The Internet has made banking a lot easier. Just about every bank allows you to check your account and make transactions online. In fact, if you want, you can do away with ever having to go to a bank again.
Automate Your Finances
Online banking allows you to automate a lot of your financial transactions. Here are some possibilities:
- Automatic Deposit. You can have your paycheck automatically deposited into your account. Ask your employer if this service is available where you work. It's a good idea, because you won't have to wait in line at the bank every time you get paid.
- Automatic Bill Pay. You can have your bank make automatic contributions to certain bills if you wish. Also, your bill collectors likely offer this service. Many prefer this method and will sometimes offer a cost break if you choose to use it. This can be a great convenience, but be careful. If your cash flow is sporadic, an automatic payment could kick in when you don't have enough funds, causing you to be penalized. Note that the new law limiting overdraft fees customers can be charged applies only to ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases, and not to automatic payments.
- Automatic Transfer. If you're trying to maintain a savings regimen, consider having a certain amount of your paycheck or checking account balance transferred into savings or an investment fund. It's easy to set up either online or at your local branch.
- Automate Your Records. Many online banking services are compatible with financial management software. You can have your account records imported regularly, and make balancing your checkbook quick and easy.
- Bank From Anywhere. With online banking, you can pay your bills and manage your accounts while at home in your pajamas. Or you can do it from anywhere in the world. Wherever you have an Internet connection, you have the ability to work with your money.
Some banks operate entirely online. They offer the same services as the bank in your neighborhood. But they don't have expenses such as keeping a lot of branches open and fully staffed. That can translate into real savings – and even earnings – for you.
Without the costs of overhead, online banks can offer higher interest on savings and checking accounts. They also tend to offer lower fees and fewer restrictions on minimum balances and withdrawals.
One major downside of virtual banks is that they don't own their own ATMs. So if you need cash while you're on the run, you'll likely have to pay a fee to use some other bank's machine.
Mobile devices and tablets have become increasingly popular, with 87% of the U.S. population owning mobile phones and 21% of mobile phone owners having used mobile banking in the past 12 months. Many major banks have created apps that allow customers to monitor and track their finances. Consumers can even virtually deposit checks with their smartphone camera. Some banks have enabled customers to make withdrawals at ATMs using their mobile device, locate ATMs and provide one-touch payment systems.
Here are a few mobile apps that could make online banking even easier and more convenient:
- PayPal has a free mobile app for iOS, Android and Windows that allows you to add, withdraw, or transfer funds from your account. You can also make payments at establishments accepting PayPal.
- Credit Karma's free iOS and Android apps provide access to view credit scores on the go. The app sends notifications when there are major changes in your credit score, making it easy to monitor for signs of ID theft.
- Venmo, an increasingly popular company acquired by PayPal in 2013, offers iOS and Android apps that allow friends in a social network to request and send money to one another.
- Mint, a financial management program used by millions of people, has an app that allows users to automatically track spending across checking and saving accounts as well as credit cards. The free app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
Mobile Banking Series: State of the Market 2014, Mapa Digital Competitor Intelligence.
Consumers and Mobile Financial Services, Federal Reserve System.
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