Cell phones and PDAs provide tools for better service
Imagine this: You've written checks for several monthly bills, and you know you scheduled your car insurance payment for an automatic deduction today, too. You're held up on your way to the bank to make a deposit, and you're afraid you're not going to make it on time. You grab your cell phone to check your bank's Web site for the closest ATM when a text message comes in warning you that your checking account is about to be overdrawn. You quickly call in a transfer from your savings account and sigh with relief over the nasty overdraft fee you just avoided.
That scenario is now completely possible thanks to mobile banking, various new services offered by many banks via their customers' cell phones, PDAs or other mobile devices.
Why mobile banking?
Benefits range from increased convenience (you no longer have to go the bank or even your computer) to increased efficiency (since mobile service is widely available, you can capture dead time at the doctor's office, in line or while commuting).
With mobile banking, you can access your accounts, check balances, view statements and transaction histories, even pay bills, make transfers or stop payments. With alerts, you also can follow account activity and receive a message when your balance drops to a minimum level that you choose. Banks are also using the service to direct customers to nearby branches and ATMs or to communicate about applications and special offers.
Soon, you may even be able to scan and deposit checks using the camera on your cell phone, or use your phone like a credit or debit card to make purchases.
Best of all, these services aren't just available from the bigger banks. Locally based community banks are offering mobile banking, too. Most offer a combination of three kinds of mobile banking:
.Text messaging: Mobile banking at its simplest, text messaging is available to virtually all mobile phone users, even those without Internet service. Ask your bank if you can receive alerts when payments are due, balances reach preset levels or when checks or payments clear. With two-way texting, you can also request and receive your account balance or submit and track complaints.
.Mobile Web browsing: For more sophisticated mobile banking, access your bank's Web site via the Web browser on your mobile device. Service quality can vary depending on your mobile provider and device, but you'll gain full access to your bank accounts, much as you would on your home, office or laptop computer.
.Downloadable applications: Mobile service providers now offer phones with mobile banking software or you can download software from your bank. The service is generally more reliable than using a mobile Web browser, but be sure your phone, mobile service and bank are all compatible with each other.
Before you sign up for mobile banking services, ask your bank and wireless provider about security and costs. Look for the same kinds of security protections you would online: Encryption, password protection and multiple challenge questions.
A bonus of using downloadable software is that your bank can remotely delete the application or block access to your account if your mobile device is lost or stolen.
While you're asking questions about security, be sure to check into costs. While most banks don't charge for mobile banking, your mobile provider may charge you for Internet access or text messaging.
So is mobile banking just a gimmick or a real trend destined to take its place next to ATMs and the Internet as an indispensable part of modern banking?
Last year, an estimated 1 million consumers used some form of mobile banking. As mobile service becomes even more prevalent and banks rollout new offerings, mobile banking is expected to reach 8 million consumers by the end of this year - a 700 percent increase predicted by the research firm Aite Group.
Chances are good you could be one of those new users.
This article was submitted by Van Canada, Volusia County Regional president at Riverside Bank. He can be reached at (386) 547-0716.