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ATMs: Friend or Foe?

posted 4/12/2013 in General

The ATM is never the best representation of you account balance.

How many times have gone to the ATM to check the balance of your account before going out to meet friends after work?  It says you have $100 in your account, all is good, you won't eat/ drink that much, right?  Yet when you check your balance the next morning you are overdrawn! How did that happen?  You only spent $60 last night, so it must be a bank error, right? 

Wrong!  While ATM's are convenient, save you from waiting in line at the drive up window or having to actually get out of your car and walk into the bank, they are not always current with your balance.  ATM's only tell you what they have been communicated at the time you swipe your card.  To keep an accurate balance of your account you need to balance it yourself and keep a running total, otherwise you run the risk of being charged overdraft fees.
ATM's only track what your account is at that exact moment.  If you have written checks, but they haven't been processed at the moment you swipe your card; that doesn't mean they won't be processed in an hour or two.  Maybe you just filled your gas tank up at the gas station next door. Depending on the processing time, it may not yet be reflected in your balance.   There are even times when there is a communication breakdown and the ATM can not give you a current balance.
The best way to keep track of your account is to balance it yourself and not rely on others or ATM's to do it for you.  You can manually balance your account with a check register or use LSB's online banking. Either way you know what you spend, so you should know exactly what you have in your account.  It only takes a few minutes to do, and with LSB's Budget Plus you also get the added bonus of seeing exactly where you are spending your money.
ATM's are great time savers, making it possible to withdrawal or deposit money at any time of day or night.  But they are not a crystal ball. They only know what has been entered into the system at that time.  So, the next time you need a quick balance check, take a minute and think about what you have written for checks or where you have swiped your debit card because those aren't always reflected in the balance on that receipt you just took from the ATM.
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