Holiday Spirit Missing at Big Banks (redux)


Happy holidays everyone! The holiday spirit is everywhere, except it seems, at the big U.S. banks. I get that budgets are busted, employees on vacation, and you don’t want to offend anyone by mentioning (or NOT mentioning) Christmas. Still, how hard would it be to throw a couple non-denominational snowflakes on top of your logo and wish everyone a happy holiday? Or better yet, how about a little bonus, like the holiday skip-payment offer similar to that featured on Texas Tech Federal Credit Union’s homepage (see above).

In our annual holiday survey of the 25 largest banks, we found only two, PNC Bank and Key, that acknowledged the year-end holidays on their homepages. And while they are just barely outside the 25 largest, Navy Federal FCU was in the holiday spirit as well.

That’s a pretty poor showing, dramatically down from the 8 to 10 participants in years past (see links below). Caveat: The historical comparison is not perfect due to timing. I was tardy this year and didn’t take my holiday tour until 27 Dec, so I may have missed some decorations that had already been stored in the banks’ virtual attics.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 (big banks); 2011(credit unions/community banks); 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004.


Holiday 2016 messages

PNC Bank: PNC continues to go all-in with its long-running and clever cost analysis of the items from the 12 Days of Christmas song.


Key Bank: Key has also consistently added holiday bling to its website. This year, running two holiday-themed items, one for checking and the other a broad security warning.




Honorable mention: While just outside the top-25 in size, Navy Federal FCU showed its holiday spirit with a classy page-dominating graphic along with a nice message about lack of fees on international purchases.



Mobile UI: Capital One Wallet Reverts to Old-School Navigation

hamburger-menuI am not a huge fan of the hamburger navigation menu. If you are a smartphone native, I’m sure your eyes go right to the little pack of horizontal lines in the corner. But if you got your first smartphone in your 40s, you probably could use a little more help.

So I applaud Capital One, recently named in Fast Company as one of the best-designed mobile apps (see note 1), which in a 7 September iOS update ditched the so-called hamburger menu for something that’s actually visible on the page. See Fig 1 before and Fig. 2 after. I also learned today that Key Bank made the same decision to ditch the burger, but instead of a lower nav bar, they went with the more web-centric look of a near-the-top nav (Fig 3).
(Update 29 Sep: A reader informed me many banks are ditching the hamburger menu in light of Apple’s design advice here, here and here.)

Capital One Wallet iOS Previous
Fig 1. Capital One Wallet iOS


Capital One Wallet iOS Current
Fig 2. Capital One Wallet iOS

Unless you are Facebook, Instagram, or other apps where customers spend hours every week, you need to make it easy for infrequent users to find their way through your app. And even though mobile banking is relatively simple, many providers make it needlessly hard to navigate with cute, hidden menus.

I understand why designers minimize the navigation, mobile real estate is precious, and even a half-centimeter devoted to on-screen navigation is a lot. But what’s more important, showing more transactions on the main screen or how to actually do something meaningful?

The update also included a new restaurant finder to identify popular eating establishments based on transaction data across all Capital One cardholders (Fig 4). It’s reminiscent of the Citigroup/Microsoft/Morningstar joint venture Bundle (F10), which, not coincidentally, was acquired by Capital One four years ago.

Key Bank iOS app with top navigation
Fig 3. Key Bank iOS app with top navigation


Fig 4. Restaurant Finder in Capital One Wallet (iOS)


1. Only two financial companies were named in Fast Company’s list of 100+ best-designed products or apps in the October issue. The other was RobinHood, the simple, mobile stock-trading app.

2015 Holiday Marketing Efforts from the Top-20 U.S. Banks

The end of the year provides a unique challenge to banks. Customers are busy buying gifts, finishing year-end projects at work, and preparing for holiday travel, meal prep and/or extended family time. There isn’t an abundance of deep thought about long-term financial plans, other than how to pay down inflated December credit card bills.

For banks, it’s a good time to run a few simple messages:

  1. Thank customers for a great year
  2. Wish them happy holidays and/or a wonderful new year
  3. Help customers deal with holiday overspending and planning for the new year
  4. Provide last-minute gift assistance via prepaid MasterCard/Visa cards
  5. Detail holiday branch hours and service options (extra credit for an online/mobile banking plug)

This is not a tall order, yet only 9 of the 20 largest banks managed to do even 1 of the above 5 during the week leading up to Christmas. While that may not seem like a great performance, it was more than double the measly four last year. And it’s back in line with historical norms of 9 banks 2013; 8 in 2012; and 10 in 2011. It looks like 2014 was an anomaly.

