What does the bank of the future look like?

  @Money November 8, 2013: 3:58 PM ET
best banks money

Besides being able to chat with reps online, you should be able to instant-message with your bank via your phone soon too. Also, watch for ATMs with videochat capabilities.


Do you -- gasp! -- like your bank?

Surprising as it may seem, Americans are pretty happy with their financial institutions. According to a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey, customer satisfaction is back up as high as it was in 2007, before the financial crisis began. The nation's largest banks in particular have seen a big jump in customer ratings over the past year, narrowing the lead their smaller peers have long maintained.

Your growing contentment may be owed, at least partly, to the fact that banks have been working to improve client relations: "Many of the big banks are now offering person-to-person customer service at the same level that the smaller banks have in the past," says Jim Miller, J.D. Power's senior director of banking.

The largest depository institutions, he explains, have been pushing employees to build relationships, even to simply greet people with a smile.

Related: Smart saving and banking basics

Or maybe you like the new technological conveniences offered. In response to Americans' rapid adoption of web and mobile banking, banks of all sizes have been adding services in these areas -- like having customer reps available by instant-messaging and allowing check deposit via smartphone.

In fact, "institutions are rolling out mobile-banking features as soon as they can," says Mary Monahan, executive vice president of market research firm Javelin.

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But what about all the fees banks tacked on and hiked up post-2008? You can't have forgotten about those? Well, the J.D. Power data shows that consumers better understand what they're being charged, and Miller takes satisfaction in this realm to mean that you've accepted the fees as standard. So maybe you're not happy so much as ... resigned?

You need not give up so easily. MONEY's third annual quest to find the best banks in America -- which involved reviewing checking, savings, and CD terms from 58 of the nation's largest banks and credit unions -- uncovered a few atypical institutions that deserve your loyalty. Plus, industry gurus say there are some interesting new developments coming down the pike for retail depositors.

Here's what you can expect from banks of the future:

You'll get instant service. Besides being able to chat with reps online, says Alex Matjanec of MyBank Tracker.com, you should be able to instant-message with your bank via your phone soon too. Also, watch for ATMs with videochat capabilities (Bank of America is now trotting this out).

You won't need a debit card. Despite PayPal, Google, and Square's attempts at digital wallets -- which allow you to pay for purchases with a smartphone --"contactless" payment hasn't yet hit critical mass. Customers will be more likely to adopt it when their banks offer it, says Monahan.

Your storefront bank will go 2.0. Traditional banks will offer one set of terms for online-only customers -- higher rates, fewer fees -- and another for those who want to go into a branch, predicts MoneyRates.com's Richard Barrington. Fifth Third has already launched web-only accounts with better terms.

Your bank will play personal shopper. With every debit, your financial institution is creating a picture of your tastes. Now that banks can get in touch via your smartphone, expect them to start texting you deals from "partners" on products you're likely to buy, says Ajai Nagarkatte of financial services association and research firm BAI. To top of page

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