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Due Date Choices
Many consumers have to deal with a large number bills due at the same time of the month. Often bill due dates are weighted toward the beginning or the end of the month. This problem causes frustration and desperation depending on when payday is. The answer to this problem is quite simple. Balance your payments throughout the month. A good idea is to move your cycle date on your credit cards so that they become due the middle of the month or in the last third of the month. Your creditors should agree to this request. This strategy permits you to spread your bill payments throughout the month and helps you to avoid making late payments. It definitely will help your cash flow. Please note that the due date change may take one or two billing cycles to take effect. Thus, during this time frame it is important to pay extra attention to your statements and due dates listed in your statements. Failure to pay according to your statements will result in overdue bills and late fees.
Each credit card issuer has different rules. Some creditors permit due date changes with no questions asked. Other creditors are more inflexible. American Express, for example, does not permit due date changes. However, American Express essentially provides a long grace period and does not report payments late if they arrive during the billing cycle just following the due date on the statement. This provides the consumer with enough time to pay.
Please note that, if you have an outstanding balance on your credit card, moving your due date to later in the month may cost you more during the next cycle because finance charges will continue to accrue. Thus, if you push your due date back by 10 days you will be paying finance charges for 40 days during the next cycle rather than 30 days.
Managing Your Checkbook
Almost half of Americans with checkbooks do not manage them properly. Many consumers open up checking accounts when they are in their early 20’s. However, most have not been provided a proper education as to how to manage their checkbooks properly. This lack of education hurts consumers. Sloppy record keeping, low account balances and insufficient funds charges cause consumers to pay enormous and unnecessary fees each year. Keeping a balanced and accurate checkbook is easy and saves money. The following strategies will help you to keep your checkbook accurate and will help with your budget planning:
Keep Good Records
The more you are aware of your checking account and informed of the deposits, checks paid and charges, the more you will be able to analyze your account and manage your finances. Pay attention to account activity. Use your check register or a register on your computer. There also are software programs such as Quicken or Microsoft Money that help you to record your transactions. You should have a record of every check, deposit and electronic fund transfer involved with your account.
Scan Your Account
You may be busy and do not have the time to review every transaction. Examine your account summary. If you see an alleged error you can further examine the statement and then, if it still appears incorrect, report the error to your bank so that it can be promptly investigated and corrected.
Carefully Review Your Account
After scanning your account, if you have time, review all account transactions. Examine the deposits and the checks paid out. Match the statement with your check register. Review your check numbers and verify that the checks posted properly and in the correct amounts. They should match.
Open Your Mail
Open your bank statement when it arrives. Review the account information. Make sure that the statement is your statement and is not one that was sent to you in error. It is important to review your statements promptly after receipt because banks often refuse to correct errors that are reported more than 60 days after your receive your statement. The sooner the error is corrected the more likely it is that any errors caused to other transactions as a result of the error will be fixed. Also, the sooner the error is reported the more in synch your records will be with the bank’s records.
Check Balance Summaries
Most consumers do not need to check their balances on a daily basis. However, consumers with interest bearing accounts or consumers who maintain low balances and also have minimum balance requirements should pay much closer attention to their accounts and their daily balances. They should want to ensure that, if they have interest bearing accounts, they are paid the correct interest, or if they have low balances, that the balance is above the minimum requirements.
Detecting Problems and Acting
Closely examining and reviewing your checking account is a smart strategy. You can quickly detect errors and discrepancies and notify your bank to make corrections. You should perform a check-reconciliation promptly after you receive your monthly statement. If you mistakenly bounce a check your bank may provide forgiveness the first time. However, repeated problems likely result in no waiver of fees. It is also a good idea to check your account online when you expect an “out-of-the-ordinary” transaction, such as a tax payment or the payment of a large bill or credit card balance.