Chase Bank’s Second iPhone App: Gift Planner

imageA few days ago, we predicted there would be tens of thousands of financial institution iPhone apps as the big banks released dozens to support their major business lines. PNC Bank and Wells Fargo were the two examples we cited.

There’s another multi-app bank: Chase. In our search for an iPhone gift planner to replace the web-based Zions Bank service, we ran discovered the bank’s Gift Planner (iTunes link).

Version 1.0 was released in time for the holidays last year (3 Dec. 2008), but it looks like Chase didn’t take over ownership/sponsorship until release 2.0 in August. The app is supported by an excellent small website at yourgiftplanner.com that displays the app and solicits feedback.

image The app and website are 100% Chase branded. The only indication that a third party is involved is a notation in the iTunes store that the app is sold by The Archer Group (inset), a Wilmington, DE-based digital agency.

Evidently, the app didn’t show up on our radar because it’s placed in the App Store Productivity category instead of Financial. The app doesn’t appear to be mentioned on the Chase main website. A site search there came up blank.

Review: It’s great looking app that can be used for any holiday. The app supports “shake for help,” an advanced feature. The integration with your contact list makes it easy to add new contacts without typing, although you must wade through your entire list. And, the imageprocess of adding gifts is a bit tedious. You have to add a gift to the master gift list, then go to each person and add the gift to their profile. It would be better if you could simply type a gift on the fly.

iPhone users have been relatively unimpressed, giving the latest version a 2-star rating out of five; pretty low for a professional app (see inset).

It’s a good branding tool for Chase, but it the app itself could use retooling.

Gift Planner iPhone screenshots (24 Nov 2009)

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Gift Planner website (link)

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Note: For more info on mobile banking on the iPhone see our March Online Banking Report.

Mercedes-Benz Financial Launches Car Finance iPhone App

imageAs an analyst who covers new developments in online and mobile finance, I will forever be grateful to Apple for opening up the mobile-phone platform, thereby unleashing a rush of innovations sure to rival the Internet circa 1995 to 2001 (note 1).

The latest financial app is from none other than Mercedes-Benz. The luxury-car maker has several iPhone apps available to its fans, but the latest, which appeared in the App Store last Tuesday, is specifically designed for its finance customers (iTunes link to app). It’s the first captive finance company with its own app, at least in the U.S.

Other than the striking homepage image, the app is pretty pedestrian so far. It allows registered users (note 2) to make a car payment, calculate the pay-off amount, and find dealers and customer service numbers. In other words, it’s a lot like the company’s website ten years ago (note 3).

But that’s OK, for now. Financial brands should take advantage of the free publicity of the iPhone App Store and  post something, even if it’s just a window to their Web app (worked for Bank of America).

Along those lines, SunTrust (iTunes link) is the latest megabank to join the store (last week), leaving US Bank, Capital One, BB&T, and HSBC as the remaining top-10 U.S. retail banks without their own iPhone app. Who will be the last one in?

Mercedes-Benz Financial’s homepage includes iPhone link (6 Oct 2009)

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iPhone landing page (link)

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Notes:
1. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009)
2. Users must set up a profile online at Mercedes-BenzFinancial.com  before accessing their accounts via iPhone.
3. But I’m kind of surprised MB didn’t include a payments calculator, standard fare at most car sites.

Watch the First Mobile Payment Made via Starbucks Card iPhone App at Downtown Seattle Location

imageJohn Cook, a Seattle tech blogger at TechFlash, was apparently the first customer to use the new Starbucks Mobile Card iPhone app to purchase coffee at the Seattle Columbia Center Starbucks. The video was posted at 3 PM yesterday. For more info on the app, see yesterday’s post.

He had a little trouble getting the point-of-sale scanner to read his iPhone-app-generated barcode, but after an extra few seconds (25 seconds actually) of wiggling the phone, the transaction worked (the transaction begins at about the 1:19 mark). Hopefully, with a little practice, users will know where to place their phones in front of the scanner for easy reading. He also demonstrates a card reload after the purchase (at 3:05 mark).

Notes:
1. The myStarbucks app has moved up to number 6 in the iTunes app store, while the mobile card is at number 29 (as of 4:30 PM Pacific).
2. The mobile payments capability is live at all 16 test locations as of yesterday.

Starbucks Launches First Dedicated iPhone App for Stored-Value Cards

image This is a huge day, and one that I hadn’t expected for at least another couple years. The convergence of mobile payments and caffeine. What more could a mobile banking geek and coffee connoisseur want? 

Starbucks pioneered stored-value cards and launched its first card in 2001. Today, it became the first company (note 1) to create an iPhone app exclusively for a payments card. Apparently, Finovate alum mFoundry helped build the app (cnet story, thanks Brandon).

