There's an app for just about everything these days, from blowing out your birthday candles to helping UC Berkeley measure earthquake severity. A lot of us have jumped on the smartphone bandwagon. Worldwide, 1.2 billion people regularly access the web from their smartphones.
But it's not just mustachioed apps that are drawing us to our phones; we're conducting serious business on-the-go. More than half of U.S. smartphone users are accessing mobile banking features, according to a Digital Trends white paper.
Banks are recognizing the change and starting to invest more in mobile efforts. All of this points to a shift from brick-and-mortar to mobile.
It's a fool-proof personal finance assistant.
Before finances were digital, paper to-do lists and budgeting were the standard. If you left your planner at home or forgot to write something down, you were out of luck. Online banking helped with this issue, but only to a point -- you still have to have your to-do list with you while you take care of your banking business on your computer.
Now, you can have everything from your to-do list to your budget to your credit score on your smartphone, which you'll have with you wherever you go. No more recording purchases in a checkbook; you can use Mint to keep track of bank and credit card accounts. Keep an eye on what's going on in your credit day-to-day with the new Credit Karma App. Be reminded when a bill is due with PageOnce.
It's easier than making a trip to the bank.
Picture this: You're in line at the supermarket with a cart full of groceries when you realize your credit card bill is due today. You don't have time to make it to the bank before it closes, and you have a few more errands to run before you can make it to your home computer to log into your banking account. But you do have time to whip out your smartphone and pull up your banking app.
This is where mobile banking really shines. With a few quick swipes of a finger, your bill is paid, and you don't have to worry about getting hit with a late fee. While you have the app open, you can glance your checking account balance to make sure you have enough dough to cover the load of groceries you're about to purchase.
It's becoming the norm for most of us.
The sheer number of consumers using mobile phones (87 percent of the U.S. population) is definitively changing the way that we access financial services. Of the 44 percent of mobile users on smartphones, one-fifth has used mobile banking in the past 12 months. With mobile phones and plans becoming more and more affordable -- and the iPhone moving into the prepaid phone market -- mobile banking activity has nowhere to go but up. The rise in smartphone finances will see fewer and fewer bank branches being built.
It's replacing the need to carry cash.
New technology, along with America's growing acceptance of the digital wallet, means it won't be long before most of us are reaching for our cell phones to pay the cashier. With apps like GoPago and LevelUp, we're not too far off. When it comes time to split a dinner check with friends, we can avoid a quick ATM or bank trip by opening apps like Venmo and Dwolla and transferring owed cash in a few minutes. Plus, considering that it costs more than a cent to produce one penny, moving away from cash just makes sense.
Taking a Step Back
Bank branches won't disappear any time soon. There may be fewer branches with less service, however, as more and more transactions are able to be handled online and on the go. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that even the digitally connected masses need to go to a bank branch every once in a while. Where else would we get a roll of quarters for laundry day?
There should be an app for that.
Bethy Hardeman writes on credit, personal finance and the economy for CreditKarma.com, a free credit management website that helps more than 5 million people access their credit score for free.
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