Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about how we can help our elder parents get the most out of digital life—the ways we can help them look after their finances and health online, along with how they can use the internet to keep connected with friends and family, all safely and simply.
Online banking is for everyone. Or at least it should be.
The benefits of online banking are many for our moms, dads, and grandparents, just as they are for us. Elder adults can deposit checks, pay bills, transfer money to and from investments, and so on, all without needing to leave home. However, our parents and the older people in our lives may face a few hurdles that are holding them back. As a son, daughter, or loved one, there are things you can do to help them clear those hurdles so they can enjoy the convenience of online banking, safely and securely.
What do some of those hurdles look like?
- Familiarity, for one. Their comfort level with the internet simply may not be as high as ours. (After all, so many of us have grown up with it to some degree.) The web page layouts, transactional flows, and basic internet navigation sense that we all take for granted may still feel a touch foreign to them.
- Another hurdle is trust. Many of our parents simply know and have come to trust, in-person and face-to-face interactions, particularly at a bank. Simply put, they may be far more trusting of the teller behind the window than the web page on the browser.
Meanwhile, the digital world continues to evolve apace, particularly with regard to online banking. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of people in the U.S. who use online banking steadily rose to more than 65%, and more than three-quarters of Americans used a mobile device the last time they checked their balance. And as of 2020, nearly two billion people worldwide used online banking, a number that only continues to increase.
This rise in online banking has implications for the elders in our lives. Even if they aren’t active in online banking themselves, their financial information is part of this digital mix. The banks and financial institutions where they keep their savings and funds are digitally connected and digitally accessible. At a minimum, this means that they should take steps to protect themselves and their finances. Yet the upside is here is that we can help them do much more than that—that we can actually help them take advantage of online banking and enjoy its benefits.
Setting up online banking for mom and dad—start with the basics
Depending on their comfort level, you may want to start by reviewing some basic digital literacy before diving right into online banking. As mentioned above, there’s so much about the internet that we take for granted, and the elders in your life may benefit a little 101-level introduction to the internet.
When you’re both confident that their comfort level with the internet is in the right place, you can move on to the next step—making sure mom and dad have solid online protection in place. This is square one before going online, particularly when you’re banking online. Some basic digital hygiene will help protect their banking and finances. Moreover, it will help protect the other things they do online as well.
The following quick list is a great way to make them far more secure:
1) Update their software
That includes the operating system of their computers, smartphones, and tablets, along with the apps that are on them. Many updates include security upgrades and fixes that make it tougher for hackers to launch an attack.
2) Lock up
Computers, smartphones, and tablets will have a way of locking them using a PIN, a password, a fingerprint, or the owner’s face. Take advantage of that protection, which is particularly important if that device is lost or stolen.
3) Learn about tracking and wiping smartphones
This is important should they lose their smartphone or believe it’s been stolen. Have them turn on device tracking so that they can locate their phone or even wipe its data and contents remotely if they need to. Apple provides iOS users with a step-by-step guide for remotely wiping devices, and Google offers up a guide for Android users as well.
4) Use online protection software
Protecting your devices with comprehensive online protection software will defend them against the latest virus, malware, spyware and ransomware attacks plus help steer them clear of phishing attacks and malicious websites designed to steal personal and financial information. Also, make sure it offers a password manager like ours does, which can create and store strong, unique passwords for each of their accounts—alleviating the burden of mom and dad remembering them.
5) Look into an identity protection service
With all the personally identifiable information (PII) we create simply by using the internet, tracking and monitoring your PII is essential for preventing identity fraud and theft. The same is true for mom and dad. A strong identity theft protection package will offer cyber monitoring that can detect the misuse of your PII. Our identity protection service takes that protection a step further if the unfortunate happens with $1M coverage for lawyer fees, travel expenses, lost wages, and more.
Take it in steps
With their devices and PII more secure, you can move on to the banking portion itself. While there’s so much you can do with online banking, it’s a good idea to take things one at a time. Some elders aren’t sure how to sign up for online banking with their financial institution, so you can start there. Take them through the setup process (using that strong, unique password as mentioned above) and simply get them going.
From there, they can familiarize themselves with the layout of banking site or app they’re using. A straightforward task like checking account balances is a great way to do just that. After their comfort level with the site or app tales root, you can move on to other things they can do online, like pay bills online, deposit a paper check with their phone, and review their statements for any discrepancies.
Be ready to lend an ear and a hand
Another thing that may help put your folks at ease is to let them know you’re there to help. Questions will inevitably come up, and it’ll be a great comfort to them knowing that you’re around to lend them a quick answer as needed.
For example, let’s talk about spotting possible discrepancies in their statements. Some account entries may look a little strange because the name of a business does not always match the way it appears in a bank or credit card statement. This may lead to questions about the purchase—was it something they made? Is it a legitimate charge? These are answers you can help them track down.
Related, online banking provides our parents with a powerful tool against identity theft and fraud. By reviewing account statements closely, they can potentially spot bogus charges and purchases before they become a larger, and more costly, problem. (For a great primer on the topic, read and share this article that covers identity theft and fraud, along with steps to prevent it.)
Call on the experts
Several different banks offer resources specifically for elder bankers. The offerings will of course vary from bank to bank, yet you may find that they have videos and information on their websites designed to make online banking easier. Likewise, they may offer special services that mom and dad may qualify for. In all, feel free to lean on their bank for assistance as needed. They’re there to help.
You can also look into independent resources as well, such as the AARP and “Ready, Set, Bank,” which both provide a wealth of videos and articles about online banking.
Helping mom & dad get the most from online banking
As kids, grandkids, and younger loved ones, there’s plenty we can do to help the elders in our lives enjoy online banking with confidence. Shoring up their security, starting them easy, and then being there to answer questions can help them clear the hurdles of familiarity and trust they face.
Just as they’ve guided you through the ins and outs of life, here’s a chance to return the favor. What’s more, it’s yet another way you can spend time together, whether in person or over a call. And that’s a good thing.