Archive for December 2013


Discover Bank review: savings accounts from an innovative company

Published 12/19/13  (Modified 2/19/14)

By Georgie Miller

For thousands of years, most people believed that the world was flat. Similarly, many people today believe that Discover is "just" a credit card company.

Pardon me while I snort with laughter.

It's true that Discover Card is one of the best-known cards in the biz -- "It really pays to Discover," after all -- but there's much more to Discover than credit cards, even if they did introduce the very first cash-rewards credit card way back in 1986. Today, Discover Bank -- the card company's division for deposit accounts -- offers a variety of savings options for consumers.

Discover Bank accounts

Discover Bank's accounts aim to help you balance flexibility -- that is, the ease with which you can access your money -- and yield, the amount you're getting out of your investment. The company offers three main options: a money market account, online savings account and high-yield CDs.

Discover Bank's money market accounts are available with a starting balance of only $2,500. Additionally, you can get free ATM withdrawals at Allpoint and MoneyPass ATMs. Since some online savings accounts don't offer ATM cards, this accessibility is a nice feature. You can also manage your account online or with Discover's mobile app. As of this writing, its yield has also consistently exceeded the national averages for money market accounts.

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Mutual of Omaha Bank review: competitive yields, considerable stability

Published 12/19/13  (Modified 2/19/14)

By Peter Andrew

You're probably too young to share my memories, but I remember the days before Wall Street discovered Gordon Gekko and cocaine (not necessarily in that order). Banks were different then. Bankers tended to do boring things: you know, stuff like banking. Today, of course, it's so much more exciting. They take deposits over the counter, and immediately run out to the back office to put the lot on 13 black, or something mildly more speculative.

At least, that's the impression you might get from reading the financial news since the last financial crisis. It may be difficult to escape this modern approach to financial services, but if you yearn for the days when bankers were typically less like Gekko and more like George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart's character in "It's a Wonderful Life"), you could do worse than to explore Mutual of Omaha Bank's online accounts.

A steady history

This Nebraska-based bank, which can trace its heritage across more than a century, seems to embody Midwestern conservatism and prudence. Indeed, the three words it chooses to use on its website to encapsulate its values are, "Strength. Stability. Service." And yes, these are the people behind "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," the wildlife television series that's won many Emmys.

Mutual of Omaha Bank has a branch network, but for this review we're only interested in its online accounts, all of which come with standard FDIC deposit insurance coverage.

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CIT Bank review: making online banking painless

Published 12/16/13  (Modified 2/19/14)

By Holly Johnson

I have a confession. When it comes to banking, I'm somewhat technology-averse. Out of all of my family and friends, I was the last one to sign up for online banking of any kind. And up until a few years ago, I was insistent on paying all of my bills with the dinosaur of personal finance, a personal check. Even more tragic is that I mailed everything via snail mail, sometimes waiting as long as 10 days for a payment to post to my account. It was so ... slow.

Looking back, I can't believe I chose such an inefficient method for something as important as my personal banking. And now that I'm up-to-date with modern banking methods, I'm a staunch proponent of doing all of my transactions online. That's why I was excited when my editor asked me to review CIT Bank's online savings accounts and CDs. Now that I understand the merits of online banking, I'm in a much better place to portray CIT Bank's services in a way that makes sense.

About CIT Group, Inc.

Founded in 1908, CIT Group, Inc. (NYSE: CIT) opened its doors with the goal of offering high quality low-rate loans to reputable commercial clients.

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Capital One 360 review: as good as its predecessor?

Published 12/9/13  (Modified 2/19/14)

By Justin Boyle

Most people can't tell you where they were when they first heard about online banking. After all, U.S. consumers got the news back in 2000 during the dot-com bonanza, when so many services were migrating online that people couldn't really be expected to remember every little innovation.

The bubble did eventually burst, and only a few of those new virtual institutions were strong enough to stick around. Thanks in part to a robust customer-care policy, ING Direct was one of the companies that weathered the storm.

Things don't stay the same forever though, and the acquisition of ING Direct USA by Capital One was approved by the Federal Reserve on Valentine's Day 2012. The service emerged as Capital One 360 about a year later, and Capital One firmly announced its intentions to do right by ING's customers.

The new bosses have likely had time to get most of the kinks worked out by now, so it seems fair to ask: Does Capital One 360 measure up to the venerable online bank it replaced?

Capital One 360 accounts

The basic personal banking products available through Capital One 360 appear to have experienced little more than nominal change under the new guard. The basic online savings account still charges no fees, requires no minimum balance and features a variable annual percentage yield (APY) among the highest online savings account rates available, as of this writing (see the current Capital One 360 rates in the table below).

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2 financial goals you should revisit every year

Published 12/5/13

2 financial goals you should revisit every year By Georgie Miller

The holidays are fun and all, but considering how early we get bombarded with festive opportunities to spend (or save), for me they feel like they're over before they've even begun. What I really look forward to is the new year. Opportunity! Resolutions! Plans that haven't been screwed up yet! Sign me up!

Before you can reliably make plans for the future, however, it's important to know where you've been. So every year about this time, I like to conduct a little mini-review of my previous year's spending. Conducting an annual financial check-up can help you determine whether your goals are a reliable reflection of your life.

You should have two main goals in mind when you conduct your mini-review. Your first goal is to be as prepared as possible for those curveballs life inevitably throws your way. The second is to make sure the methods you use to pay for everyday spending are getting you the best bang for your buck.

Goal 1: Be prepared for irregular expenses

Irregular expenses fall into two main categories. The first type are those that are are predictable, but don't happen monthly.

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Gift cards? Bah! Humbug!

Published 12/2/13

Gift cards? Bah! Humbug! By Peter Andrew

I had a deprived childhood. Most of my friends had at least one bachelor uncle or maiden aunt who'd turn up each Christmas, spectacularly fail to fit in with the family festivities, and make up for it by slipping one of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's more sought-after banknotes into the greeting card he or she gave each child.

Moms and dads would later apologize to the children, pointing out that such childless kin knew nothing about kids, and thus lacked the knowledge to buy a proper gift. But, provided the bills weren't snatched by parents only to disappear into boring old savings accounts, all my friends loved getting cash, and I was deeply envious. Weep for the 8-year-old me.

Happier holidays?

How things have changed. Today, such relations may turn up with same-sex partners, and are often the life and soul of the party. Banknotes are much more rarely given (still not regarded as a thoughtful gift, apparently) and instead gift cards are the most common present.

And I mean that literally: Research from Accenture, a global consulting firm, found those cards the single most popular present on 2013's seasonal shopping lists, ahead of apparel, toys and electronics.

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