Four Ways Online Banking Helps You Control Your Finances

Tue, 20 Dec 2011

Keeping track of your finances can be a hassle.  Not staying on top of things can result in anxiety around knowing where your funds are, fees that could have been avoided and making you susceptible to fraud. Here is a handy list showing how you can use online banking to help you avoid all of that.


1. Use your mobile phone to check your balance before you make a big purchase.

Before you make a big purchase, it's a good idea to validate that the money is there to cover your transaction. While you are in the checkout line or before you head to the store, take a few seconds to check that balance.  If the balance is sufficient, you can buy with confidence. If it is not, you can save the trip and avoid an overdraft fee. Or, if you have other accounts with the funds, you can always transfer the money to cover the transaction.


2. Don't wait for your statement. Review online transaction history.

A good practice when your statement is available is to do a quick review of the transactions to make sure they are all legitimate. Why wait? The longer you wait to identify a fraudulent transaction, the more likely a crook is to get away with it. In fact, most crooks are banking (pun intended) on you never look at your statement. It's a good idea to log on to online banking at least once a week and just review your transactions.  If you are not sure about a payment description, a good place to start is to Google the name of the payee. In most cases, you will find out that you recognize who it is. If you are worried, that is when it is a good idea to reach out to your banker and they can investigate the transaction for you.


3. Be like an accountant, setup multiple accounts.

Having just one account can make things hard to manage. But, if you separate your accounts based on usage then you can have an easy way to get a birds eye view of your finance. For example, you could have one checking for bills and other must pay items and then setup an automatic transfer into a "play" account that you can use for things like going to the movies or buying that new smartphone you have been eying. The same strategy can work for savings. If you are saving for something specific, open a basic savings account and set a goal for yourself with that account. Once you reach the balance you need (use a high balance alert to email yourself when it happens), you can make that purchase. It's even a good idea to zero out that "play" account at the end of every month to help build on those savings.


4. Use Alerts

If you need to get control of your finances, a low balance alerts a must do.  A low balance alert will send a message to your email or phone when your balance reaches a threshold you set. It's important to set that threshold to give yourself enough room to avoid overdrawing your account but also low enough that you change your behavior once you get it. Don't stop with balance alerts. For example, set alerts on your recurring bill payments to remind you to make sure they have been funded. That monthly rent/mortgage payment is a great example.  An alert two or three days in advance lets you make sure you will have enough in the account to cover the transaction.