Going Mobile: Using Banking Apps on Your Smartphone

Date January 14, 2015

Dealing with your banking needs these days can be as easy as turning on your smartphone and logging into your account right in the kitchen. From checking your balance to transferring money to your college-aged child, many of the most frequently performed financial tasks can be done in the palm of your hand.

Despite this ease of use, 49% of smartphone owners haven’t used mobile banking in the last year, according to a Federal Reserve study. A common sticking point? Most non-users—69%—are concerned about security risks. But there are several ways to protect yourself from online threats. Here’s a look at how to get started, along with a few tips on smartphone banking without putting your financial information at risk.

Signing up

To take advantage of mobile apps, you’ll need a smartphone or handheld device that can get on the Internet. That can include Apple iPhone, iPod and iPad models, Android-powered phones, some BlackBerry phones and other tablet computers.

You’ll also need to sign up for a username and password with a service provider like Matadors Community Credit Union so you can use its mobile app. This allows you to do your banking from anywhere you have a secure Internet connection, and it’s generally, a snap to set up from the company website. For the MCCU mobile app, all you’ll need is to be enrolled in eBranch Online Banking, and you can use the same user name and password, making it easy to remember!

Online security

A strong password is the first line of defense against hackers trying to break into your checking account. So it’s important to go beyond variations of passwords you use for other accounts, like email. Make your code harder to decipher by mixing in capital letters, numbers and keyboard symbols. Consider changing it as often as every three months.

People thinking about mobile banking should know that most financial providers’ websites use high-level security to protect transactions and personal information. But be careful not to log in through an unsecured Wi-Fi network, like many you find in cafes, malls and other public places. And don’t store your account username and password codes on your phone—that way, if it’s lost or stolen, it won’t automatically mean anyone who gets his or her hands on it will be able to retrieve your financial data and steal your money. Other safety tips include setting up a passcode to unlock your phone or tablet, backing up data files and message records and encrypting important information kept on the device.

When does mobile banking pay off?
Once you’ve got the app working, or have signed up for online banking, you’ll have access to your accounts and other services through your phone or other mobile device.

Being able to check your available funds from wherever you are is one of the most popular features of mobile banking apps. It can help you avoid overdraft fees, which cost Americans about $32 billion last year, according to economic research firm Moebs Services (and considering the amount of debt most Americans owe, we can use all the help we can get). Typically, you can also use these apps to transfer funds, pay bills and find a nearby ATM machine on the go.

Avoiding mobile banking apps because of security concerns means missing out on the convenience of managing your finances without getting near a branch or even sitting down at your computer. Taking the proper precautions can minimize the risks.


Tony Armstrong, NerdWallet


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