Don’t underestimate the importance of balancing your checking account

January 24, 2023

Whether you’re applying for your first credit card or working toward better spending habits, these five tips can help you avoid debt and use your credit responsibly.

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. There are many benefits of using a checking account:

  • They often don’t require a qualifying credit score.
  • They can be created for individuals, couples or corporations.
  • They can be used to receive direct deposit paychecks.
  • Most checking accounts can be accessed instantly online.
  • Many of them require just a small balance, making it a useful learning tool for teens.
  • Most of them 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. Though most of us don't physically write out many checks anymore, the check register is still a good place to note everything you spend. Otherwise, you could use a spreadsheet on your computer, a financial app 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.

Related content

5 tips for parents opening a bank account for kids

Investment strategies by age

These small home improvement projects offer big returns on investment

Loud budgeting explained: Amplify your money talk

Reviewing your beneficiaries: A 5-step guide

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Finding the right home loan for you

3 financial tools to help automate your finances

5 financial goals for the new year

How to get started creating your business plan

How to financially prepare for pet costs

The lowdown on 6 myths about buying a home

10 ways to increase your home’s curb appeal

How to Adult: 5 ways to track your spending

What documents do you need after a loved one dies?

Checklist: financial recovery after a natural disaster

Checklist: 10 questions to ask your home inspector

Closing on a house checklist for buyers

Family planning for the LGBTQ+ community

How to plan and save for adoption and in vitro fertility treatment costs

Preparing for adoption and IVF

11 essential things to do before baby comes

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Starting a family

What’s the difference between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Changes in credit reporting and what it means for homebuyers

3 signs it’s time for your business to switch banks

Common small business banking questions, answered

3 tips for saving money when moving to a new home

5 ways to maximize your garage sale profits 

Pros and cons of a personal line credit

Tips for handling rising costs from an Operation HOPE Financial Wellbeing coach

Tips to earn that A+ in back-to-school savings

How to manage money tips

For today's homebuyers, time and money are everything

How to choose the right business checking account

Mindset Matters: How to practice mindful spending

Uncover the cost: International trip

Uncover the cost: Wedding

4 reasons why estate planning is important

LGBTQ+ retirement planning: What you need to know

What is Medicare? Understanding your coverage options

Using 529 plans for K-12 tuition

Retirement plan options for the self-employed

Is a Health Savings Account missing from your retirement plan?

How to open and invest in a 529 plan

How to manage your finances when you're self-employed

How grandparents can contribute to college funds instead of buying gifts

Safeguarding the payment experience through contactless

COVID-19 safety recommendations: Are you ready to reopen?

What corporate treasurers need to know about Virtual Account Management

High-cost housing and down payment options in relocation

Insource or outsource? 10 considerations

How to choose the right custodian for your managed assets

Buying or leasing? Questions to ask before signing a contract

Finance or operating lease? Deciphering the legalese of equipment finance

Common pitfalls to avoid in the equipment financing process

Housing market trends and relocation impact

Does your side business need a separate bank account?

The costs of hiring a new employee

5 steps to take before transitioning your business

Make your business legit

How to establish your business credit score

Talent acquisition 101: Building a small business dream team

10 tips on how to run a successful family business

How to sell your business without emotions getting in the way

How to save money while helping the environment

How to expand your business: Does a new location make sense?

Is raising backyard chickens a good idea financially?

Working with an accountability partner can help you reach your goals

7 steps to prepare for the high cost of child care

What are conforming loan limits and why are they increasing

How to decide when to shop local and when to shop online

How to save for a wedding

How I did it: Turned my side hustle into a full-time job

Stay on budget — and on the go — with a mobile banking app

Multiple accounts can make it easier to follow a monthly budget

5 things to consider when deciding to take an unplanned trip

5 tips for creating (and sticking to) a holiday budget

For today's relocating home buyers, time and money are everything

Crypto + Relo: Mobility industry impacts

How to test new business ideas

How can I help my student manage money?

How to increase your savings

7 steps to keep your personal and business finances separate

3 types of insurance you shouldn’t ignore

8 steps to choosing a health insurance plan

7 things to know about long-term care insurance

Preparing for retirement: 8 steps to take

5 unexpected retirement expenses

How to build wealth at any age

Year-end financial checklist

Good money habits: 6 common money mistakes to avoid

6 tips for trust fund distribution to beneficiaries

Key components of a financial plan

4 steps to finding a charity to support

How to winterize your vehicle

Don’t underestimate the importance of balancing your checking account

Protecting cash balances with sweep vehicles

6 questions students should ask about checking accounts

How to gain financial independence from your parents

The secret to successful service provider integration

What you need to know as the executor of an estate

How to build a content team

Webinar: ESG for Corporations: Building an all-weather, long-lasting strategy

Do your investments match your financial goals?

Can fantasy football make you a better investor?

Year end tax planning tips

How to manage money in the military: A veteran weighs in

A beginner's guide to investing

How do I prequalify for a mortgage?

Can you take advantage of the dead equity in your home?

Home equity: Small ways to improve the value of your home

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How much house can you afford?

8 steps to take before you buy a home

Is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) right for you?

Webinar: Mortgage basics: 3 Key steps in the homebuying process

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Buying or renting – What’s right for you?

How to use your home equity to finance home improvements

Webinar: Mortgage basics: What is refinancing, and is it right for you?

Should you get a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit?

5 things to avoid that can devalue your home

6 questions to ask before buying a new home

What is refinancing a mortgage?

What is an escrow account? Do I have one?

Quiz: How prepared are you to buy a home?

10 questions to ask when hiring a contractor

What to know when buying a home with your significant other

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How does your credit score impact the homebuying experience?

What is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and what can it be used for?

