Thursday, April 15, 2010

Depositing Checks

In the age of debit cards and direct deposit, there really isn't much use for checks anymore. Pretty much the only physical checks I write anymore all go to the Triangle Curling Club. Back when we rented, we also paid the monthly rent via paper check, but now we have house payments, and that can be done electronically. I still haven't used up the initial stash of checks that I started with after I opened my Wachovia account four years ago. The address on my checks is sorely out of date (it still says "Cary"), but that's okay.

Even though our paychecks are direct deposited, we still do get checks every now and then that we have to physically go to the bank and deposit. And each time, I have a choice. Do I deposit the checks at an ATM, via the drive-through teller, or at the counter inside the bank? Hmm...

Well, the ATM is easiest. The bank doesn't have to be open, and you don't need a deposit slip. You do need an envelope, however (at some ATMs), and sometimes the ATM in question is out of envelopes. Then what do you do? You can also only deposit into accounts associated with your debit card, and while it doesn't take long to deposit the check, it takes a while for the check to be processed. (I'm rarely in a position where I absolutely positively must have that money right now, but I know a lot of people are from time to time.) And, there is that peace of mind that comes with giving your checks to a person rather than a machine. What if there's a problem?

Meanwhile, for peace of mind, there's the drive through teller! You don't even have to get out of your car. (I recommend turning off the car while you wait in the drive through line to save gas and to pollute less.) Drive through tellers used to scare me because I didn't really know what to do ("Yeah, uhhh, I need to deposit a couple of checks...umm...yeah...I guess I need a deposit slip or something?"), but I've gotten over that fear, and now I'm okay with using them. For example, I used one yesterday when I deposited a couple of checks for Amber into Amber's account. I couldn't have deposited checks into Amber's account at an ATM.

On that note, let's shift gears and talk about how married couples handle their bank accounts. Before Amber and I got married, we had separate bank accounts - both with Wachovia - and that worked out just fine. We each keep track of our own finances, transfer funds between them when necessary, and all is well. Then, after we got married, we decided not to mess up the system and combine our checking accounts into a single, joint account. We simply added both names to all three accounts (two checking, one savings) so that we could freely transfer funds between the accounts at any time online, all while keeping our personal finances separate. This helps avoid conversations like this:
Disgruntled Husband: "Why the hell did you spend $300 on that thing yesterday? I needed that money for some other thing!"
Disgruntled Wife: "What about all those things you spend money on every week? I never question those! Dammit, husband, it's my money too!"

Money is a leading cause of martial discord, and I think keeping separate accounts helps avoid that. If one of us wants to buy a $300 whatever, and we have the money in our checking account, do it! No argument required. Of course, it's easy for me to say, because both Amber and I have about the same salary. If only one of us had a job, or if one of us made significantly more than the other, then we would have to handle things differently. We're also fairly conservative spenders to begin with, and that helps, too.

To finish up the "where to deposit checks" thread, I think the only time I would go inside the bank just to deposit checks anymore is if the transaction was "complicated" - for example, lots of checks, or multiple deposits into multiple accounts.

Finally, about Wachovia. I was happy with PNC when I was at Penn State, but PNC doesn't make it south of Virginia, so I had to find a new bank when I moved here. The reason I chose Wachovia is because I wanted a large bank without a bad reputation (ahem, Bank of America) that had branches and ATMs in Jacksonville. But if I had known at the time that RBC stood for "Royal Bank of Canada", given my love affair with Canada, you can bet I would have gone there instead. Meanwhile, two years later, we got our home mortgage through Wachovia also, because I figured that would be easiest considering we already had our bank accounts there. Then, a few months later, Wells Fargo bought Wachovia, and they started moving parts of Wachovia over to Wells Fargo one part at a time. As of today, the mortgage division has officially transferred over to Wells Fargo, while our bank accounts themselves are still officially Wachovia. So, for now, it's as if our mortgage is with a completely different bank altogether, which adds a couple of steps to making our monthly payments. Thanks a lot, guys. If only I had known what RBC was when I moved here...


James Allen said...

The Wachovia ATMs here are now envelope-free for deposits. It actually scans the check and determines how much it is for automatically.

Spartangoogle said...

Some married couples do pool all of their $$$. Then he can spend it and she can pay the bills without difficulty :-) The real secret to avoiding marital discord over $$ is to have enough.