A Quick and Efficient Alternative To Visiting Your Branch
Logging on to the Internet is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to manage your day-to-day finances. When you take your banking online, you can check your account balances, transfer money between accounts, pay bills, set up automatic bill payments, and even manage your investments—without ever leaving your home office. With an online account, you can conduct your banking at any time of the day or night, and from any location where an Internet connection is available. In addition, online banking has the potential to be, in many respects, more secure than using checks and other paper documents to conduct your transactions.
At the end of 2005, 43% of Internet users, or about 63 million Americans, were banking online, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Researchers found that Internet users are taking part in an increasingly wide range of financial and transactional activities. Just as e-mail has made correspondence simpler and less expensive, online banking is helping people streamline their finances.
Internet banking sites typically offer a variety of services that you can choose from based on your individual needs. Most banks offer a range of account types, including checking, savings, credit card, and retirement accounts. Visitors to bank websites may also have the option of applying online for credit cards, mortgages, and other types of loans.
Having your account information available at the click of a mouse can greatly simplify the task of monitoring and managing your financial transactions. By entering your user name and password, you can view up-to-the-minute balances and the full transaction histories of your accounts. If you wish to keep close track of certain types of activity in an account, you can sign up to receive e-mail alerts when the specified transactions occur. Banking websites also frequently allow users to view images of canceled checks or place stop payments on checks. The information stored in banking websites can often be downloaded directly into personal finance software programs, such as Quicken and Microsoft Money, which can help you to manage your accounts and stay within your budget.
Online banking also makes it easy to move money around without having to use paper checks or money orders. You can quickly and easily authorize transfers of funds between accounts, including accounts at different banks.
In addition, you can save on stamps by paying bills online. Setting up an online bill pay system involves registering the bills you pay regularly and specifying the accounts you wish to use to pay them. Some creditors accept electronic payments, while others may be sent a check from the bank based on instructions you provide online. If certain monthly bills are always for the same amount, you can opt to schedule a recurring payment. If the charges vary from month to month, you can arrange to pay these bills on an individual basis.
Provided you take precautions to guard your passwords and have up-to-date firewall and virus protection on your computer, online banking is generally as secure as other types of banking. In some ways it is even more secure. If, for example, a creditor notifies you that they have not received a payment you are certain you made, it is much easier to prove to that you attempted to make the payment if you have an electronic record of the transaction than if you sent a check by mail.
Because online transactions are less expensive for a bank than those conducted in a branch, by telephone, or via an ATM, many banks charge lower fees for Internet-based accounts. Banks may even offer higher interest rates on online savings accounts.
The prospect of taking your accounts online may appear daunting at first, but banks typically offer phone assistance should questions or problems arise. For more complex transactions, you may prefer to visit your local branch. But once you become accustomed to tracking and conducting your transactions online, you may come to appreciate the speed, convenience, and cost savings that online banking can offer.
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by Liberty Publishing, Inc.
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