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How To Avoid Overdraft Fees

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

If you have a banking account you most likely have over drafted at one time or another. These fees can range from $10 to $38. Most major banks average between $25 and $30 per overdraft, which they usually cap at four per day. These fees can cost you a lot of money if you do not catch it right away. With the current economy most consumers are having troubles from avoiding this problem and as banks struggle to find increased profits they have adjusted policies and raising penalty fees.

A recent New York Times article pointed out that banks are making millions of dollars by charging their large overdraft fees.

“Consumers who overdraw often do not realize that overdraft coverage is automatic and that the bank will not simply cut them off when their balance hits zero. Many banks then refuse to turn off the coverage, even when a consumer calls to request a change.”

Overdraft FeesWith these tough times there are still ways of protecting yourself from getting fee’d to death. By knowing your bank’s overdraft policies, opting into the right protection and also choosing alternatives are ways of avoiding overdraft fees. Most banks allow you to add a credit card onto the checking account so if you where to overdraft the bank would take the funds out of your credit card as a cash advance to cover the negative balance. You still have to be careful because even having a credit card on the account banks still charge a fee, most as low as $5.

Know Your Bank’s Policy

Go into your local bank and ask them what their policy is regarding overdrawn accounts. How much do they charge per overdraft and what kind of protection can you add to your account. Most banks offer over draft protection in the form of using your savings account or a credit card that is added to your checking account. Bank can stop your account from being overdrawn by not allowing your purchases to go over your current balance but most banks will not put this protection on. I have found that you must ask your banker if they can put this protection on your account for you and sometimes they will. The only way to find out is to ask.

Consider Prepaid Debit Cards

Debit cards are a necessity that most people carry instead of cash. Debit cards make transactions so much easier since you do not have to deal with change or cash. When a debit card is connected to a checking account, you still run the risk of overdrafting the account.

An alternative method to avoiding overdraft fees is to get a prepaid debit card. They are the same as any other debit card but not attached to your checking account. This will make it easier to make purchases since you don’t have to deal with exact change and also it will keep you from overdrafting your account. There are many places you can go to get prepaid debit cards, such as any cash advance store like ACE Cash Express. Not only are there no overdraft fees these cards can help you stay within a monthly budget.

Talk to a Bank Manager

When an overdraft fee does happen it can cause a lot of stress but do not panic as you do have options. If you do choose to dispute the overdraft fee(s), do not call customer service. You will be better off by going to your local branch and talking to the manager. Be sure that the fees have already been posted on your account since they cannot do anything until they have posted.

What seems to work best is making an appointment with your bank manager and politely explain your situation. If you have a valid reason, they may be willing to help you out. If this is your first time overdrafting most banks will show grace and reverse the charges. If you have overdrafted before they can still show mercy and reverse one or two of the fees or even completely reverse them all, do not count on that though. Banks have the power to reverse overdraft fees and in tough times they may be more willing to help their loyal customers, so ask and be proactive on reversing your overdraft fees.

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Mortgage Rate Analysis-Tuesday October 13th, 2009

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

With the bond markets being closed yesterday we really came off the weekend today, even though several lenders did issue rate sheets.  Today we saw little to no movement in rates as we get ready for a couple different reports that will be coming

Rates are holding steady today

Rates are holding steady today

out to help us to determine how the overall economy is fairing.  There are lots of different companies out there that offer all sorts of different rates, so make sure you are taking the time to check for the best mortgage rates in Seattle.  Right now is a very good time to consider locking in a low fixed rate.

One big piece of news is that congress voted to extend the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit…but before you get to excited it is important to know that the extension is only for active duty military personal.  To qualify you must have been deployed for over 90 days in 2009.  For the rest of us you have until November 30th to qualify for your $8000 tax credit.  We are still waiting to hear if that also will be extended, although it is very unlikely that anything will be announced until we are right on the deadline.

Today's suggestion is to lock your rate

Today's suggestion is to lock your rate

I have received several emails and calls asking if you should lock today to “float” and wait for a better rate.  As with anything in our industry I don’t pretend to know the future, but I am going to do the best I can in these reports to suggest if locking is suggested or not.  My only disclaimer is this is going to be my “best guess” and you have to make the decision that is best for you.

