How to Link Online Bank Accounts (and Safety Tips for Banking Online)

There are numerous reasons people have multiple bank accounts these days. Some people are self-employed and have an account purely for business expenses, while another is used for their personal expenditures. Some people have a bank account for essential expenses, such as property taxes, their mortgage and cell phone bills, while another is used for discretionary purchases.

Having multiple bank accounts can be a great idea in some circumstances. This is especially true if you have multiple accounts with different banks. However, it can also create complications. Sometimes, you need to transfer money from one account to another. The easiest way to do this is by linking your accounts.

Here are some things that you should do to link multiple bank accounts.

Try to create all of accounts with the same bank

Banks are very generous with allowing customers to create more than one account. In fact, the vast majority of banks allow customers to create as many accounts as they want, including Citibank, Chase, Bank of America and Ally Bank. The only notable exceptions are Barclays Bank and Capital One. Capital One allows customers to create up to 25 saving accounts, 50 certificate of deposits and three checking accounts. That is still far more than you are likely to need.

There may be a practical reason to have accounts with more than one bank. If you live part of the year in different regions, you may want to use separate banks that don’t have branches overlapping in each community. You may find that some banks have more convenient checking account policies, while others have higher interest rates on their certificate of deposit accounts. In this case, it might be ideal to have separate accounts to take advantage of the generous policies each bank offers.

If there is a compelling reason to have separate accounts with different financial institutions, then you shouldn’t have a lot of trouble linking them. However, it is preferable to keep all of your accounts with one institution otherwise. Here are a couple of reasons:

  • It will take longer to transfer money between accounts in different financial institutions. You may need to wait up to a week for your transfer to be completed. The same process could probably be completed within 24 hours if the accounts were part of the same bank.
  • You will be charged a fee to transfer money to an external account. According to the US Bank Online and Mobile Financial Services Fee Guide, US bank customers may be charged up to three dollars for every money transfer to an account with another financial institution. Most banks rarely or never charge a fee to transfer money between linked accounts within their network.

If using the same bank for all of your accounts as an option, it is definitely the way to go.

Use an app or your online account to link to external bank accounts

If you do need to use an external bank account, it should be pretty easy to set it up. The best way to go about it is by simply logging into your online banking account dashboard or using the app from your respective bank. From there, you will need to take the following steps:

  • When you look at the dashboard, you should see a section that either says “transfers” or “external accounts.”
  • Enter the name, location, routing number and checking number of the external account. You can find this information on one of your checks from the other financial institution. You may not be able to get it from the online account with the other bank, because many banks shield it for security purposes.
  • Click a button saying something that looks like “Add a New account (again, the exact wording will differ for each financial institution’s online account dashboard).
  • You will receive some small deposits into your new account. The purpose of these deposits is for you to verify the amount, so you can confirm that you are the owner of the external account. It may take a couple of days for the deposits to be completed. Once they are, you will need to confirm the amount in your online dashboard.

The entire process may take 3 to 4 days, depending on what time of day you submit the request (it may take an extra day if you submit the request after 5 PM or your banks regular hours), the distance between your banks and how long it takes for your financial institution to process your request and make the deposits.

Only link accounts from trusted banks with adequate security

You should always do your due diligence before creating an account with any financial institution. There are a number of fraudulent websites posing as legitimate banks, which try to swindle unwitting customers.

Of course, this is not the cause of most online banking fraud. The biggest concern is that legitimate banks have weak online security protections. This can be a serious concern if you link accounts between them. If one of your bank accounts has insufficient cybersecurity protections, your external accounts can be exposed if they are penetrated.

Some of the most popular online banks can be found below.

If you have lost confidence in a financial institution’s ability to protect your accounts, you do not want to link it to another bank. You are simply exposing those accounts to potential fraud as well. It is best to simply stop using the accounts until the bank has demonstrated that it is taking your security more seriously.

Take sensible security precautions on your end

You can’t depend on the bank to be fully responsible for your online security. The majority of security breaches are due to negligence on the customer’s part.

You will obviously need to have a strong password to protect your account. As a general rule of thumb, you should have a password that is between eight and 16 characters long, with at least one number and one special character.

Protecting the security of your mobile phone is also important if you use it to access your online banking accounts. Make sure that you have a strong PIN in case your phone is stolen. You should also avoid using the auto fill feature for filling out passwords. This picture may seem convenient, but it is a huge security risk if your phone is compromised.

Remember, the stakes are higher if you have linked accounts from different banks. If the security of one account is breached, then your linked accounts will be vulnerable as well.

Linking Your Accounts Should Be Easy

It doesn’t take a lot of work to link your bank accounts. You should be able to do it effortlessly if they are within the same bank. If you are trying to link accounts between different financial institutions, then it will take a little longer, but the process is still pretty straightforward. During this process, you might also have some issues with logging into your account. If this is the case, try logging out and logging back in. Sometimes accounts can time out, especially on finance and bank sites. Just make sure that you keep your accounts secure, because all linked accounts will be vulnerable if any of them are breached!

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