U.S. Bank, which was one of the first banks to offer mobile fraud alerts to credit card customers three years ago, has expanded its alert program to ATM and debit card holders. These alerts are part of a larger effort on the bank's part to provide customers with near-real-time financial tracking.

"This streamlines a number of processes for the consumer," says Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer, U.S. Bank, adding that the service can be useful in cases such as expense management and fraud mitigation.

"It's in a broad context of making the mobile device a place to go to get information about an account," he says.

The alerts are designed to draw attention to and quickly resolve fraud issues and to report on ATM withdrawals and other debit and check transactions. They're delivered via SMS, email or both. The content is created internally, and is configured for and delivered to various telecommunications carriers by the bank.

On the fraud detection side, the new real-time alerts notify cardholders when suspicious or irregular activity has been detected. For instance, if a consumer in Westport, Conn. gets an alert about a transaction on his card made at a winery in Moldova, he can immediately text to cancel the transaction. The mobile channel lets the consumer verify his identity or confirm a transaction much faster than he could through manual or phone-based verifications. 

On the budget management side of alerts, a customer can elect to be notified via mobile alert when a transaction meets or exceeds a predetermined amount, such as a monthly food budget. Cardholders may also receive real-time alerts for international transactions, gasoline purchases, ATM withdrawals, declined transactions or for online, mail-order or telephone transactions where the card is not present.

"The alerts are set to meet a certain criteria," Venturo says. "I may want to be notified of any transaction over a certain dollar amount, any card not present transaction or any ATM transaction."

Cardholders enroll via the bank's web banking site by specifying the alerts they want to receive on each account, then choose the channel. The alerts are free from the bank, but subject to message and data rates from the customer's wireless carrier.

The new alerts are part of an aggressive strategy by U.S. Bank to build out mobile-enabled services over the next few years. Among its other initiatives is a mobile shopping concierge, which will match a mobile handset's location-based technology to coupons sent to the phone.

In addition to being a mobile alert pioneer, U.S. Bank was an early test bank for separate near-field communication (a wireless communication standard being used to build contactless mobile payments) pilots offered by both Visa and MasterCard in 2009. And in the past year, it's added myriad functions to its mobile payments suite, including a MicroSD pilot with DeviceFidelity, FIS and Monitise, as well as the launch of a full-suite mobile banking product with bill-pay capabilities.

And by offering alerts in "real time" (actually a few moments), the bank is playing on the front lines of the transaction alert battle, joining banks such as Bank of Montreal, which in June introduced a free alert service that works across all channels to help consumers track personal expenditures.