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Yes, you read the headline right, there really is a bank with no fees. A couple of interesting stories crossed my desk this week. First, as part of her research, a university professor went to work as a teller at a check cashing service. Yep, one of those services that charges you to cash checks. Services like this are used primarily by the so called 'unbanked' population. These folks that don't have a banking relationship are typically viewed as being exploited. As a result, there have been many campaigns to try and 'help' these people by bringing them into the... Read more →

I don't know if you remember the old TV show The Equalizer. I absolutely loved this show. Edward Woodward was perfectly cast as the main character, Robert McCall. The Equalizer was a retired spy that used his background and special skills to help ordinary people get justice (when the authorities were of no help). By the way, if you missed it, the movie version starring Denzel Washington came out just a few weeks ago. The movie version was a bit more violent than the TV show (see trailer below). You have to love The Equalizer because he was ready, willing,... Read more →

Writer Philip Van Doorn over at Market Watch published an article recently wherein he declared that when the day comes that we find ourselves beset by another housing crisis, the only people to blame then will be the banking community. Van Doorn basically says that the largest lenders’ insistence on sticking with a policy of lending only to those people who have premium credit, the ability to withstand stringent underwriting, and the cash to make a significant down payment, will be the reason for that crisis; stunningly, he seems to lay the blame for the stagnation in the economic recovery... Read more →

From $12 To $900 In One Year, Why It's Not Too Late To Buy Bitcoin

I decided to take a serious look at Bitcoin for the first time in October of 2012. I was well aware of the digital currency, but did not think an article was warranted. It was, however, increasingly becoming the subject of questions we were receiving from readers. As part of my initial research into the digital currency, I purchased a modest $20 amount. This was primarily to go through the 'buying' process which can be a little involved, and was integral to my piece. At the time of my purchase, the cost of a single Bitcoin was only $12. My... Read more →

How Corporate America Tracks Your Medical and Banking History

The Medical Information Bureau and ChexSystems are two entities you have likely never heard of. These organizations are tracking your banking and medical history, and it is more important than ever that you gain access to your files. The Medical Information Bureau Think of the MIB as sort of a credit bureau for your medical history. The MIB also falls under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and this means that they have the same responsibility as a credit bureau for maintaining accurate information in your file. The MIB claims to only maintain a file on about 15 to 20 percent... Read more →

Making Sense Of The Bi-Weekly Mortgage

The concept has been around for decades and still comes up as a frequent question on our website and at workshops: Does it make sense to structure your mortgage payments through a bi-weekly payment program? For those unfamiliar with the concept, a bi-weekly mortgage plan requires a payment every two weeks of half the monthly amount. Since some months have five weeks, you will end up paying the equivalent of an extra full mortgage payment once per year. The math is solid and paying your mortgage this way will cut off seven years of payments! What Is Even Better Than... Read more →

How To Buy A Home After Foreclosure

Thousands of individuals are returning to the real estate market as home buyers after having lost a home to foreclosure in recent years. They are called 'boomerang buyers' and are one of the largest factors responsible for the recovery we are starting to see in home prices. In fact, we have started to receive so many questions on the topic of buying a home after foreclosure, I decided an article dedicated to the topic was in order. How long do I have to wait after foreclosure to get a mortgage again? Many are surprised to learn that in just two... Read more →

New Fee For Credit Card Users Begins Nationwide Rollout

As part of a settlement reached this past summer between merchants and Visa/MasterCard, consumers may now be charged more when paying with a credit card. The change went into effect this week and will only apply in cases where a credit card is used. Those using debit cards will not be affected. States That Still Prohibit Checkout Fees For Credit Card Users California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Texas How Much Will It Cost You? The amount that can be added to your bill can not be more than what the merchant is actually paying for... Read more →

Peer To Peer Lending - Providing New Options To Borrowers And Investors

Peer To Peer Lending (P2P) is a new and unique way for individuals to borrow money and for investors to earn superior returns to CD's, savings accounts, and government bonds. An individual seeking a loan fills out an application at a P2P lending site such as Lending Club, Prosper, or Peerform. If their credit is approved, the loan is then funded by a group of investors. Based on the credit profile of the borrower, the interest rate will then be determined. Investors can receive returns from 5 -13 percent. Although the concept has been around for at least six years,... Read more →

I have been writing for a couple of years about the large number of people who are ditching their bank account for simpler and lower cost options. In this week's article, I want to share a brand new option- Bluebird. Bluebird is a new account being offered through a joint venture between Wal-Mart and American Express. It is a debit card that provides a simple alternative to a bank checking account. From the Wal-Mart press release - “Our customers tell us that they’re tired of navigating a complex maze of dos and don’ts to avoid the ever growing list of... Read more →

A Bank Account You May Just Love

I have started to see a number of articles lately about so called SAFE accounts and why they are becoming so popular. What are they? A SAFE account is a simple bank account that provides an ATM/debit card and has no overdraft risk. The account is the product of an FDIC pilot program launched in 2011 to reach the 'unbanked' population. It is called 'SAFE' since its primary purpose is to provide the unbanked a safe place to keep their funds rather than taking the risk involved with operating on a cash only basis. These accounts also save consumers from... Read more →

So You Want To Close Your Bank Account? Well, Not So Fast...

The tactics that banks are using to truly scam people have reached new heights in recent years. I think for many people the new 'normal' in dealing with banks is to expect them to try to rip you off. I remember not too many years ago that most people had the default position of being trusting of their bank until such time as they had a good reason not to be. Although Bank of America has stepped back from their plan to institute a $5 monthly fee just for using a debit card, there is still plenty for consumers to... Read more →

Why Standard & Poors' Ratings Will Affect Us All

Even those that don’t follow the financial markets daily became fixated this week on the downgrade of the United States' credit rating by Standard & Poor’s. In this week’s article I wanted to answer the question, ‘Who is Standard & Poor’s' and also share with you some some additional forecasts made by this organization. Although not given headlines, these lesser reported forecasts will likely have an enormous impact on us all. Who Is Standard & Poor’s The company, started back in 1860, represents one of the three major financial ratings services (in addition to Moody’s and Fitch). Standard & Poor’s... Read more →

You get a letter in the mail stating that your mortgage has been sold. It looks official and has the address where you are to send all future payments. Having a mortgage sold or transferred is commonplace, especially in the current climate of large numbers of banks and mortgage companies merging or going out of business. Who would be at all surprised to receive a letter like this? You begin sending your payments to the new address and a few weeks later you are receiving collection letters and phone calls suggesting that you are behind on your mortgage. Of course... Read more →