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How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees


    The crash of 2008 was supposed to be a wakeup call to the dangers of negligent lending and irresponsible credit use. Yet, financial institutions continue to sell naïve customers on expensive credit products like overdraft protection.  Sold as an “essential” account add-on, Overdraft promises to protect clients for overdrawn funds on their account.

    In a recent article on Time.com, Martha C. White writes about the $30 billion in profits American banks have made from overdraft fees in 2011.

    “Once overdrawn, customers are subject to high interest rates and outlandish fees. For some customers the deficit is a permanent and damaging fixture in their account, setting themselves up for larger and more destructive financial issues..”

    Avoid the fees and exorbitant interest rates that accompany short-term credit products by being better prepared for account shortfalls.

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    Solid Financial Planning

    Financial institutions need to reorganize their priorities. Instead of focusing on credit products, banks need to emphasize sound financial planning and offer unbiased advice to their clients.

    Sadly, a simple inquiry at a bank can result in an undisclosed credit check, an offer for a pre-approved mortgage, and unsolicited preapproved credit card offers. Never agree to take on a financial obligation without taking the time to understand its impact on your financial and mental well-being.

    Protect yourself by developing a long-term relationship with a personal banker or financial advisor that is acting in your best interests, not the banks.

    Do you have overdraft protection?

    Remarkably, most customers are unaware that they have overdraft protection until they take a closer look at their account activity. For some, it can be years before they realize that they are paying for a service they never use.

    Remember, you are under no obligation to sign up for any service you do not want. This includes any products that the bank wants to bundle with an account opening or credit offer. Tied selling laws in Canada and the United States prohibit financial institutions from forcing you to buy an unrelated product in order to obtain another product.

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    Overdraft Protection

    The key to any budget is avoiding the small incidental costs that can accumulate over time and ruin your financial projections. This means that you have to avoid any additional services that are going to cost you fees or charge you interest.

    The first rule, is always keep your account in a positive balance.

    While easier said than done, examining your transaction history will allow you to see how, and where, you are spending your money. Sometimes, the reason for overdrawing your account can be as simple as bill payments not aligning with your paycheck. A quick solution is to call your bank and make sure your bills line up with your pay schedule.

    Other times, shortfalls in an account are the result of frivolous spending. After examining your account history, it will be apparent where you are spending your money. People are conscious of the large purchases and the essential bill payments, but smaller expenses seem so insignificant that you fail to consider them when examining your spending. Once you tally up the coffee and fast food purchases, you can see how they can push your account into the negative.

    Most importantly, be diligent in finding pre-authorized payments. Without checking, you may be paying for a long forgotten gym membership or a cancelled subscription to AOL’s dialup service.

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    Be alert

    No matter how diligent you are about money management, there is always going to be scenarios that are out of your control.

    Both financial institutions and financial software packages like Mint.com allow you to create alerts that will send you a text, phone, or email message when your account is low on funds.  Besides low fund alerts, you can also program some of these services to alert you to unauthorized debits from your account. Therefore, allowing you a chance to correct an error before a payment comes out.

    Going Old School

    Using cash is a great way to avoid account shortfalls. Based on the information you gleam from your transaction history create a cash budget for each week. This way you always know that a certain amount of money will be in the account to cover bill payments.

    Unless you are reviewing your transactions on a daily basis, you will find that you will unconsciously spend more with a debit card than you would with cash.

    Other strategies include avoiding preauthorized payments. By collecting all your bills and paying them one by one, you can gain a clearer picture of your financial health.  If you choose to go analog, be sure to be diligent about making your payments. Otherwise, a missed mortgage, insurance or vehicle loan payment can have devastating financial ramifications.

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    Emergency and Reserve Funds

    Instead of opening a single checking account, open a companion savings account. Dedicate yourself to putting away at least 20% of your paycheck into the new account. The account will allow you to limit your spending, and give you a financial cushion in case of a budgetary miscalculation or bank error.

    Make sure you have the ability to transfer money between the accounts at an ATM, or through online banking.  At any time, you can sure up a low or overdrawn account with the appropriate amount of money and avoid the need for costly Overdraft protection.

    In order to serve as a proper reserve or overdraft account, you need to maintain a months’ worth of mortgage, insurance, and loan payments.

    Conclusion

    In summary, good money management starts with taking responsibility for your spending and controlling what comes in and out of your checking account on a monthly basis. Once, you understand the problem, you can make adjustments to fix any issues and create a backup plan that protects your hard earned money and allows you to avoid any additional credit debt.

    (Photo credit: Fees in Wooden Letters via Shutterstock)

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    Published on July 4, 2018

    Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

    Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

    Don’t want to overspend your budget, swipe your credit card too many times, and feel like a financial mess? Instead of beating yourself up for the bad financial decisions you’ve ever made, create a new plan!

    The solution is simple, save more and spend less. But, we all know it’s easier said than done.

    One problem is finding quality apps that save you time and money, and aren’t just hype.

    Luckily, there’re many great money management apps available at your fingertips. Here are 10 reliable money management apps that can help you save money, and crush debt.

    1. Personal Capital

      When was the last time you’ve tracked your net worth? Probably months ago or maybe never. Personal Capital allows you to easily track your net worth and plan for retirement.

