Survey shows mobile banking increasing in state
Consumers might soon be hanging up on plastic cards
The cellphone is poised to become a real alternative to credit and debit cards, experts say in the wake of a new statewide survey showing a rise in mobile banking offerings.
The Connecticut Department of Banking surveyed all the state's chartered banks and found that 10 percent are already offering mobile banking services via cellphones, with almost 30 percent more preparing to roll out new platforms for your cell and other mobile devices within a year.
The survey doesn't include the big regional and international banks that are regulated by the federal government, including People's United and Webster banks.
"I don't think it was a surprise," Todd Prout, a Banking Department manager of examinations and information technology, said of the increasing interest in mobile banking.
Using new technology to facilitate payments will bring new players into the banking industry like mobile device makers, including Apple and Research in Motion, which makes the Blackberry, Prout said.
As the technology evolves and becomes more widespread, regulators will be monitoring the companies involved and how secure their systems are, said Banking Commissioner Howard Pitkin. The mobile-based platform will be more secure, Pitkin said, as it will be password protected, unlike a credit card that can be swiped.
Right now, mobile banking is more like computer banking, where you can pay bills online or check balances and move money around. But Prout and Greg Jacobi, senior vice president of eBanking at Waterbury-based Webster Bank, say that will change, and probably soon.
Webster rolled out its mobile banking platform last year because there was already demand for it, Jacobi said.
"We noticed about the beginning of last year, people were using mobile phones to do transactions on our website," he said. So Webster created about half a dozen platforms tailored to the various smartphones out there.
For example, the screens are specifically sized for Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, he said.
"We're getting a lot of repeat traffic," Jacobi said.
About one in every 10 visits to Webster's website is a cellphone.
Jacobi said the industry is on the verge of seeing the day when customers will have that choice of reaching for their phones to pay for things at registers.
The key will be which technology is adopted by mobile phone makers and credit-card networks. Methods under testing include technology that allows people to tap their screen, enter a pin and pay at a checkout counter of a store, as well as permit a money transfer to another person by bumping the phones together, Jacobi and Prout said.
Another option for mobile banking could involve a closed loop system, where you have a digital card on your phone that you can load with money from your bsnk account. You can then scan the image of the card at a register to pay. Starbucks has a system like this already.
Some smaller banks, such as Newtown Savings Bank, are also in the game.
Tanya Wulf Truax, a spokeswoman for Newtown Savings, said the bank is on its second generation of mobile banking and is upgrading its interface. Like Webster, she said the customers use it to check balances and transfer funds.
Prout, Truax and Jacobi said they expect the adoption of the new technology to speed up in coming months and all three expect it to be available in the state within a year.