Be a checking account smartypants
Here is some basic, yet important info you need to open a checking account. Not handling a checking account properly can screw up your credit, cost a ton in fees and just be an overall pain in the patootie – so let’s get you started right.
A checking account is different than a savings account because it sees more action. It allows you to get money out through debit card and checks so you can pay for things.
Points about checking accounts:
If you’re not using an LACU owned ATM, you need to watch for surcharge fees. If you’re not sure whether a machine will charge you a fee or not, the screen will tell you that you will be charged to proceed with the withdrawal and will give you the option of canceling the transaction. If you do get charged, be sure to include this fee in your checkbook register. Here’s some great information about our ATM network and how to avoid paying fees – there’s even a mobile app for finding free ATMs!
When you sign up for your Student checking account, you are offered one free box of checks. They’re duplicate checks, which means that as you write out a check, you are left with a carbon copy of it for your records. People don’t write checks like they used to but they are still needed, on occasion. We encourage you to get your free box and keep them on hand. If you’ve never written a check and don’t know how, please call us or Google it.
Managing your account
The Checkbook Register
This is the grid-like book thingy that comes with your box of checks (and you can always stop by for more at LACU). You need to write down every penny that goes in and out of your checking account, whether it’s through debit card, checks, ATMs, Bill Payer, online purchases, with a teller at LACU and don’t forget to include any fees or interest! The whole point of the register is to always know exactly how much money you have available in your checking account. You can’t just go by the balance shown on ATM receipts or on e-Branch because they only show your current balance – it doesn’t reflect purchases you’ve made that haven’t gone through yet.
Balancing your checkbook
This means going through all of your account’s activity and determining exactly how much money you have in there. It’s not an old-fashioned task – electronic methods of banking are no substitute. It’s the only way to truly know where your account stands.
Here are instructions on how to balance your account. Of course, you can always Google it, too. The first few times you do this, it might be confusing. You’ll get the hang of it, though. If you have any trouble, ask your parents for help or bring your stuff in to LACU and we’ll help you out. We can’t stress how important it is to stay on top of your spending and how expensive those $25 overdraft charges are!
We offer many awesome ways to keep tabs on your checking account. There’s e-Branch with Bill Payer, Mobile Money and some others that might trip your trigger. You can even set up alerts in Mobile Money and e-Branch to receive an email or text if your balance falls below a certain dollar amount or something happens in your account that you want to know about. Check them out here.
Important Words. Lingo. Credit Union Slang.
Overdrawn / Overdraft
If you spend more than you have in your checking account, you’ll become overdrawn (this means you have a negative balance). When this happens, your debit card will be denied wherever you’re trying to use it unless you “opt in.” If you choose to opt-in, it’s a $30 fee for each transaction that makes your account go negative but you will not have your debit card denied – which can be pretty embarrassing. If you have money in savings that will cover the overdrawn amount, we’ll automatically transfer it to your checking and the charge for that is only $2.14. Since you’re a math genius, you realize that’s less… so try to keep some money in savings, too, just in case you mess up in your checking account.
An item that makes your account overdrawn is called an overdraft. Each overdraft will cost you $30 smackers. Even if you only buy something that costs $4 – if it overdraws your account, you have to pay the $30 fee for allowing your account to go negative.
Getting in over your head with your checking account may lead to the credit union closing your account and it will make getting another checking account VERY difficult.
Click here to read about your options should your account ever go negative.
If you don’t have enough money in your checking account to pay the checks you wrote, your checks could “bounce”. This means we’ll “bounce” it back to the person or store you wrote the check to and the money will “bounce” back out of their account. Many retailers try to prevent bounced checks (sometimes called NSF checks meaning “Non Sufficient Funds”) so they will charge a fee as high as $35 per check to the person who wrote it. Don’t let this happen to you! You don’t want to have a $30 overdraft fee plus a $35 fee from the store! So keep track of the balance in your account in your checkbook register.
There’s a lot to learn and a lot of responsibility with a checking account. We’re always here to answer any questions for you if you need it.