Check Your Bank Statement

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t always check my bank statement. Sure, I get the email stating my bank statement is available, but I don’t always sign on to my bank account and check the statement. Well, this week I got quite a surprise. When I signed on to my account, I noticed I had been charged a $14 “monthly maintenance fee”. Of course, I was livid. We have a free account – one that does not incur fees. So I looked at the statement from the previous month and there it was again, another $14 monthly maintenance fee. You can only image my anger when I found the same charge for November. A total of $42 in fees slipped past without me noticing.

This is something that would NEVER have happened to my mother. I remember that on the day the bank statement arrived in the mail, she¬† would immediately get out her checkbook and go through the process of balancing her checkbook – no calculators in those days – just bank statement, checkbook, and pencil. Now I know how to balance a checkbook and I’ve done it, but not with the same enthusiasm as my mom. You would have thought a new Sudoku puzzle had arrived the way she attacked this monthly task. (To be honest, she got this from her dad. I remember seeing him sitting at his desk balancing his checkbook – too busy to acknowledge his beloved grandchildren.)

Balancing a checkbook goes something like this: go through the checks returned in the statement (yes, each check written was returned at the end of the month and then you decided where to store them for the next ten years) check them off in the check register (that’s the notebook that comes with your checks that you’re suppose to use to record each check written), then take the balance on the statement, add the deposits not included, subtract the checks not included, and through the magic of math you were to end up with the figure listed on the bank statement. But, of course, this was easier said than done because you may have written the wrong amount for a check, subtracted wrong, or even added when you should have subtracted. Theoretically, this was about a 30 minute procedure, but it could take much longer. I remember my mom locking herself in her bedroom for hours because she couldn’t get the checkbook to balance; and I’m not talking about big problems, I’m talking about a few pennies. She refused to quit until it balanced to the penny. (I think she really was meant to be an accountant – too bad she didn’t get the chance.) In those days you couldn’t check you account online or even by phone, you had the responsibility of balancing your checkbook, and she took that responsibility seriously.

So I’m sure she would be appalled that I don’t even look at my statement every month. Really all you need to do is look at the deposits, withdrawals, and check for fees. If you find a mistake it’s your responsibility to contact the back promptly so they can research the problem and make a correction if necessary.

Last week I had to admit that I hadn’t carefully looked at my statement for three months when I questioned the fees. All three fees were mistakes by Bank of America. As a customer with accounts totaling more than the minimum requirement, we are not subject to these fees. As a customer with direct deposit, we are not subject to these fees. Luckily, the representative I spoke with was able to credit my account with the $42 that had been taken by mistake. With banks aggressively charging fees, it’s more important than ever to check your statement each month. you should not have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. You should not be subject to fees charged for using your debit card. Look for these charges and if you find them, challenge them, and despite your anger challenge them nicely. The person you speak with may have some discretion in determining whether or not to waive fees so you want this person to sympathize with you and go the extra mile to help.

When I got my fee problem resolved, the woman at Bank of American noticed that my savings account was only earning .05% interest but was eligible for 1.3% (still pretty puny, better) and I’m also eligible for a free safe deposit box ( a $65 value) so some good came from my mistake.

I think since we have access to our accounts online, by phone, and through text messages, we’ve gotten lazy. Yes, that looks right, but is it right? We work hard for our money. We should watch after it! It’s not too much to check you bank statement each month as well as your credit card statements. Are the charges correct? Did you really make that purchase? Is that fee required? Has the interest rate on your credit card changed, and if so, why? It’s worth the time and effort to check. Be more like grandma. Be vigilant in protecting your hard earned money.

Check your bank statement! You’ll feel good knowing you’re keeping the bank out of your pocket.