The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is one of the most powerful and well-funded government agencies. This organization is responsible for policing various financial industries and protecting American consumers. In efforts to live up to its mission and to utilize all that power and money, the CFPB has not pulled any punches when going after certain types of businesses. The payday lending industry seems to be the industry that garners the most attention from the CFPB. Richard Cordray (Director of the CFPB) and his staff make no bones about reporting to the public about how bad they perceive the payday lending industry to be. Sometimes they even cite testimonials from actual consumers who have had issues with payday lenders.

It may be, however, that the CFPB has also been covering up some positive testimonials about payday lending too. A trade group that represents payday lenders and other short-term lenders has openly accused the CFPB of suppressing positive consumer testimonials and preventing the public from hearing about the good experiences that many people have with payday lending stores and websites on a regular basis.

The trade group that has made these accusations is known as the Community Financial Services Association of America. Recently, this group said that they had obtained documents via the Freedom of Information Act that prove that 12,308 of the 12,546 consumer testimonials that were submitted to the CFPB’s online database over the past five years actually were from people who had positive things to say about payday lending.

The Community Financial Services Association of America, based out of Alexandria, Virginia, recently released a statement that stated, “These positive consumer stories, which comprise 98% of the payday loan-related submissions, have never been made public before. Instead, the Bureau buried and ignored these real-life customer stories as it marched forward with proposed rules that would restrict access to credit for millions of Americans.”

These are serious allegations that come hot on the tail of the Bureau’s recent proposal for new payday lending rules. The CFPB stated that it received over 5,000 complaints about payday loans last year. However, the CFPB did not have any comments on the recent allegations brought forth by the Community Financial Services Association of America. The trade group stated that 240 of the comments had negative things to say about payday lending, 84 were not properly categorized with regards to payday loans and that 74 comments were about scams and/or lending companies that were unregulated. Oddly enough, it seems that the CFPB simply will not address these issues.

Dennis Shaul serves as the Chief Executive Officer of CFSAA. He released a statement that says, “The Bureau is pursuing its ideological crusade against the regulated short-term lending industry with its proposed rules, while ignoring the positive experiences shared by consumers. While claiming to listen to consumers through the ‘Tell Your Story’ initiative, the CFPB discounts actual consumers’ needs and preferences. It is clear that millions of consumers are satisfied with the payday loan product and services, and do not want the federal government to take this valued credit option away from them.”

Considering the seriousness of these accusations it is time for the CFPB to step up to the plate and address them once and for all. Of course, the Bureau has a long track record for not being accountable to Congress or even the American people, so it may be that we wind up seeing the CFPB simply trying to sweep these accusations under the proverbial rug. Just like it has done when other groups or individuals have stood up to this agency in the past.

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As things stand right now, there are millions of American consumers who have subprime credit scores, or bad credit. If you are one of those folks it may be tempting to believe that you have to simply deal with your low credit score, until it starts to improve over the years. There are, however, some steps that you can take to improve your credit score a little faster. One of those things is – believe it or not – getting a new credit card.

Most people know that they have to use lines of credit and make prompt payments to improve their credit scores. Some of these people also believe that they have to settle for whatever terms credit card companies offer them. In other words, people with bad credit often settle for bad credit cards. This is not the way that you should handle the process of rebuilding your credit score. Just because you’ve had credit problems in the past that does not mean you have to settle for a credit card with terrible terms.

Here are some things you should look for when opening a new credit card when your credit score is low:

Make sure it is a card that will improve your credit score!

People often get new lines of credit, use the credit properly and pay their bills on time and then they find that the account activity is not even being sent to the credit bureaus. That is like doing a lot of hard work and never getting any kind of payoff. Check with credit card issuers to make sure the card you apply for reports activity back to the major credit bureaus, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You don’t want to spin your wheels on cards that won’t help you rebuild your score, so don’t waste your time applying for any credit card that doesn’t provide you with this perk.

Choose a Credit Card with Affordable Fees

Many times, people with bad credit wind up stuck with credit cards that charge expensive fees. The last thing you want to do is pay too much for the card you use regularly. Look for a credit card with no annual fees. If you cannot get one, then don’t pay more than $30 or so for a secured credit card. If you have bad credit, expect balance transfer fees to be between 3 and 5 percent. Don’t use a credit card for balance transfers if the cost is any more than 5 percent. And look out for “extra” fees. Some credit card companies try to hit consumers with maintenance fees, processing fees and other added costs that you simply shouldn’t have to pay.

