Beginner’s guide to online banking

Online banking, also known as internet banking, has become increasingly popular over the past decade. It’s a great way to take control of your finances and an easy way to make sure you’re keeping up to date with payments. More than half of us now avoid queuing up in bank branches by accessing our accounts directly from our computers, tablets or smart phones. But how does it work and is it safe?

What is online banking?

Banking online means accessing your bank account and carrying out financial transactions through the internet on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

It’s quick, usually free and allows you to carry out a number of tasks such as paying bills and transferring money, without having to visit or call your bank. Many banks also have free apps which let you use these services from your smartphone or tablet.

According to FCA, you are 24% less likely to incur unarranged overdraft charges, if you use a mobile banking app and text alert service.

Most banks let you use your online account to:

  • Check your bank balance at any time
  • Pay your bills and transfer money to other accounts
  • Check any linked mortgages, loans, savings accounts or ISAs
  • Check your bank statements and go paperless (stop getting paper bills sent to you)
  • Set up or cancel direct debits and standing orders
  • Check on any investments you might have that are linked to your account

How secure is online banking?

Accessing your bank account online is generally safe, as long as you make sure you enter in all the right details when making a transaction and follow a few rules:

Banks take lots of precautions to make sure your online account is safe. These include encrypted websites, timed log outs and many authentication processes. You can ask your bank for more details.

  • Check your statement frequently and report any strange activity to your bank.
  • Don’t reply to emails claiming to be from your bank that ask for personal details or passwords.
  • Always remember to log out of your online banking session.
  • Only use secure wi-fi connections to access your bank account.
  • Public Wi-Fi connections are often not secure, so don’t use them for banking or to make purchases. If you’re out and about with a mobile or tablet, it’s safer to use your 3G or 4G connection.
  • Keep your operating system and anti-virus software up-to-date.
  • Choose your passwords carefully – create it by combining three random words and don’t re-use the same one for different accounts.
Read more about safe online banking on the Get Safe Online website.
Find information about Shopping safely online.

Secure mobile banking

Accessing your account through your smartphone - either using a website or a banking app - is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a fast, convenient way to manage your finances and banks invest heavily in making mobile banking safe.

What if something goes wrong?

If you notice anything strange on your account, or you accidentally make a payment to the wrong account, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible.

How to set up online banking

The majority of banks in the UK provide an online banking service. To find out if you can get online access to your account, check your bank’s website, give them a call, or pop into a branch.

For security reasons, the registration process often involves a few steps. These might include visiting your local bank branch, having a password posted to you and in some cases being given a small security device you’ll need to log on.

My bank doesn’t offer internet banking

If your bank doesn’t offer online banking, or you’re not happy with the service provided, you’re free to switch to another provider.

How to access online banking without an internet connection

Even if you don’t have an internet connection at home, you might be able to access your online account using a computer in a bank branch.

You might also be able to access your online bank account through a secure connection at a friend or relative’s home.

Read more

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