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Survey: Banks still charge high overdraft fees

Category: News and Notes- fhuff- 5:15 am/ August 19, 2011

Overdraft fees at banks continue to remain high despite Federal Reserve rules that require banks to get permission from customers to charge overdraft fees on debit card transactions. And although some banks have changed the order in which they process overdraft payments from checking accounts, most continued to pay the largest transactions first, according to a recent Consumer Federation of America (CFA) report.

“Bank overdraft fees at the largest banks remain steep, ranging from $33 to $37, and far exceed the typical $20 debit card overdraft,” said Jean Ann Fox, CFA’s director of financial services. “Some banks have hiked the number of overdraft fees consumers can rack up in a single day to as many as ten, costing consumers as much as $370 in just one day.”

The survey found that two-thirds of the largest banks add on additional fees if overdrafts are not repaid in a few days. Customers are required to pay overdrafts and fees immediate or get hit with additional fees. For customers who are already struggling to pay bills this can be financially devastating.

If you want to avoid getting hit with huge overdraft charges, you must let your bank know that you are opting out of this service.

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Gold surges as stocks tumble

Category: News and Notes- fhuff- 1:11 pm/ August 18, 2011

Many investors are pouring money into gold as stocks continue their free fall. Gold futures climbed as high as $1,829.70 an ounce on April 18, 2011, before falling back to $1,821.80 later in the day. Meanwhile, the stock market continued its decline, raising more concern that the U.S. economy is heading to another recession. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 460 points in late trading, and the VIX index, which measures volatility in the stock market–also known as the “fear index”–surged, according to MSNBC.

Despite all the worry about what is happening with the global economy, it is best not to get off track from a savings plan–or start a savings account if you don’t have one. Building up an emergency savings fund could help you feel more confident about your own finances even as the economy struggles. Shop around to compare savings accounts to find the right product for you. Unfortunately, savings rates are still low, but earning a little interest on your money is better than earning nothing. And at least you’ll know you have a cushion to fall back on while toughing out this economy.

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Fed to keep federal funds rate unchanged

Category: News and Notes- fhuff- 2:05 pm/ August 10, 2011

The Federal Reserve said it will keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent. The lack of movement in the interest rate is designed to promote an economic recovery and keep inflation in check.

The Fed said in a statement that “the Committee currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013.”

Economic growth has been slower than expected this year, according to the Fed, which said, “Indicators suggest a deterioration in overall labor market conditions in recent months, and the unemployment rate has moved up. Household spending has flattened out, investment in nonresidential structures is still weak, and the housing sector remains depressed.”

The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which depository institutions lend money to each other, usually overnight. With the federal funds rate remaining unchanged it’s likely that you won’t see much upward movement in savings rates. That’s because savings rates move in the same direction as the federal funds rate. So when the rate is increased, your savings rate also should rise.

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A large percentage of Americans believe that the agreement to raise the debt ceiling and cut the federal deficit will make the economy worse. A USA Today/Gallup Poll taken just hours after President Obama signed the deal found that 46 percent of people disapproved of the agreement, compared with 39 percent who approved.

The poll found that 41 percent said the deal will make the economy worse and 17 percent said it will make it better. About a third of those surveyed said the agreement won’t really matter. Along party lines the poll found that 22 percent of Tea Party supporters approved the deal, compared with 26 percent of all Republicans surveyed and 58 percent of Democrats.

Regardless of how you feel about how the agreement will affect the economy it’s a good idea to review your financial strategy. Beefing up your savings is just one way to prepare yourself for more tough economic times. Find ways to put aside more money into an emergency savings account each month so you aren’t caught unprepared if things really do get worse. You can search for the best interest rate offers on savings accounts here.

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U.S. GDP grows less than expected

Category: News and Notes- fhuff- 9:04 am/ July 29, 2011

U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the second quarter of 2011, which was less than expected, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. First-quarter GDP also was revised to 0.4 percent from earlier estimates of 1.9 percent. The revised figure indicates the economy isn’t recovering as much as previously thought.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement:

Today’s first look at GDP in the second quarter confirms what we already knew: The economy isn’t growing as fast as it needs to. And every day that we fail to act to lift the debt ceiling and inch closer to default, we threaten our economic progress and job creation. Experts have repeatedly warned that if this uncertainty continues, our economy will pay the price. We can’t afford to return to the same failed policies that brought us here. We must build on the progress we’ve made over the last two years and reach a balanced compromise that will reduce our debt and at the same time strengthen our job-creating ability and global competitiveness for the future.

Also, as consumers remain cautious about spending in this economy, the personal savings rate has risen. The personal savings rate was 5.1 percent in the second quarter, up from 4.9 percent in the first period.

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