Banks send them to their customers once a month through mail. Many customers, particularly those who use online banking, may throw them in the trash, but it’s best to give them at least one look-over for accuracy. Most consumers should keep their financial records, including bank statements, for a period of three years. The bank statement, the printed documents that detail all of the transactions one has made in a period of time, is a essential report that should be maintained and reviewed. Most statements will also include the canceled checks or copies of these checks, if checks were used during the month. This seemingly annoying piece of paper is most certainly worth a person’s while, at least when it comes to ensuring that their personal financial records match their banks.

The first portion of the bank statement will contain the dates of the period it is covering. This date is important, because if there are any discrepancies with electronic transactions, a person only has 60 days from this date to report the problems to the bank. If the discrepancies are not reported within this 60 day timeframe, the bank is not legally obligated to do an investigation. Discrepancies with check transactions should be resolved as soon as possible as well, though there is greater latitude in the amount of time a person has to report them. Bank errors may not be a common event, but errors in the amount of deposits, amount cleared on a check and the time transactions are recorded happen more frequently than you might expect.

The next section that is of importance on the bank statement is the summary. This is usually at the top on the first page of the statement. It stays true to its namesake, since it condenses pertinent information pertaining to one’s account. This could include the total amount of deposits, beginning and ending balances and withdrawal information. Through the summary a consumer can quickly get a picture of their financial outlook. For example, if the ending balance is significantly less than what they expected, they already know ahead of time that there might be some discrepancies that need resolving. In this section of the statement, don’t forget to review any costs or fees levied by the bank. Fees for bounced checks or for maintaining a required a minimum balance should show prominently. Any interest earned on the account will also be present in the summary section. At this time you will have the opportunity to check for accuracy, update your records and evaluate whether the account you have is the right bank account for your needs.

Finally, there is the transaction section. The transaction section shows all of the action that has occurred during the statement period on one’s bank account. This includes information about withdrawals, deposits or any extra fees associated with maintaining one’s account. With each of these transactions, customers see the name associated with it, the date it occurred and the total amount of money involved. Some transactions may even have additional information, such as phone numbers. This is a great resource to have if an individual creditor must be contacted to resolve any discrepancy.

When a person is finished with their banking statement, they should store it in an accessible yet secure location. After enough time has elapsed and the records are no longer needed, shred the statements before they hit the garbage bin. This is because occasionally thieves will search trashcans looking for any type of information they can use for creating their new identity. If the information is shredded up, they will not be able to do these things. Record-wise, consumers do not have to worry, at least if they have online banking. This is because with an online banking account, the bank will provide electronic copies of their statements.

Of course, if a person does not have an online banking account, they need to either consider getting one and/or scanning the bank statement into their computer before discarding it.

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