      Here are some of its main features:

      • Sync many investment accounts, and expenses (mortgage, credit cards, etc.) in one place
      • Discover hidden fees and how much they’re affecting your retirement plan
      • Wealth management for investors requiring a long-term strategy

      With Personal you’re free to track your expenses and net worth.

      Available for: iOS and Android

      2. Mint

        If your smartphone could only install a few apps, Mint would be one of them. Why? Because Mint tracks all your balances and bills in one place.

        Here are some of its main features:

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        • Effortlessly track all your bills and balances in one dashboard
        • Categorized expenses to understand where you spend your money
        • Uncover hidden fees, and determine your investment style with sophisticated retirement tools.

        Feel at ease with managing your money by a reputable company that isn’t going anywhere.

        Available for: iOS and Android

        3. YNAB

          Everyone needs a budget, there’s no way around it. YNAB (You Need A Budget) is an easy to use app that will change the way you think about money. Their motto is to “give every dollar a job”, and you’ll quickly discover why.

          Here are some of its main features:

          • Easily sync all bank accounts in one place
          • Visually see your debt paying progress with eye-catching charts and notifications
          • Customized categories setting saving goals

          The best part about YNAB is the community that comes along with it. You can hop on the YNAB forum to receive support, listen to the YNAB Podcast or stay tuned for their weekly videos.

          Available for: iOS and Android

          4. Wealthfront

            Albert Einstein once said “compound interest is the eight wonder in the world”, and for a very good reason. The problem is, most people are scared or unwilling to learn the basics of investing. This is why Wealthfront is the perfect solution for the hands-off investors.

            Here are some of its main features:

            • Variety of investment account options including IRA, Roth IRA, and more
            • Your portfolio composed of 7 different asset classes
            • Automatically rebalanced portfolio
            • Daily tax loss harvesting

            Wealthfront is perfect for people requiring investment guidance, or prefer a hands-off solution.

            Available for: iOS and Android

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            5. Clarity Money

              If you’re staying on top of your budget but want to take your finances to the next level, Clarity Money can help you. Clarity Money helps you stay under budget and build a personalized savings plan.

              Here are some of its main features:

              • Easily cancel subscriptions with one click
              • Synchronize bank accounts fast
              • Transfer money effortlessly between different accounts

              Clarity Money isn’t an app that does it all. But, it does make transferring money and canceling subscriptions fast and efficient.

              Available for: iOS and Android

              6. Acorns

                What if there was a way to quickly gain confidence in investing your money, without too much risk? There is, and Acorns is your solution. With Acorns’s technology, you’re able to make investments as small as $5.

                Here are some of its main features:

                • Automatic contribution option
                • Customized portfolio tailored to your needs
                • Low management fees ranging from $1-$2 per month

                Stop wasting dollars on expensive coffee. Instead, invest them towards a brighter financial future.

                Available for: iOS and Android

                7. Albert

                  Do you budget by only subtracting your expenses from your income? If so, how would you discover any overpayments or extra money you could save? This is where Albert shines, and it does it all free.

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                  Here are some of its main features:

                  • Receive notifications for overpayments, hidden fees, and low balances
                  • An Automatic budget that’s built around your spending and income
                  • Easily track debt and set new financial goals

                  While Albert does offer a paid option, most of its core features are FREE. So, what better option to save?

                  Available for: iOS

                  8. Prism

                    Have you recently forgot to pay a bill because life got in the way? Prism automatically tracks your bills and syncs your bank accounts in one place.

                    Here are some of its main features:

                    • View all your account balances in one glance
                    • Bill due dates are automatically pulled and tracked
                    • Receive early reminders for upcoming bills

                    If your budget is on “fleek” but can’t seem to stay on top of your bills, Prism is your go-to app.

                    Available for: iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon

                    9. Mvelopes

                      Remember hearing about people using envelopes to budget their money? Well, Mvelopes is the new envelope system for this generation. Easily create monthly budgets and track your saving goals.

                      Here are some of its main features:

                      • Connect unlimited bank accounts
                      • Real-time budgeting with auto transaction syncing
                      • Low monthly $4 fee or $40 annual

                      Mvelopes can help you crush debt, save more, and help you stop overspending. With its low monthly fee, it’s worth a try.

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                      Available for: iOS and Android

                      10. Wallaby

                        Most people don’t have time to track their credit card’s changing rewards and interest rates. Because of this, you need help reaping the most of your credit card’s rewards. Wallaby is the app that will help you do just that.

                        Here are some of its main features:

                        • Automatic recommendations for the best credit card to use for each transaction
                        • A friendly user interface, displaying credit cards with their corresponding images
                        • Free to use

                        If you’re using the same credit card to make your purchases, you may be leaving money on the table. Give Wallaby a try if you’re ready to maximize your credit card’s rewards.

                        Available for: iOS and Android

                        Take control of your finances and experience financial freedom

                        Picture yourself staying on budget and saving more money than you’d ever imagined.

                        It took hard work and dedication but you’d finally learned how to manage your money. You have to start taking control of your spending and saving habits.

                        You now have a list of reliable apps that can help you build better money habits, what are you waiting for?

                        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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