How to: Set up an online bank account

Most people by now are in the online banking game. Technology has enabled deposits, transfers, and account balance checks at our fingertips for a long time. However, for those who have never done so, setting up an online bank account can be quite intimidating. It is scary to think that with a few clicks and some personal info that you can send money zooming about the inter-webs. But it is true. Setting up online banking is quick and relatively painless, and can be such a financial lifesaver. Especially when combined with mobile banking, you will never have to worry about a bounced check, declined card, mystery charge, late fees, or too-late-to-deposit check again. Well, maybe you can worry about those things, but you will have less of an excuse.

How to choose a bank

Your first step will be to choose a bank to work with. This depends on many factors, including what you will be using the account for, what banks are near you or if you don’t care about brick-and-mortar locations, if you will need a checkbook or card attached to the account, how much of a balance you intend to carry, etc. If all you want is somewhere to put a smallish chunk of change where you can’t spend it and watch it grow, an online provider is a safe bet. They don’t have physical locations, saving them money and allowing them to offer a slightly higher than average rate of return. CapitalOne360 (which acquired ING) is a great way to go, and they are always offering deals and promos. You can choose to have a checkbook or credit/debit card linked to the account as well. Ally is another top “branch-free” bank offering savings, checkings, loans and CDs. While no bank is perfect or 100% guarateed ‘safe’, both these providers are FDIC insured.

Online banking requirements

To sign up with an online only bank will require:

–You choose which type of account you wish to open (savings, checking, IRA, CD, money market, etc. Read the details on the bank’s website for % APR, etc or call the help number on the website to be sure you understand all terms and conditions.)
–Your social security number (and any others if you will not be only person on the account)
–A current mailing address, NOT a PO box
–A valid e-mail address
–Various personal verification data such as date of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.
–Usually requires an opening deposit (bank rules vary as to whether or not there is a minimum) which can be linked from another account or a check you deposit

Of course, if you already belong to a traditional bank, setting up online banking is a great next step. Not only will you save trees and stamps by switching to electronic statements, you may also get some sort of reward from the bank for doing it, like a lower credit interest rate or no checking account fees. Check with your local branch to see if they have any promotions for going sans paper. Most banks you can simply go to their website and somewhere will be a button to set up online banking for your current account(s). If you have problems stop in a branch or call their help line. It is the same basic process for online only banks, but you will need your account number to link current open accounts.

Should I get a rewards card?

Once you have online banking set up, you can view account balances, set up automatic transfers or payments, link a line of credit for overdraft protection, and so much more. It may seem overwhelming to consider all the various banks and rewards policies out there, but if you don’t already, you should consider getting a card with some sort of reward system. If you feel lost, just starting with something is better than nothing. You can switch cards or banks or reward systems at any time, but you can never get back the 20,000 miles or $500 bonus cash you would have earned with last year’s regular purchases.

What about mobile banking?

If you have a smartphone, you could definitely benefit from enrolling in mobile banking as well. Most larger banks already offer apps to take care of banking needs on the go. You can deposit checks with a click of the camera, check balances, make payments, and transfer money, all while rushing to catch the 5:15 bus, dropping off the kids, heading to happy hour or picking up a rotisserie chicken on the way home. And with no fees associated (yet) there is no reason to not have mobile banking.
Photo from MindFieldLive

So whether you just want a quiet place for a nest egg to grow, to stash your vacation fund until cruise tickets go on sale, to hide some ‘fun money’ from a spouse, or to have a free checkbook delivered to your door, online accounts are the way to go. Just be sure to pick a password you can remember! {Look for my upcoming post on internet safety and creating creative passwords!}
Do you bank online?

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