Time with family and friends, holiday lights, gift-giving, and even a little bit of gift-receiving are just a few of the things that make the winter holiday season such a wonderful time of year. And during the holidays, the last thing bank customers want to worry about is financial friction with their accounts. However, by taking a few simple steps and using the full features of today’s checking accounts, consumers can keep their money situations merry as we finish the year.
Know your balance
Seems straightforward, but according to the TD Bank Checking Experience Index only 55 percent of consumers describe themselves as “always checking the balance of their checking account.” During the holiday season, when many of us are buying gifts, paying off credit cards and traveling to see friends and family, costs can add up and spending more than you have can lead to an overdraft fee on your checking account.
Fees are frustrating, but by using today’s account technologies, you don’t need to wait for a monthly statement to know how much you have in your account. Sign up for online banking with your financial institution and download your bank’s mobile application on your smart phone. That way you’re never more than a click away from updated information on your account. For consumers who aren’t online or don’t have smart phones, look for a bank that offers free 24/7 live customer service. That way you always can make a quick call to know your balance.
Stay alert and avoid fraud
The TD Bank Checking Experience Index shows that 30 percent of consumers do not carefully review all transactions on their checking account. During the holidays, many consumers make more purchases than usual and travel frequently, which can create more opportunities for fraudulent financial activity.
By using online and mobile banking, you can review your transaction history fast and frequently. If you see fraudulent activity, alert your financial institution right away. Banks are working around the clock to protect your money. If you do experience fraud, there’s a good chance that your bank will have you covered and you won’t be liable for unauthorized activity.
Also, if you’re using the ATM, cover the keypad when typing in your PIN number. Thieves can use cameras and “skimming” devices at legitimate ATMs to get information on your ATM card. By protecting your PIN, you can reduce the chance of having your account compromised.
Deposit those checks
Getting a check from Grandma is great, but do her a favor and don’t just stuff it in your sock drawer. When you hold onto checks, you’re making it harder for the check-writers to keep track of their accounts. By waiting weeks or even months to deposit a check, you could unintentionally stick someone like Grandma with an overdraft fee.
Also, many banks today offer remote deposit capture – meaning consumers can deposit checks into their accounts by taking pictures of them on their smart phones. Taking advantage of this relatively new convenience can help check-writers manage their accounts. Plus, the sooner you deposit a check, the less likely you’ll be to lose or forget about it.
Keep the cost of cash down
Whether you’re dining at a restaurant that doesn’t take credit cards or giving a niece or nephew a few dollars, many consumers need cash during the holidays. But TD’s Checking Experience Index research shows that less than a third of checking account holders go out of their way to use ATMs that are associated with their bank. Using a non-bank ATM can cost you, as fees from your bank and the owner of the ATM may apply.
Avoid these costs! Choose a bank with great hours, many locations and ATMs that are convenient to you. Get cash back when using your debit card at grocery and drug stores. And if you travel frequently or just find yourself using non-bank ATMs regularly, it may make sense to look into institutions that offer checking accounts that reimburse non-bank ATM fees. These accounts may require a higher minimum balance, but they can end up saving you in the long-run by covering the cost of your trips to ATMs.
New technology and banking innovations are making managing your money easier than ever. I encourage all account holders to spend a little time checking up on their accounts this time of year. Doing so will help to ensure that finances don’t get in the way of festivities this holiday season.
This guest post was written by Ryan Bailey, Executive Vice President of Deposits and Payments, TD Bank US.