Do You Need to Balance Your Checkbook?

Vintage office desk with old typewriter and retro items.

“Young people can’t even balance a checkbook!” my grandfather once commented about the lack of financial literacy in America.  I know that our country’s lack of financial education is indeed a problem, but his comment didn’t sit well with me.  I come from a different generation than him.  He watches cable TV; I watch Netflix.  He has a rolodex; I have LinkedIn.  He balances his checkbook; I don’t.  To me, this has little to do with financial literacy.  Instead, it has more to do with technological illiteracy.

I came to this opinion after attending a lecture during college where a prominent finance professor discussed the futility of balancing a checkbook.  If you factor in the time value of money and the small probability of bank error (which even occasionally ends up in your favor), any time spent balancing a checkbook is ultimately wasted.  The average person would be far better off spending that time at their place of employment. Furthermore, this professor referenced that with modern technology (and he was talking about technology that is over 10 years old now), it’s easier to keep tabs on your balance and catch a mistake in the rare instance where one occurs.

While I still agree with this advice, I find that I’ve rarely advised people to stop balancing their checkbook over the years.  Too many people struggle to keep track of their account balance as it is, and recommending they stop writing everything in their checkbook may only make that problem worse and lead them to incur more overdrafts and bounced checks.  Online Banking made it possible to keep track of your balance, but not everyone took the time to log in before making purchases.  If only you could see your balance quickly without logging in, I often wished.  Now you can.

If you haven’t checked out Bank of the Ozark’s updated Retail Mobile Banking app, you might not have realized how much easier it’s gotten to keep tabs on your account balance.  By activating the Instant Balance feature, you can view your account balances on a pop-up screen by simply opening the app*.  You don’t even have to mess with logging in, which is why you can now make it a quick habit to check your balance before every purchase.  It’s the same thing my grandfather has always done using his check register, but without all the wasted time.

*For a detailed listing of your transactions, including pending transactions, please log in to your app.  Be mindful that transactions may not post in the order they were transacted, which can affect your balance.  The Bank has established the following payment order for customer debits, following the posting of customer credits.  The payment order is designed to ensure check clearing procedures and item processing is fair and does not maximize customer overdrafts.  (1) Account to account transfers – smallest to largest, (2) ATM/Check Card transactions – smallest to largest, (3) ACH Debit transactions – serial number order if possible, otherwise smallest to largest, (4) Checks presented in person – serial number order, (5) Other checks – serial number order.

By Adam Lucas Adam Lucas holds a Finance degree and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. His work has appeared in many major outlets including Yahoo,, and

Monday on the Money is a weekly commentary from Bank of the Ozarks providing financial advice and solutions important to you and your family.