TIME Credit

Why MasterCard Should Buy American Express

World Series - Kansas City Royals v San Francisco Giants - Game Three
Rob Carr—Getty Images A fan uses MasterCard with Apple Pay to pay for garlic fries before Game Three of the 2014 World Series at AT&T Park on October 24, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

It's the smartest way to take on Visa

Last week, American Express was hit by tragedy when its President, Ed Gilligan, died unexpectedly. Sad as Gilligan’s death is, it’s only the latest setback for the charge card pioneer associated with the famous tagline ‘Don’t leave home without it’. Fierce competition from payment processing giant Visa, the loss of high profile clients like Costco, pushback from merchants, and antitrust probes have plagued the company in recent years and resulted in large layoffs.

Amex’s Q1 2015 earnings were slightly better than in 2014 and the company continues to be the second largest credit card brand in the U.S., but it accounted for only 15% of total purchase volume in 2014 compared to 56% for Visa, according to Nilson Report statistics analyzed by MarketWatch. Even MasterCard, which held 26% of the market, lagged far behind Visa. Part of Amex’s problem is a lack of debit card products, but even when comparing only credit card transactions, Visa was the sole vendor to show an increase.

For these and other reasons, this might be a good time for MasterCard to consider buying Amex.

Brand Value and Marketing Expertise

MasterCard may enjoy wide usage but Amex has held the highest rank in customer satisfaction for several years running, according to consumer survey firm J.D. Powers. The brand value of Amex’s sterling reputation and expertise in helping customers resolve fraud, merchant error, and other problems, as well as its popular rewards programs and extensive travel-related services, should not be underestimated.

There is also Amex’s closed loop model through which it manages the entire payment process from start to finish. That enables the company to collect reams of data on its customers, an extremely valuable marketing tool. MasterCard can leverage all these to improve its own offerings and differentiate them further from Visa.

Lending Capabilities

Even though Amex makes most of its money from the fees it charges merchants- its primary charge card model requires balances to be paid off in full and therefore doesn’t generate much in interest – its ability to lend is a huge advantage that could enhance MasterCard’s bargaining power with banks and other financial institutions that use its payment network.

The reason this is significant is because it would enable the company to lower the interchange fees that it needs to charge merchants in order to entice banks to lend. Such fees have come increasingly under fire by both regulators and merchants but MasterCard has been at the mercy of the banks. Having its own balance sheet through Amex, however, would give MasterCard the leverage it needs to negotiate better rates that don’t alienate merchants.

Valuable Customer Base

Amex’s customer base skews wealthier than that of MasterCard due to the appeal of its high end perks and luxury brand image, according to a study by wealth-research firm Phoenix Marketing International cited by Bloomberg. It also commands a large share of the business credit card market through its ubiquitous Corporate Card, as pointed out by investor site Motley Fool.

This is, in fact, the primary reason that Amex can charge high interchange fees. A wealthy demographic translates into higher revenues for merchants since individual transactions tend to be larger and because corporations and wealthy individuals are more likely to use plastic to pay for purchases than cash. While some merchants have objected to Amex’s higher fees, they are also hesitant to turn away the rich customer base the company delivers to them.

In the same vein, by acquiring Amex, MasterCard would gain access to this lucrative client base. It’s also possible that a combined MasterCard-Amex could offer a ‘blended’ fee structure for both types of cards that merchants find acceptable but which preserves profitability for the merged company.

Complementary Strengths and Increased Market Power

Just as MasterCard could benefit from Amex’s cachet amongst businesses and wealthy cardholders, Amex needs MasterCard’s platform to reach mainstream consumers. There was, for example, the loss of Amex’s key account with Costco, estimated by analysts to be worth about $80 billion in billed business, to a Visa card from Citigroup. And even as Amex makes overtures to smaller customers, Visa has been going aggressively after its wealthy clients with its Black Card, better incentives, and luxury concierge services. In other words, Amex is under fire on both fronts.

MasterCard also provides debit card services for banks and other financial institutions, a rapidly growing segment that accounted for 42% of all card transactions in 2014 but one that Amex doesn’t play in at all.

