Online banking

Around-the-clock banking

Banking online can be a powerful tool for managing your personal finances. When you bank online, you can check your account balances in real time, transfer money between your accounts, pay your bills, invest and borrow through a single online portal. And you don't have to worry about banking hours-the bank is up and running around the clock.

Overview

Knowing exactly what's in your checking account at any given moment puts you in a much better position to answer important questions like, "When did my mortgage payment clear?" or "Has my paycheck been deposited?" Further, online banking is a great way to spot possible fraud or identity theft in your account virtually as it happens. This knowledge gives you a head start on getting the matter resolved.

Online banking is generally available in one of two ways. You can open an account with a virtual bank, which exists only online. Or you can use the online services of a traditional bank, sometimes known as a brick and mortar bank.

If you do business with a virtual bank, you should also consider opening an account in a traditional local bank. Then you can deposit checks in your local bank, withdraw cash from its ATMs and transfer amounts back and forth electronically between your accounts in the two banks. You can also use the local bank for services like official bank checks and signature guarantees.

Tip: If you are new to or apprehensive about banking online, you may wish to consider setting up online access to your existing accounts and start by monitoring deposit and check activity. As you become comfortable with the concept of banking online, you can move on to transferring money and paying bills. One advantage of online banking is that you become more efficient with the time you spend on banking activities

Pay Your Bills Online

Electronic bill payment is an important feature of online banking. You can authorize your bank to pay certain bills automatically each month just by providing the payment information the bank needs and identifying the account from which you'd like to pay these bills. Using this service can be especially helpful when hectic work or travel schedules are the norm, helping to ensure your payments are always made on time.

If you prefer to pay each bill online on your own, you can do that too. In fact, you can approve the payments as you receive various bills and schedule the days on which specific online payments will be made to ensure they are processed by your creditor on time. For example, you can schedule a mortgage payment for the day after your paycheck is deposited directly in your account. Either way, you always have an electronic record of what was paid and when.

Some banks charge a monthly fee for electronic bill payment service, while others offer it for free or link the charge to your account balance.

Online Bank Safety

Banks are committed to protecting you and themselves from fraud and theft. You have the same legal protections with online accounts as you do with conventional accounts, the same FDIC insurance, and the same privacy.

If you bank online, you should be aware of the primary indicators of safety in addition to your login name and password: the URL will begin with https://. The "s" is one indication the site is secure. There will also be a padlock or key icon on the bottom right-hand side of the browser window. The icon indicates that you're on a secure page and your information will be encrypted during the transaction. When you're using an up-to-date web browser, another way to check for a secure site is to be sure that the name of the institution appears on a colored background in the same band as the URL.

If you want to do a security check, double click on the icon. The URL on the certificate you'll see should match the URL on the page you're on. That indicates the page is authentic.

You can also help keep your account safe by always signing out when you have completed the transaction or are done reviewing your account. You should also be very cautious if accessing your online account in public places where the network could be hacked by identity thieves.