Online Banking Improves Financial Management
While online banking is perhaps best known for the convenience of checking account balances instantly and the ability to pay bills or to make transfers, consumers can integrate online banking into financial management programs to give them a more complete picture of their finances.
Many leading banks offer a number of ways to help consumers understand what's going on within their accounts, such as the ability to avoid missing payments by scheduling transactions either ahead of their due date, or through automatically recurring payments.
Consumers traveling can also schedule future payments ahead of time so they can enjoy their trips without having to remember to access their accounts.
Some banks will also offer consumers transaction summaries on regular basis (such as monthly, quarterly or annually) that breaks down their checking and credit card spending into categories that can be helping in creating or monitoring budgets.
Another valuable benefit of online banking is the ability to monitor your accounts carefully. It's helpful to be able to check your balances in real-time, which can also help you avoid expensive overdraft fees.
Financial Tracking Software
While basic online tools will meet the needs of many consumers, people interested in tracking their budgets more closely can use a variety of PC- and Web-based software that integrates with their online banking accounts to provide a real-time picture of their income and spending.
For instance, Mint.com users can download and integrate data from a number of different bank and brokerage accounts to see a combined view of their financial status. Users can establish and monitor budgets that let them know how much they should be spending in specific categories or saving for future bills. Consumers can track their spending and savings patterns to identify areas of improvement, or monitor their investment portfolios on the same screen as their checking accounts.
Consumers who would prefer to store their financial information on their computer rather than the Web can use popular financial management programs such as Quicken. Financial applications have, to reduce the amount of time people spend entering transactions manually, evolved in recent years to rely more on data downloaded data from banking and investment accounts.
Users can also schedule transactions directly within their financial management applications, saving them the time of logging on to their banks' or service providers' Web sites to schedule payments.
As with Web-based applications, users can see summary screens and transaction registers that provide a current snapshot of their financial accounts and budgets.
Mobile App Access
To provide a faster experience than Web or PC banking, a number of leading financial services firms and software providers have developed mobile banking applications designed to run on smartphones.
These applications allow customers to log on and check their balances, make payments or transfer fund between accounts over cellular networks or Wi-Fi connections. Because the applications match the banks' interfaces and offer a number of security features, customers can be assured they are interacting with their banks and conducting transactions safely.
Quicken, Mint.com and other financial management software providers offer similar apps to allow consumers to enter and update transactions while they're on the go, allowing them to check or update their balances when they're away from their computers.