Online Finance Basics

In these challenging times, you may not feel as comfortable visiting your financial institution. A great way to stay on top of your financial needs without the risk of going out is online and mobile banking. This convenient feature is offered by most financial institutions and makes it simple and safe to do everything from deposit checks to move money.

Why go online?

There’s so much that you can easily do online in today’s world, and that includes managing your finances. According to Investopedia’s Jake Frankenfield, the biggest advantage of online banking through your financial institution is convenience. Using a desktop browser or mobile app, you can pay your bills, send money to a friend or make a deposit with just a few clicks or taps. You won’t have to get into your car and drive to a building or wait in line for your turn — you can perform these actions instantly any time of day or night, including holidays.

Another benefit is being more aware of how your money is working for you. You can log in multiple times a day to monitor pending transactions and keep tabs on your balances, which allows you to react more quickly when there’s unexpected activity. By checking your accounts regularly, Frankenfield notes that you can better protect yourself from fraudulent activity and minimize the damage done.

How to take advantage

Erin Scheithe, writing for the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, suggests starting by gathering your account numbers from your statements and visiting your financial institution’s website. Once there, you can use your information to create an online account. You will need a username and password, and the latter should be something that’s unique and strong. Avoid incorporating personal information, common phrases like password or consecutive numbers like 1234. Additional settings like a security question and two-factor authentication further protect your account from fraudulent access.

Once you’ve set up your account, most financial institutions provide tutorials that walk you through how to use the website or app. Take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the interface and what you’re able to do. If you have any questions, websites and mobile apps provide contact forms as well as your institution’s phone number.

What can you do?

You can do most everyday financial activities online, including checking your account balances. As Scheithe notes, you can also set up automatic notifications to notify you whenever money goes in or out of an account or if it falls below a certain balance. If you become comfortable with online banking, you can choose to go paperless and receive your monthly statements entirely online.

Depositing checks online is also a common feature that’s quite convenient. You’ll need a smartphone with a camera and your financial institution’s mobile app, which should tell you how to authorize the check and what steps to take. After you submit the photo of your check, Scheithe recommends holding onto it for a few days to make sure there are no problems and then destroying it when the money has cleared.

If you have multiple accounts like savings and checking, you can use your institution’s website or mobile app to transfer money between them. These transfers are usually instantaneous, which can be very helpful in a moment of need. You’ll also have the opportunity to set up transfers between financial institutions; this comes in handy if you have loans or bills with different providers or if you need to send money to a friend or family member.

Justin Pritchard of The Balance notes that most financial institutions also offer the ability to apply for new cards or accounts and get in touch with customer service agents. Some offer unique financial tools like budget-building tools and savings guides that help you become more financially sound.

Online and mobile banking with your financial institution is convenient in any situation, and it’s particularly helpful in the face of today’s difficulties. If you need help taking advantage of this useful feature, contact your financial institution and learn more about what they offer and how to use it.

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