Key Bank Offers Checking Account Bonus Up To $225

keybank checking bonusKey Bank has two great checking account bonus offers today! Depending on the type of account you open or can open, you will be eligible to earn $125 or $225 in cash.

To earn the $125 cash bonus from Key Bank you have to open either their ‘Key Express Free Checking Account” or the “Key Advantage Money Market Checking.” Currently the money market account in our state is paying an interest rate of about 0.05% APY, your state may offer better rates.

How To Get The $125:

To make the $125 bonus you must make one debit card transaction and a combination of either two direct deposits or automated payments each of $100 or more.

To earn the $225 cash bonus from Key Bank you have to open either their “Key Privilege Checking Account” or their “Key Privilege Select Checking Account.”

  • The “Key Privilege” account puts both your banking account and investment account together.
  • The “Key Privilege Select” account offers its customers premium solutions and personal services. So to get the $225 bonus you must be a high roller. They make it hard to get bonuses from banks, or at least high bonuses.

How To Get the $225:

To make the $225 bonus you must qualify for their higher end checking account and then make one debit card transaction and a combination of either two direct deposits or automated payments each of $100 or more.

This deal is good until November 20, 2009 and may not be offered to you. Check out Key Bank’s promo page for more details and eligibility. Key bank operates out of many states in the west and most recently Colorado. Be sure to check the promo page to see if you are able to sign up from your state.


BofA To Impose Credit Card Annual Fees By Next Year

bank of america nycEven though new credit card reforms are sweeping the industry, which is scheduled to go into effect as early as December 1st, Bank of America customers have not yet seen the last of the credit card fees and charges that are costing them their hard earned dollars.

Charlotte, N.C. based Bank of America said last week that they will not raise credit card interest rates before the implementation of the new credit card laws, but that announcement did not state that it will not charge ‘new’ credit card fees. This is a move by Bank of America to gain back the anticipated revenue loss caused by the new credit card laws. Bank of America revealed that they are making plans to impose annual fees on a number of their cardholders as soon as next year.

According to BofA spokesperson Betty Reiss, the annual fees would range from $29 to $99, and the proposed fee would initially affect about 1% of the bank’s credit card customers. “We’re testing this to see what the feedback is. In terms of any plans going forward, we haven’t made any decisions yet,” said Reiss.

Bank of America is one of the largest credit card companies in the country with about 80.2 million cards issued and in circulation. BofA is third only to Chase with 119.4 million cards and Citibanks with 92 million cards.

So who will be affected by the annual credit card fees? The customers that could be the first affected are being selected based on their risk and profitability, which means, those cardholders who are in good standing, never pay late and almost never get charged with interest fees could be the first ones hit by the new annual fees. I guess it does not pay to be a good customer anymore, or you have to pay because you are a good customer.

Customer complaints of the steep interest rate hikes and the sudden cut in credit card limits prompted congress to take action against some banks’ practices. The new credit card consumer protection laws include how and when a bank or credit card company can raise interest rates and fees, the reason why banks are changing their policies now, before the law takes effect, as early as December 1st of this year.

Bank of America states that their decision to charge the additional annual fee is “in response to market changes, new federal laws and regulations, and the increasing cost of providing unsecure credit.” If a customer is affected by the new changes and is required to pay the annual fee, they will have the option to reject it, but by rejecting the fee the card company can have their account closed.
Does this sound fair? I know when I get those new terms I’m rejecting it as I have a credit card from Bank of America and would fall under the ‘good customer’ category.


When Are CD Rates Coming Back Up? Part 2

Read Part 1 To “When Are CD Rates Coming Back Up?

rates going up graphAnother reason that we’re seeing such low CD rates is that banks are able to borrow from the fed at ridiculously low rates. As of October 14, 2009, banks are able to borrow from each other at .25% and directly from a Federal Reserve bank at .50%. If this is the case, why would a bank borrow from you (for example, issuing a CD) at three, four, or five percent? The fact of the matter is that they will not.

You can use this truth to gain an advantage though, even in this economy. Banks that are doing more lending need more funds from customers, as there are minimums that banks must maintain in order to borrow from the Federal Reserve, or from other banks. These healthy banks will often offer some of the highest interest rates in order to attract more deposits. Banks really make their money on lending anyway, so it’s in the best interest of these banks to offer attractive rates.

Another way to find higher rates is to look for banks that are in trouble. You can often find the highest CD rates at these banks as they are desperate to bring in more deposits in order to hedge up their losses on loans that have gone bad. Please note that I do not advocate this method. I would rather earn a lower rate and know that my money is safe and secure. However, if you know that your funds are FDIC insured and you are okay with the possibility of having to claim your funds through the FDIC in case of a possible bank failure, go for it. Like I said, you can get some of the best rates from these banks. Be aware that FDIC insurance only guarantees the principal of a CD, not the interest earned. However, if another bank buys your failed bank, you should still get all the interest you’re entitled to.


Credit Card Fees While Traveling Abroad

Credit Card FeesOne of the biggest problems while traveling abroad, is how will you pay for things? Carrying cash might be a better option if you are trying to escape the high fees charged for using your credit card overseas, but it’s not as safe as carrying plastic.

Many banks will charge a different fee for transactions in different countries. While carrying cash you tend to get better exchange rates, but if you cannot find a forex exchange you are out of luck. Having a credit card in another country such as Europe would be much more convenient than having cash, as you can use your credit card at any time.

