How to Use a Debit Card Register

Debit Card Register

Photo by Stephen Phillips – on Unsplash

Keeping track of your finances is important in today’s day and age. 

The risks of phishing, identity theft, and unauthorized transactions are heightened when most of us go online to do our banking. Unsecure connections could expose our financial accounts to others on the same network. Phishing emails may look so real that we might unknowingly share our account details with fraudsters.

So what can you do to protect yourself better? For a start, you should follow security precautions. And you should get yourself a debit card register to cross-check your financial statements regularly. 

At Aspiration, we’re big fans of debit card registers. They’re handy, highly detailed, and reliable for keeping track of your incomes and expenses. 

As an online neobank, we’re all too aware of the dangers of modern banking. That’s why in this article we explain how you can create a debit card register to protect yourself from fraudulent behavior.      

What is a debit card register? 

A debit card register is a document that lists all of the transactions in your checking account. It was mostly used to keep track of spending in the days before online account histories became the norm.

Today, people still carry debit card registers around with them to keep track of every income they receive and every expense they make. They note down their shopping expenses, utility bills, and auto repair costs. They also write down their salaries and freelance payments.

At the end of each day or week, they tally up the balance in the debit card register to get a snapshot of how much money they have left in their debit card account. 

What makes debit card registers so versatile is that they help users pay attention to their spending habits. Writing down an expense or an income feels more real than just watching the numbers in your online bank account rise and fall. It helps prevent you from drawing an overdraft because you’re able to see how much you have available to spend.

The registers also help people spot unauthorized transactions and bank fees they might have otherwise missed. By cross-checking a debit card register with a debit account statement, people can find billing errors and stolen money easily, allowing them to raise the issue with their banks right away.

Is there any difference between a debit card register and a check register?

The main difference between a debit card register and a check register is the type of information that’s recorded.

Check registers are primarily used for checks, which have columns for you to record specific numbers such as routing numbers and check numbers. Debit card registers don’t usually have this column, though some registers have been designed to accommodate both debit card and check transactions.

Both registers will allow you to record withdrawals, deposits, payments, and the remaining balance in your account. They’re available as smartphone apps, booklets, and spreadsheets – it’s best to choose one that you can access easily anywhere and anytime.

One thing to note about using check registers is that checks may sometimes take a few days to process and the information may not appear on your bank statement immediately. 

Therefore you need to record as much information about a check deposit or withdrawal as possible in your check register to make sure that when you review the register against your bank statement, the transaction appears as successful. 

Should you use a debit card register?

You should definitely use a debit card register to keep your finances safe. Recording all of your transactions will help you notice any discrepancies in your monthly bank statements. You’ll also have a better idea of where your money is going.

Here are the reasons why you should keep a debit card register:

  • It’ll help you identify fraudulent transactions: Every year, Americans lose about $8 billion to fraud, lost and stolen cards, and unauthorized transactions. A debit card register will help you identify any of these problems quickly if they occur, and you’ll have your own personal transaction reference to use when reimbursing your claims from the bank.
  • A debit card register will help you identify surprise bank fees and any mistakes by the bank: Although you might have a lot of trust in your bank, your bank could still make mistakes. They may hit you with sudden fees for a service that you didn’t opt into.

    Or they may charge you excessive fees for an overdraft or for going below your monthly minimum balance. With a debit card register, you can keep track of these fees and follow up with your bank when something looks amiss. It’s said that the average banking customer pays about $475 a year in checking account fees, which you can avoid with careful tracking using your register.
  • It’ll help you avoid bounced payments: Bounced payments are never pleasant. You could be charged overdraft fees and penalties, and you might even be faced with account closure.  A debit card register can help prevent this. By keeping a real-time record of your bank balance, you’ll always know how much money you have available to spend. If it’s not enough, you can wait till later to make the payment or add more money to your account. 
  • Debit card registers will help you see spending trends: Using a debit card register will also help you keep track of your spending habits. You’ll have a better idea of how much you spend on groceries, subscriptions, and transportation. You’ll also be able to budget better, especially if you’re spending way too much money on one area.  

How to set up a debit card register

Setting up a debit card register is easy. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes to get one up and running.

Get a debit card register

First, get yourself a debit card register. There are many options available depending on your preferences. 

If you like writing down your incomes and expenses in a paper notebook because it helps you stay alert of where your money is going, you can check out this combined check and debit card register

Or if you prefer to keep things digital so you can access them anywhere, and copy-paste your transactions into other documents, there are spreadsheets available. Spreadsheet registers are good for categorizing transaction records by months and years, so you can have an overview of your spending habits over long periods. 

Mobile apps are also good if you use your smartphone often. You can just record a transaction in the app and it will automatically work out your remaining balance for you. 

Organize the register into the following columns

If you’re using a blank spreadsheet or template to create your debit card register, you’ll need to organize it into columns. The columns represent the different types of information you’ll want to remember about each transaction. 

Your debit card register should have these columns:

  • Category: What the income or expense was for; common categories to label your transactions include utilities, entertainment, groceries, and salary
  • Date: When the transaction was made; very important for finding errors or discrepancies in your bank statements
  • Description: Details of what the transaction was for 
  • Payment/Debit (-): This column is for payments or bank transfers made from your account to another party. This amount will get deducted from your balance.
  • Deposit/Credit (+): This column is for deposits and payments you receive. This amount will get added to your balance. 
  • Balance: How much money you have in your bank account at a given point in time

Choose a date to start balancing

Once you’re all set up and ready to go, choose a date to start balancing your accounts. The end of a month or the first day of a month are usually good times as any monthly payments will have been made and you will have just received your salary. 

When you choose a date, you’ll be using your account balance on that date to start your register. 

How to fill out a debit card register

After you’ve put the starting balance and the corresponding date in your debit card register, it’s time to start populating it. 

Make inputting transactions into your register a habit so you can have an accurate record. A missed transaction could confuse you when you cross-check your register with your bank statements at the end of the week or month. 

Follow the next line with each transaction you make

In the line below the starting balance, add the first transaction that you make.

Note what category it falls into (shopping, utilities, etc) and then the date and the description. If it’s a transaction where the money is going out of your account, like when you’re buying something, put the amount of the transaction in the Payment/Debit (-) column. Then deduct this amount from the balance (in the line above) and write the updated balance in the balance column. 

For transactions where you receive money, follow the same process but add the amount in the Deposits/Credit column. Add received amounts to the balance from the line above and write the updated balance in the balance column.

If you follow this process to the tee, you’ll have an updated balance in your debit card register every time you check it.

Cross-check with your bank account balance 

Once a week or once a month, cross-check your debit card register with your bank account balance. Look out for fees that you may have paid the bank, any interest rates you received, and direct deposit of bills to third-parties. Add these to your register and work out the balance.

The transactions in your register and your bank account statement should match. If you notice something suspicious or have been mistakenly charged for something without your knowledge, contact your bank immediately.

Keeping track of your Aspiration debit card purchases 

Aspiration is an ethical neobank that’s 100% committed to clean money. 

Our mobile app has built-in features that can help you track your debit card purchases, and the impact you make with them. Through our unique Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) tool, you’ll see the sustainability score of each business that you plan to shop with and make an informed decision about each purchase. 

We developed these services to help our customers support sustainable businesses that are helping the planet. We understand how important money is to you, and we’re here to help you save, and spend it, wisely.

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