How to dodge bank account disasters over the holidays

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By Margarette Burnette

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to shop for gifts. But if you’re not careful, you could receive an unwelcome surprise: an overdraft error in your checking account. Here’s how technology plus smart shopping can keep you from spending your way into the red.

Sign up for mobile banking alerts

Many banks and credit unions can send a text message if your balance drops below a level that you set. If your institution offers the service, take advantage of it.

Text alerts can also help you quickly spot other account problems, such as unauthorized charges or direct deposits gone haywire.

Understand your overdraft protection options

Say you make a debit card purchase that causes your balance to dip below zero. Your financial institution still may approve the transaction, if you’ve given them permission. But the institution would probably charge an overdraft fee, sending your already-negative balance even further below zero. The national median is $34 per overdraft.

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