One day, back in 1997, I remember telling a friend of mine -let's call him "Leery Lenny" -that I tried my bank's new online banking service and loved it. Lenny shot me this incredulous stare and then he made it clear to me, loudly, that I had lost my sanity and that I was risking my entire fortune. Perhaps if he had seen my paltry bank balance [wink] I might have seemed less daring to him!
"I don't trust it," Lenny said, insisting that he would always walk into his bank for transactions and use "trusty" paper and stamps to pay his bills.
Leery Lenny's response was typical back then. Popularity of online banking has since soared. In 2004, about 50% of Bank of America checking account customers banked online, according to Betty Reiss, a Bank of America spokesperson.
A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project states that about 63 million U.S. adults now bank online. Even so, many people still feel tremendous apprehension about online banking. Since computers are so prevalent in homes, trust in the technology is the obvious factor.
There are several reasons why I bank online. First let me say that I get nothing -no kickbacks from banks, no commission from online banking software companies, not even a pat on the back of you decide to use online banking. However, if my reasons happen to crush any remnant fear you harbor then just raise a toast to your newfound convenience and I'll be happy to have helped your transition from "sneaker-net" (on-foot) banking to Internet banking.
Reason #1: I trust the technology. The hashing-algorithms banks use in symmetric-key encryption via SSL (secure sockets layer) are fabulous. That sounds safe, doesn't it? Roughly explained, this means my bank's computer and my computer agree on huge strings of letters and numbers to scramble any communication to obscene levels that only mathematicians like to discuss -keeping my banking activities private. Of course, it is important to make sure that any financial transaction you do online is done from a secure web page -indicated by a padlock or other security icon at the bottom of most browsers and a web address that begins with "https" rather than "http".
Reason #2: It saves money. At 39 cents a stamp, the four bucks I save each month by not mailing ten bills makes me happy and buys me a delicious mocha latte.
Reason #3: It is physically safer. With online bill payment, I get fewer paper cuts from stuffing bill envelopes.
Reason #4: Keeps me financially safer. Javelin, Inc. research found that consumers who spot banking fraud online suffer an average theft of $500 while consumers who wait for paper bank records suffer average losses of $4,500.
Reason #5: I've enjoyed making Lenny wrong. I've lost touch with him now but I remember his smug comments that I was some kind of an idiot for trusting a technology that has now spread like gangbusters. No hard feelings. He's probably still out there preventing obsolescence of the envelope openers in the accounts receivable departments of his utility companies.
Call your bank or check its web site to see their online banking options and instructions.