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Best of

The Most Transparent Credit Cards

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 credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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At MagnifyMoney, we want to help create a simpler, cheaper and more transparent banking system. Part of that mission means finding ways to praise products that remove complexity, while punishing those products that add layers of fine print and confusing terms. In order to make it easy for our users to sort the good from the bad, we created the MagnifyMoney Transparency Score.

We have a very simple approach: the more fees, fine print and complexity, the lower the score.

We have made a small change to the Transparency Score for our Balance Transfer Credit Cards, and we wanted to explain that change to you today.

For a balance transfer credit card, we look at 3 areas in order to determine the grade:

  • Fees: the more fees your charge (for example – late, over-limit, foreign exchange), the lower your score
  • Interest Rates: we don’t like when credit card companies say that your interest rate can be anywhere between 2% and 30%. And then you have to apply for the credit card (which means you accept the terms), only to be told your interest rate after you have been accepted. So, the wider the pricing band, the worse the score. So, someone who offers 9.99% – 15.99% would be rewarded more than someone who offers 4.99% – 22.99%, because you have a better indication of your interest rate before applying.
  • Marketing: we believe that the key terms should be clearly disclosed in the marketing message, and not hidden in the fine print. The easier it is for us to figure out the terms and conditions, the better the score.

These 3 pillars of our score have not changed. However, we have tweaked our highest score, which is an A+. We will award an A+ to a credit card if:

  • There are no “junk” fees of any kind. That means no balance transfer, late, over-limit, returned payment or foreign transaction fee can be charged. This remains the same as before.
  • The marketing message clearly identifies the terms, which also remains the same as before.
  • We have tweaked the criteria for pricing. Before, you could only receive an A+ if you had a single price point disclosed up front. However, we recognized that by limiting the price points, we will only ever give an A+ rating to a card that targets people with the highest credit score. So, we changed the criteria so that you are eligible for an A+ if the range of possible interest rates is fewer than 10 percentage points.

We still hope that banks and credit unions will provide more transparency on pricing before people apply.

At the moment, there is still only one credit card that meets this criteria: PenFed Promise Visa® Card.  We applaud the simplicity of PenFed Promise Visa® Card, and we hope that other products will join Promise over time, as the banking system becomes simpler, cheaper and more transparent.

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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Banking Apps, Best of, Consumer Watchdog

Best and Worst Mobile Banking Apps: From 100+ Banks and Credit Unions

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.

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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.

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 20, was used to create a composite 1 to 5 rating factoring a weighted average of the ratings from both the iOS and Android platforms.

The best and worst mobile banking apps include:

  • Best Big Bank App: Capital One (4.1)
  • Best Credit Union App: Eastman Credit Union, ESL Credit Union, Redstone Federal, SEFCU, VyStar (tie: 4.7)
  • Best Regional Bank App: East West Bank (4.5)
  • Best Online Direct Bank App: Simple (4.6)
  • Worst Big Bank App: Citibank (3.1)
  • Worst App Overall: UMB Bank (2.5)

You can read more about the findings below these graphics…

10 Best and Worst across all banks and credit unions reviewed

MobileAppRatingsGraphic-SummaryAllSizes

 

Best and Worst among the 10 biggest banks and credit unions

MobileAppRatingsGraphic-LargestInstitutions

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.

Simple was the only online direct bank in the top 10, while East West Bank was the only traditional bank in the top 10 with a 4.5 rating.

Of the 10 highest ranked apps, 9 of them used an interface from an external app developer, Digital Insight, including all 8 credit unions and East West Bank. This is in contrast to internal development favored by larger banks. The un-flashy Digital Insight interface (pictured below) was cited for simplicity and reliability by users.

DigitalInsightInterface

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 4.0, and credit unions at 3.9.

Among the 10 lowest rated apps only two were from credit unions, while 7 were from traditional banks. Only one traditional bank’s app ranked among the top 10 highest rated.

Capital One 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 4.1 for Capital One to a low of just 3.1 for Citibank. Capital One’s app was cited for its ‘Sureswipe’ feature and reliability.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.18.53 PM

Citibank’s app was cited for crashing during check deposits and a low limit for mobile deposits of just $1,000 per day. In comparison online direct bank Ally recently raised its mobile deposit limit to $50,000 per day.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.20.44 PM

The average for all traditional banks surveyed was 3.7.