Move from Secured to Unsecured

Many people with lower credit scores find that they have to start off the process of rebuilding their credit by opening secured lines of credit. This is sometimes a necessary evil, but if you have had a lot of problems with credit in the past, you may have to use a secured card for a while. Make sure, though, that the secured card you choose to open lets you graduate to an unsecured card in the future. When you open a secured credit card, you have to pay a deposit. The ideal credit card in this type of situation would allow you to open the account, check your credit activity for improvements over time and then to get your deposit back as you progress to an unsecured account. This can be a confusing process, so you may want to speak with a customer service representative to make sure this option is available to you.

Keep these tips in mind as you work toward building a higher credit score and a more promising financial future.

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While most people enjoy the comforts of home – electricity, cable TV, wireless Internet, gas and other services – there is nothing worse than having to pay the bills for those services every month. But, it is a necessary evil. The bad thing is that many people actually overpay for some of the basic comforts that are standard in most homes. This often occurs with electricity, gas and water bills. Some folks just assume that what they pay is the going rate. That is not true, however. There are some things that you can do to start saving money on your monthly utility costs.55bbc7c2c46188601f8b45b4

Follow these tips and tricks to see nearly immediate savings on your home utility bills…

Do a Quick “Power Check” Each Night

In nearly all homes there are lights, fans and other energy hogs that stay powered on; sometimes around the clock. Each night before you go to sleep do a quick “power check” through the house. Your check will include looking for things that are sucking up expensive energy and powering them down. Cable boxes don’t have to stay powered up all night. According to a prominent energy provider, simply turning off this one piece of electronics would save most households a little over $17 a year. Now multiply that by the number of other appliances and gadgets that stay up and running and figure out how much you can save.

Tweak Water Heater Settings

People often ignore their water heaters completely until there is something wrong with these devices. Doing so, however, can lead to a few problems.

We all have left fans, lights or appliances on at night while we sleep, but doing so wastes increasingly expensive energy. For starters, if your water heater is set too high, it can actually make the water so hot there is a risk of scalding. But that is not the only way a hot water heater that goes unchecked can burn you. If you leave yours set to a temperature that is higher than 120 degrees, you are probably wasting money each month. The EPA estimated that a water heater set at 140 degrees can cause energy bills to climb by somewhere between $36 and $61 a year. And that is just in standby heat losses. Bringing water up to the higher temp can cost up to $400 in additional utility costs each year. Go check your hot water heater settings now, and set yours to 120 degrees to start saving money.

Check for Energy Leaks

You wouldn’t throw money out the window, so why do so many people allow money (in the form of wasted heating/cooling energy) to cost them extra on their utility bills. Small leaks in the home can add up to the same thing as leaving one of your windows wide open throughout the year. Buying some affordable expanding caulk can help to seal up these little leaky areas. To find them, look around windows, doorframes, along the place where the basement wall meets the house frame and for any odd holes or cracks that may be helping costly energy to escape your house.

These are just a few tricks to create a more energy efficient home and lower monthly utility bills. Simply putting these few tips into action could add up to big savings over the course of the next few years. We rely on the comforts of having electricity, AC/Heat and running water, but that does not mean that anyone should pay more for these essential services than they have to.

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CFPB_2tone_Horiz_RGB-e1382623205988Two people who founded a company that was in the business of reselling loan applications has found themselves in the crosshairs of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB.) It is alleged that these two co-founders were selling applications to lenders and data brokerages without assessing where the leads came from or the companies that they sold the personal consumer information to. The two complaints were filed against Dmitry Fomichev and Davit Gasparyan. These two founded and ran a company called T3Leads, which aggregated information from payday loans and installment loans, apparently without properly vetting sellers and/or buyers. The CFPB also filed a lawsuit against the company and two other people related to these cases back in late 2015.

