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7 mobile banking alerts that help protect your money

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Low balance. Large purchase. Unusual activity.

If you don’t already get bank account alerts such as these, it might be a good time to set them up to help monitor your finances. The COVID-19 pandemic led to many digital services becoming more robust, and mobile banking alerts are one advantage of these developments.

“Today’s mobile banking alerts provide an array of options to help consumers keep their bank accounts in good standing, avoid unnecessary fees and protect themselves from fraud,” says Paul McAdam, senior director of banking intelligence at J.D. Power.

Mobile banking alerts are often highly customizable and encourage smart financial management. A 2021 U.S. Banking Mobile App Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power found that 67 percent of bank customers use their bank’s mobile app. National bank apps scored much higher in satisfaction because of their more advanced digital features — personalized account alerts being among those that contributed to greater satisfaction.

Mobile bank alerts, which help customers stay on top of their finances, are one of the advantages unique to mobile banking. These seven alerts serve several different purposes and can help you bank better.

1. Low balance alert

Low balance alerts let you know when your bank account balance drops to a predetermined amount, which could be $20, $500 or another selected amount . Depending on the bank, these alerts can come in the form of an email, text message or push notification — or all three.

A low balance alert could be helpful for consumers nervous about racking up overdraft fees or those who want to keep tabs on how much money is in their accounts without having to sign in to an app or website.

By staying aware of when your account is at risk of an overdraft, you’ll be able to avoid some lofty overdraft or nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees on checking accounts while also making better spending decisions.

2. Direct deposit alert

Direct deposit alerts can help keep you apprised of when your paycheck hits your account, which can help in scheduling bill payments and budgeting. If you use automatic bill pay services, direct deposit alerts let you know when your funds are available for automatic withdrawals.

“Our customers value account alerts as much as ever before for tracking spending and account balances, as well as helping monitor for and identify potential fraud,” says Stacy Kika, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman.

Many banks also offer similar alerts, such as when a deposited check clears your account.

3. Unusual account activity alert

Another alert to consider setting up is one that notifies consumers when there’s a change in their account status that’s unusual. For example, a large amount of money transferred out of the account all at once could be concerning if that’s something that rarely happens. Large, stand-alone transactions are a red flag for fraudulent activity.

By signing up for an unusual account activity alert, you’ll immediately be made aware of any suspicious activity associated with checking, savings or money market accounts. Staying aware of account activity is important, particularly if there’s an incident of fraud. The sooner you report fraudulent activity, the greater your chances of getting reimbursed due to a stolen debit card or an account number ending up in the wrong hands.

“Customers who use mobile banking alerts are slightly more likely to detect and contact their bank regarding fraud or unauthorized account activity — providing a greater sense of protection,” says McAdam from J.D. Power.

4. Large purchase alert

Depending on the bank, there may be an option to set alerts for when a large amount of money is spent at one time.

The alert can help ensure the purchase doesn’t go unnoticed, and speed up the process of investigation and reimbursement if the purchase was unauthorized.

5. Large ATM withdrawal alert

Besides setting up a large purchase alert, consider opting for an alert when a big cash withdrawal takes place. That way, you’ll know instantly if money is taken from your account by someone else.

Additionally, some banking apps may send alerts specifically when an account has exceeded the daily withdrawal limit. Withdrawals that exceed the limit could be a sign that someone else has access to your account. Otherwise, the alert will signal that you might be withdrawing too much cash at one time.

6. Debit card alert

Debit card alerts, can also be helpful for tracking purchases. The bank may be able to send notifications whenever any purchase is made with your debit card.

Alternatively, a debit card alert can be used to notify you when a transaction is declined or made in an odd  uncustomary location, like another country. This feature used in conjunction with card locks make it possible to quickly shut off access to your debit card to intercept fraud.

For those who are victims of bank fraud, it’s also worth checking your credit report for any unusual activity to ensure someone hasn’t opened a credit card in your name.

7. Profile change alert

When it comes to digital banking, there’s a risk that personal data may be threatened by data breaches or scams. There are a number of ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks, such as changing account passwords and downloading identity theft-protection software.

One easy way to stay on top of potential threats to your accounts — including password or username changes — is to opt for a profile change alert. This alert notifies you of any updated personal details and account suspensions as well, which can help for detecting suspicious activity and blocking accounts or debit cards before they’re used illegally.

Be aware of bank alert scams

It’s possible that some bank alerts might not be what they claim. Sometimes scammers may send an email or text message claiming to be from the bank. The scammers may send a fake bank alert through text or email (known respectively as phishing and smishing) requesting information from the account holder to authorize a transaction or fix a problem with the account, but really, they’re attempting to get your personal information for illegal use.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that if a scam message asks for personal information, the scammer can gain access to your email accounts, bank accounts, credit cards and more. Some things to look out for in an alert that might signal a scam are:

  • Requests that require giving out personal information, like Social Security or bank account numbers.
  • The alert asks you to log into your account from a provided link.
  • You’re asked to contact a phone number that appears to be your bank’s number. It may be someone posing as a bank representative.

What should you do if you receive one of these alerts?

According to the FTC, you should never give out any personal information through email or text messages. If an alert asks for account information or asks you to do something through the message, such as clicking on a link, that may be a sign that the alert is fraudulent. A real financial institution won’t ask for personal information by text or email.

If the alert seems real but you’re unsure, call or reach out to the bank through a contact listed on the bank’s website, rather than a contact provided by the alert. If the message turns out to be a scam, report it to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov. It’s also usually possible to report messages through the messaging app or email server with a report spam or junk option.

Boosting your banking satisfaction

Once you know to look out for scam alerts, banking alerts are highly useful. Alerts help consumers stay aware of their spending habits and account activity, so that they can rest assured knowing they won’t miss any suspicious transactions or potential overdrafts.

Plus, mobile alerts can boost satisfaction with your bank overall. Recent data from J.D. Power confirms that digitally engaging customers with features like alerts has a significant positive effect on customer satisfaction.

Consumers report that relevant account alerts are one of the best ways that banks can deliver a personalized level of service, McAdam says.

Written by
René Bennett
Banking writer
René Bennett is a writer for Bankrate, reporting on banking products and personal finance.
Edited by
Wealth editor