Snippet: We’ve researched and summarized five of the most common denominators in highly rated banking apps. How does your banking app compare?

Unlike men (according to Thomas Jefferson), all banking apps were not created equal. There is a huge variety of apps (and banks) to choose from; some have a wide range of features, while others struggle to offer even the basics. These days, the “basics” are also not what they used to be. From the home screen to account opening, to loans and investments, what was once considered new and innovative is standard fare.

A great banking app may not necessarily be one that has introduced any new ideas; it may do what the others do, but it may do it with much more panache.

To compete with all the other apps out there and earn the honor of a coveted spot on your phone’s home screen, your chosen banking app is going to have to work pretty hard. Just to be considered, it’s going to have to make your life easier, save you time or money (well, both if we’re being honest), give you a personalized experience, and, as an added benefit, be fun to use. In short, a banking app needs to be simple, relevant, and contextual.

We’ve done some research and summarized five of the most common denominators in highly rated banking apps. How does your banking app compare?

Mobile first

User experience is a key factor that can make or break an app. Ease, efficiency, and speed are the key words here. An app should be simple and streamlined; we are constantly on the go and banking is less an occasion than an activity now, so who needs more hoops to jump through to get the job done?

The best apps have a mobile-first mentality, providing a logical and simply designed path to follow. There is very little extraneous “noise” – the app focuses on the task at hand.

Many of the top apps use icons and personalization options, such as greetings, names, reminders, and images, so you can tailor your app to your needs and preferences. Other fab features include multiple mobile users on one device; alternative login methods to eliminate the dreaded password recovery process; and hands-free, voice command capability.

Payment functionality

Immediate peer-to-peer payments should be a minimum requirement of any banking app. Neither recipient nor sender wants to wait for funds to clear – managing your finances can be difficult enough without having to guess when an amount will be debited or credited to your account. Nobody likes making payments, so the easier and faster the app makes this process, the happier everyone will be.

Banking apps are continuously improving their self-service capabilities – moving towards enabling their customers to do everything on the app that they can do in store, for example, account integration, cancelling cards, digital receipts, one-touch payment options, borrowing calculators, and enabling cards to be used when abroad.

The challenge banks face when increasing an app’s functionality is maintaining a good user experience; preventing the app from seeming too “busy”. One way around this is to use voice banking, asking Siri to pay your bills, for example.

The “fun” part

Let’s face it – banking is boring. While it’s probably impossible to make a banking app fun, it is possible to make it less tedious by using gamification (offering points, rewards, and collectibles), icons, and animation. While this won’t change our lives, I’m sure we could all do with a little less grey in them!

Contextual unique selling points

The best banking apps should aim to improve your financial health and ease any financial journey you undertake by offering contextually relevant information. A simple place to start would be to use the capabilities already present on your phone: use the GPS to locate nearby ATM or branch locations, the camera for video banking and check deposits (for those of you who still use them), the calendar for alerts and reminders, and your contacts to populate payee details so that you don’t have to.

How about a personalized banker in your pocket? An app that sends you a gentle reminder when your balance drops below a certain amount could be very valuable in helping you manage your finances. As could a little reminder that, if you do buy this pair of shoes, it’s going to have to come out of your holiday budget.

Other useful perks include secure digital storage where you can store important, generally bank-related, information, so that everything you need is available at a touch of a button. Augmented reality for house hunting, cardless cash withdrawals, shopping features, personalized offers and discounts, and fraud alerts also all add to a highly relevant banking app experience.

Sales and service

“This is all well and good,” you may ask, “but what happens when the app bugs out, or I have a question, or I don’t know how something works?” Enter the AI chatbot, a convenient and cost-effective way that banks are starting to use to help with customer queries. Then there is customer support that uses face-to-face mobile-video technology that allows you to have real-time conversations with your bank’s help center.

A bonus sixth point

While all these features might be wonderful, this is your bank we’re talking about, so what should the biggest feature be? Security, security, security – secure data storage, secure communication, and a secure codebase to keep those pesky hackers at bay. The security behind any app is not obvious to its users, but in our experience, the banks that have it nailed are usually the confident ones launching new features and experiences to delight their customers.

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Alpa Somaiya

SENIOR COPYWRITER/EDITOR

From science to health research to fintech, Alpa is a self-confessed jack-of-a-few trades. When not despairing about the use of the Oxford comma, she enthusiastically collates, translates and disseminates information for your reading pleasure, and with the hope that we all learn a little something along the way.

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