Many banks and other financial institutions have helpful iPhone apps that allow you to see your account balance and recent transactions, locate ATMs and transfer funds between accounts. These are all very useful functions, and the Chase app that has been out for a long time now handles these functions well. But a new feature added to the app last month lets you use the app to deposit a check without having to go to the bank. Just scan the check using your iPhone's camera and the check is deposited. That's it. It's a really neat function and makes this a must-have app for anyone who uses Chase as their bank.
Let's start by talking about the basic features. When you launch the app you can quickly find close ATMs. The app figures out where you are and lists all of the close ATMs giving you the address, the distance from your current locations, and all of the relevant information for the ATM such as features, hours of operation, etc. This is very useful when you need to get money and you don't know where to go.
Once you log in, you can also see your account balance and recent transactions for all of your accounts, transfer funds between accounts, schedule payments, etc. These are mostly standard features for a bank's iPhone app, but it is nice to see all of them here. (By the way, all of the black boxes in the following pictures are my redactions of account numbers and other confidential information — not something that you see when you use the app.)
What I love about the latest version of this app is the third button at the bottom of the app: Deposits. You can actually deposit a check using your iPhone app without even having to go to the bank. To test this feature, I used a reimbursement check from my law firm that had been sitting in my wallet for a while because I hadn't had a chance to go to the bank. The first time you use the feature, you will need to enroll your account in the Chase Quick Deposit program. It's free, but you need to read and agree to a legal agreement first.
Once you are ready to proceed, the app asks you to select the account for the deposit (I chose my checking account) and enter the amount of the check. Then the app brings up a screen with the camera activated and a blue box. Put your iPhone about a foot above your check, make the check line up within the blue box, hold the iPhone steady, and then tap the button to take a picture. You can zoom in to make sure that the numbers are not too blurry. You can retake the picture if you were shaking your hand too much or if the lighting doesn't look right, or you can tap the Use button when you are ready to proceed.
After you take a picture of the front of the check, you need to also take a picture of the back of the check (with your signature endorsing the check). Then click the Next button. The app will then send the image to Chase and Chase's server will read the check and make sure that the amount that it sees on the check is the same amount that you entered. If not, the app will ask you to take another picture of the check. If the numbers match, then you will see a confirmation screen telling you that your funds have been deposited.
If you have an e-mail address associated with your Chase account, you will also immediately receive an e-mail confirming the deposit. That's it, and as you can see from the timestamps on the above pictures, the entire process just takes a few minutes. (Indeed, it took me longer than it normally would because I was kicking the tires on the app, for example seeing what would happen if I submitted a really blurry picture — the app wouldn't let me go forward until I took a better picture.)
The app tells you to hold on to the paper check until you get your next statement in the mail, just to make sure that everything worked well. After that, you can just tear up the check. You can currently only deposit up to $1,000 a day and up to $3,000 a month using the app.
Many Chase ATMs have the ability to let you deposit checks using a similar technique; the ATM scans the check. I've noticed that sometimes the ATM will not accept a handwritten check when it has trouble reading the numbers. I haven't tried this yet with the app, but it wouldn't surprise me if it also has trouble with handwriting. But for a printed check, I suspect that the app, like any ATM machine, will work just fine.
I should mention that there is one more cool new feature in the Chase app, although I haven't tested it yet myself. The app now includes a Person-to-Person QuickPay feature which allows you to pay another person directly from your Chase account, without the need to write a check. All you need to know is their e-mail address. It looks like this is Chase's attempt to compete with PayPal.
Chase isn't the first bank to let you make a deposit your your iPhone. In August of 2009, a bank called USAA added the feature, but that is a small bank and I believe that you need to have served in the military (or have someone in your family in the military) to use that bank. Even so, USAA tells the Chicago Sun Times that it has already deposited more than 1.5 million checks using its iPhone and Android apps, almost a billion dollars in deposits.
Chase, on the other hand, is one of the largest banks in the country. (I believe it is #2, behind Bank of America and ahead of Citibank.) For the large number of Chase customers with iPhones, being able to deposit a check while sitting at a desk or at home without having to drive to a bank branch or ATM and wait in line will be incredibly useful. The Chase app has been on my iPhone for a long time now, but I think it's time to move it up to one of my front pages.