Katie Stiner

Regularly monitor your checking account to take charge of your finances.

Keep a close eye on your bank account activities because you can maximize the benefits offered by a checking account, prevent possible fraud or errors, and minimize account fees.

Monitoring checking account activities has become easier with technological improvements.

Online and mobile banking has allowed users to remotely monitor their accounts while minimizing costs.

Benefits of monitoring your checking account

While regularly monitoring your checking account may seem demanding, especially with a busy schedule, the benefits are enormous. Here are the most important reasons to periodically monitor your checking account.

1. Catching fraudulent activities

There is an increasing trend of checking account frauds for banks and individuals in the U.S. and has led to considerable losses. The Deposit Account Fraud Survey Report published in January 2020 by the American Bankers Association highlighted a $6 billion increase by 2018 as compared to 2016.

Most of the time, a thief may make small test purchases after obtaining your debit card and will make larger purchases if the test is successful.

Debit card fraud protection isn’t as strong as credit cards, so it’s important to immediately report any suspicious behavior on your account.

One method of protection to help lower the chances of fraud is to use Identity Guard by helping you with indentiy theft. If a threat is detected, a personal case manager will help you from start to finish while being covered by their insuance policy for stolen funds.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, immediately reporting a lost or stolen debit card will exclude you from responsibility for any fraudulent purchases on your account. You will also reduce the liability incurred.

Your liability in case of a fraudulent purchase on your account may be:

  • A maximum loss of $0 if you make a report before any unauthorized transaction takes place
  • The maximum loss of $50 if you report within two business days after learning about the loss or theft
  • The maximum loss of $500 if you make a report after two business days but before 60 calendar days elapse after receiving your checking account statement
  • If you report a fraud 60 days after receiving your statement, all the liability may be on you. You may lose all the stolen amount from your debit card, ATM, and possibly amounts in your linked accounts.

2. Watching for excessive or hidden fees

Some banks have incredibly high fees such as overdraft or returned payment fees.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) estimates that a single overdraft fee can be as high as $30. Most individuals do not know when charged an overdraft.

For instance, after depositing a check, most people assume the funds are immediately in their accounts. They then pay bills and make purchases using their debit cards.

If a check ends up delaying for about five days before being cleared, all the payments and purchases are posted as an overdraft.  Each will incur substantial fees and more charges if the negative balance is not settled.

Looking over your account balance to make sure the check has been posted before making any transaction is an easy way to avoid overdraft charges.

Other fees to pay attention may include:

  • Monthly maintenance fees
  • Minimum balance fees
  • Balance inquiry fees
  • ATM fees, including out-of-network ATM fees
  • Paper statement fees

Annually, a checking account holder pays about $475 on average as account fees. This can translate to a substantial amount when accumulated with other accounts held by the same person. Spotting these fees earlier through regular monitoring can help save some amount at the end of the year.

3. Better managing your financial life

According to an American Payroll Association survey, 30% of Americans do not budget their spending, and 74% live paycheck to paycheck. 

By watching your account balance, you can maintain some extra cash in your account as an emergency fund. You can also track your spending and identify areas to cut back expenses and save better.

How often to monitor your checking account?

There is no general frequency to monitor your account – what may be enough for one account holder may not be enough for another holder. But monitoring your account once a month is not enough to protect you from fraud, fees, or aligning your finances.

Start by logging into your account once or twice weekly. Within no time, you will be logging into your bank account to monitor debits or credits posted daily. It’s about building a habit.

When reviewing your account, look for unrecognized transactions. Also, confirm if your deposits, mainly through checks, have been posted. Take a look at your recent purchases to confirm expenses and any other fees.

Check your information, your email, and phone numbers to make sure they are up to date. Use a unique password and change it regularly to lock out thieves.

Here are some tips to easily monitor your checking account:

1. Access your account information online

Logging into your account is the most basic way to monitor your account. You can easily view your balance as well as all your transactions.

If you are too busy or you forget to log into your account daily, you can use a more automated approach that will make it easy for you to monitor your account.

One example is adding notifications to your calendar to remind you.

2. Use an app that monitors account activities

Most banks have mobile applications or have designed their websites for mobile users to view their account activities easily.

If your bank app is not what you want, get a third-party mobile budgeting app such as PocketSmith. This app is usually handy as you can link multiple checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit card accounts to the same app. You can monitor all your account transactions easily.

3. Set up alerts

If manually monitoring your checking account is difficult, you can sign up for alerts, and your bank will be pushing information when activity happens in your account.

You will be receiving text or email for every withdrawal, deposit, returned payment, low account balance, and so much more. With alerts, it is easier to monitor your account since you will be waiting to hear from your bank in case of activity.

4. Review online or paper statements

Regularly going through your online account statement can help identify unusual trends that may be fraudulent. You may also find errors committed and correct them early with your bank. You may sign up to receive paper statements. Most banks, however, charge a fee for the paper statement.

5. Contact your bank by phone

Give your bank a call if you need an update on your account balance or clarification on some account activities. Banks will have an automated system to answer your account balance queries. You will need to speak with a representative for other reasons concerning your account. Call your bank during working hours to talk with a person.

6. Check your account at an ATM

ATMs provide accurate account balance information. You should know how to differentiate between the total account balance and the available balance, which will be displayed in your ATM.

The total account balance is the total amount in your account before any pending transaction. In contrast, the available balance is the amount you can withdraw or spend right away and includes pending transactions. The transactions that are delayed will include withdrawals and deposits into the account.

Also, to avoid ATM fees, use your bank’s ATM instead of out-of-network machines because they usually charge a fee when you check your account balance.

7. Talk to a teller

If you’re a client at a brick-and-mortar bank, you can speak to the bank teller concerning your account. Most banks discourage personal visits and even charge a fee to access personal services. Credit unions with shared branching networks have thousands of branches and will readily offer personal assistance to their account holders.

It is best to access your account using the self-service methods described. You will be more save time by monitoring your account on the internet instead of visiting your branch.

Final thoughts

Monitoring your account will help reduce the chances of fraud and stay ahead of your finances.

Take advantage of automated methods like mobile apps and alerts that will help you have all your account information at your fingertips.

What do you think is the best way to monitor a checking account? Which method are you using to monitor yours?

Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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