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Checking Accounts and Checks

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We haven't balanced our checkbook in 2 years!

Sept 2007

my husband and i have not balanced our checkbook in 2 years!!! since our son was born we kind of let things slip for a couple of months and then when i went to balance it nothing added up. i kept meaning to figure it out but months went by. we haven't had any bounced checks, and don't let our acct get low. but its driving me nuts because i don't know exactly how much we have in our account. what is the best way to ''rebalance'' a checking account that hasn't been balanced in a while? we get direct deposit on this acct so i'm not sure how to best approach this... unbalanced!


Hi, unbalanced. :-) First, a general principle: the ending balance on the monthly bank statement PLUS deposits that haven't cleared the bank MINUS checks & other withdrawals that haven't cleared the bank EQUAL your actual balance. ... If you don't usually keep careful records of your transactions, do so for at least a full month that will fall within your bank statement period -- deposits, checks written, use of the debit card that's linked to your checking account, online billpay, etc. These typically clear the bank quickly but you want to be sure they did. ... Checks may linger uncleared longer than electronic transactions. If you have been keeping a record of checks written for the past year, compare your record to the bank statements to see which checks haven't cleared the bank. (Even if you haven't kept a record of the checks, you can see on the bank statements if a check number is missing; if it doesn't clear on subsequent statements, it's still uncleared and maybe you can figure out its $$ amount from other records you've kept.) ... Now do the calculations (sentence #1 above). Voila, you now know your actual balance on the statement's date. ... Just to be safe, you could maintain your usual high balance for a few months or set up overdraft protection with your bank. // ... // If you aren't using QuickBooks or similar bookkeeping software, I suggest you consider it; bank statement reconciliation (and more) is *so* much easier. If you are using accounting software, you can use the reconciliation feature to reconcile all of the unreconciled months at the same time. Make sure all of the uncleared checks & other transactions are entered into your software. When you reconcile, 1)click *all* of the transactions as cleared, 2) then unclick on checks & other transactions that haven't cleared and 3) also unclick transactions that have dates after the statement date. Click ''Reconcile Now'' even though the uncleared balance is not at zero. Tell your software to correct the account balance by posting an adjusting entry. ... Best wishes, Ann. ann
Start fresh. You will drive yourself crazy getting two years worth of numbers to match. I am pretty diligent about keeping all of our accounts balanced, but periodically I slip behind. If, after a reasonable amount of time, I can't get my account to balance with my bank statement I enter an adjustment and let it go at that.

I also use Microsoft Money, which automatically downloads transactions, and can even automatically balance your account. If you really need to get that account balanced for business reasons you might want to try out a program like Money or Quicken. David


My friend had a similar problem and I ended up balancing her checkbook for her. Basically, you just start over from the latest bank statement you have. If you've somehow managed to live the last two years w/o balancing your checkbook, knowing your charges from 2 years ago isn't going to make a difference. It also makes the task less daunting.

Some people have trouble taking the time every month to balance their checkbook. I highly recommend investing some money in software such as Quicken and sign up for online banking. You can then set it up to automatically download your charges from your bank (if the bank has this feature). This way, you at least know how much money you have in your bank account. anon


We don't balance our checkbook, and haven't since the advent of online banking 8-10 years ago. What I do is check that all the charges that are on the statement really belong there -- sometimes merchants make mistakes. I take the sum from the bank as truth. I could question them, but why take the time. I would notice if there was a big discrepancy. Also, in order to manage bills, and transfers between accounts, we check our balance at least twice a week.

I read a story once of an old woman who balanced her checkbook by rounding each amount. So a check for $10.12 was rounded to $10, and so on. She never did the cents. Her grandson found out and was outraged and decided he would re-do her addition using the real number. Guess what, he was close to the amount by 40 cents. Ha ha ha ha! That's kind of how I feel about balancing my checkbook on paper. Mom on Hayward Fault


we use computerized programs to download statements. you can usually go back several months and check charges and try to determine where there was a mixup. the programs run about $50 but i can tell you with kids, i love downloading and checking expenses for credit cards as well. it makes it so much easier to track. beth
Find your last statement. Get a new check register. Use the bank's (credit union's) balance; however, also log all of your outstanding items. This will give you your balance to work with.

