General, Helpful Tips

Using Technology to Remain Financially Fit

If you're interested in trying new bank technology but you're not sure what's available, FDIC Consumer News offers this overview of some current services, many of them free.

Personal financial management and budgeting: Financial planning tools, often referred to as personal financial management software, can include electronic check registers on your home computer (which many consumers will find much easier to use and balance than an old-fashioned paper check register) and "companion applications" for your smartphone that allow you to access your electronic check register wherever you are.

Mobile Banking: Mobile Banking allows you access your to your account from anywhere using a smartphone, "tablet" computer or other device. Mobile banking services can be very helpful if you are in a store contemplating a major purchase and need to know whether you have enough money in your account to cover the cost. If your balance is low, you can use your mobile device to transfer funds from your savings account into your checking account to cover the purchase. But remember that the available balance shown in mobile banking may be less than you have to spend if any checks or other transactions have not yet been posted to your account.

Depositing checks using your smartphone or other mobile device: “Remote deposit capture" (RDC) allows customers to take a picture of a check with their mobile phone and deposit that check electronically, without visiting a branch or using an ATM. Most banks suggest you write the date you deposited the item on the front of the paper check and hold onto it until the check has cleared and the money is in your account. Then you can destroy the check, preferably using a high-quality paper shredder.

Money Management tools: Free online budgeting tools that can help you track your spending by category, monitor investments and meet your savings goals can help you keep your budget on track. Some of them offer retirement planning advice and calculators to help you figure out such things as whether you should refinance your mortgage or how much you need to be saving for retirement every month.

Account alerts: Mobile Banking and Online Banking allow you to sign up for text messages on your mobile phone or e-mails if your account balance drops below a set dollar amount, which can help ensure that you don't overdraw your account. You may be able to receive text alerts if there are "suspicious" — potentially fraudulent — transactions involving your account. Mobile account alerts are probably the easiest and most effective way to monitor what is going on with your checking account in real time.

When using any mobile financial service, keep privacy and security issues in mind. Mobile phones are much easier to lose or misplace than a desktop computer, so be sure to keep track of your mobile phone and password-protect it.

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