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US bank deposits checks via iPhone camera

Point, shoot, deposit

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A US bank will this week launch a new service that allows you to deposit checks by taking photos of them with your iPhone.

The privately held financial services and insurance company USAA (United Services Automobile Association) serves only current and former members of the US Armed Services and their families, but even with that limitation, it currently has 7.2 million members.

USAA has only one physical branch - in San Antonio, Texas - but with US service members deployed all over the world, the company has focused on online services. A few years back it introduced its USAA Deposit@Home service, which allows deposits to be made using a computer and scanner. The new USAA Deposit@Mobile service will extend that convenience to iPhone users.

This point, shoot, and deposit capability will be an upgrade to the company's USAA Mobile app (App Store link) for the iPhone and iPod touch. Of course, until the iPod touch is upgraded to include a camera - a feature rumored to be coming later this year - only iPhone owners will be able to deposit checks this way.

The process is a simple one: You log on to your account through the app over either Wi-Fi or cell service, enter the amount of the check, photograph the front and back of the check - the back is needed for an image of the endorsement signature - and tap a Submit button to complete the deposit.

You don't need to send the check to USAA by mail - the entire transaction is handled electronically. USAA suggests that you void, file, or destroy the check after the deposit is confirmed.

Such a simple deposit procedure is both a convenience to the customer and a money saver for USAA. And possibilities for abuse of the system will be limited by service-qualification requirements. According to the USAA, credit qualifications are required, along with proof of eligibility for USAA's property and casualty insurance. A USAA executive vice president told the NYT that about 60 per cent of the bank's customers will qualify. ®

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