Safe Electronic and Mobile Banking

Learn how to keep your money safe while banking in the 21st century.

ATM and Debit Cards

Debit and automated teller machine (ATM) cards let you electronically transfer money from your bank account. With a debit card and personal identification number (PIN), you can use an ATM to withdraw cash, make deposits, or transfer funds between accounts. Some ATMs charge a fee if you are not a member of the ATM network or are making a transaction at a remote location.

You can also make retail purchases with a debit card. You can either enter your PIN or sign for the purchase. Although a debit card looks like a credit card, where you pay the card issuer at some time in the future, the money for a debit card purchase is transferred immediately from your bank account to the store’s account. When you use a debit card, federal law does not give you the right to stop payment; you must resolve problems directly with the seller.

Lost or Stolen Cards

If you suspect your debit card has been lost or stolen, call the card issuer immediately. Your liability for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss.

  • If you report a debit or ATM card missing before it is used, you are not responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals.
  • If you report the loss within two business days after you realize your ATM or debit card is missing, you are liable for up to $50.
  • If you report the loss between two and 60 days, you are liable for up to $500 .
  • If you have not reported an unauthorized use of a debit or ATM card within 60 days after your bank mails the statement documenting the unauthorized use, you could lose all of the money in your bank account as well as the unused portion of your line of credit established for overdrafts.

Check the policies of your card issuer; some offer more generous limits on a voluntary basis.

Overdraft Protection

If your bank offers overdraft protection for your debit card purchases, and ATM withdrawals, you must opt-in to this service. Banks can't impose overdraft fees for most ATM and debit card transactions if you haven't opted in.

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Mobile Banking

Many banks have made it convenient to do your banking using your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. Your bank may have a mobile application ("app") to keep track of your finances, pay your bills, or transfer funds using your smartphone or other mobile device. To get the best of these benefits and protect yourself, follow these guidelines:    

  • Make sure that your mobile device and banking app are password protected.
  • Sign up for text message alerts to know when transactions hit your account, or if your account goes below a minimum threshold.  
  • Access your account on secured connections.
  • Use fraud protection features, so you will know if someone, other than yourself, has changed your password or account information.  
  • Take additional precautions in case your device is lost or stolen. Check with your wireless provider in advance to find out about features that enable you to remotely erase content or turn off access to your device or account if you lose your phone. Quickly contact your financial services providers to let them know about the loss or theft of your device.
  • Research any app before downloading it.
  • Be on guard against unsolicited e-mails or text messages appearing to link to a financial institution’s website.

For more information, refer to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) Guide to Mobile Banking.

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Mobile Deposits and Payments

Mobile banking services allow you to deposit checks into your account and make payments using your smartphone, tablet computer, or other mobile device.

Mobile Deposits

You can take a picture of a check with your mobile phone’s camera, and then use your bank’s mobile app to upload and deposit the check into your account. Remember, just because you make a deposit through a mobile app doesn't mean the funds are available immediately. Some banks hold the funds on mobile deposits for more than a week, as opposed to the standard one or two-day funds hold for a deposit made in a local branch or ATM. This extended hold can cause you to overdraw your account.

Things to Remember When Making a Mobile Deposit

  • Find out your bank’s rules on the timing of funds availability for mobile deposits.
  • Hold on to the physical check, just in case there’s a problem. After it has cleared, you should shred it.
  • Find out if your bank charges a fee for mobile deposits. If so, is it monthly or per transaction?
  • Upload the check over a secured network to protect your account and that of the person who wrote the check to you.

Mobile Payments

There are various types of mobile payments, including:

  • Purchases
  • Bill payments
  • Charitable donations
  • Payments to another person

Bill Paying

Most mobile banking services allow customers to pay their bills by entering merchant information into their bank’s bill payment system. Some banks have made the bill payment process even simpler. Customers can use their mobile phone to take a picture of a paper bill from a merchant (provided the bill shows the company’s name and some other information) and then click the “pay” button. As with any mobile banking service, always check with your bank before signing up to make sure you know about any fees and rules.

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An overdraft can occur when you try to cash a check, withdraw money, or use your debit card for an amount greater than the amount of money in your checking account. While many banks and credit unions offer overdraft protection programs, you can choose whether or not to enroll in an overdraft protection program. 

Overdraft Protection Options

  • If you do not opt in to overdraft protection, your bank will reject the payment. It will not pay on your behalf and no fee will be charged. Keep in mind, banks and institutions are allowed to charge you overdraft fees when the bank or credit union pays a check or certain recurring electronic payments that would have overdrawn your account, even if you did not opt in to overdraft protection.
  • If you opt in to overdraft transfer protection, your bank will transfer money from your savings account or a line of credit, for a fee. 
  • If you opt in to overdraft protection, your bank will pay for transactions and charge you a fee for each payment it covers for you.

Transaction Reordering

Some banks reorder the processing of your daily transactions. Instead of processing your payments and deposits in the order that you made them, the bank can choose to reorganize them based on type of debit (check, electronic payment) or size of the debit (larger amounts processed first).

Transaction reordering can cause your account to have insufficient funds to cover your purchases, even if you made a deposit on the same day. If you have opted in to overdraft protection, your bank could cover the purchases, but would charge you a fee for each instance. 

File a Complaint About Overdraft Fees

For problems with overdraft fees, first contact your financial institution. If contacting the bank does not resolve your problem, you can contact the bank’s federal regulator for assistance. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) Consumer Assistance and Information explains how to contact your bank’s federal regulator.

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Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards are used to access money you have paid in advance. They are convenient ways to pay for your purchases that do not require you to have a bank account or credit history. A prepaid card can refer to many types of cards, such as:  

  • Gift cards issued by retailers to consumers - These are typically used up when you deplete the value on the card.
  • Prepaid debit cards and stored value cards - Some of these cards allow you to add money to them and continue using them over and over. You can also use some of these cards to take money out of an ATM.

While in many situations using a prepaid card might seem like the most convenient choice, make sure you understand the card’s terms and conditions before you make a purchase.

Card Protections

Prepaid cards carry similar protections to debit and credit cards. However, some prepaid cards may offer fewer consumer protections than credit cards in the event of loss or a disputed charge. To obtain the benefits offered by a prepaid card, you must follow the instructions for registering and activating your card. Be sure to record your card information, including the customer service telephone number listed on the back in a separate place, so you can get a replacement if yours is lost or stolen. Some prepaid card issuers may charge fees for card activation, maintenance, and cash withdrawals.

File a Complaint

For problems with a prepaid card, contact the customer service department listed on the card. If the issue is not resolved, you can file a complaint with the proper authorities.

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