Siri Needs An Education

She might remind you to pay your bills or help you find an ATM, but Apple’s new virtual assistant could use a tutorial on credit union fundamentals.


Much hype has been made about the latest iPhone upgrade, Siri. It (or she? Hmmm … ) is a personal assistant application that uses speech recognition to answer questions and make recommendations. Using the tagline “Your wish is its command,” Apple encourages us to talk to our smartphones like we would talk to a normal person — and expect a normal response.

As the in-house Apple guru, I spent some time with Siri yesterday trying to find some surcharge-free, credit union ATMs close to Callahan & Associates’ office here in downtown Washington, DC.

LAT: Where is the nearest ATM?

Siri: I found a number of ATMs not far from you.

LAT: Are any of these surcharge-free?

Siri: I can’t look specifically for price range … my apologies.

LAT: Are any of these ATMs at credit unions?

Siri: I found 16 credit unions matching ATMs. Fifteen are fairly close to you. (The “credit union” ATMs that Siri listed were seven Bank of America terminals and nine Citibank terminals.)

LAT: Where is the closest credit union ATM?

Siri: I found 12 ATMs matching “Credit Union” fairly close to you. (Success! The listing now included Pentagon, Bank-fund Staff, PAHO/WHO, Lafayette Federal, and Signal.)

LAT: Do you recommend one of these credit unions?

Siri: I’ve sorted them by rating. (Wachovia was ranked No. 1, Bank of Georgetown, No. 2. <SIGH>)

LAT: Define bank.

Siri: Checking my sources. Okay, here you go: “A financial institution that accepts deposits and channels money into lending activities.”

LAT: Define credit union.

Siri: This might answer your question: “A cooperative depository financial institution whose members can obtain loans from their combined savings.”

LAT: Do you know the difference between a bank and a credit union?

Siri: I know. (I laughed out loud at my desk at this one.)

LAT: OK. What is the difference between a bank and a credit union?

Siri: I found a number of credit unions not far from you. 

LAT: Siri, are you a member of credit union?

Siri: We are talking about you, not me.

Touché, Siri. Touché.


Oct. 25, 2011


  • Actually you bring up the conundrum of closed networks. As we move from the Internet's world wide web to closed social and mobile environments the information conveyed gets skewed or at least less comprehensive. There is no conspiracy out there but all the more reason to own your message and enhance customized multi-touch marketing with our owner/members.
    Fred Siegel
  • Very interesting! I wish Siri were more helpful - if you look at this video you can see that Nyan does a great job:
    Chester Polonous
  • yes, indeed. Siri could have easily found any of 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide for the members of more than 3,000 credit unions. Siri simply needed to visit the locator for CO-OP Network at:
    Bill Prichard
  • Have you let Apple know of your experience?
    Donna Weston