Online banking is more popular than ever before. The reasons are obvious: Logging into your account to pay your bill, check your balance or get in touch with customer service is easy and convenient. We could all benefit from simplifying our finances, and online banking supports that goal.
But what if you’ve never used online banking for your credit card and want to get started? Or maybe you’re using online banking but are unsure if you’re optimizing every feature. Don’t worry, the Nerds are here to help. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to making your plastic experience better with web banking.
Your online account: A roadmap
The first thing to keep in mind is that every bank structures its site a little differently. Here we’ll cover some of the features that are common to most online banking platforms, but you should spend some time exploring your own to see if it includes additional services.
In order to gain web access to your credit card information, you’ll first need to set up an online account. Log onto your bank’s site, click on “account access,” and follow the steps to establish your online credentials. This will include choosing a username and password, as well as selecting security questions.
Once you’ve logged in for the first time, you’ll see a lot of information. This probably includes:
Current balance – This figure is a tally of all your posted, unpaid charges. Although it’s called “current” balance, it might not be completely up-to-date (more on that in a moment).
Available credit – This is the total dollar amount of unused credit available on your card.
Pending transactions – These are charges you’ve made recently that haven’t yet posted to your account.
Posted transactions – These are charges that have cleared and are now being factored into your current balance.
Rewards – This is a tally of the rewards (points, miles, cash back, etc.) that you’ve racked up.
Payments – Clicking here will allow you to make a payment on your card. You’ll need to link a bank account to your credit card account to make online payments, but this only requires a few clicks. You’ll only have to enter this information once, so it will be easy to keep making online payments in the future. Once you start making online payments, you’ll also be able to view your payment history in this section.
Statements – This is where you can go to access your most recent statement. Most issuers also allow you to access your past statements.
Personal information – This is where you can go to update your address, phone number, password, etc.
Services – This is where you can go to set a travel notification, add an authorized user, reach a customer service representative, etc. Nearly any action you’d want that’s not available in another section of the online banking page will be found here.
Using your online account to become a better card user
Let’s review how you can use the information you’re getting from your credit card’s online banking site to become a better cardholder:
- Figure out your real current balance — Again the “current balance” section on your online banking page is only reporting posted transactions. If you want a more realistic picture of what you owe, you’ll need to subtract your available credit from your total credit line. Both of these figures are accessible online anytime (see above).
- Track purchases and returns — Periodically checking in with your account online will help you keep track of how you’re spending your money. This is a good way to be sure you’re sticking to your budget.
- Manage rewards — To maximize rewards, keep track of how much you’re earning and redeeming with your online account.
- Check for unauthorized activity — Reviewing your account regularly will make it easy to spot and report sketchy transactions.
- Save time — A good credit card user is one who streamlines managing her account. Online banking makes this a cinch.
Other features to consider
In addition to the basic features described above, you might also want to consider using some of the more sophisticated tools your bank offers. These might include:
- Alerts – Most card issuers allow you to set up email or text alerts for billing due dates, your current balance and other key information about your account. If you like frequent reminders, set up alerts online.
- Credit score tracking – Some credit issuers now provide monthly FICO scores to their customers. Your bank may even offer online credit score tracking. This helps ensure that you’re keeping your credit in good shape. If it’s an option, go for it.
- Paperless billing – Getting bills in the mail is a hassle. If you’re comfortable with online banking, consider signing up for paperless billing.
- Automatic payments – If you hate having to remember to pay your credit card bill, see if your issuer will do it for you automatically online. This could save you a lot of headaches!
The takeaway: Getting familiar with your credit card’s online banking features will make managing your account a breeze. Use our guide to get started!
Online banking image via Shutterstock