This is really two questions in one.
Question number one: Are online-only banks safe places to put your money?
Question number two: Is it safe to go online to conduct a transaction or do other banking?
Here's the answer to the first question: The main difference between an online bank and a normal bank is that the online bank doesn’t have branches. That’s it. An online bank in the U.S. has to follow exactly the same rules and regulations as all the banks you see walking down the street. That means they're safe.
Online banks tend to offer better interest on your savings and/or lower account fees than traditional banks, in part because they don’t have to pay for all those branches you’re not seeing walking down the street.
Ally is a good option for interest and Simple Bank is a good one for fees. Just make sure whichever online bank you use is FDIC insured. Use the FDIC’s BankFind tool to see if yours is.
But is conducting transactions online actually safe? Yes.
Since banks are aware they’re a target for hackers, they work harder than most other businesses to keep your money -- and their money -- safe.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions when you bank online.
Make sure your password isn’t “password” or 12345678. Use 2-factor authentication. Don’t bank online at a public computer or on a public wi-fi. If you’re banking on your phone, use your phone’s data instead of wi-fi.
And if you ever get an email or text from your bank saying “we’re changing your passwords” or “your account has been locked” or “respond immediately and log into this site, otherwise horrible things will happen” -- ignore it.
It’s someone trying to separate you from your money. Don’t take the bait.