Congrats to PNC Bank, which once again, proved it was the holiday champ thanks to its long-running 12 Days of Christmas Index, earning a full 5 bulbs on our 1-to-5 light bulb scale. Runner-up Key Bank moved up to an impressive 4-bulb performance with four holiday promos. And we had three 3-bulbers (Fifth Third, BMO Harris, Union Bank) who posted impressive holiday graphics.

The scrooge list: Top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 23 Dec 2015:
Bank of America; Bank of the West (BNP Paribas); BB&T; Capital One & Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct); Chase (note 2); Citizens (RBS); HSBC; SunTrust; US Bank; Wells Fargo; Zions Bank.

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 (big banks), 2011(CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004.


Large U.S. banks show holiday spirit

PNC Bank

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

PNC Christmas Price Index page:



Key Bank

  • Checking account promo with holiday imagery (1 of 3 rotating promos)
  • Security tips related to holiday spending (2 of 3 rotating promos)
  • Rewards promo with holiday image (lower left on homepage)
  • Credit card promo with holiday copy (lower right on homepage)

Score: imageimageimageimage

Homepage promo #1 (23 Dec 2015):

Homepage promo #2:



Fifth Third Bank

  • Page-dominating “wishes”

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):



BMO Harris

  • Community service announcing a Milwaukee holiday display (#2 of 3 rotating promos)
  • Security message related to holidays and its new chip card (#3 of 3 rotating promos)

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage promo #1 (23 Dec 2015):


Homepage promo #2:



Union Bank

  • Rose Bowl parade float (#1 of 4 promos)
  • Billpay offer with charity tie-in (#2 of 4 promos)

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage promo #1 (23 Dec 2015):unionbank_holiday2015
Homepage promo #2:unionbank_holiday2015_2



  • Gift card promo integrated into main image (promo 2 of 3 rotating)

Score: imageimageimage (2.5)

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):



Regions Bank

  • Loan discount with holiday copy (well below the fold)

Score: imageimage

Homepage with loan offer (23 Dec 2015):

Landing page for loan offer:



TD Bank

  • Checking account promo with holiday imagery and Samsung giveaway (main promo)

Score: imageimage

Homepage with checking promo (23 Dec 2015):




  • Year-end home-equity promo with winter imagery

Score: image




1. Observations taken between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wed, 23 Dec 2015, from a Florida IP address, running Mac Chrome browser with cookies cleared.
2. Chase is running a series of newish articles/posts below the fold, one of which covered holiday budgeting. But it wasn’t prominent enough to move them off the scrooge list.
3. Animation from

Yodlee Brings “Sense” to Forward-Looking Bank Balances

yodlee_sense_lowbalFor several years I’ve used the forward-looking balance feature from Simple’s “Safe to Spend” and Key Bank’s MyControlBanking as a great example of where banking/PFM is headed (see notes 1, 2, 3). But this seemingly vital PFM feature has not been adopted by other major players.

My hypothesis is that banks are (rightly) afraid of the cost (customer service, litigation, fines, CFPB backlash) if it doesn’t work perfectly. The false positive problem is especially daunting (note 3). You tell customers they are good to go and then Monday morning you bounce two of their checks collecting $70 in OD fees.

Enter Yodlee’s version of the forward-looking balance summary, Sense. The service made its industry debut at FinovateSpring last month (video here and below). With 15 years’ experience providing mega-banks with data aggregation and PFM services, it may have the necessary credibility to power forward-looking banking features for its client banks.

Bottom line: Regardless of where the algorithms are sourced, I hope banks come to their senses soon, and offer seamless money-management guidance.


Yodlee Sense demo at FinovateSpring 2015 (13 May)


1. U.K.’s stealthy banking startup Mongo appears to be working on a similar function.
2. Simple was acquired by BBVA Compass in 2014 for $117 million.
3. Moven provides a compelling alternative-spending feedback/prediction system which is less likely to produce false positives. The neo-bank startup constantly compares your spending velocity with historical trends, to provide a real-time green-light/red-light indicator when you are headed towards overspending (see its FinovateSpring Best of Show 2015 demo here). For extra credit, the Moven app makes it easy to lock away the extra cash saved in the lower spending months.

Holiday Website Promos at the Top-20 Banks

In my annual look at holiday offerings from major banks, I found that Scrooge still roams the halls at many of the big names. Only eight of the 20 largest U.S. banks are using holiday-themed promotions or graphics (note 1). That’s one more than last year, but still two less than 2010.

