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Cellphones may make wallets obsolete

August 25, 2008 |  9:12 am

Cellphone banking illustration Ever write a check while shopping and sweat over whether the check would clear? A growing number of banks are offering a new and fairly painless way to eliminate the guesswork.

The solution fits in your pocket.

Eight of the 10 biggest U.S. banks now provide at least basic services on cellphones, allowing account holders to check their balances by tapping away on their tiny keypads.

Millions of U.S. consumers have signed up for mobile banking as those services grow increasingly useful. Depending on your bank, your phone and your wireless plan, you might be able to approve bill payments, transfer money and receive alerts when balances get low, all while riding the bus.

"Most consumers aren't aware that it's out there yet, but the day is coming," said Mark Schwanhausser, an analyst with Javelin Strategy & Research in Pleasanton, Calif. "Phones are ever-ready, always on and always with you, and you can't match that with a computer."

Read the full mobile-banking story for more details about which banks offer which services, and where this all is heading.

-- Joseph Menn

Illustration: Doug Ross / For the Times