Banking by Phone [App]

Almost full-service banking by smart phone.

I’ve been doing 95% my banking online for the past five to eight years. I seldom write any checks and never visit the bank and wait on line for a teller. Instead, I have direct deposit from some of my publishers and use online bill pay (through my bank’s Web site) and online bill paying features in Quicken to make payments. When I receive money by check, I deposit at an ATM. When I need to pay someone with a check — which is more and more seldom these days — I pull out one of the ones leftover from my original check stock, blow the dust off, and write one.

Some Words about Bank of America

I do all of my banking with Bank of America. Before you start bashing them, let me explain why. Our local branch in Wickenburg was, until recently, extraordinarily helpful. We had no trouble opening accounts, getting loans, refinancing our home, getting a home equity line of credit, etc. The staff knew us by name and always helped us immediately with any problems. It just made sense to put everything in one bank.

Since then, Bank of America has done its part to seriously piss me off — as they piss off everyone else they come in contact with. The local branch service completely failed to help us with a very serious problem, actually bringing me to tears in the branch location. I was forced to work with the monster that is Bank of America’s loan department and, although I resolved the situation satisfactorily, I have not been back to the branch since. I also have serious fears that the same problem will arise again and it has forced me to take a completely different approach on my personal finances. But that’s another story.

In general, my banking with Bank of America works pretty well. Between my husband and I, we have many accounts: 3 personal checking, 2 business checking, 2 credit cards, 2 mortgages, 1 home equity line of credit, and a 1 “recreational vehicle” (helicopter) loan. To start moving these accounts to another bank just because Bank of America isn’t what it used to be would be a time-consuming exercise in frustration. I have better ways to spend time frustrating myself.

What I do like about Bank of America’s Web access is that I can access all of my accounts from one login screen. This makes it really easy to manage my accounts. And it works with Quicken for free (although they do charge for QuickBooks access, which is why I don’t use QuickBooks). Even bill pay is free. And checking, as long as I use my debit card at least once a month. So my banking costs are quite low and access is quite convenient. How can I complain?

Point is: please don’t fill up the comments with suggestions on a better bank. I’m not interested in switching.

The Bank of America App

Recently, I downloaded the Bank of America iPhone App. It sat on my phone for at least a few weeks before I decided to give it a try. It has limited functionality, but it does make it relatively easy to check account balances, pay bills (to known payees), and transfer money using the app.

BofA AppThe app is pretty straightforward. You open it and then log in using the same kind of Site Key protection that’s on the Web version of online banking. You then choose from three options:

  • Accounts displays all your accounts and their balances. Clicking an account shows transactions in that account. Clicking a transaction shows transaction details.
  • Bill Pay & E-Bills gives you access to the bill pay feature. You can make a single payment, view (an cancel, but not change) outgoing payments, and view unpaid e-bills (if you have any).
  • Transfer Funds lets you transfer money between your accounts now, schedule a transfer between your accounts for later, or transfer to another person (if you have this feature set up).

Although the app’s limited functionality makes it impossible to use without occasional Web access — for example, you can’t set up a payee in the app; you must do that on the Web site or from within Quicken — it is, in general, quicker to use than the Web site — especially if you suffer from painfully slow Internet connections, as I do at home in Wickenburg. The phone has fewer options, so it takes fewer clicks (or taps) to get to the feature you need. Unfortunately, that feature doesn’t appear immediately. Worse yet, when you go back, there’s no indication that the app is doing anything — some kind of wait cursor or Internet access indicator would really help. But I still think it’s quicker and easier to use than the Web site for the few features it does support.

Point in case: today I paid my mechanic for some work he did on my helicopter. I was able to do this while eating breakfast, without firing up a computer. Launch the app, log in, and get right to the payment page. Enter an amount, send it, confirm it, and I’m done. It took about a minute.

And I can do this from anywhere I have a 3G phone signal. (I have Verizon, so that’s nearly everywhere I go.)

Conclusion

While I’m certain this isn’t the best banking app out there, it is the one that my bank offers, so it’s the only one I’ve experienced. If this is an indication of what’s to come, I’m very glad. The quicker and easier banking tasks are, the less time I have to spend doing them — or dealing with the bank’s staff.

Now that I’ve tried it, I’ll likely be using it more often.

What do you think? Do you use an app for your banking needs? If so, share your experiences in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Banking by Phone [App]

  1. I don’t have a lot of experience with different banking apps either. Like you, I’ve just used the one for my bank. It is almost exactly the same as yours. I am wondering if they aren’t all made by the same people? I have the same functionality, for example, I can pay but not add bills. Here is a screenshot. Even if they are all made by one person, they did a good job. I love being able to do everything so easily from my iPod.

  2. @Maria Langer Just Interact email transfer (which I’ve never used and don’t really know what it does) and Contact us which seems like it would be pretty easy to include. The rest are all the same. Find Us = Locations and the other 3 are the same.

    • April: My bank has a weird policy about e-mail contact. They don’t do it. They make you come to the Web site. It’s a pain in the butt and I don’t do it. It would be great to get communication by e-mail.

What do you think?