By merging, Amex and MasterCard could potentially take advantage of each other’s complementary product lines and expertise in serving their respective customer bases, which would enable them to take on Visa with considerably more market power.

Financially Feasible Acquisition

While MasterCard’s stock price has risen by more than 20% over the past year, Amex shares have fallen by 16%. That makes Amex a cost-effective buy. Moreover, Amex trades at a lower price-to-earnings multiple of 14x compared to 28x for MasterCard. That fact would make the acquisition of Amex highly accretive to MasterCard’s earnings in an all-stock deal since each share of Amex would bring a proportionally larger share of earnings to the latter company.

In fact, the present vulnerability of Amex due to its challenges offers an ideal opportunity for MasterCard to snap up the company at a reasonable price and start giving its arch rival Visa a serious run for its money.

Kumar is a tech and business commentator. He has evaluated mergers and acquisitions in the technology, media, and telecom sectors for leading investment banks, including PaineWebber, and provided strategic consulting to media companies and hedge funds. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and received an award for ethics in business while in the program. Kumar does not own any shares of the companies mentioned in this article.

TIME Banking

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon Has a Brand New Title

The Davos World Economic Forum 2014
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images James "Jamie" Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., pauses during a break in sessions on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

It's a rare achievement among bank executives

The JPMorgan Chase & Co stock is up, and along with it, so is Jamie Dimon’s wealth.

According to today’s Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Dimon is now a billionaire, with an estimated $1.1 billion in net worth. It helps that shares of JPMorgan (JPM) closed yesterday at $66.08, just pennies away from an all-time high of $66.39. The bank has been performing exceedingly well in recent months, along with many of its peers, as the American economy comes surging back.

Dimon is extremely well paid—the executive took home a reported $20 million last year in combined cash and stock, and earned the same in 2013.

But that kind of pay, on its own, isn’t enough to create a billionaire. Nearly half of Dimon’s estimated wealth comes from his $485 million stake in JPMorgan, which he helped build into the world’s biggest investment bank. The rest comes from a strong investment portfolio derived from selling 2.3 million shares of Citigroup in 1998 when he left that company.

It’s rare for a retail bank executive to achieve the billionaire mark. Typically, it’s hedge fund managers that obtain such high net worth. As Bloomberg notes, this news puts Dimon in rare company along with titans like George Soros as well as Dimon’s own mentor, Sandy Weill.

 

TIME Retirement

The Retirement Risk We All Share

one-dollar-bill-bundles
Getty Images

Our retirement system is as hard to understand, opaque, and predatory as ever

As wealth begins to get transferred from baby boomers to the millennial generation—the largest single generation in history and within five years fully half of our nation’s workforce—many social contracts that were enjoyed by the parents and grandparents will not be relied upon, or available, for their children. Two financial bubbles have burst: American cities have gone bankrupt, and the notion of guaranteed pensions has come to seem like a relic from a more innocent time in the world where society paid back its firefighters, teachers, and hard-working middle class for keeping us safe, educating our children, and ensuring the engine of our economy keeps running. So pronounced is this breakdown between our country, our corporations, and our workers that entire political campaigns are won and lost over middle class workers and the pensions they receive in retirement.

Corporations don’t want any part of guaranteed pensions. It’s too expensive, their shareholders don’t like it, and it crimps profits. Neither do governments—politicians are laser focused on the next election cycle and would rather divert taxpayer dollars toward shiny new concepts that will get them re-elected over boring old public pension funds. Today, only 1 in 5 workers in corporate America still has access to a guaranteed pension. Half of American workers have no access to any workplace retirement plan whatsoever. That’s right: in the future, we are going to own all of this risk. We’d better learn to make good decisions for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the 401(k) system is as hard to understand, opaque, and predatory as ever. Two thirds of Americans do not know that they pay fees on their 401K plans, and 90% of people could not accurately tell you what these fees are. Why? Because they never actually write a check to anyone—the fees are automatically deducted from their accounts. I challenge you to go log in to your employer’s 401(k) plan now, and figure out within 5 minutes, or 5 hours, or 5 days the total amount of fees you pay per year. You won’t find it. And it is a huge amount of money. Lifetime fees for the average American household are greater than $150,000 and can erode a third of total savings. Broadly speaking, total mutual fund fees could be the least-known and least-understood $600 billion that come out of Americans pockets every year.

