TIME Personal Finance

Capital One Wants To Visit You At Home

Bank's new credit card contract reserves the right to pay a "personal visit" to cardholders

“Hello, it’s Capital One, can I come in? I brought lemonade!”

That’s something credit card customers of the Capital One bank are worrying they might hear on their front doorsteps. The credit card issuer said in a recent contract update to cardholders that it can contact customers “in any manner we choose.”

That includes calls, emails, texts, faxes or a “personal visit,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The company has also reserved the right to suppress its caller ID and identify itself however it wants, a tactic known as spoof calling.

Capital One said that, despite the legal language, it doesn’t typically pay home visits to its customers. “Capital One does not visit our cardholders, nor do we send debt collectors to their homes or work,” the company spokeswoman said.

The bank told the L.A. Times it might occasionally “as a last resort” visit a customer’s home to repossess costly goods involved in credit promotions. But the spokesperson added that Capital One is “reviewing this language” in its contracts.

[LAT]

TIME Financial Education

The Economy is Big News–So Why not Teach it?

School
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With the economy on the front page most days the past six years, you might think economics and personal finance would be a prominent subject in our schools. Yet less than half of states require an economics course in high school and little more than a third require one in personal finance, according to a new survey.

The long trend is mildly positive. For the first time, all 50 states and the District of Columbia include economics in their K-12 education standards, meaning they have guidelines for those schools that want to offer such a course. Meanwhile, more states are offering and requiring personal finance courses.

These are the chief findings in the Council for Economic Education’s 2014 Survey of the States report, out today. The CEE, which surveys each state every two years, is a strong advocate for financial education and believes that requiring school courses in economics and personal finance is an important path to progress.

“A more financially capable population can result in a larger and more efficient market for financial products, greater participation in asset building and greater financial stability,” Richard Ketchum, Chairman of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, states in the report. “It is therefore in everyone’s interest that action be taken to improve the financial capability of all Americans.”

Ketchum notes that young people are entering adulthood saddled with debt: 36% of Millennials have student loans outstanding and 55% say they might not be able to repay this debt. Only a third have emergency savings while about the same share have unpaid medical bills. Nearly half carry a balance on their credit cards.

Financial education in schools is seen as one way to bring such numbers down over time. But first we have to bring up the numbers of states and schools that offer or require such coursework. The sobering numbers related to economic education are especially troubling because virtually every family in America was touched by economic troubles during and since the Great Recession.

While every state is on board with economic standards, just 24 require that an economic course be offered. That’s down one since the last survey. The number of states requiring that an economics course be taken in high school remains constant at 22. These numbers argue that the states are taking a pass on the mother of all teachable moments.

The news is a little better on the personal finance front. Now 18 states require that high schools offer a course, up from 14; and 16 states require personal finance instruction, up from 13 in the last survey. It’s not clear why there’s been more progress in personal finance. In part, the states that have embraced economic education are now picking up on the need for personal finance too. Another explanation is that while the hardships of the past half-decade may be better understood through an economics course, it’s better understanding of personal finance that will allow families to manage their way through tough times.

Despite the progress, these courses remain a tough sell at the state level—and that is where the battle lines are drawn. Unlike in the U.K. and other regions with a federal mandate for financial education, state authorities call the shots in America. They must be convinced one at a time, and they have been slow to respond.

TIME Personal Finance

Knowing Your Net Worth Can Help You Plan

Calculating your net value will help you plan your future more productively.
Calculating your net value will help you plan your future more productively. David Emmite—Getty Images

Calculating your net worth is easy, and a valuable exercise. Here's how.

Your boss doesn’t know your value, right? But do you even know it? Most people have never taken the time to figure their net worth even though it’s a fairly simple calculation. Why not take stock now? The New Year is still full of promise.

Your net worth is what you’d have left after selling everything, paying the bills and settling all debts. Think of it as your liquidation value. The number is of keen interest to heirs trying to understand what will be theirs. But it’s useful for you as well. Calculated annually, your net worth provides the clearest picture of whether you are getting ahead. It helps gauge when you might retire and gives a roadmap to where you are losing or gaining value. That makes it easier to adjust and meet your goals.

Say, for example, your goal is to retire with $1 million. But during the worst two years of the recession your net worth—your total liquid value—went from $380,000 to $250,000. You’d understand right away that you need to adjust. Net worth hits home in a more visceral way than, say, looking only at a 401(k) statement that provides only part of the picture.

