You may have come across an option to link multiple bank accounts when online banking or to link an account to a third-party funding app. Linking bank accounts is one way to make transactions between the two easier, but it can come with other unexpected benefits.
Here’s why you might want to link bank accounts and how safe it is to do so.
What is bank account linking used for?
Generally, the purpose of linking two bank accounts is to allow greater circulation between the two, making it easier to transfer money, split direct deposits, and automate savings. There may also be other benefits to doing so, depending on the location of the accounts.
Link bank accounts with the same bank
Many consumers have several types of bank accounts with the same bank, such as a checking account and a savings account or a checking account and a money market account. You can transfer between accounts with the same bank, but the extra step of linking the accounts avoids some fees.
Some banks may waive monthly maintenance fees when you link your checking account to a savings account at the same institution, although you may be required to meet a minimum balance on all accounts.
Another fee that linking accounts can help circumvent is overdraft fees. When you link a savings account and a checking account, the savings account can act as a backup to cover any amount beyond what is available in your checking account. This way, instead of paying an overdraft, the funds are simply withdrawn from the linked savings account.
You may also need to link a checking account and a savings account before you can set up automated savings.
Link bank accounts in different banks
You may have a checking account at one financial institution and a savings account at another. To facilitate the transfer of money between the two, for example to fund a newly opened account, you will need to link them externally.
Once the accounts are linked, you can usually check each account’s details (including their balances, account numbers, and transactions) in one place, making it easy to keep track of each account. However, you will not be able to transact on the linked account externally, other than transferring funds to it.
Transfers between linked accounts can be done externally and usually free of charge. You can also set up split direct deposit with linked accounts, so that a portion of your paycheck goes into each account.
Is linking bank accounts safe?
Banks and credit unions use several security measures to ensure that it is safe to link bank accounts. These guarantees include:
- Transport layer security: This encrypts data sent over the Internet, so hackers or other cybercriminals cannot see your personal information when it is electronically shared between banks.
- Tokenization: This process securely exchanges data online by converting it into tokens, which hide sensitive information.
- Multi-factor authentication: This requires you to verify your identity through several channels, such as providing a PIN and verifying fingerprints.
Nevertheless, it is important to protect your personal information, including passwords, account numbers and PINs. Be sure to keep this information private and always use multi-factor authentication when it’s an option.
Is it safe to link your bank account to a third-party app?
There are many financial apps that require you to link a bank account to them, to make it easier to manage your bank accounts. These apps can help you automate savings, track expenses, or scan your account for unnecessary fees and subscriptions. Although many apps provide in-depth security measures to protect your information, not all of them may offer the same level of security as a bank.
Many reputable financial apps come with security features and guaranteed protection against unauthorized transactions. PayPal, for example, states that it “uses extensive security measures to protect your bank account or credit card numbers. We never disclose your financial information to anyone unless we have your permission or we are required by law to do so.It also provides full coverage for unauthorized transactions.However, in the event such an unauthorized transaction occurs, it may take some time before you get your money back.
Some apps are also protected by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which protects consumers against unauthorized transactions made electronically. The law protects peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, such as those made through Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App. If money is fraudulently taken from your account, you may be liable for up to $50, provided the transaction is reported within two days. Within 60 days, you may be liable for up to $500, and after that, you may be liable for the full amount.
Before linking an external bank account to a third-party app, make sure the app is trustworthy and offers protection against unauthorized transactions.
Benefits and risks of linking bank accounts
- You may be able to use a linked account as overdraft protection and avoid paying overdraft fees.
- Some banks waive monthly maintenance fees when you link another account.
- It’s easier to transfer between accounts and you won’t have to pay bank transfer fees.
- You may be able to take advantage of money-saving features like automated savings and split direct deposit.
- If the accounts are at different institutions, linking them allows you to view account details and activity in one place.
- Although an FDIC-insured bank has built-in security measures to protect your information, some third-party applications may not be as comprehensive. For example, they may not offer multi-factor authentication.
- Linking a bank account to a third-party app means you expose more personal data in the app. This data could be vulnerable to possible data breaches. For example, in September 2022, fintech Revolut experienced a data breach, which would have exposed the data of more than 50,000 users. However, Revolut responded quickly and no funds were compromised.
How to link bank accounts
When you have multiple accounts set up with the same bank, the bank will often link those accounts automatically. Alternatively, you can ask the bank to link these accounts for you.
To link an external bank account, follow these steps:
- Gather the information you’ll need for the external bank account you want to link. This includes account number, routing number, and login information.
- Log in to your bank’s website or mobile app and look for the option to link an external account in the dashboard or settings, which will likely say “Link external account” or “Add external account “.
- Select or enter the financial institution to which you want to establish an external link.
- You may be asked to log into the external bank account and provide the account number and routing number.
- The bank may require you to complete a linking verification process before the accounts are fully linked. This usually comes in the form of a small temporary deposit made by the bank into the external account. You will review account activity and confirm that deposits were successful.
At the end of the line
Linking bank accounts can serve many purposes, from allowing you to fund overdrafts with another account, to removing certain fees, to making it easier to transfer money between accounts. While it’s generally safe to link accounts, beware of lesser-known third-party financial apps and never share account credentials and personal information.