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Online business banking – Making the most of online tools

September 27, 2011

Virtually every business bank account now comes with a set of handy online tools, which you can use to run your business more efficiently.

So are you going online just to check your balance, or are you making the most of every tool available to you?

Typical online business banking features

  • Recent transactions You can help your cash flow by monitoring exactly when customers pay you, and when money leaves your account. This kind of information makes it easier for you to pick the right time for larger purchases.
  • View your history – While paper statements will continue to be vital for book-keeping, online statements can be more useful for getting the information you need quickly. Some accounts let you search for specific amounts or payments. You can also look back over a number of statements, allowing you to work out trends quickly and easily. Many statements can be downloaded and analysed within a spreadsheet.
  • Import data to bookkeeping software – Many bookkeeping programs like Sage can import data directly from bank accounts. You may have to pay for extra software to do this, but the time you will save reconciling your bank account will be worth it.
  • Transfer money – Most businesses operate at least two business bank accounts. Moving cash between them takes seconds online, and happens on the same day. If you also have personal accounts with your business bank, you may be able to make same day transfers to those accounts.
  • Pay a bill – Paying a bill online has many benefits. It’s quicker and more secure than writing a cheque. Plus on many accounts, you can enter the details of a bill when it arrives, and set up payment to go automatically on a specific date in the future. The only information you need to pay a bill online is your supplier’s account number, sort code and any reference. Triple check you have entered the right account numbers before pressing go. The reference is what your supplier will see on their bank statement… it’s essential to get this right so they know you have paid them. A typical reference is your business name – i.e. Bytestart – or invoice number. Most accounts allow you to save the details of suppliers you have paid, meaning it will be even quicker next time you make an electronic payment.
  • Set up or cancel standing orders – Standing orders are instructions you have given to your bank to pay an amount of money to a supplier on a regular basis. You will be able to view current standing orders, amend them or cancel them. It’s also easy to set up new standing orders.
  • View and cancel Direct Debits – Direct Debits differ from standing orders in that the supplier requests a sum of money from your bank account. This sum is often variable and can be irregular. You won’t have the ability to alter a Direct Debit, but you can easily cancel one online.
  • View all online payments – The best online business banking services allow you to see all scheduled payments on a single page, whether they are transfers, standing orders or Direct Debits. This is an essential tool in helping to plan your cash flow.
  • Change security details – It is good practice to change your passwords regularly. You will be able to do this online. Any time you lose a member of staff who has had access to your bank account; you must change your password straight away. This is for their protection as well as yours. Many accounts tell you when someone last logged in, so you can immediately see if anyone has accessed your account without authority. It is also good practice to log out of your bank account any time you leave your desk. Many accounts automatically log you out after a certain amount of inactive time, or request you re-enter your password before you can make payments. But never leaving your account open will give you extra peace of mind.
  • Order stationery – If you only have a few cheque books or paying in slips left, many bank accounts will allow you to order them online. It’s quicker for you and cheaper for the bank.
  • Replace cards – If your debit or credit card has been damaged, many banks let you order a replacement online. However don’t rely on this if your card has been lost or stolen – typically banks ask you to phone a special number, so they can cancel the card immediately.
  • Not sure what you can do? – Many accounts come with an online user guide. If you still need more help, contact your bank. After all, it’s in their best interests that you use the online tools – it gives you more control while saving them money in expensive counter staff!