Online Banking for Beginners: Tips to Take Your Finances Digital

. 3 min read

In recent years, industries ranging from retail to music have taken a big portion of their business from brick-and-mortar establishments to online, and the world of banking is no exception. 73 percent of people with bank accounts have stated that they access online banking tools at least once per month, and many consumers and corporations around the world take care of their banking needs solely at their computer or on their mobile devices.

Between bank holidays, short operating hours, and long lines, it isn’t always easy to get to the bank even under normal circumstances. Today, as more and more everyday business is being conducted virtually, taking your banking digital can save you time and fees, and add peace of mind by knowing that you can take care of your banking needs from anywhere.

Getting started

There’s one important step to take before you do anything else: make sure your bank or institution of choice offers online banking. Most banks should offer online and mobile banking (particularly if they’re part of large corporations), but double-check just to be sure, particularly if you’re looking at a smaller bank.

Once you’ve identified which bank you want to start your account with, visit their website or give them a call to open your account. And don’t forget to read through our guide on what you need to open a bank account—it’ll be much easier if you have this all on hand.

What can you do online?

Once you’re set up, you can do almost anything from your screen, including:

  • Access anywhere, anytime
  • Pay bills
  • Check your balance and move money between accounts
  • Get higher interest rates on your savings
  • Eliminate paper bills altogether
  • Escape the fees that banks charge for some in-person services
  • Deposit checks with a smartphone
  • Pay for a money transfer via wire, ACH direct debit, or a linked card payment.

Is it safe?

As more and more services have moved to online operation, one of the biggest questions on customers’ minds has been, “Is it safe? Will my money and information be secure?” It’s a completely understandable concern, especially after seeing high-profile data breaches in the news.

The good news is that financial institutions will have strong security measures in place. Additionally, taking care of your banking digitally prevents the possibility of a mailed check being intercepted or a biller taking down your information.

But it’s not just up to the bank. You can also take your own steps to keep yourself, your account, and your information secure. One step is to keep all of the devices you use to access your online banking (such as your computer, phone, and tablet) regularly updated and completely up-to-date on security measures.

The last thing you can do is educate yourself on common scams. A significant portion of breaches and “hacks” are actually the result of human error, specifically phishing and social engineering tricks to lure you into giving away your information. Take a look at some of the most common online fraud methods here, and always be discerning and double-check everything before you send sensitive information online.

Is there anything that needs to be done in person?

Though most of your everyday banking can be done online, keep in mind that the following things will require a trip to your local bank:

  • Wires, money orders, certified checks, and more. Let’s say you’ve decided to make a money transfer, and you’ve decided to pay for your transfer via wire. Check with your bank before you agree to send the wire: some banks require you to make the transaction in person. Money orders and certified checks will also need to be obtained in person, for security purposes.
  • Depositing cash. Though you can use your mobile device to remotely deposit checks, we unfortunately haven’t developed the technology to transport cash from your wallet to your savings account. If you have more cash than you’re comfortable carrying, or you want to give an extra boost to your account, you’ll need to stop by an ATM or your local bank.
  • Withdrawing cash. Same goes here: you can’t magically receive money from your account when you’re at home.
  • Getting rolls of quarters.

If you haven’t already taken your banking digital, there’s no better time than right now to make the move to online banking.