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Mobile phone transactions: Rewards and risks abound

Using a smartphone to do banking is becoming

Using a smartphone to do banking is becoming increasingly popular, experts say. Photo Credit: Getty Images iStockphoto / pixelfit

As if people weren’t already inseparable from their cellphones, Wells Fargo recently became the first big bank to permit customers to use their mobile phones to access ATMs. This is just the latest way for people to do financial transactions by phone.

According to Michelle Hutchison, a representative for personal finance website finder.com, 60 million adults use their digital wallet more than any other means for transferring money to other people, whether to pay a baby sitter, split the tab at a restaurant or to pay monthly bills.

“Digital wallets can be a faster and cheaper way to transfer funds. Traditionally, banks have charged high fees for transferring money from your bank account to other people. Payment apps often allow you to sidestep those fees,” Hutchison says.

Some apps for mobile phone payment or transfers include Facebook Messenger, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Circle.

Safety is one of the appeals to users. Crooks would need to have both your mobile device and the log in information to your bank’s mobile app to get their hands on your money.

Safety risks include downloading the apps from untrustworthy sources, not setting a password for your cellphone, using websites without a secure HTTPS connection and using public internet connections. It’s a good idea to take advantage of biometric security such as fingerprint scan buttons on phones, create complicated passwords and consider using password management programs.

Device compatibility is an issue. Many older phones lack the features required to complete these transactions. “People are also restricted as to which merchants are currently accepting the technology, and what card types are accepted by the different payment apps available,” Hutchison says.

Then there’s always the possibility that your phone battery dies just when you need it most.

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