Benefits and dangers of mobile banking apps

Genie Briggs, The Daily Record Newswire

We’ve reached a tipping point in how people manage their money. According to the Federal Reserve, 52 percent of smartphone users with a bank account have used a mobile banking app in the past year. And 51 percent have deposited a check via a mobile app in that same time period.

As the percentage of smartphone users (currently at 71 percent of all cell phone users) continues to rise, we will see more people trying mobile banking for the first time. These late adopters need accurate information on the benefits of mobile banking apps, what to expect from the experience and how to keep their personal and financial information safe and protected.

Financial banking apps are a more convenient, productive way to manage your finances. You have your bank account, personal budget or retirement account right in your pocket at all times. You can pay bills, deposit checks, view balances, receive spending alerts and perform a plethora of other actions from anywhere you have a mobile connection.

Features like GPS-enabled locators are also big benefits of mobile banking apps. Using the GPS capabilities of your phone, an app can help locate the closest branch or ATM of your bank or credit union. Going a step further, if your bank or credit union is part of a national network, the app can direct you to the closest partner branch or surcharge-free ATM.

Use common sense

With the ease and convenience of mobile banking, what is keeping adoption rates from exploding? Many people still harbor concerns over the safety and security of such apps. Every time they read about a high-profile hack they worry it could happen to them. But there are simple, common-sense steps you can take to keep your financial information safe and reap the many benefits of mobile banking.

The first is to make sure the app you’re using is from a trusted source with a reputation for security. Ask your bank or credit union about their security protocols and make sure they understand the importance of keeping your information safe. Also, only link financial information to trusted third-party apps. Just because a budgeting or financial planning app is available in iTunes or Google Play doesn’t mean that it can be fully trusted. Do your homework before giving these apps permission to access your accounts.

Look for company signs like McAfee, TRUSTe or Verisign. These are leading security products and their presence shows that your financial institution (or the developer of the app) takes security seriously.

Use apps that have multifactor authenticators. Beyond just a password, which can be hacked, these include personal security questions, text message confirmations or even biometrics. With Apple’s new Touch ID, some apps now use your fingerprint to grant login permission.

Also, be aware of your surroundings and on which networks you are conducting mobile banking transactions. Public Wi-Fi, such as at a coffee shop or airport, doesn’t have the same level of security as your home or office network. Hackers and thieves can use these unprotected networks to intercept sensitive information as it travels between your app and the host server. When in doubt, wait until you can connect to a private network that requires a password.

If you take these common sense precautions, mobile banking and financial apps can open up a world of convenience in the palm of your hand. It’s the way the industry is heading to better serve customers and help them manage their financial wellbeing.

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Genie Briggs is the senior vice president and director of marketing at Hunt Valley, Md.-based Point Breeze Credit Union. Point Breeze Credit Union is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative with branches across greater Baltimore.

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