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Choosing the right bank account for you July 14, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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I recently sent a check to a fellow translator to whom I had subcontracted a legal contract. She hadn’t cashed the check yet, so I wrote her today to ensure she had received it. Since it was a very large check I wanted to make sure it hadn’t gotten lost in the mail. She replied that she had received it, but hadn’t had a chance to go to the bank to deposit it.

This made me all the more appreciative of my bank, which allows me to deposit my checks from home using my scanner. I find this service to be invaluable, because it allows me immediate access to the money and saves me gas and driving time. When I receive a check in the mail, I endorse the check and add my account number. I then turn on my scanner, log on to my bank’s web portal, click on Deposit@Home, and scan the front and back of the check in the deposit interface. Once the check has been accepted, I am given a confirmation number and can print out the confirmation page (but I generally just enter the confirmation number in the Memo: field in my accounting program). I am then instructed to write “Void” on the check and destroy it. I simply pop it in my cross-cut shredder and continue translating, answering e-mail, surfing the Net, reading blogs, etc. The whole process takes less than three minutes.

In case you are wondering, I bank with USAA Federal Savings Bank, which caters to the U.S. military (both active duty and retired military personnel, the National Guard and Reserve personnel, officer candidates in commissioning programs such as ROTC) and children of USAA members (which is how I can bank with them). I have insured my car with them since I was sixteen years old, and since there are U.S. military bases all over the world I was also able to insure my car through USAA when I was living in Germany.

When was the last time you analyzed the services your bank is offering? If you get a chance, you may discover it is time to switch banks. Does your bank charge you an annual or monthly fee? Does it offer you a free credit card or do you have to pay an annual fee for it? Does it charge you a fee for incoming electronic deposits or deposits from foreign accounts? Does your bank reimburse you for ATM fees at third party banks? Does your bank have an agreement with your overseas bank that allows you to withdraw money from your foreign bank account for free or a low fee? USAA isn’t the only bank that offers perks like ATM fee reimbursement, no-fee foreign deposits, and Deposit@home. National City Bank just started advertising ATM fee reimbursement. When you are negotiating with your bank it helps to know which banks offer which services. Maybe you can convince them to offer you similar services. Switching to a bank that doesn’t charge you fees or getting your bank to stop charging you fees can save you hundreds of dollars a year. It’s definitely worth looking into.

[July 16, 2008: In light of the IndyMac bank failure, you should also make sure your bank is FDIC-insured. Expatica also has a very good article comparing six of Germany’s largest banks on its portal]

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