How to reconcile your bank account

By Karen Lawson | Money Rates Columnist

Do you toss your monthly bank statements into a drawer each month and never touch them again? That could be a mistake.

A wiser approach is to go through your statements each month and reconcile your checking or savings accounts. This can allow you to catch bank errors, spot fraudulent activity and keep better track of where your money is going. Failure to do this may result in you losing money and not even knowing it.

Steps to account reconciliation

Bank account reconciliation should be done at least every month, preferably when your bank statement arrives. Waiting too long to reconcile your savings or checking account can lead to improper transactions damaging your account more and more as time goes on. It can also be more difficult to fix incorrect transactions after some time has passed.

Here are the steps to reconcile your account:

  1. Using your receipts or notes, ensure all of your deposits and withdrawals are listed in your checking or savings account register.
  2. Place a check mark next to all the transactions in your register that appear on your latest bank statement.
  3. Total all the transactions that you've recorded in your register but that don't appear on your statement. If it's a negative sum, subtract it from your statement balance. If it's a positive, add it to your account balance.

If the sum matches the amount in your register, you've completed your reconciliation.

Searching for discrepancies

If your reconciled balance does not match what is in your register, it's possible you've neglected to record a transaction in your register -- possibly a fee or interest credit. Determine the amount of the discrepancy and search your statement for a matching amount.

If this doesn't reveal a difference, you'll need to go back and look at each transaction to make sure you recorded the correct figures. You may find it helpful to check if your difference is divisible by nine. If it is, you may have transposed a number -- for example, recording a $75 check as $57. The difference, $18, is divisible by nine.

Look for discrepancies between what you recorded in your register and what showed up on the statement. If you think you incorrectly recorded the amount of a check in your register, request a copy of the check to confirm the amount. If the statement shows an incorrect amount on another type of transaction, contact your bank to clear up the problem.

Reconciling your accounts will not only help you stay on top of how much cash you have, but also will help you determine if you're paying too much in monthly, overdraft or ATM fees. If it turns out you are, examining the checking accounts available on MoneyRates.com may be worth your time.

 

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