More cell phone operators and financial companies are jumping on the mobile financial-service bandwagon, but it remains to be seen if U.S. cell phone subscribers are even interested.
Sprint Nextel announced on Thursday that it will be the latest U.S. wireless carrier to offer its mobile-phone customers the ability to bank from their mobile handsets. The new MyMoneyManager service is a free downloadable application that enables cell phone subscribers to check bank balances, pay bills, and find nearby branches or ATMs from their handsets.
Sprint has initially partnered with four banks, BB&T, Citibank, IBC Bank, and PNC Bank, to provide the application. It plans to add other banks at a future date. And it will eventually bundle the application into some of its handsets.
Credit card giant Visa also announced several mobile initiatives Thursday. Specifically, it plans to enable its customers to transfer money, make payments, and receive real-time account notification alerts on their Nokia phones, as well as cell phones using the Google Android operating system. Visa also struck a mobile deal with U.S. Bank that will enable individuals to make money transfers from one Visa cardholder's account to another.
Initiatives to make bill payments and other banking tasks phone-friendly have been hyped over the past couple of years. Mobile banking is one of several new mobile services, such as music downloading and TV viewing, that have been enabled by faster 3G wireless networks.
And for the past couple of years, financial institutions and cell phone operators have been rolling out new services and applications.
Most banks participating Most of the major U.S. banks already offer some kind of mobile-banking technology, according to market research firm Celent. And the two largest mobile operators in the States have also introduced mobile-payment and banking options.
AT&T launched a mobile-payment application made available through Firethorn, which has since been acquired by Qualcomm, in March 2007. The telecommunications giant has also been running trials with Nokia to turn cell phones into debit cards, allowing people to make purchases with their cell phones. And Verizon Wireless, which also uses Firethorn, launched its mobile-banking application in January 2008.
But despite the fact that there are many options and opportunities for cell phone subscribers to access their banking information and pay their bills on their mobile phones, the uptake for these applications and services has been pretty weak. According to Forrester Research, only about 3 percent of mobile subscribers in North America check financial accounts on their mobile phone at least once a month. This rate of adoption is lower than that of services like music downloading, which 5 percent of mobile users say they do at least once monthly.… Read more