Getting the Most from Your Bank

Time and Money
Time and Money
Dealing with Banks can be Difficult

Dealing with banks can be a necessary evil for the forcibly frugal. Especially since the financial crisis of 2008 and the consolidations that happened in the financial sector, more and more banks are charging for services that used to be free. Finding truly free checking is getting harder and harder.

What Can You Do

The best option is a local credit union. According to Wikipedia “A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at reasonable rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Many credit unions exist to further community development or sustainable international development on a local level.” This means that the money in your credit union account will stay in your community. And many credit unions have free checking with your savings “shares”. Many also offer other services such as car loans and even “share to share” loans where one member can put up collateral for another member (who would not qualify on their own) to get a loan.

But No Matter What Bank You Choose

Use the opt-out on debit card grace coverage. This means that they can’t set a very small “grace” amount and charge you a large fee for buying a cup of coffee. For example–if the “grace” amount is $10.00 and you actually have $2.50 in the account and buy a cup of coffee for $2.00, they let it go through and charge you $23 for the overdraft. Make sure that you have “opted out” of this “service” so the default is to turn down the card if you go over what you have actually available. Just ask about the opt out at your financial institution.

The truth is that there is so much fine print and institutions very so much that you MUST read all of the rules at your particular bank. Do they have a cut-off time for deposits being acknowledged on the same day? Do they have over-draft protection? What is the fee for an overdraft? What is their policy on false charges on your debit card, such as when your account is hacked? These are just some of the things you need to know. Almost all banks in the United States are insured up to $250,000. But if you are just trying to protect yourself from fees, having your bank get robbed is not really your biggest concern.

You absolutely must keep track of every penny in your account to avoid overdraft fees. The fact that many banks engage in predatory behavior makes it even more important to keep close watch on your balance. It might be a good idea to not use checks at all, but rather to use the opt-out noted above on your debit card, and use just the card and cash. Cash doesn’t bounce, and your debit card can’t overdraw if your opt-out. The only thing to be careful of is using the card as a credit card when the creditor doesn’t input the charge right away. That is why you must always balance your checking account as you go. If you have access to a computer and a Quickbooks program you can set up your personal finances like a business and track your checking that way.

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