Have you purchased anything using your smartphone, or paid a bill with it? If so, you’re not alone. As the number of people who use their mobile devices for everything from watching media to creating content rise, there is also a wide segment of the population who are making payments for goods and services on their devices.
In 2012, U.S. mobile payments amounted to $12.8 billion, according to the research firm Forrester. The group predicted mobile payments will hit $90 billion by 2017, a 48 percent annual growth rate over last year’s figure. That’s a huge growth projection for a payment category that was unheard of five years ago.
The Best Personal Finance Apps
With mobile payments skyrocketing over the next few years, what mobile finance apps should smartphone users be looking to download? First, you might want to research how to manage a personal budget, period. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we don’t think so; according to the financial literacy program JumpStart.org, 56 percent of Americans don’t have a personal budget. Moreover, two out of five Americans give themselves a grade of C or lower on their knowledge of personal financial management, and 77 million Americans don’t pay their bills on time. So, it makes sense to start with the basics.
Fortunately, Under30 Finance has already done much of the leg work. Here are a few of their recommendations:
Manage your money. If your goal is to track all of your financial data, including credit card spending, bank account activity and investments, then Mint.com has the personal finance program for you. Started in 2007, Mint.com has nine million users. The app is available for free on both iPhones and Androids.
Find the best gas prices. The U.S. Department of Energy places the average vehicle fuel consumption around 678 gallons annually. Multiply that by $4 per gallon, and gas expenses run around $2,700 per year. GasBuddy is an app for iPhones that tracks local gas prices and finds the lowest prices, helping you to save on gas.
Compare prices. This one’s new to smartphones, and could quite possibly be the wave of the future. GlobalQRC enables users to scan product codes with their phone, and then drops the information into a database for price comparison. The result is that you get the best price and delivery options.
Track bills. With BillTracker, you put reoccurring bill payments into the system and it generates a reminder so you’re not late with your payment. The account balance is included on loan payments, so you can watch the amount owed whittle away. This app is available through the iTunes and Android stores.
Most of the big financial players have financial tool applications associated with their institution; Wells Fargo, MasterCard, Chase and Citigroup all have sophisticated mobile banking apps. These financial institutions are attempting to balance the convenience of mobile banking with the need for traditional, face-to-face interactions. Small business owners and personal finance customers can make use of banking apps that make life easier, while still having access to a teller when necessary.
Wells Fargo’s CEO Mobile app enables business customers to view checks, access accounts and make transaction decisions, such as accepting or rejecting check payments. This app is only available for the iPhone, however.
MasterCard has two great iPhone apps to help bring down that expense column. Priceless Picks uses a combination of social networking and location technology to find the best deals; just type in a phrase like “shoe deals,” and Priceless Picks will find the best local prices. The other app, Overwhelming Offers, sends users 50 percent discount offers on popular items.
J.P. Morgan Chase offers customers two iPhone apps called QuickDeposit and QuickPay, which are really two sides of the same coin. These apps allow users to deposit checks by taking a phone picture and make payments over the phone.
Citigroup, best known for their Citi credit card, has its Tap & Go system. This app is a fast-pay transaction process that enables customers to pay for merchandise simply by swiping the phone near the register. It works in reverse, as well; users can accept payments using the app’s near field communication technology.
One of the greatest concerns for mobile technology users is the security of personal data. As mobile devices become more sophisticated, the amount of information being collected about you is on the rise – app providers want to know your birth dates, passwords, account numbers and identifying information, it seems. With mobile payments expected to quadruple by 2014, data security will only become more important to users and app developers.
Some of the rhetoric on data security and identity theft is hype, being promoted by the multimillion dollar security industry, while other information is very valid. Taking a cautious but non-paranoid look at mobile security, here are a few things to look for in your mobile app security.
Where is the data stored? If the data is stored on your phone then losing it can be disastrous. Look for providers that offer back-end storage. In other words, make certain that your information is transferred to some area off of your telephone. Additional tips include:
- When logging into a website, look at the “http” heading. Remember that “http://” is not secured; “https://” is.
- Make sure that you kill your session or that they time-out automatically.
- If your device stays logged in, then anyone with access to your phone has access to your account.