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1 CHECKING ACCOUNTS published by AAA Fair Credit Foundation

2 Checking Accounts 1. What is a checking account? Opening a checking account ATM Cards How to write a check How do I keep track of what I spend? When I get my bank statement How to reconcile (balance) your check book Bounced checks & the District Attorney s Office

3 What is a Checking Account? 1 A checking account is a type of bank account that allows you to transfer money from that account to other locations and pay bills that you owe, for example: rent, auto payment etc. Each bank/credit union offers variations of checking accounts and it pays to do your homework with different banks/ credit unions before you decide where to open your checking account. A checking account is insured up to $100,000 by the federal government. The insurance is called FDIC, and you should verify that your bank and/or credit union has this coverage. With this insurance if the money in your checking account is stolen, or lost by the financial institution managing the account, the Federal Government will replace up to $100,000 of this money. You can open a checking account with any bank/credit union but you should open a checking account that suits your needs. The general types of checking accounts are: 1 Basic checking 2 Free checking 3 Interest checking 4 NOW checking 5 Lifeline checking 6 No-frills checking 7 Credit Union share draft accounts W H AT I S I T? 02

4 Opening a Checking Account 2 When you decide which bank or credit union to open your checking account with, they will run a credit check to see what your credit history is and will also verify your banking history, if any, through Chexsystem. This system shows them if you have a history of bounced checks or if you owe any outstanding money to another bank or credit union. To open an account you will need two pieces of identification, for example: Valid state I.D or Drivers License Credit card Government I.D Depending on the bank, you will need to deposit a minimum amount of money into the new checking account. This is usually $100, but may vary depending upon the bank s requirements. The bank will then issue a checkbook to you that identifies your account number and also contains your name, address, and phone number. This checkbook can now be used in several ways: 1 Obtain cash at a store 2 Obtain cash at the bank 3 Pay for goods by writing a check 4 Pay bills (car payment, rent, utilities, etc) In addition to the checkbook, the bank may issue you an ATM card (see section 3). Each individual check is sequentially numbered and this allows you to keep track of the checks issued in either the checkbook log or from the duplicate copy. O P E N I N G A N A C C O U N T 03

5 ATM Cards 3 An ATM Card stands for Automated Teller Machine Card. The ATM card is NOT a credit card and does NOT build your credit. This card allows you to obtain cash and pay for goods, without having to write a check or visit the cashier at the bank. Each time you use an ATM card, the money is immediately debited from your checking account. You must track the money you spend, by keeping your receipts, EVERY time you use your ATM card. Pay to the order of DATE amount in numbers Your Name 1234 Somewhere St. Anytown, ST Pay to the Order of Ford Motors 03/17/2005 Date $ Two Hundred Dollars and Fifty Cents Dollars For Car Payment Your Signature figure 1 what is it for amount in words signature AT M C A R D S 04

6 How to Write a Check 4 There are 4 main things to remember when writing a check: 1 Always use a ballpoint pen, never use a pencil if you use pencil, information could be altered. 2 Never write post dated checks the check could be deposited before the date and you may not have the money in your account to cover it, or you may forget that you issued a post dated check and spend the funds that you had originally allowed. In both cases, the check will bounce (see section 8). 3 Never issue a blank check pretty obvious why you shouldn t anybody can fill information on the check. 4 Always record transactions in your checkbook log/register. O.K., so let s look at what information we need to put onto the check (see figure 1): Date Put the date that you are writing the check 03/17/2005. Pay to the order of Put in the name of the person/company that you are paying Ford Motors. Amount in words Write the amount of the payment in words Two hundred dollars and fifty cents. Amount in numbers Write the amount of the payment in numbers - $ What it is for Put on the check what the payment is for Car payment. Signature Don t forget to double check the above information and then sign your name. W R I T I N G C H E C K S 05

7 How Do I Keep Track of What I Spend? 5 Whether you write a check or use your ATM Card, you MUST record it in your check register. In addition, when you use your ATM Card, keep your receipts. Put the receipts with your check register, that way when you come to reconcile (balance) your checkbook, you have everything together. Your checkbook should come with a check register. This register allows you to track your spending and the amount of money in your checking account. Let s look at a typical check register (see figure 2): Check number Record here the check number that you issued Date Write the date you wrote the check 03/17/2005. Description Write what you wrote the check for Car payment Debit How much was the check for - $ Credit How much did you pay into the checking account for example your salary was paid in for $ Balance How much money is left in your checking account (see section 6). TRANS. TYPE/ CHECK NO. PAYMENT/ FEE DEPOSIT/ DATE DESCRIPTION OF TRANSACTION DEBIT (-) (IF ANY) CREDIT (+) $ 2, Deposit 1/6 Deposit from your employer Paycheck 2, /7 Ford Motors Car Payment 2, Ck.Card 1/9 Harry s Burger Barn Lunch with Dad 2, /11 Your City Utilities 2, ATM 1/12 Electronic City Birthday present for Bill 2, K E E P I N G T R A C K figure 2 06

