Teresa McUsic

Need to make a bank deposit? More consumers using smartphones

More consumers are using ATMs and smartphones to make bank deposits.
More consumers are using ATMs and smartphones to make bank deposits. AP

Last week, my 17-year-old daughter deposited a check from her pet-sitting business into her bank account with a touch of her smartphone.

Turns out that while her parents still get in the car and drive to their local bank branch, she is more in the mainstream. At Chase last year, more people made deposits through smartphone apps and at ATMs than with a live teller — a first for the bank, a spokesman said.

Chase launched its mobile deposit feature only five years ago, but enrollment has grown to 19 million customers. Deposits using smartphones increased 25 percent over last year, to around 45 million transactions.

“Our role is to make it easier for customers by allowing them to bank on their terms,” Donna Vieira, chief marketing officer for Chase consumer banking, said in a statement.

A new report from the Federal Reserve shows that the digital trend is widespread in consumer banking: More than half of smartphone owners with a bank account used mobile banking last year.

Banking via phone included checking account balances and recent transactions (94 percent); transferring money between accounts (61 percent); receiving alerts from the bank (57 percent) and depositing checks (51 percent).

Interestingly, the report also notes that having access to bank accounts by phone is making people better shoppers: 63 percent checked account balances before making a large purchase, and more than half decided not to buy because of what they found.

But as with any new method, there are issues to be aware of and good practices to employ.

Chase recommends that after you digitally deposit a check, write the word Deposited and the date on the face of the check. Keep the check for one week, then destroy it.

“This allows sufficient time in case the original check is required for any reason,” said Greg Hassell, a Chase spokesman based in Houston.

Also, ask your bank about the wait before your deposit is available. Federal law says banks generally must have $200 of the deposit available the next business day, with the rest available for check-writing on the second day and cash on the third day, according to Consumer Reports.

“But the regulations were written before the advent of mobile banking and don’t include it, creating a loophole big enough for certain banks to drive an armored car through,” the magazine said.

Watch for fees related to digital banking as well, CR advises. Most banks don’t charge anything, but some charge up to 50 cents per transaction.

Using mobile devices is a lot like using a computer, so employ similar security practices, especially since your mobile device can be lost or stolen more easily than a laptop, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says.

The bureau also suggests:

▪ Set up alerts and check your account balances. Alerts can be sent by text message, email or app notifications and can tell you when your checking balance is low, when your credit card balance exceeds a limit you set and when a charge exceeding a specified amount is made on your credit card.

▪ Protect your personal information. Don’t share your PIN or password and don’t save them on your mobile device.

▪ Use passwords. Password-protecting your mobile device can help block intruders’ access to information. Don’t use easy-to-identify passwords like 1234 or your birthday, and never save a password on your phone.

▪ Immediately report the loss or theft of a device to your financial institution or service provider, such as a credit card company, along with your mobile provider.

▪ Use secure websites or apps. Don’t log into your accounts through links that are sent to you by an email address that you don’t recognize or on an unfamiliar website or app. Use a private network and go to a secure site that begins with https.

▪ Remove sensitive material from your old phone or device before you dispose of it, such as names of banks or credit unions, passwords and other clues that could lead to personal information.

Take these steps and you can safely follow the younger generation into digital banking.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net