When it comes to how people prefer to manage their finances, direct banking has taken off. A survey by the American Banking Association found that 36% of bank customers in 2010 preferred to do their banking online compared to any other method. That’s the second year in a row that more people preferred to bank online than at a traditional bank branch.

So, what exactly is a direct bank, and what are its advantages over traditional brick-and-mortar banks?

Put simply, direct banks like Ally Bank don’t have physical branch locations. Instead, customers do all their banking online, over the phone or through the mail. That makes it easier for direct banks to pass savings along to customers. In the case of Ally, we’re able to offer our customers competitive rates and low fees on our savings accounts, checking accounts and CDs. Plus, we don’t charge ATM fees and we’ll reimburse you for ATM fees other banks charge, nationwide.

Another advantage of direct banking is that it makes staying on top of your finances easier. At Ally, you can access your account on our website anytime, anywhere. Plus, you can talk with an Ally representative 24/7 via chat, e-mail or by calling 1-877-247-2559.

If you’re new to direct banking, you might have a few questions about how exactly it works. If so, we have a new section on our website that’s designed to help you out. Here are answers to a few popular questions:

How to make a deposit

There are five ways to deposit money into your account.

  • Send a check using free postage-paid envelopes available through Online Banking
  • Move funds online between Ally accounts for free
  • Make free online transfers between your Ally account and your accounts at other banks
  • Set up free Direct Deposit for your paycheck or Social Security check
  • Use a wire transfer — we won’t charge you to wire funds in, but check with your other bank for any fees they may charge to wire funds out
  • eCheck Deposit service – which we announced early last month and are currently rolling out to our customers in phases.

How to move money

Moving money between your Ally accounts and your verified non-Ally accounts at other banks is fast, easy and safe. You can transfer money on our website or by calling us 24/7. If you’re transferring money between Ally accounts, the money will be moved immediately. If you’re transferring money between a verified non-Ally account and an Ally account, it can sometimes take up to 3 business days.

How to get cash

You can get cash from any ATM nationwide and Ally won’t charge you. And if other banks in the U.S. charge you, we’ll reimburse your ATM fees nationwide. Plus, you can use your debit card and get cash with your purchases.

How to keep track of your money

You can access your account information anytime, anywhere, with Ally Online Banking. You’ll get to see all the same information you’d see on your paper statement, view and download 18 months of past statements and check images, get 1099 tax statements and help to reduce clutter and protect your identity by going paperless!

How to pay bills

Online Banking with Bill Pay —which is free from Ally—can help you pay bill pays easily. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Pay bills from your Interest Checking Account to anyone with a U.S. postal address
  • Set up one-time or recurring payments up to a year in advance
  • Make next-day electronic payments to help you avoid late fees
  • Easily review bill statements or payment history
  • Sign up for eBills to reduce clutter and save paper

With all the great products and services that branchless banks offer, it’s not very surprising how popular they’ve become.

How often do you visit a bank branch? How has branchless banking made your life simpler?