Paul Meloan – Vested Interest

Someone gave me a check the other day.  In order to deposit it, I did not go to the bank.  I took out my iPhone.

I went to the iPhone app (not the web site, remember, the web is dead) and logged into my account.  I entered some basic info, then I took a photo of the front and the back of the check.  Using these images, the bank’s scanning software picked up all of the information that it needed, and credited my account.  Once the images of the check are in the system, the actual check (the piece of paper) became meaningless.  I wrote “void” on the front of the check and placed it in my desk drawer.  I guess I am still stuck in the 20th century somewhat, in that I can’t bring myself to throw the thing out until a few days after the deposit.

The bank that is doing this is USAA, the member-owned insurance giant based in San Antoino, Texas that caters to current and former military service members and their families (my dad was in the army).  The question I am asking is “why aren’t ALL banks doing this?”

Deposits and withdrawals, the nuts and bolts of consumer banking, are only now emerging from the shadows of the old federal reserve fund transfer systems.  The ability to image checks, and thus transfer information about checks electronically, should have all but eliminated lag-time between depositing a check and crediting the recipient account.

How many times have you wanted to strangle the first bank employee you saw because a local check you deposited two days before was still not available in your account?

I set up my accounts at USAA because of the web and iPhone access to all my accounts (checking and savings, as well as checking, savings, and debit card accounts our two teen-agers use).  They also offered free withdrawals at just about every ATM in the country (including rebating charges from the ATM’s bank), and the mobile deposit became the icing on the cake.

The system is designed so that it is entirely possible that I may never, ever set foot in a USAA branch.  Since their only branch is in San Antonio, and I live about a thousand miles away, I am ok with that arrangement.

Paul Meloan is the co-founder and co-managing member of Aegis Wealth Management, LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland USA. Before Aegis Paul was a practicing attorney as well as working in the tax practice of Ernst & Young, LLP.

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