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The financial institution of the future

Not banking online? You're throwing time and money out the window.

Courtesy of USAA

In today's increasingly mobile society, it's clear that you can take it with you. Small and more powerful cell phones, notebook computers, and MP3 players mean that no matter where you are – no matter what you're doing – you are connected to family and friends, to work, and to entertainment. Today's technology also means that whether you're at home, across town, or across the ocean, your financial network is at your fingertips, too.

J.J. Montanaro, a USAA CERTIFED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioner, answers questions about the financial institution of the future, and how you can use the latest technology to manage your money.

Be smart and safe when handling your finances online

Online banking and investing allow you to receive bills and statements electronically, essentially eliminating the paper trail that leads thieves to your credit, debit, and account information. Still, it's best to follow a few simple rules that can keep your financial information safe and secure:

1 Protect personal information.
Never save your online ID, password, or PIN so they are automatically entered when you log on to your account.

2 Don't be too forthcoming.
Don't respond to e-mails asking for personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, or phone number. 

3 Secure your computer.
Install anti-spyware, anti-virus, and firewall software on your computer, and keep your operating system current with software updates.

4 Protect your password.
Use a password that is secure. Avoid the obvious, such as birthdays, children's names, or words found in the dictionary. And change your password regularly.

5 Look for a guarantee.
Choose a financial institution that offers an online security guarantee.

What do you mean by “financial institution of the future?”  
That's simple: The financial institution of the future will allow you to manage your money anytime, anywhere via telephone or computer. It will give you the freedom to bank and invest electronically – open accounts, move money, make deposits, check credit card and bank account balances, get stock market quotes – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why is it better to do business electronically? Isn't it preferable to speak to a “live person?”
There certainly will be times when it's necessary to seek advice from an experienced banking or investing representative. But for day-to-day financial activities, electronic banking and investing is far more convenient. You never have to wait for banking hours to begin – your financial institution is open day and night, and you'll never have to step inside a physical branch.

Will the financial institution of the future save me money?
Absolutely. Online institutions don't have to spend money on building and maintaining brick and mortar buildings, real estate taxes, electricity, or outsized labor forces. The savings are passed on to consumers in the form of better rates and up-to-date technology that saves you time and money.   

What about the unique needs of military families?
Online financial institutions are tailor-made to serve the unique needs of the military community. Even soldiers deployed in war zones can manage their money via e-mail and cell phones. Distance doesn't matter and time zones are no obstacle when banking and investing needs are handled electronically.

What about cash withdrawals? Those can't be handled electronically. What do I do when I need money right away? 
The best online financial institutions give their customers easy access to cash through ATMs anywhere in the world. Look for a bank that will reimburse all or part of ATM fees charged by third-party banks.

How can I make deposits to my accounts? Won't it take days to deposit a check by mail?
Look for a financial institution that allows you to make deposits from anywhere in the world – day or night – with a scanner and a computer. With just a few clicks of a mouse, your money will be securely deposited and readily available. 

What if I want to review my statements? How can I track my spending, savings and investment earnings?
With electronic banking and investing, it's easy to track funds. When you pay a bill online, you'll see exactly when a payment was made or cleared, simply by logging on to your account. Look for a financial institution that will let you review several months of banking or investing statements online – and one that will let your download your records to financial software, such as Quicken or Microsoft Money. That will make budgeting and record-keeping even easier.

What other benefits do the financial institutions of the future offer?
Look for an institution that is truly personalized – one that goes the extra mile by offering financial advice via e-mail, customized bank account and credit card alerts, and special features such as online debt analysis and start-to-finish loan applications and approvals.
About USAA
USAA, a diversified financial services company, is the leading provider of competitively priced financial planning, insurance, investments, and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their families. Named by BusinessWeek as 2007's Customer Service Champion and ranked highest among financial services companies for customer advocacy in a Forrester Research survey, USAA provides convenient and accessible financial products to its more than 6 million members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit

USAA is a diversified insurance and financial services organization that has served the military community since 1922. USAA Financial Planning ServicesSM refers to financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency, and its wholly owned subsidiary.
USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates.

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