Jason Loeb keeps track of his business’s finances on his phone, checking balances, transfers and cleared checks at any hour on his City National Bank of Florida account.
“It’s convenient, and I love it because it saves me time,” said Loeb, owner and president of Sudsies, a pick-up-and-delivery dry cleaning service based in Miami Beach. “I use it all the time.”
City National launched mobile banking on iPhones and android smart phones about two years ago, and says it was the first locally-based community bank to launch an iPad version, late last year. Customers can even send a text to get their balances or their five most recent transactions texted back.
The services, which are all free, are catching on: more than 20 percent of City National’s online banking users are using apps and more than 15 percent are using the text option, said Mara Rey Suarez, executive vice president for personal and business banking.
“Were all about providing our clients with the best in class experience, so we have to give them options,” she said.
Next, City National is evaluating offering customers the ability to make deposits on their mobile devices by taking snapshots of checks, as well as send payments to other people through the phone, said Eddie Dominguez, senior vice president of marketing.
Banking through a computer is nearly as popular as stopping at a branch. And shopping by phone is nothing new. But mobile banking is relatively new, and consumers are still getting used to the idea. A Federal Reserve survey last November found that only 29 percent of cellphone users had done any mobile banking in the preceding 12 months. Fewer than half of smartphone users had.
Those who do tap in from their phones find standard features. Apps allow them to check their account balances, whether it’s in a checking account, savings account or credit card. Apps typically let customers transfer money between accounts at their bank, too.
Apps let users see recent transactions and find out whether a particular check has cleared. Some offer email alerts, to remind you that the bills are coming due so you don’t forget to pay.
And you can pay those bills using some banks’ mobile apps.
Many of these tools are possible with older style phones that don’t link to the Internet but can communicate with the bank’s computer through text messages.
It’s the camera that makes smartphones handier with money these days. Increasingly, banks’ apps allow a customer to take a picture of a check — both sides, please — and remotely deposit it into his bank account.
U.S. Bank is putting the camera to work for bills, too.
Bill-paying features in bank apps generally require the customer to set up each biller by typing in key information such as whom to pay and the customer’s billing account number.
U.S. Bank’s add-a-biller feature does all that from the smartphone’s photograph of the bill.
The bank recently went a step further. Its latest app feature uses that photograph of a bill to set up and make the payment.
Would that be enough to get customers to switch to U.S. Bank?
“We think there’s a lot of opportunity there,” said Chris Peper, vice president of mobile banking for the Cincinnati-based bank.
Commerce built its first banking app in-house and has been letting customers find them rather than promote them actively. It launched an app for iPhones last summer, and its Android version began early this year.