The World Wide Web has permeated virtually every aspect of modern life. If you have access to a computer with an Internet connection, an almost limitless amount of goods, services and entertainment choices are at your fingertips. You can do just about anything online, including your banking and financial transactions. But is this wise? Just how comfortable are you conducting your banking business in cyberspace? After all, online banking has both advantages and disadvantages, namely:
- It's generally secure. But make sure that the website you're using has a valid security certificate. This let's you know that the site is protected from cyber-thieves looking to steal your personal and financial information.
- You have twenty-four-hour access. When your neighborhood bank closes, you can still access your account and make transactions online. It's a very convenient alternative for those that can't get to the bank during normal hours because of their work schedule, health or any other reason.
- You can access your account from virtually anywhere. If you're on a business trip or vacationing away from home, you can still keep a watchful on your money and financial transactions - regardless of your location.
- Conducting business online is generally faster than going to the bank. Long teller lines can be time-consuming, especially on a Pay Day. But online, there are no lines to contend with. You can access your account instantly and at your leisure.
- Many features and services are typically available online. For example, with just a few clicks you can apply for loans, check the progress of your investments, review interest rates and gather other important information that may be spread out over several different brochures in the local bank.
- Yes, online banking is generally secure, but it certainly isn't always secure. Identity theft is running rampant, and banks are by no means immune. And once your information is compromised, it can take months or even years to correct the damage, not to mention possibly costing you thousands of dollars, as well.
- Some online banks are more stable than others. Not all online setups are an extension of a brick-and-mortar bank. Some operate completely in cyberspace, without the benefit of an branch that you can actually visit if need be. With no way to physically check out the operation, you must be sure to thoroughly do your homework about the bank's background before giving them any of your money.
- Before using a banking site that you aren't familiar with, check to make sure that their deposits are FDIC-insured. If not, you could possibly lose all of your deposits if the bank goes under, or its major shareholders decide to take an extended vacation in Switzerland.
- Customer service can be below the quality that you're used to. Some people simply take comfort in being able to talk to another human being face-to-face if they experience a problem. Although most major banks employ a dedicated customer service department specifically for online users, going through the dreaded telephone menu can still be quite irritating to many. Again, some are considerably better (or worse) than others.
- Not all online transactions are immediate. Online banking is subject to the same business-day parameters as traditional banking. Therefore, printing out and keeping receipts is still very important, even when banking online.
Online banking does have pros and cons. However, it's not only the wave of the future, it's the wave right now, and the clock isn't likely to go backward. If you take reasonable care to safeguard your personal and financial information, you'll likely find that online banking is a convenient tool that you can easily live with. Eventually, you'll probably even wonder how you ever lived without it.