Checking Tutorial

Introduction to Checking Accounts

At the credit union, a checking account is also known as a “share draft account,” and checks are known as “share drafts.”  Your checking account gives you a convenient way to accept money from others in the form of checks or electronic payments. It’s also a safe place to store your cash.

With a checking account, the account holder deposits money into her checking account and then can write checks for any amount up to the total amount of funds you have in that account.

When you write a check, traditionally the merchant or individual deposits or cashes your check. Next your check (or an electronic image of it) travels to a clearinghouse to be processed and then comes back to the credit union.

Today millions of checks are processed electronically. In some cases, a clerk accepts your check, runs it through some equipment, and returns it to you completing the transaction.

Check Cards

Check cards often called debit cards are growing in popularity and replacing the use of checks because they are so convenient.  They look like a credit card and are accepted anywhere credit cards are accepted, but they work like checks. With the swipe of your card, you’ve paid for your purchase and used the funds from your checking account to pay. You can also use them at ATMs to check your balance or get cash from your checking account.

Putting Money In Your Checking Account:
There are many ways to make deposits.

  • Electronic Transfer - This method is growing in popularity and makes it more convenient for you.  This means you authorize your employer or federal agency to deposit your check into your Argent account electronically.
  • In person - This involves visiting the Credit Union Member Center with cash to deposit the money into your account.
  • Mail- You can mail the check to the PO Box, but never mail cash.
  • ATM - Some ATMs will allow you to deposit your check right at the ATM.

Direct Deposit

Direct deposit is safe, convenient, and saves you time because you don’t have to come to the credit union to deposit your check. Plus, you don’t have to worry about misplacing your check before you get it to the credit union.  The U.S. Government, alone, annually replaces more than 800,000 checks lost or damaged in delivery.

When you authorize direct deposit, the funds are electronically transferred through the Automated Clearing House (ACH).  The Credit Union then credits your account for the full amount deposited and the transaction is reported on your monthly account statement.

How to sign up for Direct Deposit:
Your payroll office or another payer, such as a government agency will ask you to complete a form to authorize the direct deposit and give instructions about where to send your payments.  To have your funds deposited into your Argent Federal Credit Union account, you will need to provide them with the following information that can be found on the bottom of your checks.

Bank routing/transit (ABA) #: 251082233
Your Account #: the 12 digit number next to the routing #

Taking Money Out of Your Checking Account

There are many ways to take money out of the account:

  • Write a check to pay a specific amount of money to someone, so when they cash your check the funds are deducted from your account.
  • Use your check card to pay for purchases.
  • Use your ATMs to electronically access the funds.
  • Set up an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), which refers to electronic payments from your checking account think of it as direct deposit, in reverse.  Set up to pay your bills automatically and you will never be late!

Balancing Your Checking Account

Balancing is often thought of as a formal process of reconciling your checkbook balance with your monthly statement and making sure there are no mistakes.

The most common consequence of not balancing your checking account is a bounced check, which means a check has been presented for clearance, but the amount written on the check exceeds the available balance in the account. If you bounce a check, you will be required to pay an insufficient funds fee. It’s a costly habit that also damages your credit rating and your reputation with merchants. Further, it degrades you. You’ve promised payment with your check. If you bounce a check, you break that promise, which can be embarrassing and humiliating.

For more information on balancing your checking account and to learn how to fill out a check registry, visit the Balancing section of the Checking Tutorial.

Checking Account Rules and Safety Precautions

1) Put money in before taking it out so you wont have to pay non-sufficient funds fees

2) Keep track of every transaction using your check register

3) Always use a pen when writing a check, so it cannot be altered

4) If you have a check to deposit, be aware that once the check is endorsed or signed by you on the back, anyone can cash it.  To be safe, you should wait until you are in the CU before you endorse it, or you can write the words “for deposit only” on the check.