Save time and money with online banking

These days, online banking offers a genuinely cost-effective and timesaving method of conducting business. Security issues shouldn't stop your organisation adopting the technology.

Online banking has been one of the real internet success stories. According to recent statistics, more than 75% of Australia's 8 million-plus internet users are participating in online banking. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that, in 2002, some 23% of all adults used the internet to pay bills or transfer funds.

Online banking has also become a way of life for organisations of all types and sizes.

Secure enough to offer a genuine alternative to branch-based banking, online banking also has the added advantage of attracting lower bank charges when compared to similar branch-based transactions, with the convenience of being able to manage your finances whenever it suits you.

But probably the most important benefit is being able to keep a close eye on what's happening in your organisation - the internet allows you to keep track of your cash flow: what's been paid, which cheques have cleared and your up-to-date account balance.

Online banking can also help to streamline fundamental procedures in your not-for-profit organisation, including:

  • paying bills
  • paying wages
  • managing invoices
  • transferring money between accounts
  • researching interest rates and special products
  • interacting with the tax office for payroll tax and GST.
The benefits of online transactions differ from one provider to another, and may include no monthly account service fees, no minimum transfer amounts (some maximum transfer amounts do apply), no requirements for minimum balance and no fixed investment terms, with the convenience of instant access to your funds through telephone and internet banking, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Using the internet can also save the time someone would normally spend physically going to a bank and standing in a queue.

Getting started

If your organisation is new to online banking, the Australian Government educational website 'Online Banking for Beginners' ( is a good place to start. Along with information and tips, you'll find a banking simulation (Simbank) feature that allows you to practice everyday online banking transactions.

Staying secure

Within your organisation, you have control over which levels of access apply to which levels of the organisation. For instance, 'no-value access' would allow someone to check whether a payment has been made, but not to move money out of the account.

Your bank or financial institution should offer industry-standard encryption, and some offer a security 'token' that prevents money from being removed from your organisation's account(s) without verification.

There are also important steps you can take yourself to make sure online banking remains a positive experience.

You must be wary of 'phishers' - criminals who masquerade as representatives of legitimate organisations, often using bank logos and typefaces in an email in the hope of convincing you that you have received an official message. Phishers may say that someone is using your organisation's account illegally, tell you to click on a link in the email and then ask you to re-enter or update your PIN or log-on information for 'security' purposes.

If you do click through in response to these emails, you will find yourself in a site that looks very authentic - but any information you provide will be captured for fraudulent use.

Another trick is to try to persuade you to click on a link that installs a 'Trojan' virus. This is a computer program that can secretly record keystrokes, such as your organisation's passwords.

Losing your identity in a financial sense means that someone has stolen your name and other personal information. He or she can then use this false identity to open and close bank accounts, move money around, secure loans, obtain cash or make purchases.

Information doesn't have to come from the internet - bank statements, credit card transaction slips and bills can all provide the kinds of details a criminal needs to tap into your organisation's accounts.

Simple precautions

'Phishing' and identity theft may sound sinister, but they're very easy to avoid. The most important thing to remember is that no bank would ever ask for your log-in or credit card details over the phone or by email. No bank would ask you to click on a link in an email to get to an internet banking login page. And no bank would ever ask for your passwords.

If you're in any doubt as to the validity of any message or request your not-for-profit organisation receives, phone your bank to check.

Thousands of not-for-profit organisations are using online banking every day without a problem. A few simple precautions will enable you, your members and your donors to enjoy the benefits in safety.

Easy ways to stay safe online

  • Never respond to an email, however authentic it looks, that asks for personal or financial information.
  • If you do want to change or update your organisation's financial details, phone your bank or visit in person. Never send this kind of information in an email.
  • Install reliable anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and make sure it is continually updated.
  • Establish what you should do in an emergency - for instance, who you should contact if you're worried your organisation might have become a victim of 'phishing' or identity theft.
  • Look out for any unexplained transactions on your organisation's financial statements.
  • Keep all of your organisation's financial documents in a secure place.
  • Shred any documents that carry account or other secure information.
  • Make sure that your mailbox is secure.
  • Report anything suspicious, including any loss or theft of documents, to the police as quickly as possible.