We need to make this far simpler for people. It should be law that you can only give people advice on their 401(k) or IRA, or futures for that matter, if you owe them a legal fiduciary duty to only act in their best interest. Fees should be disclosed in terms that people can understand. Nobody understands what “basis points” or “expense ratios” are. This is purposeful. How about: “this will cost you $5 per year?” That shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Finally, hundreds of investment choices are often used as an illusion to give unsuspecting people the sense that they, too, can beat the market if they just choose right. By now, we know that beating the market is impossible and we should steer people toward the things we can control—diversification, low costs, and good savings behavior over long periods of time, and through many market cycles. Watching CNBC is a waste of time. Index funds are the way to go (although some 401(k) plans still don’t offer them).

The Obama administration and Department of Labor have been trying for years to institute protections for investors against high fees and high-risk products. But the lobbying against these protections has been vicious—billions of dollars of profits do not just go quietly into the night.

So how about a simple and effective do-it-yourself solution in the meantime? The next time someone is offering you serious advice about your retirement or the stock market, print this out and ask them to sign this statement:

“I ________, as your advisor, will act as a fiduciary and only give you advice that is in your best interest.”

If your advisor will not sign this statement—for your own good—run as fast as you can in the other direction and find one of the many advisors that will. It could save you tens of thousands of dollars and years in retirement.

In a world where we are left to fend for ourselves in retirement, the stakes are too high not to at least make sure that someone is legally obligated to tell you the right thing to do. Your 65-year-old self will thank you for it some day.

Greg Smith is president of blooom, an online service that evaluates, simplifies, and manages 401(k) accounts for individuals, and the best-selling author of Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Why Hillary Clinton Prefers to Talk About Community Banks

Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a meeting with parents and child care workers at the Center for New Horizons in Chicago on May 20, 2015.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a meeting with parents and child care workers at the Center for New Horizons in Chicago on May 20, 2015.

Like many Democrats, Hillary Clinton has talked tough about reining in mega banks. But as her presidential campaign has gotten underway, she’s focused on the homier side of the financial industry: community banks.

At a roundtable in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Clinton spoke on Tuesday less about tightening oversight on Wall Street and more about loosening regulations for banks on Main Street. She argued that red tape and paperwork for small banks across the country are holding back small businesses by making it harder to get much-needed loans.

At times, listeners might have even mistaken Clinton for a moderate Republican.

“Today,” Clinton said, “local banks are being squeezed by regulations that don’t make sense for their size and mission—like endless examinations and paperwork designed for banks that measure their assets in the many billions.”

“And when it gets harder for small banks to do their jobs, it gets harder for small businesses to get their loans,” she said. “Our goal should be helping community banks serve their neighbors and customers the way they always have.”

Community banks tend have less than $1 billion in assets, are usually based in rural or suburban communities and are the kind of place your uncle in Idaho might go for money to open an antique shop. Touting small businesses is a tried-and-true trope for candidates on both sides of the aisle. For office-seekers from Barack Obama to Marco Rubio, the subject is as noncontroversial and all-American as crabgrass.

The difference, then, comes at how politicians want to handle bigger banks. Congress right now is debating how far to exempt banks from certain regulations. Democratic lawmakers generally want to reduce them only for smaller banks; some Republicans want to exempt all banks, an approach Clinton criticized.

Big banks in the United States have become increasingly large and powerful in the seven years since the financial crisis. Of the 6,000-odd banks in the United States, the five largest control nearly half of the country’s banking wealth, according to a December study. In 1990, the five biggest banks controlled just 10% of the industry’s assets.

Small banks complain that federal regulation in the aftermath of the Dodd-Frank legislation is contributing to a decline in their numbers. Annual examinations at a community banks, for instance, require staff to walk regulators through paperwork. Filling out paperwork and paying for compliance lawyers to deal with new Dodd-Frank stipulations are burdensome extra costs, banks say. And new rules can impose high damages on lenders who do make unsafe loans.

“There’s an inherent advantage in scale,” said Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, pointing out that small banks often have more trouble paying for regulation compliance. “Community banks, being smaller, have less business to spread the cost of regulations over.”

