Users' Love/Hate Fintech Relationships

Dissatisfaction Runs Deeper than Robinhood

Hey all, Jason here.

Well, last week was certainly… interesting. There have been *more* than enough hot takes on the GameStop/Robinhood situation, with everyone from Elon Musk, late night hosts, to Ted Cruz and AOC weighing in.

I’m going to spare you another armchair analysis of this, though the developments last week did figure into my framing of this week’s issue, which takes a qualitative look at users’ “love/hate” relationships with fintech apps.

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Users’ Love/Hate Relationship with Fintech Apps

The tech press tends to present a fairly rosy picture of consumer fintech startups as the David vs. incumbent banking’s Goliath.

Startups are often portrayed as more “transparent,” consumer friendly, and technologically innovative, while big banks are the “bad guys,” tricking and taking advantage of their customers with subpar products and sneaky hidden fees.

I can’t wholly blame the mainstream tech media -- incumbent financial services companies (banks and non-banks alike) have done plenty to deserve their reputation of taking advantage of consumers, especially the most vulnerable (see: Wells Fargo).

And fintech startups, of course, actively encourage this narrative that they’re different, their products are ‘transparent’ and customer-centric. When stories that counter this narrative become too big to ignore, they will earn deserved critical press coverage: stories about Robinhood -- this week and previously -- demonstrate this, as well as Chime (ATM fees, outages) and Beam (customer unable to access their money, if not an outright scam).

Anyone who has actually worked in consumer financial services -- especially at a startup  -- knows how difficult building and operating these businesses is.

There are edge cases of edge cases; dev resources are always a limitation, even at the most well-funded company; and the backlog is prioritized not based on what customers complain about the most, but (usually) based on what has the biggest impact on revenue.

While companies have a plethora of data on what could be improved, unstructured data (reviews, feedback from customer service reps) often goes uncaptured or ignored in favor of data that is easily queried to build a business case. Not saying the latter is wrong, but that the two should be combined to contextualize product roadmap prioritization.

Looking at What Users Actually Have to Say

Last week, I drew on survey data to better understand how and why consumers use fintech apps.

This week, to complement that largely quantitative exercise, I sought out a qualitative data source: users’ app store reviews of a number of fintech apps.


I scraped and analyzed 20,000 user reviews for popular fintech and banking apps in the Google Play store: Robinhood, Chime, Cash App, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, and (as a ‘control’ of sorts) Chase.

The apps are rated on a 1-5 scale; I scraped 4,000 negative (1 or 2 star) and 4,000 positive (4 or 5 star) reviews for each app [edit: I actually scraped 2,000 negative and 2,000 positive per app, for a total of 20,000 reviews across the 5 apps I looked at.]

The star rating itself tends to be a poor indicator of satisfaction, as it is easily gamed by marketers (or, in the case of Robinhood, by asking Google to remove 1 star reviews).

I then analyzed the actual text of reviews to assess the relative frequency of types of complaints (or praise).


What the product promises

  • investing for everyone

  • commission-free trades

  • tools

  • first stock free

What users loved

What’s notable is even when looking at 4- and 5-star reviews, many still contain a complaint or suggestion. The overwhelming theme of favorable reviews is “easy” - clean and understandable UX and a “good way to learn how to trade.”

A typical positive review (emphasis added in all review quotes):

“App is easy to use and understand. I have learned more about stocks in last few weeks than i did a semester in economic class! Having fun and learning makes for a happy me! The trick is to not jump in all at once. We started small with a $50 buy in just to watch the patterns in various stock categories. Once we started really learning the platform, we invested a little more. This is not a get rich quick game. App is steady with no apparent glitches and keeps time with computer version. have fun.”

What users hated

The array of what users didn’t like is a bit more varied. We can assume that had Google not purged 100,000+ reviews, the top complaint would be clamping down on trading in specific securities (GME, AMC, etc.)

