Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What have you done for me lately?

What have you done for me lately - Janet Jackson You ought to be thankful for the little things…

When I realized that, unlike some others I’d seen advertised recently, my bank (a local Credit Union) didn’t charge me a regular account keeping fee I was pretty happy (though, even as a user friendly Credit Union, they have some fees that they are more than happy to slap on you). ATMs were free as long as I used a Credit Union and there was no minimum balance.

…but little things are all you seem to give

However when I realized that the interest they offered (0% on my checking account and 0.10% on my so called Savings account) I wondered if perhaps it wasn’t such a good deal.

Looking around I discovered than banks like HSBC Advance, ING Direct or Capital One have online accounts that provide instant access and a much better rate of interest and no fees. Some of the accounts provide a debit card, some provide checks and all make it easy to pay bills or transfer money to and from your existing bank or 3rd parties.

The initial change we’re making is to open up a savings and an online payment account with HSBC. They are currently paying 1.10% interest on the savings and  0.85% on the payment account. My salary will go straight into the savings account so it’s earning interest from the moment it arrives and we’ll schedule transfers to the online payment account (transfers are free) to cover things like the mortgage and the car loan.

We’re keeping the credit union checking account for the time being but just with minimal balance in there to see if we actually need physical checks. As long as we plan right and transfer money in good time we won’t lose out and it will help with the transition.

While there are other good deals to be had HSBC seemed to have the right balance of features, a good interest rate, no account keeping fees and the added benefit that we’ve had good experience with them in the past overseas.


Have a look at the accounts you have at the moment:

  • Do they charge fees that impact you on  a regular basis?
  • Do they pay you interest, and if so how much?
  • Do you need all the “added features” they offer to justify any charges or low/no interest rates?
  • What features do you need (scheduled payments, ATM, physical checks)

Depending on the answers you might want to see if there are any downsides in moving your primary account to a better online experience. Shop around for good interest rates and keep an eye out for added icing on the cake such as sign-up bonuses or bonus interest on your initial deposit. Just don’t get suckered in by “free” piggybanks or non monetary rewards (unless you really, really need another $1.95 calculator!)

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