Online banking has completely revolutionized the way Americans do their banking, making the process simpler, faster, more convenient and more secure than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of American adults now bank online — and that number is growing every day.
Virtually everything you do at your physical branch can now be done online. CBS MoneyWatch has stated that the most popular task performed online is checking account balances or recent transactions, followed by transferring money between accounts, and then getting an email or text alert from your financial institution.
Here are some online banking features and how they can help make your life easier:
Mobile banking - Mobile banking allows you the greatest amount of freedom and convenience, as it typically encompasses all the services listed below as well. Using your smartphone or tablet, you can bank on the go from anywhere, 24/7. Check balances, pay bills and even deposit a check by taking a quick picture. Typically, you will need to download your financial institution’s mobile banking app to begin. Best of all, these online services are usually free of charge, including the app download, and they are just as secure as services done on a desktop computer or other device.
Online statements - Getting online statements is a very convenient way to track account activity. You can often track activity going back several years. You can view, save and print the statements without having to wait to receive them in the mail, then pull them up on demand, nearly immediately. Email alerts can inform you when they’re available online.
Online bill pay - It's amazing how much time — and money — you can save by paying bills online. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can pay your bills in seconds, eliminating the need to buy and write out checks or seal envelopes.
You can choose to receive all your bills by email. Once you enter all your payees as part of the initial setup process, the rest is easy. There’s no need to remember passwords or usernames for different payees. You just determine how much you want to pay toward each bill and hit send. You can set up recurring payments too.
By paying your bills in this manner, you can stay abreast of your finances, avoiding overdrafts, late fees and bounced checks. You can pay businesses — and individuals — of all types, and receive email reminders when a payment is due or confirmation when a bill has been paid. If necessary, you can usually review up to two years or more in payment history.
Internal transfers - Transferring funds is easy too. With online banking, you can transfer money to and from different accounts within your financial institution and often in conjunction with accounts at other institutions as well. These accounts can include your savings and checking, loans, credit cards and certain investment accounts. Plus, in many cases, you can set up automatic transfers.
Sending money to individuals - Online banking also allows you to pay individuals without worries. For example, if a co-worker loans you $5 for lunch, you can later transfer money to that person simply by using their email address. You don’t need to share account information, and the person doesn’t even need to be a customer at your financial institution. The whole process is secure, fast and all-around convenient. See your financial institution for more details.
Online money management - Perhaps the most convenient aspect of online banking is being able to perform transactions at any hour of the day or night. Viewing account balances and transactions in real time is very important as well.
You can often combine online banking with personal financial software programs like Quicken and QuickBooks. These programs allow you to fine-tune your money management, including creating budgets, following spending and tracking tax data.
Security - For customers’ peace of mind, financial institutions typically have many levels of security in place, including firewalls, encryption and passwords. Security alerts are sent immediately to customers by email or text if anything seems out of the ordinary. Customers are usually not responsible for unauthorized transactions, as long as they followed proper guidelines in their online usage.
Some establishments have even gone as far as instituting fingerprint sign-ins. The financial industry seems determined to prevent security breaches in this new and fast-moving online world, and it is constantly improving its online banking options and offerings to reflect consumers’ current wants and needs.