Derin Clark

Derin Clark

Online Reporter
Published: 13/02/2019

At a glance

  • Online bank accounts are sometimes offered exclusively online only - however more and more bank accounts come with online access.
  • Online bank accounts can be accessed either through your desktop or mobile device and increasingly come with Apps.
  • Online banking can be a convenient way to manage your money.
  • Always make sure to protect your online banking details.

What is online banking?

Online banking means accessing your bank accounts online, be it via a desktop computer, tablet, phone or any other internet-connected device. Increasingly, banks are offering dedicated smartphone apps for even better accessibility, allowing you to truly bank on the go.

Typically, customers will be able to undertake a variety of day-to-day banking activities through internet banking services, without needing to go to a branch or speak to someone in person. This can include transferring money between accounts, paying bills, checking bank statements or setting up automatic payments (such as direct debits or standing orders), and even applying for new products.

Benefits of internet banking

The convenience has got to be the top benefit of this form of banking. Gone are the days of needing to rush to a branch on your lunch break, or taking time out of your weekend to spend hours waiting in line – now, the majority of financial matters can be undertaken wherever and whenever it suits you, whether you’re commuting or curled up on your sofa. These days your phone can even be used to make physical purchases through services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, that link to your chosen credit or debit cards.

Then there’s the ability to truly keep on top of your finances. Because you’re able to log on and check the status of your accounts at any time, you can quickly see if there are any issues, such as if an upcoming payment means you’re likely to go overdrawn or if a calendar month fee might push you over the edge. Indeed, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), customers who use a mobile banking app and text alert service are 24% less likely to incur unarranged overdraft fees. This means that online banking could actually help improve your finances, as well as helping you monitor them.

It could also boost your chances of being alerted to any suspicious activity, such as identity fraud. If you check your balance and bank statements and don’t recognise any transactions, you can quickly dig deeper and contact your bank for further information – please call your bank immediately if you spot anything untoward. Though there’s the chance you’re concerned about the security implications of internet banking itself; please read on for what to watch out for, and why you needn’t be concerned about logging on.


What to watch out for

Banks and building societies are fully regulated by the FCA and Prudential Regulation Authority and have worked hard to make their online banking facilities as secure as possible. Websites are encrypted and you’ll likely need to go through several authentication steps before you can log on, with passwords and secure keys being commonplace, while some smartphone apps use fingerprint or even facial recognition software for added security.

That said, there are still a few things you need to watch out for to ensure your internet banking experience is as secure as possible:

  • When using public computers, never check the box to ‘remember your details’.
  • Be vigilant against phishing scams. Never respond to emails that ask for online banking passwords or personal details, even if they claim to be from your bank; this extends to text messages and phone calls, too. Your bank will only ever ask you for two or three digits of your password if they need to confirm your identity – never give anyone the whole thing.
  • If you’re banking on your phone, only ever use secure Wi-Fi connections or the 3G or 4G connection through your mobile provider. Never use public Wi-Fi for any banking activity as these often aren’t secure.
  • Most online banking facilities will automatically log out after a period of inactivity, but always log out manually, especially if you’re using a public computer.
  • Make sure your anti-spyware and anti-virus software are up to date.

How to choose the best internet bank account

When you open an online bank account in the UK, whether you’re after single or joint accounts, you want to make sure you’re getting the best one for your needs. This will likely depend on a range of important factors, such as overdraft facilities and whether or not the account offers in-credit interest, but another consideration will invariably be its online banking facilities.

These days, the vast majority (if not all) bank accounts offer some form of online banking, but not all are created equal. This is particularly true when it comes to banking apps, and is why research is key. Start the process by comparing online bank accounts using the above chart, and once you’ve found one with the features you need, do a bit of extra research into your potential account’s banking facilities (such as searching for reviews of banking apps). Then, click on the relevant “Go to Site” button that will take you directly to the account in question, letting you quickly and easily apply for a bank account online.

Can I get internet banking on an existing account?

Most likely, yes! Most current accounts offer some form of online banking; if you haven’t signed up with your provider yet, make sure to contact them to find out what to do next.

Can I use internet banking abroad? 

Generally speaking, yes – as long as you’ve got an internet connection, you’ll be able to access your bank account online. Though you’ll arguably need to keep security and potential costs in mind, even more so than when you’re in the UK: don’t use your hotel’s public wifi and instead use your phone’s internet connection, but only if you’re in the EU and therefore won’t be faced with extra roaming charges.

Can I use internet banking on my phone or tablet? 

Yes – provided you’ve got an internet connection, you can bank online. Most providers these days offer a banking app, too, so head to your phone’s app store to find it, or go to your provider’s website and follow the official links.

Can I open a bank account online in the UK? 

Yes, though some providers will still require you to go to a branch with identity details to complete your application. For others, the whole process is completed online, and if you’re switching accounts you can use the Current Account Switch Service (provided your old and new banks are signed up to the scheme – most of them are) for added ease

What about Open Banking?

You may have heard a lot about Open Banking recently. Open Banking and online banking are slightly different, though similar in many ways: Open Banking still allows you to bank online or on your phone, but rather than having different apps for different accounts, all of your financial information can be included in one place, if you choose to share that information between providers. You can find more about it here.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

woman shopping online on her phone

At a glance

  • Online bank accounts are sometimes offered exclusively online only - however more and more bank accounts come with online access.
  • Online bank accounts can be accessed either through your desktop or mobile device and increasingly come with Apps.
  • Online banking can be a convenient way to manage your money.
  • Always make sure to protect your online banking details.

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