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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 15 Issue 5
May 2021
Online Banking & Credit Cards: How to Get Useful Alerts via Email or Text Messages
The problem

Even if you carefully check your bank and credit card statements every month, you might prefer to be notified about the activity in your account more often (or even right away), and you may also want to monitor your balances, login attempts, and other activity.
Online account alerts
The good news is that most bank and credit card companies let you set up online “alerts” or “notifications” which will tell you right away when certain transactions or other events occur. They typically offer a variety of choices, depending on the type of account.
Note that all of the following are in addition to the regular notices and alerts that your bank and credit card companies already send you about other things (usually via US mail, email, or text message), including possible fraudulent charges, deposit mistakes, unsigned or post-dated checks, fees due on your safe deposit box, etc.
Typical online bank account alerts include:
  • A check with a particular number has cleared.
  • Any check you wrote for an amount larger than a given minimum dollar amount has cleared.
  • A check you wrote has bounced.
  • A debit card charge made online, by phone, or mail has occurred, i.e., not in person.
  • A debit card charge outside of the US has occurred.
  • A debit card charge above a given amount has occurred.
  • A direct deposit has arrived.
  • A mobile deposit is being processed.
  • Your account balance has dropped below a given amount.
  • A transfer was deducted above a given amount.
  • A new online bill payment recipient was added.
  • An online bill payment was deducted above a given amount.
  • Unusual debit card activity has occurred.
  • A notification of your current balance, typically sent daily or weekly.
Typical online credit card account alerts include:
  • Your account balance is within a certain dollar amount of your credit limit.
  • A charge made online, by phone, or mail has occurred, i.e., not in person.
  • A charge larger than a given dollar amount has occurred.
  • A charge outside of the US has occurred.
  • A payment is due on your account.
  • A payment was received.
  • A credit was received, e.g., you returned a product, cancelled an order, or received cash rewards as a statement credit, fees were refunded, etc.
  • Your “rewards” or “points earned” balance is above a certain level.
  • Unusual credit card activity has occurred.
Other types of alerts can include these, which aren’t specific to any single account:
  • Your statement is available.
  • Your online ID (username), password, street address, or phone number was changed.
  • A sign-in attempt failed due to an incorrect password.
  • A successful sign-in occurred from a new computer or mobile device.
Many alerts have options that can include:
  • How often to notify you, e.g., daily or weekly
  • The minimum or maximum dollar amount to trigger the alert
  • The date range during which the alert will be active
How to set up your alerts
In order to be able to set any alerts, you’ll first need to create an online account or profile, which you can usually do simply by visiting your bank’s or credit card’s website and clicking “Create Online Account,” “Enroll in Online Banking,” “Sign Up,” “Register for Online Access,” etc. If you don’t see those choices, click to go to the Log In or Sign In page and look for them there.
Once you’ve done that, you would then:
  • Sign in with your username and password.
  • Click “Alerts” or “Notifications.” If you don’t see those choices on the main page, look for them under “Settings,” “Preferences,” “Services,” or “Profile.” You’ll probably find two Alert areas: A list of the ones that you can set, and a list of recently-triggered ones that is often called your “Alert History.”
Note that:
  • If you have more than one bank or credit card account with the given company, you will probably need to set alerts for each account separately.
  • You’ll probably also see other, more general alerts that are not specific to any of your accounts.
How notifications get sent to you
Notification options for each alert typically include:
  • Email,
  • Text messaging,
  • or both.
For example, you might choose:
  • Email notification for everything, with no text notifications,
  • Email notification for ordinary alerts, and text notifications for unusual or disturbing alerts, e.g., ones that are security-related.
Also, some bank and credit card companies offer their own iPhone, iPad, or Android app, which can not only display your alerts but also do many other things, like making mobile deposits, viewing balances, doing transfers, etc.
Here are some sample bank email alerts:
Subject: Your Available Balance
Hi, John, here's your available balance
Balance: $3,456.78
Account: Checking -1234
Date: May 30, 2021
Subject: Direct Deposit Received
Hi, John, money was deposited into your account
Amount: $3,210.98
Account: Checking -1234
On: May 02, 2021
Subject: A Check Over Your Requested Alert Limit Was Processed
Checking -1234
Amount: $450.00
Check number: 2051
Transaction date: 4/13/2021
Here are some sample credit card email alerts:
Subject: Online/Phone/Mail Charge Alert
This is an Alert to help you manage your credit card account ending in -1234.
This charge of $10.50 at Amazon.com has been authorized on May 18, 2021 at 8:57 PM ET.
Subject: Your Rewards Balance Alert
For your account ending in -1234: Your rewards balance has exceeded 1999 points.
Alert delivery is imperfect and not guaranteed
Your email alerts may not actually arrive for a number of reasons, including:
  • The “spam” or “junk” filter for your email account or software may have intercepted them.
  • Your email account storage may be “full” and unable to accept new messages into your Inbox until you delete enough existing ones to make room.
  • Your email program may have a “filter” or “rule” that may be moving your alerts out of the Inbox or deleting them altogether.
  • You might be looking at the Inbox of a different email account than the one to which the alerts are being sent, either because you’ve got multiple email accounts, or in the time since you set up your alerts you might have started using a new or different email account and not remembered to update your alert settings to use your new email address.
  • Even after you’ve fixed the problem on your end, after a few delivery failures some banks or credit card companies may suspend sending email alerts until you “re-verify” your email address.
Similarly, your text-message alerts may also not arrive for various reasons, including:
  • Your cell phone might not be connected to your cell service, and when it later reconnected, you might not receive any of the text messages that had come in while it was offline.
  • Your cell phone number might have changed since you set up your alerts, and you might not have updated your alert settings with your new number.
What you can do to help ensure delivery of your alerts
Once or twice a year, I recommend that you do the following with each of your online bank and credit card accounts:
  • Sign in to your online account.
  • Review and update your contact info, including your phone numbers and email address.
  • Review your Alert settings, delivery options (email vs. text message), and history.
  • Review any online bill payment payees and payment history.
Watch out for fake alerts
Just like other types of fake messages you may receive, you may also get fake bank and credit card alerts via emails and text messaging. Be careful:
  • Get to know what the real alerts look like, so you’ll be better able to spot the fakes. Sophisticated scammers can send fake messages that can look very real.
  • Real alerts simply inform you, they don’t try to scare you into doing anything, even the ones reporting possible fraudulent transactions.
  • When in doubt, don’t click any links in the suspicious message. Instead, open your own new web browser window or tab, and then sign in to your online account yourself to follow up on whatever information the alert gave you. Or, call your bank or credit card company and speak to their customer service to verify whether any alert is legitimate.
Bill payment reminders
Your bank’s “bill payment” system may also let you set up “reminders” to help make sure you pay any given bill on time. These are typically separate from your alerts, but can similarly notify you via email or text message.
Where to go from here
  • google this, adding the name of your bank: online banking alerts
  • google this, adding the name of your credit card company: online credit card alerts
  • google: fake online alerts banking OR "credit card"
  • google: text message delivery failure
How to contact me:
phone: (617) 484-6657

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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