April 2015: Online Applications – New Clients

This report analyzes new client checking account applications, focusing on the ease and clarity of the application process and on the account options that firms provide prior to application submission. We looked at 16 firms tracked by Bank Monitor that allow new clients to apply for bank accounts online. Specifically, we focus on the following:

  • Access and navigation
  • Application features
  • Account options

In this report, firms excel by providing a straightforward, comprehensive application. The best applications also include account customization options. These applications facilitate the selection of debit cards and rewards, and encourage users to open complementary accounts and register for overdraft protection – all prior to final submission of the application. The leader in this report provides an application process that includes live chat and allows clients to sign up for multiple accounts simultaneously. The firm also enables users to save and return to an application at a later time, and to sign up for a debit card. Most applications are easy to use and collect similar information. Thus, the primary differences lie in the quality of help firms provide and the different account options available to clients within the application.

Ten firms provide live chat within their applications, allowing users to connect to CSRs and resolve issues quickly. At each of these firms, chat is automatically pushed to users who have gone idle; most also include a link to initiate chat. One firm offered live chat to applicants at the time of our last report, but we were not prompted to chat during any of our recent tests, and the firm does not currently include a link on the page.

Eleven banks enable users to apply for multiple accounts with a single application. The most compelling applications go one step further, offering recommendations to applicants for accounts that complement a new checking account. Provided by 10 banks, these recommendations offer a secondary benefit to new applicants, as several firms allow them to use a simultaneously-opened savings account to set up linked-account overdraft protection for their new checking account.

Additional key findings include:

  • Eleven firms allow users to apply for more than one account with a single application.
  • Fourteen firms include a phone number to call for help.
  • All include a progress meter with the application.
  • Twelve accept funding via an ACH transfer from another bank.
  • Thirteen firms accept debit card payments for an initial deposit.