Now go to your old register. Regulation E states that you may only dispute items that are within the past 120 days. So take the last four bank statments - look at the credits to see if they match what you have listed. Look at the debits to see if they match what you have listed. If they are wrong, dispute them with your financial insitution. If they are not wrong, file you statements and your old register. And begin with the fresh information listed in the first paragraph.

You're fine. Life happens on the way to the dance. Just begin working on the current (and immediate past) information. Credit Union Mom


Ha, your message made me chuckle. For a while it bothered me too that I no longer balanced my checkbook, and then it fell off the radar screen altogether, and nothing bad happened. It's been more than 10 years--with not even a check register log--and I know I'll never balance my account again. What works for me is to keep a comfortable cushion in the checking account, use duplicate checks as a record, and use some kind of informed banking intuition. It's even easier with online bill pay. I scan my monthly bank statement to reconnect with reality, and that's it. I've never overdrawn my account; it works for me. Balancing Differently
First of all, if it's been two years, I would suggest finding out how much is in your account now and starting from scratch. Otherwise you will spend many frustrating hours accomplishing very little. In my recent experience, the checkbook somehow never actually balances perfectly when you use it a great deal.

I have talked to other people about this because I have both an American and Canadian bank account and it only happens with the former (this sounds paranoid and strange, but it's the truth). I meticulously go over all my receipts every week and use telephone banking to get a list of all the transactions that have gone through my account that week and the week before (just to be on the safe side). Somehow, after a few months there is always a discrepancy. This is partially because every once in awhile one makes a mistake in adding or subtracting. Other times, there is no apparent reason at all - I mean I will have the bank print a transaction record for the last 6 months and things still don't add up.

Is it hopeless then? No! Of course not! I leave extra money in the account (say $100 or even less) to buffer it and then keep track of the discrepancy between what the bank says I have and what I really have. I keep a running balance of my accounts and what money should be allocated where on a paper spreadsheet. Maybe a computer spreadsheet would make everything balance properly, I don't know. It seems like more work to me and generally I find that the balance I carry in my account is actually more than what I have recorded in my records, so I don't worry about it. My Canadian account is always right on track, down to the exact cent.

I think one of the problems is the use of check cards. Where credit transactions can take over a week to process, debit transactions are noted in your account immediately. I have also had several cases of incorrectly recorded transactions (and recently a transaction showed up in my accounts that I never even made). The banking system in Canada is based on debit transactions, which are subtracted from your account as soon as they are made. The bank typically (or it used to be the case) will also not allow you to make a debit purchase unless the money is actually in your account (so no overdrafts from using your bank card). So those are a few things to look out for. Sorry, if that's way too much information! It's a bit of a rant too, because I've also had a great deal of frustration over balancing my checkbook. lisa


You need to pick two dates:
1. The ''Rebalance Start Date''; and
2. The ''Cutoff Date''.

Generally, the start date will be today (or whatever day you start tracking your checkbook. The Cutoff Date will be either 6 or 12 months from the start date. 6 months should be fine, but if you're paranoid, you can use 12 months.

Now, the best and easiest way to do this is to open a new account, and start tracking it. Then, keep enough money in the old account to cover any checks that might clear until the cutoff date, and then close the old account. Anyone who is left holding an uncashed check on the old (closed) after that is just SOL.

If for some reason you CAN'T close the old account, then you can do the following:

A. Start tracking the old account from the Start Date. When you start tracking, you'll need to have an opening balance. Since you don't KNOW what the opening balance, you'll have to just pick a number. Pick a number that seems reasonable to you, a number which is likely to be NO HIGHER THAN the actual minimum balance (whatever that might be), assuming that everything that's currently outstanding had cleared. You don't want to pretend that you have money that you don't.

B. Just balance your checkbook from the start date on, until the cutoff date. Now, after the cutoff date, you're going to make the assumption that all outstanding items have cleared, and any that haven't cleared are never going to. This might be erroneous, but it's the best that we can do. At the cutoff date, enter a balance adjustment into your checkbook, so that your actual balance matches the checkbook register balance. A balance adjustment is just an entry that says ''whoops! I was wrong. I really have an extra $xxxx that I didn't know about.

