Online banking is the best, and safest, way to deal with your finances. Many web users are hesitant to move to online banking, but it is truly the best way to guard against identity theft and will make your life a lot easier.
The single biggest advantage of online banking is the easy access to your account information 24 hours a day. With the development of mobile banking apps, it is even easier. You can also, with most large banks, deposit checks with your phone and skip going to the bank all together.
Bank statements, transaction history, balances, transfers, bill pay, self service updates, and account alerts are all there for the taking at no additional charge. When I wrote about this the first time in 2008, there was no such thing as a mobile banking app. Online banking was a new thing. If you have not jumped on the bandwagon in the last five years, it is certainly time to get started.
There are so many great services that can be used in conjunction with mobile banking that I could write entire books about it. Actually, I have written a book about it. But there are two services that I want to highlight for you right now.
Mint – This site has been the single most helpful finance app I have ever used. It is 100% free and completely changed the way I budget and look at my finances. It helped me stop balancing my checkbook, it helps me track financial goals, like my liberty fund, and it completely revolutionized how I manage my budget.
All of this is free. You don't have to pay a penny. Check out Mint.com if you don't already use it.
Manilla – Manilla is like Mint.com for bank statements. I have linked all of my credit card, bank, and investment accounts to Manilla. It does not have the fancy budgeting and tracking features that Mint has, but it does do a great job of archiving your statements. I don't download them to my computer anymore. I just let Manilla grab them and file them away in case I need them later on.
Like Mint, Manilla is 100% free to use. I did a post explaining all of the features of Mint and Manilla, make sure to check it out if you have questions.
The vast majority of identity theft involving banks is started by mail theft. With one piece of paper from your mailbox, a thief has your name, address, and account number. That is enough information to cause quite a headache.
So yes, online banking is safe. I like the safety and convenience of getting my statements online as well. I can download and save my statements as a PDF and keep them in a secure folder on my laptop. From there I can print, save to a flash drive, store online, or reference past activity.
When you get your statements online, you don't have to worry about storage, shredders, clutter, or theft.
How do you sign up? Go to your bank's website. At the top of the screen look for https at the beginning of the web address. The little “s” is the important part. That means secure, and shows that the website is using SSL, secure socket language, to encrypt your information. All financial website and many other websites now use SSL to ensure all user data is secure.
From your bank website look for a sign up now link. You should just have to enter a few details about yourself and your account to get signed up.
My Favorite Banks
Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), one of my favorite banks. Make sure to sign up with this link to get $50 free! ING Direct was recently purchased by Capital One and has seen a handful of new features since the acquisition.
Ally Bank is another online only bank with great online and mobile features. Ally is building a great reputation for top notch customer service.
Originally posted October 13, 2008, updated September 24, 2012
Image by EG Focus / flickr
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