Technology is playing a bigger and bigger part in our everyday lives. From iPads and smartphones to the ever-present internet, we rely on our gadgets to make things faster, easier and more convenient - and banking is no exception.
Lloyds TSB is just one of various bank account providers to take advantage of this appetite for technology by launching a free banking application (more commonly known as an app).
Amongst other handy features, this app allows customers to check their balances, transfer money between Lloyds TSB accounts, and find nearby cash machines and bank branches - and with 360,000 downloads in the first month of its release alone, it shows just how popular mobile banking is becoming.
If you're curious about how mobile and internet banking could make your life easier, but haven't quite yet taken the plunge, let thinkmoney's easy-to-follow guide point you in the right direction.
What is online banking?
Online banking basically gives you access to your account over the internet. Almost all bank account providers now offer internet banking as an option - allowing people to log on to their bank account 24 hours a day.
Indeed, recent research revealed that a quarter of web users log on to internet banking every day, while a further 39% bank online at least once a week - but only 13% of internet users visit their local bank branch weekly to manage their finances.
Whether you're looking to make payments, transfer money between accounts, or simply keep an eye on your balance, online banking can make a real difference to the way you keep tabs on your money.
What is mobile banking?
With most of us these days having smartphones, managing our money on the go has become even easier - and some even see it as a necessity.
Mobile banking is an umbrella term for the different mobile banking options available:
- Many banks now offer downloadable mobile banking apps for your smartphone, which can, for example, let you check your balance and see recent transactions.
- SMS banking is also a type of mobile banking: you could, for instance, receive text message alerts when you're close to going overdrawn, or send a text whenever you want an update on your balance.
- Straightforward telephone banking can let you manage your money over the phone - by speaking to an adviser, or using an automated service.
Mobile and online banking - the safe way
Although managing your money over the internet and on your mobile can be quick and convenient, security is crucial when it comes to your finances and protecting yourself and your money.
Mobile and online security has made huge progress since the early days, but there are steps you can take to ensure you don't fall foul of potential fraudsters.
Mobile banking security
The bad news is that, up to now, there have been reports of banking-related malware, along with instances of fraudulent apps that have slipped through the net onto app marketplaces. Fortunately, the relatively limited features currently offered by some mobile banking apps means there is little a criminal could do with the information accessible through the app in most cases.
However, you should always make sure that you:
- When thinking of downloading a banking app, have a look on the bank's official website and see if it links to the app to download.
- Always keep your individual phone password and your app log-in information safe. If you are prompted to set up the app with log-in details, make sure you don't use the same details as you do for your online home banking so there's no risk of connecting your app log-in information to your online log-in information.
- Never store passwords and personal information in your phone.
- Report any suspicious transactions or activity to your account provider straight away.
Online banking security
Laptops and PCs tend to have higher levels of security than mobile banking on a smartphone - but you should still exercise caution when managing your money online:
- Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and spyware-removal software on your computer, and always renew any firewalls you have.
- Only enter your password and personal information on your bank's secure site. Check for https:// at the beginning of the URL for reassurance that it's a secure site. You might also spot a 'padlock symbol' that appears next to the URL for extra reassurance.
- If you ever use a shared computer, e.g. in a library or internet café, always make sure you log off from your account completely.
- Your bank will never ask you for your password or personal details in an e-mail, so if you receive one asking for this, ignore it!
As long as you're as cautious about mobile and online banking as you are on the High Street, you should find that managing your money on your phone or laptop makes keeping your finances in check much simpler, without compromising your security: pretty much wherever you are, and whenever you need to.