Bank Apps Make Deposits a Snap

You can use your smart phone to check your accounts, pay bills and deposit checks.

Smart phones are not just for playing Angry Birds and checking sports scores. A recent study by Corporate Insight, a financial-services research firm, found that 12 of the 16 largest banks in the U.S. now have at least one mobile application for the iPhone. And Doug Miller, senior analyst at Corporate Insight, expects apps for Android phones to catch up soon.

Most account holders who download their bank's mobile app can check balances on the fly, transfer funds and see in real time which transactions have cleared. Ten of the big banks -- Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, ING Direct, PNC, SunTrust, TD Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo -- plus USAA let customers pay bills with their mobile phones, too.

And banks continue to roll out enhanced features. For example, Chase and USAA offer remote deposit for both iPhones and Androids. To deposit a check, you snap a photo of the front and back with your phone and send the images to the bank.

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Want to move money? Bank of America, Citibank, PNC, Wells Fargo and USAA, among others, let you transfer money from one account to another. Wells Fargo also lets you move money to accounts at other banks and to other Wells Fargo account holders. BofA and Citibank let you check your balance on any linked account, including a mortgage or home-equity line of credit.

To use your bank's smart-phone app, you must first register for online banking on your bank's Web site. Your bank won't charge you for using its mobile app, but your wireless carrier may charge a fee, depending on your data plan.

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Senior Reporter, Kiplinger's Personal Finance