This month, the federal government released findings from its annual study of mobile phone use for consumer financial services. This year's study confirms a rising pattern in the purchase of smartphones and their use for banking, payments and personal financial management. The following is an excerpt from the study:
Mobile phones have increasingly become tools that consumers use for banking, payments, budgeting, and shopping. Given the rapid pace of developments in the area of mobile finance, the Federal Reserve Board began conducting annual surveys of consumers' use of mobile financial services in 2011. The survey examines trends in adoption and use of mobile banking and payments, and how the emergence of mobile financial services affects how consumers interact with financial institutions.
This report presents findings from the 2013 survey, which examined consumers' use of mobile technology to access financial services and make financial decisions. The findings from the current survey are also compared with the findings from the 2011 and 2012 surveys. Topics include consumer access to bank services using mobile phones ("mobile banking"), consumer payment for goods and services using mobile phones ("mobile payments"), and consumer shopping decisions facilitated by use of mobile phones. Key findings of the 2013 survey include:
Mobile phones are in widespread use:
- 87 percent of the U.S. adult population has a mobile phone;
- 61 percent of mobile phones are smartphones (Internet-enabled).
The ubiquity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers access financial services:
- 33 percent of all mobile phone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months, up from 28 percent a year earlier;
- 51 percent of smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months, up from 48 percent a year earlier;
- 12 percent of those mobile phone users who are not currently using mobile banking think that they will probably use it within the next?12 months;
- the most common use of mobile banking is to check account balances or recent transactions (93 percent of mobile banking users);
- transferring money between an individual's own accounts is the second-most common use of mobile banking (57 percent of mobile banking users);
- 38 percent of mobile bankers have deposited a check using their mobile phone in the past?12 months, up from 21 percent in 2012;
- of those using mobile banking, the frequency of use has gone down, from a median of six times per month in 2012 to four times per month?in 2013; and
- among those who own mobile phones, there is no clear correlation between mobile banking use and either income or education level.
Mobile phones are changing the way consumers make payments:
- 17 percent of all mobile phone owners have made a mobile payment in the past 12 months, up from 15 percent in 2012;
- The share of smartphone users who have made a mobile payment in the past 12 months has effectively remained constant at 24 percent;
- The most common mobile payment was bill payment through an online system (66 percent of mobile payment users, up from 42 percent in 2012);
- 17 percent of all smartphone users have made a point-of-sale payment using their mobile phone in the past 12 months, up from 6 percent in 2012;
- 39 percent of people who made point-of-sale mobile payments did so by scanning a barcode or QR code displayed on their phone's screen at the cash register, while 14 percent waved or tapped their mobile phone at the cash register; and
- Among those who own mobile phones, there is no clear correlation between mobile payment use and either income or education level.
Among consumers who do not use mobile financial services, principal reasons cited are perceptions of limited usefulness and benefits, and concerns about security:
- of those not using mobile banking, the primary reason people cited was a belief that their banking needs were being met without the use of mobile banking (89 percent of non-users);
- the primary reason people gave for not using mobile payments was that they believe it is easier to pay with cash or credit/debit cards (76 percent of non-users); and
- concerns about the security of the technology were a common reason for not using mobile banking or mobile payments (69 percent and 63 percent, respectively, of non-users).
Smartphones are changing the way people shop and make financial decisions:
- 44 percent of smartphone users have comparison shopped with their phone while at a retail store, and 31 percent have used their phone to scan a product's barcode to find the best price for ?the item;
- 68 percent of consumers who used their phones to comparison shop in a retail store have changed where they purchased the product as a result of the information they found;
- 42 percent of smartphone users have used their phone to browse product reviews or get product information while shopping at a retail store, and 74 percent of them changed the item they purchased based on this information;
- 69 percent of mobile banking users have checked their account balance before making a large purchase in the past 12 months, and half of them decided not to purchase an item as a result of their account balance or credit limit; and
- 24 percent of smartphone users have used their phone to track purchases and expenses.
Mobile phones are prevalent among unbanked and underbanked consumers:
- 69 percent of the unbanked have access to a mobile phone, approximately half of which are smartphones;
- 88 percent of the underbanked have access to a mobile phone, 64 percent of which are smartphones;
- 39 percent of underbanked consumers have used mobile banking in the past 12 months; and
- the share of consumers who are unbanked is 11 percent, and the share who are underbanked is 17 percent.
The complete 61-page report, "Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2014," is available for download from the Federal Reserve website.