Mobile banking could help low-income people, feds say

The federal consumer watchdog says mobile banking services present enormous potential benefits for low-income people.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said Wednesday it will take a closer look at how mobile banking and financial services applications can empower unbanked and underbanked people to take better control of their personal finances.

"For the economically vulnerable, mobile (banking) can enhance access to safer, more affordable products and services in ways that can improve their economic lives," the agency wrote in the Federal Register.

The CFPB issued a request for information Wednesday as it considers how to regulate mobile banking services. 

The bureau said 74,000 people each day signed up for mobile banking services last year, many of whom are low-income individuals whose only access to the Internet is through their phone, the agency said. 

According to a Federal Reserve study, 39 percent of underbanked people use mobile banking applications.

"Using a mobile device to access accounts and pay bills can reduce cost and increase convenience for consumers," the CFPB wrote. "By enabling consumers to track spending and manage personal finances on their devices through mobile applications or text messages, mobile technology can help consumers achieve their financial goals." 

The public has 90 days to comment on the request for information.