Mobile phones have increasingly become tools that consumers use for banking, payments, budgeting, and shopping. Given the rapid pace of developments in the area of mobile finance, the Federal Reserve Board began conducting annual surveys of consumers’ use of mobile financial services in 2011. This 78-page report, “Consumers and Mobile Financial Services” (March, 2015) examines trends in the adoption and use of mobile banking, payments, and shopping behavior and how the emergence of mobile financial services affects consumers’ interaction with financial institutions.
Since the first report was released, the adoption of mobile financial services has continued to increase, along with the range of services offered. As part of its ongoing efforts to monitor developments in the mobile financial services arena and to gain insights into consumers’ usage of, and attitudes toward, mobile financial services, the Board has continued to conduct the survey annually. The fourth survey, conducted in December 2014, included a random sample of respondents to the previous survey in 2013, as well as a random sample of new respondents. The subsample of respondents who voluntarily completed both the 2013 and 2014 waves of the survey allows for the analysis of changes in behavior over the past year among these individuals.
This report presents findings from the 2014 survey, fielded in December, which focused on consumers’ use of mobile technology to access financial services and make financial decisions. Where applicable, the findings from the current survey are also compared with the findings from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 surveys. Topics include consumer access to bank services using mobile phones (“mobile banking”), consumer payment for goods and services using mobile phones (“mobile payments”), and consumer shopping decisions facilitated by use of mobile phones. Details about the survey, its methodology, and limitations can be found in the body of the report and in a methodological appendix.
Mobile phones are in widespread use:
- Eighty-seven percent of the U.S. adult population has a mobile phone, consistent with 2013.
- Seventy-one percent of mobile phones are smartphones (Internet-enabled), up from 61 percent a year earlier.
The ubiquity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers access financial services:
- Thirty-nine percent of all mobile phone owners with a bank account have used mobile banking in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 33 percent in 2013 and 29 percent in 2012.
- Fifty-two percent of smartphone owners with a bank account have used mobile banking in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 51 percent a year earlier.
- Among those mobile phone users with bank accounts who do not currently use mobile banking, 11 percent think that they will probably or definitely use it within the next 12 months, down from 12 percent a year earlier.
- most common use of mobile banking is to check account balances or recent transactions (94 percent of mobile banking users).
- Among mobile banking users, transferring money between an individual’s own accounts (61 percent) and receiving an alert (e.g., a text message, push notification, or e-mail) from their bank (57 percent) are the second and third-most common uses of mobile banking.
- Fifty-one percent of mobile banking users have deposited a check using their mobile phone in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 38 percent in 2013.
- Among mobile banking users, the frequency of use has increased slightly, from a median of four times per month in 2013 to five times per month in 2014. This frequency was five times per month in 2012.
- Residents of more rural areas have a lower incidence of mobile banking use than residents of more urban areas. • Mobile phones are also changing the way consumers make payments.
- Twenty-two percent of all mobile phone owners reported having made a mobile payment in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 17 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012.
- The share of smartphone users who reported having made a mobile payment in the 12 months prior to the survey has increased to 28 percent, up from 24 percent in both 2013 and 2012.
- Among mobile payment users with smartphones, the most common type of mobile payment was bill payment through an online system or mobile app (68 percent, up from 66 percent in 2013).
- Thirty-nine percent of all mobile payment users with smartphones have made a point-of-sale payment using their mobile phone in the 12 months prior to the survey, in line with the 39 percent reporting such payments in 2013.
- Of mobile payment users with smartphones who made point-of-sale mobile payments, 31 percent did so by scanning a barcode or QR code displayed on their phone’s screen at check out (down from 39 percent in 2013), while 22 percent used an app that did not require tapping their mobile phone or scanning a barcode (up from 17 percent in 2013).
- Residents of more rural areas have a lower incidence of mobile payments use than residents of more urban areas.
A preference for other methods of banking and making payments, as well as concerns about security, continue to be the main impediments to the adoption of mobile financial services cited by some consumers:
- Of those not using mobile banking, the primary reason respondents cited was a belief that their banking needs were being met without the use of mobile banking (86 percent).
- The primary reason non-mobile payment users gave for not using mobile payments was that they believe it is easier to pay with cash or credit/ debit cards (75 percent).
- Concern about the security of the technology was a common reason given for not using mobile banking or mobile payments (62 percent and 59 percent, respectively, of non-users).
Smartphones are changing the way people shop and make financial decisions:
- Forty-seven percent of smartphone users have comparison shopped with their phone while at a retail store, and 33 percent have used their phone to scan a product’s barcode to find the best price for the item.
- Of those consumers who used their phones to comparison shop in a retail store, 69 percent have changed where they purchased a product as a result of the information they found.
- Forty-two percent of smartphone users have used their phone to browse product reviews or get product information while shopping at a retail store, and 79 percent of them changed the item they purchased based on this information.
- Sixty-three percent of mobile banking users have checked their account balance on their phone before making a large purchase in the previous 12 months leading up to the survey, and over half (53 percent) of them decided not to purchase an item as a result of their account balance or credit limit.
- Twenty-nine percent of all mobile phone users and 38 percent of smartphone users have used their phone to track purchases and expenses.
Mobile phones are prevalent among unbanked and underbanked consumers:
- The share of consumers who are unbanked is 13 percent, and the share who are underbanked is 14 percent.
- Sixty-seven percent of the unbanked have access to a mobile phone, 65 percent of which are smartphones.
- Ninety percent of the underbanked have access to a mobile phone, 73 percent of which are smartphones.
- Forty-eight percent of underbanked consumers had used mobile banking in the 12 months prior to the survey.