Cellphone Banking Is Coming of Age

YOU'RE starting a two-week vacation far from home when you suddenly realize you left the mortgage payment on the kitchen table instead of mailing it on the way to the airport. Or perhaps you're standing in the checkout line of a store, poised to make a debit card payment, but you can't remember if you have enough money in your account to avoid expensive overdraft charges.

It doesn't happen often, just frequently enough to be annoying and costly. But cellphones may be the solution for a number of banking problems.

Last week, Citibank began a nationwide service allowing customers to do many online banking tasks on their cellphones. This week, Bank of America followed suit with its own service. As cell carriers improve Internet data connection speeds, more banks are looking to mobile handsets as another way for customers to avoid ever talking to a bank employee.

Bank of America's new free service, for example, allows customers who have cellphones with Internet access to check balances, pay bills and transfer money on their handsets. The bank already has the largest number of online users - over 21 million, according to the Internet research firm ComScore Networks - and the company sees the mobile option as an extension of its Internet banking. spacer

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