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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At best, most people have an average credit score. Millions of folks, however, have subprime credit. When your credit score is on the low side, even getting to the point where your credit score is average may seem impossible, let alone getting to the point where your credit score is perfect. It may seem that there is no way to increase your credit score, but it is important to know that you can take action. And, believe it or not, you may one day obtain a near-perfect credit rating.

A perfect credit score is 850, but it does take hard work and discipline to achieve this score. Many people have found that getting their credit score to at least 760 is good enough to earn the perks that come with a higher credit score. Whether you plan on getting a perfect 850 or simply getting to a ‘good’ range, here are some important steps that you must take.

Understanding Your Credit Score

Credit scores can range from 300 (very low) to the perfect score of 850 that we already mentioned. But your score is not just a random number. You must understand how the credit bureaus determine your score to improve your credit rating in the future. The credit bureaus calculate your credit score by factoring in debt, number of late payments, the number of accounts you have open and other public records. The end result is your credit score. But that score is not set in stone; you can inch toward a perfect credit score starting right now.

How to Earn a Perfect Credit Score

We have talked about 850 being the perfect credit score. Some experts, however state that the highest score they have ever seen is 847. Be that as it may, our goal is to get your credit score as high as possible. Here’s how to do it:

Keep Credit Utilization Rates Low

Credit utilization is the percentage of credit you have versus the amount you are using. It is generally considered best practice to use less than 30 percent of your credit limit, while some experts say that you should never use more than 10 percent of your limit to get a perfect credit score.

Pay Bills on Time

Every bill must be paid on time for a full seven years if you want to get a perfect credit score. It should go without saying that late payments will have a negative impact on your credit score, so always make your loan/credit card payments on time.

The Longevity of Accounts Matters

If you have an old credit card that you never use, avoid the temptation to cancel it. Keep those old accounts open, but avoid running up charges on them. Ideally, your credit card accounts should be open for about 10 years to earn a higher credit rating.

It is also recommended that you don’t go around trying to open up new credit card accounts all the time. The more hard inquiries there are into your account, the more of a hit that your credit score will take. If you have the right cards to take care of expenses that you regularly encounter, use those cards and avoid applying for new credit if you can.

We hope these tips help you to realize that it is possible to recover from a subprime credit score and to build towards a very good, nearly-perfect credit score in the years to come. Consistency is the key, so don’t neglect to make all of these tips financial habits that last a lifetime.

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business-soarThe banking industry has been hit with strict regulations that has caused many banks to significantly reduce their total number of checking account charges. New research, however, seems to indicate that the fees they are charging have soared to stunning new heights.

Out of Network ATM Fees

Consider the fees that banks charge to their customers for using out-of-network ATM’s. These fees rose 5 percent last year to a nationwide average of $4.35. The increase last year contributed to an eight year streak in which ATM fees continued to increase around the country. In the past five years alone the out-of-network ATM fees have increased by a whopping 23 percent, according to a survey by the website Bankrate.com. The fees include those put in place by ATM owners and the banks.

Checking Account Overdraft Fees

Not to be outdone by rising ATM fees, checking account overdraft fees also continue to increase. The average overdraft fee right now is at a record high level of $32.74. That is an increase of 1.7 percent when compared to the overdraft fee averages of the previous year. The Bankrate survey collected data from ten banks and thrifts in 25 large United States markets. The banks surveyed included savings banks and savings & loan operations. The highest overdraft fees were noted in Philadelphia ($34.80) and Milwaukee ($34.47); the lowest were in San Francisco ($26.74) and Los Angeles ($29.47)

Stricter federal regulation kicked in back in 2010. These regulations require that financial service providers must notify customers and get consent prior to charging overdraft fees. Overdraft services used to be a nice, additional perk that some banks offered to their customers. Today, however, those fees account for 60 percent of all consumer checking accounts and are responsible for more involuntary bank account closers than any other factor, according to a 2013 report from the CFPB.

Little to No Change for the Better

A bit of sobering news:  38 percent of non-interest checking accounts provided to customers are totally free. However, it is important to note that percentage is largely unchanged from the previous year.  Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at BankRate.com said, “This halts a four-year streak of declines from the peak of 76% in 2009.”

People can often avoid pricey fees by meeting requirements, like using direct deposit, using the account to pay bills or meeting a minimum balance requirement. Banks are doing all they can, however, to make it more challenging for consumers to meet those requirements. For example, in some cases account holders have to meet a minimum balance of $6,211 to avoid checking account fees; that is up 7 percent from last year.

