Count USAA Federal Savings Bank among the companies favoring a multichannel approach to mobile banking.
The $31.9 billion-asset mutual thrift plans to start offering two-way text messaging for balance inquiries and similar functions today, in addition to other banking services it already offers that use Web browsers in mobile phones and a downloadable application.
"Our direction for the rest of the year is to build out the capabilities in all three" channels, said Jeff Dennes, USAA's executive director of mobile and money movement services
Members now can make text inquiries about balances and transaction histories, and by yearend they will be able to initiate funds transfers and pay bills with text messages.
The thrift, a unit of the San Antonio mutual insurance company United Services Automobile Association, went live with mobile financial services in September, offering basic capabilities, Mr. Dennes said. "In December we rolled out the majority of the stuff we have today."
It added a downloadable application in June, using software from Qualcomm Inc.'s Firethorn Holdings LLC, he said. "The member can choose one or all three ways to access us."
Because many USAA members are on active duty in the military and may not have access to broadband Internet services, the thrift installed software that can detect both the device a member is using to bank online and the connection speed, he said.
For slow connections, "we are redirecting them to the mobile site," since the Web site has fewer graphics than the standard online banking site and loads faster, Mr. Dennes said. "We have enough capability on the site, and it's 10 times faster than USAA.com."
Most of the services available on the thrift's standard Web site are also available on a mobile phone, including stock trading and customer service functions, he said.
It is possible, for instance, to download an electronic version of an insurance card, as one employee did when a Texas police officer pulled him over for speeding, Mr. Dennes said. "The cop did not write the other ticket for not having proof of insurance."