Making Our Finances Simpler – We Have Way Too Many Checking Accounts

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I really don’t know how it happened, but we have one (or two) too many checking accounts for our family.

Well, I actually do know how it happened. Over the years we got suckered into a few checking account sign-up bonuses.

And overtime, I have realized that these sign up bonuses are really not worth the hassle of keeping multiple accounts open.

Just the other day, as I was going through our In Case of Emergency binder … I got to thinking. Having 4 separate checking accounts open for my wife and I was a bit ridiculous.

Note – The “In Case of Emergency” binder is a list (or folder) of important pieces of information about our family. It includes things like our brokerage accounts, checking/savings accounts, insurances policies, medical information, etc. Basically any piece of information that my spouse would need to continue running our finances if something would ever happen to me.

Financial Independence is supposed to be about simplicity. And for us, there is really nothing simple about managing 4 different checking accounts.

How to Simplify Your Finances by Consolidating Checking Accounts

How Did We Get 4 Checking Accounts?

Here is a brief history of how we got to 4 checking accounts for our family over the past decade.

We actually have had more accounts than this … but older accounts have since been closed for a variety of reasons.

Checking Account #1 – Local Bank

Our first account was opened when our family picked up and moved south (from the Midwest), just over 10 years ago. We wanted to have a local (physical) branch where we could do our banking in person.

This served our basic needs for many years.

However, as time went by we realized our account didn’t pay any interest.

And … in order to not pay a monthly service fee … we had to maintain either a minimum balance every month or meet a direct deposit limit.

Currently in order to waive the $7 monthly service fee, we need to meet one of the following –

  • Minimum daily balance – $1,500
  • Total amount of qualifying direct deposits – $500

I’m not a fan of keeping a lot of cash around earning 0% interest, so we never have $1,500 in this account.

Fortunately, we have over $500 of qualifying direct deposits each month to waive the $7 fee.

Checking Accounts #2 & #3 – On-line Banks

I think on-line banks are great … especially with being able to deposit checks with a mobile app.

Over the past several years, we opened on-line checking accounts with 2 separate banks after getting sign-up bonuses. One was for $50 and I can’t even remember what the other bonus was for?

Each bank pays a tiny bit of interest … not really enough to make a difference.

But the nice thing is that neither of these on-line banks have any service fee’s. That is a huge benefit to our family who has very little in cash each month.

My only complaint about on-line banking is when we need to deposit cash.

Currently, I have to go to our local branch (see account #1 or #4) and deposit the funds … and then transfer those funds to the on-line bank.

Checking Account #4 – Another Local Bank

About a year ago, we opened our 4th checking account.

This time it was another local bank branch that offered a sign-up bonus of $200 after meeting certain deposit criteria within the first 60 days.

Getting that $200 was nice … but it was also considered taxable income.

This bank also has a monthly service fee of $12, but it is waived if one of the following has been met –

  • Minimum daily balance – $1,500
  • Total amount of qualifying direct deposits – $250

Just like our other local bank (checking account #1), we are able to waive the service fee by making direct deposits to the account each month.

And the account does not pay any interest … just like the other local branch checking account.

The one good thing about this account … is that we also have our mortgage and one of our car payments through this same bank. That makes paying those accounts a bit easier.

I have come to realize that having simplicity in our finances is important. So the ease of having a checking account … along with our mortgage and one car payment together is a good thing.

The Problem with 4 Active Checking Accounts

What’s the big deal about having 4 active checking accounts?

Well … first of all … it can make things a little more complex when it comes to your personal finances.

Late fee’s, insufficient funds charges, etc. can start appearing when you have multiple accounts like this.

Take it from me … you might think you have your finances under control with multiple accounts … but it can be a big nightmare managing it.

Over the last couple of years, we have had our share of fee’s and charges directly related to having too many accounts open. A lot of times I have called and asked for forgiveness … which works some of the time.

Then there is an even bigger issue that we have come across in the past year.

Troubles Meeting the Direct Deposit Requirement

Each of our local banks (aka brick and mortars) charges monthly service fee’s – one is $7 and the other is $12.

We have already discussed how these fee’s can be waived by maintaining a minimum daily balance or hitting a qualifying direct deposit limit each month.

For our family, maintaining a minimum daily balance in two different banks is not an option. We would need a total of $3,000 of cash that would sit idle in multiple accounts earning $0.

I don’t like idle cash sitting around not working for us earning more dollars.

We are able to get the fees waived at these banks by hitting the direct deposit requirements instead.

The problem with that is my employer will only let us send a direct deposit to one bank. So each time I get paid, 100% of the funds are direct deposited to a single bank.

The good news is that I get paid bi-monthly … so one paycheck goes to bank #1. And the second paycheck goes to bank #4.

The bad news is that I have to login manually (after I have been paid) and switch my direct deposit information to the other bank.

I haven’t been hit with any service fee’s in the 12+ months we have been doing this … but it is only a matter of time before I forget.

Our Solution to Multiple Checking Accounts

Personally, I like the idea of having 1 checking account with a local bank.

This is one that you physically can walk into and do all your banking if needed. A bank where you can cash a check or even deposit cash.

One that we can setup my direct deposit to and every paycheck is sent there.

The direct deposit to the single bank would waive any monthly service fee’s and allow us to build up a little cash balance … just in case.

I also like the idea of having a 2nd checking account with an on-line bank.

This account could be setup to receive automated transfers from our local bank every month. We could earn a bit of interest and would likely write our checks (which are very few) from this account.

Consolidating down to 2 checking accounts (from 4) seems reasonable to me. We would reduce the risk of incurring any fee’s or charges and most of our money flow would be automated.

Conclusion

When it comes to personal finance, there are more important topics to discuss than the number of checking accounts you have open.

But from personal experience … having to many checking accounts open (or any type of account for that matter) can cause confusion, increase stress, and even cost you money.

Too much of anything can actually do that.

That is why my wife and I have been focusing more on simplifying our lives. We are working to reduce the excess clutter we deal with on a daily basis.

Some of this clutter comes in the form of physical products. These are things that take up space in our home, often times cause stress, and just don’t serve any purpose in our life.

For example, we recently recycled 2 old laptop computers that no longer work (after removing the hard drives). These laptops sat on my desk at home for probably 2 years.

They took up space and honestly stressed me out a little bit every time I would see them sitting there. So we got rid of them.

We are also working at reducing electronic clutter from our lives. For example, I recently deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

I had been spending way too much time in my day checking Facebook. Now instead of easily being accessible at anytime from my phone … I have to login from my computer.

I still look at Facebook from time to time … but it doesn’t waste hours of my day either.

Lastly, our finances have a lot of clutter in them. Too many checking accounts open.

Too many brokerage accounts where we own stocks. The way money flows through our different accounts is confusing.

There are plenty of places to make improvements in cleaning up our finances … and eliminating unnecessary checking accounts is our first actionable step in cleaning things up.

What type of clutter do you have in your life? What can be cleaned up in your finances, around your home, or even on your phone or tablet devices?

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