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Not Banking Online Yet?

Has the lure of insta-loans, mortgage quotes, and insurance deals wooed you into the futuristic world of online banking yet? If you're like most people (OK, like one Fool writer, at least), the day you ran out of paper checks seemed like the perfect time to take your banking online.

A Jupiter Research survey of nearly 4,000 online banking customers confirms that simple bookkeeping (check writing, balance transfers) is the real siren song for most digi-banking customers.

The study, quoted by CBS Marketwatch, reports that completely automated transactions, such as checking account balances and transferring funds between accounts, are the most popular online banking services. Jupiter forecasts that next year 95% of online banking customers will check account balances, 57% will transfer funds, and about 40% will pay their bills using the services. (Last year, about 27% of customers took advantage of online bill paying.) Forecasts for more sophisticated services are even brighter: Jupiter estimates that next year 26% of customers will apply for a credit card (19% did this year), and 12% will apply for a loan, compared to 7% who actually did this year and in 2001.

Of the nearly 90% of households with a bank account, about one-quarter currently take advantage of some online banking features. By 2007, the report forecasts that half of us will be balancing virtual checkbooks.

If you aren't sold yet, consider this: According to a report earlier this year by the MIT Sloan School of Management, the cost of processing a single check ranges from $1 to $5. And if accuracy keeps you from going electronic, consider that there are, on average, five different transactions between the time you write a check and when you get it back. On top of that, a Federal Reserve study found that the direct cost to society is $1.25 per check.

If you love the conveniences of old-fashioned checking, then find a bank with physical branches, convenient ATMs, and a 24-hour, toll-free customer service number. Use our handy checklist of banking features to compare offerings. And then check in with the Fools who have test-driven various services on our Online Banking discussion board.

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