To figure your net worth you need two sheets of paper, one of them labeled assets and the other labeled liabilities. You want to add all assets and subtract all liabilities, reducing your life thus far to a single number. You can find online calculators to help. You can also see how you stack up against people your age and at your income level. For example, the median 55-year-old has a net worth of $180,125; the median net worth of households earning $75,000 a year is $301,475, according to Nielsen Claritas.

Start with assets, including retirement savings, checking and savings account balances, bonds or annuities, the total value of any stock holdings, your home and automobiles. To really fine-tune the figure include artwork, jewelry, furniture and other possessions that for most people do not move the needle a great deal. Put a value on each of these things and add them.

On the liabilities sheet, list all credit card balances, personal loans, student loans, auto loans and mortgages. Then add those and subtract it from the figure you got on the assets sheet. Voila. You now know what you are worth on paper. Watching this number from year to year shows how new debts and all spending subtract from your net worth, while general thrift, retired debts, and investments that rise pad your net worth.

The figure is not perfect. Figuring your net worth is especially difficult if you own a small business, which may be difficult to value. If you are young and in a great career your net worth might be negative—but that’s okay. Once those college loans are paid off and you get a few raises that can turn around quickly. Likewise, if your net worth takes a dip because the stock market or housing market fell, that’s not so terrible assuming you can hold on for the recovery. But it’s always good to know where you stand.

TIME Personal Finance

Millennials Put Their Surprising Stamp on the American Dream

Millennials seek travel and self-employment as part of their American dream.
Millennials seek travel and self-employment as part of their American dream. Roberto Westbrook—Getty Images/Image Source

Shaped by the times, Millennials dream about travel and self employment--and staying far off the corporate ladder.

Every generation puts its stamp on the American Dream. But none have re-engineered the term quite like Millennials, who mostly want to travel and not work slavishly for the man.

The American Dream has been part of our culture since the 1930s, and has at times referred to home ownership, a good job, retirement security, or each generation doing better than the last. Now comes a new young adult population to say it means none of that; the dream is really about day-to-day control of your life.

In a new poll, 38% of Millennials say travel is part of the American Dream, exceeding the 28% who name secure retirement. They identify the dream of home ownership at a far lower rate than Gen X and baby boomers. Meanwhile, 26% of Millennials cite self-employment as part of the dream—more than Gen X (23%) and older boomers (16%), according to MassMutual’s third biennial study The 2013 State of the American Family.

These attitudes make a lot of sense in the context of the era that Millennials have come of age. Home ownership? Many of them saw the foreclosure crisis up close. A good job? The rate of 16- to 24-year-olds out of school and out of work is unusually high at 15%. Many college graduates have taken jobs that don’t require a degree.

What about retirement security? Again, this generation has seen the retirement hopes of its parents fade with lackluster investment results and crumbling pensions. It seems the Great Recession left its mark. As a group, Millennials prize job mobility, flexible schedules, any work that is more interesting than punching a keyboard, and the ability to travel and be with friends. Millennials (11%) are far more likely than boomers (3%) to identify close friends as part of their family. To an extent, they are starting to get what they want at the office.

Many find this new worldview troubling. If a recent Millennial-focused Rolling Stone article championing a socialist agenda is anywhere near correct, the worriers may have a point. The author is looking for the second coming of Karl Marx “to grow old in a just, fair society, rather than the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.” He wants guaranteed jobs, government-supplied minimum income, real estate confiscation and more.

The argument is absurd and grossly overstated. But it points up how different the landscape is for young adults today, and the growing level of frustration that has emerged since the recession. A true American Dream has to feel attainable, and many Millennials aren’t feeling they can attain much more than a day-to-day lifestyle that suits them.

They aren’t alone, by the way. Some 45% of older boomers agree that the American Dream is slipping away—up from 30% two years ago. Boomers still cling to the old American Dream of financial independence (80%) and home ownership (78%). But for a broad swath of the population those dreams too are starting to feel elusive.

TIME Career Strategies

Global Internships: The New Key to Getting a Job

Job seekers on their way to meet employers at the 25th Annual CUNY big Apple Job and Internship Fair at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on April 26, 2013 in New York City.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

As if paying for college wasn't enough, now students are paying to get a high-value internship that will give them an edge in the job market.

