Katie Stiner

Regularly monitor your chequing 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 chequing account, prevent possible fraud or errors, and minimize account fees.

Monitoring chequing 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 chequing account

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

1. Catching fraudulent activities

There is an increasing trend of chequing account frauds for banks and individuals and has led to considerable losses. KPMG conducted Global Banking Survey across 43 retail banks worldwide. Half of the survey respondents reported an increase in external fraud, including cyberattacks, identity theft, and account takeover.

One way of fraud is when a thief makes small test purchases after obtaining your debit card and then makes 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 behaviour on your account.

One method of protection to help lower the chances of fraud is to use Equifax. If a threat is detected, a personal case manager will help you from start to finish while being covered by their insurance policy for stolen funds.

Regularly checking balances on statements from banks, companies, and credit cards will help you prevent identity theft.

In case fraudulent purchases are made using your credit card, or it is used in any transactions unauthorized by you, your maximum liability will be $50 if you took sufficient measures to keep your account and PIN safe. You are also expected to inform your card issuer of fraudulent activity in a reasonable time.

However, in some instances, the liability amount can be as much as your bank account balance or even more.

2. Watching for excessive or hidden fees

Awareness of bank fees is important, such as overdraft or returned payment fees.

While overdraft protection fees never exceed $5, the total negative balance will increase if you go into overdraft multiple times. To avoid paying the fee multiple times, you can opt for monthly overdraft protection, where you will be charged a maximum of $5 fee once a month only.

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
  • Variable fees for transactions that go above your plan

Annually, a chequing account holder can have to pay $160 as maintenance fees alone. When other fees are added, the total can translate to a substantial amount, especially 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 a 2018 survey, 53% of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque, and 49% of Canadians do not have a plan for financial emergencies.

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 chequing 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 chequing 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 chequing 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 chequing 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 chequing account? Which method are you using to monitor yours?

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

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