For decades, financial institutions have followed a formula: Open a branch. Supply coffee, ATMs and tellers. Spice up the decor as needed. Then, do it again.
But nowadays, banks and credit unions nationwide are feeling pressured to woo customers through a more convenient channel: mobile banking.
While it’s hard to get excited about logging into a mobile banking app, you would likely appreciate an experience that helps you quickly complete pesky financial tasks and stay informed on your money’s comings and goings. An easy-to-use app may, in fact, become one more reason why you stay put with a bank or credit union.
The most impressive mobile banking apps will save you time on basic tasks, like depositing checks and finding nearby ATMs. The best banks to work with will also help you take more control of your money habits through less common features in their apps, like an early payday or warning you about the risk of overdrawing your account.
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Best Mobile Banking Apps for 2021
- Chase Bank: Best for automated savings features
- Bank of America: Best for virtual assistance
- USAA: Best for automated savings and automated assistant
- Alliant Credit Union: Best for seeing visuals of your money patterns
- Huntington Bank: Best for predictive money tools
- Chime: Best for early payday and automated savings
- Varo: Best for early payday and competitive savings yield
Best mobile banking apps
Here are some of the top bank, challenger bank and credit union mobile apps available for downloading on your mobile devices.
Chase Bank: Best mobile banking app for automated savings features
The big bank that offers a well-reviewed mobile app and continues to pepper it with all kinds of tools and features.
Like many apps, you can take care of the basics, such as checking your balance and depositing checks with your camera.
You can also take advantage of some edgier features on the Chase app. For instance, you can tell the app to move $100 into your savings every time your checking account gets a deposit that is more than $1,000 — this is a step up from an average automatic bank transfer.
You can also use the bank app to display your spending and saving information on a non-ledger interface. In “today’s snapshot,” the app will illustrate how much you’re spending and saving over set periods of time. Think of it as a “Mint lite” to make it easier to understand how you’re doing at a glance. Unexpected bonus? There, you can answer a trivia question — virtual confetti included when you get it right.
The app also lets you add external accounts.
Read Bankrate’s review of Chase Bank.
Standout features: Automated savings features and daily trivia.
Bank of America: Best mobile banking app for virtual assistance
Like Chase, Bank of America offers a mobile app that stands out from peers, including the way you can find information.
Back in 2018, Bank of America made an industry splash by rolling out Erica, a virtual assistant, in its app. Erica can answer your financial questions rather than require you to hunt for the information. The assistant can find specific transactions for you and caution you when it thinks you’re at risk of making your account balance dip below zero. Erica even answers coronavirus-related queries.
The mobile app gives customers the ability to save time when they visit a branch. On the app, you can schedule an appointment with a bank specialist, for example.
To help improve your savings habits, you can enroll in its “keep the change” program. The program rounds up your debit card purchases and automatically moves that money into your savings account on a daily basis that you can track from the app.
Expect staples, too. The app will let you pay back friends, deposit checks, get alerts and more.
In February, the bank announced roughly 70 percent of its consumer clients are digitally active.
Read Bankrate’s review of Bank of America.
Standout features: Virtual assistant.
USAA: Best mobile banking app for automated savings and automated assistant
The San Antonio, Texas-based institution that serves military members and their families has long been regarded as a digital banking leader and for good reason: USAA, which pioneered mobile deposit capture technology, continues to roll out features that help on-the-go types.
Like Bank of America, a standout feature on the USAA app is its automated assistant. Members can ask USAA’s assistant questions by typing in their queries or asking them out loud just as they might with Siri.
Members can also use USAA’s technology to kick-start a savings habit. If you enroll in its text savings tool, USAA will move small amounts of money (from $1 to $9) from your checking into your savings account every few days. You can also automatically save a portion of your deposits and tax refund, as well as get a score on your overall financial health.
If you want to give feedback to inform product development, join its pilot program. The institution would like to listen to your wish list.
With the app, you will have access to transaction staples, too, such as sending money to friends and paying bills.
Read Bankrate’s review of USAA.
Standout features: Automated savings and automated assistant.
