Decide which digital platform is right for your financial goals.
Online banking is a quick, easy and convenient way to manage your everyday finances. You simply log in to check balances, transfer funds and pay bills. The features and benefits you’ll find online depend on the bank or other financial institution you choose to do business with.
Popular brands that offer online banking
What is online banking?
Online banking is way for you to manage your finances and transact your business through a bank’s website or mobile app. Like banking within a branch, you sign on to your online account from anywhere with an Internet connection, whether on a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Along with the digital transformation of banking, most banks offer online banking as a free service. You set up a user name and password for your account through the bank’s website to monitor your balances, move money across accounts or set up autopay, among other features.
The Big Four brands its online banking according to platform:
|Financial institution||Online banking||Mobile banking|
|Bank of America||Bank of America Online Banking||Bank of America Mobile Banking|
|Chase||Chase Online Banking||Chase Mobile|
|Citibank||Citi Online Banking||Citi Mobile|
|Wells Fargo||Wells Fargo Online||Wells Fargo Mobile|
The right online banking platform allows you to:
- Transfer money by email, social media, text message, mobile banking and more.
- Check your account balance and access your transaction history.
- Find the nearest ATM in your bank’s network.
- Research products and services to buy or upgrade.
- Use currency converters, home loan repayment calculators, stock trading calculators and other tools.
- Manage investments and trade stocks.
- Pay for goods and services with a mobile wallet.
- Deposit checks and pay bills.
How does online banking work?
Online banking lets you perform all your banking transactions over the internet. Instead of visiting your nearest branch to make a deposit, transfer money, pay off your credit card or check your savings balance, you can access your finances through any internet-enabled device.
This includes desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Once you have an account with a bank or credit union, it’s usually free to sign up for an online banking account and often takes less than 10 minutes to apply. After creating a password to ensure secure login to your account, you can begin managing your finances online. Note that your credentials to log into online banking usually won’t be the same as your bank details for security purposes.
How do I register for online banking?
To sign up for online banking, you’ll need to visit your bank’s website or a branch with:
- Your debit card or bank account number.
- Your Social Security or tax ID.
- Your phone number or email address.
How do I register for mobile and tablet banking?
After you’ve set up online banking on your desktop, download your bank’s app and follow the directions. If your phone allows it, you might be able to connect your debit or credit card to Apple Pay, Google Pay or other digital wallets.
Should I choose an account based on its online banking system?
If you live your life through your smartphone, mobile banking could be the deal breaker between competing bank accounts. Some banks offer more advanced online banking capabilities than others, like mobile check deposits and statements that integrate with your existing accounting software.
Remember to compare fees and features on mobile banking apps. You may find that more expensive bank accounts offer more helpful online banking services.
What are the benefits of online banking?
Online banking can streamline your ability to manage your finances without stepping foot in a bank. Depending on your bank’s online capabilities, you can often:
- View and download statements. Instead of waiting for the mail, review a summary of your accounts and balances or download forms for ID or needs.
- Mobile payments. Securely send and receive payments through your phone number, email address or app.
- Withdraw cash without a card. Your bank’s mobile app may allow you to use a user-generated PIN or near-field communication technology to take out money at an ATM.
- Lock, block, limit. Get control of your lost credit or debit card by blocking and limiting transactions. Plus, most apps can help you find customer support to get in touch with your bank immediately.
- Overseas ATM locator. Find an ATMs when traveling to avoid steep fees.
- Deposit checks. Many banks now allow customers to deposit checks on the go through the mobile app.
- Fraud monitoring. Get notified by text, email or phone if your bank suspects fraudulent activity on your account.
- Pay bills. Set up one-time payment or recurring transfers to stay on top of your finances.
- Integrate with other apps. Many budget-planning apps sync with top banking apps to help you stay on budget.
- Borrow money. Some banks allow you to apply for personal and other loans online or from your phone.
How do I compare online banking platforms?
You may be locked in to a mobile banking account or app if you already bank with a specific financial institution.
If you’re looking to open a new account, weigh factors like:
- The site’s user-friendliness. Test out how easy it is to navigate a bank’s website, looking for speed, accuracy and convenience.
- Ability to apply for new products. Click around to see whether you can easily apply for a new account, credit card or other product online. With select banks, you can find special offers and promotions within the app.
- Security and protection. Your bank should publish its security measures online, letting you know how it protects your sensitive information from hackers and phishing. Your bank should guarantee your funds against cybercrime.
- Range of features. Top banks allow you to check your balances, pay off bills and sign up for autopay, among other perks.
- Financial literacy tools. Many banks offer general information and tools that can help you manage your finances, maximize your savings and budget for the future.
- Customer service. A good online banking platform should offer phone support or live chat during business hours.
What are the pros and cons of online banking?
- Convenient account access. Transfer funds, check your balances and deposit checks whenever and wherever you need to.
- Fast and simple services. The best online banking platforms are easy to use, resulting in quick, hassle-free transactions.
- Security. Banks encrypt your sensitive data online to reduce the risk of fraud and other threats.
- Not all banks are equal. Some banks offer more sophisticated services through its mobile banking platforms, while others allow the basics only.
- At mercy of technology glitches. Although uncommon, a blip in service can prevent you from accessing your money until the problem’s resolved.
How to protect your account
With the rise of the Internet, banks have kept up with comprehensive security and encryption to protect your personal and financial information. Still, you can take measures to keep your online banking safe from financial predators.
- Find a secure network. Avoid public Wi-Fi or hot spots when accessing your account. Hackers are known to intercept account info and passwords on these unsecured networks.
- Choose a strong password. Use a unique mix of lower- and uppercase letters, symbols and numbers that you’ll remember. And don’t share your log in details with anybody else.
- Review your statements. By regularly reviewing your transactions, you’ll more easily spot unauthorized charges or unnecessary fees.
Frequently asked questions