Original Article by Ted Hunter
Some banks have recently announced that they will charge up to $60 a year to use your debit card while others are increasing their fees for every-day services such as checking and savings accounts. I’ll be perfectly honest; these fees the banks are charging their customers really turn me off. Why should you have to pay to use your own money? Especially when there are plenty of opportunities to get these same services for free?
If your bank is hiking fees it’s time to move your business elsewhere. When you do, it just might turn out to be an even bigger opportunity than you realized.
Here’s what to do.
Don’t do business with banks on what they’re not good at: Banks love to sell you everything under the sun. They love to act as your “friend”. They’re not. They’re just doing their best to be good at selling you everything they possibly can. It’s good for them, but not for you. Go find the best deal you can on the following services. It probably won’t be with your bank.
Do Buy each banking service from the best provider: Listed below are the 3 services you need. Buy each service separately from whoever gives you the best deal.
Checking Account You want FREE—no fees at all—and from a bank that will keep it that way. Use the internet to compare your options. Be sure to call a couple of local credit unions as well and perhaps a couple of local banks as they are likely to be better than the nationals. If you’ve been a member of the military or a dependent of someone who is or was, be sure to check out USAA. They’re often your best choice. Along with your checking account you want a free debit card with no ATM fees and 100% protection against fraudulent use over about $50. Also only open accounts that are FDIC insured.
When doing your research, be sure to ask what it does to your fees if you use direct deposit for your paycheck or auto-pay some of your bills. These are things you should be doing anyway and often some or all of the fees will get waived when you do.
Credit Card First and foremost, you never want to carry a balance. If you do, you have no choice but to shop for the best rate situation as any differences from rewards programs are likely to be wiped out by differences in interest rates. You should also never be charging anything new if at all possible, just paying off your balance and using your debit card for all new purchases.
Assuming you’re not in debt, I still think it’s best to keep things simple and only have one credit card in addition to the debit card attached to your checking account. Yes, you can chase deals and use different reward cards for different things, but is it worth the hassle?
A card to consider is the American Express card through Costco that pays 3-4% cash back on gas*, 2% on eating out and travel, and 1% on everything else. I also like cash best as there are no hassles, limitations or games on my reward. Two other cards to look into are the offerings from Chase Bank and from The Pentagon Federal Credit Union (www.penfed.org ) as they often have some of the best deals. I have no vested interest in these recommendations.
Saving Accounts, Money Markets Accounts, CDs Go with your best deal, even if it’s not with the same institution as your other accounts—and it usually won’t be. Again use the internet. Be sure to look at the Capital One money market account available through Costco. It’s a lot better than most. (No vested interest.)
When shopping around, don’t make the mistake of making location a factor. Banking used to be a neighborhood thing. Most people used the bank close to home or work without question. Not anymore. How often do you even visit your branch? It is a big banking world out there, go research it.
So, if you’re not already avoiding banking fees, take this as an opportunity to do so. Every $100 a year you save becomes $130 if you avoid the taxes by putting it in a tax deferred account. At an investment return of 7% a year that’s $6,000 in 20 years and $13,000 in 30. As always, small money is how you end up with big money. So be Money Smart and go add some of that money to your savings.
Bottom line is these banks work for YOU. Shop around and decide who gets your business. Yes it may take some research time and filling out some paperwork but in the end it will be worth it. Don’t accept unnecessary fees or services. Bottom line is to keep your money, not your bank.
* A lot of people have things like the Shell credit card that pays five cents on gas. But, keep in mind the 5 cents vs. say 11-15 cents with the Costco option and a lower gas price to boot. I’d say that’s a no-brainer.