iPhone breaks another barrier: Lets you deposit checks with its camera

A mid-sized bank, USAA, has become the first bank to let you snap a picture of a check with your iPhone and automatically deposit it once you hit the send button (demo in video below).

This is the sort of beautiful simplicity we’ve long waited for in our mobile lives. But until now, those aspirations have been shattered by the arcane rules of the banking industry, where conservative practices (and prudent security measures) forced us to keep using paper — and usually an envelope, and stamp we can never find.

This latest move by USAA, a bank with 7 million customers, is one more sign we’re moving much more quickly to a world where we can do almost anything while on the go — from banking to shopping and even checking in with our doctor.

USSA, which ranks below the top 20 banks in the U.S., released an iPhone application in May and will add the the new photo-deposit feature to the application this week, according to the New York Times. The feature requires a customer to photograph both sides of the check with the phone’s camera. All you’ll need is a cellular connection to send the image.

Once you send the images, you no longer need the paper check — you can simply discard it. USAA’s system takes over. The company has been developing a mobile strategy for some time: Three years ago, the bank introduced the option of depositing a check from home using a scanner. USAA plans to offer the feature on other phones later this year, according to the Times.

Of course, this is the sort of feature that will only help the iPhone’s appeal. The phone is still used by only a fraction of mobile phone users, but it’s cool applications like this that have users using their phones in ways most people don’t. Bank of America tells the Times that 43 percent of its more than 3 million mobile banking customers do their banking with an iPhone or iPod touch.

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