A company’s general ledger account contains a record of the transactions (cheques written, receipts from customers, etc.) that involve its cheque account. The bank also creates a record of the company’s cheque account when it processes the company’s cheques, deposits, service charges, and other items. Soon after each month ends the bank usually mails a bank statement to the company. The bank statement lists the activity in the bank account during the recent month as well as the balance in the bank account.
When the company receives its bank statement, the company should verify that the amounts on the bank statement are consistent or compatible with the amounts in the company’s Cash account in its general ledger and vice versa. This process of confirming the amounts is referred to as reconciling the bank statement, bank statement reconciliation, bank reconciliation, or doing a “bank rec.” The benefit of reconciling the bank statement is knowing that the amount of Cash reported by the company (company’s books) is consistent with the amount of cash shown in the bank’s records.
Because most companies write hundreds of cheques each month and make many deposits, reconciling the amounts on the company’s books with the amounts on the bank statement can be time consuming. The process is complicated because some items appear in the company’s Cash account in one month, but appear on the bank statement in a different month. For example, cheques written near the end of August are deducted immediately on the company’s books, but those cheques will likely clear the bank account in early September. Sometimes the bank decreases the company’s bank account without informing the company of the amount. For example, a bank service charge might be deducted on the bank statement on August 31, but the company will not learn of the amount until the company receives the bank statement in early September. From these two examples, you can understand why there will likely be a difference in the balance on the bank statement vs. the balance in the Cash account on the company’s books. It is also possible (perhaps likely) that neither balance is the true balance. Both balances may need adjustment in order to report the true amount of cash.
After you adjust the balance per bank to be the true balance and after you adjust the balance per books to also be the same true balance, you have reconciled the bank statement. Most accountants would simply say that you have done the bank reconciliation or the bank rec.