It’s an issue that resonates with Iowa bankers, says John Sorensen, president and CEO of the Iowa Bankers Association. “A lot of the banks we have across Iowa are small businesses with 10 to 30 employees that have been interrupted in their ability to serve their customers through a good part of Dodd-Frank,” he said.

But some say the discussion about scrapping community bank regulations as Clinton suggests is a distraction. Small banks were in steady decline for many years before Dodd-Frank, and they are protected from liability on certain loans that big banks are not. And regulators argue that preventing risky mortgages of the kind that brought on the financial crisis is a good thing.

Much of the push to deregulate community banks comes from bigger institutions who want exemptions from regulation themselves. “If you were able to somehow magically trace who is whipping up frenzy about regulator burden on small banks, you’d find its trade associations at the behest of bigger banks,” said Julia Gordon of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank that has supplied some top officials in the Clinton campaign.

During the roundtable, Donna Sorensen, chair of the board of Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust and a participant on Tuesday, suggested to Clinton that more U.S. Small Business Administration-supported loans come with no fees. Clinton took notes and nodded in assent.

“If we really wanted to jumpstart more community bank lending, part of what we would do is exactly that—raise the limits to avoid the upfront fee” for businesses that need loans, Clinton said.

Clinton did not say specifically what regulations she would remove if she were elected president, but locals in Independence, Iowa, where Clinton stopped by for a visit after her small business roundtables, asked her to hold true to her sentiments. Terry Tekippe, whose family owns an independent hardware store, walked onto the street as Clinton walked by. “Keep us in focus,” Tekippe said.

“I want to be a small business president, so I am,” Clinton called back as she continued down the street.

MONEY fees

These Are the Most Hated Fees in America

150520_EM_HatedFees
Ryan J. Lane—iStock

They've managed to narrow the list down to "only" 31 fees.

The website GoBankingRates.com has compiled a rogue’s gallery of the “most expensive, egregious, unexpected and just downright unreasonable charges” confronting American consumers today.

No fewer than 11 of the worst fees named on the list are related to banking. That’s not surprising considering each year we drop $7 billion on basic bank charges for things like failing to meet minimum balance requirements and monthly account maintenance. That figure is tiny compared to the roughly $32 billion consumers pay annually for overdrafts—which, of course, is another hated fee featured on the list.

Behind banking, travel is the category with the second-most hated fees—a total of 10 in all. Common fees for things like changing airline tickets, checking or carrying baggage on flights, renting a car, and flying with your pet are named on the list. Arguably worse are the fees travelers incur through no choice of their own, without any extra service provided, such as the vague “resort fees” added to bills at some hotels and resorts, and the mandatory gratuities charged by many resorts and cruise lines.

On the other hand, some of the fees in the roundup seem easier to accept because there’s clearly some service and value provided. What’s more, while the price of these fees may not be entirely reasonable, it’s easy enough for people to be well aware of them before signing on board. We’re talking about things like homeowner’s association fees and charges for belonging to sororities and fraternities in college.

What fee is the worst of the worst? GoBankingRates doesn’t rank them. Besides, it’s a matter of personal opinion. Obviously, the fees you hate the most are the ones you pay, without much in the way of choice, while getting little to nothing in return.

For what it’s worth, the checked baggage fee was named by our readers as the Most Hated Fee in a vote-off conducted a few years back.

TIME Security

Why Using an ATM Is More Dangerous Than Ever

Breaches have risen dramatically very recently

In a time when major data hacks are on the rise—think Target, Home Depot, Sony—it’s no surprise breaches on individuals are also up. According to FICO, debit-card compromises at ATMs rose 174% from January to April of this year, compared to the same period last year.

And that’s just breaches of ATMs located on official bank property. Successful breaches at non-bank ATMs rose 317% in that period.

In other words, withdrawing money from an ATM is more dangerous than it’s been in a long time—specifically, the worst it has been in two decades, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cites a prediction from consulting firm Tremont Capital Group that criminals will make more than 1.5 million successful ATM cash withdrawals this year.

