|7 ways to keep your bank account
Most of us open our first checking
account by age 20. But just because we've had one for years, that
doesn't mean that we manage it properly.
When is the last time you balanced your bank account?
If it's not part of your monthly routine, your inattention could
carry a price. If you lose track of how much money is in your account
you could get slapped with expensive insufficient funds fees.
But it's not hard to get a handle on your account.
These seven simple steps can help you keep your checking account
1. Keep good records.
The more informed you are about your checking account, the
better equipped you'll be to read and analyze your bank statement.
"You have to have something to compare it to
in order to know whether it's right or wrong," says Michael
Stahl, author of Early
to Rise: A Young Person's Guide to Investing.
That means keeping track of account activity. And
you do have choices. You can keep a handwritten record of transactions
using the register that comes with your checks. Or use a software
program, such as Intuit's Quicken or an online version of your favorite
financial program. The point is to have a record of every check,
deposit and electronic fund transfer that's involved with the account.
2. Open your mail.
When the bank statement arrives, open it and put your record
keeping to good use.
"Do it right when you get the statement,"
Stahl says. "Don't wait."
It's better to examine your bank statement sooner
than later for two reasons.
First, if there are any mistakes, reporting them to
your bank quickly will ensure they get corrected. Banks usually
will disavow errors if they are reported more than 60 days after
you received the statement.
Second, the fewer days that pass between when the
bank issues a statement and when you read it, the more in synch
your records will be with the bank's numbers. "It's less confusing
and easier to balance your bank statement if you do it as soon as
you get it, not three months later," Stahl says.
3. Scan first.
If you're pressed for time, you can get away with examining
just the account summary, says Susan Zimmerman of the Zimmerman
Financial Group in St. Paul, Minn. It's usually listed at the
top of the page and it recaps the state of your account: previous
balance, deposits and credits, checks and debits, service charges,
interest paid and current balance.
"At a bare-bones minimum, look over the summary
information and see if the figures are in the ball park," Zimmerman
says. For example, you can see if the balance is roughly what you
think it should be or whether the amount of withdrawals is way too
high. Look for any unusual or unexpected fees.
Keep in mind that bank statements cover a set time
period, say from Jan. 18 to Feb. 17, so any checks you've written
around or after the closing date won't be on the statement. Ditto
any deposits you've made in the meantime.