Users were offered $5 extra credit on their first Starbucks card reload of $25 or more made from the new app. Registered cardholders received an email notification earlier today urging them to “turn your iPhone into a Starbucks card.” (see screenshot below).

Note, the Starbucks Card Mobile app (app store link) is in addition to the regular myStarbucks app which has a store locator, coffee/drink info and a favorites-sharing function (app store link). That app also launched today (notes 2, 3). 

The app is gorgeous and shows how important design can be in creating a trustworthy and easy-to-use payment product (note 4). For example:

Home screen (left screenshot):

  • The card balance is immediately and prominently displayed

Reload screen (middle screenshot)

  • Uses big, easy-to-read buttonsremember, this is a small screen, with a giant green, full-width Continue button  
  • Current balance repeats at the top

Mobile payment screen (right screenshot)

  • The bar code for mobile point-of-sale payments (test only, see below) is rendered over a background image of the card, complete with card number, a nice touch to reassure users and Starbucks baristas that this is the real thing.

Analysis
Of course, the mobile commerce and banking community will be abuzz about the mobile payments test. At 16 Starbucks locations (8 in Seattle and 8 in Silicon Valley), iPhone users will be able to pay at the counter using a barcode generated on screen (right screenshot). Luckily, several Starbucks are within a couple miles of my home so I’ll be able to report back with results as soon as the test locations are live.

But I think the stored value card management functions are more interesting for the present. Just think if you had an application that looked like this for your debit or credit card. Think of the brand-value uptick, PR notice, and word-of-mouth buzz. 

Starbucks Card Mobile screenshots (23 Sep 2009)

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Email announcing the new mobile card app (sent to a registered Starbucks cardholder in the mobile payments test market, 23 Sep 2009, 12:43 PM Pacific)

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Notes:
1. Starbucks is the first company in the U.S. to have a dedicated app for a payments card. Although unaware of any elsewhere in the world, I would expect that card apps exist, at least in Asian markets.
2. The main Starbucks app is currently the 33rd most popular free app in the store and number 1 in Lifestyle; Starbucks Card Mobile is number 46 overall and 3 in Lifestyle (6 PM Pacific).
Update (9 PM Pacific): myStarbucks has moved to number 19 and Starbucks Card Mobile to 38.
3. The Starbucks apps are huge, 6.3 MB for the regular and 3.7 MB for the card, so makes sure you have good reception or are connected via WiFi.
4. However, I have been unable to log in to my actual Starbucks account as of 7 PM Pacific, owing perhaps to overloaded servers.
5. For more info on financial institution opportunities, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

ING Direct Releases Home Loan Toolkit for the iPhone

imageHave I mentioned that the iPhone is amazing? I’m not sure if it’s because it’s so useful having a computer in my pocket 24/7, or that it gives me so much material for Netbanker and Online Banking Report (probably the latter).

Now that we are beginning the second year of the App Store, we are starting to see some more interesting things on the finance front. For the first year it was all about tip calculators, balance inquiry, ATM locators, and manual-entry expense trackers.

This summer, we’re beginning to see the bigger potential with the launch of remote check depositing from WV United Credit Union and USAA (which also loaded helpful auto insurance features into its app). And Apple’s new OS 3.0, which supports push notifications, will be a boon to mobile banking apps.

But that’s just the beginning. There will be an app for anything you might want to do with your finances. The latest: a free Home Loan Toolkit for prospective home buyers from ING Direct Australia. The app appeared in the U.S. App Store yesterday (here).  There’s no mention of it on the bank’s website yet, but Google pointed me to the well-designed microsite (here) supporting the app (screenshot below).  

It’s pretty straightforward with just three functions:

  • Calculators to determine how much you can afford to borrow and what the payments would be
  • A call-me request form
  • Average home prices by area

Screenshots from ING Direct Australia’s new iPhone app (3 Sep 2009)

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ING Direct Australia iPhone Home Loan Toolkit microsite (link, 3 Sep 2009)
Note: The five iPhone screenshots (above) rotate through the iPhone pictured below. Alternatively, users can scroll through the screens with the control under the phone.

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Note: For more info on the native iPhone apps, see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.:

Don’t Waste the Marketing & Communication Benefits of an iPhone App Update

image I’ve written plenty about the importance of the iPhone App Store, both here and in Online Banking Report (note 1). But there’s one subtle side benefit I hadn’t thought too much about previously. 

Every time a new version of a native app is released, users must take action to download it if they want the new features. While this process used to be a nightmare in the desktop software days where users had to use floppy disks, CDs or large downloads to reinstall the software, it’s an absolute breeze on the iPhone and usually takes less than a minute from start to finish. And there’s no restarting the iPhone or choosing installation options. It’s just a one-click process plus the input of your iTunes password if you weren’t already logged in.

