Online banking offers a welcome change from the tedium of physically balancing your checkbook and dealing with inaccurate handwritten ledgers. It's become so easy to manage your finances online that even most die-hard paper trail bankers have abandoned ship to embrace the digital age when it comes to money management.
If you have yet to make the transition or want to learn more about the benefits of banking online, we've put together a list of five reasons why you should consider using the Internet to manage your money.
Read the next page to learn about what many believe to be online banking's best perk.
Thanks to the explosion of the always-available Internet and services available therein, the past decade or two has turned many of us into impatient people. But honestly, who wants to wait in line to check their account balance? Online banking is perfect for those who want 24/7 access to their funds and other bank-related services.
Between mobile phones with Internet access, tablets and portable computers, you can conduct your banking business anywhere. So, if you remember that you don't have enough cash in your account to cover that check you just wrote, you can easily rectify the problem -- just make sure you do so from a secure connection (see sidebar).
Even the largest and most respected banks make an error now and then, and it's not always in your favor. It's frighteningly easy for amounts to be recorded incorrectly and for payments to fall through the cracks. Online banking allows you to monitor your account balance and pending transactions in real time. So, if your employer forgets to pay up, or the check you deposited isn't added to your account in a reasonable amount of time, you can do a bit of digging to figure out what the holdup is.
Since every transaction is recorded, you can go back months or even years to make sure everything is on the up and up. Even though modern payment systems work well most of the time, mistakes happen, so it's important for consumers to stay on top of their charges. You don't want to accidentally pay $75 for a dinner you only authorized $50 for on your debit card.
Bills. They're the necessary evil no one enjoys dealing with, but the ability to pay them online takes a bit of the sting out of the process. Setting up a regular online payment schedule will help you avoid late fees because everything's automatically paid on time -- no stamps necessary. This is particularly helpful for bills that don't typically fluctuate in amount, like car or mortgage payments.
Bills that do change in amount can be easily monitored and paid at your leisure. Many banks allow you to set up reminders that will alert you about upcoming payment deadlines so you don't forget to pay your bills on time. Just make sure you have enough cash in your account to cover all your payments; otherwise, you'll also end up owing an overdraft fee.
It's no longer necessary to twiddle your thumbs while you wait around for your paycheck to hit your desk. Instead, arrange to directly deposit your payments online so you have immediate access to your funds. It may not be as exciting as seeing all of those numbers on a paper check, but the time you save waiting in line at the bank to deposit the money is enough to make up for it!
Of course, as with any other transaction, you should always make sure your paycheck has been successfully deposited each payday. Sometimes payroll is delayed or something affects the timeliness of your regularly scheduled windfall, so make sure you have all the money you think you do before offering to take everyone out for a night on the town.
Whether you have a kid in college or a friend in need of an immediate cash infusion, money transfer options offered by online banking services make it easy to send funds where they need to go -- fast. This action is particularly simple -- and often free -- if the person you're transferring money to holds an account with the same bank. Don't fret if the recipient banks with a different institution, though. Generally it takes just a little while longer (often 24 hours or less), and any associated fees are nominal -- though you should take care to confirm any costs before making the transaction.
If you hold multiple checking or savings accounts, money transfers grant you the convenience of moving funds as needed. So, if a tree falls across your driveway and you have to pay someone to haul it away, you can transfer cash from another account to cover it.
Moving your bank account online won't fix all your money woes, and paying bills will never be something any of us will ever look forward to. But if you want to make managing your finances as easy as it can possibly be, online banking is the way to go.
Is this the payment method of the future? No cash, no credit card, just your smartphone and your finger? Find out how Square works at HowStuffWorks.
- Business Link. "Choose and Run a Business Account." 2011. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?itemId=1073791603&type=RESOURCES
- Morales, Tatiana. "Benefits of Banking Online." CBS News. Feb. 11, 2009. (Dec. 1, 2011)http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/08/23/earlyshow/contributors/raymartin/main519638.shtml
- NECN-TV. "Online Bank Safety Tips from Jennifer Lane." Nov. 22, 2011. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.necn.com/11/22/11/Online-bank-safety-tips-from-Jennifer-La/landing_business.html?blockID=599154&feedID=4209
- Stauble, Janet. "The Benefits of Online Banking." Bankrate. 2011. (Dec. 1, 2011) http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/the-benefits-of-online-banking.aspx
- Wachovia. "Online Banking With Bill Pay." 2011. (Dec. 1, 2011) https://www.wachovia.com/foundation/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2ed15ef43a0aa110VgnVCM1000004b0d1872RCRD