Citibank Adds Text Banking to its Mobile Lineup

image With today’s launch from Citibank (press release), the big four U.S. banks now all support text banking (Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo) (see note 1).

With these four giants on board, text banking turns into table stakes going forward, i.e., a must-have feature. Those without it have a tangible deficiency that will cost them customers, especially in the heavy-texting youth market.

The Citibank service is read-only offering Bal, Stmt, and Hist commands sent to its shortcode MyCiti (692484) (see second screenshot for command list). It also includes the all-important Stop function to turn off all text messages and alerts. Chase Bank recently became the first major U.S. bank to offer text-based funds transfers.

Citibank isn’t making a big deal of the new option on its website. The text option is now positioned on the mobile page with equal billing with the bank’s iPhone and (other) smartphone options (see first screenshot below).

Citibank mobile landing page (link, 22 June 2010)

Citibank mobile landing page

Text banking page (link)

Citibank text banking page

1. Update June 23: While BofA and Citi added text banking this year, Wells
and Chase have offered it since 2007.
2. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Citibank Ends its Three-Year Test with Obopay

imageIt appears that the Obopay/Citibank co-branded service is being shut down. From the sparse note on the webpage <> (see screenshot below), it doesn’t sound like a temporary hiatus: 

As of Dec. 22, 2009, “Citi Obopay” will no longer be available.
If you would like to use the Obopay service go to
The service available at has no affiliation with Citibank.

The companies have been working together on Obopay-powered mobile payment for more than three years.

Citi Mobile SVP Marylou Dowd said on Thursday in American Banker that the Obopay tests were concluded this summer. Not coincidently, Citi’s mobile joint venture MMV announced last week that it was partnering with CPNI Inc. of Toronto to build a mobile P2P payments service.

Obopay’s website still shows Citi Obopay on its Financial Institutions page (see inset above). But Citigroup, which invested at least twice in Obopay in the July 2007 C-round and April 2008 D-round, is not listed on Obopay’s investors page.

The site was never publicized by Citibank. Traffic peaked at 7,000 unique visitors in Feb. before falling so low that Compete could not measure it after April 2009:


Source: Compete, 3 Dec 2009, link

For future reference, we’ve archived the website screenshots below.

Citi Obopay homepage (3 Dec 2009, 4 PM Pacific)
Note: The <> URL now redirects to the Obopay homepage.


How Citi Obopay Works page <>


Get Citi Obopay page <>


Citi Obopay Fees page <>


Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009) as well as our earlier reports on Mobile Banking (Feb. 2007) and Mobile Payments (April 2007).

Mobile Awareness: Let Your Customers Know They Can Bank Online via Smartphone Now

image Yesterday, Apple announced it has shipped 50 million iPhone/iPod Touches in the past two years. And they are not even the smartphone leader. You can bet that many (most?) new smartphone-owning-online-banking-using customers haven’t a clue how to connect to their financial institution through their mobile. And even if they know how, there’s still that nagging doubt as to whether it’s a safe/smart thing to do.

Therefore, if you want to drive significant mobile usage, there are a number of steps to take (see note 1). But one of the most important is user education, especially through online information, screenshots, and demos. 

Citibank recently elevated general smartphone awareness to its homepage (see first screenshot below). Yesterday, the bank was rotating an “Introducing CitiMobile for Smartphone” banner across the top of the homepage. The banner led to an educational page (see second screenshot, note 2), that led to clear instructions on how to bank via a mobile browser:

  • Open browser
  • Go to (note 3)
  • Log in using your same online banking credentials

While brevity is admirable, I think customers need a little more info than that. For a non-user, the process sounds almost too good to be true. The bank should elaborate on some key questions such as:

  • Is it secure? (see update below)
  • What does it cost?
  • Does it work on my phone?
  • What if I lose my phone?

Luckily, interested users can go to the well-designed demo that takes users through a semi-guided tour of the mobile banking functions. The Flash-based demo is partially interactive, allowing users to click buttons on a smartphone emulator (see third screenshot). After clicking on a new function, the demo takes over, completing the data entry and going forward to the next screen. Check it out here

Update (22 Sep 2009): An email from a Citi Mobile employee pointed out that I missed the security and other info in the right-hand column of the landing page below. I apologize for the omission. 

Citibank homepage (9 Sep 09)


Citi Mobile for Smartphones landing page (link)


Citibank mobile demo with interactive emulator


1. For more info, see Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking (Feb 2007) and Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (Mar 2009)
2. The bank has separate pages for: Citi Mobile for iPhone and Citi Mobile for Other Models
3. Citi still has some work to do on optimizing the mobile Web experience (see update below). I navigated via my iPhone to its homepage (see inset) which looks terrible: The page is rendered impossibly tiny (requiring finger zooming), and because the two Flash-based animations don’t work on iPhones, the top of the page is dominated by two empty boxes.

Update (22 Sep 2009): The site is now rendering perfectly on my iPhone. I see a mobile-optimized site similar to the Citi iPhone app. I’m not sure what was going on Sep 10 when I took this screenshot. It’s possible I got the wrong page by navigating to Citi through the Google app. 

