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Online Banking "Life in the Fast Lane"

September 6, 2007

By: Jim Oosterman
Melrose Bank

In today's day and age, everything is geared for the busy American lifestyle from 15-minute oil changes to fast food restaurants, but nothing has kept up with us more than the Internet. No more searching for weather, phone numbers, movies or plane tickets the hard way; with the click of a mouse, it's all at your fingertips. Online banking and bill payment are now services that banks provide as another convenience for their customers. Online or Internet banking, as it is also called, is here to stay.

What is Online Banking?
With the inception of the Internet and growing popularity of personal computers, banks and other financial institutions are now able to automate millions of daily transactions. Online banking services have become an incredibly convenient and secure way for customers to manage their finances. Projections show one third of all U.S. households will bank online by the end of 2007. Online banking gives us the option of by-passing more time consuming methods of paper-based (or traditional based) banking, so that finances can be managed more quickly and efficiently. Online banking not only saves customers' time, but also allows banks to handle transactions and staffing more efficiently, while keeping banks competitive for your business.

What Online Banking can do for Customers
Customers can do a great deal with online banking. They can access their checking, savings, and money market accounts, all from the convenience of their home. Customers can look at account balances, watch as checks are cleared, view copies of written checks, make notes regarding deposits, upload monthly information and make transfers from account to account. Some banks allow new customers to open accounts online, a plus for those who are moving, or just too busy to get to the bank. Online banking gives customers the ability to monitor balances of their accounts, making check bouncing less common. People can also apply for mortgages online at some banks. The online software that banks use, generally have the ability to detect transactions that are out of the normal pattern, thereby aiding in the detection of identity theft and fraud.

Advantages of Online Banking
There are many advantages to banking online. You can bank online from your home, office, while you're on vacation and even if you're out of the country. It's convenient and access is instantaneous. If a financial issue arises, you can log on and take care of business at anytime of day. Transactions are quicker than that of ATM processing. Managing your financial accounts is done with great efficiency, and all can be done from one secure site. Online banking may offer e-statements, in an effort to go paperless. Many banking sites offer sophisticated banking tools that include stock tips, rate alerts and portfolio managing programs. Most online banking programs are compatible with money management programs such as Quicken and Microsoft Money.

Online Banking Safety
Banks understand the need for safe banking practices over the Internet. The banking industry has established a number of safeguards that help customer information stay secure. Multiple passwords, key codes, and secure locking technology encrypt information and keep it out of other people's view. Although financial institutions go to great lengths to ensure a safe and secure environment, the customer plays an important role in making sure that their internet banking is safe. Check your financial institution's web site privacy statements, as well as the use of cookies that can track down your browsing habits. Passwords should contain both letters and numbers. Do not keep your passwords near your computer or in your wallet, and change your password at regular intervals. Desktop computers are more secure than wireless laptops and other systems. Keep all other browser windows closed while banking online, and never disclose any personal information online, unless you know whom you are dealing with and the reason for providing information. Always check your online banking statements every month and keep up to date records. Stay current with antivirus software and back up key files. Exit the banking site immediately when you have finished banking online.

Online Banking is Here to Stay
If you haven't tried your bank's online banking product, now is the time. Banks don't generally charge extra for the service if you already have an account with them. Bank sites are well developed since they have been offering this service for sometime now. They are continually adding features, such as the ability to apply for loans or open accounts online. It does take some time to setup your online accounts, but once you do, the initial time investment you make up front will pay off down the road. Having the latest copies of your statements in hand will help in setting up bill payment accounts, probably one of the most used online features. If you're considering switching banks, online banking services should be evaluated just as you would look at a checking and savings account. Online banking offers unparalleled conveniences. Give it a shot, and you'll be convinced.

James Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone 781-665-2500, online at melrosebank.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/MelroseBank.


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