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PNC Bank Takes on Mint & Quicken with PNC Virtual Wallet

By Jim Bruene on July 14, 2008 6:53 PM | Comments (13)

image Just when you thought Mint, Wesabe, and Geezeo had a lock on all the headlines for Gen Y personal finance, along comes a truly inspired effort from a major U.S. retail bank. Furthermore, it's not from Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, or even ING Direct.

Pittsburgh, PA-based PNC Bank, the 15th-largest U.S. retail bank with $83 billion in deposits (see note 1), today launched a new online combo account called PNC Virtual Wallet.

The account comes with a checking account, bill payment, and two types of savings accounts. It also features several unique personal financial management features with an emphasis on functions most likely to appeal to a 20-something audience:

  • Cash flow: debit card, checking, online bill pay, financial calendar, recent transaction report
  • Savings: two types of savings accounts, automated savings options, wish list, and a random video-game-inspired savings tool called "punch the pig" (see below)

Finally, the account is priced well:

  • No fees (except $0.50 per written check after the first 3 per month and the usual penalty fees)
  • Free overdraft protection among linked accounts
  • 3% APY on the growth savings component
  • ATM-free rebate (but only if there's a $2000 average monthly balance in the checking account portion)

What's innovative? (note 2)

  • Package of three deposit accounts: Spend Account (e.g., checking), Reserve Account (e.g., savings) and Growth Account (e.g., high-yield savings or money market deposit account)
  • Ability to move money among the three accounts by moving a slider across the screen, called the Money Bar
  • Automated savings function called Savings Engine that allows users to set up time-triggered (e.g., once per week) or event-triggered (e.g., each debit card use) automatic savings transfers
  • Savings game called Punch the Pig, a video-game-inspired savings gimmick: Each time the pig appears on screen, users can elect to "punch" it to automatically move money from checking to savings
  • Wish List with savings goals and progress reports

What can be improved?
Four areas that are noticeably absent, or at least not mentioned:

  • Mobile functionality, especially text banking and alerts
  • Online customer support: Customer can apply online through the Andera-powered app; however, there is no link to any online-support options such as chat, IM, text, or even a Web-based input form or old-school email address
  • Social aspects: forums, reviews, blogs, or even testimonials (note 4)
  • Credit: credit cards, line of credit, auto loans, and so on

The website design is impressive and very un-banklike, yet it lacks some basics:

  • No demo: There are several Flash instructional videos that show most of the key features, but there is no all-encompassing demo for users wanting a tryout before buying.
  • Lame homepage videos: Granted, I'm not in the Gen Y target market so I could be wrong, but if I think the videos are lame, what do you think a 22-year-old will make of them? I say lose the "man on the street videos" or reshoot them in a less-scripted manner. 
  • Extensive FAQs: The FAQs need to be expanded tenfold. Currently, only 16 questions and answers are up, but with so many unique features, that number doesn't come close to answering many basic questions, such as "Are there account alerts?" or "What's the rate of interest on the reserve account" (note 3), or "How long are transactions stored?"

PNC Bank virtual wallet homepage (14 July 2008)

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet home 14 July 2008

Explanation of "Punch the Pig" savings feature

PNC Bank Punch the Pig feature in VirtualWallet 14 July 2008

Notes:
1. Deposits as of 31 Dec 2007; deposits were up 25% compared to $66 billion as of year-end 2006.

2. PNC has applied for a patent on the account and tools.

3. Eventually, I did find a link to interest rates and fees on the "how to apply" page

4. See Online Banking Report on Social Personal Finance for more info

Comments (13)

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13 Comments

Add to your "What can be improved list" a link from the front page. I'm a PNC customer and I couldn't find a speck of mention on the home page. Even a search for "virtual wallet" from the main page came up blank.

I assume there's some customer segmentation at play, but c'mon. I had to use the Netbanker link to find this. If you're going to do something interesting, give your existing customers a shot at it.

It's nice to see a bank who's at least thinking about people in their 20s. That said, it's just so far from complete.

