Basic Financial Services

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1 Basic Financial Services There are a number of reasons why it is in your best interest to open an account at a bank, credit union, or savings and loan. These financial institutions will provide you with a secure place to keep your money and a lot of options and opportunities so that you can access it in the ways that make the most sense for you. In fact, there are as many reasons to use financial institutions as there are different products and services that these institutions offer. While the options available may seem intuitive to someone who has been using banks or credit unions for years, for someone who hasn t had an account recently, or ever, these options may be daunting. In the community, financial institutions serve several important roles: they protect the assets of individuals who deposit money with them, they provide loans to individuals, organizations, and businesses, and they help facilitate many day-to-day transactions. Section Overview Know Your Financial Institution Types of Financial Institutions Advantages of Using a Financial Institution Choosing a Financial Institution Choosing an Account Savings Account Basics Types of Saving Choosing a Savings Account Checking Account Basics Advantages and Disadvantages of a Checking Account Choosing a Checking account How to Maintain a Checking Account Avoid Overdraft Overdraft Protection ChexSystems Opening a Savings or Checking Account What Do You Need to Bring? Using an ATM Direct Deposit and Electronic Transfer Account Pre-Authorized Transactions Safely Using Online Features Loans Secured vs. unsecured Types of loans Supplemental Materials Do You Know Your Financial Service Fee Facts? 1

2 Know Your Financial Institution Types of Financial Institutions There are three main types of financial institutions: Banks Banks are organizations licensed by the government to provide services to customers while enriching investors. They are insured by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Credit Unions Credit unions are typically not-for-profit cooperative financial institutions that are owned and controlled by the member and are insured by National Credit Union Association (NCUA). Savings and Loan Associations (S&L) S&Ls are financial institutions that specialize in accepting savings deposits while making loans, such as mortgages. Even within the same categories, every financial institution will differ somewhat in policies, services offered, and products available. Advantages of Using a Financial Institution Convenient access to your money Provides Security: less risk of theft and deposits are insured Cost efficient: a bank account is generally less expensive than using other methods to obtain cash or make transactions Access to knowledgeable people who can assist you with financial needs Building block of credit Earn Interest Creating Records of your transactions Not banking costs me how much? How much does it cost to cash your paycheck? $ How many times do you get paid each month? X Subtotal 1 $ How much does a money order cost you? $ How many money orders do you get each month X Subtotal 2 $ Total (add subtotal 1 + subtotal 2) $ Use the total to compare with the cost of account option you are considering. *Keep in mind that the amount of money you have calculated does not include the time and transportation costs involved in paying bills in person or traveling to an institution to get money orders. Choosing a Financial Institution When choosing a financial institution, select based on: Convenience and proximity to your location or your daily/weekly routine Checking and Savings options Costs what fees are associated with an account? Customer Service 2

3 Choosing an Account Once you ve selected the bank, credit union, or Savings and Loan (S&L) that you want to work with, you can begin to look at the different products and services that your institution has to offer. You have many options in choosing your account. In fact, you may decide that you would like to have more than one account, each for a different purpose. You may choose a checking account to handle your bills and transactions and a savings account to establish an emergency fund or save for a goal. Once you have accumulated some money in a savings account, you may decide to transfer funds to an account that will earn a little more interest, such as a certificate of deposit, money market or an investment. Knowing what you want and need in an account will help you find the types of accounts best for you. Take time to talk with your personal banker or account representative to find the right combination of checking and savings options. Which accounts are right for you? Savings Electronic transfer account Certificate of deposit Money market account Checking account (there are many types, such as free or interest bearing) Funds Availability When you deposit a check in your account, that check will need to be processed. Therefore, you may not have access to all of your funds until that check clears. Each financial institution must disclose its funds availability policy or when you may access the funds you deposit by check. The government regulates funds availability. Each financial institution may differ. When is the money in your account available? Changes in processing time have been more equalized as result of Check 21 legislation. It depends on the type of check you deposit and your account history. Obtain and read the funds availability policy. Savings Account Basics When you save money, you protect your principal your original savings and you make some extra money through interest. On the other hand, when you invest money, you risk losing some of your money in exchange for the possibility of receiving more interest. Saving means putting money aside for future use. Financial institutions, like banks and credit unions, will offer you incentives to save your money with them because they will then be able to use that money to make loans to other customers. The primary incentive these institutions use to get you to leave your money with them is interest. The amount of interest you earn will vary from institution to institution. It will also depend on the type of savings account you have and how long you ve held your money in the account. 3

