How to avoid overdraft fees?
Young debit card users pay $1 billion in
Young adults aged 18 to 24 rely on debit cards to pay for
everything from coffee and snacks to school supplies.
And millions are getting slammed with hefty overdraft fees.
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, young adults
pay almost $1 billion in overdraft fees each year.
One billion dollars is a heck of a lot of fees. How can this be
First of all, an overdraft fee can be as much as $35. So if you
overdraw your checking account by even a few pennies, you
could be zapped with a $35 fee.
Plus, young adults like to use debit cards to make small
purchases, often $5 or $10 and sometimes even less. In fact,
seven out of ten young adults say they would use a debit cards
for a purchase of $2 or less.
And if you make several small purchases when your account is
the least bit overdrawn, you could wind up paying multiple
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say your bank charges a $35
overdraft fee. You overdraw your checking account by $20, by
making five small debit card transactions over a couple of
days. Your bank would charge you five separate $35 overdraft
fees for a total of $175 in fees.
One college student learned this lesson the hard way. He spent
$17 on his debit card on coffee and other small purchases over
a four-day period while studying for exams. With those seven
small purchases, he had overdrawn his checking account by
$13. His bank charged him seven $35 overdraft fees for a total
of $245 in fees.
With penalties this high for mismanaging a checking account,
it’s never been more essential to keep close tabs on your
checking account balance. Protect yourself from hefty
overdraft fees by following these tips:
Keep your check register up-to-date. Record all checks when
you write them and every single ATM and debit card
transaction as you make them. Adopting this one habit can
make a huge difference in your financial life. It’s really easy to
overspend when you don’t know your balance. Keep track of all
your checking account transactions as you make them. At the
very least, record your daily transactions at the end of each
Keep track of fees. Don’t forget about fees. Do you pay a
monthly fee with your checking account? Did you withdraw
cash from a different bank’s ATM? If so, be sure to make note
of any fees charged by your bank in your check register.
Several $2 and $2.50 fees per month can really add up.
Review your account statement every month. If you have any
questions or find an error in your checking account statement,
be sure to contact your bank. Between statements, check your
balance online, at the ATM, or by calling or visiting your bank.
If you have any doubts about your true account balance, hold
off on any big purchases until you’re able to balance your
Stash some cash. Protect yourself from overdraft fees by
adding a small cash cushion to your account. Put a small
amount of money into your checking account and keep it there
from month to month, say $100 or any amount you feel
comfortable with. Even $50 will do.
Ease up on using debit cards for small purchases. While using
your debit card to pay for small purchases is certainly
convenient, it can make balancing your checkbook a real
headache. The reason? Signature-based debit card
transactions aren’t deducted from your checking account for
two or three days, so you’ll have a whole lot of “pending”
transactions to consider whenever you check your balance.
When it comes to small purchases, pay with cash whenever
Sign up for online alerts. When your checking account
balance dips below a certain limit, say $40 or $50, you’ll
receive an email from your bank or credit union. And you’ll
know it’s time to add more cash to your account pronto.
Use automatic payments. Setting up automatic payments from
your checking account for utilities, loans, and credit card bills
is a great way to go. That way you’ll have fewer checks to write
each month and fewer checks clearing from your account.
With automatic payments, you can specify the exact date that
the money leaves your account. Be sure to make note of all
automatic payments in your check register.
Steer clear of “bounce coverage” and “courtesy overdraft
protection.” Many banks and credit unions enroll customers
into courtesy overdraft programs when they open their
checking accounts. But there is nothing polite about the fees
associated with these programs. Customers are charged $20 to
$35 per overdraft. And some banks charge a fee of $2 to $5 per
day until the account regains a positive balance. Not sure if
your bank did you the courtesy of enrolling you in a super-
expensive protection program? Check the fine print of your
account agreement or call your bank and ask. If you are
enrolled, ask to opt-out of the program. Be sure to follow up in
Sign up for true overdraft protection. Rather than accept a
pricey courtesy overdraft protection program, sign up for the
real deal – an overdraft protection program linked to a savings
account, line of credit, or credit card. You’ll pay an annual fee
for this service and a small fee for each overdraft but you’ll be
guaranteed protection if you should overdraw your account.
