Online banking is a great way to save the bank money. You won’t be pestering their tellers with gripes, complaints, and questions, and if you really want to be contemporary, progressive, and “green,” you’ll forego the printed monthly statement that costs the bank a lot to produce and mail. You’re so good to help out in that way.

On the other hand, you do derive benefits from online banking. You can check up on your money 24/7/365 by connecting from home and work. You can transfer money from account to account, and if your Cousin Larry who is always out of money has an account at the same bank, you may be able to transfer a few bucks to him too. While you are doing that, check to see if the payments you schedule through online bill pay have reached the phone, cable, and electric companies yet. You work hard to get the money; you shouldn’t have to work hard to spend it too.

There are some things about online banking that cause concern.

Getting started with online banking can be tedious. You have to provide all kinds of information online to prove who you are, and then you need to come up with a special username and password that have letters and numbers, and of course all of your other online passwords are already impossible to remember, and you don’t want to write them down and make them available to prying eyes.

Once you do sign up and have a regular routine, you need to continue to protect your privacy by making sure that you don’t sign on at work or in a public place and then leave your computer unattended without signing off and closing your browser completely. And of course you are urged never to allow your browser to remember your password. That’s just inviting trouble especially if you lose your laptop in an airport or a hotel room.

Online banking also has a steep learning curve, especially for people who haven’t done a lot of financial transactions on the internet. If you’ve used Amazon or Ebay you may already be familiar with what is expected in terms of progressing from screen to screen in a payment process, but if you are new it can be unnerving. Stick with it. Most people learn.

Of course, once you learn they’ll revamp the site “to improve your online banking experience,” and then you’ll never again be able to find the link to your credit card balance or the way to see the online version of last month’s checks.

Some things will happen at the online version of your bank that will infuriate you, and they may not be the fault of the bank. If your internet connection crashes you may not know if that “Pay Bill Now” command that you pressed really went though. Or you may not have enough memory on your computer to run the online process with its Flash and Java programming and at the same time listen to music, word process, write email, and surf for vacation deals. Why won’t that screen come up? Maybe it isn’t the bank’s fault, but it certainly makes the banking experience less enjoyable.
One of the biggest concerns about online banking involves the security of your information. By following the bank’s instructions you should be able to have a safe and secure online experience, but much of the burden falls on you. You really do need a complex password that isn’t the name of the street you live on. You need to make sure that you sign out each time that you log on, and don’t have a written record of your password where others can find it. Try to bank only from a computer that belongs to you, or is only used by you. Use your home computer rather than the computer at work.

You should also be aware of a scam called phishing where crooks send out e-mails that might look exactly like e-mails from your bank. These e-mails often claim that some account or personal information is needed. You’re asked to click on a link and fill in the information. As a hard-and-fast rule, never click on a link in an e-mail and then divulge account information. Call your bank — don’t use a phone number supplied in the e-mail — and ask if the e-mail is legitimate.

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