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Mobile Banking: Is This The Future?

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.

Related: Why Electronic Banking Is Safe

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.

Related: Best Budgeting Apps

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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21 Comments

  1. Andrea on February 28, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I use PNC’s Virtual Wallet app for iPhone and love it. Access to the calendar and money bar features is a necessity when I’m not near a computer. I also have the Sharebuilder app to check on my Roth IRA, though I use that one much less frequently.

    My only gripe with the Virtual Wallet app is that (so far) I can’t see the budget I created on the actual website. I do get text messages if I’m close to one of my limits, but sometimes I need to know how close I am.

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Andrea, that sounds like a good one. I hear that the 3rd party apps are more user friendly but people are worried about security issues. The text message or email alerts are good as long as they aren’t too frequent or they at least give you the option of setting up the parameters.

  2. Fox on February 28, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Personally I think the mobile thing is not all it is, as the banks make them out to be. On the other hand, I don’t need another device to do banking on, I spend enough time at work on a PC and time at home, I should have plenty.

    For those who are using their phones for banking, between Blackberry and iPhone, the iPhone has much better, user friendly features to do your online banking, than you would get for the Blackberry.

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Fox, yes the iPhone definitely is winning the app war. I agree, mobile banking is not a necessity for me either at the moment because I spend enough time at my computer to get a good handle on my finances.

  3. schultzter on February 28, 2011 at 7:46 am

    I think there’s three different aspects to mobile banking:

    1) The convenience of online banking on the go!

    2) Using your location for add’l information (nearest ATM, nearby affiliates & deals, etc.). You may find this intrusive, others may like it, it could take some time to be widely accepted.

    3) Mobile payments, like when we wave our credit card over a scanner. A lot of next generation phones are coming with NFC chips to enable this ability and since your phone becomes the keypad the whole transaction happens in your hands: added security!

    My biggest issue with mobile banking apps is that the banks will need to maintain multiple versions: iPhone, Android, Blackberry (old & new), WebOS, WinPhone, Symbian, Meego, Bada, etc. Which one(s) will they choose to support and who will loose out? Will one get preferential support (newer and more features, better maintenance, etc.). The question applies to any app developer but in the bank’s case do they want to be known as “the iPhone bank” or “the Blackberry bank”?

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      Hi Schultzer, good point on using your location to find deals or affiliates. I like that aspect for sure. I also can’t wait for mobile payments, although the phones will likely have the technology long before the retailers catch on. Most still don’t grasp the credit card chip, and the scanner doesn’t work half the time.

      I think that some banks are already leaning towards just supporting the iPhone.

  4. Gary on February 28, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I love my CIBC app. I use it everyday. It has become part of my routine everyday, allowing me to check balances etc, since we travel a great deal. It’s not perfect but I’m sure advances will be made as time goes by.

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Gary, mobile banking would be ideal for a frequent traveler, that’s for sure. The technology will only get better.

  5. CnC on February 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I have the RBC app for iPhone and I love it. It’s a true app that does not point you to a web-based browser which is fantastic.

    It’s great for day to day use. I put all my purchases on VISA (for the points) but I pay off each purchase immediately so the balance doesn’t sit there. With the app literally as soon as I hop in my car I transfer the money onto VISA. It’s great because I have been known to forget in the past or lose the receipt or so on or so on.

    There is definitely room for improvement it would be nice to see some additional tools out there soon too.

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Hi CnC, from my research it seems like RBC hit a home run with their iPhone app. iPhone users loved it, but Blackberry users are having difficulties. Sounds like it suits your needs just fine as it is.

  6. Ethan on February 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I am using mobile banking more and more all the time. I think the better this technology gets, the more convenient it will become, and when that day comes— I might do all my banking through my iPhone. I agree it might be hardly “worth switching banks for”, like you said, but I don’t think I would go with a bank that didn’t offer this in the first place.

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      Hi Ethan, I agree that as the technology improves then more and more people will start to use it as their preferred banking method. It’s funny that “telephone banking” will mean completely different things to different generations.

      You’re right, while I wouldn’t switch banks because someone had a better app, it would be a turn off if they didn’t have one at all. I can’t believe BMO doesn’t offer at least a mobile version of their website. Brutal.

  7. Money Smarts Blog on February 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I have the CIBC app. It’s neat, but in 6 months, I have yet to use it.

    I can see it being useful on vacation, if I don’t have easy access to the Internet.

    • Echo on February 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Mike, I feel the same way…right now it would just be for convenience if I can’t access a computer.

  8. Kathy on March 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    At this point, we find smartphones to be too expensive, so we haven’t joined the mobile banking revolution. We find the online banking more than enough….

    I suspect within the next 5 years or so, we’ll be dragged into this stuff. My greatest concern? With all the stuff that will be linked to our smartphones, the smartphones become our identity (next thing — driver’s license and passport apps!)….what happens when you lose your phone? Will smartphones become the thing to target for thieves?

    • Echo on March 2, 2011 at 12:05 am

      Hi Kathy, good point about the security risks. I’m not as paranoid as some people are about that stuff, but the more you add to your mobile device the more of a risk it would be to lose it or have it stolen.

  9. david on August 4, 2011 at 6:17 am

    I agree with Kathy and Echo on the security aspects of mobile banking. I already leave in fear of my phone being stolen without worrying that my bank account could be hacked.

  10. Chris on August 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    With certain things I am just paranoid and mobile banking is one of those. Who really knows what information is left cached on the phone even if the banking app is just a browser redirect?! My phone is pin/password protected, but reading how easy it is to hack into phones – I will stick to normal online banking from a trusted computer on a trusted network (home or office for me).

    I also use Roboform to remember website passwords and stuff like that. Their new version offers to store your passwords in the cloud …. no, thank you.

  11. zoltan on August 23, 2011 at 8:09 am

    The security aspect is the thing that worries me. Its not just cache but interception of my signal that is my real concern. I understand that the Blackberry is particularly secure and everything nicely encoded but I long ago gave up my Blackberry and opted for an i-Phone. Normal online backing makes me nervous – using the i-phone would make me decidedly uneasy. Am I just being paranoid?

  12. JennT on September 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    My issue is I use on bank for my personal banking, and another for business banking and I am only able to use an app for one of them. It seems you cannot sign up one phone number for mobile banking with multiple banks. Anyone have a solution?

    • Jackson on November 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Hey Jenn,

      You should be able to download both apps from both banks. Check in your app store for another app. If you only have a single app (and a single bank) you should be able to either connect them by calling the bank, or by having two separate sign-up profiles.

      Hope that helps.

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