Bank of Montreal is becoming the first major financial institution to place free real-time alerts to allow consumers to keep tabs on daily expenditures across a number of channels.

Called BMO Alerts, the service provides quick updates via email, SMS and iPhone push notification. Dan Dickinson, BMO senior manager of eChannel strategy and planning, says the new product was developed through a combination of internal BMO technology that delivers the alerts and third-party vendors that manage subscription and formatting.

Customers can tailor the alerts based on personal account settings.

"Demand among customers for online and mobile personal finance tools is certainly increasing," Dickinson said.

"The introduction of BMO Mobile Alerts allows customers to integrate their mobile banking across all mobile platforms, and complements other recent online banking offerings, including BMO MoneyLogic. For example, while BMO MoneyLogic is intended to give online banking customers more control and insight into their ongoing spending and saving habits, the addition of BMO mobile alerts offers customers more immediate, on-the-go control over the key transactions that occur over the course of a day."

BMO commissioned a Leger Marketing study that found the number of Canadians with expenses exceeding income has increased to 32% in 2011, compared with 20% in 2010.

At the same time, people considered to be living "paycheck to paycheck," or with expenses roughly equal to income, increased to 27%, from 16%.