Weighing in on these new lawsuits, the director of the CFPB Richard Cordray said, “T3Leads steered consumers toward bad deals with lenders it didn’t vet and with no regard for how the consumers’ information would be used. This is a reminder to the middlemen who buy and sell consumer loan applications: if you engage in this type of conduct, you risk the consequences for harming people.”

T3Leads has its base of operations in Burbank California. The company is currently owned by Grigor and Marina Demichyan. Lead aggregators operate by purchasing consumer information (a.k.a. leads) from companies called lead generators. These lead generators often create websites that market different types of consumer loans. The leads the company acquired (and turned around to sell) contained personal information, like names, addresses, employment information, phone numbers and more.

Gasparyan and Fomichev co-founded the lead aggregation company back in 2005. According to the CFPB Gasparyan was the CEO and chief marketing officer. Fomichev, meanwhile, served in the dual roles of CEO and chief technology officer. Both of these folks, according to the CFPB, worked to create the business practices and strategies that the company used from the very beginning until the middle of 2014.

It looks like the CFPB has quite a laundry list of offenses that they are leveling against these two. The bureau states that the company purchase leads and then sold them with no thought as to promises that lead generators made to consumers or to how the consumer data would be used. Purchasers of leads from T3Leads included lenders that were often based in foreign countries or on Tribal lands. The CFPB says that these lenders sometimes deny U.S. Court jurisdictions and do what they can to get around state laws. The CFPB says that by not properly vetting the companies it purchase leads from that the company was exploiting consumers and that they put some information at risk of being used for illegal purposes. According to the CFPB, these actions put the company in violation of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act.

The CFPB alleges that the co-founders of T3Leads have violated Dodd Frank by ignoring false/misleading statements about lenders that obtained consumer data from them. People who got information from lead generators for T3Leads did not have any control over who would receive their loan applications. Additionally, the CFPB said that the company did not monitor or vet data purchasers. The CFPB stated that the company sold information with no regard as to whether or not the lenders purchasing the consumer data would comply with state laws.

The CFPB has been working toward cracking down on these types of operations for the past year or so. Those companies that operate by way of buying and selling consumer information need to be aware of laws and abide by them if they want to avoid the potential of the CFPB potentially taking action against their businesses. That’s something that the defendants in this case apparently did not consider a priority.

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It seems like ancient history, but it was not really all that long ago that people did not even have the option to get any type of pay TV service. Back then, there were the networks and a few local stations; that was it. Of course, once cable TV began to grow in popularity that all changed. And then you had the option to get satellite TV, which added a bit of competition to the entire industry. It didn’t take long for people to stop treating pay TV like a luxury, but instead like a necessity. Of course, any time that people consider something to be necessary, it does not take long for the providers to start increasing the prices.night-television-tv-theme-machines

For too long, though, the big players in the pay TV industry were able to sit back and do what they want. This kept them nice and happy. But recently, some have noted that lobbyists for the cable TV industry – folks who represent big-time companies, like Time Warner and Comcast – are downright angry. This means, quite obviously, that Washington is putting something together, something that will provide a benefit to consumers instead of the big cable companies. The last time lobbyists got so fired up, the FCC passed net neutrality laws. This time, though, the FCC may be taking on and defeating a huge pay TV scam that has been bilking consumers for many years now.

You have probably heard from other experts in the pay TV field about how paying rental fees to your Internet Service Provider, is nothing short of a scam. Some industry experts have told people time after time to purchase their own modems instead of renting them from their ISP. This step alone may help the average consumer to save hundreds of dollars every year. Guess what is happening in Washington now? The FCC is reportedly working on a situation where consumers get the exact same option for their cable boxes. Essentially, consumers would be able to avoid the option of renting their awful cable boxes and paying ever-increasing rental rates to their cable providers. Instead, people would be able to purchase their own – and often better-performing – boxes, while still keeping access to all of their favorite cable programming.

It is not time to start jumping for joy right now, however. Before people are able to do this, the FCC has to get its new proposal made into an actual law. The cable industry lobbyists will, quite naturally, fight like crazy to fend off this proposal. As a matter of fact, they have already started doing so. Comcast recently published a blog post saying, “The proposal, like prior federal government technology mandates, would impose costs on consumers, adversely impact the creation of high-quality content, and chill innovation.  also flies in the face of the rapid changes that are occurring in the marketplace and benefitting consumers.”

