Half of American smartphone owners use mobile banking

Half of American smartphone owners use mobile banking

Nearly half of American smartphone owners used their handsets to access financial accounts last year, according to research from the Federal Reserve Board.

The FRB's poll of nearly 2600 people late last year shows that 48% of smartphone owners had used mobile banking in the previous 12 months, up from 42% in a December 2011 survey.

Of all mobile phone owners, 28% had used their handsets to access a bank, credit card, or other financial accounts, up from 21%.

While relatively less common, the use of mobiles to make payments at the point-of-sale increased threefold over the same period, to six per cent of smartphone owners.

The use of mobile financial services is particularly prevalent among the 10% of Americans that are underbanked - among the 90% of these with handsets, half had used mobile banking in the 12 months to November 2012, up from 29% in December 2011.

The technology may also help extend financial services to the additional 10% of the population that is unbanked, as 59% of this group has a mobile phone, half of which are smartphones, says the FRB.

However, while the use of mobile banking increased 33% between 2011 and 2012, the report indicates that many consumers remain sceptical of the new channel's benefits. More than half of phone owners who do not currently use m-banking say they have no interest in doing so. Less than a quarter of all mobile phone owners expressed an interest in using them to buy things at the point-of-sale.

The most common mobile banking activities continue to be reviewing account balances, monitoring recent transactions, or transferring money between accounts. The use of handsets to deposit cheques has doubled between surveys, with 21% of mobile banking users having done this over the year.

Mobile phones are also increasingly used to help make decisions while shopping. Among smartphone owners, 42% have used their handset to compare prices while shopping and 44% to browse product reviews in store. Almost two-thirds of those who had used their phone to do price comparisons had changed where they made their purchase based on the information.

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