Personal Finance 

Your Take: Completely Useless in Financial Life

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Earlier this week I read about TD Bank’s new entirely flat debit cards on the Consumerist. TD Bank will be issuing debit cards that no longer feature embossed text (letters that stick out), the face of the card will be completely flat. The embossed text made sense when “swiping” a card referred to the machines that rubbed the numbers onto a piece of carbon paper. The last time that happened to me was when the power went out at some retailer, they used the carbon paper as a backup and it made the loudest of noises.

The embossed numbers on the card have very little value with only the rarest of exceptions. Like your appendix, it once had a purpose. Today, it doesn’t and it’s completely useless in financial life.

That made me wonder, what other things in our financial world are now completely irrelevant but we don’t even realize it yet? The first thing on my mind was the money market account. Money market accounts sit in that world between checking and savings account. With most MMA’s, you can write up to six checks from your MMA and still earn an interest rate that’s higher than a checking account. But usually it’s better to open an account at an online bank that offers both checking and savings accounts, transferring money from savings to checking as needed.

What other things in the financial world are completely unnecessary but we don’t even realize or recognize it yet?

{ 47 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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47 Responses to “Your Take: Completely Useless in Financial Life”

  1. Miranda says:

    I think we might be getting there with paper checks. Between online bill pay and debit, there is almost no need for checks.

    • I think it’s close, but not quite there… A lot of service people (plumbers, electricians, etc.) want to be paid as soon as they finish their work, and many do not accept credit cards.

      For me, the one thing that will be the turning point on checks’ usefulness will be when the church collection plate has a credit card swipe. 🙂

      • cubiclegeoff says:

        I’ve heard that some churches accept credit cards now (usually for consistent, pre-set up donations).

        • A friend of mine told me about her daughter’s experience in attempting to join a church which she subsequently did not join once she learned they wanted to know how much money was made in the household and would be setting up an automatic monthly deduction through their checking account. Uh yeah. Right.

    • nickel says:

      Do you have kids? We do, and there are still tons of instances where we need to write a check for field trips, activities, etc.

      • CK says:

        Person to person and person to group transfers are the only thing keeping checks afloat for non business transactions. Once they figure this out it’s all over.

    • cdiver says:

      IT will be a while still for Business 2 Business to stop using checks.

    • Jeremy Olexa says:

      I frequent at least one non-profit org that cannot afford to accept credit cards because of the percentage that they take out. One could say, offer a discount for cash, but that still means I want to pay by check. 🙂

    • Almost but not quite. We still use cheques to pay some bills, such as the rent, and it is also good for paying other bills or transferring money as the other options often have fees associated with them!

  2. PokerCat says:

    Easy. Paper statements mailed directly to your house. So much easier to get them online.

    • Shirley says:

      Consider this:
      We are senior citizens and I do our bill paying online, but my husband does not use a computer. If I were to stop receiving paper statements, and something happened to me, he would be lost.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do a lot of online bill payments and electronic statements. I only did it with Am Ex for a couple months because their online statements were difficult to read and understand. I was never sure how much I needed to mail in each month, where the statement cut off was, etc. I overpaid, underpaid, and missed a deadline. I have paper statements from them and usually mail a check to them.

      Paper billing will be gone one day but Am Ex isn’t ready for that yet.

  3. otipoby says:

    For me, it is the check register that comes with a box of checks to keep tabs of your balance. I do all my bank account management in Quicken and have no use for them.

    • Yeah, I don’t know why I still bother with writing down every check in that book. I like to see the actual balance before I write the next check, but really… I login to my account online so often, there is really no need. I may have to think about not doing that anymore.

      • Don’t stop. You’ll be sorry you did. I wish I hadn’t. Once you get out of the habit it’s hard to get back into it again. It is so much easier to grab the register and see what’s in the account than having to go online and make sure everything has hit the bank.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      I agree. I never really used this much and now I never bother.

  4. Bryce says:

    I wonder how many people, both consumers and shop owners, are going to think that that card is fake because it doesn’t have the embossed text that they’re used to?

    • Bob says:

      This happened with my mom. Someone gave her one of those American Express gift cards that are all flat, and she tried to use it at a restaurant and they almost called the cops on her!

    • Kirk says:

      In the UK the magnetic stripe has now become useless. I remember last year pulling out my MasterCard at a grocery (since they had the MasterCard logo on the door). They looked at me funny, and then tried to tap it. Then they said my card’s broken. Then they called a manager, who said, “Oh, it’s one of the old ones that they swipe. Sorry we don’t have that machine anymore. Do you have a card with a chip in it?”

      We had to go withdraw money from a post-office ATM, and then come back with pounds to buy what we wanted.

      • Wendy says:

        A credit card with a chip instead of a magnetic strip? That’s awesome. Europe is definitely ahead of the States in regards to technology.
        I hope they bring those cards here!

  5. cubiclegeoff says:

    I agree with the money market account. Now with rewards checking and online checking that pays a decent interest, plus the generally low rates on money market accounts now, they just aren’t worth it.

    Somewhat of a stretch, but toll collectors. There’s really no need for them anymore with the technology that exists, but we hold on to them.

    • cdiver says:

      electronic toll passes usually require a credit card or checking account. You would be surprised as to how many people have neither still.

