What is an Account Statement?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An account statement is a financial document providing information about activity on accounts. Statements are usually provided free of charge with financial services like checking and savings accounts, brokerage accounts, and so forth. People may be able to access both paper and electronic statements, with some financial institutions only offering paper statements for a fee to encourage people to use paperless accounting for environmental reasons.

Periodic statements are generated for savings accounts showing deposits, withdrawals and interest earned.
Periodic statements are generated for savings accounts showing deposits, withdrawals and interest earned.

On an account statement, a brief summary at the top of the statement goes over the account number, the name on the account, and contact information. The type of account is also listed. A quick glance may give people an overview of the nature of activity on the account over the last accounting period, including the total in debits and credits and the new remaining balance. A detailed transaction register lists each transaction and any important details, with things like check numbers being recorded for reference.

Because they contain personal information, account statements should be sent to a locked post office box.
Because they contain personal information, account statements should be sent to a locked post office box.

Some financial institutions will provide information for all accounts on a single statement. Someone may get a statement covering checking, savings, and a loan from a bank, for example. In this case, the information may be presented as a series of separate statements, or all financial activity for the month may be given in chronological order. On the account statement, people also have information about who to contact if there are errors or other problems.

It is advisable to review account statements carefully. If activity looks unfamiliar, the financial institution can be contacted to get more information. Clearly, erroneous records should be challenged as soon as possible. People should also be aware that inaccuracies in their favor should not be counted on; in other words, if an account statement records a deposit that never happened, people should not assume that money will be available for their use, and should instead contact the bank to report the problem.

Because account statements can contain identifying information, they are usually mailed in security envelopes and people may be advised to use a locking mailbox or post office box for communications from financial institutions for personal safety. It's also important to shred or otherwise carefully dispose of statements not being kept for records, to reduce the risk that someone will pick up the document and use it to access the account or commit identity theft. Suspected compromises to identity should be reported so precautions can be taken to prevent fraudulent activity.

Account statements will list any checks that have cleared the bank.
Account statements will list any checks that have cleared the bank.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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