Mobile Wallets: Moving Shopping Into the Future

A more secure and convenient way to make payments
These days, most transactions don’t involve physical money, so why should they involve physical wallets? Thanks to new technologies like Samsung Pay, Android Pay (formerly Google Wallet) and Apple Pay, you can now use your smartphone to securely make transactions without ever having to take out your credit card.

According to the latest survey data from market research firm CMB, only about 15 percent of smartphone users actually utilize these technologies to pay for purchases, but usage nearly doubled from 2013 to 2015 and will likely continue to rise over the next few years as the benefits of mobile wallets are better understood.

If you are not sold on the idea of joining the new trend, here’s why you may want to reconsider:

Ease of use
A mobile wallet is an app that can be installed on a smartphone, or may even come pre-installed. Investopedia explains how they work: “Once the app is installed and the user inputs his payment information, the wallet stores this information by linking a personal identification format like a number or key, QR code or an image of the owner to each card that is stored.”

You may also have to contact your financial institution to allow the mobile wallet app to use the payment card. Once everything is set up, the mobile app uses a radio-based technology called Near-Field Communication (NFC) that communicates with the merchant’s point-of-service terminal. In other words, you only need to wave or hold your device over a store’s reader to make a payment.

Security
Because mobile wallets use encrypted payment codes and never actually transmit your account number, they are much safer to use than credit cards. In addition, paying with a mobile wallet requires your fingerprint or personal identification number, so even if a thief managed to get their hands on your smartphone, they would have a much harder time spending your money than if they had stolen your credit card.

“Even if a thief bypassed all the security, the risk to you is low,” Jeff Blyskal writes in an October 2016 article for Consumer Reports. “Mobile wallets usually require an underlying credit or debit card to fund transactions, and those cards limit your liability for erroneous or fraudulent charges to little or nothing.”

Convenience and incentives
Mobile wallets can be used for more than just emulating credit and debit cards. “In addition to payment cards, the mobile wallet can also be used as a storage device for driver’s license, Social Security Number, health information cards, loyalty cards, hotel key cards and bus or train tickets,” Investopedia explains.

Thanks to mobile wallets, you can carry hundreds of rewards cards virtually, making it easier to keep track of the ones you own and to remember to use them. You can even use mobile wallets to make online payments, removing the need to tediously enter dozens of digits for each transaction.

You can also save money with various reward programs. For example, Android Pay offers rewards for using the app at selected partners, while Samsung Pay offers a tiered rewards system based on how many monthly purchases you make with it.

Widespread adoption
So far, the main obstacles faced by mobile wallets are the different payment methods. While almost all modern smartphones will support Samsung Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay or a combination of these, all three of these apps may not necessarily work at all retailers.

“Samsung Pay can be used at more than 10 million U.S. stores, Apple Pay at more than 3 million stores, and Android Pay at more than 1 million stores,” Blyskal says. “The numbers will grow as retailers upgrade their payment card readers.”

Being able to use Samsung Pay at more than 10 million stores easily makes it the most attractive of all the mobile wallets, but you have to own a Samsung smartphone to use it. The upside is that it works everywhere: according to Ethan Wolff-Mann in an October 2015 article for the Time’s Money, “[Samsung Pay] works everywhere, since it can mimic a magnetic strip if NFC technology is unavailable; retailers don’t get your credit card info.”

This doesn’t mean that Samsung will continue to be the best option for smartphone owners interested in mobile wallets, as both Google and Apple are strongly invested in using this technology to sell smartphones and will continue to implement rewards for using them. Furthermore, using a mobile wallet speeds up transaction times, which gives retailers extra incentive to adopt NFC-capable card readers.

For the time being, mobile wallet adoption across retailers may still not be good enough to leave your credit card at home. In the future, however, it’s very likely you’ll never need to go out shopping with more than just your smartphone.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Safe Practices for Mobile Banking

How to bank safely on your smartphone
Technology has made the everyday hassles of life easier, whether it be ordering groceries online and having them delivered to your doorstep or navigating to a destination you have never visited before.

One of the biggest areas where technology has bred convenience is in terms of banking and budgeting. Mobile banking apps make it easy to check balances, monitor activity and make transfers without ever having to step foot in the lobby of your local bank or credit union. But with public concerns over cyber security and identity theft on the rise, the expediency of mobile banking also inspires questions with regard to safety.

According to Niles Howard, editor at Bankrate.com, a study from Javelin Strategy & Research found that the fear of lackluster security remains the most prevalent concern of potential mobile banking users. But as Howard notes, there is less cause for concern than you might think.

“The good news is that the fear [of a lack of security in mobile banking] is so far worse than the reality, thanks in part to the financial industry’s heavy investment in security technology,” Howard writes, noting that several institutions cover 100 percent of a customer’s mobile fraud losses.

