Bank of America sought to enhance its mobile banking app last week by launching a digital debit card. Siting the old motto of high tech and high touch, its offering is looking to expand consumer and small business services. The card will allow customers to shop online and in stores without having a traditional debit card and receive cash at Bank of America ATMs.
For consumers that frequently travel internationally and international businesses, Bank of America is adding features such as ordering foreign currency, and users can even have currency delivered at home with lower transaction fees.
As Bank of America expands its mobile services, the question facing banks is similar to that of the mobile phone industry. When does the consumer have everything they want on their mobile device, and when does a service become a nice to have feature? For instance, for the foreign currency service, this may be a great feature for a number of customers, but the number of Americans that actually have a passport is still somewhere between 6 percent and 10 percent of the population. If the added features are targeting a specific segment of the population, it can be very effective. For a community bank with consumers that are only casual travelers and small businesses that are focused primarily on the United States market, it is not necessarily a differentiator.
Bank of America insists that they are still focused on high touch, focusing on enhancing and modernizing locations rather than eliminating them. On the Merrill Lynch side, Bank of America expects the technology to actually expand and grow the client relationship with advisors. However, advisory businesses continue to face pressure on fees as even traditional firms such as Charles Schwab offer the similar services as Merrill Lynch, but with dramatically lower costs.
Still, one less card in a consumer’s wallet will be a key feature for younger clients in particular that are constantly looking for digital only solutions. “Our goal is to bring never-before-possible convenience to clients,” said David Tyrie, head of advanced solutions and digital banking at Bank of America. “With our new digital debit card, clients can transact immediately and avoid waiting for their permanent card. This feature is one of several new digital offerings that reinforce our commitment to making clients’ financial lives easier.”
Bank of America has been recognized by Javelin Strategy and research as being the Best In Class for Mobile Banking. During the first quarter of 2019, Bank of America claims that clients logged into mobile 1.5 billion times and deposited 34 million checks via mobile.