Score one for consumers in the play by play of consumers vs. banks. Bank of America decided yesterday that it will nix its plan to charge consumers a $5 monthly debit card fee. Bank of America's co-Chief Operating Officer David Darnell said the decision was based on customer feedback. "Our customers' voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so," he said.
Bank of America now joins cooler heads at banks such as JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Twin Cities-based US Bank as holding the line on monthly debit card fees.
Many credit the consumer empowerment to social media, including branding consultant and author of "Brandwashed" Martin Lindstrom, who said, "For the first time ever, the volume of response is now visible because of social media."
But consumers should know that banks aren't going to quietly forget about going back to the lucrative fee trough. Banks will find other fees to add on to unsuspecting consumers. A colleague whose son has a checking account discovered that at TCF. The bank no longer charges $35 per overdraft. Now when a checking account is in arrears for more than $5, the account holder is charged $28 per day for up to 14 days until the balance is restored to zero or more.
If you or a someone you care about is a bit sloppy about money management, ask about fees when opening an account. To be fair, many of the fees that banks foist on us can be avoided once we know the consequences.
Meanwhile, if you're considering a switch, check out credit unions or smaller banks near work or home. They're less likely to charge fees than the big banks.
Who's found a bank or credit union they like?
So who's more likely to rush in and sell gold when the price reaches new heights, Minnesotans or Californians? Minnesotans are more likely to respond rather than react, said Joe Beasy, one of the Gold Guys. In other words, gold at nearly $1,800 an ounce doesn't have us waiting patiently at the gold buyer's door before the store opens.
But business is up about 25 to 30 percent at the Gold Guys in Minnesota, said Beasy. And recent weeks have seen stairstep increases, he said.
"Minnesotans aren't panic buyers or sellers," said Paul Runze, owner of Grove Coin in Woodbury. "But some of them are greedy." When Minnesotans see that gold hit a high of $1760 they wonder if it will be $1,800 tomorrow, he said.
Gold's price remains below its 1980 record after adjusting for inflation. Gold began the year at $1,421.40. It has climbed steadily as worries rose about high debt levels in both Europe and the United States. It went above $1,500 per ounce in late May.
People bringing in gold jewelry today are generally women with orphan earrings and pieces from two, three or four years ago that they're tired of, said Runze.
The gold rush has passed somewhat, say some gold buyers. Silver is king now that sellers have discovered its value. A class ring might bring $200 today but a sterling silver teaset or flatware set can bring thousands. "We're seeing a lot more sterling sellers, " said Andy Strauss of Avi's Pawn & jewelry in Richfield.
For Twin Citians who could use a little cash from silver or gold, try Enviro-Chem in Rogers first. In a phone survey for 14K gold Monday, Enviro-Chem was paying $41.97 per pennyweight or $26.99 per gram. I have yet to find a local dealer to top that with one caveat. Gold coins are a different matter. You can usually get the highest price from coin collectors.
Anyone out there who can beat Enviro-Chem's prices?
TCF Bank is offering $100 in free cash to those who open a checking account by June 30 and meet a few minimum requirements. If you're looking for a hassle-free $100 gift, this offer is not for you. If you could use an extra $100, here's what you'll have to do.
I've had my TCF account for a month now, It took about 30 minutes to get the account opened, but I had a newspaper to read while the clerk typed in my information. You can probably do it faster by opening the account online.
What hoops do you need to jump through for $100? You need to use your debit card 10 times within 60 days of opening the account or write 10 checks or a combination of the two.
There's more. To avoid a monthly service fee of $5 to $15, you have to have $500 or more in monthly deposits, or 10 qualifying withdrawals, or a minimum combined balances of $2,500. You also have to pay for checks if you need them. Some accounts, such as Premier Checking accounts, offer the first set of checks free, but you still have to pay $7 in shipping costs. With the account I opened I was unable to refuse the checks and save the fee.
Now that I have made 10 debit card transactions I should be getting two $50 deposits within a few days. I don't know why TCF makes two $50 deposits instead of a single $100 deposit, but I was told by a teller that's how it works.
Will I keep my account open after I get the $100? I doubt it. TCF doesn't make you keep the account for a minimum time period to keep the $100. I don't like having to jump through the hoops every month to avoid a service fee. I could make it easier on myself by resolving to keep at least $2,500 in the account, but it wouldn't earn any interest. (At another bank that $2,500 could be earning a mind-blowing 0.25 percent interest!)
While I know my behavior isn't cheap enough to get me an honorary appearance on TLC's Extreme Couponing, some of you probably think it's too much work for $100.
If anyone else wants to get the $100, rest easy that opening and then possibly closing a checking account won't adversely affect your credit score, according to Gerri Detweiler at Ultimate Credit Solutions. "Checking accounts don't appear on credit reports unless you default on a line of credit or write bad checks," she said.
What do you think? Is the $100 worth it or too much trouble? Anyone want to share what you've done to get freebies?
If you've been hoarding grocery sacks full of your bank statements, credit card statements and other personal info until you have time to fire up the shredder, wait no longer. M& I Banks in five suburban location will have a Shred-It truck in the parking lot from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 21. Each family is limited to two bags or boxes. The paper will be shredded while you wait, so there's no concern about identity thieves lurking nearby to steal your personal info as you drive off.
• Woodbury: 9935 Hudson Place • 651-702-7320
• Bloomington: 9320 Ensign Ave S • 952-698-5560
• Burnsville: 14201 Grand Ave S • 952-898-8021
• Plymouth: 3245 Vicksburg Ln N • 763-383-9830
• Roseville: 1780 Hwy 36 • 651-288-6300.
Part of me wants to just show up to watch the shredding. It makes me feel as if I'm 8 years old again, watching the city pulverize tree branches in their mulching trucks.
Seventy-two students on 12 teams from outstate Minnesota competed Tuesday in the state competition of LifeSmarts, a national high school program that helps students learn about financial, computer and health literacy. Two teams from Le Sueur-Henderson competed in the state finals in St. Paul.
For students, the program emphacizes practical application. Jackie Klimek, a senior at Le Sueur-Henderson, said that being in the LifeSmarts program taught her that consumers have more rights than she originally thought. Senior Erin Kelso decided to drive 55 more often after she learned how much gas it saves. Elizabeth Tressler liked learning the disadvantages and advantages of leasing vs. buying a car. AJ Smith is already trying to save on his taxes. "I found out what I can and can't deduct," said the employed junior.
Operated by the nonprofit National Consumers League, LifeSmarts is run in Minnesota by the Better Business Bureau. The program supplements existing curriculum in high schools and is used in classrooms or as a free extracurricular activity for grades nine through 12.
Such programs are more necessary these days than ever. According to a nationwide survey released by the Federal Reserve, high school seniors, on average, answered correctly only 48.3 percent of questions about personal finance and economics.
Young people don't understand how their financial behavior affects their financial future, said Nathan Dungan of Share Save Spend financial education company. Few students know that credit scores can affect their ability to get a job; even fewer know what a credit score is. He advocates changing state policy to mandate financial literacy.
Le Sueur-Henderson competed against a team from Willow River in the semi-finals. Both schools have been frequent winners in the Minnesota competition. LSH teams have won state in 2000, 2002 and 2003 and a national championship in 2002, said coach Cathy Schluter.
Willow River won in 2001, 2009 and 2010.
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