But the best way is really to open a new account, and close the old one after the cutoff date. Alex


I do this all the time....Don't try to go backwards. Start with your most recent bank statement balance and just go from there. It might take a month or so for every check and transaction to clear and even out, but it will.
The easiest way to restart check-book balancing is to stop writing checks! Seriously. Use your banks free on-line bill- paying program and set-up automatic payments as necessary and you may find yourself only writing a couple of checks per month. On-line bill payments via your bank clear instantly so then it is very easy to use your current bank balance as an accurate measure of your available balance. If you are only writing a couple of checks a month (say, daycare & miscellaneous philanthropy), you may be able to keep those in your head so that when you check your balance on-line you can mentally subtract the check or 2 that hasn't cleared. I no longer balance my checkbook, but I refer to my account on-line frequently. Works for lazy-old-me! Katie
The last time I was 'unbalanced', I waited to a time when all checks and ATM transactions had cleared. (After going on a vacation is a good time as check activity is low and ATM/debit card transactions usually hit your account almost immediately. Or get cash and use that only for a few days to let all transactions hit your account.) I then go online to my bank account and get a current balance from the bank and I just use that as my starting balance and I balance/keep track of everything that happens after that. Not perfect, but doable. you kind of have to write off everything that happened before the day of that balance. Andi

How long can someone hold onto your check?

June 2007

Three years ago when I was pregnant, we took our last (extremely modest) vacation. We rented a small house and sent the home owner our payment. The owner never cashed our check. We are terrible with money so we were unaware of that fact. Now, three years after our vacation, we got a letter from the rental owner's lawyer telling us the owner passed away last year. Our uncashed check was included with the lawyer's letter, along with a request that we re-issue a new check. This is coming at a terrible time for us in terms of money and we are barely surviving. I wonder if anyone knows if we are legally obligated to re-issue a check at this point? Anon


A check is considered stale dated (and therefore, no longer good) after 6 months. They can't cash it and they can't force you to write a new one.

Why not ignore the letter and see what happens? Nothing will happen because they have no recourse. They are just hoping to guilt you into paying up.

For whatever reason, the rental owner never cashed the check. Count your lucky stars and say a quiet thank you to the person who passed away. anon


My opinion is that ethically you are responsible for this payment, even this far down the road. You should borow to pay it. susanne
Hi - I sonmetimes receive small checks for dividends from companies... the checks have a ''lifespan'' of 90 days after issue date. If I try to deposit them after 90 days, they are rejected by the issuing agency, and I have to make a formal request for reissue. The reissue is at the discretion of the company, and they have may hoops to jump through... generally not worth the $3 or less the check is for. Why not go by the 90 day rule? Perhaps your bank has a similar rule about issue date and check life span. SD
Hello, As someone who has worked in a bank for 14 years, I say you are under no obligation to reissue another check. A personal check becomes stale dated after 6 months, a cashier's check has slightly different rules that have changed since I left banking. You paid for the rental in good faith, it's not your fault that the decedent didn't cash the check in a timely fashion. I believe the lawyer is counting on your naivete to get money for his client's estate. I say, write the lawyer back stating your case and see what he says. If you want to talk to a lawyer for free, Len Tillum has a radio call in show during the weekends. I am not sure what channel but if I find out, I will repost. I hope this helps, Laura
It kind of blows my mind how many questions like this are posted on this forum- Do you have to pay for a service or product that you receive? Yes, you do...if you don't, it's called stealing. In your situation, imagine if you found uncashed checks in a relative's home upon their death- would you expect the person/people who received a service to pay for that service? Of course. If nothing else, I'm sure you feel a little guilty about taking advantage of someone who obviously wasn't in their right mind. There are no free vacations
You are not legally obligated to write a new check. I don't know exactly what the law (or individual banks) say about how long a person has to cash a check, but it's much shorter than three years. Otherwise the people who found your uncashed check would have simply cashed it. Only you can decide whether you think you have an ethical obligation to work out some sort of payment plan or settlement (and I'm not sure you do under the circumstances), but legally you're in the clear. She couldn't bother to cash your check for three years - too bad for her. You may want to call your bank for clarification. Checks Aren't Good Forever
When you enter into a contract and do your part...you've done your part. The fact that this person *who you did not know at the time was ill or in any way mentally incapacitated* didn't cash your check isn't your problem: as far as you were concerned, you did pay.

I say this because I worked for someone once who wouldn't cash checks---and people **begged** her to cash them. Is it their fault that she didn't take responsibility for running her business? No. And it's not yours either.

