Rating the Mobile Banking Apps: How Do Credit Unions Fare? 

By Robert McGarvey 

For Credit Union 2.0  

 

The good news for credit unions in this year’s MagnifyMoney survey of mobile banking apps: Many do very, very well, even against money center bank competition. 

The bad news: Mobile banking apps, suggests MagnifyMoney, “have reached middle age.” That means, per MagnifyMoney, “overall, apps haven’t appreciably improved.” They have entered an era of complacency – and, listen up, that may well not be good enough. 

A point not in the MagnifyMoney survey is this: non banks keep buffing their apps, benchmarking themselves not against financial institutions but best in class apps such as Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, and Venmo.  Before patting yourself on the back with congratulations about the quality of your mobile banking app, ask yourself how you stack up against the really good consumer apps that many people spend hours daily using. 

Back to the MagnifyMoney data and the good news for credit unions: according to its survey, “in general, people still rate credit unions apps higher.  Probably unsurprising, as most CU users report a better experience in general. But traditional banks are catching up. 3 of the ten best overall apps are banks or direct banking apps. Last year all but 1 were CUs.” 

Not all is cheery news in the survey. Chew on this: of the 10 worst mobile banking apps, per MagnifyMoney, four are credit unions. On the dishonor roll are VyStar Credit Union, Patelco, Northwest Federal Credit Union, and Tinker Federal Credit Union. 

That means credit unions as a group can only get so giddy about their performance. Some appear to be in the same league as the worst banks. 

But credit unions do score high in the round up of most improved apps.  Among the top 10 are Teachers Federal Credit Union, CEFCU, America First Credit Union, Schoolsfirst, Alliant, and DFCU.  That’s six of ten. 

Among the top 10 most deteriorated apps are three credit unions: Desert Schools, Suncoast, and SECU of Maryland. 

As for the 10 best overall, credit unions on this honor roll include Eastman Credit Union, ESL, Redstone, SEFCU, Wright Patt, and Delta Community, Visions. 

The others in the top 10 are Discover, BBVA Compass, and Capital One. 

How reliable are these ratings? Probably not very but at least this is a start. The issue is that the MagnifyMoney ratings start by sorting out the 50 biggest banks and 50 biggest credit unions, then looking at user ratings for the apps in the two big apps stores (iOS and Android).  As far as that goes, it makes sense but let me ask: how many apps have you reviewed in the apps stores? 

Not many right. 

I scratch my head in trying to remember the last time I reviewed an app in an app store. And whatever it was it was because the app was just terrible.  Or I was angry for other reasons with the provider. 

So I’m unconvinced that app store ratings are the end-all when it comes to deciding the best and worst mobile banking apps. Nonetheless, my advice is to look hard at the top rated credit union apps – and by all means scroll through the actual user comments in the app stores. 

Do likewise for the worst rated. 

Now ask yourself the really hard question: what are we doing right now to keep our app fresh and relevant for a new generation of credit union members? 

What can we do? 

How can we press our vendors to really upgrade the app to help us better serve our membership? 

What do our members really want that they are not presently getting from the mobile app? Ask them if you don’t already know. 

There’s no rest for the weary. This just came in from Bank of America in an email blast to media about upgrades to its mobile banking app: “Express checking account application — With nearly one-quarter of all accounts opened digitally, Bank of America has introduced a new streamlined process for customers to apply for a checking account securely within the app. The enhanced, single-page design populates customer information into the application, simplifying the process.” 

Can you match that? 

What can you do to get there? 

What can you do to stay ready for the next wave of upgrades? 

The process just doesn’t end and, at many credit unions, there’s resistance to the idea that continuous improvement is a must with mobile apps. 

But give it up. Resistance is futile. With mobile banking, it has become improve or perish. 

What’s Not In Your Members’ Mobile Wallets

By Robert McGarvey for Credit Union 2.0

Two stats jump out of a PSCU and Javelin report entitled “The Credit Union Guide to Opportunities in IoT, Biometrics and E-commerce.”  Credit union members love their smartphones -80.9% own one. That’s roughly comparable to big bank customers – 88.4% of them own a smartphone. 

Where credit union members falter however is in mobile wallet usage. 46.3% of big bank customers have used a mobile wallet – such as Apple Pay – in the past 90 days. But just 10.8% of credit union members have. 

In the past week 3.7% of members have used a mobile wallet. 19.3% of big bank customers have. 

Those stats have to scare you. Credit union members have smartphones. They just aren’t using them to pay. Big bank customers are 4x more likely to pay by phone. 

Why are credit union members so slow to adopt mobile wallets? It’s all the more puzzling when so many big retailers have embraced Apple Pay and that typically also means Android Pay and Samsung Pay too. It’s now easy to go a day without ever using plastic cards, from coffee in the a.m. at Starbucks using its app through stocking up on dinner groceries at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods with Apple or Android Pay. 

But there just aren’t many inside credit unions. 

Mobile wallet adoption is also fueled by an increasing number of online and in app merchants that have begun to accept Apple Pay or PayPal. That means a wary consumer doesn’t have to input credit card info and for some of us it’s a plus to just pay with Apple Pay.  

PSCU and Javelin said that the relatively low credit union usage of mobile wallets compared to big bank customers leaves credit unions “vulnerable.” 

So it is worrisome that comparatively few credit union members use mobile wallets. 

Partly this anemic usage is because credit union members skew older and the demographics that have most jumped on mobile wallets are younger 

Another factor: few credit unions have actively marketed mobile wallets to their members. Initially, when Apple Pay debuted, as credit unions rolled out the tools they blew trumpets to announce they had the latest technology. But now many are silent. Plainly they would rather tout other products to their members, in part because mobile wallets such as Apple Pay cost a credit union money while many other products – such as a credit union’s own credit cards – make the institution money. 

That’s understandable but also short-sighted. Mobile wallets are the future of payments and an institution that plans to hang around needs to be at the forefront of surging consumer usage. 

Look again at how much more mobile wallet usage there is at the big banks. The disparity with credit unions is frightening. 

At least some big banks have further fueled mobile wallet usage by doling out perks to customers who use them. Chase for instance has promoted mobile wallet usage with a promotion that adds a bonus point for every dollar spent with mobile wallets on some credit cards.  

Wells Fargo also has offered sweeteners to mobile wallet users. 

What’s a credit union to do? Definitely, think about offering promotional bonuses to encourage usage. 

But there are free tactics too. Start by reminding members of the wallets supported by your institution. Make it easy for a member to find this out. DCU in Massachusetts does this well. Study its pages 

Navy Federal, the first credit union to offer Apple Pay, is another to study 

Then do as PSCU and Javelin advise: “The key challenge for credit unions will be persuading their members to load their mobile wallets with the credit union’s debit and credit cards instead of those from another banking institution.” 

How to get there? Ask – and keep asking. 

It’s not easy to get a member to change a credit card preference that has been entered into a mobile wallet. Many have a faint memory of what card is associated with Apple Pay. 

Ask and ask again.