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Best Banks and Credit Unions for Mobile Banking

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Happy young female student depositing check through mobile phone

Mobile banking is making tracking finances or paying bills using only a smartphone easier and easier. The next time you open a bank account, how can you be sure you’re getting an online banking experience and a mobile app that will allow you to manage your checking or savings account with a minimum amount of hassle?

NerdWallet looked at the mobile experience of about two dozen of the biggest financial institutions in the country. Here’s a look at the apps we liked best, and why.

Best App for Frequent Check Cashers: Ally Bank

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Ally Bank often shows up in NerdWallet’s lists of favorite online banks. Ally knows its market and delivers a stellar tech experience. In the mobile realm, a few extras make the bank stand out — like the fact that you can search your recent transactions, rather than scrolling through a static list. Ally also deserves props for offering a mobile check deposit service with one of the highest daily limits around — $50,000. Nobody else on our list even came close.

Best Experience for International Travelers: HSBC Bank

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This banking giant’s well-rounded app has all the standard features: an ATM locator, plus the ability to check balances, see recent transactions and make mobile check deposits and bill payments. It makes our list of favorites because of its friendliness to international travelers, allowing users to complete transactions outside the U.S.

Best Mobile Banking App for Budgeters: PNC Bank

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PNC’s mobile app is a solid tool for managing money on the go, offering person-to-person payments and compatibility with less-popular devices like Kindle Fire and BlackBerry. But it’s the money management tools that really shine. PNC Virtual Wallet helps users track spending and stick to a budget. For people with at least $50,000 in a PNC investment account, the PNC Total Insight tool allows customers to link non-PNC banks, so they can view savings accounts, checking accounts and investments held elsewhere all in the same place.

Best ATM and Branch Integration: BMO Harris Bank

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BMO Harris Bank might just be the best choice for people who want a great mobile experience without losing their connection to bricks-and-mortar branches. Nearly every mobile banking app has an ATM or branch locator tool, but BMO Harris customers can also use the app to make an appointment with a real live human at a branch office. Even better, the cool Mobile Cash feature lets users withdraw money from some ATMs using their phones instead of a debit card.

Best Mobile Credit Union Experience: Alliant Credit Union

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Alliant Credit Union’s app checks all the usual boxes — ATM locator, transaction history, bill payments and notifications — but dominates in a couple of key categories, mobile depositing and management tools. There’s an unusually high daily limit of $20,000 for depositing checks. In addition, the charts and graphs on the Money Management Tool let users analyze their spending habits and keep tabs on budget categories.

Summary

Here’s a breakdown of key mobile banking features for each of the selected financial institutions:

Institution Best for customers who want … Room for improvement
Alliant CU A high mobile check deposit limit and a snazzy spending tracker with charts and graphs
  • Notifications more cleanly integrated with mobile app
Ally A best-in-show mobile check deposit feature and searchable transaction history
  • Budgeting tools
Bank of America The ability to make appointments at a branch via an award-winning mobile app
  • Spending tracker
Bank5 Connect A flexible bank with an evolving mobile app
  • Budgeting tools
BB&T A good text banking service, in English or Spanish
  • A fully functional person-to-person payment system
BMO Harris Ability to schedule appointments at a branch, get cash quickly at ATMs and see linked financial accounts from other institutions
  • A person-to-person payment system
Capital One 360 A well-rounded online bank with a strong all-around mobile app
  • The person-to-person payment feature was hard to use and has been temporarily suspended
Chase A good central place to manage their Chase bank and credit card accounts
  • Budget tracking
  • Smartwatch app
Citibank Smartwatch compatibility, plus the option to see account balances without logging in through the Citi Mobile Snapshot tool
  • Increased speed
  • Improvements to smartwatch app
Compass An award-winning app with sophisticated bill payment capabilities
  • Clearly published mobile check deposit limits
Connexus CU A credit union experience with basic mobile functionality
  • A person-to-person payment platform
Consumers CU A credit union with a tidy budgeting feature in its mobile app
  • iOS compatibility for the budgeting feature
  • Improved person-to-person payments
Discover Bank A good basic app that rewards loyalty by increasing the options for longtime customers
  • A person-to-person payment platform
HSBC The ability to manage your bank account while traveling abroad
  • Enhanced bill pay, including ability to set up a new payee or change a transaction
Nationwide A respectable daily check deposit limit and the ability to search transactions
  • A person-to-person payment platform
Navy FCU An unusually high check deposit limit and buddies who are also Navy FCU members
  • A person-to-person payment platform not limited to credit union members
Pentagon FCU Full integration of PenFed accounts, including mobile payments for mortgages and credit cards
  • A person-to-person payment platform
PNC Sophisticated budgeting and wealth-management tools
  • Wealth-management tools for customers without high balances
SunTrust To get a quick glimpse of current balances without signing on
  • Improved transaction history display
TD Bank The ability to see credit card, bank and loan accounts all in one place
  • Higher daily mobile deposit limit, especially for new account holders
Union Bank All the must-haves without anything extra
  • An improved person-to-person payment system
U.S. Bank Photo Bill Pay, which lets you pay a paper bill electronically by snapping a picture
  • A free mobile deposit service
Wells Fargo Access to Wells Fargo bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages and rewards accounts
  • Smartwatch app

Comparing key features

Institution Person-to-person transfers Mobile check deposit daily limits Bill pay
Alliant CU Yes, powered by Paypal $20,000 Yes
Ally Yes, via PopMoney $50,000 Yes
Bank of America Yes $10,000 Yes
Bank5 Connect Expected release date: October 2015 $2,500, but limits are raised over time Yes
BB&T No $2,500 Yes, including reimbursement of fees if scheduled payments don’t arrive on time
BMO Harris No $5,000 Yes
Capital One 360 Temporarily suspended $5,000 Yes, including reimbursement of fees if scheduled payments don’t arrive on time
Chase Yes, via Chase QuickPay $2,000 Yes
Citibank Yes, via PopMoney $1,000 Yes
Compass Yes, via PopMoney $5,000 Yes, including Picture Bill Pay where you can upload a photo of a paper bill
Connexus CU No $2,500 Yes
Consumers CU Only between credit union members $5,000 Yes
Discover Bank No $5,000; can get around deposit limits by having both a checking and a savings account Yes
HSBC Yes $3,000 Yes, but you can’t set up a new payee with the app
Nationwide No $10,000 Yes
Navy FCU Only between credit union members $10,000 Yes
Pentagon FCU No $5,000 Yes
PNC Yes, via PopMoney $2,500 Yes
SunTrust Yes, via PopMoney $5,000 Yes
TD Bank Yes, via PopMoney $2,500 Yes
U.S. Bank Yes, via PopMoney $2,500, with a $0.50 fee per deposit Yes
Union Bank Yes, via Send Money by Paypal $5,000 Yes
Wells Fargo Yes $2,500 Yes

Methodology

We looked at the 15 largest banks by assets and eliminated those without a significant retail banking presence. We also included financial institutions in the country’s five largest metro areas and several of the largest online-only banks that offer a full suite of checking and savings products. We rounded off the list with some of the country’s biggest credit unions with broad-based membership requirements.

Financial institutions surveyed included Alliant Credit Union, Ally, Bank of America, Bank5Connect, BB&T, BMO Harris Bank, Capital One 360, Chase, Citibank, Compass Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, HSBC, Nationwide, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.

Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.

Updated June 30, 2015.


Image via iStock.


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