This isn't a question of your ethics if you tried to pay in good faith. anon


Where to Buy Bank Checks

Feb 2005

I need to buy bank checks and I'm wondering if anyone has a recommendation of a company with a website that has reasonable prices and nice designs (not just puppies) and maybe even supports a good cause. I don't write many checks these days as we move towards the cashless society but I still write a few. Thanks for your recommendations. ramisima


We've used Message!Checks for years. They support a large number of causes and have a very nice selection. They can be looked at online at www.messageproducts.com. Laurel
www.checkgallery.com I tend to order from a new company every time so as to always get the ''first time customer'' deal. But I especially like Check Gallery because they use recycled paper, and they do have several designs that benefit good causes (e.g., National Wildlife Foundation). Holly
www.messageproducts.com Tracy
I recommend Checks in the Mail (www.checksinthemail.com). They have several different pictures for checks, and their service is fast and reliable. Lori
We get ours from Quicken. G

Need suggestions for maintaining my checkbook

Sept 2004

Care and maintenance of my personal checkbook has fallen apart. I very much want to get caught up and institute an easy to follow plan to keep the books in good order. Any suggestions?? anon


Online banking! I resisted for a long time and now love it. anon

Bank and Payee changed amount on check

Nov 2003

Last September I purchased some items from a local business (i.e., not part of a chain). I wrote a check and happily took my items home. Last night I was balancing my checkbook when I discovered, to my horror, that someone had changed the amount of my check! Both in the area where you write the numbers, and in the written portion! Today I went into the business to speak to someone. The first manager I spoke to said ''Oh, that's the tax they forgot to charge you.'' When I said that it wasn't ok to change my check he said ''Well, otherwise we'd have had to call you and have you drive all the way back down here to fix it.'' I said, ''That would have been fine. Altering my check was not.'' He then got the bookkeeper, who said, ''Oh, yeah, sorry, I did that. The two numbers didn't match.'' I said that I had clearly written both numbers and they had been for a different amount than the one they used. She said that when she got the check, the number didn't match, so she changed the written part! (Which means that TWO people were involved in altering my check.) She then asked if I wanted to return the merchandise--like I remember what it was, and as if that were the issue! Both of them acted as if I was wrong for being upset about this. What do you think, and what should I do? This is not about the money--it was less than $5. What it is about is that they did something wrong. And if anyone can just write over what I've written on a check, how can I feel that I can safely write a check to anyone? Anon


