Check Registers vs. Online Banking Balance – How Much Money Do You Really Have?
Years ago I learned to do something that I would not appreciate until later. I learned how to use and to complete a check register. Unfortunately, learning how to use it did not help me to learn how to manage my money. It just let me know when I did not have any more money in my checking account – a signal to start using my credit cards. That’s another story for another time. Back to check registers. Check registers are more valuable today than ever, but they are rarely used. With the prevalence of debit cards, checks are rarely ordered when someone opens a checking account. In fact, if someone does order checks you wonder if they have an ulterior motive if they are not a senior citizen. People rarely use checks anymore. Also, merchants accept checks less and less these days. However, whether or not you order checks when you open a checking account check registers are still available and still as important as ever.
I would argue that there that there was a time when more people managed their money and knew how much was in their checking account down to the penny. That has changed with the prevalence of debit cards, phone banking, and online banking. Account holders can get their balances from an ATM, telephone banker, or online via their smart phones or laptops. Although this is more convenient, it has made them more susceptible to Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) Fees. When some purchases are made the funds are not immediately deducted from your checking account. There could be a hold or delay of 1 – 4 days depending on the merchant and/or day of the week the purchase was made. Therefore, if you depend on an ATM balance or online banking balance that does not show a pending balance you may think you have more money than you actually have and spend more. Of course, the bank may be happy with you because you will pay more NSF Fees. But you cannot blame the bank for this. It is up to you to know how much money you have in your checking account.
This is where check registers can be very valuable. You can use a check register to record every deposit and every withdrawal. It might seem like a lot of work in this electronic age but it is worth it if you are interested in saving money on NSF Fees. It is true that NSF Fees are relatively high but if you are managing your money and know how much you have in your checking account, you are less likely to pay NSF Fees. I am not saying that you should ditch online banking. I think that used in conjunction with a check register, you will be assured that you know how much money you have in your checking account. Joint accounts are another challenge. You may write entries in the check register but your spouse, friend, or partner does not do so. Again, that is another story for another time. All the best!
Click here to get my free eBook: Money Management 101