Debit Card - Tracking Use

nancyinmichFebruary 14, 2009

I am finally using a debit card for the first time. We had done without one quite nicely, but are ready to move into the new century now. I am wondering how other people handle the issue of tracking spending and the account balance. With DH not working, our account could go down to where I might need to be aware of the balance at times. Since you don't carry a register around with you like you do with a checkbook, how have you kept track of spending? Do you enter receipts daily? Check the account balance daily? Where do you keep receipts so that you remember to enter them? Where do you put them when you get home? Is one spouse in charge of keeping the account updated, or do you each enter your own receipts? What system have your tried, and what has failed, and what has worked? Before now, we just used a credit card and paid it off every month. Save us some trial and error and share your experiences, please!

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I carry a check book with register, debit card and my wallet. I'm the only one using the account. When I use the debit card, I immediately enter the transaction into the checkbook register and I put the receipt in my wallet. I'm good about making the time to do this. Once a week, though, I login to my bank and then double check that all activity is in the check book register.

If you have 2 sharing an account, I'd put one in charge of the register and the other hand over receipts daily. I'd go online at least a couple of times per wk. I would definitely not let each assume that the other is going to enter their activity - too much room for things to fall between the cracks IMO.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 11:12PM
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same like keco1 said. If your account gets too low you won't be able to debit at the register. Keep close track if your balance is low...saves embarrassment..:)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 11:23PM
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The slips make their way to a basket on my computer desk, sometimes stopping on the kitchen counter or in a pocket or purse.

I log them into Quicken. And I cross check with the bank and CC website. DH is no good with that kind of stuff. I keep up with the balances, but with interest rates on savings being so low now, I do leave a higher balance in checking than I did a couple years ago. Less stress over possible overdrafts. I do still balance about every two weeeks, and I am mindful in the interim. DH will tell me if he "went to the well", as he puts it. Otherwise he uses the CC for what little he purchases.

Best part - after logging in the receipts, ALL receipts (gas, CC purchases, debit cards), ALL of them go into a shoe box on a high shelf. If I need one I can fish it out by the date roughly - deeper is longer ago. I don't sort or file, just put them all in there. At year's end, put the lid on, write the year on the outside and store it.


System hasn't failed me yet. Just yesterday I fished out a receipt for a 3 year old couch (necessary to access its stain warranty benefit).

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 11:41PM
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I've been using a debit card for years and I don't save receipts, (unless it's something I might return), or log anything. What is the point? The merchant and bank log it for me - I can just sign in to my account online to see what has been spent and how much is there. Purchases with my debit card show up online immediately, so I don't see the need for logging things or keeping a register. Am I missing something?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 12:08AM
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I do the same as weed30 -- we use our debit card all the time, and we pay all our bills online through our bank. What's the point of logging everything and keeping receipts when the bank does it for you?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 1:39AM
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Ditto here like weed30 and rivkadr. Just might need to check in more frequently, even daily perhaps, if you're nearing the zero balance mark.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 2:13AM
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Many banks have free feature where they send you e-mail daily with your balance. Comes very handy keeping track of the account.
Also, do not assume that if you do not have sufficient funds on your account, that the bank will decline the debit card, too many times they allow the charges through and then charge you extra over the limit fee, typically $ 30.00 or so per transaction.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 9:10AM
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rivkadr , the reason I log it is because I got debited twice on the same purchase once. If I hadn't logged it I probably wouldn't have caught it. I just keep the receipts until the transaction is posted by my bank ( unless it's something I may want to return) I have a special envelope for those, I can't imagine going thru a box looking for a certain receipt with all the debits I have. We don't carry cash much anymore ..just the plastic.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 9:46AM
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I've used a debit card for years. I used to try to keep track of all the receipts and put them in Quicken but it was really hard with DH because he just didn't do this. Or he'd keep them all and turn them over in a batch - a month later.

Over time I've just quit dealing with the receipts. I use online banking and download my transactions into Quicken almost daily. With online banking and Quicken I know exactly where I'm at and what I'm spending on - and I can easily keep track of DH's transactions as well. Nothing gets missed. If you don't have Quicken you can still check your balance with online banking and those debit card transactions show up almost immediately. You always know exactly what your balance is.