NO it is not okay for them to do that! I am pretty sure it woud qualify as invasion of privacy if not fraud. If you do not feel safe with checks then don't go to the store. If you like the store and need to go again then just be carefull and if it happens again file a complant because chances are if it happens twice to you they're doing it to other people which the police would probably like to know about. Laura
I don't think it is check fraud. I once worked at a bank in the mortgage payment department where we received hundreds of checks and payment coupons every week. It was quite common that people wrote out checks with two different amounts, or transposed numbers, or made typos in their payment amount. We regularly changed the amount on the check to agree with the payment coupon if it was clear that it was just a mistake, adding our initials next to the change. This is not quite what happened in your case, but it's similar in that we were correcting what we saw as a mistake and not notifying the person who wrote the check. It does not sound like the merchant was trying to steal money from you, or defraud you. It sounds like they thought they were correcting a mistake. It would have been courteous if they had let you know about the change, but I think it is reasonable to assume there is no fraud here, and since it's such a small amount, I would just let it go. G
While the incident you described technically is check fraud, it appears the business did not intend to deceive or cheat you. It sounds like they made a bad assumption that you'd rather them adjust the check than go back to the store. Since you took so long in figuring out what happened, it seems like there wasn't much for them to do but apologize. Their offer to return the goods seems fair. I would tell them that this was very unprofessional and that you will not shop there again. Then I'm sure they will not do this again. Elizabeth
I'm not sure who to tell so I probably shouldn't respond but, that is so against the law! report them to the police and the better business bureau. Or you probably could just tell them that you'll do this. I'd be pissed myself so do what your concience tells you. Rick
This business is breaking the law, plain and simple. Their notion that they're saving you trouble is a ridiculous attempt to justify their actions. You should let the police 'advise' them regarding their action. Lisa
If ''they'' forgot to add the tax then they should eat it! That's lame and ridiculous that they altered your check, or that they even considered calling you to come back down and pay what, $.40 at the most. I would return the merchandise and not shop there again. Not very customer service oriented! I would also think that their altering of your check is illegal. YOu could ask your bank. Hilary
I checked with my husband who works as a bank manager. He confirmed that no one but the person who signed the check (and is on the account, of course) can change information on the check. If that person wants to make changes or alterations, they must initial the changes. Obviously, that isn't what happened. Hopefully, the bank would catch such changes before a check is processed. Unfortunately, banks process so many checks each day that they don't catch everything. What the store did is check fraud. Police departments usually take this seriously, regardless of the amount. You never know, they may know about, or find out through investigation of your complaint, that this is a common practice of this business. That would be a big problem. Additionally, you can go to your bank. The bank should reimburse you to the correct amount, but probably won't take any other action. As a general rule, most businesses are reputable, so most of the time you are ok. Except for paying cash, there is no 100% safe way to pay. If someone wants to steal your money they can do it just as easily with a check as a credit card. Everytime you write a check you are giving someone else enough information to commit fraud against your account. At this point we are depending on people to not take advantage of us, but there are enough cases of fraud each year to teach us that not everyone is trustworthy. Rose
My understanding is that this is, indeed, check fraud. The amounts on checks cannot be altered by some one else, that is illegal. Only you can change them and then you are supposed to initial the section that you changed to indicate that you did this yourself. The proprietor and bookkeeper were WAY out of line: ''we'd have had to call you and have you drive all the way back down here to fix it''?? So?? They SHOULD have called you at the very least and said ''look, we forgot to include tax in your total, so the check you wrote is for the wrong amount. You can either come here and write us a new check, or we can change the amount on the check for you, *with your permission*'' To try to imply that you were in the wrong to be upset (so what if it was less than $5, it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing, right?), is outrageous. I would report them to th! e Better Business Bureau and let them know that you are filing a complaint. Check fraud is still illegal!
That's outrageous! No one has the right to alter your check, and the bank should not honor an altered check. When I learned to write checks (about 100 years ago) I was told that if I made a change on the check I'd have to initial it or it wouldn't be accepted by the bank. Were there initials by the changes? If so, and they used your initials & not their own, then it was fraud! I'd like to know what store it was so I never shop there! Melinda

Redeeming Cashier's Check for defunct bank

Jan 2003

I am hoping someone out there can help me with this. I have a cashier's check which seems to be drawn on a now defunct bank. The information: (I have got to say this was a pretty dumb move on my part.) The check is for $1,000.00 on 1st Nationwide Bank. It is also dated 8/16/91 (the dumb move). I put the check through my banks ATM (which I have done previously with no problem). It was returned in the mail stamped: Suspected Counterfeit. (they say because of the date) Going into the bank was of no help; no suggestions of what to do, wouldn't try to put the check through with a hold, would not help figure out where this bank might be, etc. (Good thing I have been banking there for over 20 years!) A search on the internet gives me no leads. Which is what makes me suspect the bank has been absorbed by others, or... At this point I am at a loss as to what I can do. I can not afford to lose this $1,000.00. Please, if you have any ideas it would be greatly appreciated. anonymous, but in need


First Nationwide got bought by CalFed which just got bought by CitiBank. The office is at Shattuck & University. We still have usable First Nationwide checks (that was a happy surprise), so they might still honor the old cashier's check. Avi
First Nationwide's history goes something like this - First Nationwide -- Cal Fed -- CitiBank. Hope this helps. ellen
First Nationwide Bank is not defunct. It purchased many other banks under its original name, and then when it purchased California Federal Bank (I believe in 1996-97) it changed its name to the California Federal Bank. All account numbers changed, too, as they often do when one bank is purchased by another. It purchased some other banks still and is now the 4th largest bank in California. Deloitte & Touche are their auditors.

Try goingto a CalFed office or e-mail them from their web site. You should be able to get your money back. You'll be even more successful if you were to go to the original branch where the cashier's check was purchased, if this is an option.

If nothing works quickly, write a letter to their Customer Service. It takes a couple of month but it works for sure.

I hope this helps. Maria K


I worked for First Nationwide Bank's corporate offices years ago. I stopped working for them in 1995 just before they were bought by a huge conglomerate and changed their name to CalFed. I believe they still have many branches and corporate offices in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Good luck!
I think you may be out of luck. I was a bank-teller in college (many years ago) and I recall that we were not allowed to accept checks that were over a year old. It was called a ''stale-dated'' check. The only exceptions were gov't checks, which I think were ok for 2+ years, and sometimes in January when it was very likely that the check writer meant to write the current year and forgot (something we're all doing about now.)