On Mint, we see that 55% of our users have student loans. 95% have accounts with other institutions (i.e. somewhere besides PNC). Until banks provide an elegant system for pulling all your information together in one place, accurately showing your spending and cashflows so that you budget and save, and show you (objectively) ways you can save money, I'm not too worried.

Aaron Patzer
Founder & CEO, Mint.com

Our release date to the public is not slated till July 22nd.

Virtual Wallet is only open to a select market at this current time.

Thanks for the plug Aaron!

That's exactly what Jwaala does for banks, basically the ability to have their own, in house, superMint.

"Until banks provide an elegant system for pulling all your information together in one place."

- could not have said it better myself.

That's what banks need, and that's what Jwaala provides. And unlike Mint, we love banks and credit unions at Jwaala :)

As Ben mentioned above, having a link to this new website at pnc.com is important. One reason that may not be apparent is that it's a useful way to ensure a website is legit. Fraudsters can easily create a website that looks official and claim it's affiliated with some bank. I always check the fdic.gov's database which shows the bank's official URL.

I would like the fdic.gov to create a URL database which would hold all of the bank's URLs (not just their main ones). People could just copy and paste in a URL into a simple form, and the FDIC could tell you if it's registered as one of the bank's official URLs. This would allow customers to easily verify a URL before they apply online. I've sent my request to them last year, but there hasn't been any action.

As a 26 year old, I find the effort by PNC to be welcoming but as Aaron and a few others mentioned, it's far from being the whole package necessary for people to be able use this as part of their day to day lives.

Yo! Thanks for all the pointers! Now, two weeks later, Virtual Wallet is up and running in all markets (nationwide) and receiving rave reviews, even from the not-so-20ish-crowd. This product appeals to everyone who likes online banking, everyone who wants wait- and hassle-free transfers from high-yield savings to daily transactional accounts, and lots of other demographic groups, too. You can now chat live with a consultant from 9am until 9pm Monday through Friday eastern time, and once you're logged into online banking you can get help simply by sending a secured email request. Additionally, PNC does proactive consultations, so as a Virtual Wallet account holder you can expect to have at least one conversation annually that will bring to light your other financial needs (i.e., credit products, student loans, CDs, etc). What else can we do to make it better? (P.S.: Have you checked out the PNC stock price yet? What are you waiting for to get on board???)

I actually like the concept of Virtual Wallet and may even consider signing up, even though I'm not the target audience.

I'm curious about HOW Virtual Wallet is being marketed to these Gen Y'ers. A quick scan of Facebook (though my profile won't match their target), MySpace, Twitter et al. doesn't reveal a massive reach about the service. However as of today (8/5/8) I see some Digg requests for the press release, and a few twitter posts, nothing on reddit, not many stumbles, a few banking industry related blog reviews....
I'm just curious. Maybe they'll have a large presence on campuses over the coming weeks.

Back to the enrollment process and comparing to Mint and Jwaala.

This is a joke! E*Trade had tools like these already, and free transfers, and Cash Optimizer. I don't know what they're going to patent, but they're far from the first. I've been using them for years and their website is the best banking website of any bank I've banked with. And, when you travel, E*Trade doesn't charge ANY fees above what VISA charges.

Until they offer aggregation of all accounts in one place like Mint, refund of non-PNC ATM fees and the same interest rate on the short term savings as on the growth account, I'm not switching. I wish they just offered something along the lines of Jwaala.

hey everyone i just signed up yesterday....nov. 17 for the virtual wallet. and today when i tried to log in and it brought me to the wallet. now when i signed out called pnc because it said something about missing a key component got it resolved but now when i log in it brings me to pnc online banking not the wallet. so what should i do? i don't feel like calling pnc again. now someone better have a good answer lol.

i am a pnc customer, and i tried to get virtual wallet- after a month or so of waiting, five or six phone calls from and to pnc's online banking team, it still wasn't working AT ALL. i just couldn't access the functions in any way. i finally had them remove it totally so i can go back to my old online banking. i might try to add it later, but for now, i just don't have the time.

My wife and I tried it because he interest rate was pretty good and it seemed pretty neat. Unfortunately, after 7 years married, we had already worked out a reliable savings system using Quicken. It's a shame because I probably would have liked it when I was single.

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