A Complete Guide to Bank Statements

Barry Berman, Managing Director, First Republic Bank
April 29, 2022

  • A bank statement is a digital or paper document that can help you understand your finances for a given checking account or savings account.
  • A bank statement will detail your deposits and debits so you can see each of the transactions on the account.
  • Properly monitoring your bank statement can help you manage your finances, as well as prevent fraud.

It’s important to know as much as you can about your money to make the best decisions for your financial health. This includes regularly reviewing documents like bank statements.​​

What is the purpose of a bank statement? These paper or digital documents give you a detailed, chronological list of transactions in your account within a certain time period. These can be broken down chronologically or organized into categories, such as withdrawals/debits, debits/credits, fees, and more.

Once you know what to look for in a bank statement, you can use it to help you start budgeting and even look for potentially fraudulent charges in your checking account or savings account.

What is a bank statement?

A bank statement from a financial institution, such as a bank or credit union, is a summary of all your transactions over a set time frame. It is generally sent monthly, either via paper or digital, depending on the preference you select. 

The purpose of a bank statement is to make you aware of what happened within your account during the prior statement period — whether it’s deposits, withdrawals or interest earned. There may be differences in how often you receive your statement, as well as the information provided, depending on the financial institution.

How does a bank statement work?

The bank compiles all withdrawals and deposits made on a bank account during the bank statement period, which is usually within the range of 28 to 32 days. Each transaction on a bank statement appears in chronological order. You'll receive it either in your mailbox or online (if you’ve enabled online banking). 

A bank statement has a lot of vital information about your account that you might overlook at first glance. A closer look reveals details about your finances that can help you better understand your financial situation.

How do you read a bank statement?

There is a variety of useful information contained on a bank statement.  All of the information below can help with budgeting, and timing of paying bills. 

  • Beginning balance: The total funds in an account at the beginning of the statement period
  • Ending balance: The total funds in an account at the end of the statement period
  • Average Balance: The average daily balance over the statement period (This is important as some banks have minimum balances to avoid fees.)
  • Deposits (direct deposits, checks, electronic transfers): Credits going into your account
  • Withdrawals (ATM withdrawals, payments, fees): Debits coming out from your account
  • Statement period: The duration covered within your bank statement, usually by the month
  • Interest earned: The amount of money you made in interest payments on the account balance, when applicable
  • Current balance: The total amount of money within your account
  • Available balance: The amount of money available for withdrawal, which may be lower than the current balance
  • Account number: The identifying number associated with your account (You can usually request only the last few digits to appear for security purposes.)
  • Customer service phone number: A contact number to call if you have questions regarding your account or bank statement

How do I get a bank statement?

There are two main ways to get your bank statements: online and through the mail. Both options have their advantages. For example, online bank statements are ready and accessible. Paper statements could be held up by mail delays, whereas online statements can be accessed and downloaded as soon as they're prepared.

Paper vs. online bank statements

A paper copy of your account statement offers security and convenience, but e-statements also have speed and accessibility advantages, versus receiving your bank statement in the mail.

Paper Bank Statements Online Bank Statements
  • Useful for keeping physical financial records 
  • Doesn't require an internet connection to review
  • Provides a visual reminder to look at your statement or pay bills
  • Instantly accessible through mobile and online banking
  • Some banks offer perks, like waived fees, by going paperless 
  • Offers an environmentally friendly way to review your finances 

How can I use a bank statement?

You can use your bank statement to help you oversee your personal finances in the short term and long term. 

  • Correcting discrepancies: You can use your statement for bank reconciliation and to catch inconsistencies with withdrawals and deposits.
  • Disputing fraudulent transactions: Statements provide an opportunity to find and address fraudulent financial activity within your account.
  • Creating and following a budget: You can track your spending and savings habits to keep track of your finances.
  • Filing a tax return: Statements can help you identify key stats, like income and expenses, ahead of tax time.
  • Applying for a loan: Lenders often want to see recent bank statements as part of their applications.
  • Applying for an apartment: You may need to provide proof of income when applying for an apartment or other type of housing, which your bank statement helps provide.
  • Changing the timing of the bill payment date to maintain average daily balances from dipping below required minimums.

Frequently asked questions

How long should I keep my bank statements?

If you're wondering how long to keep bank statements, you should keep them for seven years in case the IRS has any questions about your accounts.

What is the difference between a bank statement and transaction history?

Bank statements are summaries of your financial account over a specific period of time. Transaction histories, however, can be viewed through custom time periods and may include more detail than a statement.

How often should I check my bank statement?

It's a good idea to check your bank account at least once a month. It’s better to check your account more often than that, especially since online banking makes it easy to see your real-time balance information. Ideally, check your account once a week, rather than monthly. It is a best practice to monitor frequently.

Can I get my bank statement from an ATM?

You may be able to get a summarized version of your bank statement or transaction history, depending on the ATM provider. You can’t get a full monthly statement from an ATM, however. For that, you’ll either need to go online and access your electronic-banking portal, your financial institution’s smartphone app or visit a teller in person for a printed statement.

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