As for 1st Nationwide, they were acquired by Cal Fed (my bank) many years ago. However, we've just found out that Cal Fed is being acquired by Citibank. You may want to see what a Cal Fed or Citibank branch manager thinks. Good luck. Elizabeth


Hello - I *think* there is actually a law that checks have to be cashed within a certain time period (1 ? 2 year/s? ), so regardless of the fact that this bank is defunct, I don't think you'd be able to cash the check. michael

HOw to Deposit Xmas check for baby

Jan 2003

How do I deposit an Xmas check made out to my 18 mo old daughter? The bank cannot accept in in my account. Should I just return it to sender? Kristine


You could set up a bank account for your baby or your bank should be willing to cash the check for you. sherri
Here is what my husband, a banker, says: sign the check ''[child's name] by [your signature], [relationship to child]'' the deposit should be made a the teller window, not the ATM. If the bank won't take it have them rewrite the check to [your name] parent of [child's name]... he says bringing the screaming child with you to the bank usually helps too. (Just kidding.) We do it all the time. Hope that helps. Rose
You have to open up a bank account [we did a savings account] for your child. You're just gonna get more checks [hopefully!] so you should probably just do it now. When you deposit the checks you just have to endorse them as ''[child's name], a minor by [your name]''. It's pretty easy. But it did take us almost 2 years to finally do it. Fortunately the checks from his birth were still good. - Jean
I suggest asking to speak with the bank manager. If she won't accommodate you, threaten to close your account and take your business elsewhere. I have deposited checks for my child for years and we don't even share the same last name. I simply signed both names and signed ''mother'' next to my name. I have never had a problem. If your bank won't help you, I'd seriously consider changing banks!!! anon
I set up an account for my son when he was 6 months old. He was written a rather large check to seed savings for his college by my grandmother. Most banks don't charge at all for savings accounts for kids, and we just get a statement every month with my son's name on it, followed by the words, ''A Minor By'' and then my name. It's been great to have for him and keep it seperate from the rest of our money - I recommend it. Susan
How about starting a 529 account for your child? That way, you could start saving for college now! Check with your bank to see if they have information to help you do so. Carolyn
Hi there, We've gotten a number of checks for our daughter since she was born and I just endorse them: ''Michael B, father, for Alisa B'' and I've had no trouble. I deposit them at the ATM instead of the teller, so maybe that has something to do with it. I do remember once trying to deposit a 3rd party check at the teller window, and they wouldn't do it, because the person who endorsed it to me wasn't there, and the teller told me to just deposit it at the ATM instead. Logical? No, but it worked. :) I bank at Wells Fargo, by the way. I guess you could also open an account for your child. Good luck! Michael
all you have to do is open a minor savings account for your child and make that the first deposit. I did this when my son was 6 months old and I occasionally t-fer money over the internet into his account, say if someone gives him a $20 bill for birthday. Over the years he may accrue a lot of money (relatively) that he can spend when he is old enough to decide how to spend it. anon
Hm. We just deposited one written out to our daughter into our account. We did it at the ATM and the check cleared. She has the same last name as my husband, so he endorsed the check. I really don't think they look at these things closely and you're doing nothing illegal, so just give it a try. Molly G
You can open an account (savings) under your childs name and deposit the check in the account. It's a good idea to do this anyway, and makes it easier to deposit all those future checks that relatives always seem to send for birthdays, holidays, etc. Good Luck with your Early Savings
Simple - open an account for your baby. As long as they have a social security card, they will be able to have a bank account. Then you can put all monetary gifts into that account. Alison
How about opening a CD in your child's name, or a 529 college savings plan? Jill
I just deposited my baby's first check this morning at Bank of America, where I have my checking account. What I did was open a savings account in my name ''in trust'' of my son's name. He won't be able to withdraw money until he is eighteen, but he will be able to deposit checks anytime until then. I have acces to the money if I need to. The account does not have any monthly fee if you keep a minimum balance of $300 (I had to transfer some of our money to get to that minimum), unless there is excess activity on a given month. Good luck! Maria
Get another bank! Unless it is a very large sum of money (like over $1000) they should be able to do it for you. I've done that both at Wells Fargo and Citibank with no problems. I've done it both at the teller and the ATM. Talk with a manager until you get them to deposit it! They probably won't cash it but should surely deposit it into your account with a typical hold. allison
I'm surprised that you could not deposit the check in your account. I was able to do that for my children at WElls Fago a few years ago. ellen
Are you sure your bank won't take it? We've deposited both children's checks in our B of A account for years. R.K.
Open an account in your child's name where you are the custodian of the account under the uniform gifts to minors act. a parent who has done the same.

