Holiday Spirit Missing at Big Banks (redux)

tex-tech-cu-xmas-2016

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.

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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.

pnc-12-days-2016

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.

key-xmas-2016-2

 

key-xmas-2016

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.

navy-fcu-xmas-2016

 

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.

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Large U.S. banks show holiday spirit

PNC Bank

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

pnc_holiday2015
PNC Christmas Price Index page:

pnc_holiday_2015_2

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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):

key_holiday2015
Homepage promo #2:

key_holiday2015_2

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Fifth Third Bank

  • Page-dominating “wishes”

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

53_holiday2015

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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):

bmoharris_holiday2015

Homepage promo #2:

bmoharris_holdiday2015_2

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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

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Comerica

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

Score: imageimageimage (2.5)

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

comerica_holiday2015

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Regions Bank

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

Score: imageimage

Homepage with loan offer (23 Dec 2015):

regions_holiday_2015
Landing page for loan offer:

regions_holiday2015_2

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TD Bank

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

Score: imageimage

Homepage with checking promo (23 Dec 2015):

tdbank_holiday2015

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Citibank

  • Year-end home-equity promo with winter imagery

Score: image

citi_holiday_2015

 

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Notes:
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
http://www.millan.net/anims/christmas.html#

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

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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

image

PNC Bank microsite with gift hunt link

image

Also running gift card promo in rotation

image

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BB&T (20 Dec 2012)

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

imageimageimageimage

image

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Fifth Third

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

imageimageimageimage

image

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Comerica

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

imageimageimageimage

image

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Key Bank

  • Holiday graphic, but no product promotion

imageimage

image

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Citibank

  • Toy shopping background image

imageimage

image

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US Bank

  • Pitch for online banking, convenient while shopping

image

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Regions Bank

  • Small saving money tips

image

image

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Notes:
1. Observations taken between 2pm and 3pm Pacific on Thurs Dec 20 from Seattle IP address, Chrome browser with no cookies
2. Animation from http://www.millan.net/anims/christmas.html#

Everbank Takes Gold in Change Sciences Ranking of Small Biz Banking Online Sales, BB&T is Runner-up

Small Biz Banking Ranking from Change SciencesI’ve had a consumer account at Everbank since shortly after it launched in 1998. And I’ve continued to be a fan, both of the bank, and of its co-founder and product-guru Rob Foregger’s subsequent work at Personal Capital and others. But I hadn’t realized that Everbank excelled on the small biz side.

Change Sciences, which quantifies and compares bank user experience in various verticals, ranked Everbank #1 in its just-published report (subscription) on online sales of small-business banking services.

As you can see from the methodology below, Change Sciences is looking at the discovery and sales process for small biz banking, not the actual online banking experience itself.

Everbank took first by a solid 3-point margin over runner-up BB&T. Most of the big banks were bunched just below BB&T. PNC Bank and US Bank were just a point lower and BofA was just two points lower. SunTrust and Wells also finished four points under BB&T.

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Everbank offers an extensive menu of business benefits via mouseover dropdown menu (6 Aug 2012)

image

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Note: Change Sciences methodology (from its website)

Each site is evaluated (via desktop browser) against a series of criteria by a Change Sciences analyst. The analyst reviews pages and screens that are part of a critical user task. As the tasks are evaluated, the analyst does three things:
• Looks for predefined user-experience characteristics and features.
• Evaluates the page for ease of use or usability, and applies heuristics accordingly.
• Looks for unexpected enhancements, which we call pleasant surprises.

Tasks evaluated:
• Getting a first impression
• Learning about the bank’s approach to its small-business customers
• Finding out about checking and lending products
• Learning about online banking
• Getting to apply options

Change Sciences Names PNC Virtual Wallet Best Bank PFM with Mint.com a Close Second

image Researcher Change Sciences has been doing outstanding work in financial user experience for more than a decade. In the last year alone, they’ve published deep dives in online, mobile, social media, mortgage, small business, investing, and account opening. The company counts most of the major players as customers; typical reports cost $5,000.

Its latest, published this week, contains a much-needed look at the UI of personal financial manager (PFM) services offered through major banks.

The winner? PNC Bank, which not only took top honors for its Virtual Wallet, but also claimed the number-three spot for Wealth Insight, a service geared to high-net-worth clients, launched last September. Both PNC PFMs were designed in conjunction with IDEO.

Mint.com came in a close second followed by the biggest surprise of the survey Bank Simple, which tied with USAA as the second-highest scoring bank. 

For more info, download the research fact sheet.

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Overall PFM Ranking
points on Change Sciences scorecard

PFM ranking from Change Sciences
Source: Change Sciences, March 2012

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Notes:
1. Image from Italian band PFM <pfmpfm.it>
2. For our take on PFMs, see our May 2010 Online Banking Report.

