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Mobile banking report cards in, some failing

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.

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 Inc. 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 for the type and reliability of the security. Instead, it was reviewed for how a user was informed how secure the application was, said Mark Beccue, an ABI analyst.

Since it was the first report card after mobile banking first came 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, making things appear worse than they are. “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 in Winston-Salem, N.C., Eastern Bank in Boston; Fifth Third Bank in Cincinatti; Northeast Bank in Lewiston, Maine; USAA in San Antonio, Tex. (for military members and their families); and Wells Fargo in San Francisco.

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