What Is Mobile Banking?

Find out how you can bank directly from your smartphone.

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There is so much we can do with our smartphones these days. One of the more convenient features available is mobile banking. Mobile banking is a way to manage your bank accounts and finances using your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile devices. You can handle your banking anywhere there's an internet connection. Pay your bills from the couch. Or check your account balance before an ATM withdrawal on vacation. Here's what you need to know to get started with mobile banking while maintaining a secure experience.

What Is Mobile Banking?

Mobile banking means using your bank's app to log in to see your account balances, transfer funds, pay bills, deposit checks, and more. After downloading your bank's mobile app, you can handle most of your banking needs yourself using the little supercomputer you carry around in your pocket or bag. If you're a small business owner, you can use apps like Lili Bank to track your transactions and even deposit checks from your mobile phone (Read our Lili Bank review for more information).

Every bank has its own unique user experience. So mobile banking may be a factor in why you choose one bank over another. Some online-only banks and fintech firms offer powerful mobile apps with cutting-edge technologies. For example, OnJuno offers its users a 1.2% bonus rate on eligible balances, along with cash back and no foreign transaction fees.

Smaller local banks and credit unions may feature more limited mobile offerings. However, mobile banking is a standard feature that you should expect wherever you bank.

How Does Mobile Banking Work?

To begin using mobile banking you need a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, and an internet connection, as well as an active bank account. But you can even open an account on many banking apps.

  • To get started, find your bank's mobile app. We prefer using the link on our bank's website to ensure we get the right app.
  • Most banks offer an app for iOS and Android. If you already have an account, head to Apple's App Store, Google Play Store or your bank's website to find and download the right app for your device.
  • Once you have the app downloaded, log in to access all features.
  • If you already use online banking on your computer, you can use the same credentials to log in.
  • If you are brand new to online and mobile banking, create an online account, and choose a secure password. Keep that password safe, as anyone who has it can access your bank accounts, potentially with the power to withdraw money.
  • Once logged in, you should have instant access to your balances and other features.
  • Some common features include the option to check your balance, transfer funds between accounts, transfer funds to friends or family, deposit checks, pay bills, view statements, and make updates to your personal information. Specific features will vary by bank.

What Are the Benefits of Mobile Banking?

Not long ago, you had to go into a bank branch and talk with someone to handle all of your banking needs. While many quick services like deposits and withdrawals can also occur at an ATM, mobile banking puts typical banking needs into the palm of your hand without having to leave your home or work to go to a bank.

In the age of COVID-19 and beyond, avoiding an extra face-to-face visit in your day is a welcome perk. With mobile banking, you can save time (and maybe even your health) when managing your money.

Differences Between Mobile and Online Banks

Mobile and online banking go hand in hand. However, just because you're using mobile banking doesn't mean you're using an online bank.

  • An online bank is a financial institution that you work with completely online or by phone. There are no physical branches anywhere to visit. Examples include Ally Bank, Capital One 360, Simple, Chime, and LendingClub Bank. (Check out our online bank reviews sections to read more on each.)
  • Traditional banks are not online banks but they typically give you the option to handle your banking on the web or with a mobile banking app.
  • You'll often find the features available on your bank's website closely mimic what you can do with your phone. (With your phone, though, you can even deposit checks simply by taking a picture.)

As long as you like your bank and its online and mobile features and follow good online security practices, you should find a positive experience with online and mobile banking regardless of the type of bank you choose.

Mobile Banking and Security

When some people think of online or mobile banking, they get very concerned about security. While it's vital to follow good online security practices, there's no need to have any considerable worry about online banking. Banks use strong security practices to store your data and keep your connection safe when you're logged in.

Here are some important tips to keep your money safe when you have an online banking account.

1. Use a Unique Password for Your Bank Account

Using the same password for multiple websites exposes you to serious risks if your password is leaked from any of those websites. If you're worried about keeping all of your unique passwords straight, consider a secure password manager like LastPass. Don't put your password on a sticky note on the back of your phone or laptop.

2. Create a Strong Password

Don't use an easy-to-guess password like “Abc123!” Use a random password generator, a passphrase or another method to keep your account safe from brute force attacks.

3. Avoid Public WiFi Networks

Connecting to WiFi is great to save mobile data when streaming videos, but it's generally bad for internet security. It's a good idea to disconnect from any public network (at a coffee shop, hotel, etc.) so you can do your banking with a secure mobile connection.

4. Consider Two-factor Authentication

If available, adding two-factor authentication can keep out would-be intruders who get hold of your login information. Two-factor authentication requires a code sent by text, email or generated by an app or device before logging in. (You can and probably should add this for your email and other online accounts as well.)

5. Keep Your Device Updated

Updates to your device's operating system and your bank's mobile device do more than bring new features. They also fix bugs and security issues. Consider setting automatic updates to avoid missing an update.

In many ways, mobile banking is even more secure than traditional banking. For example, using digital-only statements that you access with mobile banking could cut down on paper mail containing your personal information, a common identity theft source.

How Is Mobile Banking Good for Investing?

While you can't invest with a bank account, some companies offer mobile banking and mobile investing through the same app. Ally Invest, Wealthfront, Betterment, and many others let you bank and invest with one app and one login. (You can read our investment apps reviews sections to read full review of each.)

Here's a quick overview of the three services mentioned above:

HighlightsAlly InvestWealthfront
Min. Investment$0$500$
Stock Trades$0/trade
Options Trades$0.50/contract
Mutual Funds
Virtual Trading

This is a great benefit, as it means one less financial company to deal with, one less password to store or remember, and the added convenience of seeing and managing all of your money in one place.

Should You Use a Mobile Bank?

Because each bank offers different interest rates, fees, and mobile banking features, there is no single best bank for everyone. However, there is likely a best bank for you. Be sure to check out our articles on the best online savings accounts and best checking accounts to find some of the best online and mobile banking options available today.

No matter which bank you choose, they will likely have the option to use mobile banking. And nothing beats the convenience of banking wherever you are and whenever you want.

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel and technology writer in Ventura, California. He is a former bank manager and corporate finance and accounting professional who left his day job in 2016 to take his online side hustle full time. He has in-depth experience writing about banking, credit cards, investing and other financial topics and is an avid travel hacker. When away from the keyboard, Eric enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers and spending time with his wife and little girls.

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