By Chanelle Bessette
If you use your bank’s mobile app, you likely have access to an array of features, some of which you may not know about. These features could make saving, earning cash back, budgeting, increasing your financial security and checking your credit score easier depending on what services your bank offers. Here are some features to look for in your banking app and any banking apps you may be considering for the future.
Cash back offers or statement credit on debit spending
Your bank might offer opportunities for special cash-back or statement credits either as a flat percentage of your spending or for spending at specific retailers. SoFi /zigman2/quotes/222838146/composite SOFI -0.93% Checking and Savings and LendingClub offer these kinds of spending features, as do some major banks such as Discover /zigman2/quotes/208747867/composite DFS -1.31% and Chase /zigman2/quotes/205971034/composite JPM -1.86% . For example, Logan Allec, a certified public accountant and owner of Choice Tax Relief in Santa Clarita, California, says the Chase app helped him discover lots of opportunities for statement credits from debit card spending.
“I was scrolling through the app one day and saw the list of Chase offers for debit card spending,” Allec says. “A lot of them are for places I never shop, but I use home improvement stores a lot and one popped up for the Home Depot /zigman2/quotes/208081807/composite HD +0.67% for 10% back as a statement credit.”
Budgeting features and insights
Some bank apps make saving and budgeting easier by allowing you to direct money toward specific goals or by giving a better overview of you’re spending.
Sara Lohse, director of marketing at a financial services firm in Austin, Texas, discovered a unique feature for her savings account that allowed her to break up her savings into subaccount “buckets.”
“I use Ally /zigman2/quotes/206227672/composite ALLY -2.71% for my main savings account, and I use the savings bucket feature to save for different financial goals,” Lohse says.
She used the buckets feature for saving for a down payment on a house, her emergency fund and house furnishings. Her parents were matching her down payment contributions, so she set up a bucket for that as well.
“I had a bucket labeled ‘Mom, put money here’ so that she knew which bucket to contribute to,” Lohse says.
Another app feature that could help you manage your money? The ability to look at your overall spending trends. PSECU, a state-chartered credit union in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, offers its customers a “financial insights” tool in their mobile app. The tool gives a monthly recap of your cash flow and how much you spent versus how much you brought into your account, and it learns your spending habits over time.
“If you spend more on Dunkin’ Donuts this month than last month, for example, it’ll trigger an alert for you that your spending has gone up in that category,” says Lindsay Oparowski, director of member experience at PSECU. “Awareness is the first step to budgeting , and that’s the power this tool is giving you.”
Advanced security features
Security is a major consideration for your finances . As a result, more banks are integrating advanced security features such as multifactor authentication, biometric identification for logins, remote card locking and new card activation. Multifactor authentication uses additional methods of verifying that you’re you, such as sending a confirmation number via text or email. Biometric information, including facial and fingerprint recognition, helps confirm your identity to the bank app.
Remote card locking is also available through many apps, and it allows you to render your debit card unusable if it’s missing or if you want peace of mind that no one will try to use it. You can typically unlock the card anytime. If you receive a new debit card in the mail, you can likely activate it from your mobile bank app as well.
Credit score approximations
A more common feature appearing in bank apps is a credit score estimate. These scores are simulated by evaluating the factors that make up a consumer’s regular credit score, but they don’t require a hard pull on the customer’s credit report, which would usually make their score drop a bit temporarily. Credit score estimates aren’t always perfect reflections of your actual credit score, but they tend to be close enough to give you a general idea of your financial standing.
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Chanelle Bessette writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.