The debate over the value of college that billionaire Peter Thiel sparked three years ago hasn’t gone away. Yet most adults continue to place a high priority on saving for college, and a growing number of families are doubling down on education—paying for high-value internships on top of a degree.

Youth unemployment remains high—about 13% globally. Thiel and others argue that it’s foolish to go into debt for a diploma when so few appropriate jobs are available for graduates. Better to start a small business or learn a trade.

Statistics say otherwise. The Pew Research Center found that a typical adult with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1.42 million over 40 years—$650,000 more than someone with only a high school degree. The cost of college and lost income while in school narrows the gap slightly, to $550,000. Pew also found that adults with a college degree fared better in the Great Recession.

There is no denying that crushing student loans may bear on graduates for years, and that those who go into debt but fail to graduate are especially hard pressed. But for most people education works, and the good news is that through online courses the price will come down markedly over the next decade, and may even become free.

So it’s no surprise to see parents and young people continuing to place a high priority on higher education and the pre- or post-graduate internships that boost employment prospects. Among families that have saved anything for college, 85% say it is one of their top three priorities and 60% will save more this year than they saved last year, according to a Fidelity Investments survey. They are saving monthly (81%), or earmarking their tax refund (37%) or a bonus or pay raise (36%), and redirecting funds that had been used for day care or another expiring expense (29%).

On top of this, families have begun budgeting for global internships, a trend that universities and a cottage industry of placement firms has furthered. “The data show that international internships are highly regarded by employers,” says David Lloyd, founder of the Intern Group, which has placed young adults from 80 countries in positions around the world. “The kids who will be successful today are those that take themselves out of their comfort zone and develop a global mindset.”

This means going beyond simple study abroad programs to employment in a foreign country that will build a young person’s contacts and context, Lloyd says. Such programs are especially popular in the U.S., where more than a third of Intern Group alumni reside. Lloyd says that 88% of those who take part in his firm’s programs find work at a graduate level job within three months and that 95% say the program was good for their career.

These internships start at around $3,500 for a six-week program. Some last six months and are more expensive. But, says Lloyd, “employers worldwide prize graduates with global experience and international cultural awareness.” The right internship gives graduates a decided edge.

Hilton Hotels is among companies that prize internships, and at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos announced an Open Doors campaign to help 1 million young people “reach their full potential” over the next five years through global apprenticeship and other programs. “These are a huge deal,” says Jennifer Silberman, vice president of corporate responsibility at Hilton Worldwide. “Young people are at a competitive disadvantage if they don’t get this kind of experience.”

Indeed, McKinsey found that half of college graduates are not sure that their education improved their job prospects and that 39% of employers say entry-level jobs go unfilled because young people don’t have the required job skills. An apprenticeship, says Silberman, “lets us identify high-potential workers and fast-track them.” The travel industry is projected to create 73 million jobs the next 10 years, and most of them have career potential, she says, adding that it’s not unusual for an apprentice to be offered a full-time job and then get their first promotion within six months.

You don’t necessarily need a college degree to become a concierge or housekeeping manager, which is kind of the argument Thiel and others make against going into debt to go to college. But even in the services-heavy travel industry there are lots of marketing, technology and management jobs that require higher education—and where a high-value internship really helps.

TIME Personal Finance

The Richie Rich Effect: Kids Cash In On Improving Economy

A new study shows children are receiving larger allowances from their parents.
A new study shows children are receiving larger allowances from their parents. Jamie Grill—Getty Images

In this economy? Well, yeah

Your kids are demanding a raise, and you’re probably going to give it to them.

So says a new study that shows children are receiving increasingly large allowances from their parents, partly as a result of the improving economy, it seems.

While the percentage of parents giving an allowance of up to $10 a week fell from 77.3 percent in 2011 to 68.4 percent in 2013, the percentage of parents giving between $11-$20 or between $21-$30 jumped sharply, according to an annual Parents, Kids & Money survey, Reuters reports.

And some kids seem to be rolling in dough. Four percent of parents gave between $41 and $50 a week in 2013, nearly quadruple the number from the 2011 survey—and more than one percent of parents are handing out between $91 and $100 a week.

So are your kids getting above or below average allowances? A 2012 survey by the American Institute of CPA’s shows eldest children received an average of $16.25 each week.

The allowance increase could partially be attributable to families feeling more stable in the post-recession years, or it could be that kids are paying for more things they need, like clothing, for example, Reuters reports.

