How to Balance a Bank Statement

Balancing a bank statement means proving your checkbook records agree with the bank's records of your checking account. It helps prevent overdrafts, catches bank errors, encourages budgeting, and is fairly simple.

Update Your Checkbook

Step 1

Include the following three items: The beginning balance: This is the starting amount in your checking, or the ending balance from the last time you balanced it.

A record of all withdrawals and deposits: If these withdrawals were by check, record the check number as well at the amount. The check number is stamped in the upper right hand corner of the check. Write down any withdrawals or deposits at the ATM or teller.

The ending balance: Start with the beginning balance, add deposits, then subtract withdrawals. This is your checkbook balance.

Step 2

Compare all withdrawals and deposits listed on the bank statement to your records, and check off on both records any that are the same. If the withdrawal is by check, ensure that the check number on the bank statement agrees with the check number on your records. Watch for amounts that look the same but aren't; for example, it's easy to mistake 232 for 323.

Step 3

Record on your records any withdrawals or deposits from the bank statement that are not already on your records. These may be items like bank errors, bank fees, overdraft charges, or charges for check printing. Update your ending balance by adding the new deposits and subtracting the new withdrawals. This is your updated ending balance.

Step 4

Subtract from the ending balance on the bank statement any withdrawals not checked off. Add to that any deposits not checked off. The resulting balance should be equal to the updated ending balance. If it is, congratulations.

Step 5

Review the bank statement and your records carefully if your balances are not equal. Look for any amounts that should be checked off but aren't, and any amounts that are checked off that shouldn't be. Recalculate your ending balance, and make sure you used the correct beginning balance. Ensure that your records are correct; for example, if you recorded a check as $99 when it was actually $199, the bank statement will not balance.

Tip

If the checkbook doesn’t balance, look for odd errors, such as adding or subtracting a zip code or using the wrong bank statement. Find possible transpositions by subtracting your updated ending balance from the bank statement ending balance. If the difference is divisible by 9, it’s possible you or the bank have recorded a number backward, such as writing 54 as 45, or 123 as 213. If the difference is divisible by 91, it’s possible you or the bank have flipped a number, such as writing 393 as 939 or 767 as 676.

Avoid becoming frustrated. Review all these steps very carefully to ensure you haven’t missed one. If the amounts still won’t balance, leave it for a while and come back later.

Things You'll Need

  • Record of your checking and ATM transactions

  • Bank statement

  • Calculator

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