“It’s a gimmick. It’s never going to take off.”
That was the CEO of Microsoft in 2007, talking about Apple’s new iPhone. How very wrong! Since then, Apple has sold more than one billion iPhones. Almost 90 percent of Australians have a smartphone and 43 percent of those smartphones are from Apple.
It’s not just young people glued to their devices either; 77 percent of Australians aged 55-plus have a smartphone and those that haven’t are likely to have a tablet or computer at home.
If you’re among that majority and you’re not already using your smart device to access online or digital banking, you’re missing a great opportunity to make your own life easier.
Kate Pepper, Westpac’s head of digital strategy, says if you’re already internet-savvy, getting started with online banking is a breeze.
She says while online banking using a home computer came first, most people, including over-60s, are increasingly gravitating toward using their smartphone to do their banking. Either way, she says, unlike many online services, it’s surprisingly easy to master.
“Just jump online,” she says. “First, you register for online banking and then you’ll be taken through the process to setup.”
Your local bank branch can also get you up and running.
“If you go into your branch regularly, it’s a great opportunity to have a really good conversation with one of our experienced bankers who are able to set you up for online banking,” Pepper says.
You can expect helpful advice because Westpac was a pioneer in online banking, first offering digital services since 1995, and that experience means staff are very familiar with helping customers to make the transition to online and digital banking.
“They’ll register you, they’ll take you through the sign-in process, set you up with extra security and get you started, and the beauty of doing that with a banker is they can make it quick and easy, as well as show you some of the great features so you’re set up for success from the beginning,” Pepper says.
She adds even people with a single transaction account can benefit from making the switch because the most basic services are immediately available online and are easy to understand.
“You can see your balance, you can see your transactions, you’re kept in the know with your financial position,” Pepper explains. “And if you’ve lost your card, you can put your card temporarily on hold, meaning that card is secure if it’s not in your wallet or where it needs to be.”
(It’s important to note, though, that if you’ve got a joint account, your partner will need to opt in to online banking too if they want to sign up.)
Once you’ve registered for online banking, you can download your bank’s app from the App Store or Google Play to your smartphone to have access to banking services when you’re on the go – and thus you’ve entered the world of digital banking.
That’s not all your phone can do. Having online banking facilities also means that if your card has gone missing, you retain access to your funds.
“You can carry your Westpac card on your smartphone and use that smartphone at millions of stores where contactless payments are accepted,” Pepper says.
Digital banking has other advantages that might save you a trip to your local branch. If you need to deposit a cheque, just take a photo using your smartphone and upload it to the app. You can use online banking or your bank app to check your balance, pay bills, send money overseas and access cardless cash from an ATM.
If you’re heading overseas yourself, you can notify Westpac of your travel dates and locations to enable the bank to keep an eye on your accounts for any suspicious activity. You can even organise travel insurance and a global currency card online with Westpac, as well as more easily keep track of your transactions while you’re away.
Pepper says online and digital banking offer a safe, convenient, flexible alternative to traditional banking.
“It gives you the ability to bank anytime, anywhere, it’s a smart, secure way to manage your money and it saves you time by being able to access your accounts online,” she explains.
While you’ve probably heard some horror stories about online fraud and identity theft (you can find some tips on to stay safe online here), Pepper suggests there are simple steps which will help keep your banking secure.
Firstly, always take the enhanced security option of having security codes to authorise certain online features. Changing your password regularly is another good idea, while switching from posted statements (or at least locking your mailbox!) to e-statements adds another level of security. Remember to also keep your passwords and security codes private, as sharing them (even with a partner that you have a joint account with) reduces your bank’s ability to keep you safe.
If you do lose funds from an online account as a result of internet fraud – and don’t forget, you can still be targeted if you’ve got a passbook account so remaining paper-based is no perfect protection from fraud – Westpac, like most financial institutions, has you covered with their Online Banking Security Guarantee.
“If your account is compromised as a result of internet fraud, we guarantee to repay the missing funds provided you complied with our online banking terms and conditions, one of which is keeping your phone and details secure and private,” Pepper says.
If you do think your online bank accounts may have been compromised, it’s important to phone your bank as soon as possible and be honest about how you believe your account may have been compromised.
It’s also important you only install apps from the App Store or Google Play and always keep your device up to date by completing regular system or app updates. You can even set these to happen automatically when you connect to wi-fi.
It pays to keep a careful eye on your smartphone itself as well, for the simple reason that while modern banking security might reduce the ability of an identity thief from accessing your money, a new smartphone can set you back more than $1,000 these days!
Things to know: The information in this publication is general information and factual only. It does not constitute any recommendation or financial product advice. It is an overview only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such. You should consider obtaining your own independent professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.
Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.