Others suggest there might be a social factor at play. Humorist Dan Zevin told Reuters his son had been influenced by what his friends had been given. “The only thing that matters to your kid is what Richie Rich’s parents are giving down the street,” he said.

Just hope the kids don’t ask for a bonus.

[Reuters]

TIME Personal Finance

Nearly Half of America Lives Paycheck-to-Paycheck

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The economic picture is looking brighter these days. The federal government announced Thursday that economic growth had picked up to its fastest pace in two years, while employment growth over the past five months has averaged a healthy 185,000 new jobs. But as evidenced by a report out Thursday from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of Americans are living in a state of “persistent economic security,” that makes it “difficult to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future.”

In other words, too many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. The CFED calls these folks “liquid asset poor,” and its report finds that 44% of Americans are living with less than $5,887 in savings for a family of four. The plight of these folks is compounded by the fact that the recession ravaged many Americans’ credit scores to the point that now 56% percent of us have subprime credit. That means that if emergencies arise, many Americans are forced to resort to high-interest debt from credit cards or payday loans.

And this financial insecurity isn’t just affected the lower classes. According to the CFED, one-quarter of middle-class households also fall into the category of “liquid asset poor.” Geographically, most of the economically insecure are clustered in the South and West, with Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, and Arkansas being the states with the highest percentage of financially insecure.

TIME Retirement

The Problem With President Obama’s ‘MyRA’ Savings Accounts

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Expanding savings opportunities makes sense. But a big issue is whether people have the means to use them.

To better enable Americans to save for retirement, President Obama said he would order a new “starter” savings plan called MyRA geared at low-income households. It’s a fine idea. But as with any personal savings account, you must be able to fund it for it to matter. That may be the biggest problem with the program.

Little is known about these new accounts. They would function like a Roth IRA, allowing savers to put in after-tax money that would then grow tax-free. They’d be available through your employer to anyone who does not have an individual retirement account or work for a company that offers a traditional pension or 401(k) plan. That comes to about 39 million households.

The big advantage is that you could open a MyRA with as little as $25 and make contributions of as little as $5, creating a regular savings opportunity that most low-income households have never had. Typically, plan administrators require $1,000 or more to open an account. MyRAs would also benefit from a no-fee structure that does not eat away at savings.

Your MyRA would also enjoy a government guarantee against loss of principal. The downside is that your money would be funneled into low-yielding Treasury securities and have little potential to grow enough to make a big dent in your personal retirement savings crisis—or that of the nation as a whole—until you have accumulated enough to roll it into a regular IRA where you might benefit from investments with greater growth potential.

Offering low-income households a place to save doesn’t really fix the big problem: they still must have the money and the discipline to take advantage. More than half of workers have less than $25,000 in savings and 28% has less than $1,000 in savings, reports the Employee Benefits Research Institute. And with the MyRA, you could take money out anytime without penalty. That would be awfully tempting the first time money gets tight.

The retirement savings plan represents an important first step,” says Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance. Still, she says, “Most Americans are not able to plan for their futures because they are trying to deal with their most immediate needs, like paying their rent and keeping their lights on.”

The new accounts call to mind the so-called “catch-up” provision enabling savers past age 50 to put away an extra $5,500 in their 401(k) each year. That’s a fine idea too, but since its adoption in 2001 only the relatively well to do have used it. Let’s face it: Not many folks have an extra $5,500 lying around.

Only 13% of those eligible have made the extra contributions, according to an analysis of data provided by Fidelity Investments. That’s largely because regardless of age almost no one even contributes the maximum $17,500—already a lot of money to take out of your budget each year. For the vast majority, the extra $5,500 has proven to be irrelevant, concludes the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

So let’s not pretend that MyRAs will save our collective retirement dreams. They give more people more opportunity to save, and you cannot argue with that. But for these accounts to make a real difference, the folks they are meant to help most will need extraordinary willpower.

MONEY Banking

What Does the Bank of the Future Look Like?

Besides being able to chat with reps online, you should be able to instant-message with your bank via your phone soon too. Also, watch for ATMs with videochat capabilities. Illustration: Stephan Walter

Instant service, contactless payments and directed coupons may all be part of your banking in the upcoming years.

Here’s what you can expect from banks of the future:

You’ll get instant service. Besides being able to chat with reps online, says Alex Matjanec of MyBank Tracker.com, you should be able to instant-message with your bank via your phone soon too. Also, watch for ATMs with videochat capabilities (Bank of America is now trotting this out).

