Banking apps may be better than you think.

4 things banking apps are good for

I love that I can deposit checks with my smartphone. But I hate that sometimes I need to shoot five very clear photos of the check for the app to finally recognize that, yes, that’s my signature on the back.

When even that doesn’t work, I flip over the check and trace over my signature to make it darker. Even then, I might get an error message says, Could not find endorsement on back of check: make sure check is endorsed! Retake photo. which sounds to me like, “Hey, you forgot to sign the check, dummy!”

But I can’t really complain. A recent study from credit score company FICO says an estimated 145 million Americans (about 46 percent of the population) have smartphones, and our biggest feature request in a banking app is far more simple. Three quarters of users just want to know how much money they have — the ability to check a balance.

More facts, less pitch

FICO’s study included more than 2,200 smartphone users from 14 countries, including the United States, and asked about users’ phone habits, opinions, and what they wanted from banking apps. Here’s what else it found…

  • “Over two-thirds of consumers now consider online to be their preferred channel for checking their accounts, transferring money and making payments,” FICO says. But only about 13 percent prefer to use apps over desktop computers for checking a balance.
  • Half or more want an app to provide notifications of potential fraud (59 percent), to make payments (53 percent), and to transfer money between accounts (50 percent).
  • Shockingly, most people don’t download apps because they want a sales pitch. “The least popular service, according to the findings, was to receive information about new products and services,” FICO says. Only 39 percent were interested and the number dropped sharply with age.
  • People aged 25 to 39 were the most interested in getting bill payment reminders and credit card limit warnings from an app.


How apps can save you

It doesn’t sound like consumers are asking for a lot of bells and whistles. Many just want their bank to provide the basics. And when they do, there are a lot of advantages for consumers. Here are four that come to mind…

  1. Save on gas. The less you have to visit a branch, the less managing money costs you.
  2. Less worrying. Although alerts would be nice, you can monitor your transaction history for fraud from basically anywhere at any time.
  3. Lower risk. A quick check of your phone informs your spending, so you don’t risk bank fees for low balances.
  4. Fewer ATM fees. If branches are mapped out in the app, you always know the shortest path to an ATM that won’t charge out-of-network fees.

So even though I have my complaints, the fact is, just last night at 9 p.m. I deposited a check. While it took me a couple tries, I still didn’t have to go to the bank this morning.

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