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

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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

Homepage

image

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

image


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

image

ING Direct: Mobile usage sweeps

  • 12 Days of Mobile sweeps

Score: imageimageimageimage

image

Landing page

image


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

image


BB&T: Visa gift card

  • Small advertisement in lower right

Score: image image

Homepage

image

TD Bank: Visa gift card

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

Score: image

Homepage

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

Homepage

image 

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Notes:
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 LayoutSparks.com

Holiday Marketing at the Top 20 U.S. Banks

image For five of the seven Decembers I’ve spent blogging, I’ve perused the holiday Web-based marketing efforts of the 20 largest U.S. banks. This year, 10 jumped on the holiday bandwagon, an increase of 67% over the six last year. In 2004, only 4 of the 20 were running holiday promotions (on Dec. 21).

Previous posts: 2009 discussion, 2009 screenshots, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004

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

PNC: 12 Days of Christmas index (23 Dec. 2010, 1:00 PM Pacific)
Quick take: Rotating spot, prominent, seasonal graphics, unique, leads to microsite
Score: imageimageimageimageimage

image

TD Bank: gift cards
Quick take: Prominent spot, not rotating, seasonal graphics, fits in well with entire green homepage
Score: imageimageimageimageimage

image

Regions: gift cards and rewards
Quick take: Rotating spot, prominent, seasonal graphics, small corner graphic
Score: imageimageimageimage

image

Fifth Third: gift cards
Quick take: Rotating spot, prominent, seasonal graphics, small graphic in upper right
Score: imageimageimageimage

image

Bank of the West (BNP Paribas): POP Money (p2p payments)
Quick take: The first promotion on a three-ad rotation, pushes P2P payments as a holiday gift-giving option, the first time we’ve seen that (updated 12/25 because we missed it the first time we looked at the site)
Score: imageimageimageimage

image

Harris (BMO): gift card
Quick take: Rotated with five spots, seasonal graphic, quick animation, not very prominent
Score: imageimageimage

image

ING Direct: seasonal graphic
Quick take: Seasonal graphic, prominent location, leads to landing page
Score: imageimageimage

 image

Chase: gift cards
Quick take: Small ad, minor seasonal graphics
Score:  image image

image

Key Bank: gift card
Quick take: Prominent position with no rotation, no seasonal graphic
Score: imageimage

image 

Bank of America: cash rewards card
Quick take: Small ad with seasonal graphic 
Score: image

image

 

The scrooge list (top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on Dec. 23): 
BB&T, Capital One, Citibank, Citizens (RBS), Comerica, HSBC, SunTrust, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), US Bank, Wells Fargo

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Note: I either have accounts with, and/or previous visits to, all 20 banks which could alter what’s shown on the homepage.

Debit Card Overdraft Protection: 2 Steps Forward, 1.9 Back

image So far, I’m underwhelmed with the industry’s online marketing response to the new opt-in debit card OD protection regulations. I expected to see new pricing models transforming small overdrafts into a value-add for debit card users, rather than the onerous penalty they had become over the past few years.

On the positive side, the elimination of OD charges for small transactions is a good first step. Three of the five FIs in our mini-survey have dropped fees on ODs of less than $5 (PNC and GTE Federal) or $10 (U.S. Bank). And Wells even makes a bit of a game out of it: Customers who cover the OD during the same day incur no fee.

And Bank of America has just thrown in the towel on the whole notion, running full-page ads (p. A11 in today’s WSJ; Overdraft Control landing page) saying they’ll just deny any attempt to overdraw via debit card. The retail giant joins Citibank and ING Direct, which already followed the same approach.

But financial institutions are missing an opportunity here. Take Wells Fargo, for example. When I ran across the bank’s new homepage ad for debit card OD protection (see first screenshot), I expected to click through and find a novel take on the new federally mandated opt-in requirement (see second screenshot).

Wells does a good job explaining how the new rules benefit customers (the two steps forward): 

  • The bank’s website copy is understandable and nicely outlines the lower-cost credit line, and savings account transfer options are offered
  • The toll-free number to sign up is prominent, although where’s the online signup option? 
  • Great to see online and mobile balance-tracking tools offered up to help avoid overdrafts in the first place
  • My favorite: Customers are allowed to cover the overdraft during the same day and avoid the charge

But much of that uptick in consumer goodwill is negated when you get to the pricing:

  • Debit card overdrafts are $35 each, with a maximum of 4 per day, or a $140 daily penalty if you opt in and make a mistake coffee-shop (or more likely bar-) hopping some weekend.

In a spot check of other financial institutions, it’s clear that Wells Fargo is far from alone in the $30 per item price range:

  • US Bank will charge $10 per overdraft of $20 or less and $33 for all others; it will charge for up to 3 ODs and 3 returned items for up to 6 per day; there’s a $25 fee if you don’t pay back within a week, but no charge for any item that results in less than $10 in total negative balance.
  • Fifth Third Bank will charge $25 for the first overdraft each year, $33 for the next three, then $37 each after that; maximum of 10 per day; $8 per day after the third day it’s not paid back; no OD charge if negative balance is $5 or less.
  • PNC Bank charges $36 per item up to 4 per day, plus $7/day the account is overdrawn for a maximum of 14 days.
  • GTE Federal Credit Union is charging $29 each, with no charge on under-$5 items (blog post, Facebook post)

I just don’t see customers being too pleased with the price/value here. Wouldn’t customers, and shareholders, be better served with a value-based pricing strategy? How about $5 each for an under-$100 mistake? Or follow the telecom model and sell debit card overdraft protection as a $4.95/mo subscription.

