Just when you thought Mint, Wesabe, and Geezeo had a lock on all the headlines for Gen Y personal finance, along comes a truly inspired effort from a major U.S. retail bank. Furthermore, it’s not from Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, or even ING Direct.
Pittsburgh, PA-based PNC Bank, the 15th-largest U.S. retail bank with $83 billion in deposits (see note 1), today launched a new online combo account called PNC Virtual Wallet.
The account comes with a checking account, bill payment, and two types of savings accounts. It also features several unique personal financial management features with an emphasis on functions most likely to appeal to a 20-something audience:
- Cash flow: debit card, checking, online bill pay, financial calendar, recent transaction report
- Savings: two types of savings accounts, automated savings options, wish list, and a random video-game-inspired savings tool called “punch the pig” (see below)
Finally, the account is priced well:
- No fees (except $0.50 per written check after the first 3 per month and the usual penalty fees)
- Free overdraft protection among linked accounts
- 3% APY on the growth savings component
- ATM-free rebate (but only if there’s a $2000 average monthly balance in the checking account portion)
What’s innovative? (note 2)
- Package of three deposit accounts: Spend Account (e.g., checking), Reserve Account (e.g., savings) and Growth Account (e.g., high-yield savings or money market deposit account)
- Ability to move money among the three accounts by moving a slider across the screen, called the Money Bar
- Automated savings function called Savings Engine that allows users to set up time-triggered (e.g., once per week) or event-triggered (e.g., each debit card use) automatic savings transfers
- Savings game called Punch the Pig, a video-game-inspired savings gimmick: Each time the pig appears on screen, users can elect to “punch” it to automatically move money from checking to savings
- Wish List with savings goals and progress reports
What can be improved?
Four areas that are noticeably absent, or at least not mentioned:
- Mobile functionality, especially text banking and alerts
- Online customer support: Customer can apply online through the Andera-powered app; however, there is no link to any online-support options such as chat, IM, text, or even a Web-based input form or old-school email address
- Social aspects: forums, reviews, blogs, or even testimonials (note 4)
- Credit: credit cards, line of credit, auto loans, and so on
The website design is impressive and very un-banklike, yet it lacks some basics:
- No demo: There are several Flash instructional videos that show most of the key features, but there is no all-encompassing demo for users wanting a tryout before buying.
- Lame homepage videos: Granted, I’m not in the Gen Y target market so I could be wrong, but if I think the videos are lame, what do you think a 22-year-old will make of them? I say lose the “man on the street videos” or reshoot them in a less-scripted manner.
- Extensive FAQs: The FAQs need to be expanded tenfold. Currently, only 16 questions and answers are up, but with so many unique features, that number doesn’t come close to answering many basic questions, such as “Are there account alerts?” or “What’s the rate of interest on the reserve account” (note 3), or “How long are transactions stored?”
PNC Bank virtual wallet homepage (14 July 2008)
Explanation of “Punch the Pig” savings feature
1. Deposits as of 31 Dec 2007; deposits were up 25% compared to $66 billion as of year-end 2006.
2. PNC has applied for a patent on the account and tools.
3. Eventually, I did find a link to interest rates and fees on the “how to apply” page
4. See Online Banking Report on Social Personal Finance for more info