Go digital!

How to save money and keep updated using the e-features you didn’t know your bank offered.

Digital management of bank accounting 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Digital management of bank accounting 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the defining aspects of the 21st century is our desire to get information quickly and act on it even quicker. We want to see the soccer games as they happen, watch movies on their opening night and deal with stocks by the second.
Interestingly, this trend hasn’t completely caught on when it comes to banking.
Although banks today are slowly embracing the digital age, consumers aren’t always aware of the benefits of digital banking.
Couch potatoes beware
Did you know that you can manage most aspects of your bank account without ever leaving the sofa? Since you need a password to access your account on the site, you’ll have to ask the teller at your local branch to enable Internet banking and print you a copy of your access code. Once you have your code the fun begins: You can view your transaction history months (and sometimes years) in the past to see exactly where you have been spending your hard-earned money. You can also view the live information for the current month to make sure the transfer you were waiting for actually went though. You can order checkbooks, check the balance on your credit cards (at least the ones associated with the bank) and even transfer funds without going to a teller.
Bank Hapoalim also has a feature that lets you compare your expenses with other people who are similar to you so you can see which categories of expenses you are overspending in.
If what you want isn’t available on the site, but you don’t feel like giving the bank a call, Bank Leumi and Hapoalim both offer features that allow you to instantly connect with a banker to get advice, perform a more complicated operation than the site offers, or just annoy your banker by talking about the latest soccer game. (I don’t recommend the latter, however, seeing as he’s in charge of your money and knows where you live.)
Banking by iPhone
If you need your updated banking information on the go, Hapoalim, Leumi and Discount all have iPhone and Android applications which make it easy to access your banking information from your favorite smart phone. While each application differs, they all seem to allow you the full capability of the website, including viewing transactions, checking account details and even securing transfers. Bank Hapoalim’s application also lets you pay bills by just taking a photo of the stub, something which until now required a teller. For those of you without a smart phone, don’t feel too left out: Hapoalim and Leumi both offer mobile versions of their website for easy browsing on older phones. Don’t discount bank Discount though – I’m sure its mobile site exists somewhere; I just wasn’t able to find it.
Not all the aspects of digital banking involve your computer: most banks now offer the ability to deposit checks using the “information” machine at the entrance to your branch. Not only does this frequently save money (for example, depending on your account, Leumi charges less for computer transactions than teller-assisted ones) it saves the long and frustrating wait in line.
Augmented reality banking
Trying to find a bank branch or ATM can be a bit of a pain. ATMs are sometimes hidden in the corner of malls and branches can be in places that you would least expect.
Leumi helps you find ATMs and makes you feel like Iron Man or the Terminator at the same time. Much like the targeting display that Iron Man sees with his helmet on, Leumi’s iCleumi application on Android and iPhone uses “augmented reality” to help you locate the nearest branch or ATM.
It does this by finding your location using the phone’s GPS and then turning on the camera. When you hold the phone up and look at the world though the camera, you will see little icons floating in the picture directing you to the nearest ATM in real time. This effect can’t really be described in words. If you are a Leumi customer, download the application and check it out.
Faster than a speeding SMS
True information junkies, such as myself, don’t have time for websites or applications – we need the information even faster. For those of us who treat information like an extreme sport, most banks have an SMS service which can notify you about events associated with your accounts in real time.
Withdraw money? You’ll get an SMS in sometimes less than 60 seconds letting you know that money has been withdrawn from your account. Swipe your credit card? Get notified that your bank has accepted the payment. Besides being useful for keeping track of your finances, it can notify you the minute fraud occurs by tipping you off about the withdrawal. And since you have your finger on the pulse of your financial life, you’ll know the second your significant other tries to buy you a birthday gift with your joint credit card. Still, that’s a small price to pay for knowing exactly the second your paycheck has been deposited into the bank and is ready for spending.
Obviously, not all banks offer the same features. Ask your teller for information about your bank.