Online banking has been the most popular way to access funds since 2009. With many online banks offering service fee-free accounts and interest rates roughly 4 times higher than local credit unions and about 7 times higher than traditional brick-and-mortar banks, it's not difficult to understand why. If you're ready to reap the benefits of online banking by transferring your funds to an online bank, here are the 3 steps you need to take to make sure your money stays protected.
Secure Your Network Connection
When you purchase a wireless router and hook it up to your computer, it identifies your network with a default network name and allows access to that network via a default password. If you don't change these default settings, criminals can be shown your network name when they try to access your network, and can then search for the default password associated with that default network name and gain access to your connection. Once they have access to your connection, they'll get to work trying to gain access to your banking account.
To protect yourself from this occurrence, open the router management program on your computer and change your network name to one that doesn't identify your router make or model in any way. Next, navigate to the password settings and choose a new, strong password that only you could know.
Finally, if your router has guest access turned on, it invites people near you who are surfing for a wireless connection to go ahead and access yours. Most routers come with this feature turned off by default, but while you have your router management program open it's a good idea to go ahead and make sure guest access is turned off in the security settings.
Check Website Authenticity
Now that your router is secure, it's time to learn how to identify whether or not the bank website you plan to do business with is. There are 2 main things you need to look for on any website to ensure that your information remains protected as it travels over the Internet -- a Secure Sockets Layer connection (SSL) and your browser's build-in encryption detection icon.
Navigate to the online bank's webpage and look at the address bar. If the web address starts with the letters https, then the site has an SSL; your data will be encrypted before it is sent. If that final "s" is missing, though, and the address starts with just http, then this site does not encrypt data and you should not trust the business to hold your funds.
If you've determined that the online banking website you wish to do business with has an SSL certificate, then make sure your browser verifies the certificate by looking for a lock icon somewhere on your tool bar. If you find it, click on it to see a variety of information about the security of the site.
If you can't find this lock icon, or if you do find it only to realize that you can't click on it, then this site is not safe to trust with personal information.
Assess Bank Security
With the above 2 steps done, you know that your connection is secure, and the website you plan to transmit information through is secure, but what about the less sneaky risks associated with trusting someone with your money. What if the bank you choose just doesn't do well and ends up going out of business or bankrupt?
As long as the bank you choose is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), you've got nothing to worry about. The FDIC promises that, should any bank it insures close, those who have deposits there will be compensated at least $250,000. Look for a badge on the online bank's website that says the business is FDIC-insured, and then look up the bank on the FDIC website to verify the fact.
There are reasons why online banking has risen to the top of the popularity charts. It's convenient, it costs less and pays more, and as long as you take a few steps to protect yourself, it's absolutely safe. Use the above information to understand how to keep your funds secure when banking online, and start taking advantage of an online banking service today.