Online banking comes out on top — just don't share your password

online bankingIt seems like it's possible to do just about anything online these days, and the ubiquity of the Internet is showing up in how we manage our money.

According to a new poll conducted by the American Bankers Association, a higher percentage of Americans now prefer online banking to any other method, including in-person banking. The survey, for which 1,000 Americans were questioned, shows Americans' shifting preferences as well as our growing comfort with electronic money management. More than one-third -- 36% -- of respondents said they prefer online banking to any other method, while 25% of respondents indicated that they prefer face-to-face banking. Interestingly, despite the rapid adoption of smartphones, only 3% of respondents preferred to use their cell phone to manage their money.

Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for advocacy group Consumer Action, says there are some distinct advantages to online banking. She tells WalletPop that many banks offer services such as spending calculators and budget tools on their websites to help people do a better job of tracking their spending.

"For the folks that are fortunate enough to have a high speed Internet connection, this can be an added layer of tools they can use," she says. Sherry adds, though, that as we get increasingly more digital, banks will need to remember that there's a segment of the population who doesn't want, can't afford or doesn't use the Internet. These consumers and their needs still need to be accommodated.

Sherry adds that while online banking has many advantages in the form of added tools, alerts if you've received a deposit or if your balance drops below a certain level, plus the ability to track your funds in real time, there's also a learning curve that people who are new to Internet banking need to master when it comes to account security. While online banking is generally very safe, would-be identity thieves still prey on consumers by sending out fake e-mails asking for their user names and passwords (a practice known as phishing).

"People really do have to be educated that their bank is not going to send them an e-mail asking for their password or other personal information," she says.

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