That is the question frustrated savers are asking these days, as interest rates have hit record lows. People who need a pool of cash for emergencies or looming expenses usually look to keep it in banks or credit unions, where deposits are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the National Credit Union Administration. Yet the yields on certificates of deposit, savings accounts and money-market accounts, on average, are the lowest they have been in at least 50 years. Better deals are out there, however. An analysis of more than 8,300 banks and credit unions conducted for The Wall Street Journal shows that smaller banks and credit unions often offer better rates than giant banks. Online banks and credit unions are most competitive in savings and money-market accounts. To find out who is offering the best rates, try BestCashCow.com
According to The Wall Street Journal, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage has dropped to its lowest level ever at 3.77%. Why so low? Mortgage rates track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. As more and more investors have shifted money out of stocks and bought US Treasurys, the interest rate on them has gone down.
What that means is that it’s an excellent time to buy a home – or refinance one of you haven’t already. You’ll need an excellent credit rating, but this could be a good opportunity to lock in a low rate.
When it comes to refinancing though, keep in mind, that you shouldn’t do it if you expect to sell your home in two or three years. It costs money to refinance, and it takes a while for the savings on monthly payments to add up.
Plan ahead. You’ll only be charged a fee if you use an out of network ATM, so the easiest way to avoid these fees is to plan ahead and withdraw all the cash you need from your own credit union or bank’s ATM. Also, try to keep a reasonable amount of cash on hand for your daily activities, remembering to refill your wallet or purse whenever you’re near the credit union or bank.
Be creative. If you do need to use the ATM and don’t know of an in-network ATM nearby, use a little creativity to turn your debit or credit card into a cash generator. If you’re going out to dinner with friends, offer to pay with the credit card and take the cash. If you’re near a grocery store, buy something you need and ask for cash back. It’s better to pay a dollar for a stick of gum than pay $3 as a fee and get nothing for your trouble.
Avoid institutions that reimburse you for out-of-network ATMs. Banks will often change their policies and several are considering the removal of these reimbursement programs. Smaller banks often reimburse out-of-network ATM use because they know their ATM network is much smaller, but it will be the first thing to go when profits are in the spotlight.
Consider an online checking account. An online checking account is a great way to get both higher interest rates and a wide network of ATMs. Since online credit unions and banks don’t have brick and mortar locations, they rely on these ATM networks as their own and are less likely to cancel reimbursement programs. You get the best of both worlds – higher interest rates on your savings and a checking account with a sizable network. The only downside is that depositing checks can be cumbersome – some require you to mail the checks in. Although, a mobile deposit capture feature can eliminate that issue entirely.