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Open a high-interest checking account at Washington Savings Bank and you could get a free Android Pad. The promotional offer ends March 31, 2011, or as long as supplies last. You will receive the free gift within 30 days after redeeming a “Free Gift Certificate” and implementing a recurring monthly direct deposit of at least $1,000.

Lowell, Mass.-based Washington Savings Bank offers several free checking accounts, which all include:

  • No minimum balance requirement
  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • Unlimited check writing
  • Free online banking and bill pay
  • Bank-to-bank transfers
  • Mobile banking
  • MasterCard debit card

Among the checking accounts offered is the Interest Rewards, which has an interest rate of 3.01 percent annual percentage yield (APY). ATM transaction fees up to $25 a month are refunded. To receive the free Android Pad, you must make 12 debit card purchases; receive monthly statements; and make either a direct deposit, ACH auto debit or one bill pay.

The Tune Rewards checking account allows you to earn free music, apps and eBook downloads from iTunes and Amazon. When you open an account, you get $15 in free downloads initially and $5 in free downloads each month you meet account qualifications. You must purchase iTunes and Amazon downloads with the debit card associated with the checking account.

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Navy Federal Credit Union

Category: CD Rates, Credit Union Deals- fhuff- 9:00 am/ January 28, 2011

Navy Federal Credit Union has a Special EasyStart Certificate that earns 2.9 percent annual percentage yield (APY). The certificate of deposit (CD) has a 12-month term and requires a minimum opening deposit of $50. Other details include:

  • Add minimum of $15 each month
  • Maximum balance of $3,000
  • Penalty for early withdrawal
  • One Special Easy Start Certificate per member

If you are 18 or older you must have direct deposit of net pay, with a minimum per direct deposit of $300. You also must have a Navy Federal checking account. Not meeting the requirements reduces the CD rate to the prevailing standard rate. When the CD matures it renews to a $100 minimum standard EasyStart Certificate unless you specify otherwise.

The credit union offers other CD rates and terms that range from six months to seven years. It also has several checking accounts, and some of them pay interest. Members of the credit union can fill out an account application online.

Navy Federal Credit Union serves members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Department of Defense and their families. The credit union has been operating since 1933.

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Consumers more confident in January

Category: News and Notes- fhuff- 12:45 pm/ January 26, 2011

Consumers grew more confident about the economy in January, pushing the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index to the highest level since May 2010. The index is based on a sample of 5,000 households polled.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement:

“Consumers rated business and labor market conditions more favorably and expressed greater confidence that the economy will continue to expand and generate more jobs in the months ahead. Income expectations are also more positive. Although pessimists still outnumber optimists, the gap has narrowed.”

If consumers are getting more optimistic about the economy does that mean they are likely to spend more? Maybe, maybe not. Many folks have seriously curbed their spending as the economy has struggled and are being more prudent with their money. The U.S. personal savings rate in November was at 5.3 percent, reflecting the fact that many people are more interested in socking away money than spending it.

The consumer confidence poll found that 9.8 percent of consumers said business conditions were good, compared with 7.7 percent a month earlier. Optimism about the job market also increased, with 16 percent anticipating more jobs in the coming months, up from 14.2 percent.

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Ultima Bank Minnesota has a Smart Savings Account that earns 2.02 percent annual percentage yield (APY). Smart, which means School Money At Right Time, is a savings account for customers who are 18 years old or younger. The savings account is designed to complement the Student Checking Account and encourage good financial habits at a young age. Details of the Smart Savings include:

  • Free electronic statements
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Transactions limited to six per month after 18th birthday
  • Direct deposit
  • Two free withdrawals, $1 fee for each additional withdrawal
  • Free online access
  • Interest is calculated daily and compounded and credited monthly
  • Converts to a Regular Savings Account on 19th birthday

The Student Checking Account has free electronic statements and check images. There are no minimum balance requirements, check writing limitations or per check fees. The checking account also includes a debit card and printed statements can be mailed for free if they do not include check images. If you receive check images there is a $3 fee. Online access includes free transfers of funds among accounts, free retrieval of transaction details (up to 61 days) and free electronic bill payment. Ultima Bank Minnesota is based in Fosston, Minn.

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Prepaid debit cards often have hefty fees

Category: News and Notes- fhuff- 4:13 pm/ January 20, 2011

Prepaid debit cards offer convenience, but you may have to pay a lot of fees to use them. Unlike debt cards that are linked to a savings or checking account, prepaid debit cards can require activation or monthly fees. They can also charge a fee each time you make a transaction or add additional funds.

Despite the fees, prepaid debit cards have won over more consumers looking for a way to avoid check cashing stores, pawn shops, liquor stores, or other businesses that charge to cash checks. A 2009 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. study found that about 7.7 percent of American households (17 million adults) were unbanked, which means they do not have checking or savings accounts.

If you decide to get a prepaid debit card, shop around to compare deals. Among the fees you should ask about are those for using customer service, withdrawing money at an ATM, balance inquiries and monthly service. You may even have to pay a fee if you spend more than the balance available.

Prepaid debit cards can be a useful financial tool if used wisely. But not all cards are made the same, and having a celebrity endorser is not a guarantee that you are getting a good deal.

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