Monitoring your account is a crucial activity that many account holders don’t do on a regular enough basis. Not only will it allow you to balance the sheets, but it can also protect you from the repercussions of identity theft and fraudulent activity.
Fortunately, monitoring your account is much easier than it sounds. You don’t need to remember your credit card number or anything. In most cases, all it takes is 5 minutes of your time to receive automated alerts making the whole thing a breeze.
Why monitor your checking account?
There are many reasons why you should monitor your accounts regularly. While your checking account is likely to see the most activity, it’s essential to check all of your accounts, including your credit card accounts.
The purpose of balancing your account is one of the reasons why you should monitor your checking account. If your account is paid an interest rate, this will help you make sure that the payments are coming through to your account as they should be.
But there’s more. Here are some other important reasons that can help you make sure you do not lose your money.
Many people who hear about fraud and identity theft think they’re just horror stories and not something that could ever happen to them. But in reality, fraud is a real problem – one that affects many Americans every year.
In 2018 alone, bank fraud amounted to over $25 billion (as reported by the American Banker's Association). That's a lot of money to have stolen in one year!
Vigilently monitoring your checking account is one of the best ways to stay safe.
Of course, there are many other precautions you can and should take. But, even so, account monitoring is the last line of defense – one that can save you a lot of headaches and money.
2. Understanding Liability
When money gets stolen, determining who is liable and for what is the most critical step. While the FDIC or NCUA might insure your account, the important thing to understand here is that debit cards and credit cards have different liability mechanisms.
While credit cards enjoy a wide range of protections and liability coverages, debit cards do not enjoy the same range of extensive protections. When money gets stolen from a debit card, time is critical, and every hour counts.
The maximum amount of money you stand to lose depends on how long it takes you to report that a debit card has been lost or stolen. The protections that are currently in place are as follows:
- If you report your debit card as lost or stolen before any unauthorized transactions appear, you won’t lose any money.
- If you report your debit card as lost or stolen within two business days, you can lose up to $50.
- If you report your debit card as lost or stolen more than two business days later, but less than 60 days, you can lose up to $500.
- If you report your debit card as lost or stolen more than 60 days after the bank statement is issued, you risk losing all of the money in your account and the accounts linked to it.
And that’s why frequent monitoring is so important: it can save you all your money in the event of fraud!
Banks are notorious for charging banking fees, but the truth is that you can avoid paying many types of fees through account monitoring. Monitoring your accounts will also help you uncover any hidden fees you were unaware of and take appropriate action.
- NSF Fees. If you try to withdraw money or buy something more than you have in your account, your bank may charge you an NSF (non-sufficient funds) fee. Check your account balance if you’re not sure whether you have enough money before making the transaction.
- Overdraft Fees. Overdraft fees are NSF fees’ equally annoying cousin. Banks charge you overdraft fees when you pay for transactions that exceed your available balance. Make sure you monitor your account before making large purchases to ensure that you have enough money to cover your transactions.
- Account Maintenance Fees. Many banks charge a monthly fee on their accounts. In most cases, you can avoid paying fees. Different banks may use different criteria, including keeping a minimum balance or making several transactions such as direct deposits every month. Regularly keeping an eye on your account will help you know if you’re on track to meet the requirements or not.
- ATM Fees. Banks typically charge ATM fees when you’re using out-of-network ATMs to take out cash. Some banks offer a limit on how much money they’ll refund you from such transactions. Keeping an eye on your account will let you know how much ATM fees you’ve racked up so far and whether it’s safe to use an out-of-network ATM you’re next to or if you’re better off finding your bank’s ATM.
- Paper Statement Fees. Financial institutions may charge you for paper statements delivered to your door. If you have access to a computer or a smartphone, opt for electronic statements instead and save yourself the fee. Monitor your account to see if your bank is charging you these fees and see if you can do without paper statements to avoid them.
