Bank Deals 
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Bank of the West $100 Checking Promotion

Bank of the WEst $100 PromotionBank of the West is offering a $100 promotion for new personal checking accounts opened between February 14th, 2011 and March 25th, 2011. You must deposit at least $100 and set up a monthly direct deposit of at least $250 each (you can’t do two deposits that sum up to more than $250, it must be one), with the first deposit coming within 60 days. If you don’t want to setup a direct deposit, you have to make 10 bill payments of at least $25 each to a third party business using Bank of the West Online Banking.

You can apply for the promotion here and their Free Checking is eligible. Free checking has no monthly service charge, no minimum balance (though there is a $100 minimum opening balance, which matches the requirements of this promotion), and free online banking and billpay.

You can find branches in AZ, CA, CO, ID, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, UT, WA, WI and WY; but you can also apply online as well.

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 Bank Deals 
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Bank of America $75 MyAccess Checking Incentive Bonus

Bank of AmericaThere’s a “special limited-time online offer” for Bank of America credit card holders (I put that in quotes because these promotions come and go all the time) when they open a MyAccess Checking account online. It’s an online only offer of $75 when you open a new MyAccess Checking account and make a qualifying deposit. A qualifying deposit is one that is at least $125 made within 30 days of opening the account. There is no direct deposit requirement for this bonus, though it’s a way to avoid the maintenance fee (the other way is maintaining a balance, more on that in the fine print section).

The offer code for this promotion is CH75OL1 and you can find out more on their promotion page.

Some of the other fine print:
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 Bank Deals 
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Bank of America MyAccess Checking $75 Promotion CH75OL1

Bank of AmericaIf you have a Bank of America credit card and are thinking about opening a checking account with Bank of America, then this $75 promotion on their MyAccess Checking account may be help you overcome inertia. The offer is pretty straightforward, open a bank account online through this link, fund it with at least $125 in 30 days and you’ll receive $75 in 90 days.

There is no direct deposit or check card purchase requirements. The account has no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance, and offers no interest. You must be a new checking account customer and the limit is one $75 incentive bonus per 6 months. No expiration date given.

Doesn’t get any easier than this. T&C’s after the jump.

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 Banking 
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How to Build Your Financial Foundation

New Construction FoundationPouring the foundation is the first step in building a new house. Ensuring it is level, stable, and on solid ground is more important than any subsequent step in the building process. Your finances are no different. Setting up a stable financial foundation will be paramount in ensuring your finances are in good shape.

Fortunately, the steps towards establishing a sound financial foundation are very easy. The hard part is knowing what those steps are and, unfortunately, those aren’t taught in many schools. I like to think of my financial foundation as the network of financial accounts onto which all my life’s decisions are made.

A good way to think of your financial foundation is to draw a financial network map. A financial network map is simply a picture of all of your accounts and how they are related. If you are starting from nothing (no checking account, no savings account, no credit card, etc.), your map is blank. If you have a couple accounts, draw the map and we can start from there.

Your foundation starts with three different financial accounts:
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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Do You Use High Yield Reward Checking Accounts?

Stacks of Bound $100 BillsAbout a year ago, a new type of checking account start appearing all over the place. They were basic checking accounts with, seemingly, abnormally high yields. It was not uncommon to see them offering over 5% APY on a checking account. Normally, checking accounts offer a very generous 0% APY. In fact, one of the reasons I recommend credit unions is because their share draft accounts, another name for a checking account, usually offer something slightly higher than zero.

When the high yield reward checking accounts first appeared, many people thought they were scams. You had the usual “if it sounds too good to be true” alarms going off but if you read the terms and conditions, it’s clear how they are able to provide such high rates. I won’t go into those details here but if you aren’t familiar with these types of checking accounts, you can click here to read more about high interest reward checking accounts.

I never took advantage of them because none were local and, to be honest, I’m just lazy. I’m curious if you took advantage of them and what you thought of high yield reward checking accounts. They’re still available now, though at slightly lower interest rates, and do current high yield savings account rates make them more attractive?

(Photo: pocheco)


 Bank Deals 
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ING Direct Electric Orange $50 Bonus Promotion

ING Direct Electric OrangeING Direct is offering a $50 bonus for new Electric Orange checking account customers (who make 3 signature based debit transactions in 45 days) and has been for what seems like the last year. You are eligible if you already have their high yield savings account, which makes it especially sweet if you’ve kept one of these lying around in the hopes ING Direct’s rates become more competitive. I consider ING Direct Electric Orange one of the better online checking accounts because you can easily transfer cash between the checking and the savings accounts.

To qualify for the Electric Orange promotion, visit the promotion page and apply for an account using the reference code EM428. If you already have an account, signup will be a cinch after you login since you won’t need to provide any additional information and you can fund the account with funds in your savings account. One word of warning for those with an eye on their credit score, ING Direct will do a hard pull of your credit when you apply because the checking account has overdraft protection (even if you select $0).

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 Banking 
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Use Your Financial Map to Architect Bank Account Changes

Last November, Citibank announced that anyone without an average balance of at least $1,500, by February 1st, in their combined accounts would have to pay a monthly fee or be subject to per-check charges. That didn’t sit well with people who had just signed up for EZ Checking, which is supposed to be free. Well it turns out that it also didn’t sit well with the New York State attorney general because on February 1st they reached a settlement with Citi. Anyone who opened an EZ Checking account, in any state, between Jan. 1 and Nov. 5, 2009 would not be subject to any of the new fees until Jan. 31, 2011.

What if you’re one of the million customers getting a one year reprieve? Now might be a time to map out your approach to changing your bank. There are plenty of free checking accounts without $1,500 balance requirements and it should be trivial for you to change.

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 Banking 
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Best Free Checking Accounts

Blank CheckbookIf you were to build your personal finances from the ground up, the checking account would be the first “product” you’d pick. If you’ve ever drawn your financial network map, you’ll remember that the checking account is the spoke in your primarily hub-and-spoke layout. Your paycheck is deposited into your checking account, your savings accounts are linked to your checking account, and when it’s time to pay credit cards or the mortgage, chances are the money comes from your checking account.

So if you were to rebuild your personal finances or build it from scratch, the first step is finding a checking account that fits your needs. For me, I need a checking account to be free, have plenty of ATMs, and no minimum balance. If your bank doesn’t offer that as a minimum, I’d find one that does.

So how do you find the best free checking account?

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