7 Steps Required To Keep Your Bank Account In Check

7 Steps Required To Keep Your Bank Account In Check
  • PublishedSeptember 21, 2017

Most of us open our first current account by age 20. But just because we have 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 is not part of your monthly routine, your inattention could carry a price, according to

If you lose track of how much money is in your account, you can get slapped with expensive insufficient funds fees, aside other severe risks.

But it’s not hard to get a handle on your account. These seven simple steps can help you keep your current account under control, according to

  1. Keep good records

The more informed you are about your current account, the better equipped you’ll be to read and analyse 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 cheques. Or use a software programme, such as Intuit’s Quicken or an online version of your favourite financial programme. The point is to have a record of every cheque, deposit and electronic fund transfer that’s involved with the account.

  1. 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.

  1. 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, Minnesota, USA. It’s usually listed at the top of the page and it recaps the state of your account: previous balance, deposits and credits, cheques 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 January 18 to February 17, so any cheques you’ve written around or after the closing date won’t be on the statement. Ditto any deposits you’ve made in the meantime.

  1. Spend quality time with your account

Scanning’s a good first step, but don’t stop there.

“Go over the deposits and the cheques,” says Paula Wegner, vice president of the First Eagle National Bank in Chicago. “Check all cheques from your bank statement against your cheque register. Check off all cheques.”

Wegner’s emphasis on scrutinising your posted cheques is intentional. You need to see whether your payment records match what the bank has.

Most bank statements will give you several ways of doing this. For example, some allow you to see what cheques have been posted by including a copy of the cheque. The advantage: it shows you who the cheque was written to. Even when cancelled cheques are part of your statement, your monthly accounting probably will also include a list by cheque number of your transactions. Here you’ll see the cheque number, amount and when it posted, but not the payee.

Similar information will be listed on incoming cash to your account. For cheques paid and deposits credited, make sure your records jibe with the bank’s books.

  1. Call your bank immediately if you find a problem

You’ll be glad you closely followed your account’s paper trail if you find yourself in a situation similar to one encountered by financial planner Zimmerman.

She got a notice from her bank saying that her youngest son’s current account was overdrawn by 56 cents. It wasn’t much, but it didn’t sound right. When Zimmerman called the bank, an officer there told her that the account wasn’t in arrears and the bank wasn’t sure how she had received the overdrawn notice.

Zimmerman’s story had a happy ending (the bank acknowledged its mistake), in large part because she was paying attention and immediately acted on a discrepancy. If you report problems quickly, they’re likely to be fixed quickly and not escalate. It’s also easier to track things when they just happened vs. six months ago.

And by being prompt in your account reconciliation, you show the bank that you are trying to stay on top of your finances. That diligence could later pay off. For example, Zimmerman recommends that if you bounce a cheque, and it’s the first time, ask for forgiveness, including waiver of any fees.

“Lots of people don’t realise that the rules can be waived and often a bank will do that for good will,” Zimmerman says. Of course, don’t expect to get off easy if you are a repeat offender.

  1. Check daily balance summaries

First Eagle’s Wegner says that most people don’t need to analyse their daily balance summaries. However, there are exceptions: consumers with interest bearing accounts or those who must maintain a minimum average balance.

People who fall into these categories may want to keep closer tabs on daily balances to make sure their accounts are in compliance or to make sure they are paid the appropriate amount of interest.

  1. Keep tabs on your account between statements

OK, may be only truly obsessive people review their accounts daily via phone or the Internet.

But periodic checking on your account between printed statements does sometimes make sense. That’s the case when you are expecting an out-of-the-ordinary transaction: Has that payment to the internal revenue service been posted yet? Did that big freelance cheque clear?

Most of these tips don’t take much time. And once they become a part of your financial routine, you’ll find it is easy maintaining a healthy current account.

Source: PUNCH

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