One quarter of adults in the US - 53 million people - now use the Internet to manage their personal finances, 47% higher than at the end of 2002, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project which tracks the social impact of the Web.
According to the research, almost half of Internet users (44%) use the net for banking. Pew says of all the major Internet activities it has tracked since its inaugural survey in March 2000, online banking has grown the fastest. On a typical day, 13 million Americans are banking online, a 58% jump from late 2002.
Although Web banking services are still more likely to be used by educated and affluent customers, the survey shows that there has been an across-the-board increase in net banking that has brought less wealthy people into the online banking population.
The research shows that the rise in Web banking has coincided with the spread of high-speed broadband connections - well over half (63%) of those with broadband at home have tried online banking, compared with just 32% of those with dial-up connections.
Increasing familiarity with the Internet has also contributed to the growth. The survey found that 51% of those who have over six years of Internet experience have tried banking online, compared to 27% of those with three years or less. Pew says as Internet users gain more experience, they are more likely to perform activities that involve money, such as online purchases and auctions.
Banks have also improved online services and have become more aggressive in selling the Web as an option to customers, which has encouraged more poeple to try online banking.
The Pew research found that phishing is a growing problem for Web bankers as the fraud erodes customers' trust in the bank and in online banking in general.