Monitoring your accounts for fees can help you minimize your costs. For example, if you are overdrawing your account, you might want to consider getting overdraft protection.
How to monitor your checking account
The good news is that there are several ways to monitor your checking account.
Most of these require very little to no effort on your part, and you can choose whichever works best for you. Or, opt into multiple to be able to cross-reference transactions and make sure you stay on top of things at all times.
While it might seem tedious, remember that not monitoring your account can end up being very expensive.
- Download Your Bank’s Mobile App
- Set Up Automated Alerts
- Log Into Your Account Online
- Read Your Bank Statement
- Link a Budgeting App
1. Download Your Bank or Credit Union’s Mobile App
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to monitor your checking account and savings account is by installing your credit union or bank’s mobile app. Most banks offer this free of charge, and you can download it straight from the App Store (if you have an Apple device) or the Google Play Store (if you have an Android device).
Some financial institutions require you to apply before you can use it, so be sure to check the bank’s or credit union’s website before downloading.
Once downloaded and installed, you need to log in. Some apps allow you to use biometric authentication such as FaceID or your fingerprint, providing an extra security layer against unauthorized access.
Once you’ve logged in, you will be able to see your accounts’ information, including transactions and bank statements. Being able to do this straight from your phone means that you can monitor your account from anywhere – as long as you have internet access.
Make sure you remember to check in regularly and go through your account activity to spot anything that shouldn’t be there.
2. Set Up Alerts
Mobile banking apps make it very easy to monitor your checking account. Many if not most apps also include alerts – making it effortless to stay on top of your accounts.
Alerts are automatic notifications that you’ll receive on your phone every time a transaction passes through your account. You don’t even need to log in to get alerts; they’ll appear alongside other notifications such as those from your social media accounts and emails.
3. Use internet banking
If you do not have a phone compatible with mobile banking, or your bank does not offer it, the next best thing is online banking. Like mobile banking, internet banking can be used from anywhere where you have an internet connection. You might need to apply for it, so be sure to check your bank’s or credit union’s website regarding the procedure in place.
Internet banking is mostly used from laptops and computers, but you can even use smartphones and tablets with an internet browser. Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices should all be compatible.
Once you log in to your internet banking, you should be able to see your checking account information as well as your bank statements. Unfortunately, internet banking does not come with alerts, so you will need to remember to log in and check your bank account every so often.
4. Check Your Bank Statement
You can receive your bank account statements in one of two ways – electronically or by post. You can access electronic bank statements through internet banking or the mobile banking app. Paper bank statements arrive by post and are typically received much later than electronic statements since they have to travel via the postal system.
Bank statements contain all of the transactions within a statement period, which typically runs one month. Here you will be able to see all of the money that went in and out of your account. Make sure you cross-reference with your checkbook or other records to detect if any unauthorized payments have been made from your account.
5. Link Your Account to a Budgeting App
Many budgeting apps allow you to link your bank accounts, giving you a bird’s eye’s view of all of your accounts, even if they sit with different banks. The best budgeting apps can do this automatically by logging in on your behalf (with your credentials and consent, of course). In contrast, others will require you to manually download a file from your internet banking and import it into the budgeting app.
Our final word on monitoring your checking account
Regularly monitoring your account is very important. Doing this can help you gain more insight into your regular spending habit and better manage your money.
But most importantly, regular account checks can help you catch unauthorized payments, fraudulent charges, and any suspicious activity before it’s too late.
Make sure you report any such transactions promptly to your bank. As it is a problem that affects so many Americans, all banks have steps in place to react to it quickly. It’s worth keeping the bank’s phone number handy so that you can get in touch right away should this happen.
Ultimately, there is no magic number that can tell you exactly how often you should monitor your bank account. The important thing here is to find a schedule that best suits you – but make sure it is frequent enough so that you can catch things just in time without being overbearing.
There are many handy tools to help you stay on top of it all, like automatic alerts and reminders. Using them will keep you in the driver’s seat always.