    • michele says:

      I can’t tell you how many times I have been trapped in an EZPass Lane with a line of cars behind me and some idiot in front of me who did not have a transponder and had to wait for a human to come to the lane and process his toll. You still need humans no matter how automated we become.

  6. CK says:

    I think MMAs with a brokerage are still useful.

  7. Alex says:

    Jim, new biochemistry research shows that appendix may still very well be valuable. We can live without it just like humans can survive without some other body parts. So, you remark “Like your appendix, it once had a purpose” may be a little useless and outdated by this time 🙂

  8. Europe figured out to do away with checks TWENTY YEARS ago. They use wire-transfers that are free, safe, much faster than checks and real simple (drop off form at your bank, or do from a computer).

    US is still in the stone-age when it comes to consumer banking…

    If the bloody Europeans figured it out, why can’t we?

  9. jim says:

    I think money market accounts will be useful again as soon as interest rates go up a bit. They’re only useless right now since interest is so low. But that will change. Same goes for most interest bearing checking accounts. Last I checked mine was getting like 0.01% or something ridiculous.

  10. My asthma specialist just writes the number of the debit/credit card onto the carbon paper. I’ve had to get cards replaced more than once when I accidentally forgot and left my purse in the car and they melted down. As an aside, contrary to popular belief, the appendix is not useless because it preserves the “starter” culture [of bacteria needed for digestion] when diarrhea occurs. Search this page for the word appendix to learn more:

  11. Jon says:

    I have a different perspective on money market accounts.

    Since paper checks are rarely needed (I write maybe a dozen a year), I appreciate my MMA account that lets me write the paper (no minimum), gives me online images, and pays me .5 percent. Sure, all bank rates are lousy these days, but it’s nice to get *some* interest so that I don’t feel like micro-managing that account.

  12. Jeff says:

    i think checks may gain popularity again when banks start charging you to use your debit card and online banking. Thanks to financial reform we will be paying to make up for lost profit.

    • HuBu says:

      They would be shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to start charging for online banking and to use debit cards. They want you to use your debit card (signature) and as we see so far, many people that use their debit card without knowing whats in their accounts generate the most amount of overdraft fees.

  13. BG says:

    Two weeks ago at Macy the clerk used the mechanical machine that looks like a stapler to process my card. And the lights were on in the store.

  14. michele says:

    I ran the checkout line at a charity fundraiser at a venue that did not have a phone line that would work. We had to manually swipe every credit card. If we had to hand write information, it would be a pain. This new development is not something Im looking forward to.

  15. Marx_ says:

    I think the relevance of embossed credit or debt cards is still apparent for small businesses and individuals located in areas of the country where card machines are not cost effective or practical. Two examples include new touring bands constantly on the road who sell merchandise, but do not have a mobile credit card machine or artists who sell their crafts to tourists on boats or small town fairs.

    • TimY says:

      I find the carbon paper machines frequently used in hotels in developing countries.
      As a frequent traveler, receiving a credit card that is not embossed would be a bit of an annoyance.

  16. Kirk says:

    Another completely useless financial service that many people use: Check cashing services. It seems as though they exist primarily to exploit undocumented workers, under the table workers, people with criminal background etc…

    Though these agencies provide some additional useful value added services; bill payment, city stickers, etc. They really are intended to prey upon the vulnerable and those who want to stay off the ‘radar’ populations.

  17. poscogrubb says:

    One word: Pennies.

    But this blog won’t let me post a one-word comment.

  18. lostAnnfound says:

    Passbook savings accounts

  19. Here’s one: fiat currency.

    Within 15 years, the U.S. dollar will likely be about as relevant as Confederate or Continental dollars — instead, most of us will have debit cards linked to gold depository holdings. It sounds crazy now, but mark my words, it will happen.

    It would be a true global currency, not prone to the deflation and inflation of tinkering with a made-up paper, “faith-based” money system.

    Of course, it will also have an RFID chip so you can just conveniently tap and pay… which many debit cards already have (mine at Chase has that).

    In addition, our international trading partners would love such a system. Over time, politicians would grow to like it as well, after initial resistance.

    After all, a global currency based on gold would mean a more level playing field between export nations.

    • cdiver says:

      What’s easier for other countries to fake, gloabl currency accounts through hacking or multi million dollar printing processes. The crooks will always be one step behind, some cases one step ahead.

  20. Safeway_Sage says:

    FYI – The appendix does have a very important use. It is the repository of good bacteria for your digestive system. This has been written about extensively in Journals. You will now have to find another poor little organ to pick on! 😀

  21. OneNight says:

    Surprised. I went to a Best Western hotel this past week and they took a carbon impression of my credit card for the 1 night stay.

  22. plans says:

    I wouldn’t say that the current credit cards with embossed letters and numbers are useless just yet. I have been to a few places that were having trouble with their networks but the transactions still took place due to them being able to make copies of the card using carbon paper.

    Although I do agree with “poscogrubb” and “cdiver” that pennies and nickles are being used much less often and seem almost useless in today’s world.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I’m ready to stop answering the “credit” or “debit” question when I’ve swiped my credit card. That little magnetic strip contains a ton of information. Surely there’s a way to distinguish credit from debit cards. I only should have to answer that question if I’m using an actual debit, not solely credit, card.

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