Banking

Some Thoughts on the Financially Underserved

On June 4, Spent: Looking for Change premiered on Youtube. It’s a powerful documentary on the financially underserved in the United States – people without credit and without bank accounts – and the ends they have to go to in order to survive. Here, watch the full thing yourself. There are many reasons why people …

Categories: Banking

How to Find the Best Free Checking Account in 2014

The Internet has equipped banks with the ability to offer a free checking account online to almost anyone who qualifies. Fortunately, the government mandates that a checking account can’t be marketed as “free” if the consumer could potentially be charged a maintenance or activity fee. So what does “free” actually entail? The term “free” is …

Categories: Banking, Saving Money

How to Find the Best Savings Account in 2014

Looking for places to grow your money without much risk is difficult these days, but finding the best savings account might be a good place to start. Although your money will be safe there, the average American is hardly capitalizing on any gains. According to CNN Money, the average savings account last year had only a …

Categories: Banking, Saving Money

The State of Credit Cards and the Future of Banking

If you’re a fan of plastic payments, it may be difficult to imagine a world without credit cards. It’s no wonder they are such an ingrained part of society. Credit cards have been around for nearly a century! Credit cards were first introduced in the 1920s by merchants offering customers an alternative payment method at …

Categories: Banking, Credit Cards

Credit Unions vs Banks: Understanding What Works for You

From a street view, a credit union looks just like a bank: rows of teller windows, convenient drive-through lanes and attractive lobbies. But hidden within those walls are some key differences that clearly separate credit unions from banks. Yet credit unions still remain a mystery to many American consumers. That seems to be changing. Ever …

Categories: Banking

Does a “Savings Club” Account Work?

Carol writes in: My local bank offers an interesting account each year. It starts on the first Saturday in January and the deal is that if you deposit the same amount each week for 49 weeks, they will make the 50th deposit for you and give you the money at the end of the year …

Categories: Banking, Investing

Banks Are Not Your Friends

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. – Thomas Jefferson Thanks to William Grootonk for the image. Yesterday, I was stunned to read a news report about how Freddie Mac denied people the ability to refinance, then made investments that earn them more money if people are unable …

Categories: Banking

Some Thoughts on Bank of America’s Debit Card Fee Plan

I woke up to several emails this morning about Bank of America’s new plan to charge a $5 monthly fee to debit card users if they use those cards for purchases: Bank of America will begin charging a $5 monthly fee at the beginning of next year for customers who make debit card purchases. Whether …

Categories: Banking

Online Banking and Contingency Plans

A few weeks ago, I put out a call on Twitter and on Facebook for detailed posts that people would like to see. I got enough great responses that I’m going to fill the entire month of July – one post per day – addressing these ideas. On Facebook, Patsy asked about “Online Banking… Paperless …

Can You Actually Make Money Chasing Rates?

One common tactic I see on personal finance blogs is what I like to call “rate chasing.” This tactic usually involves carefully watching the yield rates on savings accounts over at Bankrate.com (or a similar service), always signing up for one of the top accounts, and transferring their savings to that highest-yield bank. For me, …

Categories: Banking

Personal Finance 101: An Online Banking Primer

Katie writes in: I was wondering if you could do an article on how to set up an online savings account? I remember you mentioned using them and getting a high return on interest, and I think I’d like to switch my savings account over to one. What kind of benefits/penalties have you come across? …

Where Does All of Our Money Go?

Kimberly writes in: A few months ago (yep, one of those New Years Resolutions!) I pledged to get a better grip on my finances. I found some personal finance blogs to read and decided to start off by simply tracking where our money went. But it’s impossible!! Every time I sit down with our bank …

Trimming the Average Budget: Savings

This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a …

Categories: Banking

Personal Finance 101: Getting Started with Banking

We all did it at the beginning of our financial lives. We grew up. We moved out. We opened accounts at a bank on our own, quite often a different bank than the one used by our parents. And we had to figure it out. How should we pick a bank? How do we move …

Personal Finance 101: What Does FDIC Insurance Really Mean?

One of the biggest things I encourage people to look for when they open a bank account is that the bank is FDIC insured. Most banks operating in the United States offer this insurance. In an era where people are more than a little worried about bank failures and the like, FDIC insurance is vital. …

A Reader Asks About His Checking Account and Bernie Madoff

Ronnie writes in: I’m curious what your thoughts are on fractional reserve banking. It seems to me that this method of banking is a high risk form of financial management on the part of the banks. The difference (sort of) between Maddoff and FRB seems only different by institution: as long as there is more …

Categories: Banking

The Backup Checking Account

Not too long ago, my wife and I combined our checking and savings accounts, mostly in an effort to make our personal finance management simpler. However, instead of simply closing out our old checking accounts, we made the active decision to leave both of these open as free basic checking accounts. We left a couple …

Creating a CD Ladder for Your Emergency Fund or Other Savings to Earn a Better, Safe Return

As I’ve mentioned before, my family has a pretty good sized cash emergency fund, somewhere around nine months’ worth of living expenses. Having that amount of cash available is a very nice security blanket for all of us, and in our savings account, it was earning roughly a 3% annual return. Safety, personal security, and …

Categories: Banking, Saving Money

Personal Finance 101: Money Market Accounts Versus Normal Savings Accounts

Kathleen writes in with a good question: A lot of personal finance books I read suggest putting your savings – especially stuff like emergency funds – in money market accounts. I’ve looked into them but I can’t figure out what the difference is between a money market account and a savings account. Why is a …