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Where To Save Your Money In Tough Times

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Its been just over a year after the collapse of Lehman Bros. and now Americans are starting to spend less and save more. Of course this can be a good thing during a financial crisis that America is currently going through.

Piggy BankSaving your money might help lower your stress level and help you sleep at night, but it sure won’t make you rich or even close to wealthy. The interest rates of very low risk investments such as CD’s (certificates of deposit) and money market funds, are almost too low to make anything from. You should not expect to make a bundle from your emergency savings account and even now, interest on a $1,000 investment in a one year CD will hardly pay for a movie ticket, a coffee from Starbucks or a dinner at your local family restaurant.

Is there good news? Most definitely yes. The situation that Americans are in now cannot last forever as the economy recovers so will interest rates. Take a look at what you can do to get the most out of some popular low-risk investments while we all wait for the economy to recover:

  • Certificates of deposit. Right now the average rate for a one-year CD is 1.71%, according to By investing in a five year CD, you will bump that rate up to 2.9%, but locking up your money for five years is a bad idea at such a low interest rate. As rates continue to rise you could be stuck at that rate and earn much less than if you had waited a year to invest. Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for says, Investing in CDs with shorter maturities, “will give you the flexibility to reinvest at regular intervals and catch the eventual uptick,” in interest rates.
  • There are many high yield bank accounts that are paying a little higher interest rates than CDs right now but income looking retirees are still better off with CDs because they offer predictability.
    “Even if you lock in a one-year CD at a rate slightly lower than that for a savings account, you know what you’re going to get for the term of the CD.” McBride says. With a high-yield savings account, he notes, “The yield can change at any time.”

  • High-Yield Savings Accounts. Some banks are paying 1.75% or more on their savings accounts, while if you searched you could find banks paying as high as 4.3% according to CheckingFinder. There are some banks and credit unions who offer rewards checking account with rates around 4% or more, but to earn these rates you usually have to set up direct deposit, receive your banking statements online (saves your bank money from mailing them to you) and use your debit card a certain number of times per month.
  • If you are in the search for bank and credit unions who offer rewards accounts take a look at Checkingfinder or Bankdeals.blogspot as they both offer a list of rewards accounts.

    The main reason why someone would opt-in for a high yield savings account is liquidity. You can withdraw your money without taking a penalty. If you are looking at setting up an emergency fund, this would be a great place to park those funds.

    As banks keep failing some people may feel uncomfortable with investing their money in an unfamiliar bank, even if they are offering a higher interest rate than a more familiar one down the street. As long as your bank is covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), your money will be insured for up to $250,000. Even married couples with joint accounts are safe for up to $500,000. If you use a credit union, make sure they are covered by the National Credit Union Administration and if they are, your money will be insured for up to $250,000.

  • Money Market Mutual Funds. A money market fund is a convenient place to temporarily park money you’re planning to invest in stocks or mutual funds, McBride says. A money market fund allows you to easily move your money quickly if a stock you have been watching hits your target price. To be safe, if you are still looking to stash away some money in your emergency fund, the high-yield bank or credit union accounts are still a better choice.
  • Even the bank that pays the lowest rate will still pay a higher rate than the average money fund. The current seven day average yield on money market mutual funds is 0.05%, according to the Money Fund Report, serviced by iMoneyNet.

Finding the best returns on your savings accounts, CD rates and mutual funds is a worthwhile endeavor, do not lose track of your main goal. The point of investing is to create a cushion against disaster like we are experiencing with the financial crisis of America. Michael Haubrich, a financial planner in Racine, Wis., says he encourages clients to shop around if it motivates them to save, but if they are more likely to save through a payroll deduction plan offered by their employer, that’s fine, too, he says, even if it’s not the best deal around.

The important part is to do something and start somewhere. Start with a certificate of deposit or find a high yield savings account to create an emergency fund.

When are CD Rates Coming Back Up? Part 1

Monday, October 12th, 2009
CD Rates are Low

CD Rates are Low

Recently we’ve seen CD rates hit all time lows.  There are a few reasons for this, and understanding them is going to help you structure your CDs in a way that will maximize your interest earned.

Obviously, credit is tight right now.  The minimum FICO scores for lending have increased, banks have arbitrarily cut the limits on credit cards and lines of credit, and banks are still scared to lend in this economy.

