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.


 NEWS 
19
comments

Reordering Overdrafts to Cost Wells Fargo $203 Million

Wells FargoRemember a few years ago when banks started “reordering” debits from your checking account? They repeatedly said it was for your own good, putting the largest debits first and then dinging you an overdraft fee for every overdraft? Their explanation seemed reasonable. You’d much rather your mortgage payment go through than for the check to bounce, right?

Unfortunately, while it seemed like they were doing you a favor, they were really just padding their bottom lines because by processing the largest checks first, you were more likely to overdraft. If they processed them in the order they were received, it wouldn’t maximize the likelihood you overdrew your account. By processing the largest first, you maximize the probability a $5 debit charge is going to net the bank a $35 overdraft fee.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Credit 
17
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Happiest Credit Cards

Liz Pulliam Weston recently published an article summarizing and analyzing J.D. Power and Associates 2008 survey of credit card user happiness. They surveyed 8,000 users on five factors: interaction with the company, billing and payment processes, fees and rates, reward programs, and benefits and services.

I was a little surprised to see that the highest score was 783 out of 1,000 for American Express, with Discover taking second with 751. Everyone else surveyed scored less than the industry average of 724!

(Click to continue reading…)


 Credit 
27
comments

Lowest Foreign Transaction Fee

In a couple months, my wife and I will be taking an extended vacation to Europe. It’ll be a fantastic trip, one we’ve been looking forward to for months, and with the dollar strengthening and the economy across the world weak, we figured we could take advantage of lower prices to get some traveling done.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Reviews 
2
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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…)


 Credit 
49
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Foreign Currency Transaction Fees List

I just made a trip to China and one of the interesting things I learned before I left was that a credit card will often tack on a foreign currency transaction fee if you use your card abroad – this fee is tacked onto the cost of the purchase and is used to cover the foreign currency exchange, in theory. No matter what the reason, the fee still exists and it certainly would be helpful to know which card issuer charges the most and which charges the least right? So, check out the table below:

Card Issuer Fee
Capital One 0%
Discover 0%
Wachovia 1%
Washington Mutual 1%
American Express 2%
Bank of America 3%
Citibank 3%
JP Morgan Chase 3%
Wells Fargo 3%
US Bank 3%


Visa and Mastercard automatically charge the card issuer 1% for the foreign currency transaction itself so a lot of the Visa/Mastercard cards will pass that onto the end user (which is included in the number above). Capital One is the lone exception, eating the fee, and Discover and American Express obviously aren’t on that network so don’t have that extra overhead.

It looks like Capital One and Discover are the best for this though I’d argue that you likely want to get a Capital One card because Discover isn’t as widely accepted overseas. It’s the reason why I chose a Capital One card as the best international credit card on my trip to England.


 Banking, Credit 
21
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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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