Top iPhone Apps: Bank of America's Free Gift to You

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Bank of America’s iPhone App has been comfortably sitting in the #1 position of the "Top Free Finance Apps" column for months now. Sure, Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) is one of the country’s largest banks, but there is more to this story. If the app didn’t work or wasn’t safe, there’s no way it would stay at the top of this list. So let’s take a look at what makes this free app tick.

The main functionality of this application is simple. If you’re a Bank of America customer you can download it and immediately begin checking available balances, pay bills, transfer funds and locate nearby ATMs and banking centers from your iPhone. That’s it, really. It’s surprisingly simple and very similar to what you would be doing if you accessed Bank of America’s mobile online banking site via your phone’s browser.

It is certainly nice that this is a free download for BofA customers with existing online banking accounts. (For some reason, customers from Washington state and Idaho cannot use these mobile banking features. Bank of America must hate rainy weather and potato farms or something, I suppose.)

Much like the bank’s online site, this app uses sophisticated encryption technology to safeguard your passwords and bank account access while on open wireless networks. Overall, this application looks very similar to how your iPhone’s Safari browser would display Bank of America’s mobile online banking site. However, with the app installed, the speed of transactions and navigation increases greatly.

This is version 2.0 of Bank of America’s iPhone app and one of the biggest complaints about year's original release was the way it would display account transaction history. It was a cluttered mess of blue text links from which you were supposed to decipher how much was deducted, when and from where. That seems to have improved with recent updates, but still leaves plenty to be desired on the design front.

One of the more useful applications for this service is the bill pay setup. Of course, you can’t actually add a payee or set up a bill through the iPhone app, but you can authorize a bill payment transaction that has already been set up or check to see if they have been paid and received. This is especially handy if you are out at night and forgot your water bill is about to be past due or to see if your landlord cashed your rent check, and how much leftover spending money you have.

Another handy convenience with this app is the ATM/Banking Center finder using your iPhone’s GPS locator. How much money in fees are you wasting each month on foreign ATMs in your neighborhood or outside your favorite bar? And unlike other third-party apps we’ve already reviewed, which could have outdated or inaccurate ATM location information, Bank of America’s mobile app assures you it is the most accurate way to find working ATMs nearby.

This application is not one of the fastest mobile apps but this will (most likely) improve with subsequent updates. Keep in mind that it is your account security encryption that’s taking time to load.

SUMMARY

Application: Bank of America’s iPhone App

Cost: Free

Use: Allows Bank of America customers to quickly access online banking information.

Download iPhone App via iTunes

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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