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Get $100 Free When You Open A Checking Account

It’s always good to know about checking account promotions. Right now, Bank of the West is giving away $100 for free if you open a checking account with them.

To avail of the promotion, all you have to do is make an initial deposit of $100 and set up a recurring deposit of at least $250. You get to choose from three types of checking accounts that matches your needs.

1. Free Checking – The free checking account means no monthly service charges and no minimum balance required. With the free checking account you get to enjoy unlimited use of the Bank of the West ATMS, online banking with bills payment, free mobile banking, discounts on loan rates, unlimited check writing if you have sufficient funds, and much more. You just need to have $100 minimum opening balance, your social security number, driver’s license or state ID, and your contact details.

2. Choice Interest Checking – Although the free checking sounds really hassle free, choice interest checking will give your more earnings as you can earn interest on every dollar of your account. You get to enjoy the same services as with the free checking account but you also have interest rates that vary by balance tier. However, you’ll be charged $10 monthly but there is a way to waive it through the amount of monthly balance you have. Same requirements will be needed.

3. Choice ATM Checking – With Choice ATM Checking, you can have free cash withdrawals at any institution’s ATM for one year. This saves you a lot of fees when you withdraw in other bank’s ATMS. Plus you will be free from the hassles of having to look for a specific ATM to save some bucks. After one year, your Choice ATM Checking account will be converted into a
Choice Interest Checking Account. You get to enjoy the same services and the same requirements will be needed.

If you’re wondering where to open a checking account, why not try opening one in Bank of the West? Doing so will get you $100 free plus the usual benefits of a regular checking account. Promotion is available from February 14, 2011 to March 25, 2011.

10 Sensible Tips To Save On Mortgage

It has always been part of the American dream to own a home. Once a young adult graduates and finds a secure job, the one thing that will always be on his mind is getting his first house.

Often, a person who purchases a home for the first time and with little investment experience, will find himself caught in the whirlwind of mortgage promotions, never realizing the real amount he is paying until he finds himself 10 years deep into the mortgage. Here are 10 useful tips to help you save on mortgage:

1. Pick a bank with the lowest interest rates – This is one of the most obvious things you can do to save on mortgage. It’s best to be aware that a difference of .1% could already mean a couple of thousand dollars in the long run. Don’t be caught by the bank with excellent customer service and a crisp smelling office. If it has high mortgage rates, go and look for another lender.

2. Choose a fixed rate mortgage over an adjustable rate mortgage – Adjustable rate mortgages may sound appealing due to the low interest rates you could be faced at the start. However, ARM’s are volatile and the interest rates could definitely go up depending on the index. This will put you at risk on having a monthly obligation which is bigger than what you normally have planned on.

3. Increase your equity – The bigger down payment you can afford, the better. Having a bigger equity will mean having to take on a lower loan. If you can afford to wait until you have more money to pay for a bigger downpayment, this could be ultimately better for you in the long run.

4. Shorten the loan term – Although 30 year loans and the small amount of monthly payment you have to dish out may make your eyes dance, what you don’t know is the amount of interest this long loan term piles up on you. The best way to distinguish just how much you’re paying is by using a mortgage calculator. You will then see the advantage of shortening the loan term.

5. Refinance – There will come a time when refinancing becomes a sensible thing for you to do. You could exchange your higher interest rates for lower ones, decreasing your monthly dues.
6. Waive some settlement fees – Ask your bank if you can have some settlement fees waived. There’s no harm in asking.

7. Be aware of bank promotions – Ask your customer representative to inform you of any bank promotions. Some banks might just have promos about cutting closing fees. Right now, Ever Bank in Florida can give as much as $500 off on closing costs.

8. Pay a little extra every month – This is one golden tip that could potentially save you thousands of dollars. For every month that you pay off your mortgage, add a little bit to pay for the principal. You could put in an extra $50 or $100. In a $100,000 mortgage at 6% and in 30 years, chipping in an extra $50 on the principal per month could mean a savings of $25,000. That’s a lot!

9. Beware of the interest only mortgage – An interest only mortgage may sound juicy, but the after effects once the interest only term expires could be devastating to your bank account.

10. Build rapport with your bank – If you have other transactions with your bank, discuss these with them and try to see if you can haggle for a lower interest rate.

Whatever your financial status is, it’s always best to save on mortgage as this could be a loan that stays with you for a relatively long time.

The Lowest Rates for 30 Year Fixed Mortgages

With 30 year mortgage rates going as high as 5.2%, homeowners wonder, is there anywhere else we can get a lower rate?

Browsing through several banks and lenders, you wouldn’t be surprised to see the rate somewhere between 4.8 to 5.2%. However, there are some banks and lenders that can give you the lowest mortgage rate amongst all. With a 4.750% interest rate on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, homeowners can give a sigh of relief. Some of the institutions that can give you these rates are:

1. Ever Bank – Ever Bank, located in Jacksonville, Florida, gives you a 4.750% mortgage rate on properties located in Jacksonville and within Duval County. For added spice, Ever Bank is giving out a promotion of having as much as $500 off in closing costs. Ever Bank also gives out the lowest APR with 4.784%. Fees in APR is $647, and the estimated payment is $861.

2. Freedom Mortgage – Also with a 4.750% interest rate, Freedom Mortgage a low APR with 4.802%. Fees in APR is $995, and the estimated payment is the same as Ever Bank at $861.

3. – Interest rates are at 4.750% for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, and APR is at 4.856%. The fees in APR are substantially bigger than the others, with fees at $1,995. Estimated payment at $861.

4. Directors Financial Group – Interest rates remain at 4.750%, with APR at 4.845%, the highest APR compared to the rest of the institutions who give the same interest rate. Fees in APR is $1,795, and estimated payment is $861.

5. Mortgage Capital Associates – located in West Los Angeles California, Mortgage Capital Associates gives you a 4.750% interest rate, with the lowest APR in the same rate. There are no fees in APR, and the estimated payment is $861. By far, this institution gives you the best deal in rates and fees.

When looking for a loan to cover the expenses on buying a home, it’s important to consider the interest rate. A difference of .1 could mean a difference in hundreds or thousands of dollars out of your pocket. Fixed rate mortgages may seem like they have a higher interest rate, but they lack the risk which adjustable rate mortgages pose in case the national rates go up.

Also, when shopping for a mortgage, it’s best to check the fine print of the bank or the financial institution you plan to get a loan from. Hidden fees and charges could prove to be heavy, and make sure to deal with a stable institution with great terms and perhaps flexibility. Using a mortgage calculator will also help you in seeing just how much you’re going to pay in the end.

Top 10 Banks With the Best CD Rates for 2011

Looking for the best Certificate of Deposit (CD) rates to get your money growing at the early parts of the year 2011? Looks like banks from all over America are here to help you earn money out of money.

Certificates of deposit will allow your money to earn interest at a fixed rate set by the bank. With a minimum requirement, you’ll be able to earn much more than your regular savings account without having to tie your money to an establishment for a long time. CD’s can give you fixed returns at a period of 30 days, 60 days, 6 month CD’s, 1 year, and more, depending on what type of CD the bank offers, and the CD you choose. So where can you go to make the most out of your money?

Right now, the top 10 12 month CD rates range from 1.24% to 1.35% interest rates. It may not be as high as CD’s in previous years, but these CD rates are as good as it gets for now. Leading the pack is the Metropolitan National Bank of New York City. With a minimum deposit of only $1,000, depositors can enjoy the highest CD rate with a relatively small amount of deposit.
Investors not located in New York City need not worry since anyone can open an account online through their website. One thing depositors have to note however is that if they would like to collect their interest at maturity, they will have to inform the bank ahead of time as the bank will automatically roll the money into another 1 year CD. Early withdrawals will suffer a penalty, so it’s best to keep track of the timeline.

Other banks that give as much as 1.30% interest on one-year certificates of deposit are Bank of Internet USA in California, Incredible Bank in Wisconsin, and Ascencia, PBI Bank in Louisville Kentucky.

Below is a list of the top 10 banks with the best CD rates by far. Find out if you have one near your area, if not, you could always go ahead and open an account online.

