Archive for May, 2011

Maybe We’ll Charge an Extra Fee to Read This!!!

Lose your PNC Bank debit card on vacation, and it’ll likely cost you $32.50 for a replacement. If U.S. Bank gets more than one of your statements returned in the mail because of an incorrect address, you’ll be charged $5 — for each return. If you feel banks are nickel-and-diming you these days, you’d be right.

Free banking has gone the way of the free in-flight meal. Banks are now restricted in some fees they can charge — and stand to lose billions of dollars in revenue as a result — so they’re coming up with new fees for things that used to be free. Checking accounts at the 10 biggest U.S. banks had a median 49 fees in October, according to an April study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. But there are ways to beat your bank at its own game — and minimize or avoid some fees.

Monthly Service Fees. More banks have gone back to charging you for holding your money. And those fees keep going up. The average monthly fee for a non-interest-bearing checking account was $2.49 in 2010, up from $1.77 in 2009, according to Bankrate.com. An interest-bearing account charged an average $13.04, up from $12.55.

The easiest way to eliminate that fee: direct deposit. About three in five banks with a monthly service fee will waive it if a customer signs up for regular direct deposit; according to an April study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy group. And it doesn’t just apply to a paycheck. Direct deposit of Social Security, veterans, disability and pension benefits also qualify. Distributions from 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts often qualify, says Scott Lang, senior vice president of association services at NACHA, a Herndon, Va.-based group that promotes electronic payments.

One caveat: Some banks are now requiring a minimum deposit amount. It also can pay to consolidate your accounts and loans at one bank. Chase, for instance, eliminates the monthly charge if you maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance or have $5,000 or more in linked deposits and investments, which include savings accounts and investment accounts.

ATM Withdrawals. You not only have to pay up to keep your money in a bank, you’re also getting dinged when you want to take your money out. While ATM fees have been rising for years, new regulations have added fuel to the fire, sending fees higher than ever, says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Withdrawing money from an ATM outside your bank costs you an average $2.33, up more than 18% from the fall of 2008, according to Bankrate.com. Wells Fargo and Bank of America already are charging non-customers $3 to use their ATMs. And your own bank likely is penalizing you for going to another bank. The average surcharge banks impose on customers for using an outside ATM is $1.41, up from $1.32 in the fall of 2009.

Limit your need to go to an ATM by getting cash back when using a debit card for purchases. But there’s usually a limit on how much you can get back — typically between $50 and $100, says Nessa Feddis, vice president and senior counsel at the American Bankers Association. Another option is to open an online checking account.

Online banks, such as State Farm Bank, Ally Bank and Charles Schwab Bank, refund all ATM fees at the end of the month since they typically don’t have their own ATMs. If you have an account with a smaller bank or credit union, see if the institution belongs to a third-party network of ATMs, such as Allpoint or MoneyPass. ATM machines in these networks, which can be found in places like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, don’t charge you a withdrawal fee (though your bank may charge you one).

The (Fill in the Blank) Fee. Some of the most basic banking services are now being recast as extras that come with, you guessed it, a price. Empty your kid’s piggy bank to deposit the coins at a Citibank branch in Illinois, and it’ll cost Junior 5% of the deposit. (After The Wall Street Journal Sunday inquired about the fee, the bank said it planned to eliminate it.)

If you’re a Bank of America customer with an e-banking account and make just one deposit a month through a teller, drive-up window or night deposit box, an $8.95 fee will kick in. The fee also comes into play if you want paper statements.

And, even if they don’t charge for the initial statement, most banks charge $5 each for copies of deposits, checks or past statements. And those PNC Bank customers who have a debit card lost or stolen while on vacation? On top of its standard $7.50 replacement fee, the bank tacks on an extra $25 “expedited card delivery fee” if you want to have the card mailed to somewhere other than home.

Overdraft Protection. The biggest hit is the overdraft fee, which the bank charges you for letting a payment go through when you don’t have enough funds in your account. It will run you $10 to $36 for every transaction you make while your account is in the red, according to the Pew study (though most banks limit the number of daily overdraft charges). If your bank charges you, say, $34 on one $100 overdraft that takes you two weeks to pay back, it’s equivalent to a loan with a whopping 886% annual percentage rate, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

Instead of signing up for overdraft protection, apply for an overdraft line of credit. You’ll pay a much smaller transfer fee, typically $5, each time you overdraw plus 18% interest until the balance is paid back, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Another option is to link your checking account to a savings account. You’ll typically pay $5 to $10 each time you have to dip into the savings account to cover a transaction in your checking account, says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Take it a step further and sign up for automatic text-message or email alerts when your checking-account balance drops below a certain amount. Then transfer money online from your savings account to your checking account yourself. That’s still free at most banks. But give them time.

