Zelle® Blog

Banking in a Digital World

Understanding the Differences Between Online & Digital Banking

A grandfather in New York wants to send money to his granddaughter in Los Angeles to help her pay for her senior trip. He considers sending her cash or a check, but it will take days to arrive. There’s also the whole “getting lost in the mail” thing that’s happened to him in the past.

Even if he does mail the money, it won’t be convenient for his granddaughter to deposit the check and get access to the funds. She doesn’t have a car, so she’d need to find transportation to the closest bank branch.

He’s wired money before, but there are fees associated, and he’s on a strict budget. Explaining to his granddaughter, who is new to banking, how a wire transfer works, seems too complex – not to mentioned he wants this gift of money to be a sweet surprise right before her trip.

Luckily, there are more convenient ways to transfer money these days that are fast, safe and easy for people of all ages.

How We Manage Money Has Changed

The days of needing to write checks, wire funds, and visit a physical branch to send and receive money are largely a thing of the past. Today, when someone wants to transfer money, they can do it from almost anywhere at any time. Typically, all that’s needed is a computer or mobile device, an internet or cellular data connection, and a trustworthy payment platform.

While there are a number of third party technologies available today that support electronic money transfers, most banks and credit unions across the U.S. offer online and mobile banking options directly to their customers.

Understandably, digital banking may be confusing or intimidating for people who are used to traditional banking or for those new to banking in general. So, we’re here to explain the differences between the two, the benefits of digital banking and show you how you can get started with it today.

What Are the Benefits of Digital Banking?


Many people are familiar with traditional banking. Heading to your local bank branch used to be necessary in order to make a deposit or a withdrawal, open or close an account, or take out a loan. However, you can now do all of this and more with ease through digital banking — and the benefits don’t stop there.


One major difference between digital and traditional banking is the level of accessibility for consumers. With digital banking, you don’t need to wait for your bank or credit union to be open to make transactions or receive customer support. You have access to your accounts 24/7. As an added bonus, you won’t need to commute or stand in line.

Additionally, by installing a mobile banking app on your smart phone, you’ll have your bank in your pocket or purse at all times. As long as you have a safe internet or cellular data connection, you can do all sorts of “traditional” banking things like check your bank account balance, transfer money, talk to a customer support representative, or even apply for a loan or line of credit.

Ease of Use

Traditional banking may be considered easy to use, especially when it comes to interacting with a bank teller. Some people like to have another person there to help them with their banking needs.

However, satisfaction isn’t sacrificed by moving away from traditional banking. In fact, a 2018 survey conducted on behalf of the American Bankers Association, found that 93% of Americans ranked their experience with their bank’s online and mobile app services as “good,” “very good,” or “excellent.”

Today, digital banking interfaces are user-friendly. Apps and online banking websites are easy to navigate. Plus, customer service may often be accessible in several ways — including via virtual assistant chat, phone, and email — whenever you need assistance.

Save Time & Money

You can save time by handling many of your banking needs online through your financial institution’s website or mobile app. Not having to physically drive to a branch saves time, not to mention money spent on gas.

Digital banking also lets you transfer money fast. If you need to pay back a friend, you no longer have to make a special trip to withdraw cash from an ATM or write a check. Person-to-person payments platforms, like Zelle®, are a more convenient way to send and receive money with people you know and trust – right from your smartphone.

How Can You Get Started with Digital Banking?


Whether you “go digital” or continue with traditional banking methods like making a trip to your local branch or writing checks, ultimately comes down to your personal preferences.

Most brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions also offer their services online and through mobile apps. If you are used to traditional banking or new to banking in general, knowing you can still visit a physical bank if you need to is a great way to ease into digital banking.

A great first step is to visit your financial institution’s official website to see what products and services they offer. Or, if you prefer, call their customer service link or stop into your local bank branch to speak with someone directly. You can get information on online and digital banking options, create an account and set up a username and password so you can log into your bank account through your smartphone or computer. If available, you can also download your banking app onto your mobile devices and begin banking almost wherever and whenever you want.

Once you’ve downloaded your banking app, you can also enroll in Zelle (if available) to begin sending and receiving money with friends and family members. Zelle is in the mobile banking apps of hundreds of banks and credit unions across the country, so there’s a good chance yours already offers it! And if not, you can download the Zelle app in the App Store or Google Play and enroll an eligible debit card. You can then send and receive money with friends and family even if they have different banks. Most financial institutions offer Zelle for free to their customers, so it’s a nice option when you want to send money quickly and safely to people you know and trust. All you need is the email address or U.S. mobile number of the person you want to send money to. The money you send will arrive in their bank account typically in minutes and is available to spend just as fast.

Digital banking is here to stay and will only grow in popularity. For more information on digital banking, browse our other articles on this topic, or visit your bank or credit union’s website for more information.