bank rates

Your Bank Statement Has A Lot To Say

closeup picture of a bank statementYou probably pay attention to your monthly bank statement just long enough to see it hit the garbage can or disappear into the shredder.

Or it holds your attention for about as long as it takes to delete the email if you receive notice of your statement electronically.

Your lack of vigilance could cost you money — both in fees and lost interest.

I recently opened my bank statement, which included a notice that my annual cash bonus on my Balance Rewards Money Market savings account had been awarded.

Great, I thought.

But as I read further, I found out the bonus had been cut to $8.50. It had been $50 in each of the previous two years.

Not only that, but my bank said it’s suspending future cash bonuses.

I called the bank’s customer service line to find out what was up. My first attempt didn’t get very far. The representative didn’t know about the cuts and then put me on hold so long I hung up in frustration.

I called back, and fortunately another rep answered who was familiar with what happened. She told me that not only was I losing my annual cash bonus, but the account interest rate had been cut to a negligible 0.02% APY.

The rep told me if I switched to a Personal Money Market Savings Account, I would get 0.15% — an improvement, if only barely.

This new account didn’t award a cash bonus. Otherwise, the two were virtually identical, so I switched.

I never found out why the bank made these changes, but I might not have otherwise noticed if the cash bonus hadn’t been highlighted in big, bold letters on my statement.

Still, the bank only highlighted the positive — my cash bonus was awarded — but left out the part about the lower interest rate.

Here are three reasons why you should read your statement carefully:

It will help you reconcile your checkbook ledger. Find out which checks have cleared and which haven’t yet. If you’re like me, I occasionally forget to write down in the ledger when I’ve written a check or when I’ve made a withdrawal at the ATM. This goes double if you use your debit card a lot.

You can catch nefarious fees. Most banks love to plant little minefields so they can charge you a penalty fee. That’s how they get a large part of their income, like overdraft and bounced-check fees. Big fees like that are easy to spot, but some smaller fees are easier to overlook, and they can build up over time.

For example, my bank starting charging me a $3 monthly fee for mailing me my monthly statement. The bank probably warned me about it earlier, but it was likely buried in fine print and I didn’t see it. I called the bank and found I could avoid that fee if I switched to paperless statements I could download off its website, which I was happy to do.

You may recognize when it’s time to seek a better deal. If I hadn’t read my statement and then called the bank, I would have never known about the account with a higher rate.

If your bank can’t or won’t offer a better deal, take your money somewhere else. There are thousands of other banks and credit unions that are happy to have your business.

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