You won’t need a debit card. Despite PayPal, Google, and Square’s attempts at digital wallets — which allow you to pay for purchases with a smartphone –“contactless” payment hasn’t yet hit critical mass. Customers will be more likely to adopt it when their banks offer it, says Monahan.

Your storefront bank will go 2.0. Traditional banks will offer one set of terms for online-only customers — higher rates, fewer fees — and another for those who want to go into a branch, predicts MoneyRates.com’s Richard Barrington. Fifth Third has already launched web-only accounts with better terms.

Your bank will play personal shopper. With every debit, your financial institution is creating a picture of your tastes. Now that banks can get in touch via your smartphone, expect them to start texting you deals from “partners” on products you’re likely to buy, says Ajai Nagarkatte of financial services association and research firm BAI.

MONEY best banks

Best Banks in America

While high fees and low yields are still the norm, MONEY's annual survey uncovered a few financial institutions that are offering the opposite. You may just want to move your money to one of them.

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Danita Delimont—Getty Images/Gallo Images

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Money magazine.

Do you — gasp! — like your bank?

Surprising as it may seem, Americans are pretty happy with their financial institutions. According to a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey, customer satisfaction is back up as high as it was in 2007, before the financial crisis began. The nation’s largest banks in particular have seen a big jump in customer ratings over the past year, narrowing the lead their smaller peers have long maintained.

Your growing contentment may be owed, at least partly, to the fact that banks have been working to improve client relations: “Many of the big banks are now offering person-to-person customer service at the same level that the smaller banks have in the past,” says Jim Miller, J.D. Power’s senior director of banking.

The largest depository institutions, he explains, have been pushing employees to build relationships, even to simply greet people with a smile.

Or maybe you like the new technological conveniences offered. In response to Americans’ rapid adoption of web and mobile banking, banks of all sizes have been adding services in these areas — like having customer reps available by instant-messaging and allowing check deposit via smartphone.

In fact, “institutions are rolling out mobile-banking features as soon as they can,” says Mary Monahan, executive vice president of market research firm Javelin.

But what about all the fees banks tacked on and hiked up post-2008? You can’t have forgotten about those? Well, the J.D. Power data shows that consumers better understand what they’re being charged, and Miller takes satisfaction in this realm to mean that you’ve accepted the fees as standard. So maybe you’re not happy so much as … resigned?

You need not give up so easily. MONEY’s third annual quest to find the best banks in America — which involved reviewing checking, savings, and CD terms from 58 of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions — uncovered a few atypical institutions that deserve your loyalty. Plus, industry gurus say there are some interesting new developments coming down the pike for retail depositors.

  • Best Online Bank

    Winner: Ally Bank
    Branches: None

    Repeating last year’s performance, online banks walloped all sizes of brick-and-mortars; the 15 web-only institutions MONEY surveyed commonly offered free checking and high rates on savings. Plus, since the banks typically don’t have their own ATMs, you won’t be charged to use another bank’s machine — and you may even be reimbursed for that institution’s surcharges.

    Why Ally is a winner

    Ally offers stellar interest rates on fee-free checking and savings accounts. For checking, the bank has the best yields on balances below $50,000, with 0.4% on up to $15,000 and 0.75% above it. Plus you can use any ATM free, no fees or surcharges.

    Related: What does the bank of the future look like?

    On savings, Ally’s flat 0.84% APY handily beats the averages for online banks across all balances. You also have the option of a money-market account at the same rate. Another plus: Customer reps — real live people! — are available by phone and instant message 24/7.

    Caveat

    Savings yield is lower than some competitors’, including standalone savings co-winners Barclays and GE Capital, but they don’t also have checking.

    Standout accounts

    Ally Interest Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses unlimited surcharges
    • Interest rate on $3,000: 0.4%

    Ally Online Savings

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.84%

  • Best Big Bank

    Winner: TD Bank
    Branches: 1,300 in 15 states and D.C.

    Understanding that some people prefer a physical institution with a wide national presence, MONEY looked for a pick among the 13 banks with more than 1,000 branches. It was tough going since these big banks were still the worst of the worst in terms of account terms. Only 2% of checking accounts were free, and hurdles to waive fees were high compared with all banks: a median minimum balance of $5,000 or direct deposit of $500 a month. On savings, the average yield on $20,000 was a grim 0.07% — 14 bucks a year.

