How often should you monitor your checking account?
Most of us have experienced it. All the groceries have been rung up – the cashier tells you the total – you pull out your card to pay – you push all the buttons – declined. You pull the card out and say something like, “huh, that’s strange” and hope to hear the person behind the counter say something like, “yeah our machine has been messing up today.” Either way you try again, and, if you’re lucky, your card gets approved, and you take your groceries on your merry way. The unlucky ones, though, get that second decline. It’s at this moment that you ask yourself the important question: how much money do I actually have in the bank?
In all reality, you should know the answer to this question, but often people go about doing things without really checking. No one wants to end up being the unlucky person in the scenario above, but not checking your bank account often enough is setting yourself up for just that. But there’s more.
While avoiding the decline message is one reason to monitor your bank accounts, there are others that are just as important. So, before we get to how often you should be checking in on your accounts, let’s discuss the reasons you should be.
Monitoring your bank account often will help you:
- Avoid overdraft fees.
Overdrawing on your account often comes with some sort of fee, which means if you forgot to look before you paid for your meal, then it might have cost you more than expected. If you’re like a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck, checking your bank account daily might be the only way you can keep from overdrawing.
- Monitor for Fraud.
What if, in the scenario we started with, you had checked your bank account that morning to find plenty of funds for multiple trips to the grocery store. You may be even more concerned to see your card declined twice knowing you had a large sum in your account to start the day.
The thing is, you may not have spent it unknowingly - it may have been fraud.
Identity Theft and Fraud, such as Debit Card Fraud, are growing problems in the age of technology. In fact, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports in 2020. 1
The second leading cause of loss and fraud in 2020 was related to credit and debit card accounts, and the longer you take to report it, the more you are still liable for. Catching it early is key.
Your bank may offer a tool to help monitor for fraud. At Southern Bank we offer a free app called CardValet 3 that allows you to monitor transactions in real time and even turn your card off in an instant.
- Achieve your budgeting goals.
If you are wanting to stay on a budget, then checking your bank account is crucial - especially if you want to be putting money into your savings account each month. It’s likely that most people would like to budget, and even more likely that they don’t have the tools to do it. At Southern Bank, we offer a free tool within the online banking platform called MySpending. It allows you to set categories and spending limits and will alert you when you reach a certain percentage of that limit.
- Avoid Recurring Fees.
A study done by CreditCards.com found that 35 percent of U.S. adults polled had “set up an account – such as a streaming TV service, a magazine subscription or a gym membership – that enrolled them in automatic payments without them realizing it”. 2 It’s possible this has happened to you as well. Some of you may have willingly signed up for a recurring payment and just forgotten about it, especially if you put it on a credit card account that you don’t often use. If you don’t catch these payments, you could end up paying for something you may not even use month after month. That adds up. But you can easily avoid this by simply paying attention.
- Stay above your minimum balance to avoid banking fees.
Most bank accounts have a minimum balance that you are required to meet in order to receive certain benefits or avoid service charges. For instance, you may be able to have an account for free if you keep your balance above $100 or so, but if not, you could end up paying banking fees for holding the account. Because all accounts are different, you should be aware of your account’s specific requirements.
Now that we’ve gone over the reasons you should be checking your bank account, let’s get to how often you should be checking it and some tips for monitoring your checking account.
So, how often should you be checking your bank account?
We recommend AT LEAST once a week. With a savings account, it assures you that your money is still there; With a checking account, it gives you the opportunity to assess how much room you have for spending. For credit card accounts it can keep you from racking up more debt than you had intended, so that it can easily be paid off. Across all the account types it can make you aware of any account irregularity and help you avoid credit or debit card fraud. There are also some instances where you could be checking your accounts more, maybe even multiple times a day, depending on your situation. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, checking in more than once a week could help you avoid fees. If you are about to leave on a trip, or you are currently on one, it could be better to monitor more closely as well. You may also want to check in if you are about to go into a store or a restaurant where you plan on spending more money than usual. A larger shopping trip, getting the groceries for the week, or a night out at a nicer restaurant would be good examples. While looking once a week is a good minimum, checking in more often is certainly beneficial.
So how do we manage this?
Here are a few tips for monitoring your checking account:
- Set reminders – Once you’ve chosen a day or time of day to check in, help build the habit by setting an alarm that keeps you accountable.
- Take advantage of online and mobile banking – It would be nearly impossible to monitor your accounts often without using mobile banking on your phone while you are out and about, especially if you are checking it multiple times a day. With Southern Bank’s online banking app, you have the ability to check your checking or savings account from anywhere. You can even sync outside accounts, including credit card accounts and accounts at other banks.
- Consider consolidating accounts – Keeping track of spending with multiple cards across multiple accounts at multiple banks could be difficult and exhausting. How can you detect an account irregularity if you can’t remember what card you used where? Make your life a little easier by consolidating into one account that is simple and easy to check in on.
- Verify transactions – It’s important to go through your bank account not just to see the amounts spent, but to verify the transactions themselves. Spending some time with your bank statement each month can help you avoid fraud or recurring transactions that you didn’t know about.
- Call your bank immediately if you notice suspicious activity – As we mentioned above, if you catch fraud early, you could end up being liable for less. An account irregularity could be an initial sign. If you suspect a transaction wasn’t you, it’s best to call your bank right away to report it.
These tips can be a good start, and you may even have some ideas that we didn’t mention. That’s great! Overall, it’s about creating rhythms that work well for you and help you meet your financial goals. Don’t have an account with Southern Bank? Get started here.
1 “Facts + Statistics: Identity theft and cybercrime”, Insurance Information Institute, https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-identity-theft-and-cybercrime
2 Brady Porche, “Poll: Recurring Charges are Easy to Start, Hard to Get Out Of”, CreditCards.com, Aug. 22, 2017, https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/autopay-poll/
3 CardValet® is a registered trademark of Fiserv, Inc. Data charges may apply. Check with your mobile carrier for details.