“Bounce coverage” and “courtesy overdraft protection”
programs are operated at the bank’s discretion. So there’s no
guarantee that every overdraft will be covered and you could
wind up bouncing a check.
Avoid using debit cards to buy gas, check into a hotel, or rent a
car. These merchants place holds or blocks on your checking
account when you pay by debit card, often the full amount of
the bill plus twenty percent or more. While no money actually
leaves your checking account, a block does affect your
available balance for a day or two. Just one $50 block from a
gas station could be enough to overdraw your account.
Contact your bank as soon as you slip up. Everyone makes
mistakes. If you overdraw your account, deposit enough money
into your account to cover the overdraft and any fees charged
by your bank as soon as you possibly can. If it’s your first slip-up,
call your bank and ask that they waive the overdraft fee.
10 Ways to Avoid Overdraft and Bounced
Not that long ago, the amount of money in your
checking account was a true limit. Any transaction that
would push you beyond your balance would be rejected
by your bank.
If you didn’t have enough cash in your account for an
ATM withdrawal or debit card purchase, your bank would
decline the transaction.
If you wrote a check that exceeded the dollar amount in
your checking account, the check would bounce and
you’d be hit with a hefty fee.
And while non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees still exist, more
and more banks are charging overspending customers
with overdraft fees instead.
With overdraft fees, your bank will let you make an ATM
withdrawal, debit card purchase, or write a check for
more cash than is in your checking account. However,
you’ll pay for this privilege — as much as $35 per
overdraft. Some banks charge a fee of $2 to $5 per day
until your account regains a positive balance.
Overdraft fees bring in big, big profits for banks. How
big? The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that
Americans now pay $17.5 billion per year in overdraft
To guard yourself against these fees, consider these tips:
1. Keep your check register up-to-date. Record all
checks when you write them. Also record all ATM/debit
card transactions. Don’t forget about fees. Do you pay a
monthly fee with your checking account? Did you
withdraw some cash from another’s bank ATM? If so, be
sure to make note of any fees charged by your bank.
Several $2 and $2.50 fees per month can really add up.
2. Use automatic payments. Setting up automatic
payments from your checking account for utilities, loans,
and insurance bills is a great way to go. That way you’ll
have fewer checks to write each month and fewer checks
clearing from your account. With automatic payments,
you can specify the exact date that the money leaves
your account. Be sure to make note of all automatic
payments in your check register.
3. Review your account statement every month. Be sure
to contact your bank if you have any questions or find an
error in your checking account statement. Between
statements, check your balance online, at the ATM, or
by calling or visiting your bank. If you have any doubts
about your true account balance, hold off on any big
purchases until you’re able to balance your checkbook.
4. Stash some cash. Overdrawing your checking account
by even a few pennies can trigger some hefty fees.
Protect yourself by adding a small cash cushion to your
account. Put a small amount of money into your
checking account and keep it there from month to
month, say $100 or any amount you feel comfortable
with. Even $50 will do.
5. Sign up for online alerts. If you sign up for online
alerts with your bank or credit union, you’ll receive an
email when your checking account balance dips below
a certain limit, say $50 or $100. This way, you’ll know it’s
time to add more cash to your account pronto.
6. Steer clear of "bounce coverage" and "courtesy
overdraft protection." Many banks and credit unions
enroll customers into courtesy overdraft programs when
they open their checking accounts. But there is nothing
polite about the fees associated with these programs.
