I haven’t given much thought to mobile banking before since I am glued to my computer at work and I have a laptop at home to pay bills online.  Banking through my mobile device didn’t seem like a big deal to me.

A few weeks ago I decided to stop by a bank machine on the way home from work to take out some cash.  I normally keep a minimum of $1,000 in my chequing account in order to waive monthly banking fees, but I couldn’t remember how close I was to that limit.  Sure enough when I checked my balance at the ATM I didn’t have enough room to make my planned withdrawal without going under my minimum balance.

That’s when I decided to check out what mobile banking had to offer, so I headed over to BlackBerry App World to download the TD Mobile Banking App.

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First off, in my opinion, it’s not an App if it just points you to a mobile friendly browser-based site.  By the time I downloaded it, re-booted my mobile device and logged in to my account I could have driven home and made the transfer online and drove back to the bank machine.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of messing around with the App, I was able to complete the transfer between accounts and take out my cash.  I’m not sure it was worth the trouble to save the $3.95 bank fee, but I did it.

So what’s the deal with mobile banking anyway?

According to RBC, market research shows that mobile banking is clearly a growth area, as most Canadians (79 per cent) own a mobile device and 44 per cent of those expressed an interest in mobile banking.

In February, 2010 CIBC became the first chartered bank in Canada to launch a Mobile Banking App.  It surpassed 100,000 downloads in just over one month following launch, with over 1 million client logins to CIBC Mobile Banking since its introduction.

CIBC was quickly followed by TD, RBC and Scotiabank into the mobile app market.  BMO has yet to release a mobile banking app of their own.  Even ING Direct has a mobile app for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry devices.

What Features Does Mobile Banking Offer?

Most mobile banking users can expect access to a full range of services through their mobile device, including the ability to:

  • View account balances for all personal and business accounts.
  • View account details for accounts such as credit lines, credit cards, mortgages and loans.
  • Pay bills (non-recurring and current) for all existing online banking payees.
  • View transaction history.
  • Transfer funds between accounts.
  • Send an Email Money Transfer.
  • Send third-party payments.
  • Locate branches and ATMs.

BlackBerry and Android users have become frustrated that these so-called mobile banking apps are browser based, which means that they replicate the PC experience instead of taking advantage of the functionality of the mobile device.  This was definitely true in my experience with the TD Mobile Banking App.

The Future of Banking?

When I first heard of mobile banking I thought of endless possibilities including paying for your purchases with your mobile device, and being able to utilize the nifty calculators and budgeting tools that are currently only available online.

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CIBC has just launched a mobile app called CIBC Home Advisor which is available to everyone, not just CIBC customers.  I checked it out the other day and loved the functionality of the app.  Here’s what it can do:

  • Access average property values, 12 month trends, and have a detailed neighbourhood report delivered right to your email inbox
  • Save and compare your favourite homes by taking photos, notes and even completing a Home Buyers’ Checklist.
  • Find out how much you can afford to pay for a home, estimate your mortgage payments, compare the costs of buying a house versus renting or calculate the equity in your current home.

To me, this is what I expect when I think of mobile banking and the future it holds for keeping users engaged with their bank.

Mobile Banking: What’s The Big Deal?

If mobile banking really just allows you to locate your nearest branch, view your account balance, and transfer money between accounts through a slow and clunky mobile website, then I am unimpressed with this technology.  It’s difficult to declare a winner between the 4 banks, since they all basically do the same thing.  Hardly “worth switching banks for” in my opinion.

I would much rather see more true mobile banking applications like the CIBC Home Advisor App, or maybe your own bank’s version of a Mint.Com style budgeting tool.  Until then, I’ll stick with using my PC to manage my day-to-day banking needs.

Do you use a mobile banking app, and do you find them useful and efficient?  If you don’t, why not?

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