Using Technology to Remain Financially Fit


Adapted from the article originally published by the FDIC, available at 


If you’re interested in trying out a new banking technology but you’re not sure what’s available or how it would be helpful for you, read on. This article offers an overview today's mobile services - and many of them and free!

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Personal financial management and budgeting: Financial planning tools can include electronic check registers on your home computer, such as Quicken, (which many consumers will find much easier to use and balance than an old-fashioned paper check register) and apps for your smartphone, like, that allow you to access your electronic check register wherever you are.


Mobile banking services go one step further by allowing you to access your account from anywhere using a smartphone, “tablet” computer or other device. An estimated 30 million Americans currently manage their finances using mobile devices.


“Mobile banking services can be very helpful if you are in a store contemplating a major purchase and need to know whether you have enough money in your account to cover the cost,” said Jeff Kopchik, a Senior Policy Analyst with the FDIC’s Technology Supervision Branch. “If your balance is low, you can use your mobile device to transfer funds from your savings account into your checking account to cover the purchase.” But remember that the available balance shown in online banking may be less than you have to spend if any checks or other transactions have not yet been posted to your account.


Your bank also may offer free online budgeting tools that can help you track your spending by category, monitor investments and meet your savings goals. 


Depositing checks using your smartphone or other mobile device: Many banks have rolled out a “remote deposit capture” (RDC) feature that allows customers to take a picture of a check with their smartphone and deposit that check electronically, without ever visiting a branch or using an ATM. This service is becoming popular, especially among customers who don’t live or work close to a bank branch. “Mobile RDC can provide convenience to a variety of consumers, from young people to senior citizens,” noted Elizabeth Khalil, a Senior Policy Analyst in the FDIC’s Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection.


If you use mobile RDC, carefully keep track of the checks you deposit. For instance, you can write the date you deposited the item on the front of the paper check and hold onto it until the check has cleared and the money is in your account. Then you can destroy the check, preferably using a high-quality paper shredder. Contact your bank with any questions.


Account alerts: Most mobile banking systems will allow you to sign up to get text messages on your mobile phone or e-mails if your account balance drops below a set dollar amount, which can help ensure that you don’t overdraw your account. You may be able to receive text alerts if your bank observes “suspicious” — potentially fraudulent — transactions involving your account. Another possibility may be to get a notice of a certificate of deposit about to mature. “Mobile account alerts are probably the easiest and most effective way to monitor what is going on with your checking account in real time,” suggested Kopchik.


Mobile bill paying: Most mobile banking services allow consumers to pay companies that already have been added to their “approved list” on their bank’s online banking Web site. However, if you want to make bill payment even easier, some banks allow customers to use their mobile phone to take a picture of a paper bill from any merchant (provided the bill shows the company’s name and certain other information) and then click the “pay” button. “This new service eliminates the need for you to enter merchant payment information into your bank’s bill-payment service. Your bank will take care of that automatically,” said Khalil.


As with any mobile banking service, always check with your bank before signing up to make sure you know about any fees or other key terms.


Finally, when using any mobile financial service, keep privacy and security issues in mind. “For one thing, mobile phones are much easier to lose or misplace than a desktop computer, so make sure that you keep track of your mobile phone and password-protect it,” Kopchik advised.


For more tips on staying safe when using mobile banking, see the FDIC's Winter 2012/3013 FDIC Consumer News.

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