4 Types of saving Within each financial institution, there are many methods of saving available, so do some research to determine which account is best for you. The most common types of savings accounts are: Regular Savings Account Its primary purpose is to allow you to safely store & accumulate money. It is an excellent vehicle to accumulate money for those non-monthly expenses, emergencies or short term goals. Also called share accounts at some credit unions. Interest is paid monthly. The bank may require a minimum deposit. (This means the amount of money you put into the account each time.) There may be limits on the number of deposits and withdrawals you can make. Some banks charge fees. Certificates of Deposit (CDs) Your money must remain in the account for a fixed period of time, called the term. The more money you deposit, and the longer you keep it in the account, the more interest you ll earn. You ll have to pay a penalty if you withdraw your money before the term is completed. Rates of interest on CDs are typically higher than on regular savings accounts. Money Market Account Also called Negotiable Orders of Withdrawal (NOW), share-draft accounts, or interest-bearing checking accounts. Higher minimum balance typically required Withdrawals and check writing may be limited each month. Generally these accounts pay higher interest rates than regular savings accounts. Interest is calculated at the end of a fixed time period, for example, every month. Interest rate may change. U.S. Government Securities for more information on savings bonds, Treasury bills, and other securities, go to the government s website: CDs and government securities will offer the highest return on savings with the least amount of risk. Choosing a Savings Account A savings account is an important component of using your money wisely. Use the questions below to help choose an account that s right for you. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if the financial institution you ve found is the right one for you: How much will my savings earn? The interest rate is usually expressed as an annual rate, even if your interest is compounded or calculated monthly or quarterly. The terms annual percentage yield, rate of return, and APR all refer to this amount of interest earned on your savings account after one year. 4

5 How easy is it for me to access my money? Sometimes the number of withdrawals allowed every month is limited. Other accounts come with checks or debit cards to allow you access to your money. What s the minimum amount needed to open the account? Some accounts may require a minimum, such as $100, to open an account, while others may require $1,000 or more. Sometimes, savings accounts opened for children require a smaller amount of money to first open the account. Is there a minimum balance to keep the account open? After you first open your account, some accounts allow you to keep a lower balance. Other accounts lower your interest rate, stop paying interest, or even start charging a fee if your account balance falls below a certain amount. Does this account have a maturity date? Maturity refers to the ending date of your savings contract, for example, the date when a 12- month certificate of deposit stops earning interest. Other accounts, like a savings account, let you keep adding money to your account for as long as you want. Is the account liquid or long-term? Certain long-term accounts, like CD s, may have penalties, such as losing some interest payments, if you take money out too soon. Long-term accounts usually pay you a higher interest rate in exchange for limiting access to your money. Make sure you have enough liquid savings that is, savings you can withdraw anytime without a penalty to cover emergencies and big upcoming expenses. 5

6 You can use the worksheet below to help record some of these factors and compare multiple institutions. Name of Financial Institution : Type of Account: Annual Interest Rate: Is my money insured by the government? How much money do I need to open the account? How much do I need to keep in my account to avoid fees? Does this account have a maturity date? Can I withdraw my savings when I need it? How many withdrawals can I make each month? Does this account come with checks or an ATM card? Are there any other fees or penalties? Other questions: 6

