Banks or credit unions: Which will give you the best bang for your buck?


Banks or credit unions: Which will give you the best bang for your buck?

Published 12/8/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

Banks or credit unions: Which will give you the best bang for your buck? By Sierra Black

You've probably heard good things about credit unions. Or maybe you've just heard of credit unions for the first time, and are wondering what all the fuss is about.

Putting credit unions in context

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that provide most of the same services a bank provides. You can get a checking account through a credit union, as well as savings accounts, CDs and even mortgages. They're member-owned, so there are no shareholders to report to and no profit motive behind the banks' practices.

Think about the difference between public library fines and video store late fees, and you'll have a sense of what this means to you as a consumer.

I had my first credit union account when I was a teenager, at the credit union where my mom does all her banking. At the time I wasn't a picky bank customer, and it served all my needs just fine. I changed banks when I went away to college, and ended up in the clutches of a major national bank for several years.

Since then, I've bounced from credit unions to commercial banks and back again a few times. Right now, my accounts are split between a checking account at local brick & mortar bank and a high yield savings account at an online bank. Doing the research for this article, though, has pretty well persuaded me to switch back to a credit union.

Credit unions pros

Read the full article »

3 ways remote check deposits level the financial playing field

Published 12/6/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

By Kelly Richardson

Please don't get me wrong. I do actually enjoy going to my neighborhood bank on occasion. The tellers are friendly; the atmosphere comfortable; the coffee fresh and caffeinated. But, admittedly, I try to avoid the trip whenever I can.

I use the virtual banking services whenever possible to avoid navigating traffic and standing in line at my local branch. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that the best online banks are now moving in the direction of remote check deposits.

If you haven't heard, this phenomenon allows you to make check deposits across the internet using a connected deposit device or even just your own mobile phone. You heard me right--there are wikis and widgets that allow you to make deposits directly into your high interest savings accounts from the comfort of your own home.

How does remote check deposit work? There's an app for that!

Making a remote deposit is surprisingly easy--even those with technophobia will find it an intuitive process. Simply log into your checking account online and use a bank-provided scanner to "read" the check.

The bank's program captures the dollar amount of the check through a complex hand-writing analysis program that compares the number to the amount that's spelled out. Once the transaction is complete, simply verify the amount and the transaction is placed on the deposit schedule. Simple, right? But wait--it gets better.

If you don't want to

Read the full article »

How to use rewards credit cards

Published 12/2/10  (Modified 12/12/13)

By Jim Sloan

I never really paid much attention to the rewards programs offered by different credit card companies. I was raised to use credit cards only for emergencies and not for everyday use, so my sole criteria for getting a card was that the interest rate be as low as possible.

But then a friend of mine told me he was planning a trip to China, and was going to pay for his plane ticket through the rewards he was earning on his credit card.

"I'm paying for everything with my card," he said. "All my monthly bills - the rent, the groceries, the phone bill, everything. Then at the end of the month, I just write a check to the credit card company instead of eight or 10 checks to all these other places."

And it worked. After several months, my friend and his wife were able to get the tickets for next to nothing--all thanks to the judicious use of their credit card.

The fine print of rewards cards

Even if you're not planning a trip to China, this approach can work for anyone, provided you keep a few things in mind as you decide which rewards credit card programs works best for you:

  • Rewards cards usually carry higher interest rates than non-rewards cards. That means if you're not paying off the balance every month, your interest payments will quickly exceed your rewards.
  • Look for rewards that you'll use. The points you earn
Read the full article »