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Make the Most Out Of Your Debit Card with These Best Practices

By Mariann Jeffers, Assistant Vice President, Project Management and Business Continuity, Affinity Federal Credit Union

No one carries cash these days, myself included. Why would we? With the convenience of debit cards, access to your checking account is only one swipe away. Our empty wallets raise a bigger issue though – are we managing our checking accounts properly? The answer is no.

Gone are the days where savings accounts kept the bulk of our cash safe (from spending). But now, with more money more readily available in our checking accounts, we’re putting ourselves at risk.

Easy Access Equals Easy Risk

Most of us don’t look before we swipe our debit cards.  Such easy access has triggered a gradual decline in traditional budgeting. In the pre-debit era, we took out cash as a way to budget our spending, or perhaps you balanced your account regularly through a checkbook. Instead, many swipe and swipe, not realizing you’ve overspent your budget – and overdrafted your account.

The risk is two-fold. Not only are you setting yourself up for financial trouble today, you’re also hurting your chances for account approval down the road. Those overdrafts may seem harmless now – what’s a small fee every now and then, right? – but what many don’t realize is that you may be flagged in a system used by all banks showing your (in) ability to manage your account if unpaid overdraft fees continue.

Your Bank Might Not Be the Right Financial Institution

When it comes to where you manage your finances, it’s likely you’ve chosen your institution based on where your parents once (or still do) banked but it may not be the best place to keep your money. Does your checking account have a fee? What is the interest rate?

It is possible to find a credit union or bank with little to no fees; just do your research. Be smart with your accounts and understand that not all financial institutions are created equal. Nor is how to spend and save your money. Find the right place that fits your needs. 

Managing Your Checking Account

Money management isn’t one-size-fits all. Take my daughter, for example. She’s a young millennial who keeps all her money in savings and only transfers to her checking when making a purchase. She says this keeps her accountable for her spending as Federal Regulations only allow six transfers a month. Life brings many different money challenges, whether you’re a late millennial and saving to purchase a home, a boomer saving to retire soon, or a gen-Xer getting ready to pay your kid’s college tuition.

The truth is, how much you keep in checking vs. savings will vary, largely dependent on where you are in life. But what must always remain constant is your vigilance in monitoring – and managing – your money. 

Additional Resources:

Learn more about Affinity checking accounts, all which include the option of an Affinity Visa Debit Access Card

Want Peace of Mind? Get Credit and Debit Card Alerts

Watch our video tutorial about Push Notifications

Affinity Savings Account

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