How Safe Are Banking Apps, Really? (2024)

Mobile banking apps make it easier to manage your money. You can do tasks like view your account balance, deposit checks and transfer money between accounts from anywhere at any time -- no need to visit a physical branch during specific hours. But with something as sensitive as your financial information, it’s natural to wonder if you’re putting yourself at risk by banking via an app.

Fortunately, mobile banking apps are actually quite safe, and banks are constantly working to upgrade their digital tools and stay one step ahead of online criminals devising ways to steal your valuable data. Read on to learn what banks do to protect your sensitive information and what you can do to make it even safer.

Are mobile banking apps safe?

Mobile banking apps have a range of built-in security features to put fences around your information that are difficult for hackers to scale. And this isn’t limited to the biggest banks with the resources to invest in the latest and greatest tech. Even some smaller credit unions and community banks use tools like biometric authentication -- using physical characteristics like your fingerprint or face -- to limit your account access to the only person who should be able to get in: you.

Many banks also use multifactor authentication, which requires a second form of identification such as a text message to your phone to prove it’s really you attempting to access the account.

Many banks also use end-to-end encryption, which prevents anyone from seeing your information while it’s being transmitted.

How hackers can gain access to your banking information

There are several methods bad actors may use to try to obtain your personal or financial information.

  • Data breaches: While banks don’t make as many headlines for massive data breaches as retailers, they still happen. For example, Flagstar Bank has suffered three data breaches in three years, and Bank of America quietly informed around 57,000 customers that some very valuable information -- including Social Security Numbers and account numbers -- may have been leaked in a recent data breach. While that isn’t directly related to their mobile app experiences, the implications are similar: It is possible for someone to steal your money or your identity by getting ahold of your banking information.
  • App-based banking trojans: Once downloaded, these malicious programs can gain access to your banking information. And they can be tricky to spot. Cybercriminals may send you a text or email that looks legitimate, along with a link. Don’t click links from any unfamiliar senders. If you can’t tell if a notification is legitimate, contact your bank to find out.
  • Fake banking apps: Scammers also create fake apps that look just like your bank’s mobile app to trick you into downloading them and entering your login information. Once you enter your information, scammers have access to your account. You should only download a banking app from your bank’s website to ensure you’re using the correct one.
  • Unprotected Wi-Fi networks: If you’re using free Wi-Fi at a cafe, airport or any other public location, you’re putting yourself at risk. Hackers can tap into these networks and access your devices. Avoid opening your mobile banking app while connected to any of these networks. You’re better off waiting to look at your account until you’re on your home network.
  • Phishing websites and messages: Scammers may also send you a text or email prompting you to click a link and enter your credit card or banking information. In these messages, scammers may pretend to be your bank or someone you know requesting payment for an unpaid bill. As with banking trojans, treat these messages with suspicion and contact your bank to verify if they’re legitimate.

How to keep your data safe when using a banking app

Banks invest in upgrades to regularly identify vulnerabilities in their apps, but keeping your mobile banking data safe isn’t just up to them. You can help protect your information by following these tips.

Create strong and unique passwords

Research from Keeper Security shows that 75% of people aren’t taking the proper precautions to create tough-to-crack passwords. And no, “1234” isn’t a strong password, and neither is your last name or any other easily identifiable words. Your password should be complicated -- ideally, a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.

Also, be sure to create different passwords for different accounts. This way, if your password for one account falls into the wrong hands, scammers can’t use it to get into your bank account. While that may seem like more information to juggle, you can use a password manager to keep it organized.

Protect your login credentials

A strong password is only useful if you don’t share it with anyone. This is another area where a password manager can help. It can help you develop strong passwords and encrypt them on your phone, along with any other devices, such as your computer and your tablet.

Also, make sure you log out of a banking app when you’re done using it. Many banking apps have an automatic logout feature that activates after a few minutes of inactivity.

