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Personal Banking

8 tips for getting the most out of your checking account

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These checking account features make it easier to manage your money.

A checking account is probably the account you’ll use most often every day to pay bills, access cash, transfer funds and probably to deposit your paycheck. Whether you’re paying tuition at school or setting up direct deposit for your first job, knowing a few tips to help you manage your money and get the most out of your account.

One of the easiest ways to get the most out of your checking account is to set up direct deposit. Direct deposit is a fast and safe way to deposit money into your account, without you having to lift a finger. Your employer probably already offers this convenience and will ask you to sign up for it. And of course, you can still deposit funds using a teller, ATM, app or account transfer. If you're a Bank of America client, you can set up direct deposit.

Enrolling in online banking means you can monitor your accounts, including your transaction history and your balance, simply by logging in. Mobile banking allows you to do the same via your phone or tablet. Additionally, by banking online you can quickly order checks, pay bills, transfer money, track spending, set alerts and travel flags, and manage your accounts from almost anywhere-handy if you’re studying abroad for a semester, or have a heavy class load and need to pay bills on the go. If you're a Bank of America client, learn more about Mobile and Online Banking features

With a debit card, you can access your checking account conveniently and securely, without the hassle of cash or checks. You can use a debit card at millions of locations worldwide, including places that don’t take checks, such as online merchants. Debit cards can also be used at ATMs for deposits, withdrawals and transfers between your accounts, and they work with digital wallets. With debit cards, your purchases and withdrawals are deducted directly from your checking account. Debit cards also offer security if your card is lost or stolen or if fraudulent purchases occur.

If you have a checking and savings account at the same bank, it’s fairly easy to transfer money between your accounts. If you’re working toward a savings goal, like a spring break trip or a security deposit for your new apartment, consider setting up automatic transfers to your savings account at a time each month when you know you have a certain amount of money in your checking account. Automating the process can be a great way to build your savings. Bank of America clients can easily transfer funds using Mobile and Online banking.

You’re charged an overdraft fee when you spend more money than you have in your account. The best way to avoid these fees is to keep an eye on your account balance or to set up alerts, which we cover in tip No. 6. Many banks offer optional overdraft protection, which allows you to link an eligible checking account to other eligible accounts to cover you in case of an overdraft. However, these plans may come with fees, so be sure to know the terms before signing up. Some banks enroll you in certain overdraft-related services automatically, so it’s a good idea to check on your account’s terms.

If you’re enrolled in online banking, you can set up alerts to notify you via email or text of certain activity. For example, you can set up balance alerts for when the funds in your account drop below a certain amount, which can help you avoid overdraft fees. Just make sure your bank has your up-to-date cell phone number and email address.

Setting up automatic payments for recurring bills can help ensure you pay your bills on time with no hassles. This common checking account feature can help eliminate worry (no need to wonder whether your student loan payment check was lost in the mail), save you money on stamps and free up your time.

Many banks offer security features, such as photo ID, chip technology or monitoring for unusual purchasing, to help protect you if your debit card is lost or stolen. Some banks may allow you to put a virtual lock on your card via your mobile or online account if you suspect the card has been lost or stolen. Check with your bank to learn more about the security features it offers to help protect against fraud. It’s also important to know that federal law limits your responsibility if your debit card is stolen, but you must act quickly to notify your bank.

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