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Make a Bank Deposit via Your iPhone

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David Silversmith
David Silversmith

With online banking and ATM machines, far fewer of us have to wait in bank queues. But you still have to head to the bank or post your checks to the bank whenever it's time to cash a cheque. However, one US bank is launching what will hopefully become a trend and that is the ability to deposit cheques immediately — through your phone.

USAA, a US bank and insurance company, has just updated its iPhone application this week to introduce the check deposit feature, which requires a customer to photograph both sides of the check with the phone’s camera. After that, you just submit the photos. The deposit to your account is instant so if this functionality were to spread to more banks, it could save all kinds of time for folks.  “We’re essentially taking an image of the check, and once you hit the send button, that image is going into our deposit-taking system as any other check would,” said Wayne Peacock, a USAA executive vice president.

Customers will not have to mail the cheque to the bank later; the deposit will be handled entirely electronically.  Once you have photographed the cheque you can void it, file it or even discard it (though you might want to run one or two trial deposits before you start discarding!)  Granted this is just one bank in one country to offer this service. And to reduce the potential for fraud, they are not even offering this to all customers yet.  Only USAA customers who are eligible for credit and have some type of insurance through USAA will be permitted to use the deposit feature.

USAA is highly motivated to make this work as they have only one physical branch, but over 7 million customers, mostly US military and ex-military, around the world. Three years ago, they introduced the option of depositing a cheque from home using a scanner. While that laid the groundwork for the phone deposit feature, it was not highly successful as there were too many steps involved in that process and this scanning approach was picked up by few other banks.

Likewise, many banks are dismayed that mobile banking has been slow to catch on.  Today, the most popular banking tasks done on cellphones are reviewing account balances, transferring money, making payments and finding ATM machines.  The world's economic conditions mean even tighter budgets for banks so they are focusing on using technology in ways that cut costs or generate revenue.  Getting more folks online and out of the local branches for mundane tasks could be a big cost savings for many banks.

The company will also also introduce the service for Blackberry phones later this year and other camera-phones in 2010. As long as your writing is clear, the process works well, letting you deposit checks anywhere.

USAA's scaning never caught on - but with the popularity of the iPhone and the Blackberry hopefully this technology will make it's way around the world.


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