12 great bank website features
What makes an online bank site great? Two elements: functionality and user interface.
Banks have decades of experience with the former, but their approach to the latter often frustrates customers searching for a seamless flow and feel across their desktop, laptop, tablet, PDA and mobile devices.
The good news is, banks are starting to get it (Here are our picks for the five best bank websites.). But it will take some time.
"Online banking still reminds you of those websites that were built back in 1998," says Jacob Jegher, senior analyst at Celent, a financial research firm.
Here are 12 things to look for on your bank's website:
- Secure sign-in: Customers typically use a private user ID and password to access online banking.
- Online statements: View account balances, deposits, withdrawals and transfers by monthly statement or account history. Most allow you to print statements by month; the better ones let you set date parameters to print account activity, handy for mortgage applications or tax purposes.
- Transfers: Move money between your accounts with a half-dozen mouse clicks.
- Bill pay: Set up automatic electronic payment of recurring bills or pay individual bills online.
- Ebill: Receive your bills electronically on the same site where you pay them.
- Paperless statements: receive your statements via email.
- Person-to-person payment: Pay family, friends or the landlord electronically from your account. You don't need their banking information, just their email address in most cases. Many banks use vendors such as Popmoney and Zashpay for this service.
- Mobile banking: Access your account transfer and payment functions, check account balances and locate the nearest ATM or bank branch via text or browser from your mobile phone or PDA. Context-aware mobile banking apps even track your location and find the closest ATM or branch for you.
- Account alerts: Receive email or text alerts when account balances drop below (or rise above) a level you select, or for a wide range of other account activity, including completed transfers/deposits, ATM deposit postings, overdraft warnings or protection advances, credit card bill notice and suspicious account activity.
- Online check imaging: View actual images, front and back, of checks that have cleared. You can print them for proof of payment.
- Remote deposit capture: Deposit checks electronically by capturing their image on your computer scanner or via your tablet, PDA or mobile phone camera.
- Personal financial management: A wide range of tools (Intuit's FinanceWorks is a popular one) help you get a grip on your spending, saving and investing.
The recent explosion of smartphone applications may finally shake banks out of their decade-long funk. The online-only banks such as USAA, ING and Ally now appear less of a fad and more the wave of the future. Expect great site improvements from the brick-and-mortar sector very soon, Jegher predicts.
"There is a lot of work going on now by quite a lot of institutions that are quietly planning for the next step. They realize that online is no longer an alternative channel; it's a mainstream channel for everyone, and as such, its importance is the same for everyone," he says.
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