After analyzing the mobile banking offerings of the top 25 retail banks by deposits, Javelin Strategy & Research has declared that JPMorgan Chase has the best, followed closely by Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

The research firm found that Chase offers more mobile banking features than any other bank, including person-to-person payments and personal financial management. The last two years in a row, USAA won this accolade. This year, Javelin researchers evaluated the 23 of the top 25 banks that offer mobile banking. (This is an increase from last year, when 19 of the top 30 banks had it.)

Javelin researchers that worked on the 2011 Mobile Banking Financial Institution Scorecard, which was released today, didn't actually download the mobile apps and test and review them. They took a mystery shopper approach in that they reviewed bank websites and called customer service representatives to see how well banks promote and explain their mobile offerings.

"It's hard to find people in banks who know about mobile banking," notes Mary Monahan, executive vice president and research director, mobile. "We call each institution an average of four times."

One out of 10 banks has no CSRs experienced in mobile banking, Monahan says.

"It could be that it's a new channel and it takes time to train people," she says. In the website reviews, the researchers found that 20% of the banks had no link to their mobile banking services from the bank's home page, making mobile banking services hard to find, and 25% were missing mobile banking demos on their websites.

"It is a new service and a new channel," she notes. "You have to market it and show people how it works."

The firm then judged the banks' offerings according to whether and how well they offer 22 mobile banking features, including funds transfers, bill payments, personal financial management and location-based offers. The researchers also read users' app reviews in the App Store and Android Market.

Chase offered almost all the features the researchers looked at, including mobile person-to-person payments, mobile personal financial management, and mobile remote deposit capture. "They just have more of everything," Monahan says. The one exception is mobile enrollment, which none of the banks offer.

Wells Fargo, which ranks #2 in the Javelin scorecard, didn't win any specific category but it was solid in each one. "They're very good at what they do and their offering is strong in features, marketing and security," Monahan says.

Bank of America, which comes in third, scored the highest in device access. "If you look at who's providing access to consumers, who's opening their phones up to more consumers, it's Bank of America," Monahan says. "They support all the different smart phones."

USAA won the app category this year. "They have the best integrated offering," Monahan says. "Their iPhone and Android apps are getting better ratings from consumers. They've been a leader all along; they were first to come out with mobile remote deposit capture."

The most common mobile banking offering, researchers found, is the downloadable app — 96% of the banks covered offer one. Browser-based mobile sites are offered by 87% and text-message banking is offered by 70%. A majority (65%) offer what Javelin refers to as a "triple play": app-, browser- and SMS-based mobile banking. Tablet mobile banking apps — mainly iPad apps — are offered by 30% of the banks studied. "Just like the smart phone changed the whole game of mobile banking, the tablet is the next game changer," Monahan says.

In one overall mobile banking trend, banks are moving more money through this channel. "But they're still not treating mobile as its own channel," Monahan says. "It is a legitimate channel now and it needs to be treated like one instead of being treated like a poor stepchild of online banking. With the Occupy Wall Street movements going on, it's critical that banks look at the way they're opening up their services so that anyone can access them."

The percentage of consumers who believe mobile banking is unsafe has dropped, from 51% last year to 37% in 2011, as more people use it. Still, security fears are the top reason people don't use mobile banking. "Perceptions among consumers are improving," Monahan says.