Check your Bank Balance Online

Online Piggy
Going online (with a desktop or mobile device) is the easiest way to keep track of your accounts. Atomic Imagery/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Time to start­­ keeping better track of your finances? Checking your bank balance regularly is a good way to start. You’ll know how much you save, how much you spend, and whether or not you can afford any expenses on the horizon.

So how can you keep an eye on your bank account? Here are a few ways to make it easy enough that it’ll actually happen.

6 Easy Ways

Login online: do you work at a computer (or sit down at one often enough to keep up with email and social networks)?

Then you’ve already got everything you need at your fingertips. You can check your bank account balances online anytime – and you can probably do a lot more than that. To get started, go to your bank’s website and figure out what it takes to access your account information online. In most cases, you’ll look for an option like “Login” or “Account Access” (on your first visit, look for options like “Register” or “First time user”).

If the idea of online banking is new to you, see why you should give it a try. In addition to checking balances online, you can often transfer money to other banks, pay bills without writing a check, and more.

Mobile banking: mobile phones and tablets also make it easy to check on accounts from just about anywhere. Most banks provide apps (or websites designed for mobile devices) that allow you do see your account balance online, and some apps allow you do even more than you can do from a desktop computer.

For example, banks increasingly allow you to deposit checks with your mobile device, so you can quit making trips to the branch and get your funds more quickly.

The fastest way to use your mobile phone is to set up text messaging with your bank.

Ask an ATM: ATMs offer another way to check your balance.

Simply insert your ATM card or debit card, and follow the on-screen instructions. It’s best to use your own bank’s ATM because you’ll most likely have to pay fees if you use an ATM operated by another company.

Call the bank: if you prefer a more traditional approach, you can always call your bank to find out what your balance is. To speak with a real person, you’ll need to call within certain hours, but most banks have automated systems that provide 24/7 account information. Getting set up to use those systems might take some effort (you may need to establish a PIN), but once you’re up and running it’ll become routine. In fact, it might take an initial phone call even if you want to view your accounts online – sometimes the process doesn’t work smoothly until customer service gets everything going in the right direction.

Set up alerts: instead of checking your bank account balances manually, perhaps you’d prefer that the information come to you – maybe you just want a heads up when your account balance gets low (or whenever there’s a large withdrawal). If so, set up alerts so that your bank sends you an email or text message when certain criteria are met. That way, you can assume all is well until you hear from your bank.

Talk to a teller: if all else fails, you can always talk to somebody in person (assuming you use a brick-and-mortar bank). Unfortunately, it’s getting more and more difficult to speak with a teller, and some banks even charge additional fees when you do so. One exception is if you use a credit union that’s part of a Shared Branching network; in that case, you can visit branches of other credit unions at no cost.

It’s really best to get comfortable with some of the self-service methods above so that you can get things done on your own time.

What do you See?

When you check bank balances online (or with an app), pay close attention to the type of balance that you see. Most banks show an available balance (which tells you how much you can afford to spend or withdraw today) as well as a basic account balance.

The available balance is usually less than you think you have (what you think of as your "account balance") because of pending transactions: debit card authorizations, upcoming bill payments, and deposits that have not cleared yet.