Don’t underestimate the importance of balancing your checking account

April 05, 2018

A monthly accounting helps you spot errors, detect fraud and understand spending patterns.

 

If you’re one of the millions of Americans using a checking account, you should know how to keep it balanced, which may help you avoid overdraft charges and minimize the risk of suspicious activity going unnoticed.

A checking account is one of the most popular options for the more than 92 percent of American households who have a bank account, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

 

Understanding your checking account

A checking account is a bank account that lets you easily access your deposited funds by writing a check. You can also shop online or use the debit card associated with your account. Checking accounts are available in several varieties, including basic accounts, student accounts and interest-bearing accounts. The benefits of using a checking account include:

  • Often don’t require a qualifying credit score.
  • Can be created for individuals, couples or corporations.
  • Can be used to receive direct deposit paychecks.
  • Most can be accessed instantly online.
  • Many require just a small balance, making it a useful learning tool for teens.
  • Most offer optional overdraft protection to keep your balance from going negative.

 

Monitor your checking account balance, transactions

Balance your checkbook by monitoring transactions, checking monthly statements and reconciling expenditures. Doing so provides a variety of benefits. You can spot bank or payment mistakes faster, reduce the risk of financial theft, limit overdraft fees and recognize spending patterns that may enable you to spend less.

 

Document transactions

A balanced checkbook starts with keeping track of every transaction you make. If you physically write out checks, then the register is a good place to note everything you spend. Otherwise, you could use a spreadsheet on your computer, a financial application for your smartphone or computer, or a receipt book where you keep receipts from every purchase made using your checking account.

 

Check monthly account statements

Whether you get your monthly account statement mailed to your home or receive it electronically, you’ll want to get in the habit of reading it line by line to make sure that nothing stands out as incorrect. Common mistakes and warning signs include:

  • Unusual expenditures
  • Charges from vendors you don’t recognize
  • Math errors

 

Reconcile what’s spent with what’s left

To avoid an overdraft, keep track of your checking account deposits and withdrawals. Reconciling your spending with your balance helps prevent overspending, which could lead to overdraft fees or checks being returned due to insufficient funds. A great way to stay ahead of spending is to keep a running balance of what’s available in your account. Even before a check has been cashed, it should be recorded so you know exactly what is in your account at any given time.

 

Now that you know how to keep your checking account in check, learn more about what kind of checking account might be best for you.

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