Wells Fargo customers in Minnesota can now use their smartphones to deposit checks wherever and whenever, as the nation's No. 4 bank expands mobile deposit nationally.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. said Wednesday that it's expanding mobile deposit services to Minnesota and across the country after rolling it out in June to a limited number of states. Deposits are free.

Ditching ATMs for check deposits has proved popular. Wells Fargo customers deposited more than 600,000 checks by smartphone in the first five months. That's double what the bank expected, said Brian Pearce, senior vice president and head of Wells Fargo's retail mobile channel.

"Customers were really asking for the service," Pearce said in an interview. "This has been a huge year for mobile check deposits for the banks."

The rollout lags behind Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, Minnesota's second-largest bank by deposits after Wells Fargo. U.S. Bank rolled out remote check deposit nationally early last year. It charges 50 cents per check.

Banks and credit unions alike are racing to provide mobile check deposit, along with other digital services for smartphone-wielding customers. In the past eight months most of the country's top banks have rolled out the service, which involves sending a photograph of the check.

"There's a huge wave of smaller banks that are now coming out with it," Pearce said.

Wells Fargo currently has nearly 9 million mobile users, and expects more as mobile check deposit converts more customers.

Wells Fargo has a $1,000 daily limit and $3,000 monthly limit on mobile check deposits.

The cash is available the next business day with a 6 p.m. (CST) cutoff. For instance, a check photographed in Minnesota at 10 p.m. Monday would be available first thing Wednesday morning.

Wells Fargo is exploring other smartphone uses, including mobile capture of other types of documents, such as mortgage papers, and using smartphones to tap and pay at store checkouts.

But customers aren't communicating a big desire to use phones to pay for merchandise at the store, Pearce said. They're more interested in managing their finances on the go.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683