The stodgy realm of banking has teamed up with the go-go world of smartphone technology to offer ways for people to deposit checks with a simple snap of the phone's camera.
"This is great. I love it," said Lea Waters-Clee, a Daly City resident who uses the mobile check deposit service that's offered by her credit union, Pleasanton-based Patelco. "I don't have to drive to the branch to deposit a check. I don't have to find parking. I work in San Francisco, I have to run errands and now I don't have to add going to the bank to my list."
Ken Thomas, a Miami-based banking analyst and economist, describes the innovation as a "convenient technology" for both banks and their customers.
"It saves the banks money
Wells Fargo bank, Bank of America, Chase bank and Citibank are among the prominent financial firms that offer ways for people to use their smartphones to deposit checks.
"The initial feedback from customers has been very good," said Armin Ajami, vice president of mobile products development for San Francisco-based Wells. "It's definitely a new experience for our customers."
At least one credit union, Patelco, also offers a service that allows customers to deposit checks from any location.
"We are getting a great reception," said Ignasio Medrano, Patelco's online marketing manager. "People love the service,
Typically, banking customers who have a smartphone and wish to use the technology have to download an app to their Android, iPhone or Windows devices so the phones are ready for remote-deposit prime time. Then they can access their bank's website via their phone. After they've signed in the usual way, they will see an icon that is the portal to make a deposit by phone.
However, while some of the big banks, such as Wells and Chase, oblige their customers to download an app, Patelco does not. It has configured its system so customers can become deposit shutterbugs right away without getting an app.
Its system will prompt the customer to take a picture of the check, front and back. This part of the process tends to be the most problematic, banking officials say, because the quality of the picture will determine the speed of the deposit process. The better the picture quality, the more likely the photo will be accepted by the bank.
"At the end of the day, it's like taking a picture of anything," said Ravi Acharya, senior vice president for digital products with Chase bank. "Sometimes you take great pictures, sometimes you don't."
Bank and credit union executives urge customers to use a dark background behind the check to provide contrast. Banks also urge customers to ensure that all four corners of the check are in the picture frame.
The various systems will walk customers through a series of prompts and deliver reminders about steps that might have been missed, including taking a picture of the front and back of the check. After the process is completed, the software signals that the check has been accepted. At that point, the image of the check is treated like any physical check in the bank's system.
"It is so simple," said Waters-Clee, the Patelco customer. "You press one button to use it. It guides you all the way through. It took me two minutes to do it the first time. Now it's less time for each check."
Once the check is accepted by the credit union's system, she physically files the check, making a note that she deposited the item.
"We're excited about this new service," said Ajami of Wells Fargo. "It's a way for customers to have one less errand on their to-do list."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.
Here's the typical process for making mobile deposits
1. Download your bank's app for your smartphone or tablet.
2. Log into your bank's website using your phone; typically an icon will appear which you can click to access the deposits area.
3. You will be prompted to photograph the front and back of the check you want to deposit. Once the check is photographed, you will be notified whether the bank has accepted the deposit.
6. The check deposit should show up in your account like any check you deposit at a branch.
Source: Mercury News reporting