The percentage of U.S. bank account holders that did not pay any monthly service fees fell down to about 27 percent recently. That is down a bit from the 30.3 percent recorded a year prior, according to a survey conducted by Moebs Financial Services. A recent survey by the ABA, however, indicates that the majority of American bank account holders (around 62 percent) pay no checking account maintenance fees or ATM service fees.

One thing is for sure, it is becoming more costly for many Americans to simply keep money in the bank to take care of their bills and household expenses. Unless account holders are fortunate enough to have a totally free checking account, or well off enough to meet the requirements to avoid additional fees, it is more costly to use mainstream financial services than most people are aware of. With all of this in mind, it is easy to understand why the upcoming generation of bankers are looking for alternatives to traditional financial services.

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For years now, the mainstream lending industry has only been interested in offering credit and conventional loans to people who they considered prime lending candidates. This has left many folks out in the cold when it comes to getting loans. In other words, if your credit score indicated that you might be considered a subprime borrower, you were probably not going to get any type of financial assistance from the bigger banks, and instead would have to find other means of securing loans when you needed them.

It appears as that has all changed in recent months, with both American Express and JP Morgan Chase & Co. making efforts to begin servicing the so-called “under banked” people of this country. In fact, JP Morgan Chase & Co. recently announced that the company has plans to invest $30 million to create what they call the Financial Solutions Lab.

The Financial Solutions Lab – A New Approach to Financial Assistance

Just what is the Financial Solutions Lab? This project is actually collaboration between JP Morgan Chase & Co. and the Center for Financial Services Innovation. The plan is to harness the expertise of nonprofit groups, academics and experienced entrepreneurs to come up with new technologies, products and solutions to assist people with new methods of saving and building their credit scores. Bruce McNamer, the CEO of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation said that he hopes the Financial Solutions Lab will help people to move from the fringe of the financial mainstream and to improve financial stability on an individual level.

The Future of the Financial Solutions Lab

It is obvious that the big lenders have seen the ongoing need for short term loans, and that the fact that many subprime borrowers must take out these types of loans when they need fast money to pay bills or take care of other financial concerns. And while the Financial Solutions Lab certainly doesn’t appear to be a lending company, per se, it does have some interesting plans for the future.

This initiative will include competitions and will help to fan the flames of creativity to come up with new methods to encourage saving and credit building. As these types of initiatives take place, JP Morgan, much like American Express, has pledged to introduce new services that may, indeed, prove to be rivals to traditional short term lenders. For example, the introduction of pre-paid cards, like Bluebird, may prove helpful to people who do not currently have traditional bank accounts in their names.

Many pundits have applauded the efforts of these big banking companies. And while it is nice to see larger companies jumping on board to help people in financial need, it is also easy to see how these types of initiatives are the gateway for big banks to potentially drum smaller short term lending companies out of business. It is no secret that the unbanked and under banked do represent a largely untapped market for the larger lending companies. And these types of initiatives may simply be a way for the big fish to make the leap to a smaller pond, and potentially crowd smaller lenders out in the process.

Everyone will have to wait and see how the mainstream lenders actually service people who are under banked. In the meantime, however, we can all be sure that people will continue to need fast money to take care of bills and other expenses, and like always, the payday lending companies will be ready, willing and able to provide these types of loans, regardless of what initiatives the big banking companies come up with next.

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Everyone could use a tip or two when it comes to personal finances. Young adults could use more tips than anyone. They are fairly new to the financial world and they need guidance. Here are some tips for those young adults who could benefit from financial guidance.

First you need to learn self control. Many young adults like to go out and spend money once they get it. It is almost as if the money is burning a hole in their pockets. This is something they will need to work at if they want to have a better financial future.

Teens and young adults need to take charge of their own financial futures. Many of them feel that because they are still so young that they do not need to worry about their financial futures yet. This could not be further from wrong. They need to start now; if they do they will have that much better a financial future.extra

Even teens and young adults need to have budgets. Getting started with a budget at a young age provides them with an advantage when they get older. They will already know how to track their money, manage their money, and how to balance a budget, when they do get a job and make more they will be able to stay in control of their money.

Emergency funds are a good thing to start at a young age. It gives the fund time to grow before potentially needing to be used. The more that is in the emergency fund the better off they will be when they do have an emergency.

It may seem strange to tell a teen or young adult that they need to start saving for retirement at their age. They really should start though. The sooner they start the more they will have for retirement. Everyone wants to have a comfortable retirement, starting to save for it as a teen can really help to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

Take good care of your health. Having good health helps to reduce the amount that you will end up spending at the doctor’s office and on medications. This will help you to save money, that money can be put into your retirement savings account or in your emergency fund. Telling a teenage they need to be concerned about their health may feel odd but they need to start worrying about all of this now, before it ends up being too late.

