Checking accounts are usually known for two things: check writing and debit card use. However, these accounts can also help you manage your money if you modify them in certain ways. It's easy to let a checking account sit around with all its default settings in place, but it takes only a few minutes at the bank and a little bit of control on your part to turn your checking account into a key money-saving friend.
Stop Overdraft Permission
The biggest step you can take to save money is to turn off permissions for overdrafts and courtesy clearing. These are essentially the same thing, only some banks use one for checks while the other is used for electronic transactions. While these can help you with immediate transactions that you need to make, they can also cause fees to pile up rather quickly. Many banks will reverse fees for one-time charges or mistakes on the part of the bank or a company that led to an overdraft. But if you find that there's a pattern of overdrafts -- say, if the bank keeps registering withdrawals before deposits on your account -- the fees can add up very, very fast. All that money is better spent building up a cushion so that you don't have to worry about overdrafts in the first place.
Limit Debit Card Use
Much is made about how credit makes you spend more than if you were using cash to buy something. However, debit isn't exactly an angel either. Technically, you are limited to what is in your checking account. But it's also easy to buy just a little more here, and a little more there, if you know you can access more than the money you budgeted for your weekly grocery bill, for example.
Limit your debit card use and use cash when you can. It's an old-fashioned tactic, but it's likely one of the easiest to get used to following.
Look for Interest-Bearing Accounts
Interest-bearing checking accounts aren't exactly unicorns, though many people treat them that way -- nonexistant except in their wildest dreams. But that's not true. Many institutions offer interest-bearing checking if you meet certain standards like keeping a higher minimum in the account. Think of that minimum as like a hold on money you can't spend except in case of emergency.
Make Your Own Transfer Policy
You can set up transfers between accounts, things like $X on the first day of every month. But if your income is unpredictable, or you want to transfer amounts like the few dollars left in checking on the last day of each month, it's easier to set up your own manual transfer policy. Choose the amount you want to transfer into a dedicated savings account, such as a percent of a deposit or a specific number of dollars, and choose the days you're going to make these transfers (e.g., the day after you get a deposit from X client). Ensure the savings that you transfer the money to isn't touched for any reason other than emergencies, and watch the amount grow.
Your checking account isn't a passive bunch of paper sitting in a checkbook. It can be a vital part of your savings strategy with very little effort on your part.
For more information, talk to a professional like FCN Bank.