Big Banks Don’t Want to Help You Manage Money

Good news: the App Store is filled with apps hoping to make everyone’s financial life easier. Bad news: Big banks are trying to make it hard for you to use those apps.

If we lived in a world where we all looked out for each other, banks would promote services that help us, their customers, the most. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where the powerful try to tilt the rules in their favor.

People suffer when banks keep new services like Mint, Digit, Acorns, and Activehours from having timely access to customer bank transaction data. Such behavior is a symptom of an us-vs-them mindset, instead of one where we believe we’re all in this together.

While banks claim that they’re just looking out for customer safety by keeping data locked down, we wanted to hear what their customers thought about that. So, we surveyed people from hundreds of companies including Starbucks, the Apple Store, Home Depot, and Walmart. We heard from over 1000 average working people for their take on the way banks treat their data.

86% said they would choose a bank that shares their data with apps efficiently, over one that does not.

It’s actually in a bank’s best interest to work with new financial apps and service. Doing so can make their accounts more useful and more valuable. In fact, 86% of people surveyed said they would choose a bank that shares their data with apps efficiently, over one that does not. That’s a lot of people hunting for a better bank.

Apps like Activehours help people organize and manage their budgets so they can save money and avoid overdraft fees. For banks, this sounds like less profit. According to Bloomberg, in 2013, Banks and Credit Unions collected $31.9 billion in overdraft fees. With fintech apps cutting into those profits by helping people avoid bank fees, it’s understandable why banks wouldn’t want to be more helpful. Banks are digging their heels in to keep their predatory profits as high as possible. Eventually, we’ll all move to banks that work with the services that we want to use.

46% said their bank shouldn’t be allowed to charge fees when their transaction data is not being shared in a timely manner

In the good old days, banks profited because people didn’t have many financial options, but now, people have choices. They want their banks to either get on board with these changes or get out of the way. 46% of people surveyed said their bank shouldn’t be allowed to charge fees when their transaction data is not being shared in a timely manner, and 23% said the bank should compensate them when this happens.

That all seems pretty reasonable, especially considering the sneaky shit banks have been pulling on their customers. Wells Fargo was finally investigated after years of internal complaints about staff opening accounts without customer consent. It makes you wonder if there would have been a public outcry far sooner if everyone had an app like Mint and could see all their accounts in one easy to understand place. Maybe, then the scandalous practice would have been stopped immediately instead of after 11 years.

69% said they need apps to be able to see their transactions immediately instead of after a delay.

Of course, not all banks are blocking apps from using transaction data, some just share the data extraordinarily slowly. So, if you signed up to get an alert from an app when your bank balance is low, but the app doesn’t get accurate information until after you’ve overdrafted your account, then the banks have profited from holding onto your information. Of the bank customers we surveyed, 69% said they need apps to be able to see their transactions immediately instead of after a delay.

50% of Activehours users said the most important thing their bank could do for them was to allow apps to work well with them.

If banks are looking to profit in the long term, they need to work well with apps and services that want to utilize their data. 50% of Activehours users said the most important thing their bank could do for them was to allow apps to work well with them. That’s more than twice as many as the 22% who wanted free access to ATMs, or the 15% who said they preferred a debit card.

We’re about to see a change in the way big banks treat their customer’s data. At Activehours, we’re already beginning to work directly with a few particularly smart banks. The next wave is coming.