A Publication of WTVP

Given the growing list of things they can do, cell phones—like food and shelter—are fast becoming a basic necessity of life. And now they’re being transformed into “mobile wallets” thanks, in large part, to a new generation of consumers accustomed to doing everything online, from purchasing music to turning in homework.

The 18- to 25-year-olds of Generation Y are part of the driving force behind a new generation of banking services designed for people on the go. Among them:

Alerts. It’s something that worries bankers: many of their younger customers do not keep a paper check register. Instead, Gen Y-ers opt to keep track of their balances online. The problem is, some forget to check, or they don’t always remember the lag time that exists between the time of a purchase and the time it posts to their account. That can make them vulnerable to overdrawing their account and incurring unnecessary fees.

A new alert system offered by some banks is addressing this and a host of other potential problems. Let’s say the balance on an account drops below a certain amount you specify. Alert technology allows your bank to notify you by means of an email. Banks can also use alerts to let customers know when a direct deposit is received, a withdrawal exceeds a specified threshold, an account has insufficient funds and more. Alerts can address security issues as well, including changes in customer passwords and potential fraud.

Gen Y-ers say they appreciate the new technology because the messages help them address many problems before they escalate into something far worse. Banks like the ability to proactively communicate with customers, too.

Instant-issue Visa check card. You know the routine. You walk into a bank branch to open a new checking account. A while later, you leave with a booklet of “starter checks,” but must wait up to 10 days for your check card to arrive in the mail.

Those days will soon be over, as new technology enables branches to print check cards on the spot. Beginning in 2009, many banks nationwide will make it possible to open a checking account and walk away with a fully functioning check card and PIN number at the same time. The only noticeable difference: customer names will be printed, rather than embossed, on the cards. They will still be accepted at any location that takes check cards. Look for this technology at select branches initially, but it’s expected to eventually become the norm, rather than the exception.

Mobile banking. Gen Y is already checking their balances on their laptops. New mobile banking technology is making it possible for them to transfer funds, view account activity and more, anytime and anywhere, from their cell phones and other handheld devices.

And it won’t end there. Mobile banking technology is evolving to include bill-paying services and, eventually, to function as a “mobile wallet” that allows customers to make payments with their phones right at the point of sale. Such features are particularly attractive to Gen Y-ers, many of whom, research shows, will eventually have cell-phone-only households—and will rely increasingly on these devices to retrieve information and conduct transactions.

Green banking. More than any generation before them, Gen Y takes an environmentally friendly approach to everyday life. That’s why young people gravitate toward online bank statements instead of paper, for example. Likewise, some banks are introducing “green” technologies that further reduce paper use and speed transactions. A new generation of Check Imaging ATMs, for example, allows customers to make deposits without deposit slips or envelopes; the ATM makes an onscreen image of your check or cash deposit instead.

And perhaps the best news is: there’s still much more to come. iBi