Customers are charged $20 to $35 per overdraft. And
some banks charge a fee of $2 to $5 per day until the
account regains a positive balance. Not sure if your bank
did you the 'courtesy' of enrolling you in a super-
expensive protection program? Check the fine print of
your account agreement or call your bank and ask. If you
are enrolled, ask to opt-out of the program. Be sure to
follow up in writing.
7. Sign up for true overdraft protection. Rather than
accept a pricey courtesy overdraft protection program,
sign up for the real deal — an overdraft protection
program linked to a savings account, line of credit, or
credit card. You might pay an annual fee for this service
and a small fee for each overdraft, but you’ll be
guaranteed protection if you overdraw your account.
"Bounce coverage" and "courtesy overdraft protection"
programs are operated at the bank's discretion. So
there's no guarantee that every overdraft will be covered
and you could still wind up bouncing a check. Be sure
to read the fine print when signing up for one of these
8. Avoid using debit cards to buy gas, check into a hotel,
or rent a car. These merchants place holds or blocks on
your checking account when you pay by debit card,
often the full amount of the bill and twenty percent or
more. While no money actually leaves your checking
account, a block does affect your available balance for
a day or two. Just one $50 block from a gas station could
be enough to overdraw your account.
9. Avoid using debit cards for small purchases. When
you are making a small purchase, pay with cash. Using
debit cards for small purchases can make balancing
your checkbook a real headache, especially if you make
several signature-based debit card transactions a month.
The reason? Signature-based debit card transactions
won’t be deducted from your checking account for two
or three days, so you’ll have a whole lot of "pending"
transactions to consider whenever you check your
10. Contact your bank as soon as you slip up. Everyone
makes mistakes. If you overdraw your account, deposit
enough money into your account to cover the overdraft
and any fees charged by your bank as soon as you can.
If it's your first slip-up, call your bank and request that
they waive the overdraft fee.
Bounced checks can be embarrassing and expensive.
But if you follow these ten tips, hopefully you won’t have
to face them anytime soon.
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Ten Resolutions to Make Your Financial Life Easier
Common Financial Reports | Company Activities & Management
Another year gone by, and where did it go? If yours was anything like mine, it went far too fast. Now we have a new one right around the
corner. In the interest of saving time, while attending to those pesky financial chores that must be done, here are some tips for making your
financial life simpler (and richer) next year. Resolve to:
1. Pay bills at warp speed. About ten seconds is what it took me to pay a bill online that would have taken me at least a few minutes if I had
to dig out my checkbook, write a check, slap on a stamp, and take it to a postbox. You can pay bills online. The research shows it’s likely
safer than paying offline, as long as you keep your computer free of spyware and viruses.
Setting up automatic withdrawals each month is even faster, since you don’t even have to log on for a bill to be paid. But be careful: I once
had to fight to reverse an $851 withdrawal for an erroneous phone bill. I like to schedule automatic withdrawals only for bills with a fixed
payment each month. For the rest of my bills, I go online to authorize before I allow any money to come out of my account.
2. Keep two credit cards, and freeze the rest. You might not be able to tile your pool with your plastic like Martha Stewart did in her
television commercial a few years ago, but if you are a “typical” American, you own a wallet full of plastic. Two major credit cards should
be all your need. Use more, and you might miss a due date and get hit with a painfully expensive late fee. Using one credit card with a low
interest rate for purchases you won’t pay off in full, and one with no fee (plus rewards) for those you will should be enough.
3. Create a system. Whether it’s an online financial organizer like Mvelopes, Quicken, or Microsoft Money, or just something as simple as a
filing drawer and notebook designated for your finances, find a place to organize your paperwork… and start doing it! You’ll save a bunch of
time when you don’t have to dig through stacks of papers to find that receipt or cancelled check. Tax time will be a lot easier as well.
4. Start saving. If you haven’t had the time or energy to start a savings account, pick a method – any method -- and get started. Sign up to
have a small amount transferred from your checking account to a savings or money market account each month; start spending only paper
money and save your coins each day in a jar until you have enough to deposit in the bank; get a piggybank; or get a credit card that helps
you save. It’s one resolution you definitely won’t regret.