As usual, PNC Bank is the exception with their two-decade long holiday CPI (Christmas present index). BB&T, Comerica and Fifth Third are also festive this year with gift card promotions supported by seasonal graphics. And US Bank, Citi, Key and Regions Bank used some holiday imagery.   

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on Dec. 20): 
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), Capital One, Chase, Citizens (RBS), Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, ING Direct (Capital One), SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), Wells Fargo

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1-to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


Big banks in the holiday spirit
(rated 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Thursday, Dec 20)

PNC Bank

  • Gift Hunt tied to its Christmas CPI (based on the song 12 Days of Christmas)
  • Visa Gift Card promo (in rotation of four homepage promotions)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its 12 days of Christmas price index


PNC Bank microsite with gift hunt link


Also running gift card promo in rotation


BB&T (20 Dec 2012)

  • Holiday themed graphic featuring mobile check deposit
  • Small ad for gift cards




Fifth Third

  • Rotation of three holiday themed promotions
    — Holiday billpay sweeps
    — New Years savings pro
    — Gift cards





  • Prominent gift card promo across page and in lower-left corner




Key Bank

  • Holiday graphic, but no product promotion





  • Toy shopping background image




US Bank

  • Pitch for online banking, convenient while shopping



Regions Bank

  • Small saving money tips




1. Observations taken between 2pm and 3pm Pacific on Thurs Dec 20 from Seattle IP address, Chrome browser with no cookies
2. Animation from

Launching: KeyBank’s “myControl Banking” Provides Balance Forecasting via Mobile App & Online Dashboard

imageKeyBank is launching a new online banking and mobile service called myControl Banking. The mobile app became available today in iTunes (link).

The service is centered around myMoney Forecast, a real-time balance forecast shown at the top of the screen (see inset below). It’s a vital PFM function that looks a lot like Simple’s Safe-to-Spend.

But there is one significant difference. Key Bank users can make the forecast more accurate by manually entering Money In or Money Out transactions before they clear the bank (for example, a just-written check, see bottom of first screenshot). The bank automatically nets out any pre-scheduled bill payments, transfers, or ACH items and adds in recurring regular paychecks and transfers in.

Key Bnak mobile myMoney ForecastThe interface also includes a weekly cash flow calendar so users can monitor the flow of their funds. And up to five goals can be established and tracked within the app and/or online dashboard.

The mobile app does not (yet) replace Key Bank’s regular mobile app. Before using MyControl, customers must sign up for it within online banking.

Analysis: The introduction of MyControl Banking is a fantastic move. It delivers the key missing component of online banking, a peek at what’s about to happen with cash flow, without making users slog through a bunch of PFM features they don’t understand.

imageIt provides Key Bank with meaningful differentiation, and gives them a platform to add more PFM content in the future.

Because Key Bank’s MyControl raises the bar in digital delivery, we are giving it our OBR Best of the Web award (note 2). We are also retroactively naming Simple as a co-winner since they commercialized a similar balance forecast earlier this summer.


Mobile checking & savings balance visualization with integrated transfer button (left) and goals (right)

Key Bank myControl Checking     KeyBank myControl Savings mobile

Key Bank myControl Banking landing page (link, 20 Nov 2012)



1. This post was developed from info available within the app, in the product video at and in the FAQs. But I don’t have an account at Key Bank, and there is no interactive demo yet, so I haven’t used the service with live data.
2. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online- or mobile-banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. In total, 88 companies have won the award. This is the first for Key Bank and Simple. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.
3. For more on balance forecasting and other advanced PFM features, see our recent Online Banking Report: PFM 4.0 (June 2012; subscription).

Holiday Promotions at the Top-20 U.S. Banks

Since I began blogging in 2004, I’ve usually run a year-end post looking at the holiday marketing efforts of the top-20 U.S. banks (links below). This year, only 7 of the 20 banks are using holiday or seasonal imagery on their homepages. That’s a decrease of 3 over last year.

As usual, PNC Bank is the gold standard for holiday bank promotions, with its long-running (25+ years) “cost of Christmas index” which quantifies the cost of procuring all the items mentioned in the famous song, “12 Days of Christmas.” Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1-to 5-bulb rating. 

