More Americans Are Getting Moneywise on Mobile as Smartphone Usage Grows

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

While early cell phones were only able to be used for making phone calls, the first humble mobile devices gradually evolved into today’s smartphones; miniaturized computers with full-color touchscreens that are connected to the Internet. Soon, people began using their smartphones for performing all sorts of tasks that could previously only have been done on a desktop computer, from reading breaking news stories to playing online video games. Smartphones also largely replaced most people’s need for a separate digital camera as cameras on smartphones quickly became ubiquitous. Now it appears that smartphones are once again providing people with an unexpected service: money management.

According to a recent survey commissioned by online credit monitoring company Wise Piggy, nearly 70 percent of Americans have used their smartphones to perform some type personal finance task, from checking an account balance to paying a bill. On the other side, only 30 percent of survey respondents said that they had never performed any type of personal finance task on a smartphone.

The survey looked at 11 common personal finance tasks in all. Here are those tasks that were examined, along with the percentage of respondents who said that they had performed the task on a smartphone:

  • Pay a bill: 38.25 percent
  • Check a checking account balance: 36.3 percent
  • Check a credit card balance: 28.65 percent
  • Receive account alerts via text: 23.7 percent
  • Redeem credit card rewards: 15.7 percent
  • Research a new credit card: 13.15 percent
  • Check credit score: 11.95 percent
  • Track spending and financial goals: 11.4 percent
  • Apply for a credit card: 10.45 percent
  • Check credit report: 7.95 percent
  • Accept payments (like Square or GoPayment): 6.9 percent

As seen in the survey results above, the most common personal finance task performed on a smartphone was paying a bill, while the least common task was accepting a mobile payment. It should also be noted that a large portion of the personal finance activity on smartphones was related to credit cards, including checking a card balance, redeeming card rewards, researching a new card, and applying for a credit card.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

While the survey revealed that smartphones are becoming increasingly popular tools for managing personal finances, it also highlighted some key differences in usage rates among various demographics. There was a gap of about 17 percentage points between the rates of usage among men and women. According to Wise Piggy, almost 78 percent of men reported using their smartphone for at least one of the 11 personal finance tasks, while only about 61 percent of women reported completing at least one of the tasks. On the other hand, when it came to the two most common personal finance tasks — checking an account balance and paying a bill — smartphone usage rates among women either surpassed or were nearly equal to the usage rates among men.

“People are more dependent on their smartphones than ever before, so it makes sense that they are managing their finances with them too,” noted Wise Piggy managing editor Loryll Nicolaisen. “Even though more men say they’ve done financial tasks on their smartphones, women on the go are using their smartphones to expedite common tasks. As more banks and websites like WisePiggy.com make banking tasks easy to do on mobile phones, usage can only go up.”

Unfortunately, one area in which women were found to lag behind men was in smartphone security. While it’s always a good idea to protect your smartphone with a password, it’s an especially crucial measure when you are performing money-related tasks on your device. About 71 percent of men claimed to use password protection for their smartphones, while only 58 percent of women said their devices were secured. Other gaps in usage rates were found between various age groups. Not surprisingly, young adults (25-34 years) were the most likely to perform personal finance tasks on a smartphone. However, being older didn’t always correspond to less usage. According to Wise Piggy, many people 55 years and older were more comfortable with using a smartphone for personal finance than the people in the 45-54 age group.

The growing use of smartphones as tools for completing personal finance tasks reflects the overall rise in the popularity of mobile devices. According to comScore, smartphones and tablets surpassed desktops in 2013 to become the leading platform in terms of total time spent online. More recently, there have been signs that mobile devices could soon become an important tool for consumers making purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. Apple Pay — a mobile payments service that Apple will activate in October — will allow users to store their credit cards on the new iPhones and make purchases via a contactless technology. As previously noted, credit card-related tasks already account for a large portion of the personal finance activity that is performed on smartphones. With so many consumers already managing their credit cards through their smartphones, the use of the devices as digital wallets may be adopted even more quickly than expected.

As the use of mobile devices for tasks that used to be performed exclusively on desktop computers continues to expand, it will likely only be a matter of time before the majority of Americans will be handling most of their personal finance tasks on a smartphone. Not bad for a device that was originally only used for making phone calls on the go.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

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