Using smart phones for banking activities

Published 3:23 pm Monday, May 16, 2011

By WAYNE CURTIS / Guest Columnist

Studies indicate that 90 percent of the American people have cell phones. And by the end of this year, more than half of them will be using smart phones, which are devices that allow individuals to access the Internet, run different applications and make phone calls.

An increasing number of people are using these devices for different banking activities. More and more banks are offering customers the ability to pay bills, check balances and find the nearest ATM via their smartphones.

Use of phones for banking provides convenience and flexibility, especially for people on the move. As with online banking, most banks don’t charge customers for mobile banking.

There are generally two options for customers to use for mobile banking. The web-based version — in which the user accesses the bank’s website using the browser on the smart phone — is the more prevalent.

The second approach, however, is becoming popular because it is more user-friendly. It consists of application-based services that individuals download to their phones.

Regardless of the option you choose, there are some precautions you should take when using your smart phone for mobile banking. First, make sure your phone is password protected. That prevents others from accessing your account in case your phone is lost or stolen.

You will also need to confirm with your bank that account numbers, passwords and other sensitive details are not stored on the phone. This will prevent them from being retrieved by a thief.

Third, you may also want to purchase anti-virus software for your phone. Eventually, the viruses that infect computers will spread to smart phones.

Finally, some institutions allow you to use your smart phone to transfer money to other individuals, such as family and friends. You should find out what fees are associated with money transfers and what can be done if payment is sent to the wrong person.

You may want to keep these suggestions in mind if you practice mobile banking.

Wayne Curtis, Ph. D., is on the board of directors of First United Security Bank.  He may be reached at