Review those accounts, or you may be missing out
If you “set and forget” your personal accounts, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.
The terms of bank and credit card accounts and auto insurance often change. It pays to re-read the fine print to make sure those accounts are still the best choices, said Brad Barber, associate dean for the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis. “Make sure most of the money you earn and save is kept for your purposes, instead of going into fees,” he said.
For bank account holders, that might mean going without overdraft protection. It sounds counter-intuitive, but overdraft protection temporarily allows purchases even they plunge the account into a negative balance. This “protection” incurs fees with every such transaction, and they can add up fast.
A MyBankTracker.com analysis of the 10 largest U.S. banks showed they penalize account holders from $34 to $36 per overdraft transaction. “If you’re just starting out, [overdraft fees] can really throw a curveball at you and make it harder for you to pay your bills,” Barber said.
Consumers should consider financial institutions that offer free checking accounts, said Patty Briotta, director of public relations for the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. A recent Bankrate study showed 76 percent of credit unions offer free checking, compared to 37 percent of banks, she said.
Before anything else, consumers should understand the accounts they have right now – particularly auto insurance, said Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education.
“Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you go to other companies,” he said. “You’re very likely going to want to have comparable coverage.”
If a consumer stays on top of their car maintenance and enjoys a history of safe driving, they might look to lower costs by increasing their deductible, he said.
As for credit cards, consumers should make sure their accounts fit their spending patterns. A card’s annual percentage rate and list of rewards are more relevant to someone who makes frequent purchases and runs a balance than for someone who uses their card infrequently, Golden said.
Even if consumers find a card with better rates, they may want to hold on to the cards they have. Credit history counts for 15 percent of your credit score, Golden said, and an account holder may be penalized for dropping a long-standing credit card account for a newer one.