: 2.7
  10. EverBank: 2.7

*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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Have a question to ask or a story to share? Contact the MagnifyMoney team at [email protected]

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Banking Apps, Reviews

Mvelopes: The Digital Solution to Using the Envelope Budgeting System

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Overdraft_lg_mobile vs trad

If you’ve done any reading about setting up a budget or keeping track of your expenses, you’ve probably heard about the cash envelope system for budgeting.

Using Cash Envelopes for Budgeting

The idea behind the cash envelope system is that you keep your cash in separate labeled envelopes for different spending categories in your budget, literally.

For example, you might have an envelope of cash dedicated to grocery spending, another for non-food household expenses (paper towels, toilet paper, stamps, etc.), and you may even decide to use cash for things like entertainment or dining out.

The cash envelope system was popularized by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, who advocates for the system as part of his budgeting strategy during his popular Financial Peace University course.

The cash envelope system can be a good way to help you control your spending if you choose to use your cash envelopes only and not carry any other forms of payment, like a debit card or credit card, in your wallet. Carrying cash only gives you a finite limit to how much you can spend. Even if you “cheat” by pulling money from other envelopes to cover overspending in one category, you will still be limited to only spending the amount of cash you are currently carrying.

That said, there are also some disadvantages to the traditional cash envelope system. For one, you will be carrying a lot of cash, which can be a safety concern. Plus, by carrying cash instead of having your money in a bank account, you will also be missing out on earning any potential interest on your money.

This is where Mvelopes comes into play.

What is Mvelopes?

Mvelopes Premier App
Mvelopes is an app that provides a spinoff of the cash envelope budgeting system. Instead, you will set up your budget using the app and keep track of your spending using digital envelopes over paper ones. This eliminates the need to carry around paper envelopes stuffed full of cash, leaving you more vulnerable to theft or simply misplacing a few hundred dollars.

According to its website, Mvelopes helps users get out of debt faster, accumulate savings, and reach financial goals.

Some of the features that help users accomplish these goals include:

  • Compatibility with Windows and Mac
  • iPhone and Android App
  • The ability to connect with your bank and credit card accounts
  • 25 spending envelopes
  • Auto transaction gathering
  • Auto envelope spending plan view

How Does It Work?

Mvelopes claims that creating an online budget and tracking your spending is quick and easy with its online software, but from my experience, it can be time-consuming to get started from scratch with the system.

Once you create an account with Mvelopes, you have to let the software know what your financial goals are by choosing from a list that includes things like getting out of debt, saving more money, donating to charity, sticking to a budget, and more.

Once you’ve completed this step, you will go through a 4-step process to add your bank and credit card accounts, define your income, create a budget, and set up and add money to your spending envelopes.

After your envelopes are set up and funded, the program will track your expenses by category so you can see how much money you’ve spent in each area and how much you still have remaining.

What Does It Cost?

The basic version of Mvelopes is free, but it does have more limited features than the premium versions. For example, you can only connect your free account to 4 online bank accounts or credit cards. You also don’t have access to all the support features or 1-on-1 financial coaching with the free version of Mvelopes.

The next step up is Mvelopes Premier. When you upgrade to this version for $95 a year, you do have the ability to connect to an unlimited amount of bank accounts and credit cards. You can also set up an unlimited number of spending envelopes, although the 25 that come with the free version are usually more than adequate for most people’s budgets.

With Mvelopes Premier, you’ll also be able to access their “Integrated Debt Roll-Down” feature, which can be helpful if you paying off debt is your main goal. This feature allows you to put in your debt totals and view several different scenarios and pay off options which can then be added to your envelope budget.

The top tier is Money4Life Coaching. There was no price specified on the website, but it did say that “packages are customized for individual needs”. With this package you get all the features of Mvelopes Premier, plus additional support and 1-on-1 coaching for your financial needs.

How Does Mvelopes Stack Up?

Mvelopes is far from the only budgeting app out there that claims to help you with your budget and financial goals.

EveryDollar
EveryDollar is another budgeting app that was created by Dave Ramsey. It also uses a similar system to cash envelopes. In addition, users can follow along with Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” plan and track their progress using his system. EveryDollar is one of the fastest ways to set up a budget according to users, but you can’t sync any of your financial accounts unless you upgrade to the paid version called EveryDollar Plus.

Mint Budgeting APP Mint is one of the most popular budgeting apps. It’s 100% free to users and allows synchronization to bank accounts and credit cards with no charge. However, users have been experiencing some problems with Mint’s account syncing feature over the past year or so. And some of the “helpful hints” on Mint are actually ads that may trick users into clicking on them and getting “talked into” financial accounts and products they don’t really need.

Who Will Benefit Most from Mvelopes?