Previous posts: 2010, 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


Big banks in the holiday spirit
(rated 1 to 5 bulbs)

PNC: Christmas cost index

  • Cost of Christmas based on the song 12 Days of Christmas

Score: imageimageimageimageimage



Landing page: Amazing microsite, wonderful graphics, and slow loading (link)


Fifth Third: holiday sweeps

  • Pay Your Bills sweeps with holiday graphics
  • Small ad with a card wrapped with ribbon which directs users to branches for “holiday shopping made easy,” presumably for gift cards, but neither the ad nor the landing page make that clear

Score: imageimageimageimage


ING Direct: Mobile usage sweeps

  • 12 Days of Mobile sweeps

Score: imageimageimageimage


Landing page


Chase: sweeps and car loans

  • Winner Wonderland, credit card sweeps with one entry for every credit card purchase and 5 entries for every donation put on the Chase card
  • Add joy to your wallet, car refinance promotion

Score: imageimageimage


BB&T: Visa gift card

  • Small advertisement in lower right

Score: image image



TD Bank: Visa gift card

  • Small advertisement in lower right (below the fold on my laptop)

Score: image



Key Bank: gift cards

  • Very small gift-card promo, below the fold on my laptop and rotating with a half-dozen other items

Score: image




1. No holiday imagery on the homepages of BofA, Wells Fargo, Citibank, HSBC, US Bank, SunTrust, Capital One, Citizens, Regions, Harris, Bank of the West, Union Bank, Comercia
2. Screenshots taken from Ft. Myers, FL, IP address, between 7 and 8 PM, 20 Dec 2011    
3. Credit: Happy Holidays animation from

Key Bank Runs Timely "Pick Your President" Promotion

imageOverall, most major financial institutions do a good job with website design. But one thing usually lacking is timely tie-ins with events and holidays. Google is famous for doctoring its logo dozens of times each year to coincide with the national holidays and other big events. For example, for today’s big presidential election, the logo has been changed into a voting booth.

Those efforts, while not always directly driving new business, keep the website fresh and show that the bank is paying attention to the events that impact users day to day. And the best ones can increase sales. By leveraging well-hyped events such as the Olympics or Super Bowl, financial institutions can gain valuable PR and attention from customers.

image I looked at 3 or 4 dozen large U.S. bank and credit union sites today and found just one riding the election hysteria to make a point. Key Bank’s Pick Your President promotion (here) has nothing to do with McCain vs. Obama but is actually a clever way to convince customers to switch to electronic statements. Customers get $1 (George Washington) for every account switched to estatements and $5 (Abe Lincoln) if they take bill pay with that. The bank is also throwing in a pair of $1,000 sweeps prizes to add a few Benjamins to the mix.

Nice job, Key; our vote is with you.

Key Bank homepage with small banner for the Pick Your President promo
(4 Nov 2008)


Key Bank Pick Your President landing page (4 Nov 2008)


Key Bank Gives Away iPod nanos for Free Checking Accounts

From a customer's perspective, this is a hot offer. Open a Key Bank free checking account. Make two automated deposits of $100 or more and take home an Apple iPod nano worth $150. The only downside, the tax bill next April for the $150 in implied interest.

I can't vouch for the ROI of a giving a $150 premium for a free checking account, but Key Bank has run thousands of marketing campaigns, and I trust their spreadsheets say this will pencil out. And they are not the first to give it a try. Citibank aggressively handed out iPod Minis with new checking accounts several years ago. North of the border, TD Canada Trust is also using the must-have music player in its promotion running through 7 August, handing out an iPod shuffle for a new checking account, an iPod nano for new checking plus a credit card, or full 30 GB version for all of the above and $5,000 in savings (see landing page below).

I'm not crazy about the TD ad, but it's hard to miss with the huge FREE IPOD next to the in-your-face picture. However, Key seems to be missing the mark. The bank succeeds in taking one of the most-sought-after gadgets in the past 20 years and making in nearly invisible on the page, rendering the device in grayscale and using red text that blends into the other red accents of the homepage. Compare that to the graphic above from Apple's store. Why not show one of the brighter colors to grab attention? Or use an animation to show all the colors. Yes, I know the non-silver versions have twice the capacity (4 GB instead of 2 GB) and cost $50 extra at retail, but that could be handled with an optional upgrade option, either for a nominal fee, or with additional services ala TD Canada Trust. 

Key Bank homepage with iPod offer (July 23, 2007)

Key Bank iPod offer landing page (July 23, 2007)

TD Canada Trust homepage with iPod offer (July 24, 2007)

TD Canada Trust iPod offer landing page (July 24, 2007)

Key Bank Uses TV Advertising to Promote Deposits in its Saveday Promotion

Thursday night, as my son was Tivoing his way through the commercial breaks on The Office, I noticed a Key Bank logo at the end of the commercial break. I had him go back and play the 5-second spot which was teaser style with a brief voiceover, logo, and the URL:

Expecting to see an interesting web-based savings account marketing effort, I typed "key bank save" into Google and came up empty handed (see note 1). The first link was to a Key Bank loan application, and there were no sponsored results.

