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Oversee Your Checking Account Using Transaction Alerts

May 23, 2010

By Barbara Marquand | Money Rates Columnist

If you're over 40, you probably remember what a painstaking chore it was to balance a checkbook each month, using only your rudimentary record keeping, math skills, and a paper bank statement.

Those days are over now, thanks to technology. Not only does online banking let you check your balance and track transactions at any time, but new transaction alert services automatically send you messages anytime something unusual happens with your checking account.

Checking Account Fraud Prevention

Most banks and credit unions now allow you to set up automated alerts for various checking, savings, and credit card account activities. These alerts quicken response to fraud by letting you know immediately about unusual transactions.

Don't think you could be victimized? Thank again. Even if you never lose your debit card, you still could be subject to fraud in a skimming scam. All savvy thieves need to know to steal money from your account is your debit card number and your PIN. They capture that information by installing fake debit and credit card readers and secondary PIN pads on ATM machines, movie rental kiosks, gas pumps, and other places where customers swipe their cards to make purchases or get cash. Then they use the information to make fake cards to drain accounts.

Set Up Your Online Checking Account Alerts

To get transaction alerts for your checking account, simply sign up with your bank online, set the criteria that trigger an alert, and choose whether you want to receive them by e-mail or cell phone text. Individual banks and credit unions vary in what types of alerts they offer, but here are some common potential scenarios, specified by alert triggers that you select:

  • A transaction is made with your debit card over the Internet, by phone, or by mail order.
  • A debit card transaction or ATM withdrawal exceeds a limit you specify. For instance, if you rarely take more than $60 from the ATM, you may want to sign up for an alert for any withdrawal above that amount.
  • Total debit card purchases or withdrawals exceed a certain amount in any one day.
  • A debit card purchase is made from an international location.
  • Your checking account balance falls below a certain level.
  • A direct deposit is posted.
  • A specified check clears.

Checking Account Alerts: Possibilities are Endless

Many other variations are possible. Credit Union of America, for instance, lets customers set up personalized text message reminders for practically anything--from when an automatic bill payment is scheduled to when the dog is due at the groomer.

Although your bank might offer transaction alert services for free, don't forget that you'll have to pay your cell phone provider for any text message fees. Also, don't sign up for so many alerts that you begin to ignore them and miss a crucial message.

New online checking account technologies are here, to be used to your advantage--so you can leave the checkbook behind and spend more time doing the things you love.

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