Increasingly, it's 'have smartphone, will bank'

Even the underbanked are going mobile, the Fed finds.

by Bill Hardekopf

NEW YORK ( — More consumers are turning to their phones to take care of their banking needs, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

A late-November study, Consumers and Mobile Financial Services, showed that 28 percent of mobile-phone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months, an increase from the 21 percent found in a December 2011 study. Another 10 percent of the mobile owners who are not using mobile banking plan to do so in the next year.

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Smartphone owners are even more likely to use mobile banking: 48 percent of smartphone owners used mobile banking in the past year compared with 42 percent in 2011.

A notable finding in the study was that 49 percent of underbanked consumers say they have used mobile banking in the past 12 months.

Of the mobile banking users, 87 percent use their phones to check their balance or a recent transaction, while 53 percent report using it to transfer money between accounts.

The use of mobile phones to depositing checks is increasing dramatically: 21 percent of mobile banking customers have used their device for this purpose, twice the number found in 2011.

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Security is a major hurdle for greater consumer acceptance of mobile banking. Of the consumers not using mobile banking, nearly half (49 percent) said it was because of security concerns. The No. 1 reason given was that their banking requirements were being met without seeing a need to bank by phone.

Mobile payments are not nearly as widespread as mobile banking. Only 15 percent of all mobile phone owners have made a mobile payment in the past 12 months. This was only a slight increase from the 12 percent in the 2011 study. Security concerns were the primary reason cited by mobile phone owners for not using mobile payments.