Overview of Fees

When you use your Visa or MasterCard overseas they will charge you 1% for the conversion fee and most US banks will add their own 2% fee on top of that to make your total fees 3%. When using a debit (ATM) card for cash outside of the USA, most banks will add some kind of withdrawal fee up to $5 and a conversion fee of up to 3%.

Cash exchanges are not always better as the forex you exchange your money over to will charge you fees and other charges. Sometimes you can lose from 5% to 10% depending on the country you visit.

It’s still recommended to use “credit cards” for your big purchases; use debit cards for cash and just forget about using traveler’s checks and exchanging currency. Not only do you save money by using credit cards, but your money will be safer than carrying around a large sum of money.

Credit Card Charges in Foreign Currency

When using your credit card outside of the USA, the charge will be in the currency of the country you are visiting. When that charge goes through the banking system and reaches your bank they will put their own surcharges onto the already 1% charge by the International network. The bank will add another 2% fee just because they can, just because you needed money outside of your country of residence.

There are still some good banks that do not add surcharges or at least keep the fees low. Here are current charges for some of the large credit card issuers, in order from lowest to highest in fees.

  • Capital One: 0 percent
  • USAA: 1 percent
  • Barclaycard/Juniper: 2 to 3 percent
  • American Express: 2.7 percent
  • Bank of America: 3 percent
  • Citibank/Diners: 3 percent
  • Diners Club: 3 percent
  • HSBC: 3% (most)
  • JP Morgan Chase: 3% (most)
  • US Bank: 3 percent
  • Wells Fargo: 3 percent

So far no other credit card issuer is as good as Capital One in regards to international credit card fees. USAA comes a close second with charging 1%, while HSBC and Chase offer reduced charges to the small number of ‘elite’ customers, but overall they still end up charging 3%.

Credit card charges, U.S. dollars

Sometimes a foreign merchant will charge you in U.S. dollars rather than in their local currency. Banks overall are inconsistent in how they come up with their charges: Bank of America, Barclaycard/Juniper, Citibank/Diners and USAA are usually the credit cards that charge the same fee regardless of the currency, but American Express, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo do not surcharge dollar billings.

Dollar billings can seem like a good idea, but you must be aware of a possible scam. The merchant can use a very lousy exchange rate with they convert your bills into US dollars, so you could end up paying both the merchant’s private currency markup in addition to a surcharge. Avoid any billing in dollars and just stick to credit cards while traveling.

Debit (ATM) cards for cash

It used to be that you could withdraw money from an ATM and pay a flat fee for each withdrawal regardless of how much money you take out. However, some large banks have been adding their own conversion surcharge to any foreign ATM withdrawal. Here are the current costs per transaction and exchange surcharges for withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM:

  • Bank of America (a): $0/0 percent
  • Bank of America: $5/1 percent
  • Citibank (b): $0/1 percent
  • Citibank $1.50/1 percent
  • JP Morgan Chase: $3/3 percent
  • US Bank $2/1 percent
  • USAA: $0/1 percent
  • Wells Fargo: $5/0 percent

(a) At ATMs operated by members of Global ATM Alliance
(b) At ATMs in overseas CITI branches

This shows ways to avoid losing more than 1% on foreign ATM withdrawals:

  • If you have (or open) an account with Bank of America, you can withdraw foreign currencies from ATMs owned by member banks of the “Global ATM Alliance” with no transaction or conversion fee: Westpac in Australia and New Zealand, Scotia Bank in Canada, China Construction Bank in China, Paribas in France, Deutsche Bank in Germany, Santander Serfin in Mexico, and Barclays Bank in the UK. All seven banks have branches throughout their home countries (as well as a few foreign locations); you can locate them through the BofA website. In other countries, however, BofA charges more than most other banks.
  • If you have (or open) an account with Citi you can withdraw foreign currencies from ATMs at Citi branches outside the US with no transaction fee. Citi has branches in dozens of foreign countries: In some, it has retail branches throughout the country; in others, it has only one or two offices in one or two major cities. You can easily find out whether a Citi account will work for your trip by checking the worldwide branch locator on the Citi website.
  • Many small banks or the larger banks with ‘elite’ customer account add no extra fees of their own and even agree to pay back fees that other banks may apply, of course with limits to the number of withdrawals per month.

The spread between some of the best and the worst deals on debit card withdrawals is wider than the spread among credit cards. The best deal such as Citi and the Global ATM Alliance, are as good as the best credit cards, but the worst deals you can end up losing more than when you exchange cash or use travelers checks.

Always use a debit card for local currency from an ATM and not a credit card. If you use a credit card to get cash you will be hooked on paying more fees along with cash advanced fees and higher interest rates.

Debit cards for purchases

Many debit cards are Visa and MasterCard branded, so you can use them worldwide for shopping or to take cash out of an ATM. When using your ATM card most banks will still charge the same as they do on their credit cards for purchases. HSBC, however adds just 1% on charges rather than the usual 3% that most other banks charge.

Buyers’ guide

The overall recommendations for saving money on credit card and debit card fees while traveling and to minimize your exchange losses:

  • Put large charges on credit cards. If you travel outside the U.S. a lot, consider getting a Capital One card, with its zero surcharge (and a reasonably generous reward program). Otherwise, USAA and many smaller banks and credit unions charge only 1%. Even cards with a full 3% surcharge are still an efficient way to pay outside the U.S.
  • Use your debit (ATM) card for whatever local currency you need. When you take cash out of an ATM, withdraw large amounts each time to limit the fees you are charged.

And overall, use plastic (credit cards and debit cards), but be sure it’s the right plastic, otherwise you will pay for it in extra fees.