Can’t remember the last time you stepped foot inside a bank? You’re not alone. According to a 2015 report by Celent, “mobile check deposit was used by 87 million people,” and I’m willing to bet that a good percentage of these individuals don’t make regular trips to their bank or credit union. Personally, it’s been about a year since I’ve completed a bank transaction in the lobby. I have a full plate, and I’m all about convenience, which is why I pay bills online, shop alone and use mobile banking to manage my personal finances.
Bank technology has come a long way in the past 15 to 20 years. I signed up for online banking in 2001, but I still recall the archaic days of telephone banking and sitting on the phone for five minutes as a computer read off my account balance and cleared transactions one item at a time.
The ability to manage money online was a simplicity and convenience I didn’t know was possible. Next came the arrival of mobile banking, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, behold the birth of mobile check deposit—a feature that lets us deposit a check using our smartphones. It’s one of the best features in mobile banking. If you’re wondering whether this option is available through your bank, the short answer is probably yes. If your bank has a mobile application, then it probably offers mobile deposits.
The history of mobile check deposit
The technology is relatively new— so new that the top 10 U.S banks have only offered the feature since 2013. Chase was the first major bank to introduce mobile check deposit in 2009. But if you’re a USAA bank customer, you might have been using a version of this feature since 2008.
“I first used mobile deposit through USAA Federal Savings Bank,” says Ryan Guina, personal finance blogger at Cash Money Life. “USAA has members that live all over the world and may not have easy access to brick and mortar banks. They created a system that allowed members to scan and upload images of checks they wanted to deposit. This was much more convenient than sending checks through the mail, which could take days to deliver, then several more days to clear.”
Mobile deposits are increasing in popularity as more and more banks add this feature to their mobile app. A 2014 Pew Charitable Trust survey found that 37 of the nation’s 50 largest banks now offer consumer mobile deposit. And according to Timothy Day, AVP of eChannel with Navy Federal Credit Union, “For the first time, Navy Federal mobile deposits surpassed branch deposits in February 2016.”
The technology is at your finger tips, and you don’t have to be tech savvy to benefit from this service.
How does mobile check deposit work
- Open the app store on your smartphone or tablet and search for your bank by name. Once you locate your bank’s mobile app, download the app to your device.
- If you currently manage your bank accounts online, sign into the mobile app using the same credentials. If you don’t use online banking, you’ll need to sign up and create a mobile banking account. Follow the prompts and choose a username and password. You’ll need your account number nearby to confirm your identity.
- Log into the system. Open the menu and select the option to deposit a check.
- Choose the appropriate account for the deposit. Enter the amount of the check, and then take a photo of the front and back of the check.
- You’ll receive a notification on your smartphone confirming the deposit.
Why to use mobile check deposit, if offered by your bank
If you’re old school and you drive by your bank every day, maybe you think mobile check deposit is nothing more than an unnecessary luxury. You’re free to choose how to deposit your check, and if you think mobile deposit isn’t for you, that’s perfectly fine. However, before you slam the book on this idea, consider what you’re giving up.
On a Friday afternoon, all you want is to go home and enjoy your weekend. But if it’s payday and your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, you’ll have to make a trip to the bank. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do after a long week is sit in a bank line for 20 or 30 minutes. With mobile check deposit, this scenario becomes a memory.
“Banks are also using apps like mobile check deposit to hopefully lessen the stress of the amount of people in lines at the bank,” explains Matthew Coan, owner of the financial product comparison website Casavvy.com. “If you are able to deposit your checks from home, or at the ATM, then you are one less person standing in line that requires the assistance of a staff member at the banks brick and mortar location.”
If you deposit your check from your phone, you don’t have to make a special trip to the bank. Simply get your paycheck from your employer, open the app at your desk and deposit your check in under two minutes.
Depending on how far your personal bank is from your home, depositing your check at a branch can mean driving several miles both ways. Mobile check deposit alleviates driving across time to cash a check. You’ll save time and gas—and when you save gas, you save money.
“If you have to get in your car, drive to the bank, wait in line, deposit the check and then drive home, you’ve lost money on the transportation expense to get there,” says Joe Saul-Sehy, chief writer at Stacking Benjamins. “But probably more important, you’ve lost a more valuable asset: your time. Deposit quickly and get on with your life.”
Mobile checking deposit is a win-win for you and the bank. According to a Javelin Strategy & Research 2013 report, it can cost a bank $4.25 to process an in-branch deposit, yet it only costs $0.10 to process a check through mobile deposit. And in most cases, your bank won’t charge a fee for using this service. Among the top 10 U.S banks, U.S. Bank is the only institution that charges its customers a fee, which is $0.50 per check.
Understand your bank’s policy on mobile deposit holds and limits
Mobile deposit will change your check deposit experience for the better, but there are a few things you should know.
Every bank has its own policies and rules with regard to mobile deposits, and unfortunately, some banks limit how much you can deposit per day and per month. I bank with Wells Fargo and my personal checking account has a daily deposit maximum of $2,500 and a 30-day maximum of $5,000. Deposit maximums vary by financial institution, so you’ll need to contact your bank for specific information.
Since mobile check deposits adhere to the same guidelines as a paper check deposit, some financial institutions place holds on mobile deposits and funds may not be available until the next business day if depositing a check after the bank’s cutoff time.
“In general, most banks have a daily limit and they may place a hold on some or all of the deposited check. But the hold amount varies and can sometimes be adjusted if you have a strong credit history and a long relationship with the bank,” says Guina.
Don’t destroy the check until it clears your bank account
I made a few rookie mistakes in my early days of using mobile check deposit—namely destroying checks before confirming a deposit was successful. Fortunately, I didn’t burn myself. But I’ve known people to destroy a check too soon, only to receive a message a couple hours later asking them to bring the check into a branch due to a mobile deposit error. So my point is, don’t immediately shred the check.
“Make sure that the app confirms that the check is read, and hold on to the check for at least 14 days so that you can confirm its acceptance in your account. Then don’t forget to destroy it so that another person doesn’t try anything with it,” urges Andrew C. Belton, owner of Symmetrical Media Marketing .
Rick Jaros, Head of U.S. Digital Channels for TD Bank reminds bank customers to endorse their checks to avoid processing delays, and it’s also important to ensure the dollar amount entered at the time of the deposit matches the dollar amount on the check.
Lay the check on a flat, plain background to take the photo, and make sure your phone or tablet’s battery has enough juice before starting a deposit. There’s nothing more annoying than your device dying or receiving a low battery notification in the middle of check deposit.