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Personal Banking

8 tips for getting the most out of your checking account

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While some checking account information might seem obvious—after all, the majority of Americans own checking accounts—you may not be taking advantage of a number of common features. Read on for a few checking account 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. If you're a Bank of America customer, you can set up direct deposit.

The majority of Americans who use the internet bank online. Enrolling in online banking allows you to 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 access accounts, order checks, pay bills and transfer money, track spending, set alerts and travel flags, and manage your accounts from almost anywhere. If you're a Bank of America customer, learn more about Online and Mobile 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. 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 usually fairly easy to transfer money between your accounts. You can link your accounts, but you don't have to. If you know you have a certain amount of money in your checking account at a certain time each month, you might consider setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account. Automating the process can be a great way to build your savings.

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 check was lost in the mail), save you money on stamps and free up your time. Automatic payments can also be a good way to help ensure your bills are paid on time when you are traveling.

Many banks offer security features to help protect you if your debit card is lost or stolen, including security features on the card (such as photo ID or chip technology), monitoring for unusual purchasing, and protection against liability for fraudulent transactions reported within a specified period. 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 theft and fraud. It's also important to know that federal law limits your responsibility if your debit card is stolen layer, but you must act quickly to notify your bank.

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