Setting aside this key but unusual circumstance, there are still plenty of things users dislike:

  • Customer service (a common complaint for all of the fintech startups I looked at)

  • not getting their promised free stock for referring other users

  • bugs, errors, and service being unavailable (crashes, service downtime, etc)

  • quality of research tools and charts (especially vs. Think or Swim)

  • delays or difficulty in accessing account balances

  • fees (Robinhood Gold, instant transfers)

A typical negative review:

“Good for beginners to get used to the market but is lacking some very simple and useful features such as price alerts, allowing stop loss and take profit orders simultaneously, or technical indicators on charts. Have had multiple issues with the app not being available in high volume volume trading days, resulting in losses. Plus it is very common for it to glitch out and show you missing money, only to update later to put it back with no indication as to what happened.”


What the product promises

  • no hidden fees

  • free overdraft up to $100

  • get paid two days early

What users loved

Like Robinhood and other fintech apps, users do love the ease of using Chime; it was by far the most common sentiment.

Early access to payroll deposit (though not necessarily 2 days) was mentioned nearly as frequently; Chime’s Credit Builder (secured credit card), SpotMe (overdraft facility) and “no fees” were also mentioned in positive reviews, though less frequently.

A representative positive review:

“Sometime late 2020 I was introduced to Chime by a family member. During that time I was using GreenDot which at that time I was fine with that corporation. I was very hesitate on switching since I been using GreenDot for over 2 years. I have to say that I am glad that I switched over to Chime. Not only does this bank have NO fee's, but you'll get your check faster and they offer a helping hand when you need extra money. Would highly recommend this corporation.”

What users hated

  • Non-responsive or unhelpful customer service

  • Chimebot (chatbot customer service)

  • Not actually getting paycheck early

  • SpotMe amount available changing without notice

  • Unable to deposit checks in mobile app (or checks refused)

  • Delays in when funds availability

  • Fees to deposit cash via Green Dot network

  • Fees to use certain ATMs

  • Transactions declined, fraud, service/app outages

  • Delays to receive debit or Credit Builder card

Much of users’ dissatisfaction is tied to the high expectations Chime set with its marketing - users who didn’t get their paycheck early, didn’t qualify for SpotMe overdraft (or the amount was lowered), or didn’t live near a free ATM and thus experienced what surely felt like a “hidden” fee.

App instability, non-responsive customer service, and policies restricting remote check deposit and funds availability also irked users.

A representative negative review:

I hate 6 things about chime. #1. I never get my pay check two days early like they advertise. #2. Their customer service sucks. #3. Forget about using zelle. #4. Chime atms really suck to find if you live in a small city. #5. You can't add money into your account from an atm. #6. Money transfers take forever.”

Cash App

What the product promises

  • “send, spend, save, and invest, no bank necessary”

  • “fastest and most accessible way to invest in stocks” (the lawyer in me cringes at these superlatives)

  • “fastest way to convert dollars to bitcoin”

What users loved

You guessed it; users overwhelmingly loved the simplicity and ease of use of Cash App (though this is a double edged sword - increasing the likelihood of sending money to the wrong person).

Second most frequently mentioned in positive reviews was the ability to invest in stocks; Bitcoin and merchant discounts (“Boosts”) were also mentioned in favorable reviews.

A typical positive review:

“Cash App has made it so easy to get and send money to friends and family, where it used to be a hassle for me to get and receive financial support when most needed. Even when I lost my card, the fact that I can link it to another card is so convenient. I recommend this to anyone who has the need for money in their life. I do suggest to unlink any other cards when not in use to avoid fraud, because it seems that that's the only way you leave yourself exposed.”

What users hated

Given the fairly narrow way most users interact with Cash App, what they disliked about it fell into a couple well defined categories.

  • Fraud / payment disputes. Cash App’s streamlined UX, so-called $Cashtags, and irreversible transactions have not gone unnoticed by scammers; NYTimes did a good story on this last October.

    The super low friction process of sending money also increases the likelihood of honest accidents - sending money to the wrong person - only for users to find out there’s no way to cancel or reverse the transaction.

