When you’re on a budget, “free” has a nice ring to it. It’s even nicer when those freebies are tools that can help you stick to your budget. Mobile and online banking services do just that. Free tools such as mobile alerts and automated payments can help you stay on track to meet your financial goals.
Greater access = greater awareness: Mobile banking is on the rise. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, nearly 40 percent of mobile users—upwards of 100 million people—are likely to use mobile banking by 2020. The appeal is clear: “With online and mobile banking, you have the convenience of being able to log in [to your accounts] anytime, anywhere,” says financial writer Kimberly Palmer, author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life. “You can also more easily keep track of your spending, since you can review your accounts often.
There’s another key benefit of 24/7 account access: “It’s an important way to prevent fraud,” Palmer says. “The first sign of something awry is often a charge you don’t recognize. Since online and mobile banking let you check your accounts so frequently, you’re more likely to notice something that’s not quite right.”
Go on the alert: Like rumble strips along the side of a highway, automated alerts can give you that little nudge you may need to stay on course with your budget. Sent as an email or text message (or both), alerts can update you on a wide range of banking issues that vary from urgent, like a bill due date or an overdrawn account, to routine, like your daily account balance.
“Alerts can also be encouraging,” Palmer says. “You can set one for when you get close to meeting your savings goal for the month.” After registering your mobile number and email address in your online banking center, you pick the reminders and the frequency that will give you the control and peace of mind you need.
Auto-pay your own way: We’re all human. Even with alerts and reminders, we forget things sometimes—even bills. Automated payments can eliminate that “whoops” factor by automatically paying your bills for you.
To get started, register each bill you want paid—utility, insurer, etc.—through online banking. Then, schedule the payment amount and when those bills should be paid each month. “You don’t have to worry about missing a due date and then putting your credit at risk,” Palmer says. “Plus, it’s more convenient and saves time, too.”
If your budget calls for putting a certain amount in savings each month, you can set up an automated payment for that too. “By having savings automatically transferred each month, you know that you’re paying yourself first,” Palmer says.