Opening an Instant Online Checking Account

It is possible, convenient, and easy to instantly open an online checking account. But, that all happens after you do the hard part. And that is reviewing the kinds of accounts available through a growing number of financial institutions. You are looking for what is both the best deal for you and the best fit for your specific needs.  That comparison shopping is necessary, unless you already know what account you want. For example, your brick-and-mortar bank or credit union might now be providing instant online checking accounts. You are acquainted with the details and are good to go. You will just go to its website and apply for an instant online checking account.

If you do not know your options, then you will also be going to the Internet. To connect to the web, you can use your computer or a gadget such as a smartphone. Type in the keywords “instant online checking accounts.”  At the financial institutions’ websites you will then compare and contrast terms and conditions. The key ones are:

  • Any annual or monthly maintenance fee and the details such as no fee if there is X amount of dollars as the balance.
  • Amount of minimum opening deposit.
  • Amount of minimum balance.
  • Overdraft fees and if they can be prevented through linking to an online savings account
  • Stop payment fees.
  • Interest rates. Beware of Introductory or teaser rates which usually end in several months to be replaced by a variable rate. Read the fine print.
  • Any cost for debit cards.
  • Availability of ATMs.
  • Rewards programs.
  • Easy access to help from the financial institution through phone or email. Remember, this is virtual banking.

The next step is then to go to the website of the financial institution providing the account you want to open. What it will require varies a little among financial institutions. But in many cases you will be expected to furnish for everyone whose name is on the account:

  • Full name.
  • Date of birth.
  • Complete physical address.
  • Social Security Number.
  • Phone number.
  • Email address (This is necessary since the account is virtual. Free email accounts can be created through a range of Internet Service Providers such as AOL and Search Companies such as Google.)
  • Identification information from a debit or credit card or checkbook.
  • General Identification established through the number from a driver’s license or government ID.
  • Promotional code if there is a special introductory offer.

There will be other items to insert such as a username and password, which you choose. Read all the fine print carefully. Then click on that you agree, that is, if you do agree. If you do not, contact the institution through phone or email with any questions or concerns.

You will be required to provide a deposit into the account. That can be done through a transfer of funds from a financial institution, a debit card, or scanning a check.

Within 10 minutes or less you will be notified if the financial institution approves your application. If it does, then make a record of the information you need from then on, ranging from minimum deposit to username/password. You have joined the digital generation who handle their routine financial transactions totally online.

Photo credit: kenteegardin / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

How to Get a Checking Account Online

So much consumer banking is now being transacted online that the whole idea of “online checking” can be confusing to some people. They, for example, may have finally decided that they want to “get an online checking account.”  However, they might not know that there are two ways they can do that.

One way is to simply notify their financial institution that they want to have access to their checking account through the Internet. There will be procedures such as furnishing identification, being given a username, and creating a password. Once that is final they can review their statement online at any time from any Internet connection. Depending on the bank’s policies they might also be able to process transactions electronically. However, that checking account remains a traditional one, not what is known as an “online checking account.”  Therefore it will have the fee structure which conventional checking accounts, operated in brick-and-mortar facilities, carry.

The second way to get a checking account online is to apply for a checking account which is both online and is operated totally on the Internet. There is no physical bank to go into and no tellers beyond bars or bullet-proof glass. Instead, all communication about the account is done online or by phone. Because this eliminates real estate costs, the fees are less or non-existent. Some accounts yield interest. Others provide bonuses and rewards.

Where to Open That Totally Online Checking Account?

Because this may be new to you, you might want to stick with the financial institution you know. That is, if it provides this service. You can actually go to that familiar setting and open your account. Or you can do that with your current financial institution right on the Internet through a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In both cases, usually you would be required to furnish your full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and a form of identification such as the driver’s license number. Also, a deposit is necessary. How much depends on the financial institution’s policies.

Another way to get an account is to approach this as you would when selecting a credit card. You would “shop around.”  There is a broad range of features with online checking accounts just as there are with credits cards. Some of the information about the options might come from your financial advisor, snail mail, ads in print or on the web/mobile. Or you might find that information online under keywords “online checking accounts.”

Once you make your choice you would set up the account the same way as described previously. If the institution has brick-and-mortar facilities you can swing by it and do that in-person. Otherwise you provide the information and deposit online. Funds can be transferred from your current bank or you can snail mail a check or money order.

The process of going online, whether you maintain your traditional account or set one up one totally transacted on the Internet, does not require you own a computer or gadget. Many public libraries furnish complimentary access to the Internet for those with a library card. Also, free email addresses are available from Internet providers, ranging from Google to AOL.

