Credit cards that offer airline miles as rewards are popular, and most accountholders who have these cards take earning miles seriously. In fact, a recent study from Compare Cards showed as many as 20% of rewards card users actually track their credit card miles more carefully than they do their checking account balance. That's one in five cardholders who are keeping more careful track of free miles than their hard-earned cash.
While you definitely want to make sure you claim miles or rewards you earn, paying attention to your checking account balance is much more important. In fact, everyone -- rewards card users or otherwise -- should be well aware of exactly what's happening with the money they're depositing in the bank.
It's more important to monitor your checking account than your credit card rewards
If you track your miles carefully so you know how many you have, what you can use them for, and what the miles are worth, why aren't you doing the same with your checking account and the money within it?
Some of the key things you should be paying attention to when it comes to your checking account include:
- Your deposits: Do you know how much money comes into your account each month? You should keep careful track of your income, both to determine if there are any changes -- such as a bigger paycheck thanks to tax reform -- and so you'll know how much you have to spend. Ideally, you'll have a budget that accounts for where your dollars are going so you can make sure your money is working for you.
- Your expenditures: Do you know where the money from your checking account is going? If you don't, it's time to figure it out. Unless you know what you're spending money on, it's impossible to determine if you're using your money wisely. By tracking your spending for at least 30 days, you can get a more realistic idea of the state of your finances and can identify tweaks you need to make to have more money to accomplish financial goals.
- Auto-pays: The more you can automate in your financial life, the easier it will be to be financially successful. Ideally, set up automatic investments into retirement accounts and savings accounts such as an emergency fund account. You can also set up automatic bill payment to ensure your payments aren't late and your bills are paid in full. Monitor auto-pays out of your checking account to make sure money is going to the right places and in the right amounts.
- Fees: Are you paying a monthly maintenance fee for your bank account? Did you get charged for using an ATM, for overdrafting your account, or for bouncing a check? Average bank fees total almost $1,000 over the course of a decade, according to Nerdwallet research, and a recent study from Bankrate shows checking account fees surged in 2017. If you're getting hit with bank fees, you may need to change your bank or change your behavior to keep more money in your pocket.
Being financially responsible by keeping careful tabs on your money can provide you with far more long-term financial rewards than the credit card miles you earn.
You can easily keep track of what's happening with your finances
The good news is, keeping track of what's going into your checking account -- and what's coming out of it -- is easier than ever. There are apps such as Mint that will allow you to link your checking account, categorize transactions, and analyze your spending. You can keep track of income, outflow, automatic transfers from your account, and fees you're asked to pay.
By paying attention to your money, you can make it work harder for you so you can accomplish financial goals -- like actually having the money to enjoy yourself on vacation after you've flown somewhere with all those free miles.