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Comparison shopping for mobile banking is difficult, study finds

Terms and conditions for mobile deposits are often poorly disclosed for prospective customers.

Mobile banking is all about convenience. That’s why many banks and prepaid debit card companies provide apps that let customers deposit a check by simply taking a picture of it on their smartphone or tablet. It’s called mobile remote deposit capture (mRDC) and it’s growing in popularity. Nearly 40 percent of mobile banking customers now use this service, according to a report by the Federal Reserve released in March.

The Pew Charitable Trusts reviewed mRDC policies at 50 banks and 51 prepaid card companies and found that the terms and conditions were “often poorly disclosed or generally unavailable” for prospective customers. In most cases, this information is provided online rather than through the mobile banking app used to make the deposits. While most banks offer this service to their customers for free, some do charge for it. There’s usually a charge – as much as four percent – for making a deposit to a prepaid card. The new Pew report concludes that better informed customers will be better able to manage their account balances and avoid unnecessary fees. “Providing greater transparency could be a powerful tool for providers to help build confidence in mobile banking,” the report said.

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-- Herb Weisbaum, NBC contributor