What to Know Before Using an Online Account for Primary Checking


19 May,2014

One of the great things about technology is that it’s possible to manage your money online without too much trouble. With so much of our money represented digitally, you can manage most of your finances from a distance, opening low-cost, free checking account online.

However, before you decide to open an online account and use it for your primary checking, it’s important to consider the following items:

Customer Service

One of the things about primary checking is that you use the account for most of your financial transactions. From setting up an automatic withdrawal for your mortgage, to swiping your debit card at the grocery store, primary checking is all about managing your finances on an almost-daily basis.

As a result, many people are interested in ensuring that they have the customer service that they need. Some are fine with being able to talk to someone 24/7, even if there isn’t a brick and mortar branch in town. Others, though, like the idea of being able to go to the bank and talking to someone face to face. It’s one thing to have an online savings account as an emergency fund and manage that remotely. It’s quite another to have all of your daily transactions and most important financial account managed remotely.

Consider availability and customer service. Even though I can access my primary checking account online, and I mostly manage it via the Internet, I still find it comforting that I can go into the branch location and talk to someone in person if I have an issue, or if I want more information about something. There’s something personal about walking into a bank branch and having the staff know your name, and it’s nice to have that when you’re talking about your everyday money.

Access to your Money

Next, you want to consider access to your money. With your primary checking account, chances are that you want to be able to get to your money easily. Check with the online bank to find out whether or not there are fee-free ATMs that you can use, or whether or not the bank will refund any fees you pay. It can be frustrating to pay fees to get your own money.

Even if you can’t access your money via ATM for free, you can get access by getting cash back at stores. Many grocery stores and other retailers will give you cash back when you use a debit card. However, you do need to make sure this is a possibility. Not all retailers do this anymore. If you have a way to get around ATMs (and their fees), access to your money might not be a problem.

Also, consider linking your online savings account to your online checking account. It can take a few days to access money in an online savings account when you have to initiate an ACH transfer to make it happen. A linked account can make it easy, allowing you to instantly transfer money (usually the accounts have to be at the same bank) to the checking account, where you can access it with your debit card.

Access to money is vital when you’re dealing with a primary checking account, unless you decide to ease your cash flow by mostly using credit cards for your day to day transactions, and then paying them off with the money from your checking account.

It’s always a good idea to consider your cash flow, and look at the way you are moving money through your personal economy. That way, you have a better idea of what it takes to use an online account for your primary checking, and how to manage other accounts in a way that makes sense for you.