Is it safe to bind a bank account?

You may come across the option of linking multiple bank accounts or linking accounts to third-party financial applications when banking online. Linking bank accounts is an easier way to transact between the two, but it can also have some other unexpected benefits.

Here’s why you might want to link bank accounts and how safe it is to do so.

Often, the purpose of linking two bank accounts is to allow greater flow between the two, making it easier to transfer funds, split direct deposits and automatic savings. There may be other benefits to doing this, depending on where the account is located.

Link bank accounts with the same bank

Many consumers have multiple bank accounts with the same bank, such as checking and savings accounts or checking and money market accounts. You can transfer money between accounts at the same bank, but take the extra step of linking your accounts to avoid certain fees.

Some banks may waive monthly maintenance fees when you link your checking account to a savings account at the same institution, but you may need to meet a minimum balance between accounts.

Another fee that linked accounts can help bypass is overdraft fees. When you link your savings and checking accounts, the savings account can be used as a backup account to pay any amount in excess of what is available in your checking account. This way, there is no need to pay an overdraft, and funds are simply withdrawn from the linked savings account.

You may also need to link checking and savings accounts before setting up automatic savings.

Linking bank accounts with different banks

You may have a checking account with one financial institution and a savings account with another. To transfer funds between the two more easily, for example to fund a newly opened account, you need to link them externally.

Once accounts are linked, you can often see details about each account (including its balance, account number, and transactions) in one place, making it easier to keep track of each account. However, you will not be able to trade on the external linked account and will only be able to transfer funds to that account.

Transfers between linked accounts can be made externally, usually free of charge. You can also use the linked account settings to split direct deposit so that a portion of your paycheck goes into each account.

Banks and credit unions use a variety of security measures to ensure linked bank accounts are safe. These safeguards include:

  • Transport Layer Security, which encrypts data sent over the Internet. This means that hackers or other cybercriminals cannot see your personal information when it is shared electronically between banks.
  • Tokenization, a method of securely exchanging data online by converting it into tokens that hide sensitive information
  • Multi-factor authentication, which requires you to verify your identity through multiple channels, such as providing a PIN and fingerprint verification

Still, it’s important to keep your personal information safe, including passwords, account numbers, and PINs. Make sure to keep this information private and always use multi-factor authentication when you have the option.

There are many financial apps that require you to link your bank account to them to make managing your bank account easier. These apps can help you automate your savings, track your spending, or analyze your account for unnecessary charges and subscriptions. While many apps offer comprehensive security measures to protect your information, they may not all have the same level of security as banks.

Many reputable financial applications have security features and provide guaranteed protection against unauthorized transactions. For example, PayPal states that it “uses extensive security measures to protect your bank account or credit card number. We will never disclose your financial information to anyone unless we have your permission or we are required to do so by law.” It Also provides comprehensive coverage for unauthorized transactions. However, in the event of such an unauthorized transaction, it may take a while for you to get the money back.

Some apps are also covered by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which protects consumers from unauthorized electronic transactions. The Act protects peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, such as those made through Venmo, Zelle or Cash App. If funds are fraudulently withdrawn from your account, you can be held liable for up to $50 as long as the transaction is reported within two days. You may be liable for up to $500 within 60 days, after which you may be fully liable.

Before you link an external bank account to a third-party app, make sure the app is reputable and prevents unauthorized transactions.

benefit:

  • You can use linked accounts as overdraft protection to avoid overdraft fees.
  • Some banks waive monthly maintenance fees when you link another account.
  • It’s easier to transfer money between accounts, and you don’t have to pay wire transfer fees.
  • You may be able to take advantage of money-saving features such as automatic savings and split direct deposit.
  • If accounts are at different institutions, link them to view account details and activity in one place.

risk:

  • While FDIC-insured banks will have built-in security measures to protect your information, some third-party applications may not be as thorough. For example, they may not offer multi-factor authentication.
  • Linking your bank account to a third-party app means you expose more personal data in the app. This data may be vulnerable to a potential data breach. For example, in September 2022, fintech company Revolut suffered a data breach that exposed the data of over 50,000 users. However, Revolut responded quickly and no funds were compromised.

When you open multiple accounts with the same bank, the bank usually automatically links the accounts. Otherwise, you can ask your bank to link these accounts for you.

To link an external bank account, follow these steps:

  1. Gather the required information for the external bank account you want to link. This includes account numbers, routing numbers, and login information.
  2. Sign in to your bank’s website or mobile app and find the option to link an external account in your dashboard or settings, which may say “Link an external account” or “Add an external account.”
  3. Select or enter the financial institution you want to link to externally.
  4. You may be prompted to log in to an external bank account and provide an account number and routing number.
  5. Your bank may require you to complete the link verification process before the accounts are fully linked. This usually comes in the form of a small temporary deposit made by the bank into an external account. You will review account activity and confirm that the deposit was successful.

bottom line

Linking bank accounts can be used for a variety of purposes, whether it’s allowing you to use another account to fund an overdraft, waiving certain fees, or making it easier to transfer funds between accounts. While linked accounts are generally safe, be wary of lesser-known third-party financial apps and never share account logins and personal information.

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