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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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    Last Updated on July 4, 2019

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

    Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

    1. Coursera

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      Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

      Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

      Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

      2. Khan Academy

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        Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

        Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

        3. Open Culture Online Courses

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          If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

          Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

          4. Udemy 

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            Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

            Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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            5. Academic Earth

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              Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

              Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

              6. edX

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                Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                7. Alison

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                  Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                  It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                  8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                    Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                    ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                    9. Stanford Online

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                      Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                      Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                      10. Harvard Extension

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                        Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                        Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                        11. Open Yale Courses

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                          Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                          12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                            Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                            13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                              Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                              14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                15. Codecademy

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                                  Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                  The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                  16. Code

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                                    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                    In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                    17. University of London Podcasts

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                                      The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                      18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                        Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                        The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                        19. BBC Podcasts

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                                          For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                          Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                          20. TED-Ed

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                                            Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                            Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                            21. LessonPaths

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                                              LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                              22. Memrise

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                                                Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                  The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                  National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                  24. Fun Brain

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                                                    Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                    25. Whyville

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                                                      Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                      Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

                                                      More About Online Learning

                                                      Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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