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Do you use a banking app on your phone? While mobile banking is very common among some age groups – for example, 69% of millennials take advantage of it – it’s not all that popular overall, with only about one-third of all U.S. bank account holders engaging in it.
Its slow adoption might be traceable to general uncertainty about how safe and useful it is. Similar hurdles sit in front of mobile payments services, which still account for only a fraction of all in-store sales in the U.S.
Let’s clear up some of the confusion around both banking and paying on your phone. In this FAQ blog, we’ll walk through some of the best practices for getting the most out of these services while still staying safe.
How do I sign up for mobile banking?
If you already have an online profile with your bank, this part’s easy: Just sign in with the same credentials. If not, you’ll need to go through the typical steps for setting up online access to an account. Many banks heavily market their mobile apps and provide statement credits or other rewards for signing up.
Is it safe to log into a bank account in a mobile app?
Yes, as long as you’re using the official app and a safe network. Make sure to download mobile banking apps only from the Apple App Store or Google Play, and not from unofficial channels. Also, never access the app when you’re on public Wi-Fi or a network that someone else owns. Use cellular or, better yet, a virtual private network (VPN) service to encrypt your connection. VPNs prevent snooping and interception of your online activity.
How can I best protect my account against hacking?
All major banking apps require some form of login to view your accounts. You can add an extra layer of protection by enabling two-factor authentication. Once configured, it will require an extra piece of information at each login attempt, usually a code sent via a separate channel like text message, email or voice call. That prevents logins to your account from other devices by people who might have stolen your login credentials.
Can I safely pay for online purchases from my phone?
- If you’re completing the purchase from an official app such as those from Amazon, eBay, Walmart, or a merchant, multiple security protections are already in place.
- Payment services such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are also multilayered and safe to use.
- If you’re doing so from a mobile website, check that the site has HTTPS protection, indicated by a padlock icon in most browsers in the address/URL bar.
What about in-store payments? Are those safe?
Yes, assuming you have a device with everything necessary to safely complete one of these transactions. There are multiple phone-based payment services with different mechanisms and requirements:
- Apple Pay/Google Pay/Samsung Pay require a special chip in the phone itself for communicating with point-of-sale terminals. You will also need either a biometric credential or PIN to confirm each transaction.
- Retailers like Walmart and Target offer their own bespoke payment solutions that require scanning a QR code or barcode. These are also OK to use.
Should I use a credit or debit card for mobile payments?
All of the above payment services can be linked to most debit and credit cards. The latter is usually preferable since it has better fraud prevention, plus chargeback capabilities.
Many major banks, plus solutions like Venmo, allow funds to be directly sent between bank accounts for free. Some charge fees for card-based transfers.
If you use Venmo or similar alternatives, make sure to create a PIN and/or biometric login setup to prevent someone from hijacking your account if your device is ever lost or stolen. Unlike banking apps, some of these services might not require such protections by default.
What else do I need to stay safe?
By combining these best practices with Total Defense security software, you can ensure the safest possible environment on your phone. Learn more by checking out our tip of the day as well as our shop page.