by Elizabeth Aldrich | May 20, 2019
Older generations remember the days of manually recording every deposit and withdrawal made from their bank accounts -- otherwise known as balancing your checkbook. Younger generations might not even know what a checkbook is.
Thanks to online banking and mobile banking, it's no longer necessary to meticulously balance your checking account. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't still monitor it. The real question is, how often should you monitor your checking account?
Balancing your checkbook might have gone the way of, well, checkbooks, but you still need to monitor your accounts. Here are just a few reasons to check in on your checking account regularly.
According to the Nilson Report, fraud is increasing rapidly. They've estimated that credit and debit card fraud will double between 2016 and 2025.
Thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act, if fraudulent charges show up on your debit or credit card, you're not liable for much -- as long as you report it quickly.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, for debit and ATM cards, if you report the loss or theft before any fraudulent charges are exacted, you're not liable for any purchases made. If you report within two days of learning about the loss or theft, you're only liable for a maximum of $50 in fraudulent charges.
However, if you take longer than two business days to report, you're liable for up to $500 in fraudulent charges. If you wait more than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you, you could be liable for all of the money that was taken from you.
Even if you haven't lost your debit card, it's possible for someone else to put fraudulent charges on your account remotely. It's crucial to check your accounts as frequently as possible in order to protect yourself from fraud. That way you can spot suspicious activity and report it as soon as it happens.
There's nothing worse than handing a clerk your debit card only to have them hand it back with an awkward grimace and tell you it was declined. Tracking how much money you've got going in and out of your accounts on a regular basis is the only way to avoid this.
Now that online banking is ubiquitous, all you have to do in order to make sure you're not overspending is log into your account and check your balance. You should also go through recent deposits and purchases, though, to make sure that you're receiving money that's expected and get a sense of how your purchases add up.
If you have trouble sticking to a budget, monitoring your checking account is the first step to getting a sense of where you need to cut costs. It will also help you make sure not to overdraw your checking account, which results in unnecessary fees, and if left overdrawn long enough to be sent to collections, a negative mark on your credit report.
Banking fees are as common as credit card sign-up bonuses nowadays, and some of them are less obvious than others. The most costly banking fees are overdraft fees, ATM fees, and account maintenance fees. But some accounts also charge balance inquiry fees, foreign transaction fees, currency conversion fees, early account closure fees, minimum balance fees, returned check fees, paper statement fees, and over-the-limit withdrawal fees.
If you don't even know what some of those fees are, you're not alone. They're hidden in an account's fine print so that consumers like you pay them without even noticing it. However, by monitoring your checking account and examining each charge that arises, you'll be able to spot hidden fees like this. If you notice one, contact your bank to inquire why it was charged to your account. Asking nicely might get them to reverse the fee, but even if they don't, you'll have a better understanding of what you need to do to avoid being charged with it again.
If you're wondering how often you should monitor your checking account, know that it's impossible to check your bank account too often.
Some people feel that checking their bank account once per month is enough, but monthly check-ins aren't really enough to keep you conscious of your spending or help you catch fraud in a timely manner. It's better to check your bank accounts at least once each week.
If you live paycheck to paycheck or are trying to reign in your spending, you'll want to check your accounts even more frequently. This is also true for folks who receive irregular paychecks from multiple sources, (such as freelancers or the self-employed), who might need to monitor their income more closely. Try to make checking your bank accounts a daily habit.
Monitor all your accounts, not just your checking account. In addition to monitoring your checking account, you should also check up on other accounts, such as savings and credit card accounts, on a regular basis.
Make monitoring your bank accounts automatic. To make monitoring your checking account even easier, set up a browser window with tabs open to the login page of each account and save it as your browser's homepage. That way each time you open your browser, you'll be reminded to check in with your various accounts.
Use your bank's mobile app. Most banks have their own mobile applications now, so download the mobile apps for your various accounts and keep a section on your phone for banking. This makes it easy to monitor your bank accounts from anywhere.
Take advantage of online banks. If you're unsatisfied with your current bank's online and mobile banking services, consider opening one of the best free checking accounts with an online bank. Online banks make it easy to do everything from the comfort of your own home, and because they have fewer overhead costs, their accounts tend to come with lower fees and higher returns.
Call your bank immediately if you notice suspicious activity. If you notice a charge to your account that's unfamiliar or higher than what you agreed to pay, it's imperative that you call your bank immediately to get it sorted out. If the charge is still pending, though, most banks will make you wait until it's posted in order to dispute it. Keep in mind that some businesses will place holds on your account, (most typically gas stations, hotels, and rental car agencies), so if you see a pending charge for more than your bill, that could be why.
Keeping up-to-date with your accounts can help you manage your money, avoid fraud, and spot hidden banking fees. Online and mobile banking make monitoring your checking account easier than ever, so there's no reason not to log on and check your accounts at least once per week. By building a sense of awareness around your money, you're contributing to your overall financial health.
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