Although the shift to online banking started long before the pandemic, COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the transition from in-person banking to digital. According to a study from Fidelity, mobile banking registrations jumped 200% in April 2020, while physical bank traffic dropped by 50%. Furthermore, according to a survey from Insider Intelligence, 89% of U.S. respondents now say they use mobile banking services, and 70% claim that mobile banking is the primary way they access their accounts. This same study projects that the percentage of digital banking customers in the U.S. will continue to grow. As firms compete for these new digital customers, one area is emerging as a difference maker: Spanish language options on banking websites and apps.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that 13% of the population uses Spanish as their primary language at home. Furthermore, according to a study from MRI-Simmons’ National Consumer Study, Hispanic customers prioritize service in Spanish (second only to branch location) when selecting a bank. In order to cater to this significant portion of the population, an increasing number of traditional banks have incorporated language preferences into their secure desktop sites and mobile apps.

Banks and fintechs are incorporating language preferences in their websites and mobile apps

In a 2022 CI study analyzing the account opening and onboarding customer journey, our research showed that several firms in our data set—Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Capital One, Citi, Chase and PayPal—offer a Spanish language option on their secure desktop site. Banks do well when they make the Spanish version easy to find. To locate language preferences on secure desktop sites, most firms keep it simple, requiring customers to click one or two links to reach language settings. Chase stood out for offering the most discernable process to change language settings: The Profile icon located in the header offers a dropdown menu with a link labeled “Español.” On the flip side, Citi’s language preferences were less easy to find. To switch to Spanish, customers must go through the firm’s public website or change language settings after login. Although not included in our coverage set, TD Bank additionally provides Spanish language capabilities for its customers; the firm introduced a new flyout menu on the authenticated site main navigation that enables customers to seamlessly switch between English and Spanish in March 2022. 

This screenshot shows Chase's spanish language pubic site homepage
Chase Spanish Language Public Site

To accommodate to the rapidly increasing number of mobile bankers, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Capital One also offer Spanish versions of the mobile app. Customers from all three firms are able to access language preferences through Security & Profile and Account Services & Settings screens within the apps. However, similar to their secure desktop sites, not all content—specifically cross-sells and promotions—within the mobile apps will convert from English to Spanish.

This screenshot shows Capitol One's spanish language mobile app
Capitol One Spanish Language App

Interestingly, out of the 11 fintech/neobank firms in CI’s data set, only PayPal offers a Spanish language option. PayPal is also unique in offering a variety of language options, including French and Chinese. While fintechs such as Venmo and SoFi are often only available in the U.S., they could still be losing out on a large portion of the population in the U.S. who want mobile-friendly banking services with Spanish language options. Although it was not included in this specific study’s coverage set, Dave additionally offers a Spanish language option; however, customers can only change their language preference on the mobile app. 

This screenshot shows language options from Paypal
Paypal’s Language Options

U.S. Bank offers a Spanish voice assistant; Wells Fargo and Klarna follow suit with Spanish-speaking VAs

U.S. Bank takes language accessibility a step further. Not only does the firm offer Spanish versions of their website and mobile app, U.S. Bank recently launched a Spanish language voice assistant in April 2022. Asistente Inteligente, the Spanish-language version of U.S. bank’s mobile app, allows Spanish-speaking customers to speak to or text their digital voice assistant in Spanish to complete a variety of tasks, such checking their balance and making payments. In its press release, the firm noted the importance of this new feature by referencing a Pew Research Center survey which stated that one quarter of Hispanic customers are “smartphone-only” when it comes to internet usage. This means that while customers may own or have access to a smartphone, they do not have wired broadband at home, emphasizing the importance of language availability on mobile apps.

Since then, Wells Fargo expanded its Virtual Assistant capabilities in September 2023 to include a Spanish-language feature; customers simply must set their language preference to Spanish in order to input requests by talking or typing to the VA in Spanish. Additionally, Klarna collaborated with OpenAI in March 2023 as one of the first companies to integrate the firm’s plugin for ChatGPT. Less than a year later, the Swedish fintech launched the OpenAI-powered VA globally to 23 markets and confirmed that the VA can speak a whopping total of 35 languages, including Spanish. In a recent study assessing Klarna’s VA capabilities, CI found that the fintech’s VA responses to tested questions in English and Spanish produced nearly identical results and similar call to actions. The VA operated seamlessly in Spanish and was able to respond to all client inquires—plus link to direct locations—in their preferred language; however, not all call-to-actions appeared in Spanish.  

Klarna Secure Site – Credit Card on File VA Chat

CI has previously noted the importance of customer service features in a 2020 report from our Banking research team that assessed interactive customer service experiences. Findings emphasized that servicing features, especially live chat, were necessary for banks to include within their customer service resources. This points to the relevance and necessity for more interactive Spanish language features like Asistente Inteligente.

For more on user best practices in financial services, check out our Insights section. And learn more about CI’s benchmarking studies and industry landscape analysis services.

Hayden Ginder

Hayden Ginder is an Analyst on CI's projects team.