Set up multifactor authentication

Multifactor authentication is the digital equivalent of presenting multiple forms of ID in person. When you provide both a passport and a utility bill, for example, a company can feel more secure that it’s really you than if you just showed one form of ID.

Many big banks let you enable two-factor authentication, which can strengthen your defense against scammers. For example, you might enter your information to log into your app, then receive a text message with a one-time code to verify your identity. It’s not foolproof, as there are crafty criminals who figure out ways to work around multifactor authentication, but it is worth the extra step.

Keep your app updated

One way your bank keeps your mobile data safe is by monitoring new and existing cyber threats and releasing software updates to strengthen its app’s security measures. To make sure you’re protected by these measures, make sure your phone has the latest version of software installed for your bank’s app. You can do this by manually updating your app through your app store’s settings or enabling automatic updates.

Don’t use public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi can come at a very expensive cost: An increased likelihood of someone on the same network managing to hack into your device. Never conduct banking activities on public Wi-Fi. (Ultimately, you’re better off avoiding doing much of anything over a public Wi-Fi network due to heightened cybersecurity risks.)

Don’t click on suspicious links

Most people feel confident that they can avoid email scams. After all, the story of the Nigerian prince who will pay you loads of money to help him has probably been around since you started sending emails.

However, scammers have gotten increasingly creative with ways to incentivize you to click on a link that allows them to access your information or download malware onto your mobile device. Many of them now use smishing, which sends those links to your mobile phone as a text message. Scrutinize every message that arrives on your phone, and if you have any doubts about its authenticity, don’t click on it.

Monitor your bank accounts and credit report

No matter how vigilant you are in keeping your data safe, there are sophisticated criminals online who could find a way into your financial accounts. So, it’s smart to keep a close eye on your bank accounts to watch for any unfamiliar transactions. In some cases, hackers make a small charge -- just a few dollars, for example -- to see if you spot it before they do significantly larger damage. Review your transaction history on a regular basis for any suspicious activity.

In addition, check your credit report frequently. It can help you spot potential fraud that won’t ever show up in your banking app. If someone manages to open a bank account with your name and Social Security Number, this is how you can find out about the fraud and work to repair the damage.

Bottom line

Banking apps can make your life much easier by putting all of your money in your pocket -- literally. With an app, you can easily transfer funds, monitor account activity, deposit checks and send payments to friends without ever having to visit a branch or an ATM. In addition to that convenience, these apps deliver an even more essential benefit: security.

As long as you’re taking steps to protect your data -- such as avoiding public Wi-Fi and enabling multifactor authentication -- using a banking app to manage your money is safe.


Banking apps can be safer than using an online banking portal due to biometric-enabled login options for your phone and the app itself. Your face, your fingerprint and your phone are a lot harder to hack than your username and password.

The most basic steps to ensure your banking app is secure include downloading the app directly from an official app store and enabling multifactor authentication. And if you’re worried about it, rest assured that your bank has every incentive to make its app as secure as possible. One safety error can make their entire customer base question its data protection abilities, so banks work very hard to keep their apps updated.

Banking apps can’t do everything. If you have an issue with a mobile check deposit, for example, you may not be able to get it resolved via your phone. Additionally, if you find yourself in a location with limited connectivity, you may face some big issues accomplishing anything with your app.

And finally, while banking apps are safe, your phone isn’t 100% immune to the dangers of online fraudsters. If you click on the wrong link and infect your phone with malware, your banking app info could be at risk.

How Safe Are Banking Apps, Really? (2024)


How safe are banking apps? ›

Risks of mobile banking

It's difficult to find software or technology that is entirely risk-free, and that holds true for mobile banking apps. The 2021 Nokia Threat Intelligence Report indicated that 50% of banking malware is targeted toward Android users, because Androids run on a fully open-source operating system.

Can you trust banking apps? ›

As long as you're taking steps to protect your data -- such as avoiding public Wi-Fi and enabling multifactor authentication -- using a banking app to manage your money is safe.