Alliant Credit Union: Best mobile banking app for seeing visuals of your money patterns
While Alliant’s mobile app isn’t the edgiest, it offers the banking essentials (like viewing your transaction history and letting you deposit checks). It also goes a couple steps further than rivals. On the app, you can use a personal financial tool to visualize your spending patterns. You can also view your account balance without logging into the app — useful for times when you’re wondering if you have enough money in your account while standing in, say, a short grocery line. In the app, you can also click to replace your payment card if it’s gone missing.
Alliant is primarily a digital-only credit union, and it’s easy to become a member. Supporting the credit union’s partner charity, Foster Care to Success, will qualify you for membership.
Standout features: Visuals of your money patterns.
Huntington Bank: Best mobile banking app for predictive money tools
The regional bank’s mobile banking app has everything you need. Mobile deposit capture? Check. The ability to see your balance with a single tap? Check. ATM finder? Check.
From there, it gets more interesting. Through Huntington Heads Up, you will get messages if and when a merchant accidentally charges you twice for the same bill, warnings if you’re in danger of overdrawing your account and alerts when a subscription charge hits.
You can also get budgeting tools. On the app, you can establish budgets for spending categories, like groceries. Then, the bank will send you a report on how well you did with your budget at the end of the month.
The regional bank topped J.D. Power’s 2020 ranking of U.S. regional banking mobile apps for overall customer satisfaction.
Read Bankrate’s review of Huntington Bank.
Standout features: Predictive money tools.
Chime: Best Mobile Banking app for early payday and automated savings
The digital-only brand, which offers checking and savings accounts, has been growing rapidly. The challenger bank, which launched in 2014, said last year it had more than 8 million Chime accounts open.
Chime has all the key mobile banking basics you’ve come to expect. The app lets you deposit checks, find ATMs and take care of other ordinary banking tasks. But it offers more than most.
The challenger bank says its mission is “to make financial peace of mind a reality for everyone.” To that end, the Chime app offers several financial health-related tools. If you have a savings account through Chime, you can automatically move your spare change into it. You can also choose to always move 10 percent of your paycheck into savings. If you want to see non-Chime accounts in your digital account, you can. You can also get daily balance alerts.
If you deposit your paychecks into your Chime account, you have access to something rarer: the ability to get your paycheck up to two days early. You can also overdraw your account — and not pay an overdraft fee — if you’re short on cash and the bills are due.
While Chime designs the digital banking experience, it’s not a bank. The startup partners with The Bancorp Bank to hold your deposits.
Standout features: Early payday and automated savings.
Varo: Best mobile banking app for early payday and competitive savings yield
Varo, which offers checking and savings, made fintech history in 2020 by becoming a bank.
With the disruptor’s mobile banking app, you can: get a cash advance of up to $100, link your external bank accounts and get your payday a couple days early. Varo also makes available some automatic savings tool and will pay you a competitive yield.
Standout features: Early payday and competitive savings yield.
Other apps to consider
A growing list of financial institutions offer much more than a ledger of your spending and savings through their apps — it’s not just limited to the companies mentioned above. If you’re looking for a superior app from a traditional financial institution, consider U.S. Bank, Ally Bank, Bethpage Federal Credit Union and BBVA.
If you’re in the market for a new bank account paired with a great app, check out mobile-first options such as N26, Current and Dave Banking.
Recommended financial apps
A number of digital-only accounts to park your paycheck have launched in recent years. While not traditional bank accounts, these accounts pair with highly regarded mobile apps.
Some of our favorites are:
- Wealthfront: The robo-adviser offers a cash management account that pairs with a highly regarded mobile app. In the app, you can open an account, link other financial accounts to get advice, move money and more.
- Aspiration: The fintech company offers a cash management account that works with a mobile app that not only lets you pay back a friend or bill, but it also lets you see how you are affecting the planet by where you spend your money.
- Venmo: The popular service that lets you pay your friends back also offers a debit card that works with the app.
Other factors (and banking apps) to consider
Remember, even the best apps encounter glitches, and you may run into snags here and there regardless of the creator.
Also, don’t forget to think about all of your needs. Before committing to a new bank, look beyond its mobile app and research whatever other factors matter most to you. For example, look for fees it charges and what perks it pays. Here is Bankrate’s guide to the best checking accounts.
If you don’t want to dump your current bank to get a more intuitive app, you have another option. You can plug your bank account into another mobile app that suits your needs.