By my simple math, a million customers paying $5/mo is a whole lot more revenue than a few thousand paying $35 a pop. Then there are all the side benefits: customer goodwill, reduced customer service headaches, positive word-of-mouth, and the PR/marketing value of making debit overdrafts into a real service.

Debit card OD link on Wells Fargo homepage (13 July 2010)

Wells Fargo homepage showing debit card OD ad

Landing page (link)
Click to enlarge

Wells Fargo debit overdraft landing page

image Note: Upper-right graphic from Horizons North Credit Union, which is charging $25 per item, with no limit on the number. The opt-in ad is a huge part of its current homepage (inset, click to enlarge).

PNC Bank Pitches Rewards Program at Logout

image The logoff page is one of the most important marketing platforms available to financial institutions (see note). The latest example: PNC Bank’s logoff screen delivered last week after leaving my Virtual Wallet (VW) account (see first screenshot below).

I like the two-column design with useful info on the left side for someone who’s just logged out and on the right a simple eye-catching advertisement for the bank’s free rewards program, PNC Points. A single Enroll Today button makes it easy to figure out what to do next, although that direct approach is not carried through on the landing page (second screenshot).

Overall, it’s a good effort, but I noticed something slightly off — the lack of VirtualWallet branding after logging out. The page is branded PNC Online Banking, and the two choices in the left box are:

  • Return to PNCVirtualWallet.com
  • Return to PNC.com

At minimum, the second choice isn’t worded correctly since I just left my VW account. Worst case, it leaves customers wondering why the bank doesn’t know where they came from. I assume the bank is using the same logout screen for both regular and VW customers and that everyone is accustomed to it by now. Still, it would be better to continue the VW experience all the way through logout.

PNC Bank logoff screen (24 June 2010)

image

Landing page (link)
Surprisingly, after choosing Enroll Today on the logout page above, users go to another sales page, with a less prominent Enroll button buried in the lower right. Instead of this roundabout process, users should go directly to the enroll page. 

image

Note: For more information on login/logoff marketing see our Online Banking Report: Selling Behind the Password published April 2009.  

PNC Virtual Wallet Redefines the Online Banking User Experience

image I have been using my new PNC Virtual Wallet account for a week now (previous coverage of the application process). The account takes a novel approach to core online banking and money management. Honestly, the user experience is so different, I’m still digesting it.

I think I love it, but I want to make sure it’s not just the novelty I’m attracted to. And that it really makes sense for users to interact with their bank accounts this way. I cover the PFM/OFM features in the most recent Online Banking Report and will publish a complete analysis in the future. But <spoiler alert>, I’ll reveal the account’s secret now.

Calendar view.

PNC did not invent the calendar approach to tracking finances. Most of the OFM/PFMs and online banking platforms we’ve had on stage in Finovate during the past three years, eg. Mint, Fiserv, Metavante, Intuit and others, have it. 

But Virtual Wallet (VW) defaults to calendar view. And they don’t let you change that. If you are a VW user, you will be managing your finances in calendar-flow mode. The designers took a risk here, but I think it pays off. They are targeting younger users, who have not grown up viewing reverse-chronological transaction lists, so why not train them from the get-go in how to manage the past, present, and future on a single page.

The first time you log in, the software asks when you get paid so it can add those happy events to your cash-flow calendar. Then as soon as you start making transactions they show up on the calendar along with your current balance in a blue bar at the top of each date (see screenshot below). Also, future events such as bill payments, are shown on the appropriate day to keep you from overdrawing your account.

It’s a good way to see what’s happening. But it also seems like a little more work. Like I said, I’m still evaluating the user experience tradeoffs here.

image

The Pig
image As much as I enjoy exploring the big-picture ramifications of this new user experience, the real reason I finally opened a VW account is for the pig. Maybe it’s the Iowa boy in me, but I’m a sucker for pigs.

VW has a cute feature, admittedly aimed at somewhat younger customer than your typical banking industry analyst, that allows you to make a checking-to-savings transfer by punching the pig graphic at the top of the screen (note 2). And the oinking sound, followed by a the cash register, kaching, punctuates the transfer perfectly.

But it was a little annoying to have to confirm each punch with a popup window asking if I really did want to send $1 to my savings account (see note 1). How about just building an undo button to protect those who get a little carried away clicking that little oinker (see the pig in the upper right in screenshot).  

Notes
1. Users can change the default transfer amount so that punches are equal to more than $1. 
2. Users can customize the look and sounds their pig makes. I switched mine to an orange flame motif, which I’m not sure my farming ancestors would approve of.
3. We awarded PNC’s Virtual Wallet with an OBR Best of the Web in our recap of the most important innovations of 2008 (OBR here).
4. For more on adding appropriate online financial management (OFM) features to your online banking offering, see our latest OBR published just yesterday: Online Financial Management 3.0.