Online banking is great.
It gives you 24/7 access to your accounts and is a quick reference for balances and presented items. It serves as a resource for archived statements and can even support online bill pay. The best part is that it’s free with all of your accounts (at CNB, anyhow). But the unfortunate truth is that every great thing does have its dark side. The good news is that you can avoid the dark side of online banking. The solution? A checkbook register.
Online banking offers immediate access to the transactions affecting your balance. That’s the good and the bad part. Since online banking acts in real-time, that means your profile will update with each transaction on your account. However, since online banking is at the mercy of merchants and processing times, sometimes your balance on online banking can be deceitful. Pre-authorizations are common for gas stations and online companies. This is where the company charges your account a set amount (usually $1.00) to see if the account is open and active, instead of the actual amount spent. So, until the merchant completes its processing, your account balance is only going to be affected by that $1.00, not the actual $30.00 you spent on gas. See the confusion?
Additionally, online banking cannot predict the future. If you write checks from your account, you must be aware of those that have not yet been presented for payment. Just because you gave your roommate your utilities check a month ago, does not mean you can assume she cashed it already. And if you forget about the check entirely, you may find yourself scrambling to correct a negative balance.
Lastly, the internet may not always be available. But if you’ve got your checkbook register with you, then you’ve got your account records at your finger tips.
Checkbook registers may be considered old school, but they are loyal tools. You can use a handwritten register, software program or even an iPhone app to track each deposit and withdrawal. Then, use online banking to verify your transactions, track un-presented checks, confirm records and monitor unauthorized or erroneous charges. With the combined powers of online banking and my paper register, I’m never left guessing my account balance.