 

Best Checking Accounts for Students

Banks recognize that students who open checking accounts with them could develop into lifetime customers for services ranging from mortgages to retirement savings vehicles. Therefore, banks have the incentive to accommodate students. But, it is up to the students to shop around for which institutions provide the best deals for their specific needs. Not every student financial situation is exactly alike.

However, essentially all students should be looking for as much “free” as possible. That would include no fee to open and maintain the account, to have a low average balance, writing unlimited number of checks, obtaining a debit card, unlimited transactions at the bank’s own ATMs, online access and bill payment, and text or email notification when the account dips below a certain point. The more of those features banks offer free, the better.

But free usually comes with hitches. That is why students have to read the fine print or what lawyers call “terms and conditions.”  Fees could be imposed if the balance goes beneath a stated minimum. Although there might be unlimited check writing, the cost for pre-printed checks could be higher at one bank than another. Potentially costly could be what one bank might charge for “bounced” checks, that is those sent without sufficient funds (NSF) in the account. Students should hunt for “forgiveness” options, such as no penalty for the first offense.

For some students, features that are worth hunting for would include ability to link their credit cards and saving accounts to their checking account and allow transfer of funds. That prevents checks from bouncing and incurring penalties. Usually a fee is charged for the transfer but that can be lower than the one for NSF. Students have to comparison shop for those kinds of fees. Sometimes free, sometimes for a fee, students can also arrange for funds to be regularly transferred among accounts. For example, part of their earnings from a part-time job deposited into checking can be put into savings. Useful for those who attend school and live in different locations or travel is refund of transaction fees at ATMs which are not part of the bank’s network. According to NerdWallet those can range from $2 to $3.00 domestically and up to $5 a transaction internationally.

But the most important feature for students who are beginning to acquire financial literacy is the sense that the bank cares about them and is equipped to respond to their concerns in all mediums, be it the smartphone or onsite. Students have to feel comfortable asking questions such as, “I am running up a credit card balance. What can I do?”  Based on the responses they receive, they will likely make the decision to remain a customer or go shopping again for another bank when they get their first job.

Shop. Get Rewarded. Redeem Points. UChoose Rewards!

UChoose Rewards is a great benefit to those Bank5 Connect customers with a Connect Checking account and Connect Visa Debit Card. Customers can start earning reward points for everyday purchases they make. Once reward points are accumulated, customers can choose thousands of items or gift cards to redeem the points on.

How do I enroll?

The good news is that enrolling is quick and easy. Simply visit the UChoose Rewards website, fill out the enrollment information, and you will start earning points on all your signature based debit card transactions immediately. Instead of entering a PIN when using your debit card, run your card as credit when checking out, and you will earn 2 points for every $1 you spend.

Are there ways to earn extra points?

Yes, there are many specials for thousands of retailers’ online and select in-store locations. For this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials, below is a quick list of merchants that are running special point offers. These special bonus point offers are valid from 11/27 through 12/3 for online purchases. Customers enrolled in UChoose Rewards simply need to log into UChoose Rewards, select a retailer to shop through the UChoose website, and then check out online. The points will automatically be credited to your UChoose account.

[table]
Merchant, Standard Points per $1 Spent, Holiday Points per $1 Spent
Hanes, 5, 9
Champion, 9, 12
Bed Bath and Beyond, 4, 8
Buy Buy Baby, 3, 7
Home Depot, 3, 5
Macy’s, 5, TBD
1-800-Baskets.com, 10, 12
The Popcorn Factory, 7, 12
BeyondTheRack.com, 1, 4
LillianVernon.com, 6, 8
[/table]

For more information on the UChoose Rewards program, please click here or contact us.

Checking Accounts for Kids

One tool for children, whether still in elementary school or teens with part-time jobs or start-up ventures, to develop financial literary is through having their own checking account. Also, for those who already are regularly receiving income, that might be a must-have. To reduce processing costs, more organizations only pay through direct deposit into a checking account, rather than through paper checks. Also, increasingly teens find they need to work in order to pay for 21st century necessities such as a smartphone. In addition, minors can begin to build their credit history. In lieu of a checking account they could have the income electronically onto a prepaid card. The disadvantage is that often entails fees for each transaction.