Can online banking apps be hacked? ›

Hackers exploit weak passwords and vulnerabilities of public Wi-Fi to infect devices with malware. However, most mobile banking attacks happen through social engineering – when users are manipulated to give up their usernames and passwords to hackers, scammers, and other cybercriminals.

What are the disadvantages of banking apps? ›

  • Risk of hacking and identity theft.
  • Tech issues or bugs can affect usability.
  • Some mobile banking apps charge fees.
  • Features aren't the same for all apps.
Feb 7, 2024

Is it safer to use an app or a browser for banking? ›

However, given the advances in browser safety, there's no longer a general consensus among experts as to whether apps or browsers are safer for online banking. Essentially, both are secure from the source, but it's up to users to avoid making mistakes that can give thieves easier access.

What is the safest device to do online banking? ›

You don't know who has access to the network traffic and whether they can view the data you send. For better online banking security, Marchini advises using your cellular network.

Should I use a mobile banking app? ›

Cybersecurity experts say mobile banking is safe, but urge consumers to take certain precautions. “If you download the mobile app from a secure store, that is just as safe as visiting a bank branch,” says Paul Benda, senior vice president for operational risk and cybersecurity at American Bankers Association.

Which is better mobile banking or internet banking? ›

The biggest difference between the two is their functionality. Internet Banking allows you to conduct online transactions through your PC or laptop and an internet connection. On the other hand, mobile banking can be done with or without internet. Many banks nowadays have their mobile apps for mobile banking.

How do I protect my banking apps? ›

Use Biometric Authentication: Enable biometric authentication (such as Face ID or Touch ID) for your banking apps if they support it. This adds an extra layer of security and prevents unauthorized access even if someone has your phone.

Can an app steal my bank info? ›

Even if you don't download a fraudulent banking app, scammers can still gain access to your accounts through other malware-infected apps. Hackers use a type of malware called “keyloggers” that record all the information you type into your phone — including bank accounts and passwords.

Can someone hack my bank account through my phone? ›

Once they gain control of the phone number, they can intercept SMS messages containing one-time passwords (OTPs) used for bank account verification. This can potentially enable unauthorized access to accounts if the bank relies solely on SMS-based 2FA (two-factor authentication).

Can hackers see my bank account? ›

If a hacker uncovers the one password, that can make it easier for them to access your other accounts. This can potentially include bank accounts with your sensitive financial or payment information. Jeremiah Grossman, cybersecurity expert and CEO of an IT startup, agrees.

What is the biggest danger when online banking? ›

The biggest risk of online banks is that someone will access your savings or checking account and steal your information and money. This typically happens when your account is hacked by cybercriminals who get your username and password. However, these risks are not limited to banks that operate exclusively online.

What are two reasons to not use online banking? ›

  • Customer service lacks personal touch.
  • Not an option for those lacking access to the internet.
  • ATM options may be limited.
  • Greater due diligence required to vet the bank.
Dec 31, 2021

What is the biggest drawback to online banking? ›

Disadvantages of Online Banking
  1. No Actual Branches. ...
  2. Tech-Related Service Disruptions. ...
  3. Concerns about Identity Theft and Security. ...
  4. Deposit Restrictions. ...
  5. Faster is Not Always More Convenient. ...
  6. No Relationship with a Personal Banker. ...
  7. Limited Services Scope. ...
  8. Possibility of Overspending.

What are the pros and cons of banking apps? ›

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mobile banking. The advantages of mobile banking include 24/7 access to funds, convenient way of paying bills, taxes, and loans. The top disadvantage of mobile banking is potential security risks, tech issues, and extra charges for services.

Is using an app safer than website? ›

6. Mobile apps are just as secure. It's hard to generalize about whether apps or websites offer greater security. Security issues often stem from server (“backend”) vulnerabilities, as in the cases of data breaches, rather than browsers or apps.

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