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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 2, 2010

25 percent of us do our banking online


By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

More people in Hawai'i and across the country are logging on to do their banking online rather than standing in line at banks or ATMs.

That's the word from the latest American Bankers Association survey as well as some local bankers. A survey released in September by the association shows that for the first time, more bank customers 25 percent prefer to do their banking online compared to any other method.

Gary Fujitani, executive director of the Hawai'i Bankers Association, said he thinks online banking is growing in popularity faster in Hawai'i than elsewhere.

He admitted he's personally biased because of the convenience.

"I would be lost without online banking and online bill payment," Fujitani said. "I think it takes me about five minutes a month to pay my bills now."

And that's without buying a stamp, or going to the post office or a bank.

Fujitani likes that recurring bills can be paid automatically. And he likes the easy ability to transfer funds from a savings into a checking account so he can earn whatever interest is available.

Most financial institutions here don't charge to set up a way to track your accounts electronically.

But some do charge for bill-paying. The going rate seems to be $5.95 per month for Hawai'i banks. The Bank Administration Institute said the range of charges for this service varies greatly nationwide from free to $25 a month with a $6.77 national average.

But several institutions offer the service free to customers with certain kinds of premium accounts, such as Bankohana at Bank of Hawaii.

And some credit unions don't charge a fee at all to members.

David Oyadomari, senior vice president and Internet department manager for Bank of Hawaii, declined to provide the number of customers because of competitive reasons, but said online banking is growing fast. "In the last 12 months, the rate of adoption has been much higher than the previous three years. It has grown 60 percent over the last three years."

GROWING LOCALLY

At First Hawaiian Bank, Jaylene Tsukayama serves as vice president and manager of the home banking department. She thinks the Hawai'i numbers are higher than the national average in the survey.

"We've been doing this for over a decade now," Tsukayama said. "Our penetration of bill payment customers exceeds 20 percent. The growth has slowed but we think this is going to be a growing area."

First Hawaiian just concluded a promotion of a year's free bill-paying services for customers.

And Bank of Hawaii offers the first two months of online bill paying free to promote the service.

Oyadomari said that in the past three years, Bank of Hawaii has seen the number of people using online bill paying more than double.

The ABA survey of 1,000 customers conducted in August showed that online banking wasn't only popular with the youngest consumers it was the preferred banking method for all bank customers under the age of 55. Consumers over 55 still prefer to visit their local branch (26 percent), followed by ATMs (17 percent). The survey was done by Ipsos-Reid, an independent market research firm.

Among all consumers, the preference for online banking was followed by visiting branches (21 percent), and using ATMs (17 percent). Mobile banking (cell phones, PDAs, etc.) was preferred by 1 percent of consumers. The popularity of ATMs was down in all age groups.

Oyadomari sees great potential with the mobile phone market being able to access accounts and pay bills through your cell phone.

While the overall numbers remain small, he said the growth rate is 60 percent and going.

MONEY TRANSFERS

Local experts say that people who have grown accustomed to the instant access of the Internet have come to terms with security issues and are increasingly logging on.

Oyadomari said the popularity of mobile phones in Hawai'i prompted Bank of Hawaii to be the first locally to offer mobile banking.

He expects it won't be long before consumers can routinely swipe their mobile phone at stores to pay, as is already the case in other countries.

"It's just a matter of when does it reach the United States and Hawai'i," he said.

Fujitani recalled that it took about 20 years for ATMs to become the norm, but now most customers wouldn't consider a bank that didn't offer ATMs.

Tsukayama said people are generally more comfortable with technology.

And that's part of why First Hawaiian just introduced something called POPmoney. She said the bank last month became one of the first banks in the nation to enable customers to send money securely to friends and family via the person's e-mail address or mobile phone number.

She said customers can electronically send money using the Pay Other People service. Senders can include a personalized e-mail or text message to the recipients, letting them know that money is available for them to electronically deposit to just about any U.S. bank deposit account they choose.

The recipient will be required to enter a secret code that is sent to the e-mail address or mobile phone number provided by the sender to verify their identity rather than needing bank account numbers and routing numbers.

"If I wanted to send money to my daughter on the Mainland, I can send her money electronically," Tsukayama said. "I can now e-mail or send it as a text."