  • Customer service. By far the most common complaint - that customer service is unresponsive or unhelpfully copy/pastes the same answers when they do respond.

  • Bugs / UX issues, particularly with scanning driver’s licenses during KYC onboarding.

A typical negative review:

“It was okay at first then someone sent me some money and after that cash app sent it to someone else that wasn't even in my contacts then I try to cancel it there was no option for that so I asked for a refund and it told me I have to wait for the other person to verify the refund it won't even give me any options of contacting this person so I just lost my money I tried to call customer service and it only gave me the same number I was calling

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

What the product promises

Some important context around the Marcus app: the products Goldman offers were built web-first rather than app-first as most all ‘fintech’ products are; the Marcus Insights (PFM) product is open to any user (don’t have to be a loan or savings customer).

That said, with Goldman launching a Marcus checking and robo-investing product this year, expectations for a full-featured app will increase - and it doesn’t seem like what they have in market now (for Google/Android at least) will cut it.

Currently, Marcus offers savings, personal loans, and a PFM product through its app.

What users loved

When the app actually worked, users praised the simple, elegant UX, and liked being able to see all of their accounts in one place (Insights feature). 

A typical positive review

“Slick looking app, I like it! Very user friendly. Navigation is intuitive. Adding financial institutions via Plaid is a bit clunky. Have not been able to add several accounts. This matter keeps the app at 4 stars out of 5, instead of 5 stars out of 5.”

What users hated

Users understandably didn’t like recent decreases in the savings interest rate offered, though all OSAs have seen rates drop in the current environment.

Users traveling outside the US complained about being unable to access their accounts due to IP filtering (I can testify Marcus is a lot more aggressive about this than other financial institutions/apps).

But the negative reviews overwhelmingly focused on the app being unusably buggy - crashing, slow, blank screens, biometrics not working, etc. Sounds like Goldman has some serious work to do before releasing its checking and investing products.

Something notable for rarely being mentioned - customer service.

From the start, Marcus made a concerted effort to differentiate by offering live, US-based customer service, and that seems to have paid off with extraordinarily few complaints about customer service vs. fintech upstarts.

Typical negative reviews

“Crashes, slow loading, unresponsive, 'unable to complete your request' prompt. This app need a rebuild

“Not very helpful It [Marcus Insights] just doesn't do anything I can't see in my bank accounts already. Sure it puts everything in one place, but it doesn't have any sophisticated integration, planning, or other useful features. Not something I'm planning on keeping.”


To provide some perspective on aspects of financial apps that users love and hate, it’s helpful to include a benchmark.

It’s difficult to make a like/like comparison, because, for the startup/fintech apps, the app is the customers’ experience of the entire product. Thus the app store reviews tend to contain feedback both about the app (features, bugs etc.) but also about the product holistically.

With Chase (and to a lesser extent Goldman, above), because consumers have other avenues of experiencing the product (branches, website, phone-based customer service) the app store feedback is less likely to contain feedback on product attributes vs. app functionality.

What the product promises

Chase’s app store description promises to let you bank safely and securely from ‘almost anywhere,’ with account management, bill pay, check deposit, and money transfer.

What users love

Positive reviews highlighted the robust account management functionality, ease of use, security, and - yes - customer service.

A typical positive review:

Excellent Easy to use app. I'm not sure what is up with all the negative reviews, but I've had this app for over a year and have NEVER had one issue with it. It has always been very easy to use and navigate. I've never had a problem logging in and have always been able to find everything I need to quickly and easily. I highly recommend this app.”

What users hate

Negative feedback for the Chase mobile app is primarily focused on bugs, especially in the investing section of the app.

Another common complaint is frequent, required updates, forcing a user to download and install a new version of the app before they can use it. Issues with remote check deposit are also somewhat common.

A typical negative review:

“The app is good when its working. Offering rich set of features and services. My experience in the past few months is that its not stable. The first page loads fine but opening any internal pages like You Invest positions or transactions comes up blank. I sometimes have to close and open the app 5 times before it loads properly. It happens all the time: day, night and weekends. Really annoying.”

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