Some mobile banking services failing users

A new mobile banking report card that looked at the user friendliness of the mobile services offered by 29 of the nation's largest retail banks and some smaller regional ones found several below average or failing.

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A new mobile banking report card that looked at the user friendliness of the mobile services in the US, offered by 29 of the nation's largest retail banks and some smaller regional ones, found several below average or failing.

At the same time, several regional banks topped the list with As, while several large nationwide banks fell below failing for not even having a mobile banking application at the time grades were compiled this summer.

The banks were graded by ABI Research for several factors, including how easy it was for potential customers to discover information on a bank's mobile banking services.

ABI also looked at how accessible the mobile banking application was. For example, some banks only offered mobile banking via one device, such as an Apple iPhone, or only via text messages instead of through an Internet application or a downloadable application.

Factors such as the bank's breadth of mobile services were assessed, including whether the service only allowed checking an account balance, or provided for transferring funds between accounts or even paying bills. Security was also assessed, but not the type and reliability of the security. Instead, banks were rated on how informed customers were of their security, said Mark Beccue, an ABI analyst.

Since it was the first report card after mobile banking first appeared on the scene two years ago, Beccue said some banks are only "dipping their toes" into mobile banking, and might get failing marks as a result. "I would point out that while an F is bad, at least [they] tried," he said.

Some major banks such as Citizens Bank, Comerica, HSBC and KeyBank had no mobile banking offering at the time of the grading, earning a slight chastisement from Beccue. (Keybank has since said it will be rolling out a mobile banking application.)

"Big banks don't want to follow the others like lemmings falling off a cliff, but everybody should realize by now that mobile banking is the wave of the future," he said.

Beccue said Bank of America, which earned a B+ grade with Chase, has said that online and mobile banking are even seen as a way to trim costs.

Topping the list of 29 banks with A marks were several regional and two nationwide banks: BB&T, Eastern Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Northeast Bank, USAA (for military members and their families) and Wells Fargo.

After the B+ awarded to Bank of America and Chase were B marks for Capital One, US Bank and Huntington Bank.

C marks went to America First, Bancorp Sourth, Citibank, PNC and Wachovia (which is part of Wells Fargo).

D marks were give to Carolina First, First Bank, IBC Bank, Mercantile Bank, Regions, SunTrust, and Synovus.

Fs were given to M&T and Provident Bank. M&T Bank only offered text mobile banking for students and workers and was "horrible" at giving information, Beccue said.

Provident Bank failed because it only offered mobile banking via an iPhone app, and the only information about the offer was provided on iTunes, Beccue said.

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