Thanks to technology, you can manage your money, pay bills and, in some cases, deposit checks from almost anywhere, whenever you think of it. Following a few helpful hints can keep your information and money secure while banking online.
Manage Money at Your Convenience
Your bank’s website or app may let you check your balance, transfer money, pay bills and even make deposits using the camera on your device. Some have built-in budgeting tools, to monitor your spending habits or strategically save for big-ticket items, like a computer, vacation or car. You can also sign up for text or email alerts to know when your account balance falls below a certain threshold.
If you move frequently or worry about the security of your paper mail, you can sign up for email statements, ensuring that you receive communication in a safe and timely manner.
Pay Electronically and Automatically
Whether you want to eliminate the cost of stamps, checks and envelopes or you frequently wait until the last minute to pay bills, electronic payments will deliver your money securely, quickly and usually for free. You can set this up through your bank’s website, the creditor’s website – such as your utility company, credit card company or insurance provider – or a third-party website, such as PayPal or Google Wallet. These sites also let you send money to friends and family or shop online without disclosing your account number.
For bills that vary in amount, set up each monthly payment individually, after you receive your bill, so you know how much will come out of your account and when. If you pay the same amount every month, you can set up recurring, automated payments so your bank does the work for you. Be sure to monitor your balance so the automated payments don’t overdraw your account.
Protect Your Information
Just like you keep your wallet and checkbook safe, you need to protect your account and personal information online. By taking a few precautions, you will minimize the risk of someone else accessing your account.
- Use Strong Passwords: Create secure passwords by using phrases that are memorable to you, such as a favorite song lyric or quote. Remove the spaces, abbreviate the phrase and include numbers, capital letters and special characters to make it tough to crack. If that is too much work, let a free password management service, like Free at Last Pass, LogMeOnce or 1U, create and change secure passwords for you.
- Log On from Secure Networks: If possible, never log into your bank’s website from a public computer or on public Wi-Fi, such as at a coffee shop. Hackers can easily track your login and password to steal your personal information and money. Instead, use your phone or tablet’s data plan or log in through a secure virtual private network, such as CyberGhost or VPNBook.
- Check Your Account Frequently: Log into your account at least several times a week, if not daily, and alert your bank immediately if you see a transaction that you did not approve. Many banks can also send you electronic alerts about purchases, withdrawals and deposits so you always know what’s going on with your money.
Online banking is a convenient way to manage your money whenever you have the time. By doing so strategically, safely and securely, you can protect yourself while taking advantage of this technology.