If that statement makes you smirk a bit, it probably should. The cable companies are raking in about $20 billion every year – in modem rental fees alone. Read that again, that is $20 billion, with a “B.” And the majority of those billions are pure profit, with the average household paying over two hundred bucks each year to cover the costs of these cable boxes over the lifetime of their cable contracts. People are starting to wise up about hidden fees and ways that big corporations are sticking it to them. Everyone who enjoys cable TV, but hates paying high bills, should do what they can to lend their support to this latest initiative from the FCC.

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Before you put any energy or effort into an endeavor, it is good to know what the benefits that you will receive are. For example, when a baseball player commits to practicing every day, he or she knows that the payoff will be better performance on the field, and possibly moving on to higher levels of competition. But what about having a good credit score? Aside from being able to boast that your credit score is high, what are the benefits you get from actually having a good credit score?credit_score

There are lots of people who know that they would be wise to improve their credit scores. There are even millions who know that they can take actions to ensure that their credit scores begin to gradually improve. However, lots of those folks still don’t know why they need a good score, and what that higher credit score can help them to get. Let’s take a look at the benefits of having a high credit score.

Though it should be pretty obvious that there are scores of benefits available to people who have higher credit scores, people still are not sure about whether or not it is worth their time to actually improve their credit ratings. It most definitely is. Those folks who have higher credit scores are able to get fewer fees on their loans, pay lower rates and generally have an easier time getting approved for loans and other lines of credit. This doesn’t mean that a good credit score is a guarantee that you’ll always get the best financial services, having a good credit score definitely never hurts your chances. On the other hand, having a poor credit score can definitely prevent you from even getting approved for a loan in the first place, and can even affect your chances of getting a good job these days.

Some of the other benefits of a good credit score are not as apparent as those that we have already touched on. For example, did you know that people who have good credit scores and clean driving records wind up paying less for their auto insurance than people with lower credit scores, even if those folks have good driving records. This benefit can also carry over to lower prices for other types of insurance, including renters or home owners insurance.

There are even more benefits that you should know about. For example, having bad credit can stop some folks from getting service from cable and cell phone providers, and even some utility companies. Bad credit can prevent you from renting the apartment you want and it can wind up having a negative impact on several aspects of your entire life.

The bottom line is that the conventional wisdom of a higher credit score being ultimately better for people definitely holds true. It is important to do all that you can to get your score high and to keep it that way. Of course, there is no way to improve your credit score if you are not sure what it is. The first step to getting some of the perks of a high credit score and avoiding the penalties of a lower credit score is to actually know what your score is. You can pull a free copy of your credit report/score at least once a year. It’s a good idea to do so frequently, so you can stay on top of your credit rating and make yourself eligible for some of the benefits that we have told you about in this article!

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One of the biggest problems facing the payday lending industry is the introduction of new laws that will put a major damper on the industry by way of limiting access to short term loans across the country. Some of the folks behind these new proposals believe that restricting access will solve the debt problems that many lower income borrowers face. The fact of the matter is that the proposed restrictions will not solve this problem.extra

Limiting a group’s access to lines of credit does not stop that group of people from taking on debt. The CFPB seems to think that forcing lenders to work harder in order to approve loans, and making borrowers responsible for providing the same amount of documentation that they would have to in order to get a mortgage is going to help lower income borrowers from getting into revolving debt. There are even new restrictions being proposed that would limit the fees that lenders charge; as if that would stop people from borrowing money. These new provisions may help some people, but they won’t do much for the nearly 12 million Americans who take out upwards of $46 billion in short term loans to take care of emergency expenses.

Instead of proposing harsh penalties on all lenders, the folks at the CFPB should be concentrating on sorting the bad apples out of the bunch in order to make a lasting, positive impact. It makes no sense to get rid of an industry – an industry that offers much needed financial services to lower income households – when it is possible to foot out the lenders who are breaking the rules in order to make more of a profit each year. This is common sense policing that should take place in any industry, but the CFPB seems to be on more of a mission to put restrictions in place that will snuff out the short term lending industry completely.