Just because you are a teen or young adult, does not mean you do not still need to be worrying about your finances. Your financial future depends on you working at it at a young age. The better you are with your finances now, the better you will be later in life when you make more money. Take your time and make sure that you educate yourself in the world of personal finances.

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Managing money can be a challenge for some of us. Without even knowing it we can make money mistakes every day. Knowing these money mistakes is the key to avoiding them. Here are some of the more common money mistakes that we make which costs us money.

The first mistake may be obvious to some, but most of us do it without even thinking. We do not keep track of our spending. Not paying attention to what you are spending can easily cause you to spend more money than you can really afford to spend. The best way to keep track of your spending is to have a budget. When most people think of creating a budget they think of sitting down with a pencil or pen and some paper, but budgeting has entered the twenty-first century. You can now get applications on your phone to help you budget and keep track of your spending.

The next mistake may be somewhat of a surprise for some of you. When seeing that something is on sale, most of us assume that it is a good deal. This is not always the case however. Before buying something just because it is on sale do some research on it first. Look up reviews to make sure that it is a good product. Look at other store’s websites to see what they normally charge for the same item. Remember just because it is on sale does not mean that it is a good deal and that you should buy it.

Getting into debt is a big financial mistake. Many people think getting into a little debt is okay as long as you stay on top of it. If there is any way to avoid getting into debt, you should. You will never be able to achieve financial freedom if you have debt. If you already do have debt work hard to get rid of it as fast as you reasonably can. Getting rid of your debt will feel great, and you will be able to work toward financial freedom.6355840185_8e1c4d8f11

When it comes to debt however, you will never be able to really get it paid off in a decent amount of time if you are only paying the minimum balance. The problem with this is that your debt is still accumulating interest. If you pay larger amounts than are due, you will be able to pay off your debt without having to pay for all that extra interest.

The next mistake that many of us make is assuming we will be able to save later on. When it comes to saving you simply cannot put it off. Even if you are only able to save a small amount here and there it is better than nothing and when in a savings account is accrues interest which is like getting free money. Do not wait, save today.

The last money mistake that people make is cashing in their 401(k) early. This may seem like a good idea when you do it, but you will regret it down the road. When you cash out your 401(k) early you have fees that you will have to pay. This leaves less money for you. Not only that but you lose out on the interest that would have added up had you left the money in your 401(k) account.

When it comes to money we all make mistakes here and there. Knowing about them is the best way to avoid them all together. For our financial futures we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can now to ensure our financial freedom in the future. If you make these mistakes then you will have a much harder time reaching financial freedom and securing your financial future.

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Nice ATM

The first is to do what you can to avoid overdraft fees. On average an overdraft fee is between twenty and thirty dollars. If you end up with multiple overdraft fees they will add up quickly. Instead you need to make sure that you know how much money you have and do what you need to in order to avoid overdraft fees.

Make your monthly credit card payments on time. If you do not then you will not only be charged a late fee, but most likely you will end up having to pay more interest. The credit card companies get enough of your money; make sure to pay them on time. If you need to you can set a calendar reminder on your phone so that it reminds you every month to pay your bill.

If possible only use ATMs that belong to your bank, or use a no fee ATM. ATM fees can add up quickly. You can save a surprising amount of money over the course of a year by cutting out ATM fees.

Shop around for your insurance policies. Just because you have been with one company for many years does not mean that they are going to give you the best deal that you can get. Look around and see what options are available to you. You may find a better policy for less money.

Know where to get the best deal on gas. There are some places that will give you a discount if you shop there before getting gas, other places that reward you with a discount for being a loyal customer or having a savings card. Find out where you can get the best deal on gas, so you get it for less every time.

How close do you live to where you work? Living close to where you work helps cut down on the amount of gas you need to get there. If you live close enough on nice days you could even walk or ride a bike to work and use no gas at all. Think about living near your work, or working near where you live to save money on gas.

Look for sales or shop at thrift stores for your clothes. Doing this you will get a lot more for your money. You can find unique items at these stores as well. Take some time and look around and visit a few different thrift shops, you can get clothes to mix up your wardrobe without breaking your budget.

There are many ways that we can save money every day. Look at your life and what small, easy ways you can save money. Saving money does not have to be hard, make a few small changes in your life and you may be surprised by just how much you can save.