SunTrust bank had the lowest rated iOS app among the 10 largest banks at 2.1, while PNC bank had the lowest rated Android app at 3.4.

Simple leads online direct banks.

Among the online direct banks reviewed, Simple had the highest rating at 4.6, while Ally had the lowest at 3.1. Ally’s app received complaints for mobile deposit issues following a recent update as well lacking more advanced login options.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.23.41 PM

UMB Bank takes the bottom.

The lowest rated app overall was from UMB Bank, with a 2.5 combined rating. The app has not been updated since 2011, lacks a mobile check deposit feature and is no longer compatible with the latest devices.

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Android users are more satisfied

Across banks, credit unions, and online direct institutions, Android users were significantly more satisfied, with an average 4.0 rating versus 3.1 for iOS users. iOS users tend to have more complaints about apps not leveraging the latest hardware capabilities.

Methodology

App ratings were recorded the week of November 20, 2014 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 2014 were examined. Banks with fewer than 200 app ratings were excluded, as were those that primarily target investment accounts.

Among credit unions, the 50 largest by assets according Bauer Financial, March 2013, 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 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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Best of

MagnifyMoney Awards First A+ Transparency Score to PenFed Promise Visa® Card

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 credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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TransparencyScore

Update: As of November 1, 2014, the PenFed Promise Visa® Card balance transfer is no longer for 48 months. It’s new promo is 4.99% promotional rate for 12 months on transfers made between now and September 30, 2020. After the promo, a 12.49% to 17.99% variable APR applies. While the simplicity and transparency is still great, there are other balance transfer offers that are longer and offering a lower rate. Go to our balance transfer table to review offers

Today, we announced the creation of a new grade in our MagnifyMoney Transparency Score for Balance Transfers: an A+.

MagnifyA+When we created MagnifyMoney, our goal was to help people save money, by making it easy to compare, ditch and switch financial products. But we also had a bigger goal. We wanted to reward simpler, more transparent products. So, we designed the Magnify Transparency Score.

Sometimes banks offer a great deal, but if you make just one mistake, a tsunami of fees, charges and penalties can wipe out any previous benefits that you enjoyed. Those fees and conditions are usually buried in the fine print. So, our Transparency Score is very simple: we reward credit cards that have fewer penalty fees and ambiguity.

When we created the site, we had reviewed hundreds of credit cards. And one credit card stood out from the rest. In fact, I couldn’t believe the simplicity of the card when I read the terms and conditions. It was the PenFed Promise Visa® Card.

They don’t just choose one fee to waive, and advertise it. With this card, PenFed has waived almost every fee imaginable, and has removed the ambiguity. Here is the summary:

  • There is a 12.49% to 17.99% variable APR on purchases. You know the interest rate before applying.
  • There is no foreign transaction fee
  • There is a $0 annual fee
  • There is no late fee, returned payment fee or risk-based re-pricing

When I started the product review many months ago, I never imagined we would find a card like PenFed Promise Visa® Card, which had literally removed all of the worst gotchas. But, given that PenFed is a credit union, we shouldn’t be surprised.

So, we decided to create a new category: an A+. Any credit card that waives all penalty fees and discloses your interest rate up-front can also receive an A+ rating. But, for now, we have only found PenFed.

If you think we have missed a card, please let us know. We continue to add products to our database every day, but none have come close.

Just a few bits of advice if you decide to apply for the card:

  1. You must have a good credit score. Based upon our conversations with PenFed, it sounds like 700 is the most likely minimum (although they will be testing lower).
  2. Your debt burden should be below 50%
  3. If you are not a member of the credit union, don’t worry. You can join as part of the credit card application process online. You just need to give a donation of about $15 (and you can give more!) to support our troops.

PenFed is very aggressive with low rates on other lending products. They have great deals on mortgages, auto loans and other personal loans. If you join the credit union for this credit card, then you will have access to their other market-leading offers.

PenFed has an ambition to reach $75 billion of assets. They really want to shake up the banking market in big ways. We will continue to watch their product set closely, but so far we are impressed. And we think a lot of Americans could save a lot of money if they joined that credit union and moved their debt.

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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.