The Ins and Outs of Mobile Banking

Mobile banking takes a lot of the features of online banking and brings them to your cell or smart phone. Depending on who you bank with, mobile banking might save you a trip to a bank branch. All of the mobile banking features apply to your checking account, but some mobile banking apps allow access to your savings accounts and credit card balances as well.

Mobile Banking Application Features

Depending in what mobile banking is offered by your institution, it may include all or some of the following features:

Account Balance

Check your balance and make sure that cup of coffee won’t result in an overdraft.

Recent Transactions

View your recent transactions to see if that check you deposited yesterday has been credited to your account or if last night’s dinner has been charged to your account yet.

Transfer Funds

Allows you to move money between your accounts. If you’re afraid you will overdraft today, you can move money from your savings account to avoid an overdraft. Some institutions allow you to transfer funds from an account at a different institution, but you must set this up in advance.

Deposit Checks

This is a relatively new feature that enables you to make a check deposit by taking a picture of the check with your smart-phone. Very cool.

Pay Bills

Some institutions allow you to pay bills from your phone. Most of the time, you must specify the biller in online banking beforehand, but if you’ve made an online billpay to the business before, this isn’t much of an inconvenience.

Receive Alerts

Want to know when your balance drops below a certain amount or when that billpay has been processed? Like email alerts, mobile banking alerts keep you up to date with what’s going on with your accounts.

Locate ATMs

A search tool much like what’s offered on you bank or credit union’s website can help you find the closest ATM when you’re out and about.

Mobile Banking Application Platforms

Institutions offer a variety mobile banking applications to satisfy the needs of their customers. The differences in features often corresponds to the platform.

Text Alerts

While not really mobile banking, text alerts may be available even if your institution doesn’t support mobile banking access. Text messages may be sent to you alongside or instead of email alerts for account events like “low balance” or “large withdrawal.” Not all banks advertise this obviously, and some don’t even know they offer it! Because most cellphones are affiliated with an email address, you may be able to schedule your email alerts to come to you in text message form. Just look up your phone’s email address as determined by your wireless service provider, and schedule the email alerts to be sent to that address.

Text Banking

The simplest form of mobile banking, text banking allows you to view account balances and recent activity through text message. While this service is great for customers with basic cell phones that have no other mobile banking access, it also requires that you learn a few commands to access your account. For example, the text command “bal” usually means “show me my balance.” When you text “bal” to your bank, it will text back the balances of your accounts. Commands get more complicated, and vary depending on the institution you’re with. Besides account balances and recent transactions, text banking may allow you to transfer money between your accounts. All institutions clarify what you can do with their text banking on their websites.

Mobile Browser Apps

Some banks offer sites designed to be viewed in the browser of your mobile phone. Most of the time you can view both account balances and recent transactions as well as transfer funds between your accounts. Some apps even allow you to make bill payments. These sites don’t offer the full offerings of online banking, but can be accessed by any phone with a basic mobile browser.

Phone App

Depending on the phone you have, your bank or credit union may offer an app specifically for the type of phone you have. The most publicized mobile banking apps are for the iPhone, but companies make apps for other smart phones such as Android, Blackberries and many other “non-smart” phones. The features of the mobile banking will be different depending on the application, but some apps offer all of the features listed above.

An institution’s mobile banking offerings are always outlined on their website. For head-to-head comparisons of the different mobile banking programs offered by banks and credit unions near you, search FindABetterBank, and indicate on the feature selection page that mobile banking is a “must have.”