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Auto loan on your cell phone?

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Posted: 12 pm ET

This month, USAA, long admired by us geeks in the financial reporting world for its embrace of Web-based and mobile banking, introduced a soup-to-nuts auto loan feature into its already top-flight iPhone app. This is the same iPhone app, you might recall, that first allowed users to deposit their checks by taking pictures of them.

The new feature, called Auto Circle, takes buyers step-by-step through the car-buying process, allowing them to apply for and receive an auto loan almost instantly and giving them information on the models they're looking at, including current dealer incentives and even special discounts negotiated by USAA with thousands of dealers nationwide. USAA claims customers who shop at USAA-certified dealerships save an average of $4,508 thanks to these sweetheart deals.

And because USAA is also an insurer, the app also allows buyers to apply for auto insurance and find out how much they'll pay for the new model.

USAA's new Auto Circle iPhone app function

USAA's new Auto Circle iPhone app function

This strikes me as a win-win for USAA and its customers. USAA will likely make boatloads of money by writing more auto loans because it's able to more effectively compete with dealer financing and dealer-arranged insurance.

USAA customers will have a couple of major bargaining chips in the palm of their hand; not only will they have current market pricing (as opposed to the MSRP), but they'll also have reasonably good financing for their auto purchase in hand that will allow them to bargain with the dealer to get even better auto loan rates.

It seems like a no-brainer that other banks will soon follow suit. By then, though, USAA will probably have pushed the mobile-banking game even further along.

Would you use your iPhone to get an auto loan? Has anyone out there used this app?

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