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So first things first, if you’re wondering how to check your bank balance, it’s also important that you know why and how often you should check them. So let’s dive in. Checking your bank balances helps you to:
Stay in charge of your finances and financial goals
If you can measure it, you can manage it, right? Knowing your bank balances helps keep you in the driver’s seat of your finances
Be aware of any issues or potential problems
If you were to notice something fraudulent happening in one of your accounts, would you rather know right away or prefer to wait a while? Obviously we’d all prefer to know right away so we can deal with it.
There are plenty of smaller issues outside of fraud that would be better to realize sooner rather than later too. Even seemingly tiny issues can snowball into bigger ones with enough time.
For instance, say your bank has no fees if you keep your balance above a certain threshold, but the fee is $10 per month once it dips below that threshold. I’ve personally seen situations where an account holder hasn’t noticed they were being charged a monthly fee for years when their bank balance was only a few dollars short of the minimum balance threshold. If you were to ask those folks if they wished they had checked their accounts more frequently rather than losing hundreds of dollars unnecessarily to fees, you bet they’d say yes!
How often should you check your bank balance?
Don’t get carried away checking it every hour…but monitoring your bank account balances on a regular basis is a smart financial habit.
What’s a regular basis? There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer here. Obviously the more often you check your bank balance the more quickly you’ll notice issues, have the opportunity to course correct, and/or make changes. Doing a routine check on a daily or weekly basis is a great schedule – more than that might cause you to use up your time unnecessarily or fixate on things. Checking less often than that could open the door for unnoticed lingering problems to fester.
But without further ado, here are the 6 easy ways to check your bank balances.
- Sign into your bank account online
- Log into your bank’s app
- Use a third party app
- Contact your bank over the phone
- Access an atm
- Go into your local bank branch
1. Sign into your bank account online
Most banks these days have online services, even if they’re relatively small credit unions. So, one of the simplest ways to check your bank account balance is to log on to your bank’s website and access your account.
While this option is simple, it does mean that if you have more than one bank account at more than one bank, you’ll need to log into each separate website to check your various bank balances.
2. Log into your bank’s app
Logging into your bank’s app to check your bank balance is also one of the simplest methods available. However, it is important to note that while apps are pretty common among banks that offer online services, it’s certainly not guaranteed. And as we mentioned above, if you have multiple bank accounts with multiple banks, you’ll need to check each app individually.
3. Use a third party app
A good alternative, whether your bank has its own specific app or not, is to utilize a third party app. How do third party apps work? Generally, the set up process involves you logging into all of your individual accounts through the third party app to establish a connection with each account. Depending on the security protocols, you may need to submit new codes that you receive via text or email every so often in order for the app to update all of your corresponding account balances.
If that seems complicated, don’t worry – it isn’t. A personal favorite here at the Ambitious Dollar is Personal Capital. Personal Capital guides you through the set-up process step by step, and offers a user friendly app (and a full blown website) that allows you to easily track all of your bank account balances in one spot. And, better yet, Personal Capital is completely free.
You can sign up for a free account with Personal Capital here.
4. Contact your bank over the phone
If online banking isn’t your thing, or you prefer to chat with a real live human being, you always have the option to give your bank a call and check your bank balance over the phone. One of the downsides, again, is that if you have multiple bank accounts you’ll need to make multiple phone calls. You should also expect a bit of a verification process so they can ensure they are giving the real account holder information regarding the account. So you’ll need to make sure you have information like your social security number, account number, pin, etc handy.
Retrieve your balance via text message
Certain banks with an automated phone system will allow you to retrieve your bank account balance via text message. Typically, you’ll provide your identity and verification information (social security number, account number, and/or pin number) while on the phone call, and then a text message can be sent to the account holder’s cell phone with the account balance.
5. Access an atm
Accessing an atm – whether it’s an atm through your specific bank or not – will also provide you with your bank account balance. And no, you don’t have to carry out a transaction to access your bank account balance. There will be an option to simply check the balance. However some atms may still charge you a fee to check your balance – so be careful to read the fine print!
Obviously, this method requires you to be in the physical presence of an atm, so may not be as convenient as the aforementioned options. However, if you’re already out and about, it may not require you to go far out of your way. A downside to this method, besides some potential travel, is that you’ll likely need to have your debit card handy. There are some debit cards and banks which allow for cardless transactions at an atm, but they aren’t terribly common.
Moreover, you’ll only be able to check the bank balances for your checking and savings account with the associated debit card that you’re using. So if you have more than one checking and savings account, with more than one bank, you’ll have to have each of those debit cards on hand to check the balance. And, if you still want to check the balance of another bank account that isn’t a checking or savings account, then you’ll need to use another additional method on this list.
6. Go into your local bank branch
Finally, you could simply go into a local branch to check your bank account balance. As with the atm method, this will likely incur some travel on your behalf. You’ll also need to bring along some identification so that the bank staff can verify your ability to retrieve the account information you’re after.
More restrictive in nature, though, is that you’ll need to be cognizant of your bank’s operating hours. The phrase bankers hours came about for a reason. And while some banks are now starting to offer more customer-friendly operating hours (evenings, weekends, etc) you’ll want to make sure you double check they’re open before you blindly head to the bank.
And similar to some of the other options on the list, utilizing this option to check your bank account balance will limit you to information regarding that specific bank.
Understanding your bank balance
An important thing to note is that not all transactions show up immediately. This means that you could have made a financial transaction that isn’t reflected in your bank balance quite yet. For instance, if you make a purchase with your debit card or withdraw cash from an atm, that will be immediately deducted from your bank account and be reflected in your new balance.
However, other transactions – like certain autopayments such as rent, mortgage payments, or temporary holds, etc, may stay in “pending” status for a period of time before they would be reflected in your account balance. Depending on your bank and the type of transaction, pending transactions can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to process.
So, if you are planning to make a big purchase in the near future, it would be smart to account for any pending transactions while assessing your bank balance. That way you won’t accidentally spend money that you might not have.
Account balance vs. available balance
Some bank accounts will display this information for you automatically. Your “available balance” accounts for pending transactions that may not have settled yet – whether it’s a debit (-) or a credit (+) to your account. Your “account balance”, on the other hand, simply shows you the amount of money in your account at that moment.
For example, if you deposit a $100 check, it will likely show up in your bank account balance right away. However, it may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days until that check is cleared from the issuing bank before it shows up in your available balance.
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