At a time when it seems as if a new mobile application surfaces every day, banking and personal finance apps are becoming one of the more popular categories among those looking to keep track of their investments while making their monthly mortgage and car payments.
Need to make a deposit? Use the camera on your smart phone to take a photograph of the check and it will instantaneously be deposited into your bank account. Want to compare product prices while shopping? A barcode scanning app will provide real-time online comparison.
"[Finance and banking applications] are becoming function rich, and they’re available at a good price, as in free,” says Simon Buckingham, CEO of Appitalism.com, a mobile app superstore. “They’re among some of the most useful applications because you’ve always got your phone with you.”
And there’s a wide range to choose from.
Sorting the apps
According to Buckingham, two of the more popular apps are Mint.com, and PayPal. They also happen to be free for iPhone, Android and Blackberry users. The Mint.com app, which Buckingham labels “the most popular online cloud-based personal finance service around,” links users to their bank accounts and credit cards, and provides a continuous look at your assets and debts. Users can set budgets, as well as an alert for when they’re about to go over budget.
“For most people, I think a free app like Mint.com will cover 90% of their requirements,” Buckingham says.
With PayPal, considered the king of the money-transfer castle, users can send money to anyone with an email address, as well as add or withdraw funds, or donate to charitable causes. The deposit function, similar to the feature now being offered by many banks, is particularly attractive to physician practices. Now the administrative assistant or receptionist can deposit those checks as they come into the practice.
“Most physicians’ offices are open after work to cater to their patients’ lifestyles, so the ability for you to deposit a check at 7 p.m. just by taking a photo of it is clearly going to be something very valuable and useful for a physician,” Buckingham says. “You don’t want to keep running out of the office all the time. That’s quite labor intensive and time consuming.
Finance and investments
The good news about monitoring your personal finances and investments is that there are tons of applications from which to choose. The bad news, according to Steven Rosenberg, vice president of Sentigo, is that there’s so much information available with regard to buying and selling stocks and managing investments that it can be difficult to distill all the information down to what’s important to you.
Rosenberg says that Wall St. Scanner, the company’s financial app that was released in May, can help physician-investors sort things out.
“We scan the market all day long for information pertaining to certain companies and certain behaviors of stocks, and try to distill it down to give you the true market vibe of what’s happening out there to your stocks that you follow, as well as what’s happening to key stocks out there, the hot ones,” Rosenberg says. “What we do is we read anywhere from 7 to 10 million web pages per day, from over 16,000 sources online. So instead of you going to Yahoo!Finance and then Reuters and so on, we’re reading that information, and then distilling all that information out there into specific key points that matter.”
Rosenberg says that physician-investors can personalize the information by setting up their own portfolio within the application. Then, every time the application is opened, the physician-investor will see information related to his or her stocks — the price of the stock, the sentiment, forecasting, and what people are saying about it. The free app is currently available for iPhone users and will shortly be available for Android and Blackberry as well.
Buckingham says that with anything electronic, it’s important to be security conscious. But because a smart phone is essentially a computer with a smaller screen, many of the online security measures, such as encryption and secure authentication, are already built in.
“We’re not starting again with mobile banking,” Buckingham says. “There isn’t the same degree of risk when banking went from the physical world to the online world. But as always, you should probably look at legitimate apps closely, stick with an official app from your bank, and take the same precautions you would in doing any type of online banking when you’re on your mobile device.”