Back in the day, when account holders wondered how much money they had in the bank, they had to wait for their bank statement to come in the mail and then “balance” their checkbook. They not only had to track each expense in a ledger, but also compare this bank statement to their own records of what came out of their account. Now, we can analyze every transaction with a touch of a button. But making sure your accounting is on target is still wise, and you might be surprised by what you learn about your financial health by consistently checking your monthly statement. Here is what to look for...

Why Your Current Bank Balance Matters

There are three important reasons you should make checking your bank balance a regular task.

1. It allows you to keep tabs on your budget. 

Budgeting is a key skill in achieving financial wellness. Unfortunately, building a budget is often overlooked by consumers who assume they know exactly what their expenses are, but it's an important first step in knowing where your money is going and how you can stay on track financially.

Using cash or your debit card makes it easier to keep your budget in check because you’ll see the money leave your account. With some credit cards, you’ll only get a cumulative bill at the end of the month. This might be an unpleasant surprise if your spending added up faster than you anticipated. However, if you have a Virtual Wallet® product and also integrate your eligible PNC credit card into Online Banking, you can see all your PNC checking and credit card transactions, as well as your available credit, at a glance.

Look to the PNC mobile app[1] to help you with this and other budgeting tasks. You can create budgets for various categories and see your expenditures all in one view. 

Another low-tech option is to use an old-fashioned notebook to jot down every time you make a purchase. Then you can compare it to your bank statement each month to track categories and see where you might be overspending, or where you might need to shuffle your budget to better reflect reality. This exercise could be time-consuming, however, making the mobile app a better bet for many.

2. You can watch for fees.

Your bank is a partner in financial wellness; PNC wants to work with its customers to help them achieve strong money management skills. Some accounts may have fees for certain things but fortunately, there may be ways to avoid the most common fees. A banker can also help you to assess whether your checking account product is appropriate for your needs, based on factors such as deposits and monthly balances (which may help you to avoid fees).

For example, there are no overdraft fees assessed with PNC Foundation Checking. PNC's Virtual Wallet products feature Low Cash Mode®[2], which notifies you when your balance is low and gives you options for choosing to pay or return certain transactions if your available balance dips below zero.[3] Customers can learn about other overdraft solutions here.

While it’s wise to keep an eye on your account throughout the month, taking a close look at any fees that have accumulated can alert you to talk with your bank about the features that might help your financial management.

3. You can catch and report suspicious activity.

Unfortunately, fraud has grown more sophisticated and can happen to any of us. According to the Deposit Account Fraud Survey (2019), the American Bankers Association (ABA) identified more than $25.1 billion in fraud against bank deposit accounts. Of that, 44% was debit card fraud, 47% was check fraud and 9% involved other banking activities related to electronic banking transactions.

It’s important to keep an eye on your account because liability increases the longer customers go without reporting fraudulent activity, as per the Federal Trade Commission’s Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). In fact, if you wait more than 60 calendar days after a bank statement was sent to you that showed fraudulent activity, you could be out of the money you lost. By contrast, you won’t be responsible if you report any unauthorized charges within 60 calendar days after the bank statement was sent. If you do need to report suspicious activity on a PNC account, contact the bank at 1-888-PNC-BANK (1-888-762-2265) as soon as possible.  

Mobile App or Month-End Statement?

Both actually… but for different reasons.

The PNC mobile app is a great option for keeping a close eye on your account throughout the month. As described above, it can help you keep tabs on your budget, your balance and any suspicious charges (in the event of fraud). While the month-end statement will show those too, unfortunately sometimes by then the damage is done when you could have addressed issues related to overspending, fees and even fraud much earlier.

But month-end statements have an important use, too: 

  • You can identify patterns in spending and then adjust if needed. For example, maybe you would have some extra breathing room if you moved the date of a scheduled payment so it doesn’t conflict with others or is better aligned with your pay periods.
  • You can verify if any checks you have written are still outstanding. You may assume that money is already accounted for in your balance, but if someone hasn’t cashed a payment you sent them, you might think you have more money available than you do and spend it elsewhere, which could lead to an overdraft once the wayward check is eventually cashed.
  • You can double-check that deposits you made or should be getting were received and recorded correctly.
  • You can make sure you recognize all the transactions on your statement; if not, you can file a dispute either at a PNC branch, your PNC Online Banking, or via phone with the Customer Care Center. Find out more about this process by visiting PNC Customer Service.
  • You can gain insight into your overall financial health, in terms of cash flow and staying on budget. This might be just the push you need for a budgetary tune-up if you see surprise spending.

The good news about a month-end statement is that you can view it online rather than having a paper statement mailed. Online statements[4] can be more secure because they reduce potential mail fraud; and as a bonus, paperless statements are ecofriendly.

Your bank statement is an important piece of the budget puzzle

Wish you had a roadmap to a stronger financial life? Look no further than your bank statement and the financial tales it tells. And if you think you might benefit from additional guidance on savvy banking practices, contact PNC today