7 Tips for Managing a Checking Account

By Sarah Li Cain · May 20, 2024 · 8 minute read

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7 Tips for Managing a Checking Account

Managing a checking account can be a simple process, thanks to all the tools at your disposal today. You can set alerts to let you know if your balance is dipping too low and use your financial institution’s app to see where your funds are flowing, among other conveniences. Doing so can set you up to avoid fees and charges while maximizing rewards and interest you may earn.

Here, you’ll learn seven simple steps to help you manage your checking account with ease.

Key Points

•   Regularly monitoring your account balance helps avoid overdraft fees and supports budget adherence.

•   Utilizing a mobile banking app can facilitate easy monitoring and managing of transactions.

•   Avoiding extra fees is possible by meeting certain bank criteria like setting up direct deposits.

•   Automating deposits and payments ensures timely transactions and helps in achieving financial goals.

•   Taking advantage of checking account perks can offer additional benefits like identity theft protection and cash back on purchases.

Why Is It Important to Manage Your Checking Account?

Knowing how to manage a checking account effectively will help you with many aspects of your financial life such as meeting your savings goals and protecting your money. If you don’t know where your money goes, how effective will you be when it comes to creating a budget or assessing whether you can take that last-minute weekend getaway with a friend?

Plus, having good account-management skills will protect you against fraud. For instance, let’s say someone stole your debit card and used it to make purchases. You’d want to detect that ASAP before a bad situation got any worse. If you report any losses within two business days, you’re only on the hook for a maximum of $50 according to Federal laws.

Otherwise, you could lose up to $500 if you report it after two business days but within 60. If you don’t notice the fraudulent charges until after the 60 business-day limit, you’re on the hook for all fraudulent transactions unfortunately.

To recap, good checking account management will help you:

•   Keep tabs on your bank account balance and activity

•   Allow you to better fund savings goals

•   Avoid fraudulent activity and potential money loss.

Now, here are the seven steps that answer the question, “How do you manage a checking account?”

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure mobile banking app.

1. Know Your Account Balance

Keeping track of your account balance gives you a clearer picture of where you stand financially. Doing so can help you with tasks such as planning for occasional and unexpected expenses, paying off your student loans on time, as well as simply sticking to your budget.

Plus, monitoring your account can help you avoid overdraft fees by preventing your balance from dipping into negative territory. It’s easy to make an online payment or swipe that debit card and forget about it, so figuring out how often to check your balance is a wise idea. (A couple times a week works well for many people.)

You can log into your account online or through the bank’s mobile app, but other ways to check your balance include:

•   Receiving automated text alerts

•   Speaking to a teller at a branch

•   Calling your bank’s customer service hotline

•   Requesting your checking account balance at an ATM.

2. Download Your Bank’s Mobile Banking App

Here’s another idea for how to manage your checking account: If your bank offers a mobile app, it can be a smart idea to download it. Yes, mobile banking is very secure most of the time. By adopting mobile banking, you can easily keep an eye on your checking account. What’s more, you can conduct an array of transactions with just a few clicks, such as paying bills, depositing checks, setting up automated alerts, and transferring money between accounts.

Depending on the mobile app’s features, you may be able to link your debit and credit cards to your account, which makes it easier to purchase and pay for things. There may be other features such as a budgeting section, money management tools, insights into your credit score, and even access to discounts at your favorite retailer.

3. Avoid Paying Extra Fees

Many checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees, but you may be able to have them waived if you can meet certain requirements. Most commonly, you can skip the monthly fees if you set up direct deposits or maintain a certain account balance.

Perhaps you want to drill down on one kind of fee in particular: those overdraft fees. Those charges can really add up, and if they are left unpaid, they can harm your credit score. Take a bit of time to understand how your bank handles overdraft fees — will it waive it if your account is in good standing, will it charge you a fee and process the payment, or will it reject the transaction totally and assess you a fee?

Plenty of banks also offer options such as overdraft protection. Typically, this means if you’re at risk of having a negative bank balance, they will transfer the overdrawn amount from a linked savings account to your checking account automatically, without any charges. Still, you’ll probably want to set an alert so you’re notified when your checking account reaches a certain balance or hits zero. That way, you can quickly remedy the situation.

💡 Quick Tip: Bank fees eat away at your hard-earned money. To protect your cash, open a checking account with no account fees online — and earn up to 0.50% APY, too.

4. Automate Deposits and Payments

Automation can make your life so much easier. Letting technology assist you with your banking can help you keep on top of tasks such as depositing your paycheck, paying bills, or meeting savings goals.

•   In terms of how to manage a bank account, direct deposit is a great way for your employer to deposit paychecks automatically. In some cases, banks will even give you early paycheck access.

•   Your bank may have automatic bill payment or transfer tools as well. Consider using these for recurring payments to be made automatically, such as ones for subscription services, auto loans, or your mortgage payments. Doing so can prevent missed payments and may be able to help build your credit score.

•   Also, automatically transferring a certain amount each month into a separate account can help you reach your short- and long-term savings goals.

5. Embrace Potential Earnings

Sure, having a nice big cushion of cash in your checking account can make you feel flush. However, keeping excess cash in your checking account could mean you’re losing out on the opportunity to get more out of your funds. Specifically, that money could be earning you more money. As you balance your bank account, you may find there are better ways to make your money work for you.

For instance, there are plenty of ways to earn interest even if you want your cash to remain more liquid. For instance, high-yield savings accounts linked to your checking account can earn you a bit of extra cash while still being very accessible.

6. Take Advantage of Checking Account Perks

To remain competitive, many banks are starting to offer additional perks with their checking account such as:

•   Identity theft protection and assistance

•   Discounts at shopping and dining retailers

•   Extended warranties on purchases

•   Buyer’s protection

•   Health savings cards

•   Cash back on qualifying debit card purchases.

When shopping around for a checking account, consider your financial habits. If you shop frequently at certain retailers, it may be worth taking advantage of an account that offers discounts. Or if you use the ATM frequently, looking for a checking account that reimburses you for third-party ATM fees may be a smart choice.

7. Consider Consolidating

Do you have multiple checking accounts? It’s not uncommon for people to have, say, their main checking account, one that they opened to get some reward or perk, and the one that their parents opened with them in high school. If you can relate, you might benefit from simplifying your finances and consolidating all of them into one main checking account.

That way, all you have to do is log into a single checking account and monitor your finances. Why overwhelm yourself with many accounts to check on and keep track of?

The Takeaway

Managing your checking account is an important path to staying on top of your finances. It will help you keep on your budget, avoid unnecessary fees, and reach your financial goals. Plus, with all the tech tools and alerts available today and the rewards being offered, it can be faster and more profitable than ever.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Why is it important to manage your checking account?

It’s important to manage your checking account so that you can see where your money is coming from and going to. It can help you understand how you can budget better, reach your savings goals, and even detect fraud.

How often should you manage your checking account?

For many people, checking their bank account once or twice a week works well. You can also take actions like establishing alerts when your account balance falls below a certain threshold or setting up automatic transfers for recurring payments to help save you time.

How should you keep track of what’s in your checking account?

The usual ways to keep track of what’s in your checking account are to use your bank’s app, check your balance online, call customer service, or use an ATM to see how your money is tracking.


Photo credit: iStock/jroballo

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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