Here’s a look at the new world of bank reconciliations and some ideas to use to ensure your bank account is accurate.
The bank reconciliation purpose
In a nutshell, a bank reconciliation ensures your account is accurate. This is done by comparing all your activity with what the bank is reporting.
The importance of timely bank reconciliations
There are several reasons for conducting these account reviews on a timely basis:
- Catch a mistake by the bank. Banks make mistakes. Reconciliations can help you catch these bank errors. And errors are more common with digital payment systems...often a small transposition or machine misread of a number can create a payment error.
- Catch a mistake by you. Yep, it’s difficult envisioning making an error, but that happens, too. It is easy to record the wrong payment amount. The only way to catch this is to look at your account and compare it to what you think you paid.
- Catch unauthorized use. If someone hacks into your mobile phone’s payment app and spends $20 of your money, how would you ever find out? Reconciliations uncover fraudulent activity you may have missed.
- Properly monitor automatic payments. With monthly payments automatically coming out of your account, it is easy to forget to account for these payments and have less in your account than you think you do. Timely reconciliations also help you identify ongoing payments that should be discontinued.
Tips for reconciling your accounts
Here are some tips for reconciling in the new world of banking.
- Reconcile every week (or every day!). Gone are the days when you need to wait for your monthly bank statement in the mail to reconcile your account. Use your bank’s online tools to reconcile once a week or even once a day. This will help identify problems as they occur and is especially important in identifying possible hacking or theft.
- Use your favorite app to capture your spending. Secure online applications are now replacing the traditional check register. You’ll still need to be disciplined to use the online tool when you spend money, so look for an application that is easy to record your spending.
- Combine reconciling with budgeting. Use your reconciliations as an opportunity to become better with budgeting your money. Use reporting functions to help classify your deposits and payments. Then compare them with what you think they should be. This moves the discipline from simple reconciliation to a more planned approach to comparing your budget to actual spending.
The way bank reconciliations are done may have changed over the past 20 years, but the vital role they play in maintaining your financial health will never disappear.