7 Checking Account Basics Checking accounts, like savings accounts, are part of an individual s personal money management system. Some checking account users will exclusively use electronic transactions. Checking accounts are very similar to savings accounts. Both types of accounts keep your money safe, and both are very easy to access if you need cash. The difference, however, is that checking accounts are designed to be used regularly and frequently, while savings accounts are intended to be for long-term money management. For example, financial institutions expect their customers to be making regular withdrawals and deposits from a checking account. These withdrawals can be made in person or they can be made with an ATM card, debit card, or checkbook. Most savings accounts earn interest. Checking accounts may or may not; checking-with-interest does exist at some financial institutions. Advantages and Disadvantages of a Checking Account There are distinct advantages of opening a checking account, but there are also some disadvantages: Advantages: Disadvantages: Convenient money available Cost of over-drafting account can be costly Safer than carrying cash Greater responsibility for record keeping Proof of payment Minimum balance or fee requirements Easier budgeting Choosing a Checking Account A checking account can be a great way to make your transactions easier. Use the questions below to help choose an account that s right for you. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if the financial institution you ve found is the right one for you: What types of checking accounts are available? There are several types of checking accounts varying in names: Basic checking, Free checking, Express checking, No Frills checking, Interest bearing, Money Markets. These vary in nature. For more information on the various types see Choosing a Financial Institution at or What types of account ownership options are available? Individual Account-you alone have access to the money Power of Attorney Payable on Death Joint Account-you and one other person have access to the money right of survivorship Community or Marital Property similar to joint ownership but specific to married couples Custodial-used for minor children Is a minimum balance needed on an account and is it able to earn interest? You must be able to maintain a minimum balance in order to earn the interest. 7

8 Does the account have ATM or Debit cards available? Sometimes a yearly fee may be charged for this convenience and fees may be charged at locations other than the financial institution that holds your account. It is important to know these fees in advance and record all fees from these transactions when they occur. Are overdraft protection plans available? Fees for overdraft protection may vary, but it is typically not free. Funds must be available in some form of savings or an arranged line of credit to cover exceeded amounts. Without overdraft protection, a significant amount is usually charged - $25 to $35 - each time a check is processed through your account for which there are not enough funds. Once you make a deposit, the fees will be deducted before checks are honored jeopardizing current transactions. This snowball effect may leave you owing a significant amount of money. What are account disclosures? A financial institution is required to disclose in writing all policies and practices impacting your account. This would include which services have fees and how much, fund availability, deposit account rules, and features of the accounts. These disclosures help you to make informed decisions. Federal Overdraft Protection Rules Financial institutions must offer you the choice to opt-in or agree to overdraft protection services if you overdraw your account when you use your debit card or ATM. BUT if you overdraw your account when you write a check or have an automatic bill payment from your account, your financial institution can charge you for overdraft protection. If you don t want overdraft protection services on checks and automatic payments, you need to check with your Financial Institution to find out if you can cancel this option or not. For more information, check out: fo/ 8

9 You can use the worksheet below to help record some of these factors and compare multiple institutions. Name of Financial Institution : Is it located close to home or work? Type of Checking Account: Is there a monthly fee? How many checks can I write a month without an extra fee? How much money do I need to open the account? How much do I need to keep in my account to avoid fees? Does the account come with an ATM or debit card? If yes, are there fees each time you use the card? Which ATM s can I use without a fee? How much do checks cost? How many days do I have to wait to withdraw my money after I deposit a check? (also called clearing a check) What happens if I don t have enough money in my account to cover my check? (also called bouncing a check or overdrafting) Are there any other fees or penalties? Other questions: Often you can save more than $100 a year in fees by selecting a free checking account or one with no minimum balance requirement. 9

