Bank of America on Thursday joined the roster of banks that let customers deposit checks through smartphones and other mobile devices, a move that can help the ailing giant slash costs and jobs.
South Florida's second-largest bank by deposits said customers now can deposit checks through their iPads and will be able to do so by iPhone, Windows phones and Android devices within weeks. A mobile application will let them photograph a check and send the photo for processing as a deposit.
The launch highlights the fast-growing role of mobile devices in banking and other payments.
Among major banks, Chase introduced mobile check-deposits in 2010. Wells Fargo, the largest bank in South Florida by deposits, began the service this year.
Bank of America now has more than 10 million customers using mobile banking. Adding mobile check-deposit and other services unveiled Thursday should boost that number significantly, analysts said.
Going mobile helps banks cut costs, trimming the need for automated teller machines and branches.
Bank of America plans to slash $8 billion a year from expenses by mid-2015, partly to offset losses from its 2008 purchase of troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.
In the past year, the North Carolina-based bank has cut more than 12,000 jobs, reducing its workforce to about 275,000. It plans to ax 30,000 positions in all. The bank also has closed more than 1,500 ATMs this year, mostly at non-bank locations, about 9 percent of its ATM network, financial reports show.
Many South Florida consumers welcome the convenience of mobile check-deposits but cringe at the prospect that new apps -- like other high-tech innovations -- may eliminate jobs in banking and beyond.
"I never want to see anyone lose their job, especially in this economy," said Bank of America customer Anthony McCutcheon, 24, of Pompano Beach. Still, he embraces electronic banking "as good for the customer."
Wells Fargo account holder Devin Swift, 22, a student from Davie, called it "a pain" to drive to the ATM to make deposits. He was not aware that Wells Fargo allows mobile check-deposits in some locales and was mulling a bank switch because of its rising fees for his account statement. "It's not worth paying when I don't have to," said Swift.
Pompano Beach resident Greta Cook, 44, said she wished her credit union offered mobile check-deposits, provided proper security is in place. Her concern about sending photos: "it's just like e-mail. Who can intercept it?"
Bank of America has prioritized safety in mobile and online banking, earning high marks from independent groups such as Javelin Research. It emphasized security in launching a service Thursday that lets customers transfer cash with just an e-mail address or mobile phone number. Eliminating the need to share account numbers provides "stronger protection from identity theft," the bank said.
Bank of America has announced plans to lay off 675 employees in Fort Lauderdale and 130 others in Hialeah inMiami-Dade County later this year.
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