If you're like millions of other Americans, you utilize Internet banking for the convenience and ease of being able to bank from home -- or even on your smartphone. It's reported that each month, more than 44 million households pay at least one bill online, and that number is projected to increase to 55 million households by 2016 [source: Schwartz]. With most online banks being available 24 hours a day, the service is easily accessible, and when used correctly, online banking is safe and effective, too.
Technological advances and an increased demand for innovative online services have led to new developments in Internet banking, making it even more efficient. We all know that online banks make it possible to transfer money, pay bills and even check account balances, but do you know all the ways your online account can make managing your money an easier task? Here are five unexpected perks of online banking.
Ever wonder where all your money is spent between paydays? Well, if you want to find out, just look to the tools available in your online bank account. You can download account data directly to your computer desktop. You can then comb through it on your own or access accounting software, like Quicken, to analyze your spending. Transactions might appear without categorization, requiring a bit of effort if you want to create a personal budget. However, if your bank issues you a debit card that allows electronic access, the charges can then be downloaded and categorized for you. Just make sure you double-check the figures because they're not always 100 percent accurate [source: CNN Money].
Apply for a Loan
Want to apply for a home equity, mortgage or car loan? Instead of waiting in line to speak with a bank employee, why not go through the process online? And don't worry if you're pressed for time. You can complete to application at your leisure, as many banks will allow you to save an application and finish it at a later date. Once it's been submitted, someone from the bank will call you to follow up and begin the next step in the borrowing process. Of course, you can always opt to close the deal with someone at your local branch or contact a bank representative if you have any questions.
Deposit Checks From Home
Forget waiting in line to deposit a check -- some banks allow you to make a deposit simply by using a scanner and a computer. This is how it works: Your bank will provide you with a special desktop scanner (for an additional fee, of course). You scan your check, and the information is sent electronically to your bank through a secure Internet connection. The funds are then deposited into your account just like they would be if you had physically given a teller the check. This service is not only convenient; it also reduces the likelihood of check fraud [source: Fidelity].
Link Multiple Accounts
Do you have multiple accounts with the same bank? Most banks will allow you to link savings and checking accounts so you can transfer money from one to the other; all it takes is a quick click of a mouse. Linking your accounts will not only help you keep track of your finances, but it could also help you stick to a budget. Certain banks allow you to open multiple savings accounts, for example, and each one can serve as a way to save for big-ticket items like a car, school tuition or even end-of-the-year holiday gifts. And since the transfers aren't instantaneous, you aren't likely to use the money for impulse purchases, either [source: Burt].
Bank from a Mobile Phone
Want an even more convenient way to manage your money on the go? Look no further than your smartphone. According to a Billing Household Survey by Fiserv Inc., more than 6 million people paid bills using smartphones between May 2010 and May 2011 [source: Rapport]. Smartphones allow users to access funds and account balances anywhere, any time of day, as long as the phone has Internet coverage and a Web browser or app for your bank.
Do you often wonder if you have enough cash in your account to pick up the check at dinner? Banks like Citibank allow users to check their account balance remotely by sending a simple text message [source: Kats]. Your bank can then notify you if your balance is dangerously low or if fraudulent activity is detected -- helping you stay connected and informed about your finances 24 hours a day.
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.
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- Burt, Erin. "Why You Need Multiple Savings Accounts." Kiplinger. Aug. 27, 2009. (Dec. 8, 2011)http://www.kiplinger.com/columns/starting/archive/st0826.htm
- CNN Money. "Tracking spending and expenses." (Dec. 9, 2011) http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index3.htm
- Kats, Rimma. "Citibank aims for convenience with new SMS banking service." Mobile Commerce Daily. June 23, 2010. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/2010/06/23/citibank-enhances-mobile-banking-services-with-sms
- Komando, Kim. "Tech Tips." USA Today. Oct. 21, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/story/2011-10-21/komando-track-personal-expenses/50841528/1
- Fidelity Bank. "Remote Deposit." (Dec. 7, 2011). https://www.lionbank.com/banking/business/remote-deposit
- Pisani, Joseph. "Coming Soon: Take Photo Of Check, Deposit It in Bank." CNBC. March 18, 2010. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.cnbc.com/id/35911747/Coming_Soon_Take_Photo_Of_Check_Deposit_It_in_Bank
- Schwartz, Nelson D. "Online Banking Keeps Customers on Hook for Fees." The New York Times. Oct. 15, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/business/online-banking-keeps-customers-on-hook-for-fees.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1323638892-yrmNSip3UKHwG34ARof37A
- Rapport, Marc. "Fiserv Billing Survey: Mobile Bill Pay Growing, Consumers Move Between Payment Channels." Credit Union Times. Dec. 7, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.cutimes.com/2011/12/07/fiserv-billing-survey-mobile-bill-pay-growing-cons?ref=hp
- Robinson, Tina. "Online Banking Primer: Beyond the Basics." Eurweb. Nov. 16, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.eurweb.com/2011/11/online-banking-primer-beyond-the-basics/
- Yurcan, Bryan. "Rolling Out the Welcome Mat for Online Banking Customers." Bank Systems and Technology. Dec. 5, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2011) http://www.banktech.com/channels/232200684