- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - If you’re one of the holdouts still paying bills with checks, tracking your accounts with pen and paper or clipping coupons from the newspaper, 2012 could be the year you take the digital plunge.

A host of budding personal finance services and applications are poised to go mainstream in the new year, and together, they will likely have a big impact on the way Americans bank, shop, and track their finances. Some of the services are web-based, but many take advantage of the proliferation of smartphones, which are now carried by one-third of U.S. adults _ with more likely to join that crowd in the next few days after receiving the gadgets as holiday gifts.

Whether online or mobile, here are some personal finance technologies to watch in 2012:

_ Mobile money

The September launch of Google Wallet was just one high-profile move toward the use of smartphones for payments, replacing credit or debit cards. The technology allows users to wave their phones in front of payment terminals and have transactions deducted from linked bank accounts or credit cards. Expect more options for electronic payments from mobile service providers and card networks next year, and wider adoption of the terminals by retailers, mass transit systems and more.

Another innovation that is already being heavily promoted is person-to-person payments. American Express Co., MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc. and PayPal all offer ways for their customers to send and receive money using links to various accounts and cards. As the TV commercials depict, if this technology takes off there will be no more fumbling for cash when it’s time to split the check at a restaurant, and sending money across town or across borders will be easier, faster and less expensive.

_ Non-bank money management

Mint.com, the popular personal finance site, was only the beginning. A raft of new money management tools are now available that can help users keep track of bills, investments and other aspects of their financial lives.

Among the standouts is Manilla.com, which not only pulls together household bills and financial accounts, but also helps users keep track of details like travel rewards points and magazine subscriptions. The service provides reminders for when bills are due and has features that make it easy to pay bills or set up auto payments. Since the company’s goal is to help its customers eliminate paper clutter, there’s even a way to store electronic account statements. And it has a smartphone app for accessing all these functions on the go.

Other non-bank options include Pageonce, an app that automatically tracks bills and enables users to make payments on their phone; savvymoney.com, a site that offers debt-management help; and Betterment.com, a site designed to simplify investing.

_ Targeted deals

The combination of geo-location technology that can track your movements when you’re carrying your smartphone, and QR codes, those weird squares appearing more and more often in advertising, is enabling companies to offer personalized discounts and on-the-spot deals to customers willing to opt into their programs.

Mall shoppers have already started getting texts and emails designed to lure them into certain stores, and the technology can also be used to encourage customers to enter contests, demonstrate new apps or products and even contact customer service.

_ Social commerce

Javelin Strategy & Research, a financial services research firm, is using this term to identify the trend toward the combination of commerce and social networking on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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