8 When I Get My Bank Statement 6 B A N K S TAT E M E N T Every month you will receive a copy of your checking account bank statement. If you don t receive a bank statement, contact your bank immediately. This may be an indication of Identity Theft. Question: What should you do when you receive your bank statement? a. Put it to the side and forget about it until next month. b. Open it and verify that the figures match with your check register. Answer: b. Open it and verify that the figures match with your check register Bank statements can look complicated with all those different boxes with numbers in them Arrrgh! Just remember, they only reflect what account activity has occurred for that month and should match your records. After a few months they won t look half as bad. Ready to have a look at one? (see figure 3) The first bits of information are the bank s contact information, and also your personal information including your checking account number, so you don t want to put this information in the trash do you? Date of statement Details what period of time the statement covers 1/1/2005 through 1/31/2005. Description of transactions Describes what the transaction was for Deposit, debit, check #1017, ATM withdrawal, Monthly service fee, etc. Date of transactions Details the date of the transaction. Note: this may be different from your record, as this details the date the bank made the transaction. Amount of transaction How much the transaction was for - $ Beginning (or opening) balance Shows the beginning balance for that period - $2,250.50, for example. This balance will reduce or increase with each transaction until the ending balance. 07

9 Ending balance After all transactions have been processed, this is the ending balance for the account. Summary of statement Gives a summary of the account beginning balance, ending balance, total debits, total credits, etc. Checks paid Details all the checks that were processed for the period check #1017 $ So, how was that? Not too complicated was it? Account Statement January 1, 2005 January 31, 2005 page 1 of 3 YOUR BANK Thank you for banking with Your Bank. For assistance please call: YOUR BANK Account Summary ACCOUNT ACCOUNT NUMBER BALANCE LAST PERIOD BALANCE THIS PERIOD Regular Savings , , Regular Checking , , Total 6, , Transactions Regular Checking DEPOSITS AND INTEREST Date Description $ Amount 1/6 Deposit from your employer /23 Online transfer WITHDRAWLS CHECK Number Date Amount Number Date $ Amount / / / / Total Checks B A N K S TAT E M E N T WITHDRAWLS OTHER Type Date Description $ Amount Check Card 1/9 Harry s Burger Barn ATM withdrawl 1/12 Electronic City Check Card 1/17 Last Chance Service Station figure 3 08

10 How to Reconcile (balance) Your Check Book 7 R E C O N C I L I N G Now that you can read and decipher your checking account bank statement, the next step is to verify the information it contains matches what you have recorded in your check register and on receipts. It is foolish to just accept that the bank statement is accurate. Even banks make mistakes. Also, checks may not always process within the time period covered in the monthly statement, so you need to verify that all your hard earned money is accounted for right? So, how is that done? Well, it s called reconciling your checkbook, or in other terms, balancing your check register with the bank s statement. If you do this diligently every month, reconciling becomes really quick and easy to do. With your bank statement ready, get out all your receipts, ATM receipts, check book register and cancelled checks (if your bank sends them). Put all your receipts in order by date. This makes it easier to go through against your bank statement. Look at your bank statement and locate the first debit: Examples: Winn Dixie $73.50, match this with the receipt for Winn Dixie, does it match? If YES - place a check mark next to the amount on the bank statement and place another check mark on the receipt. Put the receipt to one side as completed. Check #1017, match this with your check register (and/or cancelled check), does it match? If YES place a check mark next to the amount on the bank statement and place another check mark on the check register (and/or cancelled check). Repeat this step for every debit and/or credit. If the amount on your check register or receipts does not match what is on your bank statement, even if it is only $1, you MUST investigate the reason why. 09

11 Look for bank services fees, NSF fees, charges, ATM withdrawal fees and automatic deductions (auto payment etc) on your statement, make sure to write these in your check register and deduct them from your balance. When you subtract all the debits and add all the credits from your starting balance, then your checkbook register ending balance should match your bank statement ending balance. If it doesn t then check all your figures again. Sample Reconciliation Worksheet 1 Bank Statement Ending Balance $ 1, Outstanding Deposits and/or Credits + $ Subtotal (Line 1 + Line 2) = $ 1, Outstanding Checks: $ Outstanding Debits: + $ Subtotal (Line 4 + Line 5) = $ Reconciled Balance (Line 3 Line 6) $ 1, Bank Statement Ending Balance $ 2 Outstanding Deposits and/or Credits + $ 3 Subtotal (Line 1 + Line 2) = $ 4 Outstanding Checks: $ 5 Outstanding Debits: + $ 6 Subtotal (Line 4 + Line 5) = $ 7 Reconciled Balance (Line 3 Line 6) $ R E C O N C I L I N G 10

12 Bounced Checks & the District Attorney s Office 8 Bounced Checks and Bad Checks are the same thing; they both mean that you don t have enough money in your bank account to cover the amount of the check. The banks refer to this as NSF, or Non Sufficient Funds, and the majority of banks will charge you, usually $30 each time this happens. In addition, the establishment that issued the check will charge you their own NSF fee. If you write too many bad checks, the bank will close your account and report you to ChexSystems as a high-risk customer. The information reported to ChexSystems stays on record for a minimum of 5 years. This can prevent you from opening a bank account until the information is removed. ChexSystems can also turn you over to the District Attorney s Office for prosecution. The punishment for issuing bad checks is: Under $200 is a misdemeanor and you could be fined up to $1000 and sentenced up to 1 year in the county jail. Over $200, or any bad check written with a previous conviction, is a felony and you could be sentenced to 1 year or more in state prison and ordered to pay a fine. Several District Attorneys Offices offer a system for first-time, bad check writers which involves repaying the merchant, attending intervention classes and paying all the program fees. While it is possible to repay the amount to the merchant and avoid obtaining a criminal record; the merchant may still pursue a claim against you in small claims court. B O U N C E D C H E C K S 11

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