When you balance your checkbook you may discover that you have discrepancies in your bank account. You may be missing money, or you may discover that you have extra money.
A discrepancy could happen for many reasons. The bank may have made a deposit to the wrong account, for example. You may also find that you have withdrawals that have not been authorized, or perhaps the bank has made an error.
You should also consider whether you have any outstanding checks, deposits in transit, or any bank fees that you are not aware of, which can also account for the difference.
Here's what to do if you find a discrepancy in your bank account—and how to solve it.
Find Information to Support Your Claim
First, you should gather the information that will support your claim. If you are missing a deposit, you should find your receipt for it. It is a good idea to hold on to all your banking receipts at least until your deposit has cleared. You may even keep them longer, in case you encounter issues months down the road.
If you have questions regarding specific transactions, highlight them on your statement. Often, you can go online and find out more about the transaction, as well. When you have this information ready, it is much easier for the customer service representative to help you. Transaction identification numbers can also give the bank the information it needs to start looking into the issue.
Contact the Bank
Address these matters in person if possible. You can call a customer service line, but speaking to people at your bank's branch will be your best option generally. Either way, be sure to record the dates, times, and content of the conversations, as well as any employee reference numbers. You will be able to refer back to these conversations later, and you will also support your claim if you are missing money or have found a large discrepancy in your bank account.
When you are trying to resolve the issue at the bank, don't get frustrated; try to remain calm. These employees are there to help you resolve any problems. However, if you come in very upset, they are not as likely to go out of their way to help you.
Remember to be patient. If there is a missing deposit or an unauthorized transaction, it may take the bank a while to track it down. For example, your initial meeting with the bank regarding the discrepancy may simply start the research to resolve the problem. The bank will then have to go back through and see the teller’s transactions for the day and then determine what went wrong. If you made a deposit at the ATM, then the ATM records will need to be accessed and analyzed.
Follow up with any paperwork or other steps that need to be taken. If you have unauthorized transactions, you may need to file a police report before the bank will do anything.
You should close the account to prevent any more issues, such as missing money, while you are trying to remedy the discrepancy. If you do close the account, be sure to change all of your automatic transfers and payment options, as well as your direct deposit arrangement.
Balance Your Statement Regularly
It goes without saying that you should be sure to balance your account against your statement regularly. That will ensure that you can account for all your money and will allow you to find mistakes and fix them much more quickly. If you use an online budgeting app, you can likely do this via that tool.
Keep a Running Total of What Is in Your Account
You also should keep a running total of your account. Never go by the balance that you receive at the ATM or on a deposit slip: it does not including outstanding debit card transactions and checks, so you may think you have more money to spend than you actually do, and you can risk overdrafting your account.
Consider Switching Banks
If your bank continues to have discrepancies and other issues, then you may consider switching banks. But before you pull the plug, ensure that the mistakes are really on the bank's part and not a result of your overdrafting your account or not balancing it correctly. If you fail to monitor your account closely, it may be a mistake that you have made.
Consider the bank fees that you are paying. Coupled with a discrepancy, they might be enough to consider switching to a new bank.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does a bank have to correct an error in my favor?
You should correct an error even if it's in your favor. You don't want to spend the money and have the bank ask for it back in the future. In general, banks have two weeks to correct errors after they are notified.
Can I sue a bank for its mistakes?
There are circumstances under which you can sue a bank, but when it comes to missing deposits and relatively small bank errors, you're probably better off working with the bank or filing a complaint with the Federal Reserve. However, you may have options if you're determined to file a lawsuit, so consult an attorney to learn more.
What should I do if a bank teller makes a mistake?
There is usually plenty of evidence to help correct any errors on the teller's behalf. If you feel there was a discrepancy, contact the bank just as you would for an electronic error. Among cash counts at the teller's station, security video at the bank, and deposit and withdrawal slips, correcting discrepancies should be fairly easy.