5. Stop doing it all. The most successful people in business find good people to work for them, then delegate the things that are not the best
use of their time or skills. They check in to make sure things are running smoothly, but they focus their energy on more important tasks. The
same goes for your financial life. Your team can include a great accountant, insurance broker, and financial planner. Help them understand
where you want to go, then let their expertise help you get there.
6. Sweat the big stuff. You have put it off long enough. It’s time to get your will, living will and/or estate plan set up. Update beneficiaries if
you haven’t done so recently. Then make a list of all your accounts and passwords in case something should happen to you . Be sure you
have enough life insurance to protect your loved ones. Hopefully you will have a good, healthy year. But if things don’t go as planned, you
want those important items checked off your to-do list.
7. Go ahead, change your mind. Psychologists have been tackling the secrets of happiness , and guess what? After a certain point, it’s not
about money. (And that point is usually around $50,000 a year, not a million). If you’re tired of worrying about money, then resolve that
above all, you’ll be happy, regardless of your bank account balance. After all, what is life about, anyway? Fortunately, there are great tools
now to help you change your mind. Anything by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., can help, and I also love The Prosperity Game , a free online game
where you get to spend virtual checks on anything you want (with no bill due, ever!).
8. Save a few trees. Call 1-888-OPT-OUT and get your name taken off the mailing list for pre-approved credit offers. Then cut out more junk
mail with tips from Good Advice Press . Like getting a good spam filter for your email, you’ll feel better when you walk to the mailbox and
don’t face a mountain of unwanted ads.
9. Buy less. Stay away from the mall, turn off the TV, and if possible, get your kids to do the same. You’ll find a lot fewer temptations calling
your name. Your bank account will be healthier, your home less cluttered, and you will free up time for the things you really enjoy.
10. Take it one step at a time. My favorite self-help book of the year, One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. advises
you to stop trying to make major changes and start with simple ones. Anything you can do in one minute or one action is ideal. So as you go
through this list, don’t get overwhelmed. For example, if the thought of spending an afternoon setting up online bill payments gives you a
headache, don’t take it one step at a time. Resolve to just set up one account online. Instead of agonizing over making our your will, make
your first step only to ask three friends for referrals to an attorney who can help.
Keep it simple. Enjoy yourself, and take things easy. Those are resolutions most of us can stick with.
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Counterfeit Combat: Defense Is in the Details
In order to stay ahead of counterfeiting, the United States government redesigns paper money on a fairly
Most notable among recent design changes are the addition of colors to the bills. But there's a lot more to
the redesigns than meets the eye. Literally.
Using a super-macro lens, we get up close and personal with the latest U.S. currency designs, showing in
full detail some of the features you may not be aware of. And why only the very best counterfeiters in the
world can pull off a bill so good that only experts can spot it as a fake.
The portrait on a genuine U.S. note appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background.
Counterfeit portraits are usually lifeless and flat, and details merge into the background, which is often too
dark or mottled.
Pictured: $50 bill featuring President Ulysses S. Grant
Fine-Line Printing and Microprinting
Very fine lines have been added behind the portrait on the front of new series bills and on the reverse side
scene to make it harder to reproduce. Note the words "U.S.A FIFTY U.S.A 50" on the $50 bill pictured.
Microprinting also can be found around the portrait. The words "The United States of America" are printed
on Grant's collar on the $50 bill. (Note the words are only somewhat legible in slide 1 and look almost like a
single line to the naked eye on a non-magnified bill.)
Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals
On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and
sharp. Counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points.
Pictured: $100 bill
Borders, Part 1
The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer
margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
Borders, Part 2
The borders also contain microprinted words barely visible to the naked eye. These words are difficult to
duplicate and are rarely seen in counterfeit bills.
Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often, counterfeiters try to
simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however,
that on the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper.
It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.
Pictured: $5 bill
If you hold the new series bills (except the $5 note) and tilt them back and forth, you can watch the color of the
numeral in the lower right-hand corner of the bills shift from green to black and back to green.
Counterfeit bills will often incorporate special inks that appear shiny and somewhat metalic, but whose
colors do not shift.
Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the
same ink color as the Treasury Seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink
from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.
On more recent issues, the serial numbers are actually embossed onto the paper making the numbers easy
to feel on authentic bills.
By holding a new series bill up to a light, the watermark becomes visible in an unprinted space to the right of
the portrait. The watermark can be seen from both sides of the bill since it is not printed on the bill but is
embedded in the paper.
Counterfeit bills sometimes attempt to duplicate this watermark, but they rarely look like the portrait they are
supposed to represent. And counterfeits that use bleached, smaller denominations as the basis of the note
will show a watermark that does not match the portrait. For example, if a $5 bill was bleached and reprinted
to look like a $100 bill, the note will have Benjamin Franklin's portrait, but the watermark will clearly show
Abraham Lincoln's face.
Pictured: $10 bill
Like the watermark, the security thread can also be seen by holding the bill up to a light. This thin embedded
strip runs from top to bottom on the face of a banknote.
In the $10 and $50 bills, the security strip is located to the right of the portrait, and in the $5, $20, and $100, it
is located just to the left of the portrait.
Microprinting is used to write U.S.A 50 on the $50 bill pictured. Each denomination has its value printed
While some high-quality counterfeits might have a well-faked security thread, there's still a simple way to
spot whether the bill is genuine. If an authentic bill is held up to an ultraviolet light, the security thread glows.
The $5 bill glows blue, the $10 bill glows orange, the $20 bill glows green, the $50 bill glows yellow, and the
$100 bill glows red.
In spite of all of these security advances, Secret Service agents say the best way for the general layperson to
tell if a bill is real is to feel it. Compare the feel and texture of the paper of a suspect bill with other bills that
you know are authentic.
Anti-Counterfeiting Around the World
In the United States alone, there's an estimated $70 million in fake currency floating around. Fortunately,
as the technology counterfeiters use improves, so does that of authentic bills.
All across the globe, experts are devising high-tech methods to combat counterfeiters. Color-changing
ink, special polymers and holographs are just some of the innovative technologies ----
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10 Surprising Money Facts
We use money every day, unfurling folded bills and digging for change. But beyond the occasional glance at a new quarter, how much do you
really know about money?
1.Do you know which city has its own currency? Do you know how much a $2 bill is worth? And what does the Secret Service have to do
2.Why Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson – most of our paper currency features U.S. presidents. There are only two
exceptions: Alexander Hamilton is on the $10 bill and Benjamin Franklin is on the $100.
You can understand the choice of Hamilton, he was the first Secretary of the Treasury. But why was Franklin, a newspaper editor and
inventor of the lightning rod, chosen for the $100 bill?
Several reasons, actually. First, he is one of America’s Founding Fathers and his signature is on the Declaration of Independence. One of his
core values was that hard work was the way to true wealth, a notion that would become the foundation of the American Dream. To top it all
off, he used his printing skills to help print the first US currency.
3.Why there is a pyramid on the back of the $1 bill
George Washington, the seal of the U.S. Treasury an eagle – all of these things represent America and what it stands for, so it makes sense
that they’re all on the $1 bill.
But why is there an Egyptian pyramid on the back of the $1 bill?
It’s actually part of the official seal of the U.S. – the eagle design is the front and the pyramid is the back. The pyramid is said to represent
strength and the thirteen steps represent the first 13 states. The fact that the top isn’t finished represents that there is still work to be done.
4.Some cities have their own local currency
Local currencies were popular during the Great Depression but in the past few decades, several U.S. cities have started their own local
currencies as a way to help small businesses and keep currency circulating in the local economy.
