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Which bank is best for mobile banking?

In a constantly evolving digital space, do banking apps measure up to our technological expectations? Who is currently providing the best service and who is looking to the future with their mobile banking app?

Smartphones and banking go hand in hand

Mobile banking has been on the up and up for a number of years now and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. AIB for example, recently stated that 850,000 customers use the AIB Mobile Banking App on an average daily basis, and this figure is up 20% year on year. Mobile transaction volumes with the bank have also been growing rapidly, up 39% in H1 2018 Vs the same period in 2017.

With a huge 81% of us now using smartphones, and 84% stating that the internet is the first place we look when we need information; it’s safe to assume that many of us are conducting internet banking via our phones and other smart devices.

In fact, 56% of us prefer, when given the opportunity, to do a task digitally. When the demand for smart digital solutions to everyday tasks is so high, how have banks reacted when it comes to personal financial needs?

Do banking apps cut the mustard?

For many of us (and particularly for those of us on the go) our first port of call when it comes to internet banking is our financial institution’s app.

At the very least, we’ve come to expect that banking apps should enable us to carry out basic banking needs such as checking balances, making payments, transferring money between accounts, managing direct debits, standing orders and so on.

But for the tech-savvy amongst us, we want to know who is really upping the ante when it comes to app utility. In other words, which financial institution is offering the best forward-thinking digital solutions to your banking needs?  

Below we have compiled a table that compares the apps of Ireland’s 5 major banks. Take a look:

AIB

Bank of Ireland

Ulster Bank

KBC

Permanent TSB

Mobile App

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Apple Pay

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Google Pay

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

FitBit Pay

No

No

No

Yes

No

Garmin Pay

No

No

No

Yes

No

Contactless

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mobile Top Up

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Bonus Features

View up to 2 balances without logging in.  

Make SEPA and International Payments to existing payees.

Get emergency cash when your card is lost/stolen.

Exclusive Online Savings accounts available.

Send emergency cash to others.

For the most part, every bank is offering the same services with small variations here and there; for instance, AIB’s handy one-touch balance check is a nifty little feature that embodies the spirit of convenience that characterises technological drive and innovation. 

Who comes out on top?

Banks are starting to come around to the fact that customers want more from their apps aside from basic functionality, particularly when it comes to convenience. Out of Ireland's five major banks, KBC has really led the pack on this one - evidencing the most digitally forward-thinking app, providing not only Google Pay and Apple Pay but also FitBit Pay and Garmin Pay for those tech-savvy fitness fanatics on top of the usual features we have come to expect from a banking app.  

In late 2016 it became one of the first banks (along with AIB) to bring Google Pay to Ireland. Then in March of 2017, it was first again (along with Ulster Bank this time) to bring Apple Pay to Irish customers. It followed this up with FitBit Pay and Garmin Pay in the following months for fitness tracker wearers. All of these applications allow smartphone and fitness tracker users to pay for items online or at check-outs by simply tapping their phone to a point-of-sale terminal; the endpoint in technologically assisted customer convenience. 

This isn’t surprising, as KBC has stressed its commitment to a digital-first strategy in the past and strives to deliver an “always-on 24/7 accessibility” for its customers as part of it.

In 2016, it also became the first bank in Ireland to allow customers to open a new current account online and in autumn 2017 it followed this move up with a new app that allows new customers to open an account via their smartphones in just 5 minutes. Both moves proved to be highly successful; an outcome which falls in line with the above statistic that mentioned that people predominantly prefer to perform a task digitally, given the option.  

Most recently, in March 2018, KBC announced a new feature on its app that allows customers to apply for personal loans of up to €20,000 with one-hour approval. 

The other banks have started to catch up but they've been somewhat slow to do so. 

AIB only just matched KBC's app feature allowing customers to open a new account via its mobile banking app this month and Permanent TSB also made in-app personal loan approval up to €25,000 possible earlier this month.  

Prepaid cards; the real mobile banking innovators?

Of all of the products that we provide comparison services for here on bonkers.ie, customers seem to be the most reluctant to switch current accounts and when we ask why the answer is nearly always the same; "all the banks are the same" being the general refrain. Though the above exploration shows that there have been some efforts made in digital innovation in the last couple of years, more and more we're finding that it's actually not the banks who are making the biggest strides in this area... it's financial technology or "fintech" start-ups that are making the biggest splash. 

Prepaid money cards (and their mobile apps) have moved up quite considerably in the world from where they were just a few years ago. Previously mainly only purchased as gift cards or for international travel, some prepaid cards now offer all of the features (and more) that you'd get from a traditional current account and often without many of the associated fees! 

We frequently get customers recommending the virtues of fintech apps like Revolut and N26 as the most preferable way to manage daily financial transactions. The reason they're becoming so popular is that they offer intuitively and beautifully designed, easy to use apps that give customers features like up-to-the-minute spending analytics broken down by category or retailer, push notifications, fee-free transactions, fee-free currency conversation and innovative savings options like Revolut's clever "Vaults" feature. 

See what all the fuss is about with this quick comparison of the best prepaid cards available on the market right now.  

I love tech, should I switch?  

Though technological innovation that enables utility and convenience in banking sure is cool, one should always consider the many other factors that are likely to influence and determine which bank is best for your unique financial needs.

For instance, you might want to familiarise yourself with different bank policies on withdrawal fees or the rules for fee-free banking before making any decisions.

Whatever you decide to do, always be sure to compare offers in advance.


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