Citibank Launches Dedicated iPhone Application

image Earlier today, Citibank launched a dedicated iPhone app (iTunes link) powered by mFoundry. Previously, certain Citi cardholders could use the Firethorn iPhone app, but there was no App Store listing under the Citi brand.

The app, which is free to download, is currently number 10 in the App Store Finance (free) category. It will likely rise to the top, at least briefly, as Citi customers download the app.

The app is featured on the Citi homepage today (see first screenshot below) and is front and center on the Citi Mobile landing page (second screenshot below). The bank has also posted a nine-screen demo of the app here (see inset).

Anyone that’s ever used a mobile website will appreciate the Citi login screen (see inset below). A jumbo-sized numerical keypad is included below the signin area to make typing the PIN easier on the small screen. image

The Citi application does the usual four functions:

  • check balances
  • transfer funds
  • pay bills
  • find Citi branches and ATMs

The bank wisely informs users that their iPhone access can be deactivated immediately in the event of a lost or stolen phone by calling its toll-free number.

With this launch, four of the 10 largest U.S. consumer banks have a dedicated presence in the Apple App Store: Bank of America, Chase, and PNC Bank.

Citibank homepage features the iPhone app (2 March 2009)


Left: Landing page for Citi Mobile (link, 2 March 2009)


The Citibank application page in the iTunes App Store (link, 2 March 2009)


1. See our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking for more information on the market. 

Mobile Banking = Online Banking

If you are looking for a single article that summarizes the current state of mobile banking, check out Karen Epper Hoffman's feature article, Mobile Banking: Where's the Business Case in this month's BAI Strategies. Karen is one of the most important writers in the financial services press, with a rich industry background, and I always enjoy speaking with her and reading her work.

The business case is indeed elusive: Unfortunately, Ms. Hoffman is not able to answer the question raised in the headline. But it's not her fault. It's simply too early to know how the mobile banking business case will shake out. With just a few hundred thousand users out of 200 million U.S. adults, even finding someone who's used mobile banking is difficult, much less figuring out if they'll do expedited payments on the phone or decrease their costly chats with your service rep.  

There are literally hundreds of factors that will determine whether mobile becomes a standalone profit center or is just one more cost center. Many of those factors won't be known until well into the next decade. In fact, we are likely headed towards a convergence of phone, laptop, and entertainment device, that will make the question moot.

But it matters little: Banks have no choice in the mobile matter. Whether or not the business case is made with straightforward fees (e.g., signature debit) or with a bunch of impossible-to-measure intangibles (e.g., online banking), banks WILL support mobile access, just like they support telephone and online today. 

But HOW they support it during the next five years is a matter of great debate and fortunately our upcoming FINOVATE conference (note 1) includes mFoundry the company behind the most high-profile launch to date, Citi Mobile, and MShift, the company that supports more than 80% of all the live U.S. mobile banking programs.

Even after all the hype of the past 12 months, the fact remains that only one bank, and one vendor, have launched a fully downloadable, custom mobile banking app: Citi Mobile powered by Sausalito, Cal-based mFoundry (see previous coverage here). And with a reference account like Citibank, mFoundry is on everyone's short list for 2008/2009 deployments of downloadable mobile banking & payments apps. I've had a chance talk to CEO Drew Sievers several times this year, the last time at the Mobile eCommerce Summit in June, and I look forward to seeing the latest from his pioneering company at FINOVATE.

While Citibank may have the highest profile launch to date, the vast majority of financial institutions offering mobile banking, 90% or so, use the platform of San Jose, Cal-based MShift. After meeting CEO Awele Ndili in May at a Metavante user conference, we wrote about his amazing hold on the smaller end of the market and listed the 32 clients they had live as of mid-May (here). There have been several launches since then including one of our favorite credit unions, Tech CU, also located in San Jose (news release here). The thing I remember most from my first meeting with Dr. Ndili is how he manages to run simultaneous live demos from 3 or 4 different handsets at time, including a check image on a tiny flip phone screen. It will be interesting to see if he tries to perform that trick on the FINOVATE stage.


1. FINOVATE 2007: DEMOing the Future of Finance includes 7-minute demos from five key mobile players: mFoundry, MShift, ClairMail, Firethorn, and Monitise Americas (see previous coverage here). While the auditorium seating is sold out, we have a few remaining seats available in a 40-seat overflow room down the hall. That room features a great view of the live audio-video feed of the demos. To register, visit the FINOVATE site and click register in the upper-right corner.

Citi Mobile Makes the Homepage

Link to CitiCitibank continues to press its lead in mobile banking services. The banking giant not only runs print and television ads, but also claims valuable left-side real estate on Citi's homepage (see inset for closeup of section; see screenshot below for context; and see note 1).

Since Citi's homepage is relatively cluttered with banner ads, the New & Noteworthy section supported by a small mobile phone graphic should grab a significant number of clicks. The landing page is the same as reported earlier (see previous coverage here).

Citibank homepage 7 Aug 2007


1. Citibank's homepage as viewed from a Seattle IP address, Aug 7, 3 PM Pacific, from a laptop that has previously visited but that has not accessed a Citi account.