Online banking, is it safe?
Using online banking means you can keep control of your finances from home or whilst you're out and about, using your bank's website or smartphone app. Find out how to access online banking and keep your money secure.
How do I set up online banking?
To access online banking, first you'll need to register online. You need to already have an account with the bank, then register via their website. The safest way to find the website is to enter the web address printed on a letter you have from the bank.
Each bank will have a slightly different process to set up online banking, and you should phone your bank to enquire about the process. Steps may include the following:
- Entering your personal details including name, contact details and bank account details (sort code and account number).
- The bank will arrange to call you and ask you some questions to verify your identity.
- You may get sent an activation code either in the post or by text message.
- Setting up a username and a secure password or passcode.
How do I access my bank's smartphone app?
Most banks also have their own smartphone apps. Once you have set up online banking, you can download the app which allows you to check your balance, send payments, and much more. You can find the apps in the Google Play Store for an Android phone, or the App Store for an iPhone.
There are unfortunately many fake banking apps available to download. Double-check that you are downloading the bank or building society's genuine app. First, check their website for information and call the bank if you are unsure.
What can I use online banking to do?
With most banks, you can use online banking to:
- Check your balance any time of day or night
- Check your bank statements
- Transfer money between your bank accounts
- Send money to people you know
- Set up or cancel direct debits and standing orders
Get help with online banking
If you're struggling to get to grips with online banking, don't worry. Many banks offer lessons that can take place in person, or over the phone or video call – ask your bank for more information.
You could also find out if there's an Age UK computer class running near you.
Will I still receive bank statements?
One of the benefits of online banking is that you can quickly and easily check past and upcoming transactions on your account.
You can still receive monthly bank statements in the post. Or you can opt to go 'paperless' and receive statements by email or download them from your online account.
There are adaptations available if you have a visual or hearing impairment.
"I check my bank statements to make sure none of my money is going anywhere I don’t want it to."
What can I do to keep my money and identity safe?
Online banking is generally safe but there are steps you can take to make sure your money stays where you want it and your identity is not stolen:
- Don’t re-use the same passwords for different accounts.
- Use a strong password. Avoid passwords made up of common words, numbers or keyboard patterns (such as 'password' or '123456'), and don't include personal information, such as your name, date of birth, or any family member's details. Read more about password security in our guide.
- Never share your full password or PIN number. Banks will never ask for your full PIN or password – instead, they will ask for specific numbers or letters, for example, the first and third character from your password.
- Always log out of your online banking session, especially if you use a device that others have access to.
- Be cautious when using a public computer to access your online banking, for example, library computers. They may not have the right level of security software. Ask the library staff for more information.
- Only use secure Wi-Fi networks to access your online banking. Don't use public networks, such as those in cafes or train stations – it may be possible for people on the same network to access your details.
- Check your balance and transactions regularly, and report anything you don’t recognise to your bank.
- Regularly check that your personal details are correct and up to date.
Be aware: A common scam is where fraudsters call up, telling you your account has been hacked and to move money to a 'safe' account. They can even use technology which makes it look like they're phoning from the bank's official number. Your bank will never phone you out of the blue, asking for your PIN number or password, and they won't ask you to transfer money to a different account.
How does the bank keep my money safe?
Banks take the security of accounts very seriously and invest lots of time and money to make sure your online account is safe.
- Bank websites are encrypted. This means they are well protected from anyone seeing the information on the page or your personal details. The website address should start with 'https' – the 's' stands for secure.
- Websites and apps have timed logout. If you have been inactive for a set period of time, it will automatically log you out, meaning that no one else can get into your account.
- There are multiple steps to log in. As well as entering your username and password, some banks send a text message with an access code. If you have the bank's app and a newer smartphone, you might be able to set up a Touch ID, which uses your fingerprint to log in.
- Some banks will send you a card reader. This provides an additional level of security to use when logging into your online banking. It's a small gadget that you will enter your PIN number into, and it then generates a unique passcode every time to log in to online banking.
- Some banks now have a warning when you transfer money to someone. This prompts you to double-check the details are correct and think twice that the person you are sending money to is genuine.
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