Worry-Free Online Banking

You’ve heard about the benefits—convenience, higher rates, lower (or no) fees and beautiful design. It’s no wonder that four in ten Americans haven’t visited a bank branch in the past six months. Online banking is growing in popularity for good reason, but what about security?

If you want in on the upside of online banking but feel nervous about letting go of branches and face-to-face contact, here are some steps you can take to help ease your mind.

Online banking is growing in popularity for good reason.

Pick strong passwords and change them regularly.

You know the deal. Use a mix of numbers, letters and other characters. Don’t use your birthday or your dog’s name. While it can be a hassle to come up with more complex passwords, your financial security is worth it. Go ahead and use your mother’s maiden name for everything else, but when it comes to your money, you’ll want to find something unique. And change your online-banking passwords regularly—every six months, minimum.

Investigate banks’ security measures.

Most online banks will be happy to tell you about everything they’re doing to ensure security. (If they’re not, look elsewhere.) Banks use firewalls, antivirus protection, website encryption and fraud-detection systems to keep your money safe. Some even hire “ethical hackers” to see if it’s possible to get behind their firewalls.

Check often.

When in doubt, check. Make it a weekly or daily routine to check in on your accounts. If you notice something fishy, you can immediately report it to your bank. Fortunately, as online banking becomes the norm, banks are investing heavily in optimizing the experience. Between intuitive design and handy features like budgeting tools, checking on your accounts can actually be fun. And it’s easy—almost all online banks offer a mobile app, so you can easily check in from anywhere.

Avoid public Wi-Fi.

Free public Wi-Fi networks are great for run-of-the-mill tasks, but save your online-banking activities for when you’re on a private, password-protected network. If you need to check in or make a transaction while on the go, turn off Wi-Fi and use your mobile data plan. Cellular networks are a lot harder to crack than public Wi-Fi networks.

Remember that all banking involves risk.

Sometimes reminding yourself of reality can be reassuring. The 2008 financial collapse and other more recent security breaches show that even the most traditional brick-and-mortar banks can be vulnerable. If you’re drawn to online banking, stay alert but stay calm! By being vigilant and adopting some simple security practices, you can enjoy the benefits of online banking, stress-free.

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