To keep your money extra secure, there are measures that can be taken to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of fraud, starting with ensuring that your phone itself is inaccessible to someone who might try to physically unlock it. Some of the steps that you can take to protect your phone from being opened by an unwanted party include setting your phone to automatically lock or time out after going unused for a period of time, setting up touch identification where applicable and maintaining a strong unlock password or PIN.

Mobile banking security is also dependent on the security of your online account. Nerdwallet.com contributor Margarette Burnette recommends that your online banking password uses “combinations that are difficult to guess, such as a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols,” and that you make it a point to change your password in regular intervals. If your mobile banking app provides fingerprint verification, this would also serve the purpose of concealing your password whenever using mobile banking in front of others.

With regards to using mobile banking on the go, financial writer for NerdWallet Steve Nicastro advises against using public Wi-Fi networks to access an app. Nicastro cites the Federal Trade Commission, which notes that mobile apps are less secure because they lack visible indicators of connection privacy. Greg Kraynak, chief executive of Cellhire, indicates that cyber criminals could set up free Wi-Fi hotspots for the express purpose of stealing your information. As such, if you are banking on the go, avoid using any public internet connections or instead use your banking institution’s mobile website.

As long as you take the appropriate level of precaution, mobile banking is a great convenience that can help make your life easier. Be vigilant with your money and smart about the ways that you protect your identity, and you should have little to fear.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Tips for Making Safe Credit Card Purchases Online

In today’s digital age, you need to be especially careful when making online purchases

With online shopping becoming the norm, people have also become more susceptible to identity theft. It’s imperative that you be careful and mindful of how you shop online.

A November 2016 article in The Balance by contributor LaToya Irby outlines seven tips for safe online shopping:

Conduct your online shopping only on websites you trust
It may sound obvious, but using your credit card to make online purchases only on those websites you know and trust could save you from becoming a victim of fraud. Never click on links provided via email; instead, type the entire URL of the website into your browser to open the site.

Never shop from a public place
Public computers are susceptible to hacker technology, such as software that captures your keystrokes and retains your personal and credit card information. Additionally, public Wi-Fi is unsecured and, as such, could redirect your device to a fake internet connection that an identity thief can monitor and use to intercept your personal information.

Keep your devices protected from viruses
Always stay up to date with virus and spyware protection software, and make sure you are using antivirus software that is reputable, not the type for which you receive an ad via email or in a pop-up window.

Check with the BBB first
The Better Business Bureau marks websites with poor customer service records, so make sure to check out the credibility of the site in question using the BBB before making a purchase.

Use credit cards, not debit cards
Credit cards have better protection services against fraud than debit cards, so you’re liable for fewer fraudulent charges if they occur. Additionally, you could lose access to your account and your funds while the financial institution sorts out a debit card that has been compromised, whereas with a credit card the only access that’s affected is that line of credit.

Make sure the website you use is secured
Always look for the green lock symbol at the start of your URL browser, and make sure you type in the website using “https” to ensure the site is secured to encrypt your information when making online purchases.

Keep track of your purchases with receipts
Just as with in-store purchases, printing a copy of the receipt of your online transaction will help you track your credit card activity. Use the printed copy to compare against your monthly credit card statement and watch for fraud.

In a November 2016 article in the Better Business Bureau by APR, CFEE Janet C. Hart recommends checking both your credit card activity and your bank account activity once a week, rather than waiting for the monthly statement. This ensures you catch fraudulent activity shortly after it’s occurred instead of finding out weeks later.

Hart also advises that we be wary of phishing scams—emails seemingly from a business claiming an error with your order or your account and asking you to confirm personal and identifying information. Legitimate businesses do not send these types of emails.

“Beware of ‘GREAT’ deals — if you find a website offering deals that seem too good to be true, they probably are. You may get a knock-off product, a product that is not the brand you ordered, or you may get nothing at all,” adds Hart.

Lastly, Hart recommends always checking the website’s privacy policy before making purchases online, so you know exactly how your personal information will be used.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How online banking can keep you from overdrawing your account

Seeing red? Prevent a negative balance in your account by following these simple tips, many of which can be achieved with a simple enrollment in online banking.

TRADITIONAL BANKING SOLUTIONS
Opt out of overdraft coverage.
Debit card transactions cause more overdrafts than any other transaction type, according to a 2014 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published by NerdWallet staff writer Spencer Tierney. Luckily, since 2010, consumers have had the option of opting out of overdraft coverage, a service that declines debit card or ATM transactions when your account contains insufficient funds. The alternative would be incurring an overdraft fee from your financial institution for the insufficient funds, as well as a returned item fee from the entity receiving your money. Opting out eliminates the additional fee or stops you from making a purchase that would send your account into the red.