If you are currently using a cash envelope system, then you could benefit from switching to digital envelopes with the Mvelope app. It will allow you additional security by not having to carry around large amounts of cash in your wallet, while still being able to enjoy the categorization provided by using the envelope system in your budget.

Mvelope can be used on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, giving you the ability to view your budget at any time, which is helpful for those who are constantly on-the-go. The only other drawback is that if you still opt to use cash for some purchases, those expenses will have to be added manually to your budget in order to stay on-track with spending.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla here

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking Apps, Reviews

Level Money: Free, But Not Ideal for Variable Income

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Overdraft_lg_mobile vs trad

Disclaimer: This app is no longer available.

Gone are the days of the pen and paper budgets that require manual updates and re-writing of your entire spending plan each time you make a new purchase. These days there are quite a few different options for budgeting software and apps available that can help you track your spending and update your budget as your needs change throughout the month. But with so many options out there, it can be hard to find one that fits all of your needs.

One popular budgeting app option is Level Money.

What is Level Money?

Level Money
Level Money is a budgeting app that launched in 2013 in San Francisco, California. It was acquired by Capital One in 2015 and became part of Capital One’s Digital Innovation Team to reinforce Capital One’s commitment to digital banking technologies. According to Level Money’s website, the app has over 800,000 downloads to date. Level Money’s motto is “Spend smarter. Do more. Live better.” But how exactly does it work?

How Does Level Money Work?

The Level Money app allows you to easily connect your bank account(s) and any credit cards to the app. It currently works with over 18,000 financial institutions, so hopefully your bank account and credit cards will be available to connect to the app.

Next you enter your income, your monthly bills, and how much you want to save each month. Level Money crunches all those numbers for you and comes up with your “Spendable” cash each day.

Another part of the app, called “Insights”, allows you to keep track of your spending in certain categories, like dining out or transportation, so you can see how these expenses change over time. You can also see your bank balance history and some projections going forward based on your spending and income habits.

The third way to view your finances in Level Money is on the tab called “Plan”. This shows a pie chart and a summarized number for your income, bills, savings goal, and total “spendable” income left over.

Security Features Offered by Level Money

One of the biggest concerns many people have about using a budgeting app is security. The Level Money app does require you to enter your financial account information to use all of its services. According to its website, Level Money uses the same 128-bit Encryption as banks and other financial institutions.

Who Should Use Level Money?

Budgeting apps, like Level Money, are a great tool for those who like to check their finances on the go. Having access to your income numbers, bills, and spendable income at any time on your smartphone could be a good deterrent to overspending your budget. With just a few taps on your phone, you can see whether or not a purchase you are about to make is within your budget or not.

It has been reported that the app is not as user friendly for those with a variable income or expenses that only come up every few months. However, a new version of the app is supposed to help combat these issues by allowing you to select how often you pay your bills.

Another potential downside of the app is for those who use primarily cash for their purchases. The Level Money app doesn’t have a system in place to keep track of transactions made outside of your linked bank accounts and credit cards.

What Does Level Money Cost?

One of the best things about Level Money is that it’s free to use. The app also doesn’t rely on advertisements, which is a nice feature. Many budgeting apps that are free to use, like Mint.com, use advertisements to help pay for the app since users don’t have to pay to use the services.

Pros and Cons of Level Money

Pros

  • 100% free to use with no advertisements
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Links to multiple bank accounts and credit cards
  • Provides insight into how much money you have left to spend per day and per month

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide advice for how to use your money to improve your finances, other than encouraging you to meet the savings goal you set up within the app.
  • May not be the best fit for those with a variable income (such as freelancers).
  • No easy way to account for cash purchases, which can be a big downside for those who like to budget with cash.

How Does Level Money Stack Up?

As mentioned, Level Money is far from the only budgeting app available. Every Dollar and Mint.com also offer budgeting apps to help your personal finances.

Every Dollar

EveryDollar
Every Dollar is the budgeting app designed by Dave Ramsey’s team to help people with their zero sum budgeting strategy. It’s easy to set up and use, but in order to get a complete picture of your finances by linking your bank accounts and credit cards, you have to pay for the Every Dollar Plus version of the app for $99 a year. It also doesn’t have charts and graphs that many people find helpful in analyzing their spending.

Mint.com

 

Mint Budgeting
Mint.com is very similar to Level Money in that it’s 100% free to use, even if you link you bank accounts and credit cards. However, there are ads from financial institutions and products that may look like helpful advice. You need to be aware that these products and services may not be the right fit for you. Mint.com does profit from these advertisements and recommendations.

Should You Use Level Money?

Level Money is a good way to track your budget, expenses, and available cash on the go. It seems to be particularly handy for those who are always wondering how much they have available for spending on any given day of the month as the app provides that information with just a glance. Plus if you start using Level Money and decide it’s not for you, you can always cancel without losing any money as it’s 100% free to use the app.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla here