• 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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, …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • What Features Are Most Important For Your Primary Bank? My Thoughts and Recommendations

    As most longtime readers know, I’m a very happy customer of ING Direct for both my primary checking account and my primary savings account. Before I joined ING Direct, though, my primary bank was one of the largest banks in the United States, one that had a branch in the town where I attended college …

  • How to Budget Using ING Direct (Or Another Full-Service Online Bank)

    As regular readers know, I’m a very happy user of ING Direct. They provide my checking services, my savings services, and all of my online bill pay services. They even allow me to set up sub-accounts so that I can save for specific goals. In my opinion, ING Direct is the best of the full-service …

  • Some Notes on SmartyPig

    First of all, a disclaimer: while I’m not directly involved with SmartyPig, I did speak with the development team in detail during the development process and offered a number of suggestions and ideas, and I was kept abreast with their development along the way. This group sought my input during their process of growing from …