These factors coupled with the influx of TARP funds, has created a situation where some banks have too much money.  For these banks, their deposits are beginning to exceed their demand (or desire) to lend.

In response, these banks will have some of the lowest rates in order to slow down the amount of new CDs coming in.  Why would a bank do this? Banks don’t make money on CDs unless they are lending that money out.

As the economy recovers and credit loosens up, we’ll see an increase in CD rates.  In the meantime, look for banks that are located in healthy local economies.  These banks are generally doing more lending, and as a result will generally have higher interest rates on their CDs.  Grab their 12, 18, and 24 month terms.  Don’t go any longer than two years.  If things continue the way they are, we’ll see short term CDs get back around 3% by then.

Read Part 2 of “When Are CD Rates Coming Back Up?

Mortgage Rate Analysis – Monday October 12th, 2009

Monday, October 12th, 2009
Rates are Rising

Rates are slowing on the rise.

Today the bond market is closed in observance of Columbus Day, so there is not going to be a lot of activity on the mortgage rate front.  Several lenders have published rates sheets, and several loan officers are working today so don’t hesitate to contact your mortgage professional.

What we are seeing in the rates that have been posted so far today is that the lenders are taking a more conservative approach to the day and have slightly raise all rates across the board.  Check out the best mortgage interest rates for Washington State right here.

Last week we saw a slight spike in rates right at the end of the day on Friday due to the precipitous drop in prices of mortgage back securities.

  • This week we are expecting several economic reports that potentially have the ability to slow the rise down and maybe lets us hold steady for a while.  Wednesday we will get Retail Sales and the meeting minutes from the Sept 23rd Fed Meetings.  Those meeting minutes will get analyzed to see of any hint of the feds future actions might be hiding in them.   There are several other reports due this week that if they hit their expectations, the markets should respond favorably!

This would be a good week to keep a close eye on rates are they could be a bit volatile over the course of the next week.  If you see a rate you like you should really considering locking, and not floating on the hope that they will go down.

Best CD Rates in Milwaukee Wisconsin – October 2009

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

If you are resident of Milwaukee Wisconsin or the surrounding area, here are some of the highest yielding CD Rates for your area.

Reviewed below are the best 6 month CD’s, 12 month CDs and 24 month CDs for Wisconsin.  Be sure to research local and national CD rates to determine what will be best for you.  Sometimes local CD rates can be higher and sometimes national rates can edge our your local market.

Remember that rates are time sensitive and it is important that you check with the financial institution you wish to conduct business with for up to date rates and quotes

Best 6 month CD rates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

  1. People’s Bank of Commerce:
    • 7 month promotional CD which yields 1.90% APY.
    • Minimum deposit of $5,000 is required.
  2. Bay View Federal Savings and Loan:
    • 6 month CD yielding 1.80% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $500 required.
  3. A-B Credit Union:
    • 6 month CD yielding 1.56% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $500 required.

Best 12 month CD rates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

  1. Prime Financial Credit Union:
    • Promotional 17 month CD yielding 2.17% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $250 required.
  2. First Service Credit Union:
    • Promotional 13 month CD yielding 2.10% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $1,000 required.
  3. North Milwaukee State Bank:
    • 12 month CD yielding 2.10% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $2,500 required.

Best 24 month CD rates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

  1. Hudson City Savings Bank
    • 24 month CD yielding 2.50% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $5,000 required.
    • This is a national institution and can accept deposits from any state.
  2. A-B Credit Union
    • 24 month CD yielding 2.34% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $500 required.
  3. First Service Credit Union
    • Promotional 19 month CD yielding 2.25% APY
    • Minimum deposit of $1,000 required.

Click to see the best cd rates nationwide.

All of these institutions are federally insured by the FDIC or NCUA.

If you live in the Milwaukee Wisconsin area and know of better CD rates from your credit union or bank please do all the other readers a favor and let us all know in the comments.  We at are a relatively small amount of people and have limited resources to find all the best deals, but collectively we can find all the best CD rates for the residents of Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Get $35 Cash Back From Bank of America Online Bill Payment

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Starting on September 28th Bank of America was offering a special $25 bonus to those who paid 2 bills online within 30 days of signing up for online banking. It seems like Bank of America needed to sweeten up the deal a little and has now increased the bonus to $35 when you pay 3 bills online. This is a way for Bank of America to get their customers to use online banking.

