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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School Finances: Managing Checking Accounts

Going off to college is definitely a right of passage in personal financial management. Not only does money become tight, but now you are responsible for managing your own financial accounts and records.

Today, we cover tips on managing your first checking account.

  • Track your expenses and account balance. Less people are balancing a checkbook due to advances in online banking. If you choose not to track expenses and balance a checkbook, at least get in the habit of reviewing your online account to get a clearer picture of your spending habits and to get an estimate of your account balance. It’s important to remember that the amount that appears on your online account balance does not reflect checks or deposits that have not yet been processed.
  • Check your account statements frequently. If you use online banking, get in the habit of checking your account statements and balances frequently. Not only will you have a better idea of how much money you have in your account, you can act quickly if you spot a fraudulent charge. If you don’t use online banking, review the account statement that the bank or credit union sends to you.
  • Review the terms of your accounts. Some checking accounts have fees associated with them. Review the terms of your account to understand the fees. If you have questions, contact your bank or credit union. Also, understand the overdraft protection policies of your account. New rules require that you opt-in for overdraft protection services.
  • Do not float checks. The "float" is that time delay between when a check is deposited and when the money is withdrawn from your account. With the advancement of electronic check processing, float time has been significantly reduced or in some cases eliminated. Don’t write checks you don’t have sufficient funds for.