Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2008 / 16 Shevat 5768
Account can help you save
By Vicki Lee Parker
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) I am so used to my bank drumming up new ways to charge me more fees that I cringed when a Wachovia financial specialist handed me the brochure for its new savings program.
My first thought: What's the catch this time?
I was just about to toss it when I saw a 5 percent interest rate. Now they had my full attention.
According to the terms of Way2Save program, each time a customer buys something with a check card or pays bills online, Wachovia transfers $1 from her checking account to her savings account. In addition, customers can transfer up to $100 a month into their Way2Save accounts.
The bank will pay a 5 percent annual rate during the first year the account is opened. It will also pay a bonus 5 percent on all money in the account at the end of the year. The interest rate will drop to 2 percent in years two and three.
Since the program was launched this month, more than 56,000 customers have signed up. Wachovia expects to add 1 million new accounts by year's end.
According to Wachovia, the average customer makes 23 debit card purchases and four online bill payments a month. In that case, the first year's savings would total $324, plus $25 interest and bonus. If a customer makes the additional deposit of $100 a month, the total would be $1,641, including $117 interest and bonus.
Not too shabby.
The idea of automatic savings is not new. In 2005, Bank of America launched a similar program called Keep the Change, where it rounds up all check card purchases to nearest dollar. So if someone makes a $1.50 purchase, 50 cents would be transferred from her checking and deposited into her savings account.
But with Wachovia's latest move, other major banks may start to offer similar programs, said Laura Bruce, senior reporter at Bankrate.com. The key for consumers is to do the math and check to see if they can get a better deal elsewhere.
Also, consumers should not let small savings plans take the place of major savings accounts used for retirement and emergency funds. Another caveat is that consumers have to be diligent about keeping up with their checking balances. If you forget that the extra $23 was transferred from your checking account, you could overdraft your account.
If your bank doesn't offer this type of savings program, there are other options, including automatic monthly transfers of funds to your savings account.
And your employer can change your direct deposit so that part of your paycheck will go into an interest-bearing savings account and the remainder into a checking account.
Last week, I wrote about a terrible return policy at Dick's Sporting Goods. That policy states that when customers return items with only gift receipts, they will be refunded the current sales price, which is often less than the original price.
Several readers said they had similar experiences at other major stores, including Kmart, Macy's and JC Penney. But all three stores told me that with a gift receipt their computers can look up the original price that was paid for the item, which is refunded to the customer - usually in the form of a gift card.
If you think that you are not getting a full refund with a gift receipt, ask for the manager and make the store honor its policy.
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Vicki Lee Parker is a columnist for The News & Observer. Comment by clicking here.
Gift refund made him feel cheated
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