As Fortune reported earlier this year, a majority of American corporations believe they will be hacked in 2015. The questions they are all dealing with is how to prepare for them and how to deal with them when they happen, because preventing these compromises has become increasingly difficult.

Banking institutions, as well as the payment companies that connect banks to consumers, like Visa and MasterCard, have beefed up their technology more aggressively than ever in order to both innovate and securitize. But for a private consumer who simply wants to take money from an ATM, stats like these are nonetheless sobering.

Read next: 5 Easy Ways to Avoid Getting Hacked at ATMs

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Banking

New Survey Confirms Exactly What Everybody Hates About Wall Street

Five Years After Start Of Financial Crisis, Wall Street Continues To Hum
John Moore—Getty Images A street sign for Wall Street hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange on September 16, 2013 in New York City.=

Almost a quarter of bankers said they'd break the rules

Wall Street bankers are feeling a greater willingness to violate laws and ethics to get ahead, according to a new survey that finds no discernible impact from years of record fines and tightened regulations.

One-quarter of respondents said they would violate insider trading laws to make a $10 million return as long as they knew they wouldn’t get caught, according to a survey of 1,200 financial professionals conducted by University of Notre Dame at the behest of the law firm Labaton Sucharow. That was actually a slight uptick from the previous survey, when the percentage stood at 24%.

Respondents weren’t exactly impressed with regulatory oversight either. Nearly half deemed the regulatory agencies ineffective at detecting and prosecuting illicit behavior.

 

MONEY Banking

Never Pay an Overdraft Fee Again

Tetra Images/Getty Images

How not to be a chump

I would venture to guess that mine was the last generation that was taught how to balance a checkbook. (I remember a Junior Achievement course in the 8th grade, circa 1995, that provided me the skills to keep my cash flow in the black.) But there’s something to be said for the ease and convenience of mobile banking.

With that ease, however, comes errors — sometimes multiple errors — in the form of overdraft fees because we’ve overspent without knowing it. Keep those unnecessary expenses in check with these ways to avoid overdraft fees.

1. Get Familiar With Your Bank’s Policies

Before you choose a bank, it’s important to familiarize yourself with its policies. Not all banks are alike, after all. Some banks offer overdraft protection, while some offer no-fee transfers from savings to checking. All banks have fine print that you should absolutely read. Going into a financial situation educated will help you cut back on costly mistakes that can be easily avoided.

2. Use Mobile Banking to Track Spending

If you’re one of the few people in America who still use paper checks as a primary source of payment, thus constituting the balancing of a checkbook, I should introduce you to my grandmother — because I think you’ll have lots in common.

But if you prefer to be part of the majority who live in the 21st century, it’s wise to keep track of your finances via mobile banking. Most banks have apps that you can download to your phone to keep track of your finances anytime, anywhere. There are lots of cool features as well, like the ability to transfer between accounts and deposit checks with a few taps and photo image. The latter is a godsend for me as a small business owner, since I no longer have to take time out of my day to deposit checks at a banking brick-and-mortar.

3. Login Daily to Monitor Your Balance and Transactions

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? When you asked this question in the 1980s, the answer was usually “Go to the bathroom.” Fast-forward 30 years and that answer is altogether different — for me, at least. The first thing I do in the morning is check my social media and bank accounts.

Because before I start my day, I want to make sure that 1,500 strangers still like me, and none of them have robbed me blind. Logging in everyday reminds me to check for erroneous charges, allows me make a mental note on recent charges that may not have posted yet, and informs me on whether I can afford to go out to lunch or I should reign in the spending a bit — all of which help me avoid overdraft fees.

4. Get Alerts When Your Account Dips Below a Certain Threshold

When researching the ins and outs of your banking institution — particularly the checking account services it offers — look for information regarding text or e-mail alerts that notify you when your account dips below a certain threshold. For instance, I have alerts set at $100. If I make transactions that cause my account to go below $100, I’ll receive an alert that serves as a warning to stop spending immediately and build my account back up.

5. Transfer Funds Immediately

If you think you’ve perhaps made more purchases than you have money, transfer those additional funds from your savings to your checking account immediately. I don’t recommend dipping into your savings often (it defeats the purpose), but you should deal with the issue at hand first, which is avoiding overdraft fees. It’s also wise to bank at an institution that offers no-fee transfers when you’re in a bind. Sustaining a hit to avoid a hit is sure to put a kink in your day.