Dear Money Mentor: When should I refinance a mortgage?

Building a dream home that fits your life

Are professional movers worth the cost?

Beyond the mortgage: Other costs for homeowners

How I did it: Bought my dream home using equity

Get more home for your money with these tips

Saving for a down payment: Where should I keep my money?

4 ways to free up your budget (and your life) with a smaller home

How I did it: Built living spaces to support my family

Managing the impacts of appraisal gaps in a hot housing market

Is it the right time to refinance your mortgage?

Spring cleaning checklist for your home: 5 budget-boosting tasks

Overcoming high interest rates: Getting your homeownership goals back on track

Money Moments: How to finance a home addition

Home buying myths: Realities of owning a home

House Hacks: How buying an investment property worked as my first home

Should you buy a house that’s still under construction?

10 uses for a home equity loan

Know your debt-to-income ratio

Your guide to breaking the rental cycle

Travel for less: Smart (not cheap) ways to spend less on your next trip

Should you buy now, pay later?

Steer clear of overdrafts to your checking account

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know what an overdraft is?

Tips for working in the gig economy

Which is better: Combining bank accounts before marriage — or after?

Tips to overcome three common savings hurdles

Money Moments: 8 dos and don’ts for saving money in your 30s

Save time and money with automatic bill pay

Money Moments: 3 smart financial strategies when caring for aging parents

Helpful tips for safe and smart charitable giving

Growing your savings by going on a ‘money hunt’

Why a mobile banking app is a ‘must have’ for your next vacation

Tips to raise financially healthy kids at every age

Is it time to get a shared bank account with your partner?

How I kicked my online shopping habit and got my spending under control

Friction: How it can help achieve money goals

It's possible: 7 tips for breaking the spending cycle

What to consider before taking out a student loan

Financial checklist: Preparing for military deployment

Here’s how to create a budget for yourself

Webinar: Common budget mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Checking and savings smarts: Make your accounts work harder for you

3 awkward situations Zelle can help avoid

Allowance basics for parents and kids

9 simple ways to save

Do you and your fiancé have compatible financial goals?

3 ways to keep costs down at the grocery store (and make meal planning fun)

What military service taught me about money management

6 pandemic money habits to keep for the long term

From LLC to S-corp: Choosing a small business entity

Is online banking safe?

8 tips and tricks for creating and remembering your PIN

Recognize. React. Report. Caregivers can help protect against financial exploitation

Recognize. React. Report. Don't fall victim to financial exploitation

College budgeting: When to save and splurge

How I did it: Paid off student loans

How to save money in college: easy ways to spend less

Unexpected cost savings may be hiding in your payment strategy

Costs to consider when starting a business

Questions to ask before buying a car

Overdrafts happen: Steps to get you back on track

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Building a home

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Prequalification or pre-approval – What do I need?

Adulting 101: How to make a budget plan

You can take these 18 budgeting tips straight to the bank

How I did it: Learned to budget as a single mom

Multigenerational household financial planning strategies

Buying a home Q&A: What made three homeowners fall in love with their new home

Your 4-step guide to financial planning

Working after retirement: Factors to consider

What types of agency accounts are available for investors?

Personal loans first-timer's guide: 7 questions to ask

Consolidating debts: Pros and cons to keep in mind

Improving your credit score: Truth and myths revealed

The connection between your health and financial well-being

Should I itemize my taxes?

Dear Money Mentor: How do I set and track financial goals?

Retirement income planning: 4 steps to take

Lost job finance tips: What to do when you lose your job

LGBTQ+ financial planning tips

Understanding guardianship and power of attorney in banking

What I learned from my mom about money

Financial gifts can be a valuable – and fun – choice for the holidays

What financial advice would you give your younger self?

How to stop living paycheck to paycheck post-pay increase

Practical money tips we've learned from our dads

What you need to know about renting

What’s in your emergency fund?

Certificates of deposit: How they work to grow your money

Dear Money Mentor: How do I pick a savings or checking account?

Car shopping: Buying versus leasing your next vehicle

How I did it: Deciding whether to buy an RV

What you should know about buying a car

Take the stress out of buying your teen a car

Practical money skills and financial tips for college students

Tips for navigating a medical hardship when you’re unable to work

Money management guide to financial independence

Money Moments: How to manage your finances after a divorce

Personal finance for teens can empower your child

5 reasons why couples may have separate bank accounts

U.S. Bank asks: Transitioning out of college life? What’s next?

Key milestone ages as you near and start retirement

How to use debt to build wealth

How to track expenses

How to talk about money with your family

30-day adulting challenge: Financial wellness tasks to complete in a month

How to retire happy

How to protect your digital assets in your estate plan

Money Moments: Tips for selling your home

How I did it: My house remodel

First-timer’s guide to savings account alternatives

Does your savings plan match your lifestyle?

Resources for managing financial matters after an unexpected death

Webinar: Uncover the cost: College diploma

How I did it: Bought a home without a 20 percent down payment

Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce

Crypto + Homebuying: Impacts on the real estate market

Myths vs. facts about savings account interest rates

Military homeownership: Your guide to resources, financing and more

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know your finances?

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Home renovation

Webinar: Bank Notes: College cost comparison

Do I need a financial advisor?

Good debt vs. bad debt: Know the difference

Preparing for homeownership: A guide for LGBTQ+ homebuyers

Parent checklist: Preparing for college

U.S. Bank asks: What do you know about credit?

Financial steps to take after the death of a spouse

Estate planning documents: Living trusts vs. will vs. living will

Annual insurance review checklist

7 financial questions to consider when changing jobs

How to best handle unexpected expenses

Unexpected cost savings may be hiding in your payment strategy

Checklist: 6 to-dos for after a move

Disclosures

Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rates and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, home equity and credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.