Financial IQ Test: How Healthy Are Your Bank Accounts?

By Nora Dunn on 19 January 2010 (Updated 14 February 2010) 6 comments
Photo: Nora Dunn

I was chatting with a friend the other day who couldn’t tell me exactly why she has three separate bank accounts, what the monthly and transactional fees were, or some of the basic terms and conditions. In a few short minutes, we found a way to save her over $300/year on unnecessary banking expenses, earn more interest, save paper (you gotta love those incidental environmental benefits), and to simplify her banking so much that it no longer seems daunting.

How do you measure up?

Following is a Financial IQ Test, designed to help you determine how healthy your bank accounts — and your interaction with them — are. Simply look at each statement, and answer them with a YES, NO, or NOT SURE. Keep track of your answers, and we'll see how you fare. Then you can reference some relevant articles on the topics you need some refreshers on.

FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy are Your Bank Accounts?

Knowledge/Awareness

I know how much money (within $10) is in my bank accounts at any time.

I know the rate of interest my bank accounts earn.

I am aware of the overdraft terms and conditions for my account.

Maximizing Value

I have a separate high-interest account for short term savings.

I regularly transfer any excess funds in my chequing account to my high-interest short-term savings account.

I have two or fewer bank accounts (in my name only).

I have less than $3,000 in my chequing or (low-interest) savings account.

Fees

I know how much my monthly bank account service charges are, and what I get for it.

I know what I can do to avoid the monthly bank account charge (if possible – eg: maintain a minimum balance), and I do this each month.

I have an ATM nearby that is linked to my financial institution and doesn’t charge fees for withdrawals.

I don’t pay fees for debit purchases.

Transactions

I can write a cheque if I need to.

I know how to balance my chequebook (to ensure I don’t go into overdraft if somebody takes a while to cash my cheque).

Paying my bills is easy (logistically), and fee-free.

I never go into overdraft.

I have direct deposits and deductions set up where possible.

Security

I read my bank statement at least once a month to ensure there aren’t any suspicious transactions on it.

My PIN number is committed to memory and kept securely at home somewhere.

I shred my bank statements when I get rid of them (if I receive paper statements at all).

The bank has my current address and contact information.

I know what to do if my debit card is lost or stolen.

Scoring

Did you keep track of how many times you answered YES, NO, and NOT SURE? Great! Give yourself the following points for each answer:

YES = 4 points

NO = 0 points

NOT SURE = 2 points

Analysis

Score 0-30

Aha! You like to play the ostrich game with your bank accounts: bury your head in the sand and hope everything works out! With a little bit of awareness of the banking tools at your fingertips, you can probably save money on unnecessary banking fees, earn more interest, and protect your accounts better from fraud or security threats.

Score 31-60

You’re not doing badly, but you could stand to know more about your money and how it can work for (or against) you. Take some time to read the fine print, familiarize yourself with the rules of engagement of your banking institution, and ensure you aren’t paying more than you need to for the services you want.

Score 61-84

Excellent! You have a good general awareness of your banking habits, you try not to pay anything in fees if you don’t have to, and you manage your short-term money effectively. Keep this solid foundation moving in the right direction by continuing to educate yourself, staying on top of your bank’s policies and procedures, streamlining your banking practices, and ensuring you are getting the best bang for your buck every day.

Resources to Raise Your Scores

The First Step to Budgeting

Avoid Bank Fees

An Introduction to High-Yield Reward Checking Accounts

Banks Manipulate Your Transactions: May Charge You $1750 Overdraft Fee

10 Tips to Lower the Cost of Banking

Separate Bank Accounts: Till Death — or Banking — Do We Part?

Is a Prepaid Debit Card Really Cheaper and Better than a Bank Debit Card?

 
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Guest's picture

Nice test and a great idea.

I have no clue what my current interest rate is or how much money I have in savings. I don't really see that as a weakness because it changes so much. As for the rest of the test, I fared pretty well.

Guest's picture
connie

I budget my money in my bank accounts. I have the following:

Bank account #1: Groceries and clothing and monthly stuff
Bank account #2: Hubby's spending account
Bank account #3: Mortgage and check writing account with over draft
Bank account #4: Charity account (so I know how much I have to give)
Bank account #5: Long term savings (High interest...lol not really but higher interest than 0)
Bank account #6: Hubby's tax savings account (High interest)

I know how much is in each account at all times except the charity account. I just put the correct amount to give in that one and when there is money in there, I give it.

Guest's picture
connie

I forgot my utilities account.

Nora Dunn's picture

@RJ - Thanks! I'll admit; I don't always know to the cent how much money is in my accounts either...but I usually know to within $10.

@Connie - As long as your accounts are free, and you are using them for effective budgeting, there's nothing wrong with it at all! Many people, however, can be overwhelmed with too many accounts, and if each one entails monthly fees (as so many bank accounts do), it's not economically viable either.

 

 

Guest's picture
Guest

I have 5 bank accounts:
1) Wachovia/Wells Fargo Checking Account: This is a free checking account that I have just for the convenience of the locations so that I can easily deposit any cash or checks I acquire. I earn no interest and keep the balance at $20.
2) FNBO Direct Online Savings Account: This is a free online savings account that currently pays 1.1% interest. I use it because it initiates free transfers both to and from it, so I can grab the money out of my Wells Fargo account and transfer it to one of my high-interest accounts for free, using FNBO as the middle man. I keep the balance at $20.
3) Incommons Bank High-Yield Checking Account: This is a free (Kasasa) checking account that is paying 4.25% interest up to $25k. I keep exactly $25k in this account.
4) Founders Bank High-Yield Checking Account: This is a free (Kasasa) checking account that is paying 4.26% interest up to $10k. I keep exactly $10k in this account.
5) Legend Bank High-Yield Checking Account: This is a free checking account that is paying 4.09% interest up to $25k. I am working on maxing out this account.

I log into all of my accounts multiple times a week. I never pay any fees. I never receive paper statements.

Nora Dunn's picture

@Guest - You certainly seem to be maximizing interest rates, fees, and even the environmental factor with electronic statements. Any particular reason why you are keeping over 50k in cash?
http://www.wisebread.com/asset-allocation-for-all-markets