Logistics of managing a shared checking account

March 2003

I'd like to hear from couples who share a checking account, regarding how you keep the finances straight. We need a new system. After marrying, we kept our separate checking accounts, just because it was easy to do so. Now I'm mostly at home with our toddler, and do most of the grocery shopping, etc. Since the account with his automatic deposit originally only belonged to my husband, he has maintained the job of balancing the account out of habit. However, I'm doing most of the spending, and this has led to great confusion. How have people dealt with similar situations? I've wanted to change habits and just have his checkbook accessible so I can enter in whatever purchases I've made that day, but if he gets behind, I have to wait to enter them, and we get into a difficult cycle. I could take over the checkbook responsibility completely, which may make the most sense. I'm curious how other couples work this out, including whether any computer programs have helped in the organization. (Though I've wondered if that would complicate things even more, since then there would be two places to enter numbers.)


I'm not quite sure exactly what your question is--if the problem is really accessibility of the checkbook, I just wanted to offer my experience--we just use two checkbooks from the same account--of course the numbers are wacko but that doesn't seem to matter. Also we rarely write checks--between online bill paying and paying with debit cards, we just don't need to, and that makes recordkeeping simple because you can see it all online.

If the question is about control of the money :) I recommend 3 accounts: a household account that all income goes into and a personal account for each of you that you each get an ''allowance'' from each month from the household account (you can set that up automatically too). We use our allowance to pay for gifts, books, CDs, non-essentials for the house, eating out (this is nice because we have an incentive not to eat out as much AND because we trade off taking us out to dinner, which makes it more special--it's a gift). I'm sure you'll be able to find a system that works for you. Deborah


My husband and his ex-wife never had shared bank accounts. He would give her enough money for the bills and other expenses and leave the rest (for his gas and lunch, and for their savings) in his account. Coming from a household in which my mom (a stay home) had total control over the bank accounts, I found their system to be very wierd (my dad doesn't even have an ATM card, he just asks my mom for cash). Now we have a shared bank account to which his salary goes through a direct deposit. We have duplicate checks, so no-one can forget writing down the purpose of a check, and at the end of the banking statement I usually download everything into quicken (which will help in the next tax season) and classify the expenses. We use mostly credit cards, since it's easy to check the current balance online, and make sure to pay the full balance every month to avoid finance charges. We've had no problems till now, because my husband's spending is mostly mandatory (gas, lunch) and I check our balances online often to make sure I am not overspending on discretionary items. I also use online banking to pay bills, so I can schedule everything in advance and if I need to see how we're doing I look at our credit card balance, checking account situation, and the scheduled payments to estimate our expeses in the next few weeks. Hope it doesn't sound too complicated, because it's really not. To summarize:
- direct deposit
- online banking
- duplicate checks
- quicken
Good luck
My husband and I have shared a checking account since we got married 10 years ago. We've found that for this to work one of us has to be in charge of the bills and write most of the checks. It's gone back and forth, but currently I'm the one in charge. We only use one checkbook at the time, so when my husband writes a check he asks me for the checkbook and then he gives it back to me (or just leaves it on his desk and I get it from there). We use duplicate checks, so even if he doesn't write the checks in the ledger, I can see which ones he wrote and for how much in the carbon copies. Still, he doesn't write checks very often. We usually just get cash - he tells me when he withdraws some and I write it down. I also keep a close look at our account online, so if he forgets to tell me of a withdrawal I can catch it and ask him about it. anon
When my husband and I married, we were both working and for a short while we maintained separate accounts - not even quite sure how we did it but it felt important to each of us to have a little stash of our ''own'' money. Now, 8 years later, we have a 5 yr old and a 2 yr old and I am a SAHM and things have changed!! There never seems to be enough money in general but what we are doing and works for us is that some money is deducted into our savings accts each month and the remainder is deposited into a single joint acct. Since I do most (all?) of the purchases for our home, pay all the bills, I just maintain the acct. We use a credit union with on-line acct access and I never balance our account by hand 'on paper'. I know what is deposited (my husband is paid once per month) and pay all the bills at the first of the month regardless of due date (I know, i know...we could make a few pennies here and there by waiting until due dated...). What I really like about the on-line acct access is that I can see at a moment's notice things like ATM withdrawals and car gas expenses. At first, the surprise ATM withdrawals made by my husband were a kink in the works because I had us budgeted down to the penny so to remedy that, we came up with a monthly ''allowance'' for him to use for things like lunches he had to buy out (infrequent as they are) and the occasional indulgence of a latte on the road while commuting. My husband is quite frugal so this system works well for us. Hope you find your way with this.... Suzanne
My husband and I also share a checking account. I am the keeper of the checkbook and he accesses the account either through the atm for cash/deposit or by asking for a check. When he withdraws or deposits money, he sends me an e-mail immediately through his Blackberry so he doesn't forget. I prefer to keep a balanced checkbook and to know exactly where I stand at all times and he is nice enough to accommodate this attribute. He uses cash or credit card to make purchases as do I. I use checks to pay bills from home and the occasional purchase at stores that do not accept credit cards. This method works well for us.

