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Balancing a Cash Register

How, Why and When to Balance the Cash Drawer

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Open cash register
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Retailers will benefit greatly by creating a procedure to account for the store's cash. These internal controls are necessary to prevent mishandling of money and to safeguard assets against loss. Not only do strong internal controls promote operational efficiency, they also ensure reliable accounting records.

The process of counting the money, reconciling the receipts and balancing the cash drawer creates an accountability of the day's transactions. This cash management system can be created at the same time store policies are established.

Why Balance?

Store management or cashiers can pull a sales report at any time during a shift. By adding the beginning cash in drawer to the daily sales figure, a retailer will know exactly how much money should be in the cash register at any given time. This is extremely useful:

  • To avoid holding too much cash on the sales floor.
  • If the store is robbed.
  • When a customer complains about too little change.
  • For discovering frequent overages/shortages for particular cashiers.
  • To remove temptation of taking cash without documentation from the cash drawer.

How to Balance a Cash Drawer

Balancing a cash register usually takes place at the end of the day or at the end of a cashier's shift. The cash drawer and its contents should be taken to an office or other secluded area to prepare the report. If balancing the drawer after closing, be sure the sales floor lights are off and the door is locked.

Any overages and or shortages should be investigated. Human nature should be taken into account for minor errors and small amounts. However, frequent discrepancies could be sign of employee theft or may indicate further training is required for a particular cashier.

The starting cash on-hand is put back into the cash drawer and stored for the evening, while the deposit is prepared for the bank. All credit card slips, terminal reports and other register receipts can be stapled to the Daily Cash Drawer Report and filed by date.

Separation of Duties

For more accountability, consider using two people to balance the cash register. One person will count the drawer and create the daily cash report, while the other person prepares a bank deposit. Both staff members should sign the report indicating they are responsible for the figures shown. While no system can prevent fraud, this audit trail will help discourage collusion among employees.

At the beginning of the next shift, each casher should be assigned their own cash drawer. Have the cashier recount the cash in the drawer to verify the beginning balance. If accepting checks from customers, create a system to restrictively endorse all checks promptly as received. The internal control cycle of balancing a cash register starts all over.

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