For the first time I can ever remember I recently caught an error though. My receipt was correct - it was for a restaurant with the meal and tip. When I saw the charge come through online banking, the tip had been inflated from $3 to $30. I had tossed the receipt as usual and kind of panicked. I called the restaurant though and they could look up the transaction by my card number and date and they could see the error. I think they and I both wondered if it was an accident or intentional.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 10:02AM
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I use MS Money, and enter debit card transaction into it, and in my written check register, same as if they're a check, just without a number. Yes, I use online banking, but I STILL keep a written register. Computers crash, data can be lost, banks make mistakes, Internet access may be down at some point that I need to know what's the account balance. Debit card transactions don't necessarily always post the same or next day, so the account balance can slip if a deposit is late. I've also had a couple cases in which a debit card purchase got lost somewhere between the vendor and the bank, and never posted to the account at all.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 2:35PM
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I log into our bank's website every day or every couple of days. I usually download the transactions from the bank's website into Quicken. If I want to break into more detailed info for budgeting then I go in & categorize the info from the receipt. I also keep a running total in my head. When the balance starts to get low, I update DH on the balance & tell him not to spend more than a certain amount without letting me know.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 2:46PM
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You guys don't have any worries about unwanted/unseen termites in that computer of yours?

Mine may be an old one, but I suspect that I may have some nefarious resident(s) ...

... and haven't even stored friends' email addresses in there, for years.

No banking there for me.

Online investing, either.

Identity theft is somewhere between fourteen and fifty-five pains in the butt, I'm told.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 11:12PM
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If there are unauthourized claims made on your credit card, you receive a replacement credit, I understand.

What kind of protection is there in the case of unauthourized claims on your bank account via debit card?

I think that I've heard that you're out of luck ... is that factual?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 11:24PM
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I'm appropriately wary of infections and phishing attempts, and am very computer-aware, have a hardware firewall on my broadband service in addition to a software firewall, antivirus, antispamware, and I don't use IE for browsing.

For online purchases I use a CitiBank card that carries a virtual account number feature. A cardnumber was stolen once at an online site, but it was a virtual number so the transaction for it had already been run and the perps couldn't get any success with the number.

Quoted from ATM or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers (EFTA). Your liability under [U.S.] federal law for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss. If you report an ATM or debit card missing before it's used without your permission, the EFTA says the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized transfers. If unauthorized use occurs before you report it, your liability under federal law depends on how quickly you report the loss.

For example, if you report the loss within two business days after you realize your card is missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50 for unauthorized use. However, if you don't report the loss within two business days after you discover the loss, you could lose up to $500 because of an unauthorized transfer. You also risk unlimited loss if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days after your bank statement containing unauthorized use is mailed to you. That means you could lose all the money in your bank account and the unused portion of your line of credit established for overdrafts. However, for unauthorized transfers involving only your debit card number (not the loss of the card), you are liable only for transfers that occur after 60 days following the mailing of your bank statement containing the unauthorized use and before you report the loss.

If unauthorized transfers show up on your bank statement, report them to the card issuer as quickly as possible. Once you've reported the loss of your ATM or debit card, you cannot be held liable for additional unauthorized transfers that occur after that time.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 1:53AM
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Very interesting answers, thanks. I have a feeling that we will end up with a system something likes Weed's combined with Kittiemom's. DH will watch the total and let me know when it gets too low. Punamytsike, thanks for the idea of seeing about the email. He could just have it email me a balance daily, and I will never get close to the danger point. Dadoes, DH said he has heard of the virtual account number, I never have. Since I do so much buying online, we will have to look into that.

Thanks everybody, I am finding the discussion quite interesting.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 10:17PM
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If you don't mind me asking, why did you stop using the credit card? They tend to have better "rewards" programs and you don't have to worry too much about missing a register item.

I had fraudlent claims against my debit card about 10 yrs ago in the wild west days of the internet. The bank was good about putting the money back into my account immmediately, while they investigated. The only real problem was the fraud caused other checks to bounce and the bank didn't cover those fees. I put all my purchases on a rewards credit card and have done so almost 10 yrs now. You do have to be disciplined and pay it off every month. I think it it easier to budget with it, because all discrectionary spending can be lumped together and easily tracked during the month.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 4:03PM
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"You do have to be disciplined and pay it off every month."