(Re-posted from The Wall Street Journal – Rachel Louise Ensign)

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Advance Planning Is Critical

Advance planning critical

Published by The Denver Post

 

Before the threat of a fire

Complete an annual insurance checkup

Learn what your policy covers and do an annual assessment of the value of your home, including additions and building materials, making sure your policy covers 100 percent of its estimated replacement costs.

Complete a home inventory

•Download free inventory software or forms at rmiia.org/Homeowners/Walking_Through_Your_Policy/Home_Inventory.asp. Scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the prompts.

 

•Make a complete list of your possessions, including where you bought them, the make and model, and any appraisals you may have. For major appliances, record the serial number, usually found on the bottom or back of the item, and appraise or keep receipts for more expensive items such as jewelry, artwork and collectibles.

 

•Take photos of rooms and individual items, date and label the photos, and store them in something that would be easy to carry.

 

Know where your essential documents are stored:

Have all these documents or items ready to go in an easy-to-carry box, Safe Deposit Box, or stored with a friend or relative where you will be staying in another part of the state in the event of a fire:

 

•A copy of your inventory

•Your insurance policy and contact information for your insurer

•Social Security cards

•Driver’s licenses

•Credit cards

•Vehicle titles

•Passports

•Health insurance cards

•Backup of critical information from home desktop computers, saved to portable drive

•Marriage license

•Birth certificates

•Vaccination and registration records for pets coming with you

•Cellphone and computer-charging cables

 

Create a disaster kit

Include drinking water, change of clothes and shoes for each person, a blanket or sleeping bag for each person, a first- aid kit, prescription medications, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, gloves, extra set of car keys and eyeglasses.

 

Have a disaster plan for your pets:

•Make arrangements in advance for where you and pets would go in the event of an evacuation.

•Keep your animals’ registrations current, including contact information.

•Keep pet supplies and shelter information in your evacuation kit.

•Prepare an evacuation kit for larger animals such as horses, including wire cutters, bandage scissors, elastic wrap, towels, cotton bandages, surgical tape, duct tape and compresses.

•Prepare hay, grain and supplements in a separate container. Include enough supplies to last 10 to 14 days.

When fire approaches

•Grab your “evacuation box” of important documents and disaster kits for you and your pets.

•Notify your insurance company immediately. Let them know where you are going and how to reach you.

•Park vehicles that you can’t take with you in a garage, with the keys in the ignition. Close the garage door, but leave it unlocked so crews can move the vehicles if the structure becomes threatened.

•Move yard furniture away from the house or store it in the garage.

•Cover openings with fire-resistant materials to keep sparks from blowing in.

•Attach garden hoses to spigots and fill trash cans and buckets with water. Leave both in a place where firefighters can find them.

•Close all doors inside the home and shut off liquefied petroleum gas or natural-gas valves.

•Move furniture away from windows and remove curtains or blinds.

•When evacuating, wear long pants, sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothing, and a long-sleeved shirt

•Several insurance policies include an “additional living expenses” clause. This covers a certain amount of your out-of-pocket expenses if you are ordered to evacuate. Save your receipts.

If your home is damaged in the fire

•Contact your insurance company and schedule a meeting with a claims adjuster. Someone will inspect the damage and might give you a check to help cover repairs. The first check is likely an advance and not the final payment. Sometimes companies will offer an “on-the-spot” settlement payment, but you can reopen the claim if you find additional damage.

•Typically you receive two checks, one for structural damage and the other for personal belongings, which is why it is important to complete a home inventory.

•Take inventory and photos of any damages and losses. Make temporary repairs, but save receipts for all the materials, as they will likely be reimbursed.

•Include all damage, from smoke damage — the most common claim — to food spoilage.

Jordan Steffen, The Denver Post

 

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Co-Founder Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson graduated from Boise State University with a degree in Business Administration, emphasis in Human Resources. He also has a Master of Arts in Organization Management from the University of Phoenix. Frank played professional football for the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars for 3 years. Learn More...

Co-Founder Stewart Gallagher

Stewart Gallagher graduated from Colorado State University with a Major in Political Science and minors in both Economics and Philosophy.  Over the past 12 years Stewart has worked for 3 major financial intuitions holding various positions from teller to Assistant Vice President-Branch Manager. Learn More...