USAA Mobile App for Android, Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Coming Soon
USAA held a conference call on Aug. 11 to offer more details about the feature it recently added to its iPhone banking application, which now lets users deposit checks by capturing images of the front and back of a check with the iPhone's camera.
During the call, at 2:30 p.m. Central Time, USAA spokesperson Paul Berry said that since the feature had gone live, 24 hours earlier, approximately 1,500 checks had been deposited using the feature.
USAA's iPhone app, available free in the Apple App Store, is somewhat of an extension of the ability to deposit a check using a home scanner, which USAA extended to its 7.2 million members three years ago. Those who qualify to use the new iPhone feature - which for now includes members with insurance accounts or lines of credit with USAA, though this is expected to change in the next 60 to 90 days - simply capture images of the check, submit them over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection and then confirm the deposit.
The three steps take under two minutes to complete.
During the call, Berry and USAA executive director Jeff Dennes described how the application was entirely developed in-house in San Antonio, where it has its one brick-and-mortar bank, and that the app was tested on about 500 employees before releasing it to the public.
The app works on all versions of the iPhone - though with the improved camera on the iPhone 3GS the first-take acceptance rate is said to be higher - and Dennes said USAA is at work on versions for BlackBerry devices, as well as Android, Palm and Windows operating systems, which may be available as soon as "the next quarter."
USAA is a financial services group offered to members of the military and their families, and it reports that nearly half of its 1 million mobile users are active-duty military who may be deployed around the world. Of those users, 35 percent access USAA's mobile services via an iPhone.
Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, calls the mobile checking app innovative but still a fairly niche offering. "A perceived lack of security by U.S. consumers is one of the biggest barriers to uptake for all mobile banking services right now, so USAA will have to work hard to educate its customers that using the check app is safe and secure," Mawston told eWEEK.
"Mobile banking is a potentially attractive growth segment for operators, handset makers and bankers, so we will certainly see more innovative services like this over the coming years," he added.
USAA was founded in 1922, during a time when it was difficult for military people - like firemen and farmers and others with jobs that were considered dangerous - to get insurance. Today, the mobile nature of USAA, which works in conjunction with a network of sister ATMs, saves military families from having to open new bank accounts and form new relationships with insurance agents each time they move, Berry explained.
As its members are often physically on the move, they tend also to be a particularly mobile-savvy group, with 97 percent owning a mobile device, which USAA reports is in comparison to 89 percent ownership by the general public.
USAA's customers have conducted more than 13.3 million mobile transactions in 2009, and it reports that the adoption rate of its mobile services has been 14 percent - which is three times greater than what other leading banks, such as Bank of America, are reporting.