You may already have a checking account and some experience using a debit card. And though the ground rules for maintaining your account while you’re at school are pretty much the same as they are at home, there are a few pointers that can help you keep track as you adjust to college life.


Record all transactions immediately. It’s crucial that you keep track of every single purchase, payment and cash withdrawal you make. Forgetting may mean the difference between having enough money to get through the end of the month and coming up short. Even if you bank online, filling out your checkbook’s register with each transaction is the best way to stay on top of your money. Checking your balance online (and often) is encouraged, but don’t automatically assume the account balance you see on your ATM receipt or your bank’s website is up to date and accurate.


Watch for ATM and debit card fees. If you’re going away to school but keeping your checking account with your hometown bank, you need to know if you’ll be charged a service fee for using other banks’ ATMs. If your bank doesn’t have a branch or affiliate location you can access at school, you may want to consider getting a local account if you anticipate heavy ATM activity.


Some accounts charge a fee for using a debit card as a debit transaction. Treating such purchases as credit transactions (when swiping your card) may help you avoid the fee.


Safeguard your account information. Sign the back of your debit card, memorize your unique personal identification number and keep the card in a safe place which only you can access. Remember, you should also be wary of phishing expeditions that seek to gain your personal information online. Be alert if you receive an email that looks like it’s from your bank regarding your account. Never click on the link within the email message, and never provide details about your account. Your bank already knows this information and will not ask you to email sensitive data to them. If you question an email, contact your bank directly to verify its authenticity.


Balance your account regularly. Balancing your account every month with your bank statement is an ideal way to help you keep track of your money and verify that the information you have tracked is accurate. Also, balancing your account regularly will help ensure no unauthorized transactions have occurred. If an unauthorized transaction has occurred, contact your bank immediately.