Commentary

Mobile Banking Adoption Remains Low

Consumers like the idea of controlling their finances from a smartphone or tablet, but the number that are actually using mobile banking services remains low, according to a new survey by RateWatch.

Overall, 82% of financial institutions surveyed said they offered mobile banking services in 2014, up from 68% in 2013 -- but 77% said that less than a quarter of their customers are using mobile banking. Meanwhile just 2% of consumer respondents said mobile banking is their primary banking method, up from under 1% in 2013.

That compares to 62% who still opt for the good, old-fashioned local branch (banking in person), down from 67% in 2013, and 29% who said their primary channel is online (but not mobile), up from 24.5% in 2013. In other words the big winner is online banking, although mobile is growing fast in percentage terms.

Despite this, 70% of consumers under the age of 30 said they consider mobile banking to be a “must-have,” along with 51% of consumers over the age of 30 -- although given the low adoption rates, what they may actually be saying is that it is “nice to have,” in case they want to use it.

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Interestingly, RateWatch found that credit unions are more likely than banks to have customers who use mobile banking more than once a week (68% versus 57%) as well as more customers saying online is their primary banking method (37% versus 27%).

Although mobile banking is off to a slow start, banks seem to foster more consumer trust in this area than technology companies do. Last month a survey of 4,200 U.S. households conducted by Phoenix Marketing International found two-thirds of respondents would rather use a mobile app from a bank, versus less than a third who said they would opt for Apple Pay.

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