Early this year, I had a miserable experience with fraudulent bank activity. Someone had taken a check from my bank account, or at least found my routing and bank account number and made a fake check, forged my signature (or used one already on a pre-existing check) and paid themselves $900. However, because I bank online and check my activity daily, I caught this error right away. I was even able to view a scanned image of the check to see who, exactly, the check was made out to: someone I did not know.

Thankfully, my bank immediately credited my bank account and began an investigation. Of course, I never received the results of the investigation and later found out that the police want nothing to do with fraudulent check activity. My husband reported it to the FBI (I think they have a check fraud department), but even they made it sound like it was of low importance to them.

Yet, this assault on my bank account made me thankful that I bank online. By keeping an eye on my account daily, I can see the money coming in and going out. Whenever there is something suspicious or it looks like I overspent, I can catch it right away and make the appropriate adjustments. Banking online also allows me to move my money from one account to another to cover debit or credit charges.

Which leads me to another great online feature, when you use a debit card the charges appear immediately online. Since both my husband and I share a bank account, even if he forgets to tell me the charges he’s made that day or forgets to give me his receipts, I can see them online. This makes it easy for me to reconcile our check book register. And, if I catch that we’ve spent too much that day before the end of the day, I can quickly transfer money to cover the charges so we won’t incur any overdraft fees.

One comment about debit cards;  if I use it as a debit card and enter my PIN, then that charge is immediately deducted from my bank account. Sort of like withdrawing cash from an ATM.  But, if I use it as a credit card (I earn points when I use it this way), then sometimes the charge doesn’t show up for a couple of days. This can get a little tricky if your significant other forgets to tell you about a charge. I have learned form past experience to make sure I have additional funds in my account to cover unexpected transactions. I also have set up another bank account, linked to my main one, to cover any overdraft charges. I’ve learned the hard way that overdraft fees can add up!

If you’re in the UK, there are basic bank accounts available with no hidden charges or overdraft fees – plus the accounts are managed for you, so enough of your income should always be held back to pay your bills.

In an upcoming post I’ll outline what I’ve learned about debit cards and using them as credit cards, or a Pros and Cons listing. What experience have you had with banking online? Do you find it more convenient? Do you distrust banking online for fear of identity theft?