How Often Should You Typically Monitor Your Checking Account?

FT Contributor  | 

You can never check in on a bank account too often. The more frequently you monitor activity on your checking account, the more likely you’ll benefit from the activity in a variety of different ways.

Of course, everyone can’t spend their lives hunched over their computers, watching their financial status around the clock. If you’re looking for a minimum benchmark, checking in once a month is often thrown out as a solution.

Staying up to date on your finances through a single monthly check-in is often far too infrequent. Instead, try to review your bank accounts, checking and savings, at least once a week and even more if possible. This allows you to tap into a number of different benefits.

Monitoring Your Accounts Lets You Be Proactive — Not Reactive

When it comes to your finances, it’s important to maintain a hand on the wheel at all times. This involves proactively taking action rather than waiting for problems to arise.

Monitoring your accounts is one of the simplest ways to maintain this proactive mindset. Regularly keeping tabs on the state of your finances enables you to maintain a personal budget and plan ahead for both the short and long term.

For instance, checking on the status of your bank account gives you a snapshot of how much money is truly deposited each month — rather than pre-tax estimates or ballpark figures. It also shows how you spent your money, right down to the penny. This will often vary from your forecasted budget, such as if you had an unexpected emergency trip to the hospital.

By checking on your bank account, you can manage your financial life in greater detail, allowing you to refine your budget week over week and work towards long-term goals such as setting up an emergency fund or saving towards retirement.

Reasons to Monitor Your Checking Account

While skimming your bank statement or logging on to your online bank account are both good ideas, they won’t do much good if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Here are a couple of the primary things to have in mind as you audit your checking account on a regular basis:

Track Your Income and Expenses

Most budgets start as estimations, but monitoring your bank account provides a window into how the actual money is earned and spent. You can use this information to tweak your budget accordingly. You can also use the information to:

  • Identify and curb any unhealthy spending behavior: It’s easy to swipe your debit card at your favorite restaurant seven or eight times throughout the month and never feel like you’re spending too much. However, your checking account provides a cold, hard reality of how much those minor discretionary expenses can add up.
  • Avoid excessive or unexpected fees: Many financial institutions have hidden fees — such as overdraft fees or charges for failing to maintain a minimum balance — that can quietly drain your bank account if you’re not looking.
  • Prevent recurring charges: In the modern subscription-happy age, checking in on your bank account can help you nip any unwanted subscriptions in the bud.

From curbing bad spending habits to cutting off hidden fees and charges, checking in on your checking account is an easy way to stay proactive and in control of your finances.

Detect Fraudulent Activity

The other major benefit of monitoring your bank accounts is preventing fraud from taking place. There are many different kinds of cybercrimes that can affect your finances, including:

  • Credit card fraud (130,928 reports for new accounts and 32,329 reports for existing accounts in 2018 alone).
  • Identity theft (87,765 reports in 2018).
  • Tax fraud (38,967 reports in 2018).

In any of these cases, a delayed response can make it more difficult to repair the situation and can even increase your liability.

Say, for instance, you discover that your credit card was compromised months ago and a variety of unauthorized charges have been made. You may be able to get some of the more recently stolen funds back, but your negligence in failing to report the fraud in a timely manner may limit the amount of reimbursement you receive.

By monitoring your bank accounts on a regular basis, you can spot and react to cybercrimes in a timely manner. This shifts liability off of yourself and gives you the greatest chance for a positive outcome.

Convenient Methods of Monitoring Your Checking Account

There are a few easy ways to monitor your checking account. If you find that your current bank does not have any of the following, you can easily set up a bank account online to receive access to these options.

Choose to Receive E-Statements

Traditional paper statements sent via snail mail are inconvenient and can’t be obtained in a timely manner. However, if you sign up for e-statements, you’ll receive your bank account information instantly each month and keep it stored online and easily accessible in your email account.

Download Your Bank’s Mobile App

An increasing number of financial institutions such as Citizens Bank and Bank of America are providing mobile apps exclusively for their users.

These apps can typically be found in the app store on your mobile device and provide a plethora of uses. You can check on your accounts, download statements, make payments, and send and deposit checks all without the need to visit a local branch.

Sign Up for Low Balance Alerts

Regularly checking in on your accounts is already a wise habit to maintain. If you want to take things to the next level, though, you can also sign up for low balance alerts. These settings send you a notification when your bank account drops below a certain level.

Most banks provide this option, and it can typically be found through their mobile app, via an online banking portal, or by calling your bank directly. Setting up a low balance alert provides peace of mind knowing that you’ll never incur an overdraft or minimum balance fee without being notified beforehand.


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