As mobile apps become more sophisticated, mobile banking is becoming a more convenient alternative to online banking. Some mobile banking apps simply replicate the tools available on their website, but others go further and offer functionality possible because of the device itself. Merchants should be aware of these mobile banking tools both for themselves and for their customers.
Bank of America
BofA hosts a large percentage of America’s checking accounts, and it’s no surprise it was one of the first banks to catch on to mobile banking. The iPhone app lets Bank of America users with at least one account pay bills, transfer funds and locate ATMs and banking centers. The app also has the ability for BofA customers to quickly access accounts and make transfers to avoid overdrafts or late fees.
Bank of America also added an interesting security feature that I have not seen replicated elsewhere—the sitekey. When you sign up for a mobile banking account, you choose an image and write a short phrase to go along with it. This becomes your sitekey, and you only enter your password if the app displays the correct sitekey. This is useful for combating phishing, when fraudsters lead users to pages that look like their mobile bank, and then trick them into revealing their information.
AT&T Mobile Banking
This app is useful for those who have accounts across multiple institutions. It’s useful for many of the same features as other mobile banking apps, such as account transfers, bill paying and transaction monitoring. Most banks are covered; I searched Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank, and all were included on this app.
I take some issue with the design and layout, however, which is clunky, slow and boring. Adding institutions takes a long time, and I often had a difficult time understanding exactly what information I was being asked to provide. There will be many security concerns when giving users access to this many providers, and it explains the difficult account enrollment process.
USAA Mobile Banking
This appears to be one of the best mobile banking apps out there if you have a USAA account. In addition to all the standard mobile banking features, there are some unique tools in this app that explain its high ratings in the App Store. Users can make mobile deposits using their iPhone cameras to take a picture of a check.
But USAA goes beyond financial tools with this app. If users get in an auto accident, they can look up roadside assistance. They can even look up nearby windshield repair shops. Say there’s something leaking from their undercarriage while they’re stranded on the road—the app even includes a flashlight, created by lighting up the screen to full brightness.
Developers should adopt this kind of philosophy when designing apps. Making use of the device’s native functionality (camera, GPS, screen brightness) is what separates mobile apps from the mobile Web.
The strength of this app seems to be the wide variety of accounts you can access—everything from Gmail to Netflix to Orbitz. I like that the login for each of these accounts is as simple as logging in on the separate account pages, but it’s all in one place. Users can add accounts for utilities, gas, Internet, cable, phone service and more. It almost seems daunting until you consider that people are trying to keep track of all these things separately.
One thing mobile technology can do is help us make our lives more efficient and eliminate time and money. It’s one thing to design an app that compiles all user email into one mailbox or allows them to keep track of all their frequent flier miles. It’s quite another to combine these functionalities, and dozens of others, into a single app. I plan to explore this app much more in the future in terms of organizing my own life.
Transactions between mobile users have become as simple as a fist bump, as the “Bump to Send Money” feature is what makes this app worth mentioning. Other than that, it has all the same functionality of PayPal. However, this feature that can link two PayPal accounts, simply by the touching of phones, opens new doors for merchants who would be interested in face-to-face transactions (such as artists or street vendors).
Of course, this would be most useful if the entire mobile market was saturated with Internet devices and every one of those devices had this PayPal app, but it does demonstrate the direction mobile money transfers are heading. If there were a way to initiate proximity-based transfers between users of different apps, it would be revolutionary.