Use of mobile phones to access bank accounts, credit cards, or other financial accounts continued to increase among adults in the United States last year, according to a Federal Reserve Board report.
The Fed’s fourth such report looked at how consumers access banking services using mobile phones and their payments for goods and services using such devices, as well as their use to assist consumers with their shopping decisions.
Four in ten go mobile
As of December 2014, 39% of adults with mobile phones and bank accounts reported using mobile banking—an increase from the 33% a year earlier. The most common use of mobile banking remains checking consumers’ account balances or recent transactions. Transferring money between accounts is the second-most common mobile banking activity. More than half of mobile banking users received an alert from their financial institution through a text message, push notification, or e-mail—making this the third most common use of mobile banking.
Remote deposit capture, or depositing a check to a bank account electronically using a mobile phone camera, was also a common mobile banking activity. In the latest survey, 51% of mobile banking users reported depositing a check using their mobile phones, up from 38% a year earlier.
Twenty-two percent of all mobile phone users made a mobile payment in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 17% a year earlier. For smartphone owners who reported using mobile payments, the most common types 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.
Mobile phones are also used to help make decisions while shopping. Among smartphone owners, 47% had used their phone to compare prices over the internet, and 33% 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.
The survey found that while the underbanked make up 14% of consumers, 90% of that group has access to a mobile phone (73% of which are smartphones), and the underbanked represent a higher incidence of mobile banking (48%) than the fully banked (37%). The unbanked make up 13% of consumers and 67% of this group have access to a mobile phone (65% of which are smartphones).
For the first time, the survey looked at differences in mobile banking and mobile payment use in rural areas versus urban areas. Residents of rural areas have a lower incidence of mobile banking and mobile payment use than residents of urban areas.