What happens if you do not have 3 bills to pay? You do not have to worry because the $25 bonus is still available if you pay 2 bills online.

Bank of America

Key Points from the Small Print:

  • This is a special limited time offer available to existing consumer and small business customers who have not made a bill payment with Bank of America Online Banking within the last 6 months.
  • Offer cannot be combined with any other offer and is limited to one incentive per customer.
  • To get the $35, Small Business customers may instead enroll in Online Business Suite Direct Payments service and make three payments within 30 days.
  • Direct Payment Service requires Internet access, and Internet service provider fees may apply.
  • This service is not available in Washington or Idaho.
  • Incentive will be paid within 90 days of completing the requirements.
  • We may report to the IRS the value of the incentive we pay to you and you are responsible for any applicable taxes.

Promotional Page – Bank of America

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Sign Up For MyAccess With Bank of America And Get $75

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Bank of AmericaBank of America is at it again with a new offer for opening a new MyAccess Checking account. This is a special limited-time offer to all of the bank’s credit card customers. By signing up for the MyAccess Checking account you will receive a $75 bonus.

MyAccess Checking gives you access to both your checking and credit card accounts from anywhere, any time. It makes paying your credit card bill easier than ever before.
Here are the promo specifications:

  1. Offer is applicable only to Bank of America credit card customers who do not have an existing MyAccess Checking account
  2. Open a MyAccess Checking account online using offer code CH75OL1
  3. Fund your new account with $125 within 30 days from account opening and get a $75 credit on your account within 90 days from account opening.

Aside from the $75 cash credit, here’s what you will enjoy from a Free MyAccess Checking Account:

  • No obligations at all – no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance, no direct deposit required.
  • No service charge from Bank of America’s end for using non-Bank of America ATMs located in the U.S.
  • Easy account management with free Online Banking service that comes with free Bill Pay
  • 24/7 Access to customer support, online or by phone
  • A free Bank of America Visa® Check Card with Total Security Protection Package

Promo is good until 12/04/2009.
If you are interested in this deal and qualify for it, click this promotional page link or sign up directly.

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CD Rates Find a New Record Low

Friday, October 9th, 2009

CD Rates Equal Good InvestmentThis week CD yield averages for 3 month, 6 month and 12 month CDs have hit yet another record low.  And it does not get much better for the longer term accounts.

Bankrate’s weekly survey of large banks and thrifts taken Oct. 7 found the average annual yield for a:

3-month CD fell to 0.41% from 0.43%. That’s the lowest average since the survey began tracking 3-month CD rates in March 1989.

6-month CD fell to 0.61% from 0.62% — the lowest average since the survey began tracking 6-month CD rates in January 1984.

1-year CD fell to 0.93% from 0.95% — the lowest average since the survey began tracking 12-month CD rates in October 1983.

2-year CD fell to 1.43% from 1.46% — the lowest average rate since August 2003.

5-year CD fell to 2.23% from 2.25%. That’s still slightly above the 2.15% reached in July, which was lowest average rate since the survey began tracking 60-month CDs in January 1984.

Do not let the doom and gloom of the averages stop you from checking out our Best CD Rates available nationwide.  There are still some excellent CD rates.

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BB&T Gives $100 For Opening A Free Checking Account

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Open a new account with BB&T and get a $100 bonus for doing so. All you have to do is sign up and set up direct deposit or make three bill payments. This offer is only available to new clients who open a new personal checking account between now and 10/31/09 by visiting the following page – BB&T Cash Offer.

To receive the $100 bonus, new clients must do one of the following:

  1. Use online bill payment service to initiate 3 online bill payments from your new checking account within 90 days of account opening, OR
  2. Enroll in and receive a direct deposit to the new personal checking account within 90 days of account opening.

What The Small Print Says:

  • A new client is a person who is not currently a signer and who was not a signer within the last 6 months on any BB&T personal checking account.
  • Offer is limited to one incentive per household, and does not apply to second or multiple personal accounts.
  • Any accounts not in good standing, closed, and/or with a balance less than or equal to zero at the time we review account eligibility will not receive the incentive.

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