Or... you can do what I do and pay if off every 4 to 7 days.
Since the money is there in the checking account to use, I pay off the charge card.

MUCH safer than using a debit card!
And like chris8796 said - they rewards are better.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 5:08PM
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Even though we use the credit card for between $1500 and $3000 each month, we have never had a rewards card. I guess I think of them as frequent flier miles, and since we don't fly anywhere....

We stopped using the credit card because we have always been pretty free about spending since we live well below our means. DH took early retirement in December and now gets about a fifth of his old income. We have to be very careful with our spending now that I am the major breadwinner. He is looking for work, applies for several jobs a week. He lost out on one yesterday after two phone interviews, and has the inside track on one that may open up in a few weeks.

It was an early retirement with a Big Three carmaker, so he considered the offer to be "a deal you couldn't refuse." Turns out he was right. With the bailout plan, no more early retirements, no more healthcare plans for salaried retirees. We spend about $7000/yr for our healthcare, so it is not some really cushy plan like people imagine the Big Three gives - remember, he was salaried and they are not covered by the UAW.

Luann, I always wondered why he doesn't do that. He waits and pays it once a month. Since I get paid twice a month, and his music gigs can bring in a few hundred here and there, I would pay things off as the money arrives in the checkbook, if I were paying the credit card bill.

Oh - we did sign up for the daily account balance reporting from the checking account, and we both love it - thanks for the tip! It is good to be with a REAL bank, DH says. We used a tiny local bank until the financial crisis this fall. It had primitive online services. We checked out its financial condition the way Triciae posted about, and decided to leave it for a more secure foundation. Now we are with a big national bank with good ratings - and top notch online services.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 11:51PM
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I have both. Most of the time I use the CC because it's a cash rewards program (I get about $750/year in cash rewards for using the CC for things I used to use the debit card for). I pay it off in full online the last day of the month. (The payment due date is the 5th of the next month).

As far as my checking account and debit card use, when I do use my debit card, I keep the receipt in my purse. When I get home, I enter the debit into Quicken. Every few days, I check the balance online and make sure it matches the balance in Quicken. It's an interest paying checking account, so I have my short term savings there as a cushion. So I don't worry about debiting more than is in the account.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 7:43AM
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The credit cards rewards are either cash or gift certificates. I have an old chase card that gives 5% back on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases and 1% for everything else. The reward is cash. I still fondly remember the 2 or so years Superwalmart fell into the grocery category. I average about $750 a year also in rewards. I also have cable, phone, and trash billed through them for a 1% reward.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:19AM
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nancy: "Even though we use the credit card for between $1500 and $3000 each month, we have never had a rewards card. I guess I think of them as frequent flier miles, and since we don't fly anywhere...."

I used to use cards tied to airline or hotel programs, but now I use a Visa that is tied to my brokerage account. I get 2% cash back credited directly to my account each month. Since I average about $3k - $5k in monthly expenditures, that equates to $60 - $100 in free money every month.

I've never understood why people use debit cards instead of credit cards. As long as you pay the bill in full each and every month, credit cards are much better imho.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:54AM
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My Citibank ccard has a rewards program that offers merchandise and gift cards. The list of offerings is "priced" in bonus points.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 5:15PM
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When we opened the new checking account, we wanted an ATM card. We were told that the Debit card functioned as both, and that the old risks associated with the use of debit cards no longer existed. The bank would even cover the $50 that one could be charged for unauthorized use. But if we really did not want the debit card, we could contact the bank after a while and get a pure ATM card. Once we heard that there was no risk with using the Debit, we decided to go for it. After a series of problems our debit cards arrived just as DH became unemployed. Since we no longer had our cushion of short-term savings (like Zone 8 Grandma) in the checking account two months later, we decided to force frugality onto ourselves and use only the money in the checking account instead of using the charge card. Thus, here I am asking how you all manage these accounts!

Now that you mention getting cash back, I remember that we did used to get that with a Discover card we used more often in the past. I don't remember why we decided to not use it as much - maybe high interest rate if we did have a balance. We usually pay in full, but may have wanted that option if needed.

Now that I am over 50, I can use the excuse of age for my poor memory.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 12:48AM
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