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Candice Choi

Mobile banking seems to be growing as the concerns about security ease

By Candice Choi
Associated Press / September 9, 2010

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Smartphones let you watch NFL games, read books, and check e-mail. Now a suite of mobile banking services is just a tap away, too. Banks have significantly expanded their mobile offerings as concerns about wireless security ease.

As with credit and debit cards, banks limit liability for fraudulent transactions reported within two months. Such guarantees are helping to broaden the adoption of mobile services. Bank of America says 17 percent of its online banking customers already use mobile services.

“Most banking is just text and numbers. So to some extent, banking is really ideal for mobile use,’’ said Jim Bruene, founder of Online Banking Report. Here’s a look at what’s available:

Texting
Alerts to notify account holders about large transactions or low balances are not new. But now customers can use text messaging to proactively review balances and transactions.

It’s the most basic mobile service offered by Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo. Customers can text certain commands to perform common functions.

At Bank of America, for example, customers you can text BAL to MYBOFA to see if there’s enough money in an account. Wells Fargo lets customers text a ZIP code to see the nearest ATMs.

To protect against identity theft, the information sent to customers does not include names or account numbers.

Apps
One reason mobile banking is becoming more widespread is the availability of apps, downloadable programs for mobile devices. Apps are easier to navigate with mobile phones than websites.

Apps let customers do most of the tasks they can perform on a computer. Select tasks, such as transferring money to an outside account, generally aren’t available on apps.

One app function that may soon become more widespread is the ability to make a deposit by taking a photo of a check.

Quick pay
One relatively rare service is making payments by passing a phone over a scanner. Citi credit card holders can request a MasterCard PayPass sticker to attach to the back of a phone. The idea is that customers won’t have to pull out cash or a credit card, or sign for purchases of less than $50.

PayPal
It’s not exactly banking but the online payment service lets users securely send and receive money, check balances, and make payments.

Payments made from a credit or debit card incur a fee of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents. The fee for sending $100 is $3.20. The sender can pay or pass the fee on to the recipient for personal payments. For goods or services, the fee is passed to the merchant.

Candice Choi writes for the Associated Press.