If the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau puts rules into place that will effectively put the payday lenders out of business, while leaving low income consumers with no lending alternatives, what are those consumers supposed to do?Some folks answer this question by saying that these folks need to save more money, ask family members for personal loans or that low income borrowers should go to the bank like everyone else. These suggestions are not rooted in reality, and the majority of low income households simply do not have these options available to them. It’s hard to save money when you barely make enough to get by. Family members often don’t have extra money to lend to anyone. And as far as going to the bank – the mainstream banks often don’t have branches in lower income areas and are very reluctant to make loans to people who don’t meet their stringent loan requirements.

Looking at the options that some people believe will replace the need for short term, small dollar loans is a bit depressing. The fact is that CFPB members are out of touch with what it means to live from one paycheck to another, and their new proposed restrictions will likely wind up doing more damage than good over the long haul. As if low income households were not already marginalized enough, now it seems that the very agency that was created to protect people from financial misdoings is going to be the agency that winds up cutting off any reasonable access to lines of credit in the foreseeable future. Simply put – there has to be a better way, but the CFPB doesn’t seem willing to find out.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more commonly known as the CFPB, has had what can only be called a shaky track record thus far. The bureau only began officially doing business back in 2012, but they have made some serious waves along the way. Originally designed to help protect consumers from fraudulent financial operations, the CFPB has gone over and above the call of duty in the eyes of some financial experts and government officials.

CFPB_2tone_Horiz_RGB-e1382623205988The CFPB played a major part in the widely panned “Operation Choke Point.” This little operation was supposed to help protect the working class from financial misdoings. What it ended up doing, however, was driving many legitimate business owners nearly out of business and putting pressure on the mainstream banks to cut off financial services to business owners in industries that certain members of the CFPB were not too fond of. Businesses, ranging from payday lenders to ammunition dealers, found themselves in the crosshairs of the CFPB, and many were forced to close up shop for good.

Thankfully, though, some reasonable politicians finally decided to do something to rein in the CFPB a bit. Back in February of 2014, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 3193, The Consumer Financial Freedom and Washington Accountability Act. It was passed with a powerful bipartisan vote of 232 to 182. During debate about the bill, the sponsor, U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, insisted that the CFPB needed to be subject to serious reforms and that the bureau has so far proven to be a very dangerous agency with little to no accountability.

Duffy said, “This is a bill about accountability and transparency.” The Director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray said that for the bureau to do its job that they need to monitor 80 percent of all credit cards currently being used. That adds up to about one billion credit cards. A provision in the bill requires the CFPB to get permission from the American public before they access their sensitive information. Representative Duffy said, “If you are here to protect the consumer, why don’t you ask the consumer for permission and consent to take their information? This is the right thing to do. Let’s empower Congress and the American people. Let’s reform the CFPB and actually make it work.”

Cordray has not been one to back down from a fight in the past. However, now that this bill has officially been approved by the House, we can only hope that some new provisions will be put in place to get the CFPB under control a bit. This bureau ran roughshod over many businesses in recent years. The leadership of the CFPB has shown little to no remorse for all of the damage that they have caused to legitimate, small businesses as collateral damage during Operation Choke Point.

Here are a few high points from H.R. 3193 that should help to shake things up at CFPB headquarters:

• This bill puts the CFPB Director under accountability to a five member commission that will be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
• Subjects the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to routine appropriation measures and makes the CFPB an independent bureau instead of being under the Federal Reserve System.
• H.R. 3193 is actually a collection of bills that work together to help prevent the CFPB from being immune to accountability and more transparent in all of its actions.

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For a few years now we have been hearing about how the Great Recession has finally come to an end, and that complete economic recovery is in the very near future. While this may be true for a lot of folks, many families in Arizona are still having some very rough financial times.

Poor decisions from local elected leaders have made it almost impossible for some of the hardest working people to get by from one week to the next. Some households are having such intense financial problems, that some have to borrow money to take care of everyday expenses and monthly bills. This can become problematic for people who find themselves borrowing too much and too frequently. Regardless of whether people are borrowing from family members or running up credit cards to pay bills, the ongoing cycle of household debt in Arizona is leading to serious financial instability for thousands.

banking loan, or cash conceptThis is why Arizona has to take steps to approve more legal lending options for people who have credit issues. There are lots of other states that have a lot more consumer lending options available for people who need to borrow money to make ends meet. Even states like California, which is known for being very regulatory-friendly, has more consuming options available than Arizona currently does. The newly introduced House Bill 2611 is set to take this problem on. This bill would allow flex loans of up to $3,000 for people who demonstrate that they have the ability to pay the loan off. Other states allow flex loans, with the average loan being for roughly $1,000 and most of these loans are typically paid off within just a few months.