10 How to Maintain a Checking Account Record all transactions in your register (checks, debits, and ATMs). Make it a habit to subtract checks and ATM withdrawals from your checkbook right away so that you don t think you have more money than you actually do. Keep a running balance of your account. Balance your checkbook with your monthly statement. Avoid Overdraft Spending more than you have in your account is also known as overdrafting or bouncing a check. Some financial institutions will offer overdraft protection, which can move money from your savings account or a credit account in the case that you spend more than you have in your checking. It is important to understand that checking accounts can t be used like credit accounts. In order to write a check, there must be sufficient funds in the account to cover the amount being spent. It is illegal to write bad checks when you know there is not enough money in the account to cover the amount being spent. Violators of this law may be fined or punished, and financial institutions may keep information about your negative history for up to five years. Overdraft Protection Many financial institutions will now offer overdraft protection or a link from your checking account to another account or line of credit that can be used in case you spend more money than you have in your checking. This is a great way to add some security to your account so that you don t accidentally make a costly mistake. However, overdraft protection should not be overly relied upon. Safe and smart financial management means that you keep track of your funds and transfer them manually as needed. Overdraft protection options include: Monitor account Transfer from savings Line of credit Tied to a credit card ChexSystems ChexSystems is a consumer reporting agency which collects information on account activity and reports to member financial institutions, similar to how credit bureaus report on and record your credit history. Getting your ChexSystems report Call ChexSystems Consumer Relations: Or write to: Consumer Relations Ford Road, Suite 600 Dallas, TX Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your report. You may dispute the completeness or accuracy of any information by contacting ChexSystems. According to ChexSystems policy, it will not remove accurate information under any circumstances and it will keep information for five years. Financial institutions will use ChexSystems to determine whether you will be a safe or risky customer. Using this information, the financial institution, not ChexSystems, makes the decision to open your account or not. 10

11 Opening a Savings or Checking Account What Do You Need to Bring? Once you ve decided to open a checking account, you may be required to bring 1.) identification, 2.) your social security number, and 3.) money to put in the account. You will have some options in terms of what identification you can bring. Specific requirements may vary, so be sure to ask your financial institution what they need from you. According to A parent or guardian must accompany a person under 18. They must bring 2 forms of current identification, with photo, including: Driver s license or State ID Passport U.S. Military ID Alien Registration card Matricula Consular card OR they may bring 1 item from the above list and a major credit card or gas card. If over 18 the student may be asked to provide 1 of the following current IDs with photo, such as: Driver s license or State ID Student ID Passport Alien Registration card Matricula Consular card Plus Social Security number or individual tax ID number (ITIN) Money to deposit ask if there s a minimum. Using an ATM Now that you have savings and/or checking accounts, you will have access to Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to access your accounts and make deposits and withdrawals. Many ATMs are open 24 hours a day. When the financial institution issues your ATM card, they also give you a Personal Identification Number (PIN). The PIN is like a secret password. You should never write your PIN on your ATM card, and you shouldn t tell anyone your PIN. Some of the things you can use an ATM to do include: Deposit money into a savings or checking account Withdraw money from a savings or checking account Check the balance in a savings or checking account Transfer money between your accounts Direct Deposit and Electronic Transfer Account (ETA) Another service that financial institutions and your employer can offer if you have a savings and/or checking account is called Direct Deposit. This convenient feature will automatically transfer your paycheck into your savings or checking account. This can help you avoid trips to the financial institution 11

