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?