Banking 
24
comments

Free Checking Designed to Generate Fee Income

FeesNearly three years ago, I talked about how free checking isn’t really free because you are earning 0% interest on your money there. Today, as I’m reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis, I reached a passage in which Lewis shares an anecdote at a lunch where Herb Sandler, the CEO of Golden West Financial Corporation shared his thoughts on “free checking.”

Sandler said he didn’t believe in free checking because “it was really a tax on poor people – in the form of fines for overdrawing their checking accounts. And that banks that used it were really just banking on being able to rip off poor people even more than they could if they charged them for their checks.”
(Click to continue reading…)


 Reviews 
2
comments

Towers of Gold by Frances Dinkelspiel

Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Frances DinkelspielTowers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Frances Dinkelspiel is a biography of Isaias Hellman and, well, how he created California. :)

(Click to continue reading…)


 Your Take 
2
comments

Your Take: Applaud the FDIC on WaMu & Wachovia Deals?

WaMu SucksThe bailout bill and its failure to pass the House, coupled with the 777 point fall of the Dow at the beginning of the week, has really dominated the headlines recently so it’s not surprising that not many people have focused on this bit of news – the FDIC managed to broker the sale of Washington Mutual to JPMorgan Chase and parts of Wachovia to Wells Fargo (link) Citigroup and they didn’t bankrupt themselves (or go to the government for more money).

For weeks (if not months), people have talking about how the failure of Washington Mutual, the largest thrift with $307 billion in assets, and the failure of Wachovia, who had a loan portfolio of $312 billion, would bankrupt the FDIC. The FDIC isn’t entirely off the hook though, the FDIC is backing some of the downside loss on the bad debt, but as it stands right now they managed settle two big issues without much loss.

If you’re curious as to the details of both deals, here’s an article about JPMorgan Chase acquiring WaMu assets and here’s an article about Wells Fargo buying up Wachovia’s deposits and banking business. While it still remains to be seen whether everything involving these banks is OK, it definitely two headaches off the radar for now.

Do you think we should applaud the FDIC for dodging a huge bullet (at least for now)? Or did we just shuffle the deck chairs?

(Photo: Sërch)


 Banking 
7
comments

Wachovia Next To Fall?

Since the biggest of the titans, Washington Mutual, was acquired by JP Morgan Chase last week, the spotlight now moves to Wachovia Corporation, another bank that carries a lot of “toxic” debt on its balance sheet. Shares tanked over 35% on Friday after the market had a chance to react to the WaMu acquisition news. (though Citi might be buying them up)

So what was Wachovia’s greatest sin? It acquired Golden West Financial Corporation in 2006 for about $25 billion at the height of the housing boom. Guess waht Golden West specialized in? “Pick-A-Payment loans” where borrowers picked what kind of payment they wanted. As you can imagine, that’s not all prime 30-year fixed stuff on those books.

“The fundamentals at Wachovia right now are not real strong, there is no question about that,” said Joe Keetle, senior wealth manager at Dawson Wealth Management, who previously spent 25 years at Wachovia. “But the reaction today has more to do with WaMu going under and waiting for Congress to pass a bill. It’s more emotional reaction today.”

As I said with WaMu, don’t panic. If you have deposits there, make sure you’re under the $100,000 coverage limit because there’s no reason to be above the FDIC limits nowadays. If you’re under the limit, just conduct business as usual until you hear otherwise. If you’re really concerned and think that stuff might get complicated, open an account somewhere else, and transfer over some spending money. That way you can still get access to your money in the event there is a failure and there’s an extended delay before you can access to your funds.

Wachovia shares plunge as investors question fate [AP]


 Banking 
10
comments

50 Fun Facts About Banks

Nearly 1 year ago I wrote 50 Fun Facts about Credit Cards, a post that was very well received, so I figured why not follow that up one year later with another 50 fun facts post – this time talking about banks. I like reading about history so the first batch of facts revolve around the central bank, starting with the First Bank of the United States and ending with our current Federal Reserve system (you can see the progression!), then wash that meal down with some more entertaining facts like some other firsts, a few mind boggling statistics, and then some fun stuff like bank robberies and banking sponsorship information. It was fun (and educational) putting it together so I hope you enjoy reading the list. (much like last time, I added in a few bonus facts!)

(Click to continue reading…)


 Personal Finance 
0
comments

Stock Market Brokerage Phone Numbers and Contact Links

Need to absolutely reach your brokerage right now? Here’s a handy resources of all the brokerages I am aware of, their phone numbers, hours of operation, and a link to the brokerage’s contact page. On that page you’ll usually find a Fax number, overnight mail address, regular mail address, email addresses, and sometimes even an online chat. In many cases, there are multiple telephone numbers listed, I chose the one for existing brokerage clients (if that’s not what you need, just hit up the link and you’ll find the whole list).

Brokerage Phone Number Hours of Operation Contact
Charles Schwab 800-435-4000 24/7 link
E*Trade 800-ETRADE-1 7AM-Midnight ET link
Fidelity 800-544-6666 Unknown link
Firstrade 800-869-8800 8:30AM-9PM ET M-F link
Merrill Lynch 800-MERRILL 24/7 link
optionsXpress 888-280-8020 9AM-5:30 ET M-F link
Scottrade 800-619-SAVE Unknown link
Sharebuilder 800-747-2537 8AM-9PM ET M-F link
TDAmeritrade 800-669-3900 7AM-8PM ET M-F link
T. Rowe Price 800-225-7720 8AM-8PM ET M-F link
TradeKing 877-495-5464 8AM–6PM ET M-F link
UBS None Online only link
Vanguard 877-662-7447 24/7 link
Wachovia Securities 877-879-2495 8AM-8PM ET M-F link
WellsTrade 800-TRADERS 24/7 link
Zecco.com 909-657-6655 9AM-6PM (EST) M-F link


Did I miss your brokerage? Let me know and I’ll add their phone number.


 Banking, Credit 
21
comments

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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