Managing Your Checking Account

Managing Your Checking Account | CashCourse: Your Real-Life Money Guide

When you have a checking account, managing the cash flow in and out of your account is key.

Bouncing checks, making late payments, or forgetting to schedule payment for an upcoming bill can lead to costly fees and may affect your overall credit score if you become a repeat offender.

So, do your wallet and your credit rating a favor and be savvy with your spending, smart about paying bills, and wise with your checking account. 

Whether you choose to bank online, use a more traditional account with a check register and ATM card, or go with a blend of online and traditional banking, it’s important to keep close tabs on the money flowing in and out of your checking account.

Tips for online banking

Planning to do your banking online and by phone? These tips are for you:

  • Make deposits by smartphone. Use a banking app to deposit a paper check with your smartphone. Sign the check and use your phone’s camera to take a picture of the front and back of the check. The banking app will send the photos to your bank, where they’re processed electronically. Pay attention to daily and monthly deposit limits that your bank may impose. Keep checks for 90 days after you deposit them, then shred them.
  • Withdraw cash at ATMs. To get cash, visit an ATM near campus or where you live and make a withdrawal using your ATM card. Always check your balance before you withdraw cash to avoid overdraft fees. If you very recently made a deposit, wait until that deposited money is shown as “available” in your bank account before spending it.
  • Go paperless. Sign up for online account statements and pay your bills online. Choose direct deposit for financial aid checks and paychecks, and the money will be deposited directly into your checking account. 
  • Monitor spending. Review your online transactions and be aware of your account balance at all times. Need a reminder? Check to see if your bank will send you balance information by email or text message. 
  • Balance your account each month. Verify each transaction on your online statement and review your spending line by line. Chat with an online rep any time you have questions or need help balancing your account. 
  • Report suspicious activity. See an online transaction that you don’t recognize? Contact your bank’s fraud department immediately. If you report a lost or stolen card within two business days, the maximum amount of stolen funds you will lose is $50. Between two and 60 business days, the maximum amount of money you can lose rises to $500. If you wait more than 60 days, you could lose all of the money that was fraudulently taken from your account .

Tips for managing a traditional checking account

Do you like banking by ATM or smartphone, visiting your local branch for transactions, and writing paper checks? These tips are for you:

  • Deposit paper checks as soon as possible. To deposit a check at a bank, visit a bank teller or drop off your deposit at the drive-up window. For deposits after banking hours, use an ATM or your bank’s smartphone app. Remember to keep the check for 90 days after depositing it, then shred and dispose of the check.
  • Get cash. To withdraw money at a bank, write a check made out to “Cash.” Or use your ATM card to withdraw money from any of your bank’s ATMs.
  • Monitor spending. Use your check register to maintain a record of all your spending activity. Keep track of your account balance at all times. 
  • Balance your account each month. When you get your monthly bank statement, promptly compare the balance on the statement with the balance in your checkbook register. Crunch the numbers carefully. If there’s a problem, call your bank or visit a bank branch. 
  • Watch out for suspicious activity. Spot a transaction in your bank statement that you don’t recognize? Report the transaction to your bank’s fraud department immediately.

Debit card users: Be aware of holds. When you make a debit card transaction using your PIN, it’s processed that same day. But in a few situations, there’s a delay that can cause a problem for you. Hotels, rental car agencies, restaurants, and gas stations place holds on your checking account by blocking out anticipated charges in advance when you pay by debit card. The hold is released from your account once the actual purchase price of the transaction is deducted from your checking account. But while the hold is in place, your debit card could be declined for future transactions, depending on your account balance.

Furthermore, earlier transactions processed while the hold is in effect could result in your account being overdrawn and you could be hit with overdraft fees—even if you have adequate funds in your account! Holds may also occur when you use a credit card.

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