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Does your bank offer online banking? If it does, do you participate?

If you are not, you might be wasting time and money.

Simply put, online banking is the most convenient way to monitor your checking and savings accounts, transfer money from one account to another and pay your bills. You can have your paycheck automatically deposited in the bank of account of your choice if you also set up direct deposit at work. You'll rarely have a need to step foot in a bank again for such a basic transaction.

The rise of online banking

If you are not participating in at least some form of online banking, you are in the minority. According to a 2013 study by Fiserv, a technology provider to the financial services industry, 73 percent of those who access the Internet at least once a week now pay at least one bill online each month.

Mobile bill payment is also on the rise. In a more recent study released in January 2014 by Fiserv, mobile bill pay usage had doubled among U.S. online households in one year, from 8 million in 2012 to 16 million in 2013.

The benefits of online banking

That being said; a growing number of consumers are now paying their bills online. There's a simple reason for this: It is convenient.

Paying bills the old-fashioned way remains a hassle. You have to get out your checkbook, write a check, fill in your checkbook's ledger, address an envelope, find a stamp and then walk or drive your payment to a mailbox or post office.

That takes time. With online banking, that is easy.

If you want to pay your credit card bill, you just log onto your bank's Web site, enter your username and password, check your account balance and then authorize a payment. Your money is then sent electronically to your creditor.

Paying bills online isn't the only convenience. You can also check your current account statements whenever you'd like, again simply by logging onto your bank's online banking portal. Most banks provide plenty of information on your account, allowing you to scan backward in time to see what you've spent, what you've taken in and how healthy your balance is at any given moment.

If you've also set up direct deposit with your employer, you'll make your banking an even simpler task. Your paycheck will automatically show up in your checking or savings account on the day you get paid. You will not have to wait for human resources to drop off your check. Moreover, you will not have to drive it to your bank to deposit it.

Many banks also offer mobile banking. Under this service, you can download an app to your smart phone or tablet and then access your accounts on the go. This is perfect if you need to transfer money while you are commuting to work or while you are in line at the grocery store.

Safety first

Of course, you will have to practice smart Internet skills if you participate in online banking. You cannot do much to stop a widespread hack of your bank's accounts. Unfortunately, that can happen.

To start, you can protect your accounts by choosing strong passwords. You want your password to be one that you can easily remember but that no one else would guess. It is best to include letters, symbols and numbers in your password. Be sure not to use easy-to-guess passwords such as the street on which you live or your birth date.

You might, though, pick the phone number of a favorite restaurant -- one that you've called for takeout so often you can easily remember -- followed by three or four letters.

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