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How do you usually do your banking? Do you drive to your bank? Do you wait in long lines, just to deposit one check? Do you receive monthly paper statements? Do you file away those statements into a filing cabinet for archiving purposes? What about paying bills – do you send checks through the mail? How do you typically pay people? With cash? Check? What if you have neither – then what?
Perhaps there’s a better way to go about all of this. Perhaps you should bank online. Banking online certainly isn’t a new thing and likely the majority of us do it in at least one way, but there are several other benefits of banking online that most of us probably don’t take advantage of.
Check Your Balance At Any Time
This is probably the most common form of online banking – being able to log into your bank’s website and look at your current balance, expenses and deposits. But there might be some who still don’t do this. Honestly, I can’t imagine a time where I couldn’t go to a computer and check how much I have. In fact, currently my bank had a little mishap of conversion and I’m temporarily locked out of my account. It’s quite nerve racking.
So to imagining not ever being able to do this is incomprehensible to me, personally.
Pay Your Bills Online, Even Automatically
Have you ever had a late payment on a bill? One of the common reasons is not getting the payment in the mail at the right time. But even if you do, you always run the risk of something happening to it and it getting lost – we’re all human, even the mailman is. Or what about this, have you ever thought about how unsecure mail really is? Many of our computers aren’t very secure either due to our own practices, but most of that we can improve. You can’t prevent someone from going to your mailbox and grabbing the envelope full of cash that your grandmother sent you for your birthday.
Paying your bills online is simple, fast and secure. All you need to do is check out your options on your bank’s website or talk to them about setting it up (or both).
Unclutter Your Mailbox With E-Statements
I’m not talking about your email inbox. I’m talking about that thing that is stuffed full of junk mail, that never seems to have anything good in it (although, I guess for some that might still be describing their email inbox). None the less, if you’re getting bank statements through the mail still, you should switch to e-statements.
What are the benefits? Less clutter in your mailbox and that table that you always throw your mail on when you walk in the door. If you’re worried about that clutter transferring to your email inbox, it is very minimal. Personally, I just get one statement a month. What if someone hacks your email – can they see the statement? No. They would only be able to see the email linking to the statement, which requires you to log in to your bank’s website to view and/or download.
That’s the other nice thing – if you want or need to save your statements for archiving, simply download the PDF, save it in a folder on your computer and you’re good to go. No more bulging folders stuffed in a filing cabinet taking up valuable office space.
Deposit Your Checks Online
If you’re like most people, you probably drive to the bank to deposit your check into your account. For you, it might be on the way to your work or somewhere else you go often. But for many of us, it’s not necessarily, so it posses as yet another place we have to go before going home. Now, it’d be great if your employer(s) did direct deposit. Unfortunately my current one doesn’t so I have to manually deposit every check to my bank.
If you have a smartphone or even a scanner, you might be able to deposit your check directly through that. It depends if your bank lets you, so that is something you’ll have to check with them about. You might also want to just search the app store and see if their app comes up.
However, if you find out your bank doesn’t let you, there’s still another option and that is PayPal. Through their mobile app you can scan your check and then deposit it from PayPal into your regular bank account. This typically will take a few days so don’t expect and instant deposit. Nonetheless, if you don’t need the money right away, it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle and will save you driving time and waiting in line.
Pay People (& Get Paid) Easier, Faster & Cheaper Than Checks
Staying along the lines of a check-free life, have you ever split the bill at a restaurant with someone only to find out that you didn’t have any cash on you? You could go to an ATM and get cash, but sometimes that costs more. You could write them a check… if you carry checks (and of course you have to pay for those usually).
What about a direct deposit? Yes! Actually that works great. All you need is their bank routing number and you can send the money to them. No more need to worry about cash or forgotten “paybacks”. Instead you’ll keep your friendship intact and look cool while doing it.
The one downside to this is most people don’t know their bank routing number. Another option is PayPal. You can ask if they have a PayPal account and make the payment through to them that way. If you both happen to have the iPhone 4 and PayPal accounts, you can actually send/receive money simply through “bumping” them. If none of those work, simply make a quick “I owe you” note in Evernote (or your preferred note-taking service) to remember it and then email them to remind you to get that routing number so you can send them the payment.
What about getting paid if you on the receiving end? PayPal makes that super easy if you have an account. You can actually email them a request to remind them. Alternatively, you could memorize your routing number. Also, if you don’t have a smartphone, you can still use PayPal via SMS (text).
Manage Your Online Accounts Simultaneously, Create Budgets & More With Mint
Lastly, if you bank online you should definitely be using Mint. We’ve covered it quite a bit on MakeUseOf, and rightfully so – it’s awesome. You can view how much is in several of your accounts instead of signing into each one separately. You can also make goals, budgets and categorize your expenses to manage them better. Have loans? Mint can help you track them and create a plan for paying them off quickly. Mint is just all-around a great addition to any online banking experience and we highly recommend it.
For more information on Mint, check out Bakari’s article: How To Use Mint To Manage Your Budget & Spendings Online. They also have a mobile app and SMS functionality so you can manage your money on the go, whether you have a smartphone or not (which by the way, you should see if your bank has a mobile app too).
Online banking has unbelievable benefits and little to no drawbacks. If you aren’t already using it, what are you waiting for? There are so many awesome things you can do with your money now, that you weren’t able to do years ago that, although very common, online banking is quite phenomenal how it all works.
What is your favorite benefit of online banking? Is there something that wasn’t covered that online banking allows you to do?
Image Credits: Online Banking via Shutterstock, hands on the keyboard in front of computer screen with financial data via Shutterstock, Online Bill Pay via Shutterstock, No Stuffed Mailbox via Shutterstock, Mobile Banking via Shutterstock, Pay To Order Of via Shutterstock