So why is this process a benefit? Because each time a new release is available a little icon shows on top of the App Store icon (see screenshot 1 below). Users then press the App Store icon, choose update, and they see a list of applications with updates available (screenshot 2). At that point users choose to update them all or look at them individually.

We believe most users are interested enough in their financial apps to take a look at the update, at least until the novelty of the mobile app wears off some years in the future. This provides financial institutions a free marketing opportunity to not only explain the new features of the app, but also deliver other marketing messages. You are much more likely to make an impression with your customers during the update process, compared to sending out a random marketing email.

In the three bank examples below, only USAA (screenshot 3) uses the opportunity to further cement its relationship with mobile customers, touting its new remote deposit capabilities along with several other enhancements. Wells Fargo (screenshot 4) takes a matter-of-fact, “we’re fixing bugs” approach that is OK, but still misses the chance to communicate with users. But Chase (screenshot 5) completely annoys users with two sentences of marketing speak that says nothing about the update. 

Lessons for financial & mobile marketers: Whenever you release an update for your mobile app (note 2), take the opportunity to communicate with your customers as follows:

  • Clearly explain the benefits of the changes to the app
  • Highlight one or two related benefits of the app
  • Mention any related news or promotions
  • Strike a good balance between disseminating technical info and marketing new benefits

Screenshots

1. Main iPhone screen shows                        2. The Updates page shows the 4 apps
    that 4 app updates are                                       that have new versions available.
    available (right side halfway down).

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3. USAA’s latest update explains the specific changes made and provides several new benefits to using the app.

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4 & 5. On the other hand, the Wells Fargo and Chase update messages are sparse. The Wells Fargo update appears to be a minor bug fix, so we’ll cut them some slack for the terse message. However, Chase, with a minor update (2.0.1 update) to its major 2.0 release (released Aug 25), says absolutely nothing in 24 words of marketing-speak: 

We’re listening — You asked for a fully native iPhone banking application. This Chase iPhone app is built exclusively for iPhone and iPod touch users.

Seriously Chase, this is the best you could come up for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of iPhone users waiting for your updated app? At least the bank gets points for brevity.

                   Screenshot 4                                                             Screenshot 5

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Note:
1. For more info on the importance of a native iPhone app see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.
2. The same advice holds true for communicating online banking improvements as well, although the communication methods are different (email, newsletter, statement insert, blog, interstitials, log-off messages, etc.).

Banking Apps in the Google Android Market vs. Apple iPhone App Store

image A few weeks ago, we noted a milestone at Apple’s iPhone App Store, 1000 apps available in the finance category (U.S. store). I was been curious how that compared to Google’s Android Market so today I did a quick comparison.

The Android market now has a respectable 211 apps in the finance category. However, few financial institutions have staked a claim. Only, Bank of America and Alliant Credit Union, had branded apps (see note 1, 2).

In comparison, the iTunes App Store has 11 U.S. banking apps and 3 from U.S. credit unions. That’s up from 6 banks and no credit unions when we published our most recent report on the subject (see note 3).  See the the following table for details. Did I miss any? Let me know in comments or email jim@netbanker.com

  Google Android (Rank) Apple App Store (Rank)
Number of finance apps 211 1,089
Number of U.S. bank-branded apps (note 1)

(number shown is rank in the finance category)

#2 Bank of America #1 Bank of America
#2 USAA
#3 Chase
#4 Wells Fargo
#10 E*Trade
#13 Citibank
#28 & 32 PNC Bank
#43 BBVA Compass
#156 IBC
#409 1st Mariner Bank ATM/Branch locator
#962 Plaza Bank Mtg Calc
Number of CU-branded apps #30 Alliant CU — ATM Locator #185 Tech CU
#327 CUloc8 (TDECU)
#411 iDeposit (WV United FCU)

Source: Online Banking Report tally, 24 Aug 2009

1. In addition, Qualcomm’s Firethorn unit has an app that works with several dozen banks and card issuers including Citi, Chase, Wachovia, SunTrust and USAA. It’s ranked tenth in the Android Market and 15th in the iPhone App Store. Also, in the Android Market, Visa has a beta app that works with Chase cards ranked #77. However, according to commenters, that test is ending in September.
2. There are another 15-20 international banks listed in the iPhone App Store.
3. Our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking was published March 11, 2009.

USAA Hits 1 Million Mobile Users; Grabs Great Press Coverage with Remote Deposit Feature

imageThe New York Times ran a positive piece on USAA’s mobile efforts today, leading with the bank’s innovative mobile rimageemote check deposit service. A feature the bank announced in June and is rolling out this week.