Maintain a buffer balance.
Most overdrafts occur due to relatively small sums, often $20 or less. That means you can avoid a lot of overdraft fees by keeping a cushion in your checking account at all times just in case a deposit is delayed or you make a mistake in your register,” says Marcie Geffner of Bankrate.com. U.S. News contributor Simon Zhen recommends a buffer amount equal to the sum of one month’s recurring expenses (rent, utilities, fuel and groceries).

Link an account or line of credit.
Your financial institution may offer the option of linking a savings account, credit card or specified line of credit to your account that would cover an overdraft if needed. “When a transaction causes a negative balance, a [financial institution] will automatically perform an overdraft protection transfer from the linked account to cover the overdrawn amount,” Zhen explains. “Note that [financial institutions] may charge an overdraft protection transfer fee. With a line of credit, you’re simply borrowing from this credit line and you’ll be subject to interest charges, just like any other loan.”

ONLINE BANKING SOLUTIONS
Use online bill pay rather than auto pay.

Automatic bill pay is a great service as far as convenience goes, but it can wreak havoc on maintaining a budget. Instead of setting up auto pay with billers, utilize online bill pay through your financial institution’s online banking. Making the payments manually gives you control over the transaction, so you won’t have to worry about any forgotten expenses pulling your account balance below zero. It’s also a better option than mailing in a physical check, which could take weeks to clear.

Dutifully monitor spending.
Another benefit of online banking is the mobile aspect. Today you can check your account balance anywhere, anytime—sometimes without even manually signing in. Taking full advantage of that increased potential for vigilance can save you big.

Create account alerts.
If you find manually checking your balance to be a bit tedious, automate the process instead. Sign up for alerts through your online banking, which will notify you via email or text message anytime a certain event occurs, such as unusual account activity, an overdraft or falling below a certain amount. Some platforms will even allow you to do this in real time. “When you’re alerted to an overdraft, you may be able to deposit money in time to avoid the overdraft fees,” Zhen says.

By simply being observant and taking advantage of the tools and resources provided to you by your financial institution, you should be able to circumvent overdrafts and their corresponding fees.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How Online Banking Can Help You Budget Better

Benefits of online banking that can aid in your budgeting process

Online bankingfebruaryfeatured_onlineacctaccess can make a personal budget much easier to manage. Enrolling will offer you numerous benefits to constantly ensure that your finances are on track, such as the following:

It will list all your accounts in one place. With online banking, you don’t have to worry about how much money per paycheck you need to avoid spending in order to save enough for that summer vacation. Make that expenditure or savings goal its own account and either manually or automatically transfer that amount. That way, you will be able to see your total amount of assets, but you won’t be tempted to, or accidentally, spend the money you needed for the plane ticket while shopping at the department store.

You may be able to organize your expenditures by category. Some software that your financial institution may utilize, like FinanceWorks, as well as third-party apps or web browser extensions such as Mint allow you to create expense categories-or better yet, do it automatically for you. This is beneficial for future budgeting purposes or to make adjustments, because you can see how much was paid in a specific area (e.g., electricity, groceries, phone service).

“This saves time and confusion from sorting through months of paper statements and allows you to compare spent amounts with budgeted amounts – so your budget resembles your real life as closely as possible,” says professional money manager and Investopedia contributor Ryan Barnes.

Scheduling and alerts allow you to avoid late payments or overdraft fees. These little charges can take a toll on your finances if you don’t stay ahead of them. Automatic bill paying and scheduling recurring payments will send a set amount of money to a certain payee on the exact date you request, so you can avoid late fees. You can also schedule alerts to tell you if your account balance is getting low, which is helpful to avoid both overdraft and returned check fees, as you can immediately transfer money from another account and conveniently get the information you need to adjust your budget.

You can see your finances in real time. Paying bills and other financial operations are almost immediate (or at least more so than writing a paper check, sending it through the mail and having to wait for it to clear). The widespread adoption of mobile banking (online banking, but not tied to a personal computer) has also facilitated these benefits.

“Consumers have a greater handle on their money since they only need a mobile connection to access their accounts. No Internet service is required,” says Bankrate.com Editor Janet Stauble. “There are fewer surprises, as customers can check their balances and transactions anytime.”

Being able to analyze your finances in real time is especially helpful in the small business realm, says Chris Joseph of Small Business Chronicle, as you can see all your accounts and expenditures right in front of your eyes, while knowing exactly what is liquid and what assets are tied up.

Whether you use it for personal or for business reasons, online banking offers many advantages that can be vital to keeping a successful budget. Check out MyBranch Online Banking by visiting our site!

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Avoid These Online Scams

Keep your bank account safe online
Once you begin experiencingjanuaryfeatured_onlinescams the time savings and convenience of banking online, it may become hard to remember how you ever lived without it. The online tools provided by your financial institution can make many of your financial tasks a breeze, while built-in security measures keep your information and your money safe.