Technology is so amazing; it has made so much of our lives easier. Almost every time you turn around you see some new technology coming out that can make your life even better. It can often leave one wondering what’s next. What’s next is a smart pen. That’s right, you have heard of a smart phone, but now there is a smart pen.

The newest tech that would be great for college students, professionals in meetings, or anyone who needs to write something down but does not quite have the time to get it all at that point in time. The Livescripe Echo Pen allows you to record audio then later on you can listen to it and write down what you hear. This could make note taking much easier for many people.

That is not all that this smart pen does, after all how smart would it really be if that is all that it does? It also allows you to share interactive notes with various devices. Whether it is your computer, iPhone, or even your iPad you have options on where you want to send those notes.

Many wonder how it could do this; after all it is still a pen. To do this is uses a micro-USB which is also how you charge your pen. Yes it does need to charge, it is somewhat small for batteries.

Some worry about how much they can store on the pen before the have to remove the audio or it becomes lost. If you could not record a lot of hours of audio the pen would not be overly useful. This is why the pen records anywhere from 400 to 800 hours of audio, depending on the model you choose to purchase.

This pen even has apps! After all could you really put the word smart in front of anything if it did not have apps? In order to navigate those apps with ease the smart pen has an OLED display. This is the same technology that is being put into the newest smart televisions.

Then comes the question of cost. With any great piece of technology the gadgets always have a price and when the first come on the market the price can occasionally be high. The price does depend on the model that you get. The lowest cost goes with the model that only holds 400 hours of audio starts at $169.95. So how much easier would this make your life?

This is an incredible example of what can be done with technology. There are things that are being created that many of us would have never thought of, but are actually useful for many people. A smart pen may seem like an odd concept at first but to those who could use it on a regular basis it is a great idea and it will most likely become rather popular.

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More and more financial transactions seem to be going paperless these days and it does not seem farfetched to think that one day that paper paycheck could be completely gone. There are many people today who do not receive paper paychecks, instead opting for direct deposit, having the money put directly into their checking and/or savings accounts. However, not everyone has a checking account, so if paper checks go away they may be replaced with plastic.

When a company decides that it no longer wants to print paper checks, and some of its employees do not have bank accounts, there is still an option for them, one that is made from plastic. Prepaid debit cards have increased in popularity since they were released on the market. Many of them are even able to be loaded by your employer with your paycheck, which leaves the employee with the option of not getting a paper paycheck, and the employer the option of no longer printing paper paychecks.

Handling payroll typically involves sending ou...

There are also payroll cards. Many employers really like this option because issuing paper checks or paying an employee in cash can actually cost the company more. Using payroll cards is a simply and cost effective way to pay all of the employees, without printing checks, even when they do not qualify for direct deposit.

Payroll cards are not only cheaper for the employer but they are also cheaper for the employee as well. For those employees who do not have checking accounts and therefore have to take their checks somewhere to get them cashed, they have to pay fees. When it comes to check cashing fees compared to payroll card fee there is no actually competition.

It was estimated in 2011 that when an employee uses a check cashing service or money orders they pay an average of just over $250, and just over $270 for those who use low-balance checking accounts. However when they use these payroll cards they pay on average just over $80 in fees every year. This is a big difference and can give the employee more money for whatever they need throughout the year.

One word of caution when it comes to these payroll cards though. If you are not properly taught how to use them it is possible to rack up large fees. There are some employers who will teach their employees all about these cards prior to putting them into place, while others do not. It is the employees who do not get taught about them that end up paying more in fees. If you end up with one of these cards and your company does not educate you about it, make sure that you educate yourself so you do not have to pay more in fees than you have to.

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emergency_spendingWhen you are dealing with a financial emergency, you are dealing with a situation that you want to get rectified as quickly as possible. Even if you are one of those things that likes, out of a bad habit, to put off making major decisions, when you are dealing with an issue with your finances, you need to make sure that you make a quick decision on what you are going to do to get it taken care of. Of course, just because you want to move quickly on making a decision does not mean that you want to make an uninformed decision. When you are looking for Financial Relief, it is vital that you make a decision that is going to benefit you in the long-term. While you may make a decision that rectifies the situation in as little as a couple of days, you need to recognize that you will be dealing with said situation for a good amount of time.

If you owe a small amount of money on a bill, but financial obligations have left money at a premium, you may want to consider taking out a payday loan. If you know that you are going to have money to pay the bill, in full, with your next paycheck, getting your check paid on time is vitally important, especially if it is one that has a large late fee attached to it. With a payday loan, you can get the exact amount of money you need, and you can get it fast.

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