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If you have two or more bank accounts, such as a savings and checking account, you may want to link them to give you more flexibility and control over your finances. Linking your bank accounts allows you to easily transfer money between them.
For example, you could transfer funds from your savings to checking to pay bills or move money into savings to earn a higher interest rate. Additionally, you can usually link to external bank accounts or payment apps to make payments, send money, budget your finances or receive other benefits.
Here's how to link your bank accounts, whether they're with the same bank or with different financial institutions and apps.
What Are Linked Bank Accounts?
A linked bank account is when one account connects to another account at the same financial institution or an external bank. For example, your checking account may be linked to your savings and credit card accounts. You could also link your bank account to a payment app like PayPal or Venmo to quickly and easily make online purchases or money transfers.
When you link bank accounts, the accounts don't become one. They remain separate, but the connection gives you the convenience of transferring money from your computer or smartphone without visiting a bank or ATM. Linking external bank accounts can be beneficial when you open an online bank account, allowing you to fund your account without having to search for an in-network ATM to deposit funds.
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How to Link Bank Accounts From the Same Bank
Typically, when you open a new account at your current bank or credit union, it is automatically linked to your existing accounts so you can quickly move money between them. When you open your account, you can fund your new account with your existing one.
By linking your savings and checking accounts, you can use your savings as a backup for overdraft protection. That means funds can automatically transfer from your savings to a checking account to cover a transaction that would otherwise overdraw your account and incur an overdraft fee.
If your accounts with the same bank or credit union aren't linked, ask a representative to link them for you. Once linked, all of your accounts should be detailed when you log in to your account or review your bank statement.
How to Link Bank Accounts From Different Banks
Perhaps the most straightforward way to link your accounts at different banks is to log in to one of your accounts and look for a menu option to "Link External Accounts" or similar. The online interface should then ask you to enter the routing and account numbers for the account you wish to link.
It's common for your bank to require you to verify your external bank account. Typically, the bank will make one or two small deposits, often just for pennies, into your outside account, which could take two or three business days to process. You'll need to log in to your external account to check the deposit amounts and return to your initial bank account to confirm these amounts to link the accounts. Once verified, you can typically transfer money between banks within one to five days.
You can also use a similar process to link a bank account to a payment app like PayPal or Venmo or budgeting apps like PocketGuard and Quicken. Online brokerages also allow you to link external accounts from your account dashboard, but you may find the setup under an option to "Move Money" or "Enroll Account."
Is Linking Your Bank Accounts Safe?
While no bank security is foolproof, linking your accounts to other bank accounts is generally safe, especially if your bank incorporates extra security measures, such as:
- Multifactor authentication: Many banks require you to provide two or more verifications to log in to your account successfully. For example, you may need to log in using both your password and a code sent to your phone.
- Biometric login: For added login security, your banking app may use your face or fingerprints rather than a username and password to verify your identity.
- Transport layer security (TLS): Banks and credit unions typically encrypt the data they send on the internet to prevent hackers or other prying eyes from accessing your personal data. Even your internet service provider can't see your TLS encrypted data.
Given the many companies that have experienced data breaches in recent years, you are right to be concerned about linking your bank accounts to external apps. As such, exercise caution and consider only reputable apps that use bank-level security.
For example, you may want to use a popular budgeting app like PocketGuard to manage your finances. While no financial institution or company can guarantee your information is 100% secure, you may feel more assured that PocketGuard states it uses the same 256-bit SSL and advanced encryption standards as other financial institutions. The company also doesn't store your credit or debit card account credentials and has "read-only" access to your transaction history.
Wherever possible, use multifactor authentication to log in to third-party apps for extra security. Also, avoid using money management apps or your online bank accounts on public Wi-Fi networks, which are generally less secure.
How to Unlink Your Bank Accounts
To unlink your bank account from other bank accounts or apps, start by checking the app or website where you initially linked your accounts. Look in the account settings for options to manage your connections, including the ability to unlink your accounts. Here are some guidelines to help you unlink different types of accounts:
- Online bank account or banking apps: Look for "Linked Accounts" or "External Accounts" in your online account. You should see the option to add accounts or disconnect any linked accounts.
- Payment apps: Log in to your app and look for the "Wallet" or "Settings" options. For example, you can remove a bank from your PayPal app by clicking or tapping on "Wallet," choosing your bank account and selecting "Remove."
- Money management apps: The unlinking process varies among budget apps but is often similar to the steps used to disconnect your bank account from a payment app. However, you may need to take extra steps and go through your account settings. For example, Quicken lists the following steps to remove a bank account from their money management app as such:
- Create a backup of your file
- Click on "Tools"
- Then click "Account List"
- Select the account you wish to remove
- Click "Edit"
- Choose "Delete Account"
The Bottom Line
Linked bank accounts enable you to quickly and easily move money between them. Similarly, linking your checking or savings accounts to payment, budgeting or other apps can simplify making payments, sending money and managing your budget.
Generally, linking your bank accounts is safe, but it's always wise to exercise caution. Protect your passwords, use multifactor authentication and avoid accessing personal information on public Wi-Fi networks. If you're concerned about identity theft, consider signing up for identity theft monitoring with Experian. While monitoring won't prevent a data breach, it can alert you if your personal information is compromised or if someone attempts to open a new account in your name.