Is online banking safe?

Tips for managing your finances online

We live in the age of on demand. When you want to watch the latest summer blockbuster, get dinner from your favorite taqueria or find a ride to your friend’s birthday party, all you need to do is go online. And more and more, people are looking for a safe way to bank on demand, too.

This convenient option makes it possible for you to pay bills, deposit checks and keep an eye on your balance from almost anywhere. But if you’re new to online banking, you might be thinking, "Are online banks safe?"

The good news is many banks have features in place to protect you if you want to deposit your paycheck in your pajamas or pay the water bill from the sidelines of your kid’s soccer game. And as with other types of banking, there are things you can do that can help make your online banking experience even more secure.

Don’t spend all night wondering to yourself "how safe is internet banking?" Instead, read on to learn more about how online banking security works and how to keep online banking safe.

Getting to know online banking security

Part of figuring out if online banking is safe and secure has to do with the technology many banks use to protect your data:

Multi-factor authentication can be essential to safe online banking. It requires you to prove your identity in 2 or more ways before you’re let into your online bank accounts, and it can be a lot more difficult to hack.1 A password, PIN or physical card can be used to identify you. And so can biometrics like your fingerprint.

Research your bank to find out what online banking security measures it offers, and if you need to opt into certain ones, such as alerts. At many banks, an alert can be a call, text or email.

It may never have occurred to you that you’d want to be on a texting basis with your bank, but features like these can make it quick and easy to resolve problems. At many banks, if you receive an alert that indicates something is wrong, banking online means you can report a problem or disable your debit card with the simple click of a button from your desktop or mobile app.

Habits that can help keep your accounts safe

You’re on your way to pick up a sofa you found online, and you’ve just made a pit stop at the ATM. With your wallet full of cash, you might be a little more cautious than usual. Maybe you take out your earbuds. Or maybe you move your wallet to your front pocket.

When banking online, it can also be a good idea to take extra precautions, on top of what your bank is doing. While there’s not one safest way to bank online, these are a few of the best online banking security practices to try out:

  • Look out for phishing emails or phone calls. If you receive a message from your great aunt Rosemary saying she was robbed in London and needs cash fast, but you know Rosemary hasn’t left Florida in 10 years, think twice before sending it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns against responding to unexpected requests for money or personal information.2
  • Pick strong passwords, and change them often. If a password is obvious to you, it could be obvious to someone else. Your wedding anniversary? Maybe not such a good idea. The anniversary of your first loose tooth? That’s random, but better. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has tips to help you choose your passwords.
  • Keep your devices current. Treat anti-virus software as if it were a new Vietnamese restaurant or album from your favorite artist: Don’t sleep on it. The FTC suggests downloading anti-virus or other trustworthy security software onto your computer or phone and setting it to update automatically.3 Regularly backing up your files can be a good idea, too. If your data is hacked or tampered with, this can help you recover your records—including that list of Vietnamese restaurants to try.
  • Reconsider public Wi-Fi. When you access sensitive information (like your bank account) from an unsecured network (such as logging on at an airport), unauthorized users may be able to get access too.4 Catching up on cat videos? Totally OK on public Wi-Fi. But if you’re concerned with how to protect online banking, it’s probably best to bank from your home network.

Good habits like these can protect you against the security risks of online banking by making it more difficult for someone else to access your account. 

If you see something, say something

So you’ve done everything right, you’re reviewing your bill, and there it is: a $100 charge for pet shampoo. You don’t even have a dog. First, you might ask your significant other if they’ve visited any animal shelters lately. But if the answer is no, don’t panic.

No one wants to see a mistake on their bank statement. Be sure to report it to your bank as quickly as possible.5 You can also learn more from the , according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about what to do if you notice an unauthorized transaction on your account.

So, how secure is online banking today? Let’s just say it can be a great option if you like living the digital life, don’t have time for regular bank visits or just don’t feel like putting on real pants. (We don’t judge.)

It’s normal to have concerns about online security. But when you take advantage of the many resources available to you at your bank, you can enjoy the convenience of online banking with more peace of mind.

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