Why, if many of us are more than happy to do our banking online, do we tolerate the expense of bricks and mortar banks at all? After all, most banks are driving us online by charging exorbitant fees for even stepping inside a branch. ING Direct has a solution, and that is to dispense with branches altogether and doing everything online or over the phone.
The benefit is a streamlined service with minimal overheads, hopefully passing the benefits on to its customers. As a result, ING Direct claims it is already Australia’s sixth largest retail bank.
ING Direct focuses on savings plans rather than every day transaction accounts, so its site reflects this with the options on offer. Absent are things like BPAY and the ability to make transfers to any but your specified linked accounts. You can set up regular transfers from your linked account and you can apply for a range of other products from ING Direct, such as mortgages or term deposits.
The interface is simple but efficient, with everything in easy reach. There’s even a modicum of customisation possible through renaming accounts. Online transaction history goes back 12 months and you can choose to view it in three, six or 12 month blocks, or specify individual dates and then export the lot in either .qif (Quicken) or .csv formats. Statements can be either paper or a digital version sent to your email address. Although a small warning: ING Direct will only send a statement once, so if it bounces, you’ll have to go online to track your transactions.
Security is through a Java keypad with randomised keys. This helps against keyloggers, although the password strength is necessarily weakened through the lack of letters or punctuation. It’s also not as robust as SMS codes or a security token, but it’s an improvement on a single keyboard, and a superior virtual keyboard to that of Westpac. A few security tips are presented when you log in, but nothing as detailed as ANZ. Other security information can be found on the ING Direct site, although it is buried under a couple of layers of menus.
While there aren’t many advanced features on the ING Direct site, such as mobile balances or online calculators, the site performs well if all you want is a savings account with minimal fees and electronic statements.
This Review appeared in the September, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
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