Common Mistakes to Avoid
Sometimes even with the best of intentions, we do things that can lead to trouble. The following are common checking account mistakes that can be easily avoided:
You forgot to stop automatic payments from being taken out before you closed your account.
Make certain to identify all automatic payments and discontinue them before closing your account. If you do not, you could face steep fees, even after the account is closed. When you request payments to stop, be sure to ask the company how long it will take to process your request. Often companies can take up to two weeks to make your requested payment change. In the meantime, additional payments could be deducted from your account.
You close your checking account by letting it go to a zero balance.
Always contact your financial institution if you wish to close your account. If you do not formally close your account, fees may be charged even after the funds in the account are depleted. Then you will have a negative balance in your account and possibly overdraft fees, which you will be responsible for paying to the financial institution.
A check you deposit in your account does not clear or bounces, causing the account to go into overdraft.
Just because you have deposited the check does not guarantee the check has the funds to support it. When depositing checks, allow enough time to make certain the check clears (usually 3-5 days, depending on the institution) before writing checks against the balance.
You wrote a check for more than you have in your account.
It is very important that you balance your checkbook regularly so that you always know your account balance. If you discover that you have written a check for more than you have in your account, immediately deposit funds to cover the amount of the check and any associated overdraft fees.
You co-signed on an account that was abused by the other party.
Be very cautious when agreeing to have a joint account or becoming a co-signer on someone else's account. Regardless of which signer mishandles the account, both signers may be held responsible.
You gave your PIN (Personal Identification Number) to someone else, and they took funds from your account without your authorization.
Never give your PIN to someone else. It is like opening the door to your finances. Inform your financial institution of the situation. They may suggest that you change your PIN or they may suggest that you close the compromised account and open a new one.
You post-dated a check, and it was cashed too early.
Postdating checks is dangerous because there is no legal obligation for the other party to hold the check. You are simply relying on the other party to wait to cash the check on the post date. If the check is accidentally cashed early, you are responsible. It is best to wait to write the check when you have the money available in your account.
You're not receiving statements or correspondence from your financial institution.
If you have moved or changed names, it can sometimes take time for your mailed account statement to catch up with you. Always notify your financial institution when there are changes to your personal information. Not knowing the status of your account does not excuse you from being responsible for it.
You discover an account or handling error by the financial institution.
Financial institutions make mistakes too. It is important to review your financial institution statements and receipts closely for inaccuracies. Bring any questions or errors to your financial institution's attention immediately. The sooner you do, the easier it is for the financial institution to correct them.
Your checks are lost or stolen.
If your checks are lost or stolen, report it immediately to your financial institution. Stopping payment on checks before they fall into the wrong hands is much easier than after someone has falsely written checks against your account. See Check Fraud for additional information.