Online banking can be daunting, especially if you’re just starting out. But once you get the hang of it, you quickly appreciate how convenient it can be. Simple tasks like transferring money to another account or paying a bill can take seconds.
Online banking doesn’t mean you have to stop visiting a branch. But for the times when you’re unable to get to a bank, it helps to have a backup option and rely on online banking.
Online banking is secure and safe. It’s in the banks’ best interest to keep your money (and their investments) safe, so they build security features into their systems to protect against threats. So if you haven’t tried online banking, it could be time to try it out.
In this guide, we look at the things you can do through online banking, the things you still need to visit a branch for, the benefits of online banking, as well as tips on how to do your bit to keep your money safe. We also introduce you to Squirrel Bank, our very own pretend banking website where you can learn and practise key banking tasks like paying a bill and transferring money. It’s a great way to build your online banking skills.
In this article:
What is online banking?
Online banking gives you instant access to a lot of the same services you get in a branch. All you need to get started is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Doing your banking online doesn’t mean you have to stop going into your local branch. It just means you get to keep track of your finances at any time, especially if you’re unable to get to a local bank.
Here are some things you can do through online banking:
- Pay bills.
- Transfer money into other accounts.
- Check when payments have been made into or out of your account.
- View recent and older bank statements.
- Set up or cancel direct debits.
- Order a bank cheque or deposit cheques online by taking a photo of the cheque (some banks).
Banks try to make their websites as easy as possible for people to use, so you can still do your banking online even as a beginner. And there’s always somebody you can call for help if you’re not sure about something – most banks have a dedicated team that handles internet banking related calls.
Benefits of online banking
Online banking lets you take control of your finances. There are many benefits, including:
Know exactly how much you have in your account at any time. You don’t need to wait for your bank statement to arrive in the post to see whether a payment has gone into or out of your account.
Do your banking at any time from almost anywhere — there’s no need to wait for your bank to open, you can bank online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as long as you have an internet connection.
Save money — online-only banks offer lower fees and better interest rates.
Set up automatic payments — a great way to pay regular bills like your electricity and phone straight from your account.
You still need your local bank
Making cash deposits or withdrawals — you still have to use an ATM or visit a branch to make cash deposits or withdrawals.
Help with complex transactions — there are some things best solved in person.
Changing signatories or opening a new account — some banks still expect you to visit a branch to open a new bank account or change signatories.
Tips for banking safely online
Banks work hard to keep your money safe, but there are things you can also do to help protect your money and personal information, including:
Use a strong and unique password — create a password for your online banking that’s different to all your other passwords. Take a look at our Safe passwords course for tips on how to create and remember passwords.
Keep your computer and software up to date — install software updates on your device as soon as they become available (your device will normally prompt you), as they can include security fixes.
Use two-factor authentication — this provides an extra level of security and means you need to enter your username and password, along with a security code that’s sent as a text message to your mobile phone or generated by a security token provided by the bank.
Don’t save your banking passwords in a web browser — particularly if you use a shared computer or device. Select ‘No’ when your browser asks if you would like to save your banking password.
Don’t share your account information or password — never give your bank account information and password to anyone who isn’t an authorised signatory on your account.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi to do your banking — use a trusted Wi-Fi network at home. Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks, such as those available in shopping centres, cafés or libraries, as they’re generally not secure for doing banking or making payments.
Check your statements regularly — check for any unauthorised transactions and report any suspicious activity immediately to your bank.
Be alert to scams your bank will never ask you to click on a link to enter your personal information such as your username, password, security questions etc. Read more about phishing scams.
For more safety tips on online banking:
Welcome to Squirrel Bank – a safe space to practise online banking
Squirrel bank is a pretend bank where you can practise key banking skills as many times as you like without worrying about making a mistake. Click here to visit Squirrel bank on your PC or laptop. Click here to visit Squirrel bank on your smartphone or tablet.