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Digitize and organize your finances in the new year

(ARA) - Being smarter about money is one of the most common New Year's resolutions, whether it's cutting back on spending, saving more, or making sure to pay bills on time to avoid late fees. Making good on those promises is easier than ever, thanks to the gadgets that are constantly by our sides or in our hands. Consumers looking to take control of their money and improve their financial health should look no further than their digital devices to get the tools and advice they need.

"Educating consumers and providing innovative tools to help them manage their finances whenever, wherever and however they want is critical in today's digital economy," says Mike Upton, emerging channels capabilities executive at Bank of America. "The proliferation of digital tools encourages consumers to take control of their finances and helps them manage their money effectively and securely." Upton offers the following tips for people looking to maximize digital financial tools this year.

1. Use mobile options for quick access and information
Many banks offer mobile Web, mobile applications and text banking that empower customers to make transactions and check their accounts whenever and wherever they choose. As mobile banking becomes increasingly sophisticated, with some banks offering mobile bill pay, it is important to look for a bank that supports a wide range of carriers and devices (Bank of America's platform is compatible with more 850 devices, for example) and offers the highest level of security.

More banks are offering smart phone applications that enable customers to access their accounts and use geo-location banking center and ATM locator tools. Text banking, which is becoming more popular and common, gives customers a simple and convenient way to access account balances, recent transactions and credit card bill information from their cell phones.

2. Sign up for alert services to protect accounts
These alerts offer customers a selection of text and e-mail alerts that can be sent directly to their mobile devices in the event of a suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity, if an account balance is too low or if there has been recent account activity.

3. Use online bill pay to streamline and save
This type of service lets customers pay virtually any company, set up recurring payments and set up bill pay reminders. Setting up automatic payments can help people pay their bills on time to avoid late fees and protect their credit scores. It can also help with budgeting by capturing all bill information in a single place.

4. Create a budget online to manage spending and saving
The first step to almost every financial plan is to create a budget. First, go to your bank's website to learn the full range of their digital banking services and specifically look for a personal budget planner. Bank of America's free money management tool is called My Portfolio, which enables customers to view spending, balances and account activity. Use this financial snapshot to better understand and set financial goals, such as reducing debt, adding to savings or growing net worth.

5. Test knowledge
Learning about personal finance and budgeting is easy online, and it can be fun. Take online quizzes such as those offered by MSN Money or at to evaluate financial literacy, spending habits and money personality, and to get suggestions for better money management.

Published January 3, 2011

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