1.    Metropolitan National Bank
New York, NY
Interest Rate: 1.35%
Minimum Deposit: $1,000

2. Bank of Internet USA
San Diego, CA
Interest Rate: 1.30%
Minimum Deposit: $1,000

3.  Incredible Bank
Wasau, WI
Interest Rate:    1.30%
Minimum Deposit: $10,000

4. Ascencia, a div. of PBI Bank
Louisville, KY
Interest Rate: 1.29%
Minimum Deposit: $1,000

5. Transportation Alliance Bank
Ogden, UT
Interest Rate: 1.25%
Minimum Deposit: $1,000

6. Aurora Bank, FSB
Wilmington, DE
Interest Rate: 1.25%
Minimum Deposit: $1,000

7. 89 Goldwater Bank
Scottsdale, AZ
Interest Rate: 1.25%
Minimum Deposit:$5,000

8. Ally Bank
Midvale, UT
Interest Rate: 1.24%
Minimum Deposit: $0

9. Nationwide Bank
Columbus, OH
Interest Rate: 1.24%
Minimum Deposit:$500

10. MetLife Bank
Bridgewater, NJ
Interest Rate:    1.24%
Minimum Deposit: $25,000

For those who are low on cash, Ally Bank in Midvale Utah will give you the best deal there is. With a 1.24% CD rate and no minimum deposit required, it gives hope to the starting investor.

When shopping for CD rates, it’s always best to check out the fees that might come along with it. Be aware of the rules your bank imposes and get the lowdown on taxes, fees and penalties. This will help you make the smarter decision on getting the most out of your money.

MBA looking to help Underwater Homeowners

Are you an underwater homeowner? Looks like the MBA has got your back.

The Mortgage Bankers Association currently have their eye on the government’s HARP program to make it more accessible and available for homeowners who are having trouble with their mortgage. Right now they are urging the government to reduce, and to even completely eliminate, the limit on how far an underwater homeowner can qualify for the program.

So what exactly is the HARP program all about that is getting the MBA’s attention? HARP, an acronym for Home Affordable Refinance Program, was developed by the government to help underwater homeowners improve their financial status by availing of lower interest rates on their homes. Lenders are provided incentives to encourage them to allow homeowners to refinance with them, despite the fact that their loan may be more than what their property is worth.

Certainly, this impossibility sounds too good to be true. And it does seem to be so. The HARP program has fallen far behind on their original projections, achieving only a total of half a million borrowers, compared to their original projection of 4 – 5 million. That’s a huge gap from the original numbers that provided hope for many homeowners.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the lenders that are involved with the program are rumored to be gradually put to the end by the government to reduce their role in mortgage markets. This possibility has pushed the MBA to further seek reforms in the program.

At this time, mortgage rates are also rising by more than three-quarters of a percentage point from their lows in November, making refinancing less of a juicy option for homeowners. With these markets, the MBA continues to push for the lowering of requirements plus the extension of the deadline of the program. HARP is supposed to be expiring come June this year. But hopefully it can be extended until December 31, 2012 to match the deadline of a similar program called HAMP mortgage loan modification.

Among the things the MBA is advocating for, it is also calling for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to adopt standardized guidelines in the HARP to things such as borrower and loan type eligibility, employment requirements and property inspections, closing costs, and income documentation. Having requirements that are less strict will allow more underwater homeowners a chance to avail of HARP refinancing, and giving them the chance to move up from their rocky financial situations.

What Posting on Facebook Could Mean to your Money

Social networking sites are the new wave of the generation. People are crazy about them. And they have a lot of reason to be. Social networking sites, Facebook especially, have revolutionized the way people across the globe communicate. Making it easy to connect with friends and business connections you otherwise would not have gained contact with. However, Facebook is not all fun and games. It could be a breeding ground for financial disaster.

Identity thieves feast on personal information such as your full name, birth date, birth place, email address and even your pet’s name. It only takes a few of these information to hack into your personal accounts. And with the advent of online banking, these information could just be the thing identity thieves need to make a run for your money.

