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Mobile Banking for Business Travelers

2009 October 14

Mobile banking can be a great convenience for business travelers. Mobile banking provides access similar to online banking from the convenience of your mobile phone. Here’s what you need to know to determine if mobile banking works for you.

Can I use mobile banking?
Not all banks offer mobile banking, but even many community banks and credit unions often do. Unfortunately, many banks only offer mobile banking for select phones. You’ll need to check with your bank to see what they offer.

There are three basic types of mobile banking:

* Mobile Internet (WAP)
* Mobile Application (sometimes called Native or Downloaded application)
* Text Message (SMS)

Your bank may offer one or more of these options. Which option is best for you depends upon what type of phone you have, your comfort with technologies like texting, and what banking tasks your want to do. Some tasks may be hard to do (or unsafe) using one technology or another.

What can I do with Mobile Banking?
Many banks let you perform many of the same tasks they let you do in online banking. Usually mobile banking looks much different from online banking because phones are so different from computers.

Most banks offer the following capabilities:

* Balance Inquiry
* Transaction history
* Transaction detail
* Transfers between your accounts
* ATM/Branch locator

Some banks may also offer:
* Bill Payment
* Check Deposits
* Transfers to accounts at other banks

The type of mobile banking technology you use also affects what you can do with mobile banking and how it appears. For example, text banking is usually limited to non-transactional features such as balance inquiry, transaction history, and ATM/Branch locations for safety reasons.

Is mobile safe?
Many consumers are concerned about the safety of mobile banking. Unfortunately the safety of mobile banking solutions varies. Generally, banks and regulators have learned from the security breaches they faced with online banking and applied their knowledge to mobile banking.

Here are some tips to keep you safe when mobile banking:

– As with email, you should never click on a link within a text message and enter sensitive information. Some criminals pretend to be your bank and send you a message trying to trick you to enter sensitive information into a fake website. In email, this trick is called “phishing,” in mobile it’s called “smishing.”

– Don’t ever send sensitive information in a text message. SMS messages are insecure. Many users also never delete text messages from their phones. So if someone gets your phone, they can read all the information in the text messages you have ever sent.

– Mobile Internet sites are similarly susceptible to phishing. Be careful when entering the address of a mobile web site. Criminals can create sites that look like your bank’s site but are named slightly different. If you mistype, you accidentally end up at the fake site. Mobile Internet browser often don’t have room to display all (or even any) of the web site URL. So it may be difficult to notice that you’re visiting a phoney site.

– Ask your banker if any sensitive information is stored on your phone. The most secure mobile banking applications never store sensitive information on your phone. Most banks also have a way to immediately disable mobile banking if your phone is lost or stolen. Ask how they do this so you know what to do if it ever happens.

Summary
Mobile banking can be a lifesaver for road warriors. You can keep track of transactions, pay forgotten bills, or find ATMs in unfamiliar cities. However, banks are still trying to figure out the best way to provide mobile banking — or even whether to provide it.

The quality of mobile banking offerings varies widely from bank to bank. Check with your bank to see what they offer and try it if you can.

If mobile banking doesn’t seem right for you or your bank doesn’t offer it yet, tell them about it, then try back later. The market is still changing rapidly and banks are sure to make major improvements over the next year or two.

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