Press M for mobile banking!

Here's all you need to know about having your bank at your fingertips.



Offering access to your bank accounts at any time and at any place, mobile banking is as convenient as banking gets. Mobile banking services have long graduated from providing just alerts on your phone. From paying bills to checking credit card dues to making enquiries on your demat holdings to sending money using just mobile numbers, a lot of services are now available at the press of a button. Some banks also help you obtain income-tax certificates or get loan agreement copies, while others tempt you to shop, travel or gift your loved ones through services such as ngpay or mshop which gives access to hundreds of merchants from your mobile phone. So how do you make a start?

Registration

Alongside add-ons such as a debit card and a cheque book, many banks help you register for mobile banking even as you open an account with them. But if you are an existing account holder approaching a branch and filling up the necessary forms seems to be a common way to register.

However, with busy schedules inevitably making everyone delay the much-needed visit to the branch, banks have now made it easier for us to register ourselves for mobile banking. SBI, for example, allows customers to register at the bank's ATMs.

HSBC/HDFC Bank allows us to register from our cubicles in the office through net banking where as Standard Chartered Bank permits mobile banking registration through phone banking as well.

Besides, you need not necessarily have a savings account to avail this service. ICICI Bank, for instance, allows a loan or a demat account or a credit card holder to register for mobile banking.

In case you lose your phone or change your mobile number, you need to de-activate mobile banking the same way you deactivate your credit cards. Similarly, in case of a change of mobile number you may have to go through the registration process once again.

Choosing the right one

From SMS-based services to downloading an application, most banks offer an array of interaction choices to customers. SMS-based services are ideal for those who have minimal needs. By sending pre-defined keywords through SMS to the specific numbers provided by the bank, customers can get instant replies to certain queries like balance enquiry, cheque book request, etc. For example, by messaging ‘stm' to 5676712, HDFC Bank account holders can request for their account statement. These services would suit those who have no internet connectivity but would still like to connect with the bank wherever they are.

While some banks allow only non-financial transactions through SMS-based services, few also allow services such as mobile or DTH top-ups/ recharge.

Another way of reaching your banker through your mobile is by using USSD-based services. For example, Vodafone, Idea, MTNL, Reliance (GSM) and Docomo subscribers can simply dial *525# to make use of this service from ICICI Bank. If you find remembering the SMS keywords a headache, USSD would suit you better as it is an interactive menu-based service.

For the more tech-savvy, banks offer mobile banking services through downloadable applications that can be stored in the mobile phone or through specific WAP sites provided by mobile phone operators.

If you have a non-Java phone with GPRS, you can use the WAP-based services. But for downloading and installing the application directly onto your mobile handset, a Java-enabled phone with GPRS would be required. On requesting the application through an SMS, most banks will send you a user ID, a PIN and a link to download it. The application option scores over the rest as it covers additional services such as allowing fund transfers, especially through IMPS ( transferring funds using mobile number of payee) or enabling booking of flight or movie tickets and shopping. In short, it allows you to conduct almost all banking activities through your handset .

Charges and limits

Remember the cliché about no free lunches? Well, seems like the banks no longer follow the credo. Mobile banking is offered absolutely free of cost. The only expense you will incur is the SMS or USSD requisition charges along with internet browsing and downloading charges.

The catch

However, the value of the transactions that can be undertaken through this mode is limited. Public-sector major SBI, for example, says that the bank limits transactions to Rs 1,000 per customer per day for SMS and USSD based services.

For the application or WAP-based users, the limit is higher at Rs 50,000. In fact, given its growing popularity, the RBI has recently relaxed the limit for making payments through mobile phones (also known as m-wallet) from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000. Airtel and Vodafone have tied up with SBI and ICICI Bank respectively to offer these facilities to their subscribers.

Is it secure?

Banks have taken steps to keep mobile banking transactions safe. City Union Bank, has messaging-level encryption and two levels of PIN for executing these transactions.

While Kotak Bank uses 256-bit encryption, SBI uses 128-bit AES technology for encrypting application-based services.

Its WAP-based service Verisign certified. If your battery fails or charge drains out during your transaction, the iMobile application provided by ICICI Bank will keep your current service pending and will complete your transaction only when you log in again.

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