Banking on your phone
Being a small business owner, I get paid with checks more often than not. One of my pet peeves is the bank drive-through line. It always seems like I get in the line that moves slowest, and when I do finally get to the magic tube that whisks away my deposit, I find out that the bank has one person working three lanes, so I’ve still got a considerable wait. ATM deposits are helpful, but still require a trip to the bank and an additional wait for the funds to clear. My salvation has arrived finally in the form of mobile banking.
While quite a few financial institutions have apps that allow you to check your balance or find ATM and bank locations, a couple of forward thinking banks have implemented the ability to deposit checks via iPhone. While this might not be news to some of you readers, ever since I opened a Chase account, I have been using their iPhone app frequently.
After logging in, using the same information as you would for online banking, the app gives you a few options. You can see your accounts, make a deposit, and conduct payments and transfers. For a deposit, you choose
the account into which you’ll deposit, set the amount, and then take pictures of the front and back of the check. The app uses the iPhone camera, prompting you to fit the check image inside the provided frame. Once you’re done, it takes a few seconds to process and your deposit has been made. You can then deposit another check if you like, so depositing multiple checks is a breeze.
One caveat for those with iPhone 3G phones: it doesn’t work well (or maybe at all) with the 2-megapixel camera the phone utilizes. When I stepped up to an iPhone 3Gs, the 3-megapixel camera worked fine, and I deposited without any issues whatsoever. Tests with the iPhone 4 and its 5-megapixel camera worked equally as well.
Of course, other banks are on the cutting edge of technology as well, and USAA has an iPhone app that also features depositing via iPhone. Their requirements are a little more stringent, as you’ll need to be eligible for USAA insurance, an active USAA checking or savings account, and an active USAA credit card or loan. Bank of America was testing deposit functionality last year in their iPhone app, so maybe this will see a release this year. Regardless, it is hard to deny that there is a huge market for mobile banking and for banks that don’t have it, staying competitive will require a shift in this direction.
Another iPhone app that touts a check deposit feature is PayPal. When I decided to test it out, I logged in, then went to Tools. “Add Money From Checks” is the option to use if you’d like to add funds to your PayPal account via check, but every time I pressed the button, I’d get a system error message. For the leader of onlin
e payments, I would hope that they’d test their functionality thoroughly, especially when it comes to handling other people’s money.
The future of banking has arrived, and you happen to be carrying it in your pocket.