Keeping Up
The Account

The tips below can help you keep your account healthy and avoid costly and embarrassing mistakes:

  • Every time you write a check, enter the check number, date, and amount into your checkbook register and subtract it from your balance. You may want to round up the check amount to the next highest dollar figure. This can help you avoid bounced checks or help cover any monthly fees.
  • If you deposit or take money out from an ATM, write down those transactions as well.
  • If you make a purchase with a debit card, record that in your register, also.
  • If you are using both paper checks and on-line banking, make sure you enter the checks you wrote electronically into your paper register. If you are using a personal finance software (such as Microsoft Money or Quicken) along with online banking, you can list both your paper checks and electronic checks into the software.
  • If you can't get into the habit of writing down your check transactions immediately in your register, order checks that have duplicates. Then, you'll have a record of the check and can enter the transaction amount into your register at a later time.
  • When you order checks, remember to subtract the cost of the checks from your balance.
  • Don't bounce a check (write a check for more money than you have in your account). Watch those debit card purchases, too; it's easy for small purchases to overdraw your account. The bank will charge you as much as $34 or more for each bounced check or debit card purchase. This will hurt your credit record.
  • Don't check your account balance at the ATM and assume it is correct. If you wrote checks that haven't been processed by your bank yet, the ATM balance will be higher than the amount of money you have available.
  • When the bank mails your checking account statement each month, compare the bank's figures with your check register and make any adjustments. This is called "balancing your checkbook."
  • Take advantage of technology. Many banks have 800 numbers you can call to find out your balance, what checks have cleared, and the fees you have been charged. The information usually is updated every business day, so it's more current than monthly statements.
  • Organize your bank paperwork and place it into the right folder. If you think maintaining a checking account is a hassle, consider the cost of cashing checks at check-cashing stores.