NEWS 
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Durbin Amendment’s First Victims: Debit Reward Programs

The Durbin Amendment, which would limit debit interchange fees on debit cards to a mere 12 cents, is set to take effect soon but large banks are already cutting reward programs in anticipation of the amendment.

If you have a reward debit card from a large bank (over $10 billion in assets), then expect to see them kill your reward program. Wells Fargo is no longer offering the program to new customers as of March 27th for Wachovia customers and April 15th at Wells Fargo customers (existing customers will keep the program for now). JPMorgan Chase told its customers that the program will end on July 29th. SunTrust will end its program April 15th. (link)

Curious if you’re bank is a large one? This list from the National Information Center shows the top fifty bank holding companies and each one has over $10 billion in assets. What you won’t find on this list, usually, are those smaller regional banks that offer reward checking accounts, which need debit interchange fees to pay for the higher yields.

The writing is on the wall: If you like your debit reward cards, you’ll need to find a smaller bank.


 Bank Deals 
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SunTrust $150 Billpay Promotion Bonus

SunTrust LogoWith the economy recovering, banks are starting to roll out their new account promotions where you can earn a little bit of money to change banks. The offers are usually in the $100 – $200 range, and usually require a direct deposit and some bill payments before the bonus is paid. Banks recognize there’s tremendous competition in the marketplace, especially since they can’t compete just by offering a free checking account option.

This particular offer from SunTrust is special in that it has absolutely no direct deposit requirement whatsoever, it seems to be purely about bill payment. New customers can earn $150 over the next four months by making three bill payments a month while existing customers can earn $100 over the next three months by making three bill payments a month. Usually these offers require you to be a new customer and direct deposit your paycheck.

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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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 Banking, Credit 
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Banks Cash Fat Checks First

According to an article in USA Today, Citigroup, Bank of America, Chase, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, HSBC, U.S. Bank and SunTrust, eight of the ten largest largest banks in the united states, will cash checks that they receive on the same day in an order that maximizes overdraft possibilities. They will cash the largest checks first and the smallest checks last – this rule also applies for electronic transactions as well.

The banks defend their move by saying they want to give priority to the largest checks because they say that the larger checks are typically more important and you’d rather get a credit card payment bounced than a mortgage payment. Consumer advocates that banks are trying to screw the consumer because banks are relying on fees to make their money now that the spread is smaller. To be entirely honest, the order those checks are cashed shouldn’t matter – you should always have enough money in the bank to cover every check you write, otherwise you shouldn’t write them (whoops, typo, thanks Nick).

The articles goes on to explain the plight of Sean Tucker, 29, whose ego wrote checks (one of which was for $3.33) his body couldn’t cash to the tune of six overdraft fees and $200 out of his pocket. I’m sorry Sean… you need to be cognizant of how much money you have in the bank and you certainly shouldn’t be writing checks if you’re even close to being over, it’s simply not difficult to keep track of that stuff and if you’re simply careless, you deserve the fees so you’ll learn not to do it next time.

Personally, I prefer the checks cashed from the largest to the smallest because I’d rather have a $50 water bill bounce than my mortgage payment.


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