12 and it can help avoid lost or stolen checks. If you re interested, contact your employer and connect with your financial institution to find your account numbers and the routing numbers you ll need. Savings and checking accounts will also give you the ability to direct deposit any money you may have coming to you from the federal government through the use of an Electronic Transfer Account (ETA), such as: Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Veterans Benefits Civil Service Wage Salary or Retirement Payments Military Wage Salary or Retirement Payments Railroad Retirement Board Payments. ETA is open to all recipients of federal checks and are an option for those who are not comfortable with or do not qualify for other accounts. Like Direct Deposit, this can help you keep your income organized and limit your trips to your financial institution. Learn more about ETA accounts in UW-Extension publication B3812 Get Checking Stored Value Cards Another option for Individuals receiving various government transfers may, instead of receiving checks, be given what looks like a credit card or debit card that would have a balance reflecting the transfer. Read more about stored value cards at: Click on the Savings Product Category and read the Issue Brief titled Financial Service Alternatives to Traditional Accounts by J.M. Collins. Pre-Authorized Transactions Another convenient way you can use savings and checking accounts to your benefit is by setting up preauthorized transactions. This can be helpful so that you do not need to send a monthly payment to some of the companies to which you owe money you can set it so that they automatically withdraw this money from your accounts. Be careful, however, that you know you ll have enough money to draw from and that you account for the money that will be taken out when you balance your checkbook. Use this option cautiously and only with established companies. Safely Using Online Features Another time-saving feature of savings and checking accounts at most financial institutions is the option to bank online. With these features, you will log onto a secure website that will contain detailed information about all your accounts, including your credit cards, CDs, and the other services you re using. From this central site, you ll be able to transfer money between accounts, set automatic transfers, pay your credit card balance, and more. Specific features will vary between different financial institutions. 12

13 Online banking also provides a running history of all transactions, withdrawals, and deposits on each of your accounts. This is useful to ensure that no unauthorized payments have been made under your account. However, simply tracking your expenses online should not replace careful balancing of your checkbook, because payments may not show up online immediately. Reduce the risks of online banking Electronic financial management is not without risks or service charges: Online transactions require access to a secure personal computer with Internet access and competency in using both. Check online banking services offered by your current financial service provider first. Then compare costs and services offered by competing providers. Make a list of questions, such as: What online financial services are available to customers? What is the charge for such services? Is there a limit on electronic payments or other transactions in a given period (a month, for example)? What safeguards are in place to protect customers using online services? What is the procedure for reporting mistakes or seeking corrections? Is a how-to tip sheet or training available? Choose a password that cannot be easily replicated, such as a random combination of letters and numbers. Store your password in a secure place and advise others (a family member or person designated to manage your business in the event that you should be unable to do so) of your financial service providers name and contact person, as well as the location of your financial records and password. Review bank statements promptly and report errors immediately. 13

14 Looking for a Transaction Account? Shop Around In response to the widespread problems in consumer finance in the 2000s, financial institutions face more limits on certain overdraft and late charges, as well as steep shifts in interest rates, and interchange fees retailers pay for customers swipe their cards. Websites such as Bankrate.com can be useful to compare fees across accounts, but often it is hard to compare apples-to-apples--often banks will offer fee waivers for special consumers (for example, minors or seniors), or offer combinations of services for lower fees. Many financial institutions still offer `free checking`, too, although fees for checks, statements and low balances are common. Monthly maintenance fees of $10, $20, $30, or more, on checking accounts are not unheard of. But customers could get those charges waived if they make direct payments and maintain a minimum balances. Using direct deposit, bill payments, online statements and multiple accounts can make fee waivers more likely. Other fees might be related to using a teller or using lines of credit, charges to receive images of cancelled checks and fees for using your savings as overdraft protection. But shop around. Smaller community banks, credit unions and online banks offer free checking without the strings attached. 14

15 Supplemental Materials This chapter contains a number of supplemental worksheets, handouts, activities, and other resources to help you or someone else best understand this material. The options are outlined below. Feel free to photocopy or print these supplemental materials and use them as you see fit. HANDOUT: DO YOU KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL SERVICE FEE FACTS? This worksheet will test your knowledge on some of the different fees you may encounter as part of the services offered by your financial institution. 15

