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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mobile Banking Where Are You?

In Japan, people use their cell phones like credit cards to make purchases. I'd be happy if I could use mine just to check my darn balance.

That said, things are progressing nicely in the world of mobile banking as many major banks now offer online mobile services. However, each bank has its own way of doing it. The following is a quick run down of the various options available to customers... and of course my two cents (Hah! No pun intended).

Method 1: SMS (text message) system
Some banks, like Chase and Wells Fargo, use a text message delivery based system for accessing account information. It involves the user sending a text message and waiting for a response from the bank with options on how to proceed. While this method works for just about any cell phone, it winds up feeling like an endless game of text message tag. It disempowers the user.

Method 2: Downloadable application
Citibank offers customers a downloadable application for their phones. While this method certainly offers a rich user experience, it is severely limited. Every phone is made differently and every cell phone provider has its own restrictions on what can and can't be downloaded onto phones. That being said, only a small fraction of customers will be able to take advantage of a mobile banking application. Also, it eats up memory on the phone and no one likes that :)

Method 3: Mobile web site
w00t! This is my absolute favorite method of mobile banking. From a practical standpoint, it just makes sense. Just about any cell phone with a mobile browser can access a mobile web site. It's quick, efficient and perfect for when you're standing in line waiting to buy something but wondering if your last check cleared. Which banks are getting it right? Wachovia, ING Direct, Capital One and Bank of America (to name a few).

Sadly, I use the bastard child of mobile banking, WaMu, which has yet to offer any mobile options. It is rumored that WaMu will be launching a mobile web site, but I won't hold my breath :)

Joe Says: Mobile banking is a convenient way to check balances and pay bills on the go. If your bank has a mobile web site, be sure to check it out on your cell phone. If your bank uses text messages or a downloadable application, beware of complications. If you're in the WaMu boat, I feel your pain.

This is Joe, signing off.

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