Along with payday loans and other types of short term loans, flex loans can help to fill the gap for people who simply do not have the means to borrow lots of money from their local bank branches. Flex loans can allow hard working families to get money for emergency expenses, without putting too much debt on their shoulders. As everyone already knows, mainstream banks do not make smaller dollar, shorter term loans. And those same banks pretty much ignore anyone who does not have a high credit score. The fact of the matter is that people need to have options to borrow money if they are going to get ahead financially in the future.

Why is a state that is so business friendly, like Arizona, putting restrictions in place when it comes to borrowing options for its citizens? Competition in the lending industry is good for the industry and good for people who are struggling to get by. The main reason that so many people are opposed to any type of short term loan is because they perceive that taking out these kinds of loans ultimately leads toward long term bad financial decision making.

All the evidence, however points in the opposite direction. There have been several studies conducted that prove that short term lending does not necessarily lead to borrowers making bad financial decisions. It has been proven that demand for loans does not decrease when people have easy access to short term loans and other easy to get lines of credit. Instead the moves to ban short term loans drive borrowers to make bad financial decisions, like putting up their car titles to get fast cash. We all need to step up to the plate to ensure that people have access to short term loans if we want to see Arizona households to enjoy the financial recovery that is being experienced in other states throughout the country.

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Banks just love to collect fees from their customers to keep revenue flowing. The charge you for going over your account balance and they charge you for not having direct deposit on your account. If there is a way for the banks to charge you for something, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will do it. As a result, consumers are slowly being bled dry by their banks, one charge at a time.

Since these bank fees are becoming commonplace, with more banks adopting them, they are becoming more difficult to avoid. Here’s a quick rundown of how your bank is taking your hard earned money from you…

Overdraft Feesaa-banksters-10-19-13

Your bank could choose to simply deny a transaction if it was going to put you over your account balance. That’s not what they do, though. Instead, many banks will charge you an overdraft fee for allowing you the privilege of spending more than you have in your account. An overdraft fee may be helpful if you have to pay the rent and are a hundred bucks short. But it stinks to pay a $27 overdraft fee just because you went a couple of bucks over your account balance at the gas station or grocery store.

Account Maintenance Fees

There are banks that charge you fees for failing to meet certain criteria on your account. For example, some banks will charge you for failing to maintain a minimum balance or for not having direct deposit set up. You can get around some of these types of charges, but not all of them.

ATM Fees

If you need to buy something with cash and get it from an ATM, you may get stuck with out-of-network ATM fees. These fees typically only cost a few bucks per transaction, but they add up over time if you use out-of-network ATMs on a regular basis.

Returned Deposit Fees

You can pay penalties for things that you didn’t even do. Case in point – if someone writes you a check that bounces, your bank will remove the amount for the bad check and charge you a fee in the process. Yep, you get charged a fee and you weren’t even the person who wrote a bad check. Some banks will reverse these types of fees if you complain to a customer support representative, but not all of them will.

Banks don’t just nickel and dime you to death; they also enforce policies that can impact your lifestyle. Banks can hold checks, which causes a delay between your deposit and when those funds become available for you to use. Local checks cannot be held more than two business days, but non-local checks can be held for up to five business days. Some banks do their best to speed up the process, but you can’t always rely on this type of courtesy.

Avoiding Bank Fees

If you don’t like paying all these types of fees, you can try to get in touch with their customer support department and ask for the fees to be removed from your account. Mention that you are thinking about moving your funds to another bank if they will not comply with your wishes. You may wind up getting some of the fees waived, but there are some banks that will not flinch. Remember, the banks earn the bulk of their revenue by the fees that they charge their customers. But there are some banks that offer better deals on checking accounts than others, so don’t be afraid to shop around for a new bank if you are unhappy with paying excessive fees every month.

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