USAA is the first major financial institution to use the iPhone’s camera to allow customers to upload paper checks for automatic deposit. However, it was beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU, which launched a cruder version two weeks ago (previous post).

The San Antonio-based bank with 7.2 million customers, now has one million mobile users, a 14% penetration rate, up from 11% in May. It’s the second U.S. financial institution (after Bank of America with more than 3 million; see note 1) to officially hit the million mark, though Chase/WaMu and Wells/Wachovia are believed to have passed that milestone last year.

Financial institution lesson: Mobile banking, and the iPhone specifically, still make a great story for the press (and customers). If you’re first in your market with an iPhone app, or some other mobile milestone, let the media know.

Live demo of USAA’s Deposit@Home iPhone app
Starts at 1-minute mark

Note:
1. 43% of BofA’s mobile customers access via iPhone or iPod Touch. The bank does not yet support text-banking, so it’s user base is skewed towards smartphone users.
2. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking

1,000th iPhone Finance Application Added to Apple App Store Today

imageToday marked an Apple App Store milestone of sorts, the 1000th application available in the Finance category (USA store). Finance is less than 2% of the total store, which now stands at 63,300, according to AppShopper.com

Lucky number 1000 was Easy Mortgage (iTunes link), a $0.99 mortgage calculator from Italian developer Nexus (screenshot below).

image Four other new Finance apps debuted today, just missing the 1000 mark: 

  • #997 MLM: A multi-level marketing guide from PTAJ Marketing for $2.99
  • #998 Renting: A guide to renting a house or apartment from also from PJAT Marketing for $2.99
  • #999 Forex: A guide to foreign exchange trading again from PJAT Marketing
  • #1001 TaxTax: A $1.99 sales tax calculator from Canbuffi Web Development

Bottom line: These thousand apps are just the tip of the iceberg for the Finance category. It will likely grow to well over 10,000 during the next few years as most major banks and credit unions add their own apps to the mix. 

Currently, there are fewer than 50 financial institutions with their own dedicated app, including eight of the top 15 (most popular based on recent download volume): 1st (Bank of America), 2nd (Chase), 3rd (Wells Fargo), 4th (PayPal), 8th (E*Trade), 12th (Citibank), 13th (USAA) and 14th (multiple banks via Firethorn).    

For more info on the features and benefits of a good financial institution iPhone app, see our recent Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009). 

WV United Federal Credit Union is First with iPhone-based Remote Check Scan & Deposit

imageIn June, we reported on USAA’s upcoming iPhone app that will support remote check deposits. But it looks like they were beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU headquartered in Charleston, WV. Haven’t heard of WV United? They have just six employees, $11 million in assets, and 3,000 members.

But somehow they were able to pull off something that no other financial institution has yet to accomplish, accepting paper check deposits via a native iPhone application (iTunes link, see note 1 and 2). The application was added to the iPhone App Store on July 4, and the CU wasted no time in heralding the innovation with a homepage banner (see screenshot below).

imageThe application could not be simpler. Users take a picture by pressing the button on the left (see inset), verifying that the image is readable, then uploading with the button on the right. WV United uses the member’s mobile phone number to apply it to the correct account. The latest iPhone OS 3.0 is required.

The credit union also accepts deposits via in-home scanners using secure file transfers powered by LeapFile (co-branded site here).

It appears both services simply send images to the credit union where an employee manually converts them to ACH items. According to the E-Deposit customer agreement, the first 10 items each month are free; a $1 fee per item for the remainder of the month is charged. This allows for collection of a bit of fee revenue from small business members, while enabling most consumers to use it free of charge.

Certainly, fraud possibilities exist. But the CU’s normal deposit-processing controls should mitigate most of the risk (see E-Deposit funds availability policy here). 

Mitek Systems introduced a mobile remote-deposit system last year (post here), but it’s not yet in production at any financial institutions. 

imageAnalysis: Although not a feature that will see widespread usage, mobile check deposits will prove convenient for certain customers, especially mobile small businesses. More importantly, it helps differentiate between online and mobile services.

So, for raising the bar in mobile banking, we are awarding WV United with our first OBR Best of the Web award for 2009 (note 3). In the 12 years we’ve given the award, WV United is by far the smallest financial institution to win. 

WV United FCU homepage with iPhone banner (11 July 2009)

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iPhone app landing page (link)

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Notes:
1. Sometimes it’s nice to be small. WV United has six employees total, according to NCUA data. Most large banks would have a project team larger than that just to do the feasibility study on mobile remote-deposit capture.
2. For more info on the importance of iPhone applications for financial services, see our recent full report: Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via the iPhone.
3. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online and mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development. WV United is the 74th recipient of the designation since we began awarding it in 1997.