Be your own teller with online banking apps

When you live in the countryside, bank branches and even ATMs can be relatively far. With a mobile banking app, you don’t need to use your lunch break, fill up your car, or even put shoes on to manage your money. You can be your own teller wherever you use your smartphone.

What is online banking?

Online banking is a tool that changes your financial transactions from in-person exchanges at a retail bank to ones you make over the internet. 

How does online banking work? 

To use online banking, you need a computer or smartphone, plus a cellular data, Wi-Fi, or hardwired internet connection. All you have to do is sign in to the website or verify your identity on your bank’s app, and you can start checking your balance, making payments, and sometimes even depositing checks.

Pros and cons of online banking

Heading to the bank offers a chance to batch your errands, get outside, and interact with people in your community. The downside? You may drive a half hour or longer just to deposit a $10 check. Also, sending payment by mail leaves your checks and credit card numbers vulnerable to mail thieves.

Main benefit of online banking

Online banking saves driving time and cuts down on how many errands you have to run. In turn, you get to take a more leisurely lunch break, catch more of the game, or even spend more time with family. That extra time adds up.

Main downside of online banking

Online banking comes with security risks. But credit unions and banks know these risks well and build in rigid security measures to prevent hacking. If you’re concerned about the safety of online banking services, check with your bank to see if their website or app offers checks and balances like the following:

  1. Encryption, which scrambles your digital actions so hackers can’t make sense of them
  2. Two-factor authentication, which requires you to confirm your identity two separate ways before signing in
  3. Biometric sign-in, which uses your fingerprint to verify your identity
  4. Mobile alerts, which notify you of low balances or new transactions so you can act quickly if someone else uses your card

Ways to use an online banking app

Signing in to your bank’s website saves you time, but using your bank’s app saves you even more because you can use it wherever you have cell service—your job, the line at the grocery store, or a friend’s living room.

Check your balance

Mobile banking apps usually show your balance right from the home screen. All you have to do is open the app, and it’s right there under your nose.

Deposit checks from home

Deposit reimbursements, birthday checks for your kids or grandkids, or paid invoices right from your smartphone with internet banking apps. The app usually walks you through the process step by step, but for most apps, you simply type in the amount you’re depositing and take a picture of both sides of the check.

Transfer money between accounts

Everyone needs to move money around sometimes. Online banking apps let you quickly, easily, and securely move money from savings to your checking account and vice versa. You might even be able to transfer money to an outside account if you use more than one bank.

Pay bills

Credit card bills are the easiest ones to pay with a mobile banking app. You can usually pay off your balance as easily as you transfer money between accounts. If your credit card is from another institution, you can simply download that app too and save your payment details there.

Most internet banking apps also include a bill paying feature so you can send rent, utilities, or medical bill checks right from your smartphone.

Chat with customer service

You can call customer service with or without a smartphone anytime. But when you install an internet banking app, you may be able to live chat with customer service so you can multitask—watch TV or help kids with homework at the same time. 

Apply for a loan

Not all banking apps offer this feature, even if your credit union or bank offers personal loans in your state. But when apps do let you apply on your phone, you’ll usually save more time than you would with any other feature.

Home Wi-Fi can make internet banking more secure

With a satellite internet plan at home, you can make online banking even more secure for yourself. Although 4G mobile data is encrypted just like home internet is (or should be), your home Wi-Fi network will contain only your own traffic—not yours and the data of countless other users.

To use your online banking app with home satellite internet service, create a Wi-Fi network on your internet router and connect your phone to it. Your router should come with clear instructions on how to set up and secure your home Wi-Fi network.

What to look for in an internet banking app

No two mobile banking apps have identical designs, but they almost always share some features. Below you’ll find a brief list of the best features in a banking app.

If you’re already happy with your bank or credit union, you may not want to switch just to have the best app experience. But remember, with home satellite internet service, you can still use your bank’s desktop website to manage everyday money matters—whether you live in town or 50 miles away.

Look for security

As mentioned above, secure online banking apps have built-in safety measures like encryption and two-factor authentication.

Look for reliability

Apps that crash regularly can frustrate even the most patient people. A good mobile banking app stays up and running.

Look for a broad number of features

If you can deposit checks but not use bill pay, a mobile app won’t save you as many trips to the bank.

Look for ease of use

Navigating your bank’s mobile app should be so seamless that you don’t even think about it.

Best online banking apps around

According to Magnify Money, these apps perform best in the world of mobile banking. Take a look at their best features here.

Best credit union app: Eastman Credit Union

Eastman Credit Union ranked high for “simplicity and reliability.”

Best local bank app: East West Bank

East West Bank also ranked high for its simple, easy-to-understand interface and reliability.

Best big-bank app: Capital One

Capital One, known for its effort to serve rural communities, ranked high for its SureSwipe security feature and solid, reliable functioning.

Give internet banking apps a try

For some, banking apps will be second nature. For others, they may seem intimidating or inherently risky.

If you’re concerned about how risky they’ll be, just remember that even in-person money management carries some risk of identity fraud, and you can always check with your bank about their safety measures.

If you’re more concerned about how easy-to-use these apps will be, just give it a shot. You might find transferring money as easy as sending a text message—and just as fast. Start banking from your couch today.