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Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
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Consumers and Mobile Financial Services
March 2016


The use of mobile banking continued to rise in the past year and appears likely to continue to increase as more consumers use smartphones or recognize the convenience of this service, and as more financial institutions offer mobile banking. The most common tasks for mobile banking users continued to be checking account balances, transferring funds, and receiving alerts. The use of mobile payments, broadly defined, was lower than the use of mobile banking. As in the previous survey, the most common mobile payments activities were paying bills through a mobile phone or web browser, purchasing a physical item or digital content remotely using a mobile phone, and paying for something in a store using a mobile phone.

The main factors limiting consumer adoption of mobile banking and payments were a preference for using other methods for banking or making payments and security concerns. In terms of the value proposition to consumers, the significant number of mobile users who reported an interest in using their phones to receive discounts, coupons, and promotions or to track rewards and loyalty points suggests that tying these services to a mobile payment service may increase the attractiveness of mobile phones as a means of payment.

As smartphones become more common and more versatile, they can play an increasingly large role in the interactions between consumers and financial service providers, retailers, and other businesses. The near-constant presence of mobile phones in consumers' lives also makes them a potentially useful tool for the delivery of just-in-time financial information or as an aid in decisionmaking. Given the prevalence of mobile phones--particularly smartphones--among minorities, low-income individuals, and younger persons, mobile technology has the potential to empower consumers and expand access to financial services for underserved populations. However, consumers will need to understand and weigh the perceived benefits and potential risks to their security and privacy presented by the use of this evolving technology.

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Last update: February 14, 2017