US use of mobile banking on the rise, Fed report says

American consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable carrying out basic banking transactions on their mobile, according to a Federal Reserve Board report released on Thursday.

The report is the Board’s fourth look at how consumers access banking services using mobile phones, their payments for goods and services using mobile phones, as well as their use of mobile phones to inform their shopping decisions.

As of December 2014, 39 per cent of adults with mobile phones and bank accounts reported using mobile banking, marking an increase from the 33 per cent a year earlier. The most common use of mobile banking remains checking account balances or recent transactions, followed closely by money transfers.  More than half of mobile banking users received an alert from their financial institution through a text message, push notification, or e-mail, the report found, making this the third most common use of mobile banking.

In the latest survey, 51 per cent of mobile banking users reported depositing a check using their mobile phone camera, up from 38 per cent a year earlier.

Twenty-two per cent of all mobile phone users made a mobile payment in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 17 per cent a year earlier. For smartphone owners who reported using mobile payments, the most common types of mobile payments were paying bills through an online system or mobile app, followed by making online or in-app purchases. Paying for a product or service in a store was the next most common type of mobile payment.

The survey found that while the underbanked make up 14 per cent of consumers, 90 per cent of that group has access to a mobile phone (73 per cent of which are smartphones), and the underbanked represent a higher incidence of mobile banking (48 per cent) than the fully banked (37 per cent). The unbanked make up 13 percent of consumers and 67 per cent of this group have access to a mobile phone (65 per cent of which are smartphones).

Mobile phones are also used to help make decisions while shopping. Among smartphone owners, 47 percent had used their phone to compare prices over the Internet, and 33 percent had scanned a barcode to find the best price, while shopping at a retail store. Forty-two percent of smartphone users had used their phones to browse product reviews while in a store. More than two-thirds of those who had used their phone to do price comparisons had changed where they made their purchase based on that information.

For the first time, the survey looked at differences in mobile banking and mobile payment use in rural areas versus urban areas. Not surprisingly. residents of rural areas have a lower incidence of mobile banking and mobile payment use than residents of urban areas.

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