Online banking is everywhere now; almost every bank in the world allows you to access all of your accounts from your computer or mobile device.
No need to make a trip to the branch, find a parking spot, stand in some ridiculously long line, and waste gas. You can access your account and do a variety of transactions right from your couch during the commercial break of your favorite show.
I’ve been using online banking for so many years that I don’t even order regular checks anymore. The ease of use and convenience is just too good for me to pass up. And, in all the years I’ve been using online banking I have never had an issue. EVER.
It’s easy and convenient, but if you’re just getting started there are some important things you should know.
WHAT IS ONLINE BANKING?
Essentially it means accessing your bank accounts and managing certain financial transactions by using the internet on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. It’s quick, saves you a trip to the bank and usually free.
Many of the larger banks also offer a free app that allows you to access the same information on your smartphone or tablet without opening your browser.
Most banks allow you to access your basic accounts like checking and savings, but other banks also allow you to access other accounts like your loans or investment accounts. Each bank is different on what they offer so you’ll need to check.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH ONLINE BANKING?
There are a number of banking tasks you can manage without even making a trip to the bank. Here are some that your bank probably offers:
Deposit checks by entering the dollar amount of the check and taking a photo of the front and back of the check using the secure app. The app will access your phone’s camera to take the photos, but these photos will not be saved on your phone for security purposes.
Doing this online even saves you a stamp and a trip to the post office. Plus, you don’t have to order as many checks. And you can access payment history for each account you pay.
Search your bill payment history to find specific payment transactions. This is so easy to do and perfect if for some reason you’ve lost track of a bill and want to see when the last time you made a payment.
Review your account activity and your balance – something I recommend doing daily if you’re trying to get back on track financially.
I happen to be a Capital One customer and have all my accounts synced up together so if I need to make a transfer it is seamless. I can instantly transfer funds between accounts within the same bank in a split second.
Get text or email alerts to keep you up-to-date on your balance as well as any deposits made to your account. This is handy if your paycheck is directly deposited. If you’re having difficulty keeping track of your transaction, this service can be a life saver in ensuring you don’t overdraft your account.
Sending money to a friend or family member is super simple with online banking. Many banks offer a wire-transfer service that allows you to easily send money for a small fee.
Your bank may even offer additional services. Be sure to ask or check their website.
HOW SECURE IS ONLINE BANKING?
Banks take many precautions to keep your account information safe so, in most cases, accessing your information is secure. There are a few rules to follow though to maintain your security:
a. Don’t reply to any emails claiming to be from your bank that asks for personal details or passwords. Also, don’t click on any links in these emails. If you receive an email you’re unsure about, open a separate browser window or go to the app and log in to your account directly.
b. Always make sure you log out of your account when you’re done. If you’re using an app, it will usually log you out automatically. But if you’re using your browser, remember to log out manually.
c. Only use secure Wi-Fi connections. Your home Wi-Fi is usually best since you most likely have a secure, password protected connection.
d. Don’t use public Wi-Fi. It’s convenient and free, but it’s not secure. If you’re out and about and want to do any banking, disconnect from the public Wi-Fi and use your 3G or 4G connection (data).
e. Keep your anti-virus software on your computer current.
f. Choose a secure password. Combine three random words and/or numbers and don’t reuse this password for any other accounts.
g. If you notice any unusual transactions, be sure to report it to your bank immediately.
WHAT IF YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG WHEN BANKING ONLINE?
If you notice an unfamiliar transaction or you accidentally make a payment to the wrong account or mistakenly make a transfer, contact your bank as soon as possible. In most cases, they can reverse or cancel the transaction before it goes through.
HOW TO SET UP ONLINE BANKING
To find out if your bank offers online banking, check their website, call or stop by a branch, or check for the app in the app section of your phone. Once you know you can access your account, there are a few registration steps to protect your privacy.
a. You’ll first need to link your account to online banking. This might mean setting up a user name and password. You can do this both online and through the app. You will need your account number and personal information used to open the account, like your social security number.
b. Depending on your bank, you will either be able to choose your own password or they will email a password to you. If they email a password to you, copy it then open your online banking in a separate browser window to log in. If you don’t think you’ll be able to remember the password they assigned you, follow the steps in your online account settings to change your password.
c. Once you have your username and password, use them to log in the first time. Your accounts will be linked and visible when you do.
d. If you’re unsure about how to set it up or if you’re doing it right, stop by your bank branch. The branch manager will be happy to help you set up your online banking and show you how it works.
HOW DO I PAY MY BILLS ONLINE?
Setting up bill pay is easy. If you get confused, don’t worry. Most banks will walk you through the steps and some will even do it for you.
But it’s pretty simple, just grab all your bills and put the information they request which typically includes the payee, the payee address and phone number, and the account number.
When it comes time to make a payment you locate the payee, indicate what amount you want to send to them, chose a date of payment and hit send.
Most banks also allow you to set up automatic bill paying.
No matter which method you chose, it’s still important to check to make sure the bank made no errors or that you put in the wrong amount. Just because you’re paying online, you still need to be diligent about checking your account.
The most important aspect of online bill paying is to make sure you have a bill paying system set up. If you signed up for the Debt Free Money Guide, I cover this in great detail how to do it online or off.
Online banking is the way of the future. Many banks are starting to close their smaller branches because so many people are banking online now. In fact, there are several banks that only allow you to bank online now; they don’t offer branches.
If you’re not already banking online, it’s time to think about starting. It’s convenient, easy, and allows you to check on your account anywhere, anytime.
That provides an extra sense of security knowing that you can always check your balance and transactions if you feel something is wrong.