Your phone doesn't look like a bank, but it's increasingly able to help you with banking tasks. Now, many banks now offer apps that use your phone's camera to deposit checks. How does it work? Just like a traditional deposit, you'll need to endorse the check with a note under your signature: "For mobile deposit only." Then you key in the amount on your phone, and take photos of the front and back of the check. That's it. It is easy, convenient—and when we tested it, the funds were available in 24 hours.
It's good for banks. A photo deposit via smartphone only costs the bank about 4 cents to process. Paper can costs 75 cents to $4 for each check. But is it safe for you? Just like the browser-based online banking that we've all become accustomed to, the apps take measures to insure the information is secure and encrypted.
One downside: there are limits to how much you can deposit. The app we tested was limited to$2,500 per day and $5,000 per month. Also, the bank suggests you hold onto the paper check for a week or two in order to be sure there are no glitches in the system. Still, between direct deposit, online banking, and mobile deposits, you’ll rarely have a reason to visit an actual bank. That means no more little lolly pops at the teller window, but a lot less time and hassle.