Identity thieves are smart. They can get one little detail from you and connect it with another. Although it may seem harmless to post a picture of your favorite dog and place a caption of just how much you think Fifi looks cute in this picture, that little piece of information could be the answer to the security question banks and other financial institutions ask you when you forget your password. The thing is, when you post too much information on Facebook, even a high school student can go ahead and hack (and possibly drain)  your account.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from identity thieves in Facebook:

  • Do not place critical personal information such as birth date, birth place and your full address. These information can be critical to identity thieves.
  • Do not place contact information such as your home phone number, cellphone, and  email address
  • Do not post your daily whereabouts. You’re making it doubly easy for stalkers to find you. Instead of posting where and when your hot weekend party will be held and how excited you are, post the details after the event. That is, if you really need to do so.
  • Do not add everyone up as your friend. When Facebook and other social networking sites are concerned, you shouldn’t be overly friendly. Only add friends that you know personally, not friends of friends or someone you just met at the local grocery store or at the bar.
  • Be careful when answering seemingly harmless quizzes such as “10 Things Other People Wouldn’t Know About You”, this could have been made specifically to gather personal information.

Although social networking sites pose a threat to your identity, they are changing the way the world communicates and it’s always better to have one than none at all. You just have to be vigilant about the information you’re disclosing, especially if these information could be clues for identity thieves to gain access to your email, your SSS number, and even your personal bank account.

CashBack Credit Cards: The Real Deal

With all the promotions and tactics that banks and other finance institutions are throwing at people just to get them to invest, with every “good thing” they propose we start to wonder, “What’s the catch?”

When it comes to cash back credit cards, the deal is this: pay for your bills, groceries, and other purchases with your credit card, and you get a rebate by the end of the year. Sounds good right? So the question that follows is, “Do they really work?”

In all simplicity, cash back credit cards do give you what they promise. However, in order to actually make the most of it, you have to start reading the fine print. Here are the things you need to be aware of:

Fees – That’s right, does your cash back credit card have an annual fee? Most people tend to forget this little detail, and are shocked at the start of the year when they check their mail and find their statement ridden with a few hundred dollars in fees. There are other cash back credit cards that don’t sport this annual fee, so having those will be to your advantage.

Percentage Rates – Usually when we think of credit card rates, the lower the number, the better. But in this case, it’s the opposite. You would actually want your rebate rate to be higher because that means you’ll be getting more from your cash. Some cash back cards give you 1% back annually, but others can give as much as 5%. However, check to see when you’ll start building the rebate. Some cards require you to have spent a certain amount on the card before you start earning. Others give you a bigger rebate for certain grocery stores, gasoline stations, and shops. The more you know, the more you earn.

Pay it Monthly – With some cash back cards, failure to pay your credit card debt monthly will mean automatic cancellation of your rebate. Plus, some cash back cards have higher interest rates than ordinary cards. If in case you feel that you can’t pay off your credit card debt monthly, it’s better to get an ordinary card.

List it Down – Finally, the best way for you to make the most of your cashback card is to list down your credit card expenses. This will give you an idea of how much you expect to get by the end of the year. If you don’t keep track, you probably won’t feel the difference anyway.
Cash back credit cards really do give you a rebate on the money you spent using the card. But when it comes to credit cards, the best thing is to have discipline over yourself and not to have the attitude of “I’m going to get more by the end of the year if I spend more anyway!”. If you don’t have the discipline and if you have a spender’s mentality, it may just be better to pay cash instead.

Scrambling for a Student Loan? Get It at the Last Minute

As problems with student loan availability arise, many undergraduates are starting to wonder if they can still get a student loan for the next semester. Difficulties emerge when students are having trouble finding a student loan because of strict criteria, or because their federal provider backed out. At this economy, students shouldn’t be overly confident that they can get a student loan. There might still be a chance that they can’t.

If you’re a student who’s facing the possibility of not being able to enter college next semester, here are a few solutions you can find – at the last minute.

  1. Head to your college’s financial aid office and ask them about the availability of federal student loans. One loan you can consider is the Stafford student loan. Stafford loans offer a low interest rate of 4.5%, and you can have up to $20,500, depending on your degree status and number of years in school. Requirements include being a US Citizen or permanent resident, you must have a financial need, and you must be enrolled to the school. The best thing about Stafford loans is that they don’t have a credit requirement.
  2. Ask if your school participates in the program that allows students to get a direct Stafford loan. If they have it in their program, ask if you’re eligible. Having a direct loan offers better repayment options for students.
  3. Sometimes your Stafford loan amount isn’t enough to cover your existing need. If this is the case, you can ask your college if they offer Perkins loans as well. Interest rates for Perkins loans is at 5%. Perkins loans will also need to assess if the student has a financial need.
  4. PLUS loans are also available if in case you don’t qualify for a Perkins loan. The advantage of PLUS loans is that they have a higher limit than Stafford loans, allowing coverage for most, if not all, of the needs for the semester. The downside is, PLUS loans are put in the parent’s name, not in the student. If parents are not eager to have a big amount of debt in their name, students can opt to split repayment costs and have it put in writing.
  5. When parent’s credit isn’t good enough to qualify for a PLUS loan, your college aid administrator just might be able to grant you an additional Stafford loan to cover the amount you lack.

