I got my first debit card when I turned 18. It was probably one of the more exciting things that happened to me at that time, other than piercing my ear (my "rebellious" act for my 18th birthday). After having a savings account for years, I decided to open up a checking account so I could get a card and have it be more convenient on my road trips. In my mind, carrying around loads of money in my wallet was not as smart as having it all in one set location. I've had a debit card for nearly 6 years now, and I have learned some important, valuable lessons on monitoring my debit card and checking account. Here are a few.
Use E-Banking to Monitor Your Account
When I first got my debit card, E-banking was something that was not readily available, and if it was, I wasn't taking advantage of it. I knew generally how much money I had in my account because I didn't have many expenses. I was still in high school at the time and I didn't pay for rent or food. My only bill was my car payment, and I went into my credit union to pay off my monthly installment. Credit unions all throughout Maine and the country now have online banking options. Some even have E-alerts where you can have texts sent to your phone and emails sent when a transaction or transfer of money occurs. Rather than going into the credit union itself, online banking is a much easier way to keep track of what you have spent. It also allows you to see when each of the transactions have gone through. In many instances, E-banking also allows the user to set up automatic bill pay so those who are paying off bills and loans are able to do so without having to send in checks. This leads me to my next point which is...
Know how Much Money you Have Spent
On the Fourth of July, my girlfriend and I went out to eat in Bar Harbor, and I used my debit card to pay for lunch. It is now Wednesday, and the transaction still hasn't gone through. The only reason why I know this is because I check my accounts every day (online) to see what transactions have gone through. I had to learn this the hard way initially, and unfortunately it ended in me paying a few overage charges here and there. Pay attention to what you have spent, and don't trust what you have in your checking account all the time. Make sure you go back and check what transactions have gone through before making other purchases. If you have to make a purchase, move money from your savings to your checking to be safe. You can always transfer it back later. One of the ways I found out that transactions take time to process was buying things online...
Online Purchases With a Debit Card Sometimes Takes Time to Process
I pay all of my college loans online. In fact, I pay almost all of my bills online, but I also realized that paying things the day they are due does not mean that they will be processed the same day. My college loans take 2-4 days to process, but my electric bill takes about a half hour. I have found that most online purchases/payments will send you a receipt right off, but that does not mean that it will also be shown in your account right off. Double check to make sure the money has been actually moved from your account. I've gone to make a purchase before after checking to see that I have a few hundred dollars in my account, only to realize shortly thereafter that my loans had not transferred and in reality, I had much less money to spend. Another thing you'll want to be careful of while purchasing things online is clicking more than once. My mother has a habit of clicking multiple times when the webpage won't come up. When it comes to submitting bills or buying items online, only click once. If you click more than once, often times you'll end up spending double or triple the amount that you wanted to, and it becomes a huge mess. Even if it takes a while to process, don't double click.
If you're new to checking accounts, or don't have a checking account, look into what the credit unions have to offer. Free4ME checking is a great account to open that helps you get on the right foot, complete with an Itunes gift card, great rates, protection from overdrawing your account (they call it the "oops") and many other helpful options. Bankrate also has a useful article on debit cards and offers some helpful tips. There are plenty of other things you can learn about having a debit card. These are just a few.
What are your tips for using a debit card?