Online banking has been part of many people’s lives for well over a decade and has played a significant role in making banking that little bit easier. No longer do you need to wait for your local bank to open its doors for business and you don’t need to stand in a queue before being able to transfer money between your accounts or advise of a change of address.
We all know how much convenience is valued in modern society, so it’s no surprise that the 24/7 culture of online banking, and the ability to self serve, has resulted in it becoming increasingly popular. For those who haven’t yet made the transition to online banking, here is a guide to some of its key aspects.
I’ll cover security first as it is often quoted as the main barrier preventing people from signing up for online banking. Banks use secure encryption to create protective walls beyond which fraudsters can’t peek. Unless someone has gained your secure login credentials, then they won’t be able to access your account information.
As well as employing high levels of encryption, banks often also further protect their customers’ money by insisting that funds payments to third parties can’t be made without the use of card reader devices which work in conjunction with your debit card. This is known as Two Factor Authentication (2FA) and adds another reassuring layer of protection.
The robust security measures employed by banks mean that fraudsters are reliant on tricking individuals into giving away their login credentials but, even if they manage this, they would also need to have stolen your debit card to overcome the 2FA additional hurdle.
Registering for online banking:
Signing up to use online banking should be a pretty straightforward process. In most cases, your bank will have an online banking registration form on their website and this will ask you to provide certain details such as name, address, date of birth, etc. They will then use the submitted details to verify you. In most cases, a letter will then be generated and sent to your registered home address, prompting you on how to complete the registration process. This will typically involve setting up your security credentials. It’s important to create security passwords and passcodes that will be difficult for others to guess but which you will also be able to remember!
Summary of online banking functionality:
The functionality offered through online banking will differ from bank to bank. However, here is a quick run through of the main types of functionality that you can expect to find:
– Balance enquiries.
When you log into online banking, you should be able to view the balances of all your accounts. Sole traders may be able to view both their personal and business accounts within the same login.
– Statements and Mini Statements.
You will normally be able to view statements and mini statements for most of your accounts, and it’s fairly normal to be able to view at least six months’ worth of details.
– Funds transfers between your own accounts.
One of the most valued benefits of online banking is the ability to manoeuvre funds between the accounts that you hold with the bank. For example, many online banking customers will log into their service on pay day and immediately switch surplus funds into their savings account.
– Payments to bill providers, other individuals, or to accounts that you hold with other banks.
Another appreciated bit of functionality is the ability to make payments to other parties (companies or individuals) or to accounts that you hold with other banks. This can enable you to pay off your credit card or gas bill, or to send cash to a friend or family member. The latter has been a life saver for many a college student!
– Tools for managing your finances.
Increasingly, banks are displaying an awareness of the need to help people to better manage their finances. Budgeting tools or savings or mortgages calculators are just a few of the interactive help tools that some banks now offer. They will also often include a screen that summarises all the standing orders and direct debits that are in place on your account, which can be an invaluable help in keeping track of your monthly commitments.
– Set up, amend, or cancel Standing Orders.
It’s usually possible to set up regular standing orders from within online banking. For example, you might arrange to pay $200 per month into a savings account, or you might arrange to pay for your car share costs by this method.
– View or cancel Direct Debits.
Creating a direct debit normally still involves some paperwork but, thereafter, it’s possible to view or cancel your direct debits.
– Change address, mobile phone number, or other details.
In the past, if you wanted to notify your bank of a change in your personal circumstances, it was usually necessary to confirm new details in writing. However, it’s much easier to be able to log into online banking, view the details your bank currently holds on you, and then update them when you need to.
– Switch off paper bank statements.
With the ease of viewing bank statements online, many customers see no need to retain paper bank statements. Most online banking sites now offer people the ability to switch off their paper statements, helping the environment at the same time.
– Apply for additional accounts and services.
Most online banking services also offer the ability for people to view details of the other accounts and services that they offer. For example, you may wish to purchase travel currency for your next holiday, or a personal loan to pay for a new car. The sales processes are often made easier by the bank’s ability to pre-populate the application screens with details they already hold on record for you.
Online banking doesn’t mean that you can’t use branches:
When online banking first burst onto the scene in the 1990s, many commentators predicted that it would lead to the death of bank branches. However, what has happened instead is that most people now use a variety of banking channels to meet their financial needs. For example, many online banking customers will stick with online banking for the majority of their day-to-day needs but may wish to pop into a branch for a face-to-face chat if they’re thinking of taking out a pension or a mortgage.
The convenience of being able to self serve is great but there may be times when you find that you need help. Most online banking services offer help through standard website FAQs and many now also offer more sophisticated help solutions where you type in your question and a response is returned. There’s also been a growth in the usage of web chat help functionality. This can enable the user to activate a pop up window which will provide a real time web link to an actual member of staff, usually from the bank’s helpdesk.
The days when online banking was new and perceived as being just for techie geeks is long and truly over. These days you’re just as likely to see fifty-somethings using online banking as twenty-somethings and a significant percentage of banking customers view online banking as an invaluable part of their life. The fact that smartphones (such as iPhones) also offer access to online banking services will further increase usage of online banking and the onus is on banks to ensure that they keep up with the increasing demand for online capabilities.