Finally, if you’ve followed all the steps enumerated above but you still can’t seem to make ends meet, it’s time to recheck your college plan. Try to see where you can cut expenses and if you can work more hours to gain extra cash. Save with the small stuff and you might just be able to pull through.

How To Get The Best CD Rates? Use A Calculator

Certificates of deposits are a good place to park your money in between investments. In a short amount of time, certificates of deposit will allow you to keep continuous growth of your money through a set rate of interest within a predetermined amount of time. Maturities of CD’s can range from weeks to years, with the interest rate directly proportional to the amount of time the money is tied up. Many banks and other financial institutions offer this kind of investment, the problem is, which CD do you choose?

Nowadays there is a plethora of certificates of deposit offered by numerous banks and investment firms. Not all of them are alike, so it can be confusing to figure out which one out of all the CD’s will give you the best rates. So how do you find out which one is best without having to break your neck looking over the numbers?

The answer – use a certificate of deposit calculator.

When looking over a certificate of deposit, there are a number of factors to consider. You have to take into account the initial deposit, total of months required, interest rates, number of times the interest will be compounded, plus the fees and penalties in case of an early withdrawal. Using a certificate of deposit calculator, you will be able to find out how much total interest you can earn with a particular CD.

The calculator will show you the amount of annual interest, plus your compounded interest, giving you your annual percentage yield or APY. Getting the annual percentage yield will enable you to compare one CD from the next. The higher the annual percentage yield, the better the CD.

Using the certificate of deposit calculator will help you arrive to a conclusion on which CD gives you the best return for your money. When investing, it’s always smarter to look over all your options before committing to only one. Remember, certificates of deposit may be a great way to grow your money in a short span of time. But you will still need to check which provider offers the best CD rates, and with the least fees and penalties.

Does the Interest-Only Mortgage Sound Too Good To Be True? – Maybe It Is

In this day and age, getting a loan is as normal as buying a refrigerator for your kitchen. Everybody has one.

Loans have become a necessity. Without them, we won’t be able to buy our dream house, get that ideal car, or move in to that bigger apartment. We try to keep our credit record clean so we can get a lower interest rate for our mortgage. And when we see an offer that says “interest-only” or “no down payment required” it’s as if we’ve died and gone to heaven. But are these mortgages really as good as they sound? Or are we in for a financial ride?

An interest-only mortgage is a way to borrow money, and pay less on a monthly basis. It may sound like a good deal, pay only the interest now (resulting in a lower monthly payment) then pay the rest of the balance later when your financial situation improves. The problem is, you may be taking on a loan that is more than your bank account can bear, and you might find yourself in a rough spot in the future.

So what happens with an interest-only mortgage? First, interest-only is not the loan itself, but it is an option that can be attached to a home mortgage. Here, a borrower only pays the interest on the principal for a set period of time. When you’re paying only for the interest, your initial monthly amortization may appear to be quite low. However, since you have not contributed any amount to your principle, the borrower is not building any equity.

Interest-only loans can be dangerous for people who cannot really afford an increase in monthly payments. Although it may sound promising to start a loan on low monthly amortizations, the balance will eventually increase as time passes. The people who are expecting an increase in salary in the future may feel confident at present, but when things don’t go as planned, this mortgage may turn from being a dream to a nightmare.

Interest-only mortgages although dangerous for the average person, are still good for savvy investors who clearly know what they are up against. People who plan to flip their homes or refinance before the interest-only period is over, may also benefit from this kind of option to a loan.

When considering loan types, interest rates, and mortgages, it is best to do a thorough review on what the mortgage really means for you now, and in the future. This will allow you to save thousands of dollars, and it won’t leave you with a loan that’s too much for your checking account.

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