The cell phone does it all: You can take pictures, send emails, play music and watch TV. Now, you can add banking to that list.
That's because some of the largest U.S. banks -- Bank of America, Citibank, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo, and ING Direct – are launching mobile banking services that give you access to your accounts wherever you are.
Like regular online banking, the mobile service allows consumers to transfer funds, check balances, make bill payments, and look up branch locations from their mobile devices.
Though still in its infancy, banks are hoping the mobile service will catch on with consumers. Dan Schatt, a senior analyst at Celent, says banks see it as a way to keep customers and “generate more payment revenue down the line” as people get more comfortable with using mobile devices for their finances.
"The more services" the banks offer, says Asaf Buchner an analyst at JupiterResearch, "the less likely you are to quit your bank entirely."
Mobile banking is an obvious extension of online banking as cell phones get more powerful and begin to mimic computers. This week's launch of Apple's eagerly awaited iPhone is intensifying the push to have cell phones and other mobile devices do everything that a home computer does.
Works Two Ways
Mobile banking basically works two ways--either through the Web browser on your phone or special software that you download.
Bank of America and Wachovia both offer a browser-based service, which is a simplified version of the online site that fits within a cell phone and PDA screen. Any customer that has Internet access on their cell phone can log on to their accounts by typing the banks URL -- bofa.mobi or wachovia.mobi -- into their mobile browser.