Thanks to smartphone technology, you can now take care of many of your banking needs wherever you have a suitable connection. Banking apps are becoming more sophisticated and user-friendly as app designers gain expertise and the corresponding phone technology opens up more capabilities. How can you choose between the many available options?
Start by assessing the functions you would use the most in a banking app. Would you use it to verify account balances and/or transactions? Pay bills? Set financial alerts? Transfer money? Help with money management and budgeting? All of these are possibilities, but if you are like many banking app users, your favorite function is the mobile check deposit.
The research firm Celent estimates that 87 million consumers deposit checks in this fashion. By taking a picture with your phone's camera and submitting it to the bank, deposits can be submitted remotely — but some mobile deposit functions are pickier and less automated than others.
You can help the process with simple picture-taking precautions. For example, avoid blurry pictures by not holding the check while photographing it, remove any distracting tabs or background clutter, make sure the lighting is sufficient, and verify that the entire check is visible in the frame. Newer apps such as the latest from Wells Fargo and Bank of America can run in a video mode, take the pictures automatically, and prompt you when changes are needed to take a suitable picture.
A good app will give you confirmation that your deposit has been credited to your account. Find out from your bank how long it takes to confirm, and whether there are limits on confirmation or deposit levels.
What about security? That tends to be a mixed bag with banking apps. Since they use proprietary programs instead of web browsers, they are less prone to phishing scams and traditional attacks, and are more secure in theory — but the quality of the security depends on the quality of the app. Study the individual security portion of the bank's website; they should proudly list their encryption methods and other security steps. Follow up by checking online reviews of the app to get a feel for both claims and real-world results.
Common-sense steps are also necessary to maintain your security. Even the best bank app can't overcome your sharing your password or PIN number. Don’t save your log-in information, be sure to use passwords in case your phone is stolen, and only download your chosen app from a trusted source.
Feel free to stick with the ATM, drive-through, or bank lobby if you prefer, but plenty of high-quality banking apps are available for your convenience if you are ready to put your smartphone to greater use. You have banking technology at your fingertips that was unfathomable twenty years ago, so why not use it?