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How can I access banking servces, and pay my bills online?

Log-in screen

In spite of the recent efforts of high street banks and the advent of ‘hole in the wall’ cash dispensers in the 1980s, for many people dealing with banks is inconvenient and involves appointments and queueing. Your computer can help eliminate a lot of this.

Guy Clapperton | 9th September 2010

The first thing to say about online banking is that not all the banks do it exactly the same way. The following is based on personal experience, so this is more of a rough guide to how it’s done.

Around 23m people in the UK bank online to save time and perform their transactions when they want to, rather than when the bank is open.

Simple registration

Setting up your online account is simple. Go to your bank’s website and click on the “log in” or “register for online banking” section. Select “register” and sign up. Your bank will send you - by post - your password instructions and possibly a card reader. Your bank will send you detailed instructions when you register for online banking. These measures are entirely for your security. We’ll assume you have a card reader for the rest of the instructions.

When these have arrived, go to the website and click “register” again. When you’ve selected the fact that you have a card reader, the website will ask you to put your card into the reader and enter your PIN. Having checked this, the bank will send a code to your reader which you enter onto the screen.

After this (or variations on it), you’ll be set up to bank online. If you want to pay bills you’ll need the card reader again and the bank will verify you’re the card holder by sending a code after you’ve entered your PIN. Once this has happened, you will be allowed to enter your payee’s details.

At your convenience

The bank will be aware of the payment details for the major credit card companies - but if you want to pay just about anyone else, you’ll need their details. Payments can take a couple of days to process, although they are getting faster, and some banks have signed up to the scheme that allows them to make same-day transfers.

You will also be able to edit and set up standing orders and transfers between your accounts, apply for credit cards and overdrafts, and most of the other things you can do in person in a high street bank.

Your bank will never ask for your password, and don’t ever click through a link on an email that appears to come from your bank – it’s probably a scam. If you think it might be genuine, your bank won’t mind if you phone up and ask.

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton is a journalist specialising in writing about technology as well as small business for several major broadsheets. He broadcasts occasionally on BBC Radio stations and reviews the newspapers on the BBC News Channel.