Occasionally, however, scammers attempt to trick people by masquerading as a legitimate business or financial institution. Below is some information you can use to help keep you safe from scams.

One of the best ways to avoid being scammed is to use a safe method of payment, such as the credit card from your financial institution.

“Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t,” the Federal Trade Commission states.

When you use your credit card, your transactions are supported by a suite of security services that attempt to identify, prevent and alert you to suspicious activity. That added layer of security can protect you from fraud and give you peace of mind when you shop and bank online.

“Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back,” states the FTC. “That’s also true for re-loadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla.”

In other words, skip the re-loadable cards unless they come directly from your financial institution and be sure to use your credit card to benefit from the fraud protection services when making purchases. This is an especially good idea when shopping online, as illegitimate websites can masquerade as well-known stores to encourage you to enter your payment information, and scammers can attempt to intercept your payment information on unsecured networks.

“Resist the temptation to use free public Wi-Fi,” cautions USA Today contributor Elizabeth Weise. “It is a trivial matter for hackers to eavesdrop on your connection and steal your information.”

Another important way to protect yourself is to keep track of current scams and remain watchful for new ones, which you can do by signing up to receive scam alerts directly from the FTC at https://www.ftc.gov/scams.

On Oct. 27, 2016, the FTC announced that in the nine previous months, more than 111,000 people had reported receiving fraudulent calls from IRS imposters. The scam these callers were attempting to pull off typically involved stating that money was owed to the IRS and needed to be paid immediately to avoid dire consequences, but there were several variations on the theme. In order to help people identify these imposters, the FTC prepared an educational video, which you can find at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/ftc-fights-international-scams.

Another common scam that the FTC warns about involves fake checks and money orders, which are often printed using the highest-quality materials and state-of-the-art printers that are capable of reproducing authentic-looking watermarks. They may even be printed with the name of a real financial institution and include legitimate account and routing numbers.

These fake checks can be used in a variety of scams, one of the most popular of which is known as “check overpayment.” This is when someone tries to sell an item online, such as through Craigslist, and receives a check for more than the sale price. The buyer then asks for the excess money to be wired, after which the check bounces and the seller loses the wired funds. To avoid this scam, never accept payment for more than an item’s sale price and never wire money to a stranger.

“If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch,” the FTC states. “That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid.”

Lastly, never respond to an email with your personal identifying information or financial information, and always check with your financial institution if you suspect you have received illegitimate communication via email or phone.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How Online Banking Leads to Greater Awareness

Managing your accounts online helps with budgeting, spending and fraud prevention

Online banking, nowgreateraware_featured accessible from any mobile device, helps people be more aware of their spending and bank account data. With online banking, it’s much easier to prevent and detect fraud, manage your budget and ensure bill payments are received by the correct institution.

Transaction and Fraud Awareness
Most, if not all financial institutions now offer customers the ability to sign up for an online banking account. There are even some financial institutions that operate solely online. This makes it much easier to track your spending and manage your budget.

“People may find that online banking makes sticking to a budget easier because you can easily sort payments to see how much was paid to specific budget categories … and [it] allows you to compare spent amounts with budgeted amounts — so your budget resembles your real life as closely as possible,” wrote Investopedia contributor Ryan Barnes.

In fact, with online banking, you can stay up to date with your transactions and account balance almost in real time. It’s important to note that the balance and data listed on your online account statement may not be precisely accurate, as transactions could be pending or larger amounts than what you’ve purchased could be posted, such as with gas station purchases or hotel reservations.

However, Barnes reported that “some personal finance software programs (such as Quicken) can be linked directly to your online accounts to provide real-time analysis of all your balances and cash flows.” There are also money management apps, like Mint, that can sync with your online accounts to provide real-time information.

This is especially important in safeguarding against fraud. Some financial experts recommend checking your accounts and balances daily so you can quickly catch identity theft. If a fraudulent charge is made or money is withdrawn from your account without your authorization, you will be able to resolve the issue quickly, before more damage can be done.

Overdraft Fees and Bill Pay
Being able to track your account data also helps you protect yourself (and your money) from overdraft fees from the financial institution.

“If you sign up for online alerts with your [financial institution], you will receive an email when your checking account balance dips below a certain limit, say $50 or $100,” Lucy Lazarony, Credit.com contributor, wrote in an April 2014 article. Then you can make sure to transfer or deposit money into the account to avoid the penalty, which is $20 to $35 for most institutions.

Online banking also helps automate bill payments to help you ensure that your bills are paid on time and that they go to the correct person or business.

“You can have the payment go out on pre-determined dates (as in every month on the 15th) or simply log into your account each month and manually trigger the charges to your accounts. Either way, there is no postage to pay—and you can see the effect on your account balances immediately,” said Barnes.

With online banking, you will not only be more likely to think about what you’re buying but also be more aware of your transaction history, allowing you to catch and prevent identity theft and stay within your planned budget.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.