Some financial institutions, ranging from banks to credit unions, have recognized that parents and guardians want children to learn about money. Also it has become difficult in our capitalist society to navigate as an “unbanked,” that is, someone with no formal financial identity. Therefore, a growing number of financial institutions have created traditional and online checking accounts tailored for minors. This is useful for them both to attract the next generation of customers. In addition, there is a branding or public relations payoff of demonstrating their mission of helping young manage money.

However, not all financial entities have moved in this direction. Adults may have to shop around for this option or, if they have a good relationship with their financial institution, request that it provide this special service. Also, online or Internet banks which operate only in cyberspace, not through brick-and-mortar branches, may provide the service. One way to find out about the online option is to surf the web using keywords such as “Online checking accounts for children (or minors.)” Online accounts could pay interest. There could be an advantage, though, in financial literacy lessons to open an account in-person, giving the minor a direct experience in processing a financial transaction.

Because of state laws, parents or guardians are co-signers for the account. The children’s accounts have features tailored for those new at managing money. Those include the ability of the co-signer to monitor balances and all transactions. In addition, they are custom-made for small budgets, often including low or no monthly fees;  low or no minimum balances; unlimited number of checks can be written; debit cards; and complimentary ATM cards which can be used anywhere in the U.S.

As with all financial decisions, comparison shopping is recommended. Kids who participate in the search could absorb a lot about the exploding kinds and number of options in financial services. In itself, that could be quite an education.

Banking Products for Life Stages

One thing you can say with complete certainty about life is that it’s completely unpredictable. You never know what’s coming or what’s around the next corner. This time next year, you could be in a totally different job, or possibly even out of one. You could wind up married or starting a family. You might be renting a one-bedroom apartment or pulling together a down payment for a house. Or let’s face facts — you could be dead.

The point is that you have no way of knowing what your situation might be down the road, so you have no way of knowing what sorts of financial options you’ll need. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices for any life stage, whether you’re out making deliveries on your paper route or shaking hands with soon-to-be former colleagues at your retirement party.

The infographic below maps out some typical life stage banking products. And since risk is always a factor to some degree, whether it’s the risk that your investment could lose money or the risk that it won’t keep pace with inflation, each product has a corresponding risk meter. Also bear in mind as you look over the list that these are simple guidelines, and not every product is “locked in” to a specific age range.

If you have any questions about the information below, please feel free to contact a Bank5 Connect representative at 1-855-552-2655.

Checking Accounts Versus Savings Accounts

The line between checking accounts and savings accounts seems to be blurring. For example, many online checking accounts pay interest. Also, the interest paid on savings accounts currently is so low that people are wondering why even bother setting up and maintaining one of those. Yet, there are major differences between checking and savings accounts. Understanding those helps you make smart decisions about your financial affairs.

In essence, whether you have a traditional checking account housed in a brick-and-mortar institution or an online one operating solely in cyberspace, its purpose is to facilitate financial transactions. You use it to pay bills, withdraw cash you need, transfer funds, and deposit or have automatically deposited payments made to you. Those incoming funds could range from print paychecks to electronic payments from Social Security or PayPal. There are no limits on the number of withdraws, transfers, or deposits. The fees involved and any perks, such interest and bonuses, depend on the specific bank. Given the range of options, it could be worth your time to shop around for the best deal for your needs.

On the other hand, savings accounts, be they in your trusty bank branch or only online, are structured and regulated for “housing” funds that you hope you will not need to tap into for the near future. You might have a specific short-term goal such as saving for a down payment on a house or a child’s wedding. In return you receive interest. Unfortunately, at this time, most rates are under one percent.

If you sensed you would not be needing that money for a longer period, say a year or more, then you would probably choose a Certificate of Deposit (CD). In exchange for having those funds to use for a guaranteed period, banks pay higher return rates on CDs. Should you have to gain access to the cash sooner, you would likely pay a penalty.

In the U.S., savings accounts come under Regulation D, 12. That is what makes this sort of account so different from a checking one. Regulation D limits the amount of withdraws and transfers to six a month. That means that most people, with the average amount of bills to pay, cannot facilitate that through a savings account. Violations of Regulation D could result in a service charge or downgrade of the account to a checking one. However, there is no limit on the number of deposits. The terms and conditions, including fees and the rate of interest, vary among financial institutions. Some consumers are finding higher interest rates through online savings accounts.

Yes, checking and savings accounts can be linked. That can prevent overdraft charges in the checking account. However, the two are very different entities. Rarely can they substitute for one another. For example, those intending to “save” and maintain that level of funds usually cannot accomplish that in a checking account. On the other hand, savings accounts are not made to process the amount of financial transactions most Americans are responsible for.