Bank Deals 
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$25 ING Direct/CapitalOne 360 Signup Referral Promotion Bonus (Active Links)

$25 ING Direct/CapitalOne 360 New Account Promotion Self-ServeIf you’re looking for a referral to ING Direct (now known as CapitalOne 360) to earn the $25 referral bonus, you are at the right place!

Welcome to the self-service $25 ING Direct/CapitalOne 360 signup promotion center at Bargaineering. I’ve written on numerous occasions about how ING Direct/CapitalOne 360 will give you a $25 bonus for opening either a checking or savings account through a referral and depositing $250, so I’ve set up this page to allow readers to help themselves to the referrals (each will get $10 for each referral).

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 Personal Finance 
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Consolidate Your Financial Accounts

Long time readers of Bargaineering will know that in the last year I’ve been aggressively consolidating our financial accounts in a quest to simplify my finances. It seems fitting that, for Spring Cleaning Week, our second post of the series should be one about how to consolidate all the financial accounts you’ve accumulated in the last few years.

In an ideal world, you really need one checking account, one savings account, one credit card (debatable), and one brokerage account. We, of course, don’t live in a utopia, we live here. :) It doesn’t take long for financial accounts to accumulate like knickknacks on your bookcase or mantle. A change in job adds a 401(k), a change of address adds a new bank, and before long you have a dozen financial accounts you don’t even use every month with a few bucks here and a few bucks there.

While most of the battle is in just consolidating, I think that a few tips I picked up may help you in your quest.

This post is part of the 2011 Spring Cleaning Week!



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 Banking 
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Are Certificates of Deposit Obsolete?

A certificate of deposit (CD) is a deposit account that pays you a fixed interest rate over a set period. You can close a CD early and pay a penalty but the bank cannot close it (call it) early, unless it’s a very rare callable CD. CDs are nice because they often represent the highest safe return you can get since those deposits are protected by FDIC insurance.

However, when the difference between a 12-month CD and an online savings account is microscopic, you start to wonder if it’s worth the effort. I took a look at one a major online bank (I won’t say which because I don’t want to update these rates when they change, but they are a “friendly” bank and they have very good rates) and their high yield 12-month CD had a yield of 1.29% APY. Their online savings account offered a yield of 1.09% APY. While a 0.20% APY difference is large in relative terms, it’s tiny in real terms.

0.20% APY on $100 is 20 cents. By locking your savings into a 12 month agreement, you earn an extra 20 cents per $100. I’ll be the first to say that every little bit helps, but 20 cents isn’t going to cut it (this is before you carve out a few cents for taxes!).

It makes me wonder, in this era of high yield savings accounts with rates that rival certificates of deposit, have CDs been made obsolete?


 Investing 
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High Interest Alternatives to Savings Accounts

Fat Roll of HundredsRight now, the best savings account rates aren’t even 2% APY. They’re so low that even those people who are earning nothing, 0%, have very little incentive to move their money! If Bank of America is paying you 0.10% in your savings account, and an online bank is offering 1.50%, do you know how much more money you’d earn if you moved $1,000 over? You wouldn’t even make fifteen bucks more. That’s it. How much is your time worth? Certainly more than $15!

The Federal Reserve is making it hard for savers to save because they’re keeping the target interest rate so low. Why would a bank pay you 1% when they can get it for less than 0.25% from the Fed? It’s a miracle the rate is as high as 1.50%! The problem with trying to find a safe alternative is that in order to get the rewards, you have to take some risks. Savings accounts have zero principal risk because they are FDIC insured, the only risk you face is inflation risk (you earn 1% but inflation goes up 3%, you’ve essentially lost purchasing power) and everyone deals with that.

So what are some “relatively” safe alternatives?
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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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 NEWS 
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Sallie Mae Increases Interest Rate to 1.40% APY

Sallie MaeSalle Mae Bank, which recently began offering their Sallie Mae online savings account, recently announced they were increasing their interest rate from 1.25% APY to 1.40% APY, putting it near the top of the interest rate list for high interest savings accounts. With no monthly fees, no minimum balance, daily compounding, and a competitive rate, Sallie Mae Bank has made a big splash in the online bank space despite being around for such a short period of time.

Their CD rates are competitive too, if my memory services me right (as of May 11, 2010):

  • 12-Month: 1.55% APY
  • 36-Month: 2.40% APY
  • 60-Month: 3.00% APY


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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)


 NEWS 
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SmartyPig Raises Interest Rate, Adds Tiers

Piggy BankIf you have a savings account at SmartyPig, you’ll be happy to learn that in a month they’ll be increasing the interest rate on those accounts. It’s a variable interest rate with two tiers that applies to your aggregate goal totals. If your balance is less than $50,000 then the rate will increase from 2.00% APY to 2.15% APY. If your balance is over $50,000, you will earn 0.50% APY. If you aren’t familiar with SmartyPig, here is my SmartyPig review.

Update: Originally I erroneously wrote that there were interest rate tiers, there are not. If your balance is under $50,000 you earn 2.15% APY on everything. If your balance is over, you earn 0.50% APY on everything.

In banking terms:
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