Tuesday, 12 February 2019

If you're like most people, you use your checking account nearly every day. You use it to buy things by using your debit card, a mobile payment app like Venmo, or maybe even paper checks.

You use it to get cash from ATMs, pay for subscriptions like Netflix or Hulu, and pay your other bills.

Your checking account is basically the tool that connects you to your money on a daily basis. That's why you need to protect it from fraud, misuse and mistakes. Here are four reasons why you need to consistently monitor your checking account:

WHY: To protect yourself against overdrafts. If you're not watching your account balance regularly, you won't know which payments have already cleared your account and which ones are still pending. When you regularly check your transactions, you know exactly where you stand, so you can avoid overdrawing your account. And avoid the fees that come with overdrafts, too.

HOW: Set up balance alerts in mobile or online banking. Most banks let you set up your own threshold for alerts, so you can get a text or email if your balance drops below $50, $100 or whatever dollar amount you choose. Then you can delay a purchase or transfer money to avoid overdrawing your account. 

WHY: To protect from possible fraud. If you're watching your account activity, you're more likely to spot any charges that might not be yours. While fraud can be rare, watching your account activity is just as important as protecting your identity.

HOW: Check your account transactions on a regular basis. You can also set up alerts to let you know if there are any charges above a certain amount, so you can make sure they're yours. Or if you prefer, you can get a text or email every time your debit card is used. No matter what level you choose, you can watch for suspicious charges and take action early.

WHY: To make sure deposits are credited. If you have regular deposits that go directly into your checking account, you should take the time to make sure they've arrived. Whether it's your payroll, a government check, or a digital payment from a friend, you can set alerts to let you know the money has arrived.

HOW: Create deposit alerts. The same way you can set text or email alerts for debits, you can also do the same for credits. So by setting a deposit alert just below your expected deposits, you'll get a text as soon as the money is in your account.

WHY: Maintain a budget. Because we handle so many of our financial transactions digitally, money moves almost instantly. That can make it hard to keep track of where your money goes and equally hard to set and stick with a budget. Watching your account activity regularly can give you a clear picture of how you spend money and help you find ways to adjust spending as needed.

HOW: Use online banking tools. Along with text and email alerts, most online and mobile banking tools include budgeting options. You can assign categories to your expenses, set thresholds for each one, then set notifications as you approach your maximums.

Maybe the most important reason to keep an eye on your checking account is this: It's your money. You should know where and when it moves. Whether you're protecting yourself, maintaining a budget, or just looking for information, use the online and mobile tools available to keep control of your money. 

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