Key Bank error page for CLICK TO ENLARGENext, I tried connecting directly to the bank using what I remembered of the URL show in the TV spot, <>. I realized that was the wrong address when all I saw was an error page, which unfortunately contained no guidance on what to do next (see inset). Finally, I went to the Key Bank homepage and found a large banner announcing the program aimed at encouraging users to curtail their discretionary spending on a designated day (your "Save day") each week (see second screenshot below).

Key Bank homepage with Saveday banner CLICK TO ENLARGE

I'm like the idea of creating an interesting program to spur savings. For example, even though I didn't much like it initially (see post here), Bank of America's Save the Change does have a certain amount of appeal, at least from a marketing standpoint (see note #2).

And Centra Credit Union's <> new prize-based savings plan deserves a second look (thanks Doug True for the original post on this, here; see screenshot in note #3 below).

However, there isn't much to like about Key Bank's Saveday effort. The television spots may work as image advertising, but the website execution left a lot to be desired. Not only did the bank fail to support its television buy with search advertising, the landing page has little of interest besides the standard suite of savings calculators (see screenshot in note #4 below). There are no incentives, contests, or benefits to motivate a consumer to do something as unpleasant as giving up their daily latte.

While the bank does offer a handy PDF worksheet that can be printed out to calculate a monthly budget, there are no links or discussions of automated savings plan. Putting savings on auto-pilot is a much more powerful saving system than trying to get customers to sacrifice their caffeine one day per week.

There's also no interactive elements that might help get someone started. For example, why not send customers a text message to their phone or email each Saveday to encourage them to save.

However, the biggest blunder, is calling attention to the bank's incredibly low savings rates. For example, for a $10,000 saving balance, a typical amount in high-yield savings accounts, Key's three options paid a paltry 0.10%, 0.20% and 1.24% (see note #5). And no, those are not typos, that's two-tenths of a percent, in the KeySaver account, or a grand total of $1.66 per month, before tax. Not even enough to buy that cup of coffee the bank wants you to forego on your Saveday.

It takes a $25,000 balance to get above 1.24% in any of Key's savings accounts (note #6). And anyone who's managed to stash away that much in liquid savings probably doesn't need a Saveday.


1. Later we tried, "key bank saveday" and the first link was a press release on the promotion, but it was at a URL (see release here). Searching from a Seattle WiFi IP address in Seattle.

2. Bank of America has recently been touting the Save the Change debit card benefit in its usual excellent television ads.

3. Centra Credit Union Super Savings page

Centra Credit Union Super Savings landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE

4. Key Bank Saveday landing page

Key Bank Saveday landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE

5. Rates quoted on for zip code 98115 on 22 Jan 2007

6. Update Jan 30: According to a bank employee, a $25,000 deposit now pays 3% in Key Ultra Money Market which I confirmed online. And in markets where Key Bank doesn't have a branch presence, the rate is as much as 5.25% through Key Direct (see screenshot below).


Tracking Your Competitors’ Search Marketing Efforts

Keycompete_logoAre you tracking the search marketing efforts of your competitors? If not, you should be. If you are, consider using KeyCompete <>, a $199/yr tool that identifies keywords used by your competition and the competition for your keywords.

Enter a URL and the Web-based service returns a list of keywords used by that company in its search engine marketing efforts. You can also do the opposite, enter a keyword or phrase, and see who's using it in their marketing efforts. Results are seen instantly on screen and can be downloaded into an Excel file.

Keycompete_list_keybankIt's a simple way to uncover new keyword opportunities. For example, we looked at Key Bank's current keyword buying (click on inset for details). The majority of their marketing is for boat loans and student loans. But without the KeyCompete tool we'd never know that the bank is advertising its K-12 private school tuition program, AchieverLoan, under obscure search terms such as "Massachusetts preparatory school" and "Addison private school" (see screenshot below).


The basic plan, which costs just $199/year, includes a personalized watchlist for URLs or keywords to make competitive monitoring that much easier. For an extra, undisclosed fee, the KeyCompete will provide more detailed reporting on your competition including:

  • approximate clicks per competitor's keyword
  • approximate cost per competitor's keyword
  • estimated overall keyword marketing expense

Overall, some good information to have in your back pocket for next year's budget request.