The Art Of Haggling And Other Money Secrets

It's Not Your Momma's Bank Account | Mobile Banking, Online Solutions, And Beyond

In the not-too-distant past, people had to wait in line at the bank every Friday to deposit their paycheck, write out physical checks while in line at the grocery store, and withdraw enough cash from a teller (after waiting in a line) during the week to make it through the weekend. It's a new day. The lines are gone and people are no longer shackled to the physical bank -- or even an ATM -- for money. From smartphones to online banking, the digital age has changed the face of banking forever. 

1. Direct Deposit: While it may seem like direct deposit has just always been around, it hasn't. In fact, early adopter Xerox started their direct deposit program in the late 1970s, but most companies wrote paper paychecks until the mid-1980s. Understandably, many employees were leery of this new option. They wondered if money would be lost and electronic deposits would not be made. Reports state that once a few employees successfully used the service, then 80 percent or more of their coworkers would jump on the bandwagon. No one wanted to wait in line for a teller.

2. Mobile Banking: The advent of smartphones was another great step forward for banking. Now, you could not only check your balance, but you could make deposits by simply uploading a photograph of your check. Instead of spending a Saturday handwriting checks and paying bills, you could click a few buttons on your phone and pay them while riding the bus. If you run low on funds, you can transfer funds from your savings to checking with just a few clicks. 

3. Online Bill Payment: Better yet, instead of manually paying bills, online banking now made it possible to take that chore off your plate completely by setting up prescheduled, direct payments to your creditors. Online banking lets you see your overall financial picture -- when, how, and where your money is being spent and saved. Many systems can also recommend financial products and savings vehicles to help you meet your goals -- all while sitting in your pajamas on the sofa at two in the morning.  

4. Free or Low-Cost Trading Platforms: Online banking was soon joined by online trading. Investors no longer had to pay exorbitant fees to brokers just to invest in the stock market or trust their employer-provided investment vehicles for their retirement. Online trading platforms now make it possible to take control. With free and low-cost trading available online, anyone can buy and sell stocks -- all by themselves. A simple, online transfer of funds from a checking or savings account to an account at an online brokerage and you can buy individual or shares in mutual funds. There has also been a change in the level of investment, typically reducing the initial investment to a dollar amount that the average person can feel comfortable risking. 

5. Micro-Investing Apps: The latest change in the world of banking is micro-investing via an app on your phone. Several companies offer this service which is designed to help even the smallest investor (or youngest) get their feet wet in the market. Whether you are 19 or 99, buying shares of stocks like Amazon or Google -- currently trading at well over $1,000 a share -- can be out of reach. Micro-investing apps allow investors to pool their money, effectively buying a percentage of a share. With as little as five dollars, anyone can invest in their favorite hot stock. You can simply add money each month from your checking or savings account and build up your fractional shares until you reach your investment goals, one dollar at a time. 

As banking becomes easier to access, it puts the power back in your hands. Having instant access to your bank accounts to pay bills, deposit funds, save for a rainy day, or even plan your retirement makes the entire process more accessible and less stressful. Oh, and there are no lines.