I was driving back from camping near Maricopa when I heard a radio commercial. Chase offers its account holders the option to deposit checks via a cell phone. How this works is that the customer takes pictures of both sides of the check, and then sends these images to the bank and the bank deposits the check. The service is available through a special app at the Apple Store for now.

The service is primarily selling as a convenience. It definitely could save time if a person wants to deposit a few checks, although it seems like it would be inconvenient when depositing many checks at once. It could be a way to perform a deposit during special circumstances, such as when the bank is closed or the ATMs are not functioning.

This service provides a significant environmental benefit. Like the OCR readers at the Chase ATMs, mentioned in this earlier article, this technology removes the necessity to use items such as a deposit slip and an envelope, and reduces paper waste. Like the OCR machines, flaws in computerized character recognition may require tellers to verify the checks after the computer scans them, so a check deposit by cell phone could also take a day or more to clear. The OCR machines work best with checks from other Chase accounts and are less effective when using checks drawn on other banks, so similar results when using a cell phone would not be a surprise.

The main benefit is depositing a paper check remotely. Direct deposit conserves a lot of paper, but many businesses and government agencies still issue paper checks. To deposit a paper check, you would normally have to travel to the ATM, or send the check through the mail. Maricopa, my location at the time I heard the commercial, is not a large city. It is likely that many residents of this town and the nearby areas have to drive into Bakersfield to perform many banking services, such as depositing paper checks. The use of a cell phone allows a person to cash the check instantly without driving into town, as the account holder may not have time to wait for the postal service to deliver the check.