Standing in line at the bank and talking to a teller about your money management plans is old-fashioned. The modern way of banking is entirely online.
If you want to optimize your online banking experience, you should follow these four essential tips:
1. Check Your Accounts Regularly
One of the biggest benefits of online banking is that it allows you to check your accounts whenever you want. So, you should take advantage of this feature and check your accounts often. Every day, if you can.
Your finances should not be out of sight and out of mind. That’s how mistakes are made. You need to keep a close eye on your finances to make sure that everything is going smoothly. Your bills are going through, your credit card balance is far from the limit, and your expenses are staying well within the guidelines of your budget.
Checking your accounts regularly can also help you detect problems right away. You can see if you’re getting charged for subscriptions that you thought you had canceled or whether your transactions are pushing you over-budget. You can even detect the signs of identity theft and financial fraud, like transactions that you don’t remember making.
If you rarely check your accounts, it could take you weeks — even months — to figure out that something is going on. Luckily, there are services such as IDShield that can monitor your social security number and alert you of any unauthorized use.
This is an especially important tip for anyone that experiences financial anxiety to the point where they’re afraid to look at their accounts. The best way to resolve this feeling of dread is exposure therapy. Practice looking at your finances until it becomes a mundane habit. The more that you push yourself to do it, the easier it will get.
2. Apply for a Line of Credit
A line of credit is an excellent financial tool to have in your back pocket. It can help you handle emergency expenses when you don’t have enough funds readily available. In those moments, you could withdraw funds from your line of credit account and have them deposited into your bank account as soon as one business day. As long as your account is in good standing and your request is within your approved credit limit, the withdrawal should go through.
It’s not just an optimal tool for emergency situations. It’s a revolving credit tool that you can use to improve your credit score. Opening this type of account could help add to your credit history, new credit, credit mix and payment history — these are all factors that impact your score. If you’re strategic with your repayments, you could use the line of credit to your advantage.
How can you do this? You can go to the website Creditfresh.com and see whether you meet all of the qualifications to get a line of credit. If you do, you can submit a request for a line of credit online.
3. Put the Effort into Security
Security is incredibly important when it comes to online banking. You don’t want someone to hack into your account to access your savings or run up your credit card. That would be devastating.
So, the first safety precaution that you can take is to set a strong password. What makes a strong password? A combination of numbers, characters and letters in upper and lower cases.
You don’t want to input something simple. This is your first line of defense against unwanted intruders. You wouldn’t leave the front door of your home wide open for strangers to enter, so apply that same attitude to your bank account.
What is a weak password? It’s short, simple and easy to guess at random. Think of entries like “password” or “1234.” These are codes that someone could crack in seconds. Take a look at the top 100 worst passwords for cybersecurity and see if your current choice is anywhere on the list. If it is, you need to make a change right away.
Do not tell anyone else your password — not even your friends or family members. It should be a secret for you and you alone.
If your online banking account allows you to set up security questions, you should fill them out right away. Just like your password, you should choose answers that you know no one could guess. For instance, your birthday is something a stranger could easily find on social media. The same goes for your sibling’s name, your mother’s maiden name or the city/town that you live in.
Be specific. The more difficult that you make your answer, the better it works as a security barrier. So, if your security question is “What’s Your Favorite Color?” you shouldn’t give a general answer like “pink.” A specific shade of pink like “magenta” or “fuchsia” will be much, much harder to guess.
These are some other important tips for improving your cybersecurity:
- Do not use public computers for online banking purposes (for example, computers at libraries, college labs, etc.)
- Run software updates on your computer and smartphone. These updates tend to patch vulnerabilities in security.
- Do not leave your banking app open. Log out when you’re done.
- Use a personal firewall to keep your information safe.
- Do not open suspicious links or download unverified apps. This could infect your device with malware.
4. Automate Bill Payments
If you have trouble keeping track of your bill payments, then this simple online banking tip could come in handy. You won’t have to worry so much about missing deadlines and racking up late fees. By automating the bill payment process, the funds can be immediately withdrawn from your online account and sent to the appropriate creditor on the due date.
The only thing that you have to be careful about when automating your bill payments is making sure that you always have enough in your accounts to cover the payments. If you don’t have the funds available, the payment will still attempt to go through. This could put you into overdraft and force you to miss a payment.
Keeping a close eye on your accounts and budgeting carefully will help you avoid this tricky situation. You should also apply for overdraft protection so that your bill payments go through, even when you’ve technically reached the limits of your account. This will at least make sure that your creditors get paid in full and on time.
Make the most out of your online banking. Follow these tips, and you’ll rest easy knowing that your finances are in top shape.