Sunday, September 5, 2010

Online Banking

If you're not using your bank's online banking, you're missing out. I do my online banking through Bank of America (that is the bank that holds the bulk of my accounts, including my small business accounts). I have a credit union, too, and I keep money with them, but their online banking and their entire online banking experience feels like GeoCities 1996. BofA, for as much as I hate their otherwise odious business practices, have an excellent online banking interface. Props were props are due. Well done.

The pros far outweight the cons.

1. Free online bill pay. Stick it to the post office, forever stamps be damned.

2. Immediate account access. I catch fraud this way, often before my bank does. As much as I'd love to buy a pool table (no space, no cash for it), I didn't buy it and I called the bank right away and the charge was reversed and new cards were issued.+

3. Account transfers. Loves this. I move my proceeds from my small business to my regular checking seamlessly without having to step into a bank or step up to an ATM.

4. Automatic Bill Pay. I used to never use this feature, but now that I have Mint monitoring my accounts, I feel safer setting up a few auto bill pays, like my DSL (It's fixed at $34 a month) and my credit cards. I'm still working out my comfort level with this one, but as long as I know what I'm paying and it comes within my pre-set Mint budgets, I'm doing OK.

5. Email statements. So much fewer paperwork to file. I set up my email to filter on the bank statements and file them away appropriately, usually never to be looked at again unless there's a dispute. (Or for my business checking, I print out the yearly statement and punch all that into TurboTax).

There are a couple of downsides:

1. False sense of security. It's still the banks. They can still screw you out of your money. Diligence and Rule Zero.

2. Inattentiveness. If I take a few weeks off from Banking (vacation, sickness, just sick of it), then I run the risk of missing something important or blowing a budget or overdrafting. True, this is a risk with paper accounting too, but I think the "out of sight, out of mind" factor runs higher in the tubes.

If your Bank or CU offers online banking, set it up and see what, if any, of the above features are right for you.

+ The bank still screwed this up, so BofA lost a couple of points for penalizing my credit for this fraud. It took three calls to the bank to figure out what was going on. Always Rule Zero: Banks are not your friends.

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