Nearly every bank in the U.S. has online and mobile components to their services, in addition to their brick-and-mortar branches. But BankMobile is doing something different: It’s doing away with the traditional retail concept and is America’s first no-fee, mobile bank, BankMobile is aimed at the Millennial Generation that prefers to bank on their mobile devices instead of going to branches.
BankMobile, a division of Customer Bank, offers traditional banking services like checking and savings through its mobile and online portals. Signing up for an account simply requires uploading a photo of your driver’s license and other pertinent information. You can deposit a check by snapping a photo of it, and you can even pay bills by taking a photo of it and entering the desired amount. When you need cash, you can go to one of the 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs currently within the Star Network program. And because there aren’t physical banking centers or personnel to maintain, BankMobile is able to offer most of the services without fee, and it’s FDIC-insured to protect customers’ assets. The company even says home and auto loans may be options in the future.
The smartphone has not replaced the retail bank – yet – but more people are using their mobile devices for many banking services, which traditionally involved going into a physical location or even going online. Between March 2013 and 2014, 33 percent of all mobile phone users used mobile banking, according to the Federal Reserve’s Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2014 report. Of the 2,000 Millennials who participated in the 2014 TD Bank Financial Education Survey, 57 percent stated they used mobile banking more in 2014 than they did in 2013. It is figures like these that BankMobile is seizing on: During BankMobile’s official launch on January 14, 2015, BankMobile’s Chairman and CEO Jay Sidhu made it clear they are aiming for Millennials who spend more than 14 hours a week on their smartphone, and are more inclined to bank on their phones than in branches. However, there are many benefits to using a traditional bank, like running into a banking center when you need something right away. But with the percentage of U.S. mobile phone users expected to exceed 50 percent by next year, entering a bank could feel like walking into a museum in the future.
Online and mobile banking aren’t new, as major U.S. banks already offer them. But after Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo were electronically hacked within the last two years, consumers may be hesitant in keeping money in a mobile-only bank. BankMobile has implemented some safety nets: The company lets account holders turn on and off their debit card to protect against unauthorized usage. Via parent Customer Bank, it’s also partnering with Apple to work with Apple Pay, which relies on unique security codes to complete transactions, instead of debit card information. Beyond that, the company says it has security measures in place, but it’s vague on exactly what those measures are.