Online banking, also known as internet banking, web banking or home banking, is an electronic payment system that enables customers of a bank or other financial institution to conduct a range of financial transactions through the financial institution’s website. The online banking system will typically connect to or be part of the core banking system operated by a bank to provide customers access to banking services in place of traditional branch banking. Online banking significantly reduces the banks’ operating cost by reducing reliance on a branch network, and offers greater convenience to customers in time saving in coming to a branch and the convenience of being able to perform banking transactions even when branches are closed. Internet banking provides personal and corporate banking services offering features such as viewing account balances, obtaining statements, checking recent transactions, transferring money between accounts, and making payments.
Some banks operate as a “direct bank” (or “virtual bank”), where they operate entirely via internet banking.
Operation of Online Banking
To access a bank and online banking facility, a customer with internet access will need to register with the bank for the service, and set up a password and other credentials for customer verification. The credentials for online banking is normally not the same as for telephone or mobile banking. Financial institutions now routinely allocate customers numbers, whether or not customers have indicated an intention to access their online banking facility. Customer numbers are normally not the same as account numbers, because a number of customer accounts can be linked to the one customer number. Technically, the customer number can be linked to any account with the financial institution that the customer controls, though the financial institution may limit the range of accounts that may be accessed to, say, cheque, savings, loan, credit card and similar accounts.
The customer visits the financial institution’s secure website, and enters the online banking facility using the customer number and credentials previously set up.
Each financial institution can determine the types of financial transactions which a customer may transact through online banking, but usually includes obtaining account balances, a list of recent transactions, electronic bill payments, financing loans and funds transfers between a customer’s or another’s accounts. Most banks set limits on the amounts that may be transacted, and other restrictions. Most banks also enable customers to download copies of bank statements, which can be printed at the customer’s premises (some banks charge a fee for mailing hard copies of bank statements). Some banks also enable customers to download transactions directly into the customer’s accounting software. The facility may also enable the customer to order a cheque book, statements, report loss of credit cards, stop payment on a cheque, advise change of address and other routine actions.
Features of Online Banking
Online banking facilities typically have many features and capabilities in common, but also have some that are application specific. The common features fall broadly into several categories:
- A bank customer can perform non-transactional tasks through online banking, including:
- Viewing account balances
- Viewing recent transactions
- Downloading bank statements, for example in PDF format
- Viewing images of paid cheques
- Ordering cheque books
- Download periodic account statements
- Downloading applications for M-banking, E-banking etc.
- Bank customers can transact banking tasks through online banking, including:
- Funds transfers between the customer’s linked accounts
- Paying third parties, including bill payments (see, e.g., BPAY) and third party fund transfers (see, e.g., FAST)
- Investment purchase or sale
- Loan applications and transactions, such as repayments of enrolments
- Credit card applications
- Register utility billers and make bill payments
- Financial institution administration
- Management of multiple users having varying levels of authority
- Transaction approval process
Some financial institutions offer special internet banking services, for example:
- Personal financial management support, such as importing data into personal accounting software. Some online banking platforms support account aggregation to allow the customers to monitor all of their accounts in one place whether they are with their main bank or with other institutions.