The allure of online banking

Closeup of dollar bill

If you are younger than 30, no need to read further: banking for you has probably always been an online experience.

But for the rest of us, well, suffice to say we've got baggage. Banking baggage.

For many, banking began as a personal experience, conducted within a physical bank or, in an emergency, via telephone with a teller we've known for years.

We didn't want to peek behind the counter. We didn't care how banking worked. We sure didn't want to do it ourselves. We trusted them to keep our money safe. Period.

That was then. Today, we have the tools to forego the bank branch entirely. Online banking has become downright seductive with its attractive interest rates, online bill pay, remote deposit, snappy smartphone apps, total mobility and 24/7 convenience.

The question is, are you ready?

Here are a few considerations that might help you decide:

Hours: Let's face it, "banker's hours" have always been a major headache (unless you're a banker, of course). Why sacrifice your lunch hour or part of Saturday to conduct your banking? This alone would be reason enough for me to switch.

Face time: If you like to pour yourself a cup of free coffee and chat up your favorite tellers, online is not the place to do it. Check out a community bank or credit union instead.

Interest: Because their overhead is lower than brick-and-mortar banks, online banks typically offer better interest rates. But beware: their fees may snatch some of those great savings and CD rates back.

Deposits: Unlike branch banking, making a deposit to a virtual bank can be cumbersome; you may have to mail it in, transfer the money from another savings or checking account. If you make a lot of deposits, select an online bank that offers remote deposit capture via smartphone to make life easier.

ATMs: Check out an online bank's ATM locations before you make the leap. Some offer limited ATMs, which means you could be hit with fees for using machines out of their network.

Fees: Online banks tend to be the last bastion of free checking, but watch the required account minimums, which could trigger a monthly charge of $10-$12.

FDIC: Just as with a branch bank, you want to be sure the money you stash in an online bank is backed by the FDIC.

Peace of mind: The real question is, how do you feel about where your money is? If you're like me, the more you have on hand, the better the corner bank looks.

Considering all of the above, I've been happily banking online using my brick-and-mortar bank's growing online tool kit for the past decade. It may not be as cutting edge as total virtual banking, but I sleep better knowing I can reach out and strangle my banker should the need arise.

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