The recent trend is thought to have started in Ithaca, NY. In 1991, then-resident Paul Glover and a group of fellow residents created Ithaca
Hours. One Ithaca Hour is worth $10 and there are also smaller and larger denominations. It’s called an hour to remind people that currency
represents someone’s labor. Today, there are over $100,000 worth of Ithaca Hours in circulation.
Madison, Wis., Corvallis, Ore. and Traverse City, Mich., are among the other cities that have implemented local currencies.
5.How many times a bill can be folded before it wears out
When you reach in your wallet and wind up with a ragtag or torn bill, you always kind of hold your breath – exhaling only after you know the
cashier has accepted this on-its-last-leg money, knowing that it’s now someone else’s problem.
Well, eventually, that last leg arrives – and the money has to be taken out of circulation and replaced with new currency. A bill can be folded
forward and back 4,000 times before it reaches the end of its lifespan.
The Federal Reserve reports that the average lifespan of a $1 bill is about 22 months; for the $5 bill it’s two years; for the $10 bill it’s three
years; for the $20 bill it’s four years; and for the $50 and $100 bills it’s 9 years. Coins are more durable and can last for about 30 years
6.How money gets created – and killed
The Federal Reserve decides how much money needs to be printed each year and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does the actual
So how do they swap in the new money?
When the Fed gets a cash deposit from banks, it reviews all the currency using special currency processing and authentication machines.
Generally, those reviews result in the conclusion that one-third of the currency is unfit for future circulation. The currency that’s deemed
unfit is shredded and the bills are replaced with freshly-printed currency. The shredded bills are sent to landfills or packaged as souvenirs
sold during tours of the Federal Reserve Banks.
7.What the U.S. Secret Service has to do with money
The Secret Service, which is widely known for its role in protecting the president, was actually created as an organization to combat
That was back in 1865 when counterfeiting was rampant and an estimated one-third of the currency in circulation was thought to be
Today, about $250,000 of counterfeit money turns up every day.
Here are some tips from the Secret Service on how to spot a fake. Catch ‘em if you can!
8.Why some coins have ridges
Back in the day when coins were made of precious metals like silver or gold, some crafty thieves made quite a living off of selling shavings
off the edge of coins without being detected.
So, they started putting ridges or “reeds,” as they’re known, on the side. The dime has 118 reeds, the quarter has 119 and the half-dollar has
150, according to the U.S. Mint.
Reeds remain on coins today, even though the coins are no longer made of precious metals, because it helps the visually impaired identify
Before 1965, the quarter was made out of silver. Today, it’s made out of an alloy (a mix) which is more than 91 percent copper, and the rest
nickel. Speaking of the nickel — the penny and nickel never had reeds because they were never made of precious metals.
9.There is such a thing as a $10,000 bill
The $100 bill is the largest denomination being printed today.
There used to be $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 notes but they were discontinued in 1969 “due to lack of use,” according to the Federal
Reserve. The last printing of these bills was in 1945.
The bills featured William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, James Madison and Salmon P. Chase, respectively, all former U.S. presidents except
for Chase, who was Abraham Lincoln's Treasury Secretary.
Some of these bills are still out there and are legal tender, but good luck getting a cashier to make change for $10,000!
Most of them are in the hands of collectors anyway. But, just for fun, the next time you get to the register ask: Do you have change for a
10.How much a $2 bill is worth.
Two-dollar bills always feel like funny money but in fact, they are legal tender.
The $2 bill was introduced in 1862 but then discontinued in 1966, which may have added to the confusion. But it was reintroduced 10 years
later as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration.
Some people mark them “not a rare bill” to try to get people to spend them, and the gift shop at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson,
whose picture appears on the bill, gives them out as change to encourage their circulation.
There aren't that many: Less than 1 percent of all paper currency in circulation is $2 bills. But contrary to popular belief, they haven’t
appreciated in value — the two-dollar bill is still worth … two dollars
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