Money issues with couples can be quite interesting and intense. Our minister told us a funny story the other day: in his family his mother took care of the finances, in his wife's family the father took care of the finances. It was TEN years into their marriage before they realized this and were able to solve the mystery of WHY the other person wasn't just taking care of it and relieve the related stress and strain!


Hi, it sounds like you're in the same type of situation as I am--stay at home mom, with 2 toddlers, who pays most of the bills, does most of the shopping, etc. For whatever reason, we kept separate checking accounts when we got married, and now my husband direct deposits a set amount into my checking account every month, and I use that money to take care of routine expenses. If something big comes up, like car repairs, I put that on a credit card, and we take care of that separately. We've been doing this for 3 years, and it works well for us. Good luck. anonymous
My husband and I each have seperate checking and savings accounts, plus we have a joint checking and joint savings. This is alot of accounts, but works out well, because although I take care of the money issues, he is home with the kids and needs the joint account for groceries, etc. So I just give him the checkbook when he needs it, and make sure he records his debts in it. You can do the same - if you keep the joint checkbook, just have your husband change his direct deposit to the new account. Or, if he can add your name onto his existing account that would work too. Then he can have a seperate personal account. Or, if he can add your name onto his existing account that would work too. Then he can have a seperate personal checking that only he uses. Most direct deposit programs allow you to deposit your check into up to 3 different accounts. I put the bulk of my check into our joint checking, some in our savings, and a little in my personal checking. anon
When my husband and I were first married, we created a joint account for mutual expenses and kept our separate accounts into which went a set amount each month -- that money was untouchable by the other and we could spend it however we see fit, without checking with the other. The thing is, we NEVER spent that money. Even big-ticket items, like a new set of golf clubs, came from the joint account. After about five years we gave up on the separate accounts and just do everything jointly. Since I'm home now FT, I handle the day-to-day finances... paying bills, etc. I am the one who keeps the account up-to-date (we use Quicken which makes it slightly easier). Every week or two I pay bills and input checks, ATM withdrawals, etc. My husband often puts in the ATM withdrawals he makes, but I always make a point of asking him if he has any ATM receipts in his wallet when I sit down to do this (literally ask him if he's home at the moment, or send him an email if not... that way I have a reply email which reminds me to re-open Quicken and do it). We do not use the check register anymore; just Quicken - so there aren't two places to enter info, as you suggested. Periodically we check-in about savings and how much we're managing to roll over there (or not). Also, we use credit cards A LOT but always pay them off in full each month -- our credit card essentially works like a checkbook for us; not that it debits from our checking account, just that we think of it that way (we consider purchases made on the card as money SPENT, not money we'll pay off ''later''). Using credit cards like this eliminates the need for one of us to carry the checkbook (and the problem that comes along when the other person doesn't have it). The bonus is that we do this with a Visa card that gives us airline miles for every dollar we spend, so over time we have racked up a lot of frequent flier miles. Husband handles the larger financial picture - investments, retirement accounts, etc. This system as a whole works for us. anon
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