Online banking is the fastest growing Internet activity as tracked by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a report said Thursday.
In its survey of Internet users, Pew found that 13 million Americans carry out some banking chores online on a typical day -- a 58 percent jump from late 2002. "Fifty-three million people, or 44 percent of Internet users and one-quarter of all adults, now say they use online banking," said Pew Associate Director Susannah Fox in a statement. "The spread of online banking has coincided with the spread of high-speed broadband connections and the increasing maturation of the Internet population."
The survey found that 63 percent of broadband home users tried online banking while just 32 percent of dialup users had tried it. Men were more likely than women to use Web banking and people in well-off households with annual incomes above $75,000 were likewise more frequent users of online banking than those with lower incomes.
Fox noted that Web surfers were more likely to use online banking services after they use the Internet for financial transactions including online purchases and auctions.
"Banks themselves have discovered the virtues of online banking and have become more aggressive in offering it as an option to customers," the Pew report stated. "Various studies have found that online banking customers are more profitable than offline customers -- they make fewer customer service calls and are less likely to switch banks."
Pew, however, cited a downside to online banking: the growth of phishing, much of which centers around tricking online banking users to give away personal account information. "This fraud not only costs banks real dollars," Pew said, "but it degrades customers' trust in (banks) and in online banking in general."