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credit & debt

Why You Should Try Your Bank’s Mobile App

Get account alerts, make deposits, pay bills and transfer funds all while you're on the go.

Although mobile banking is on the rise, it’s certainly not widespread. Only 35% of cell phone users bank using their phones, according to a Pew Research Center survey. If you’re not among them, you should consider downloading your bank’s mobile app. Why? It’s an incredibly convenient and secure way to bank, says Alex Matjanec, co-founder of MyBankTracker, an independent banking-information Web site.

If your bank offers an app, here are several of the features you can expect:

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Banking alerts. Mobile banking apps typically give you the option to receive text-message alerts about your account activity, which Matjanec says are the biggest benefit of bank apps. While sitting at his desk one day, he received alerts through his bank’s app when two $500 withdrawals had been made – and he hadn’t made them. So he knew instantly that someone was stealing from his account. Most banks let customers sign up for alerts through their Web sites. But Matjanec says that the benefit of having the mobile app is that you can easily access your account and take immediate action when you get those alerts.

Bill payment. Many bank apps let you set up alerts to notify you when bills are due. With a few clicks, you can easily make payments while you’re on the go through the app, Matjanec says.

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Mobile deposits. When you get a check, many banks’ apps eliminate the need to drive to an ATM or branch to deposit it. With the app, you simply enter the amount of the check, indicate the account into which you want it deposited and take a picture of the front and back of the check. However, Matjanec recommends hanging on to that check until it shows up in your account as a deposit.

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Funds transfers. Some bank apps let you transfer funds to other people’s accounts from your phone. So if you’re at a restaurant with a friend, for example, and don’t have cash to pay your half of the tab, you can easily send the money from your account to your friend’s. Through the app, you type in the person’s e-mail or phone number and how much money to send. That person will receive a message and finish the transaction.

Merchant rewards. A few banks – such as Bank of America and Capital One – offer customers with their apps discounts based on where they shop, Matjanec says. They can click on the “merchant rewards” tab in the app to see what deals are available from retailers where they typically make purchases.

Security. Matjanec says that using a bank's own mobile banking app is actually safer than banking online because it offers you direct access to your account – rather than requiring you to go through an Internet browser to get to your bank’s Web site. However, you still need to take steps to protect your personal information, he says. First, make sure that your phone requires a passcode so no one but you can access it. Then when you download a mobile banking app, use all the security measures that are offered, such as personal identification numbers, or PINs, in addition to passwords. And when you log in to the app, make sure “save my user ID” is turned off so that others can’t access your account if your phone falls into the wrong hands.

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