Fed report shows mobile adoption soaring

After more than a decade of unfulfilled promises, mobile technology is beginning to influence the way U.S. consumers shop and bank, especially the young and the financially underserved. I drew that conclusion after reviewing the Federal Reserve Board’s latest report on mobile banking and payments.

Consumers and Mobile Financial Services March 2013 is the second mobile report released by the Fed in as many years. “The ubiquity of the mobile phone is changing the way consumers access financial services,” the Fed wrote. For example:

• Twenty-eight percent of all mobile phone owners used those devices to conduct banking transactions in 2012, up from 21 percent in 2011. Primarily, they checked balances and transferred funds.
• Among nonusers, 10 percent expect they will probably try mobile banking this year.
• Smart-phone users are the most prolific mobile bankers; 48 percent told the Fed they had used mobile banking applications last year, up from 42 percent in 2011.
• Twenty-one percent of mobile banking customers deposited checks to their bank accounts via mobile phones (called mobile remote deposit, or mRDC) last year; that’s twice as many as in 2011.

In addition, the Fed reported the following about mobile payments:

• Fifteen percent of mobile phone owners made payments using those devices last year, up from 12 percent in 2011; bill payments were the most common transactions.
• Twenty-two percent of mobile phone users expressed interest in using their phones to make POS purchases.
• At 24 percent, the share of smart-phone users who made mobile payments in 2012 was unchanged from 2011.
• Six percent of smart-phone owners used their phones to make POS payments in 2012, up from 1 percent the year before.

The Fed also found skepticism about the benefits and security of using mobile devices for banking and payments. For example, more than half of mobile phone owners who don’t use mobile banking applications said they weren’t apt to use them in the future either.

“Consumers are similarly skeptical of the benefits and security of mobile payments, or believe it is simply easier to use another method of payment,” the Fed wrote. After all, mobile payments are appealing in theory, but in practice they’re cumbersome and not as easy as pulling a credit or debit card out of a pocket and swiping it through a POS device

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