Online banking safety tips - Use the bank's app, not a mobile web browser. - Don't use a public wireless network instead of a public network. - Log out when you've completed your business. - Beware of bogus text messages that claim to be from your bank. - Routinely check your phone for unfamiliar apps; they could be malware. -- Source: OrlandoWhether you're buying or selling, apps for smartphones are almost ready to put wallets out of business. Buying Tasha Lippold was eating at Los Aztecas when she realized that she owed her friend money for a wedding shower gift they'd agreed to purchase together. Instead of writing her a check, Lippold, who is the marketing director at Premier Bank , sent her friend an electronic payment via cell phone. "I use her phone number. She gets it as a text message. She accepts payment," Lippold said. "The first time, you have to put it in an account. She sees that it's in her account." With all the banking apps available in the last couple of years, Lippold said she never carries cash anymore. "It's game changing," she said. "Mobile banking is an increasing trend. We decided to start the mobile banking apps about two years ago. Every time there's updates and new tech, we jump onboard. "You can look at transactions, transfer funds and pay bills from your phone. What was once a 45-minute task, now takes 3 minutes. You can take a picture of a check and submit it." Popmoney is the ability to send electronic payments person-to- person, as she did in paying her share of the shower gift. "You can set (your account) to send alerts," she said. "I can see my accounts, my home equity loan. It's changing the way you have to manage finances. You can spend time on other things, like your kids, instead of writing checks. Plus, it saves you money on paper and stamps." Lippold admits that before she started working at the bank, she never thought about using financial apps. "But when I learned about it, I thought, 'This is sweet.' "It's all secure and password protected," she said, adding that it's "secure as long as your password is not saved on your iPhone. And (if necessary,) people can call the bank and put a hold on their account." It should come as no surprise that someday people will pay for goods and services with their phones. "We hear about industry trends in bigger cities," Lippold said. "New stores setting up shop are preparing for something like a phone swipe. They have to think about that with new registers." The downside to any new product, such as consumer mobile deposit, is security. "How do we know they won't deposit the same check more than once? We tested extensively." she said. "The risk is on our end." While big city banks might be the first to roll out the new technology, it's possible, in a place like the tristates, to have the convenience of new apps and still get that community bank support. The future might bring a cashless society. But for now, banks still offer ATMs. People still deposit funds in them or night drop off. And Lippold, a busy working mother with two young boys, says these days she only writes a check for day care. Most local financial institutions offer mobile apps of some sort. DuTrac Community Credit Union offers mobile alerts for debit and credit cards, according to its website. The real-time alerts for Visa and Mastercard send text messages if a suspicious transaction is identified on your debit or credit card You confirm whether or not you recognize the transaction. If you don't, a block is placed on the card. If you do reply that you recognize it, then your card remains available for use. You also can access your account with a MobileLink app, and check on your account balance and transactions via texting. Customers have to register with PC Branch. DB&T offers Mobile Banking, a way to access your deposit accounts via text message, your phone's mobile browser or the bank's free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Once customers enroll in online banking, they can deposit checks anytime using Savvy, a mobile banking app for iPhone and Android. Deposits go through in one or two business days. Customers need to save the check until the amount has posted. Selling There also are new apps and gadgets for small businesses. You've seen the commercials for the Square. The credit card reader sells for $9.95 in the Apple Store . It's a service that allows a small business owner to accept credit cards, using a reader - a small square device that plugs into an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad. It includes an app. The system eliminates the need for complicated contracts, monthly fees or merchant accounts. The fee is 2.75 percent per transaction. You can download the free app from the App Store to run your business and track analytics. Dubuque potters Liz and Rich Robertson use a similar system, Intuit's GoPayment, to sell their ceramics at art fairs. "You use it through any smart phone," Rich said. What he likes about the system is that they also were able to buy a scanner that's a card reader with a mini printer about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It uses a small roll of thermal paper and takes a rechargeable battery. If necessary, when on the road, it can be recharged in the couple's van overnight. "It prints a receipt on the spot," he said. "With the Square, you have to email a receipt to the customer. Email addresses are squirrelly. This prints it for the customer and for us. When we go through our receipts, it's recognizable." At the end of every day, it sums up the batch of sales and the money is in the bank. The Robertsons learn right away if the card is good, although he said they seldom have a problem. Robertson said he knows another artist who uses a hotspot device and iPad to accomplish the job. "Our first wireless machine cost $1,500 plus a $15 monthly fee just for that device," he said. "It takes awhile to amortize that kind of investment. This is just the cost of the smart phone. It's more portable. When I get home, I go to the desktop computer and to the website for this company and get a printout of all sales."
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