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Actively managing your accounts ensures that you always know your account balances, even when the true balance may differ from the amount printed on your last statement or ATM receipt.
How could your bank not know the true balance? Think about mailing a check to pay a bill. For all practical purposes, that money has been spent - it’s just a matter of time before the postal service delivers the check and it’s deposited. But your financial institution doesn’t know that a check has been written until it’s been presented to the bank for payment, so your account balance isn’t telling the whole story at all times. The same is true with any debit card transactions made without entering your PIN - it will generally take a day or two for the money to be withdrawn from your account and reflected on your statement.
By tracking your deposits, transfers, and withdrawals, you can make sure that you don’t spend more money than you have. Otherwise, you could be charged overdraft fees, your transactions could be declined, or you could even be charged late payment or bounced check fees from merchants. It is ultimately your responsibility to monitor your account activity.
Most banks offer the option of either electronic or paper statements. No matter which type of statement you prefer, remember to save your statements for a minimum of three years and up to seven years. Bank statements are often needed for tax returns, financial aid verification and in the event of a tax audit.
Online Financial Services
Most banks and credit unions offer online banking tools that make managing your accounts easier than ever. While online account management is not the only way to effectively manage your accounts, it does have many advantages.
If you bank online exclusively, meaning you never receive paper statements, make sure you understand how long your statements will be available online. If they’re available for just one year, for example, you will need to download them periodically and store them yourself. Otherwise, you will likely have to pay a retrieval fee for older statements if you need them later.
How to Manage Your Account in Three Steps
Ideally, you’ll write down every purchase and save every receipt, always knowing your true account balance – especially if your account balance is often near zero. Otherwise, you’ll want to review your transactions at least once per month using your statement or an online banking portal.
When reviewing your account information, you should:
Performing these simple tasks regularly helps to ensure that you are in complete control of your account.