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Are You Ready to Embrace Online Banking?

This primer may get you off the fence — and on your laptop

Woman's hand doing online banking with mobile phone, How to Use Online Banking (Tetra Images/Corbis)

With mobile remote deposit capture, customers can safeguard information with the same security as online banking while allowing them to retain the original copy of their check. — Tetra Images/Corbis

So, you're still walking into your local bank to conduct your financial business. Understandable. There's a level of comfort in standing eye to eye with the person counting your money. You enjoy trading stories with your favorite teller. And above all, you've got this nagging fear that some tech-savvy smarty-pants may steal your financial information if you join the population of online banking customers.

Take a little comfort in this: Online banking is more advanced and secure than ever, experts say. And if banking research is accurate, a growing number of boomers and seniors are bypassing the brick-and-mortar branch to manage their money from the couch.

Banking online has added perks for older Americans, who may desire a larger slice of independence from caregivers. No need for physical challenges to keep you from paying a bill, either. In the end, it can be an easier way to bank and, in fact, keep you closer to your money.

Not quite convinced online banking is for you? We rounded up a group of experts to answer your most common questions:

• Paul Gentile, executive vice president, Credit Union National Association

• Greg Hughes, vice president, information security officer, digital channels, for Fiserv, an information technology provider to banking institutions

• Heather Almand, communications manager, Digital Insight, which offers innovative online and mobile banking solutions to consumers and financial institutions

• Ken Nagel, chief information officer, Farmers & Merchants Bank

• Susan Fitzpatrick, director of communications, Ally Financial

Why should I do my banking online?

Almand: You get flexibility and convenience. Online banking allows you to view your account balances, pay your bills, locate ATMs, transfer funds and even deposit checks all while on the go, 24/7. If you can't get to a branch during service hours, online banking gives you alternative ways to handle your banking needs.

What kind of equipment do I need?

Almand: Ideally, a computer, laptop or tablet with updated security software. If depositing checks from home interests you, a scanner could come in handy. In some cases, you can use your smartphone for depositing checks, too. We will discuss the latter in detail further down.

Will I be able to do everything online that I do at my local bank?

Almand: Pretty much. If your financial institution also provides personal financial management tools, you'll be able to manage all your banking, credit and financial accounts in one place at your favorite bank or credit union.

Nagel: Some banks, like F&M, even offer something called text banking, which provides you access to accounts via text (SMS) messages on a mobile phone. It's a fast and easy way to look up account balances or view recent account history.

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Get tips on how to stop those annoying telemarketers for getting your personal information and other ways to improve your online safety.

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