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What Makes a Bank’s Web Site Easy to Use?


What Makes a Bank’s Web Site Easy to Use?

What are the features that make a bank’s web site easy to use? With more and more banking activities being done online, this issue is growing in importance. This is one of the questions the Change Sciences Group sought to answer when it compared thirteen top consumer bank web sites for usability, engagement and conversion. Ally Bank and USAA Bank tied for the top sites in this user experience study. According to this summary of the study:

For both sites, people cited the ease of finding account details and access to tools that provided immediate value as important drivers behind their greater reported likelihood to apply for an account. When looking for bank accounts, transparency in account details and tools that provide value have a big influence on how likely people are to take action.

As someone who’s always looking for the best bank deal, I have a few opinions about what makes a bank’s web site easy to use. It’s frustrating to come across a bank web site where you can’t find important information. Here’s a list of some things I expect to easily find at a bank’s web site:

  • interest rates for both new and existing customers - I’m still amazed that there are so many banks that don’t list their rates on their web sites. One internet bank lists its savings account rate for new customers, but it doesn’t list the rate for existing customers. This is misleading since new customers may not realize that the rate listed is just an intro rate. Also, existing customers may not realize their rates have fallen.
  • Fees including CD early withdrawal penalties - It’s common for banks to use the phrase "early withdrawal penalties may apply" at the bottom of their rate tables. Why not just include a few sentences to actually specify the penalties? Or at the very least they should include a link pointing to where those details can be found. Unfortunately, it’s common for banks to make it difficult to find this information.
  • account disclosure - This should be easily accessible online before you apply. There have been a few internet banks that appear to assume you’ll only want to see the disclosure after you apply for the account.
  • account application details - One important detail is who eligible to apply. Is it available to people in any state? Or is it limited to only certain states? The start of the application should also inform users about account options like the types of accounts that can be opened (trusts, custodial, etc.) and the number of beneficiaries that can be designated. Additional details should inform users of requirements for these options. For example, banks should list what’s required to designate beneficiaries (some banks require the social security numbers of beneficiaries).
  • details about managing the account - One of the most basic issue of account management is the process of depositing and withdrawing funds. The banks should clearly disclose the different options for moving your money and the limits for each option. For a savings account, ACH bank-to-bank transfer procedures and limitations should be described. For a CD, the requirements to close the CD and the options to receive the funds should be described. You don’t want to learn that the bank requires a written withdrawal request for your CD on the last day of your CD grace period.

I see Ally Bank does a good job at many of the above items. Each of its products has a useful web page which lists the interest rates, and for the CDs, the early withdrawal penalties are right below the rate tables. In addition, there are links pointing to the Straight Talk Product Guides which summarize the deposit agreement in just a couple of pages. There’s a link to the full deposit agreement at the top of each Straight Talk Product Guide. The product pages also include a useful FAQ section that describes many account application and management details. If you can’t find an answer to your question in this FAQ section, there’s a link to the help center which has additional FAQs like "How do I receive my money when my Certificate of Deposit (CD) matures?"

What features of a bank web site are important to you?

Related Pages: Ally Bank, Salt Lake City, USAA Bank, San Antonio

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Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
While I appreciate a website which functions with ease and efficiency, I still like to have one contact individual at each institution who I can count on to ensure that transactions are handled in a timely manner---often while I am on the phone with them.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #2
"I see Ally Bank does a good job at many of the above items."
That's why the online only bank is so popular. Their web site is functionally smooth and easy to maneuver in.  Other banks should follow the Ally example.
Rob   |     |   Comment #3
How about not needing to keep track of 5 passwords to log in? 
pinkterror   |     |   Comment #4
i appreciate the 1,2,4,5th points from the OP.  I also like it when I don't have to jump through a lot of hoops to get to my account.
i also like it when the accounts load up easily and fast.  (i HATE PNC's virtualwallet...it's so clunky...i just want to see my balance and maybe get to my statements...i don't need so many bells and whistles. KISS works)
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #5
I agree totally with pinkterror.  KISS and just the basics.  I absolutely DETEST banking websites which inflict upon visitors the institution's idea of what's useful.  Most of it is unvarnished CRAP!!  I want my account details and easy navigation to other features.  I do NOT want advertising for various of the institution's offerings.

By this standard, by far the best banking website out there is owned by Alliant Credit Union.  It's fast, straightforward, and simple.  My fear is that some jackass will be hired by Alliant who convinces them to modify what is the best banking website in the industry.  You cannot improve on the best.  I hope Alliant realizes that.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #7
I agree Alliant is my favorite too!  To bad they were not on the list that was evaluated.  Did anyone else go check out the site this came from.  You want $4999.00 to download the research LOL.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #8
Alliant site does not allow you to nickname your CD's. (PenFed does) For one example, that is helpful for tracking the tax year on transferred  IRA CD's
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #9
PenFed  site also allows you to view your POD beneficiaries on each account.  Most other banks and credit union sites do not have this feature.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #10
I'm a member both of Alliant AND Penfed.  I really like both credit unions.

But when it comes to "quality of website", Alliant's streamlined offering totally creams PenFed.

It's not even close.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #11
I agree.  Like Penfed, Alliant also lets you view your beneficiaries on your accounts. 
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #12
Penfed does not allow me to view bene on accounts...they had to snail mail to me so that I could verify "all their mistakes" in entry...only owners are listed.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #6
Hello, Ken.  I want to address your issue, to wit:  banks oftentimes fail to provide important information on their websites.

You must bear in mind you are an incredibly knowledgeable consumer where banking is concerned.  And thanks to your blog, many of your readers are not too far behind you.  After all, most of us visit here to learn from the master.

Thing is, banking potentates don't necessarily want to deal with people like you and your readers.  They make much more money engaging with "low information" customers.  So it goes "against the grain" for (at least) some banking pooh-bahs to reveal too much on-line . . . . . or even when you visit the bank!  They would rather ensnare customers first, and worry about any possible "problems" later, after the customer is hooked.