We're living life online. We invite friends to parties, store our family photo albums, and buy clothes, all from the Internet. But even the most Internet savvy of us have at one time or another felt a little reluctance to bring our financial life online. And while it always comes with a risk, the truth is, you could be more at risk sending a bill payment by snail mail than you are paying it online.
Use an app to Budget. Creating a budget is easy, maintaining it is the hard part. That's why the ability to track your spending from your phone is so important. This way you can update on the go or from the line at the grocery store! You can choose an app like Mint.com, which connects to your bank account and does it for you. Or, if you like to do things manually, use a spreadsheet app with a personal budget template.
Online Bill Pay. The majority of us have accepted that online bill pay is a safe method to pay our bills and have already switched over. But here's another advantage to online bill pay, you can safely use your credit card to pay most bills and therefore rack up those rewards points. Considering bills account for the bulk of expenses, this is a great way to rack up those miles or cash back on your credit card.
Set reminders. That being said, switching to paperless billing means you lose the built in reminders that show up in your mail. So it's important you find another system. Paying bills late can do the most damage to your credit score, so it's extra important you don't skip this step. Most companies will let you subscribe for email alerts when a bill is due. That's great, but in addition, you should create one place where all your due dates are stored such as a digital calendar. Some services like your cable provider may let you reset due dates so you can group bills together or spread them apart, if that helps your finances.
Use free bank alerts. Online banking often comes with the option to use free alerts. Take advantage of these. You can receive them when your account reaches a low threshold of your choosing, so you never have to risk overdraft. Get alerts when a check has posted or your direct deposit is credited. If you're worried about fraud, get alerts when a debit card transaction has been made outside the U.S. or online, by phone or mail.
Set up automatic transfer. Automatically have a set amount of money transferred from your checking into your savings. For most, it is better to have $50 a week transferred as opposed to $200 a month. You're less likely to notice the smaller increments leaving your account.
Pay back friends instantly. No one likes having an outstanding debt hanging over your head. Use mobile app, Venmo, to easily and instantly pay people back. Just choose a friend by phone number, email or Facebook, type the amount and a message and send payment. Just make sure to send money via debit card. Sending by credit card incurs a 3% fee. Receiving money is always free.
Consider online-only banks. There are some perks to online-only banks. They typically carry less fees. A survey from MoneyRates.com found 63% of online checking accounts were free of monthly maintenance fees compared to just 29% of all checking accounts. It can also be a good place for your savings. You may earn slightly more interest. With interest rates so low, every one-hundredth of a percent counts.
A final tip: Try to do all of your banking from your own secure network. Doing your online banking from public places or a hotel can open you to identity theft. If you're going to take your financial life mobile, be sure to put a password on your phone.