An Easy Way to Avoid Overdrafts
The new overdraft rules are in effect. So that means purchases you make with debit cards could be declined if you have insufficient funds and didn't opt in to your bank's overdraft-protection plan (see Closing the Door on Overdrafts). For those of you who don't keep close tabs on your account balances, there's an easy way to avoid this situation: Sign up for your bank's balance alerts.
Yes, you still can sign up for overdraft protection with your bank to cover transactions if you don't have enough money in your account. But you'll have to pay a fee for overdrafts. Balance alerts are free and are a quick and easy way to regularly monitor your checking account.
Plenty of banks will send you an email or text message with information about your account. The types of alerts you can receive vary from bank to bank. Some just notify account holders when a deposit is received, the account is overdrawn or a designated balance is reached. My bank offers 15 types of free alerts -- for daily/weekly balance, low balance, zero balance, checks cleared, deposits, credit card payment due and more.
My bank doesn't transmit complete account numbers, which helps protect me if someone hacks into my computer or phone (see Smart Phones Under Cyber Attack). And some banks let you transfer funds from one account to another by simply replying to the text-message alerts you receive.