Going through life without a checking account is similar to riding a bike with a flat tire. You will eventually get to where you need to go, but it would be so much easier without the flat tire. Checking accounts are essential tools for any consumer to manage and track their money while building a good credit history.
Benefits of a Checking Account
There are numerous reasons to have a checking account:
- Bill Payment – Pay bills by writing checks or using online payment services.
- Cash – Keeping cash in your account instead of your pocket or home will help avoid loss and theft.
- Debit Card – These cards, which are tied into your checking account, give you quick and easy access to your money and can reduce your use of credit cards.
- Saving – Use your checking account to cash checks without paying fees, and pay your bills without buying money orders.
- ATM Card – This is an easy way to get cash when you need it, make deposits and check your account balance.
- Proof of Payment – Checks provide a paper trail or written proof that you paid someone. Each time you write a check that ultimately clears your account, there will be several records of it. Having this proof is important for tax purposes (when you make tax-deductible charitable donations) and whenever you are paying a person or company by mail.
What to Look for In a Checking Account
Shop around to find a checking account that fits your personal needs. Here are some things to look for:
- Minimum Balance – Does your account require a minimum balance?
- Transaction Limits – Does your account limit transactions in a statement period?
- Fees – Does your account have fees? If so, what are they for? Don’t let "free checking" fool you. Read the fine print to ensure your account really is free. Some of the more common fees could include:
- Overdraft Fee
- Returned Check Fee
- Non-activity Fee
- ATM Fees
- Funds Availability – How long are deposits held before the funds are available?
- Branch Locations and Availability – How many branch and ATM locations are there? Are they located conveniently for you? What are the branch hours of operations?
Managing Your Checking Account
Always keep close track of your checking accouint deposits and payments. Keeping your check book balanced is very important. It’s a good habit to promptly record all your transactions in your check register. Also, you can compare your check register with your monthly statement to make sure that everything is accurate.