At this point in your life, you might have received more bank statements than you think you’d like. At times, you wonder, “What’s the point?” But when—touch wood—something goes amiss, you’re scrambling to remember when you got your last one, worrying about the kinds of “activities” you’ve been up to since then, and, most of all, wishing desperately for things to go back to normal. As with all things, the key is to be prepared. With the help of Vincent Lim, Senior Financial Service Manager, we give you the essential things to look out for.
The most important thing to do with your statement is to “make sure that there are no suspicious transactions such as transfers or withdrawals that were not done by you,” advises Vincent. “Banks might also change the terms and conditions of your savings account from time to time, and you may not have time to read all the fine print,” he adds. “The best way to monitor these changes is to watch for unusual charges that are being levied.”
“The basic purpose of your monthly statement is to show the withdrawal and deposits that happen over the course of the month,” says Vincent. Pay attention to the date and summary, which will give you a snapshot of your financial activities at this time.
Details of transaction
If you see point-of-sale (POS) as the code, it simply refers to transactions made via a card terminal using your debit or credit card. Details of transactions also show the merchants/shops where the transactions were made. However, do note that sometimes, the name of the company may not be the same as the name of the merchant who does the deduction or deposit. When in doubt, call the bank to clarify. If you use your debit or credit card to pay for bus or train rides, the amount will be consolidated every few days, so you might see a few lump sums instead of daily transaction in your bank statement.
AWL? ATM? What do these codes mean?
Occasionally, mysterious three-letter acronyms pop up on your statement or passbook. What are they? What do they mean? Don’t fret. These are codes that the bank uses to identify the types of deposits and withdrawals that have been made. “Different banks use different acronyms on your transaction statement,” says Vincent. “The code used by HSBC for cash machine withdrawals is ‘ATM’. However, the code used by DBS for cash machine withdrawals is ‘AWL’. The best way to check for the codes is to google the meaning of the transaction codes for each bank.”
Cross-check your bank statement
If you want to do a really thorough job of checking through your accounts, you might want to cross-check your bank statement with other documents (like bills) as well. “If you have variable charges in your statement, you might want to cross-reference with the relevant billing organisation. For example, you might get charges on your phone bill for services that were accidentally triggered.” Take note of these changes and make sure to cancel these services if you don’t want to re-incur the charges. If you have used your credit card overseas, especially in a country known for credit card fraud cases, take a close look at all your transactions. Sometimes, you might overlook activities that involve $50 or $100 per transaction but those can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars eventually.
Should you throw away your bank statement?
It is not recommended to put your personal bank statement in the recycle bin once you’re done checking it. According to Vincent, “Banks charge a fee for reprinting your statements. Also, you may need your statement to dispute any cases of identity theft, unauthorised transactions, or disputes with online merchants.” And if you’re managing a business account, it’s even more imperative to hold on to your statements. “If you are using your bank account for business expenses, the compulsory record keeping would be five years, according to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore,” says Vincent. The good news is, nowadays, banks have mobile and internet banking services, which allow you to check your statements on the website or through your mobile phone. This makes it easier for your to track your transactions without having to physically go down to an ATM machine or a bank. Internet banking requires the use of a dongle for an additional layer of security. Should you use your dongle, report to the bank immediately.
Text: Kit Chua
Additional text: Hidayah Idris