Some people are only comfortable when they're keeping constant watch on their finances -- and it can seem even more important during an economic recession, when money may be tight or job security uncertain. The fear of fraud has also grown, as banks rely increasingly on potentially insecure processes like electronic transactions.
The upside to this electronic trend is that many banks are now offering a way for you to monitor your accounts and get instant updates wherever you are by sending information to your mobile phone. Most banks make it easy, especially for customers who already use online banking. To set it up, simply log in to your online account on your bank's Web site, find the mobile alerts section and enter your phone number. After you verify your phone number, you'll be able to customize the kinds of messages and warnings you want to get.
Want to know how mobile alerts can benefit you directly? Find out more on the next page.
Know When Transactions and Direct Deposits Are Posted
Banks take time processing transactions, and some, such as debit card purchases, can take several days to post to your account. This can get frustrating, especially if you're waiting for a paycheck to clear before you go out to get groceries. Instead of needing to call the bank, or even checking your online account several times a day to see if a particular transaction has posted, you could instead rely on an alert.
Some banks allow you to sign up for alerts that notify you when certain transactions are posted. One of the most common and useful of these is the direct deposit alert, which will let you know as soon as your paycheck goes through. Some banks can send daily alerts telling you which checks cleared in your account the previous day. Your bank might also offer alerts whenever any deposits, withdrawals, credits or debits are processed.
What happens when money is tight and gets a little too close to the red? Overdraft fees can add up, but mobile alerts make it it easier to know when funds are running low. Read about how you stay positive on the next page.
Account Balance Warnings
When you're using old-fashioned cash, you stop spending money when you're wallet is empty. But with a debit card, it's easier than ever to let an account get too low -- leaving you slapped with overdraft fees. Without needing to keep a constant eye on your account, you could prevent these kinds of fees by asking your bank to send you a mobile alert when your account gets too low.
Most banks allow you to customize the alert as well. For instance, you could specify that the alert activate when you fall below an amount you choose, whether its $1,000, $100 or $10. A related alert can tell you when your credit card balance is approaching the limit. In addition, you might be able to schedule a daily alert that informs you of your current account balance.
What about bill payments? Mobile alerts have those covered, too.
Get Reminders About Important Dates
As the human memory has been known to fail from time to time, you might enjoy having little reminders about certain dates. For instance, some banks offer alerts that notify you when a due date for a credit card bill or utility bill is coming up. If you're working to build your credit score, this feature could be most valuable to you, as paying bills on time has a significant impact on credit.
If you use online bill pay, you can also sign up for alerts to notify you when a payment has been sent or scheduled to be sent, fails to process, or when an automatic payment is about to expire.
Know About Changes to Your Account
One of the most common mobile alerts that banks offer warn you when there are any changes to your account. For instance, you'll get an instant alert whenever there is a change to your password or account information, like address, phone number or email address. Some banks send alerts when there have been checks ordered on your account, or a biller has been added to your online bill pay account.
Hopefully, you are the one who has initiated the changes, but the point of these alerts is to notify you in case these are unauthorized changes from someone who has hacked your account. If you are warned early enough and contact your bank as soon as possible, you can help prevent fraudsters from wreaking havoc on your finances.
Know About Irregular Activity
Similar to the last alert, this one also helps prevent fraud. But a hacker who accesses your account doesn't need to change any information in order to sap your funds. That's why banks may also offer mobile alerts that warn you about irregular activity.
For instance, a bank may flag irregular activity when an unusual or large purchase has been made on your account, or a purchase occurred in a distant location from you. That's why you might get a false alarm warning about irregular activity when you travel.
A fraudulent credit card purchase is easier to dispute than debit card fraud. So one of the best ways to protect yourself is to know about irregular activity as soon as possible and ask the bank to freeze the account. Hopefully you won't be a victim of fraud, but the peace of mind that comes with such alerts can be reassuring.
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.
- BB&T. "BB&T Alerts Frequently Asked Questions." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.bbt.com/bbt/alerts/alert-faq.html
- Bank of America. "Online Banking Alerts." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.bankofamerica.com/onlinebanking/cfm/online_banking_alerts.cfm
- Key Bank. "Mobile Alerts & Text Messaging." (Dec. 20, 2011) https://www.key.com/personal/mobile-banking/mobile-alerts-text-messages.jsp
- U.S. Bank. "Text and Email Alerts from U.S. Bank Help You Stay on Top of Your Finances." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.usbank.com/cgi_w/cfm/personal/sub_global/Rib_acct_alert.cfm