How to keep your account under control

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Most of us open our first current account by age 20. But just because we’ve had one for years, that doesn’t mean that we manage it properly.

When is the last time you balanced your bank account? If it’s not part of your monthly routine, your inattention could carry a price. If you lose track of how much money is in your account, you can get slapped with expensive insufficient funds fees.

But it’s not hard to get a handle on your account. According to bankrate.com, these are simple steps that can help you keep your current account under control:

  1. Keep good records

The more informed you are about your current account, the better equipped you’ll be to read and analyse your bank statement.

“You have to have something to compare it to in order to know whether it’s right or wrong,” says Michael Stahl, author of ‘Early to Rise: A Young Person’s Guide to Investing’.

That means keeping track of your account activity. And you do have choices. You can keep a handwritten record of transactions using the register that comes with your cheque; or use a software programme, such as Intuit’s Quicken or an online version of your favourite financial programme. The point is to have a record of every cheque, deposit and electronic fund transfer that’s involved with the account.

  1. Open your mail

When the bank statement arrives, open it and put your record keeping to good use.

“Do it right when you get the statement,” Stahl says. “Don’t wait.”

It’s better to examine your bank statement sooner than later for two reasons.

First, if there are any mistakes, reporting them to your bank quickly will ensure they get corrected. Banks usually will disavow errors if they are reported more than 60 days after you received the statement.

Second, the fewer days that pass between when the bank issues a statement and when you read it, the more in synch your records will be with the bank’s numbers. “It’s less confusing and easier to balance your bank statement if you do it as soon as you get it, not three months later,” Stahl says.

  1. Scan first

If you’re pressed for time, you can get away with examining just the account summary, says Susan Zimmerman of the Zimmerman Financial Group in St. Paul, Minn. It’s usually listed at the top of the page and it recaps the state of your account: previous balance, deposits and credits, cheques and debits, service charges, interest paid and current balance.

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