16 Do You Know Your Financial Service Fee Facts? Do You Know Your Financial Service Fee Facts? First determine which account the fees would affect by writing checking, savings, debit card or credit card on the line in the center column. It could affect more than one. Then match the reason for the fee with the type of fee by placing the letter on the lines in the first column. Types of Fee Accounts They Affect When They May Be Charged handout Monthly Service Fees A. By your bank when you use an ATM. May be waived if you use your financial institution s own machines. Withdrawal Fees B. If you go over your spending limit. ATM or Debit Fees C. When you ask your financial institution to stop a check drawn on your account from being cashed. Third-party ATM Fees D. Charged by some credit card companies for the yearly use of their credit cards. Return Check Fees E. If you don t meet certain qualifications, such as maintaining a monthly minimum balance or limiting the amount of checks you write. Check Printing Fees F. When you write a check but don t have enough money in your account to cover it. Insufficient Funds or Overdraft Fees G. When you use a debit card as a debit card at a store or gas station. Stop Payment Fees H. If you exceed a certain number of monthly withdrawals. Point-of-Sale Fees I. If you use another bank s ATM, a charged assessment by that bank. Over-the-Limit Fees J. When you purchase checks.. Annual Fees K. If a check deposited into your account is returned for insufficient funds. Prepared by: Bev Doll, Family Living Agent, UW-Extension Grant County 16

17 Buying a US Savings Bond Online As of January 1, 2012, the U.S. Department of Treasury ended sales of paper Series EE and I savings bonds through over-the-counter channels, including financial institutions and mailin orders. You can sell and maintain savings bonds and other Treasury securities electronically in TreasuryDirect.gov. The Tax Time Bond Program In 2010, a new Tax Time Bond Program was introduced making it possible for tax filers to purchase paper Series I savings bonds with their tax refunds. That purchase option will remain available. For more information, visit rstaxfeature.htm. What happens to the paper bonds I already own? Go Direct All federal benefit and non-tax payments are moving to electronic payments rather than paper checks. People applying for federal benefit payments must choose an electronic payment option at the time they apply for the benefit. People currently getting federal benefit checks must switch to electronic payments by March 1, There are two options (1) direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or (2) a Direct Express card account. The Direct Express card will be the default for anyone receiving a paper check who has not designated an option as of March Social Security (including Old Age, Survivors, Supplemental Security Income and Disability), Veterans Affairs (VA), Railroad Retirement and other benefits will all move to electronic payments. The Direct Express card is a prepaid debit card payment option for federal benefit recipients. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills and get cash back at thousands of locations nationwide. No bank account or credit check is required to enroll. There are no sign-up fees or monthly account fees. Many other card services are free, but not all. For example, using multiple ATM withdraws per month could incur a fee. See: Fee_Schedule.pdf. Other services are helpful and free, but optional such as or text message notifications and alerts. The bonds you own will earn interest for 30 years. You can convert Series E, EE, and I bonds to electronic securities and enjoy all the benefits of having online 24-hour access to manage your holdings. Paper bonds can be converted to electronic savings bonds in TreasuryDirect using a program called SmartExchange. There's no charge to convert paper bonds. They won't lose any of the interest earned, and they retain their original issue dates and interest rate terms. For more information, visit How do I go online? Setting up an online account is easy and can be accomplished in about 10 minutes. Your personal information will be processed in less than a minute after your TreasuryDirect account information has been submitted. You will need to have an account at a financial institution to receive direct deposit payments and as a potential funding source for purchases. You also will need Internet access to view and use your account. Finally, an address is necessary so that you can receive important messages about your account. 17

18 Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the US Internal Revenue Service. It is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 (such as 9XX-90-XXXX) The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Often ITINs are used for dependents or spouses who are not citizens but living with a citizen, resident alien, or nonresident alien visa holder. ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status and used for federal tax reporting only. An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S. or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Before seeking an ITIN, seek a Social Security Number (SSN) using Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card at the Social Security Administration Website. An individual cannot have both an ITIN and a SSN. If an SSN is not allowable, use Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to apply for an ITIN. Original, notarized/certified proof of identity and foreign status documents are required. Consular ID Cards A consular ID cards are issued by foreign governments. Each cardholder is given a unique identification number that is displayed on the card. In general, these cards also include the cardholder s photo, address, birthplace and expiration date. See for more information. 18

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