6. Ask to Have Overdraft Fees Waived

Pull a page from my playbook and call your bank if you feel like you deserve a pass on an overdraft fee. If it’s been awhile since you’ve made that mistake, or if you’ve been a loyal customer to the bank for many years, it’s worth the effort. In most cases, the bank will work with you to eliminate the fee on a one-time basis.

7. Opt Out of Overdraft Protection

Overdraft protection is good on one hand because it lessens the fee you pay if you overdraw the account — usually a $10 fee instead of $25 or $35. On the flip side, overdraft protection will allow you to continue to make purchases for which you don’t have the money. This is an especially unfortunate consequence if you’re not aware that you’re overdrawn and you continue making multiple purchases. You’ll rack up a fee for every single transaction, which, by the time they’ve all posted, could become a significant amount.

8. Don’t Use the Credit Option on Your Debit Card

Back in the early days of debit cards, my bank would charge me a nominal fee for each purchase when using it as a debit card, kind of like a competing ATM does. Made absolutely no sense to me, but because of that I started using the credit option when making purchases, which had no fees attached. Nowadays, debit charges are fee-free, so I try to remember to push the purchases through using that method, for one reason: Debit transactions post immediately, whereas credit transaction could take a few days to post. The former will help you stay on top of your financial situation in real-time while the latter could have you overdrawing your account unknowingly.

9. Keep X Amount of Dollars in Your Checking Account at All Times

The best way to avoid overdraft fees is to keep your bank account in the black at all times. To help ensure that you don’t go into the red, choose a self-imposed amount at which you’ll always keep your account — $100, for instance. If you mentally make it standard policy that your account consistently has at least $100 in it, you’ll rarely overdraw, if at all.

More From Wise Bread:

MONEY Banking

These 6 Banks Don’t Charge Overdraft Fees

ML Harris/Getty Images

Bonanza!

Spending money you don’t have gets expensive fast. Whether it’s racking up balances (and interest) on credit cards, missing card payments because you can’t afford them or overdrafting your checking account, even one-time slip-ups can seriously strain your finances.

It’s true that spending too much on your credit cards can hurt your credit, but relying solely on debit cards comes with its own risks. Many people say they prefer debit cards because it helps them control their spending — at the same time, that can leave little room for error in estimating your expenses, potentially causing you to overdraft your account.

There are several overdraft services banks provide. First of all, you have to opt into overdraft protections, as mandated by federal law. By default, consumer accounts are set up so a transaction is declined if the cardholder’s account doesn’t have enough cash to complete the purchase. The transaction is declined at no cost to the consumer.

If you want the ability to complete transactions, even if your account can’t cover it at that moment, you can opt into overdraft services, like connecting a savings account to cover any checking account overdrafts. You can also have the bank cover your transaction for a fee, called an overdraft penalty. Most banks charge between $35 and $38 per overdraft, which is the most expensive service banks offer, according to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts of basic checking accounts at the 50 largest banks in the U.S.

If you allow overdrafts, you’re most likely going to have to pay some sort of fee, but there are six large banks that charge no overdraft penalty fees:

  • Ally
  • Charles Schwab
  • Citibank
  • First Republic
  • HSBC
  • USAA

Additionally, there are three banks that offer accounts that prohibit any kind of overdrafting, protecting consumers from fees as a result. Bank of America, KeyBank and Union Bank offer such accounts.

Overdrafts and associated fees can be a big deal for consumers, particularly those who live paycheck to paycheck. Nearly a third of households without a bank account said a reason they remain unbanked is because of unpredictable, expensive fees on checking accounts, according to a 2013 report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Losing money to fees can make it difficult to pay necessary bills and make loan payments, which can end up damaging a person’s credit standing. (You can see how missed payments are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) Make sure you’re familiar with your bank’s overdraft policies, know what you’re signed up for and keep close tabs on your transactions to make sure you’re not overspending — or that someone else is, without your permission. Whatever your preferred form of payment, understanding your account terms and regularly reviewing your account activity will help you avoid unexpected penalties.

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