    Why TD Bank is a winner

    Good perks on high-balance accounts, decent lower-balance options, and an impressive commitment to customer service.

    The simplest checking account, TD Convenience Checking, makes it easy to skirt maintenance fees: Just keep a very low $100 daily minimum. Simple Savings requires only a $300 balance and earns a flat 0.05% — not jaw dropping, but it is the median rate for balances below $15,000 across all surveyed.

    For those who stash more — at least $2,500 — the perks on checking are among the best from large banks. You get ATM surcharge reimbursements and a bit of interest. With $10,000 in savings, you get better-than-average interest. In addition, TD has 24/7 customer service on the phone and extended branch hours that include evenings and weekends (70 hours total a week, vs. 47 on average among banks we surveyed).

    Caveat

    TD Relationship Savings requires linked checking, credit card, or mortgage.

    Standout accounts

    TD Premier Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $25 ($24 if paperless)
    • Minimum balance to avoid maintenance fee: $2,500 daily
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses unlimited surcharges with a $2,500 balance
    • Interest on $3,000: 0.05%

    TD Relationship Savings

    • Maintenance fee: $15 ($14 if paperless)
    • Minimum balance to avoid maintenance fee: $10,000 daily
    • Interest rate on…

    $20,000: 0.3%,
    $40,000: 0.4%,
    $100,000: 0.5%

  • Best Customer Experience

    Winner: Citizens Bank
    Branches: 1,369 in 12 states

    This year, for the first time, MONEY took a look at each bank’s availability of customer service. While all had reps reachable by phone, only 28% offered live service around the clock. Four in 10 provided help through instant-messaging. The average branch is open 47 hours a week. Also, to get a sense of customer satisfaction, MONEY reviewed independent surveys on Americans’ experiences with their banks.

    Why it’s a winner

    Citizens is a customer-service triple threat — the only institution in our survey that had phone reps available 24/7, offered customer service via online instant-messaging (weekdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and had long branch hours (55 during the week, plus 10 on weekends, including Sundays).

    With more than 1,300 branches — plus 3,600 ATMs — Citizens offers a robust presence for those who don’t do all their banking online. Citizens also scored well with customers in a recent American Banker/Reputation Institute survey.

    Caveat

    Citizens’ accounts didn’t shine in our analysis, since the bank doesn’t offer free checking or pay well on savings. That said, the $10 fee on Green Checking can be waived with five transactions a month.

  • Best Mobile App

    Winner: Chase
    Branches: 5,657 in 23 states

    Of the 58 institutions MONEY surveyed, 54 had a mobile app. Almost all allowed users to check balances, transfer funds between their own accounts, and find the nearest ATM. Thirty-seven offered the ability to deposit checks, 26 let customers cancel a pending transaction, and 25 allowed for person-to-person transfers. Bigger banks led the way in both form and function.

    Why Chase is a winner

    Chase’s app was the full package. It had all the basic features MONEY was surveying for. Plus it offers remote deposit capture for checks and real-time alerts that tell you when your account has dipped below a limit you set.

    One neat feature for date night with the neighbors: QuickPay lets you transfer money to someone with simply a phone number or email (they’ll just need to go through a one-time setup). Best of all, the app is easy to use, with clearly labeled buttons and tabs. Chase also offers the option to bank by text-messaging (SMS) if you prefer.

    Caveat

    Chase’s account options were poor. The most basic checking comes with a $12 monthly fee and $2 nonbank ATM fee; the best rate on savings is 0.2% — and that’s for balances over $500,000.

  • Best Midsize Bank

    Winner: Capital One
    Branches: 929 in eight states and D.C.

    Midsize banks — those with fewer than 1,000 branches — tended to offer slightly better terms than bigger banks, like higher yields on savings (0.11% on $20,000 vs. 0.07%) and more no-fee checking (19% of accounts vs. 2%).

    The next four banks were the stars. Don’t live near one of them? Go with the big bank or online winners instead.

    Why Capital One is a winner

    No other physical bank surveyed offered account terms as good as these. The free High Yield Checking account comes with no out-of-network ATM fees and an APY higher than any other brick-and-mortar surveyed. The Smart Savings account pays the same, five times the average savings yield for non-online institutions surveyed.

    Caveats

    The interest rate on High Yield Checking is reset after a year, to a rate the bank says is “competitive.” The current yield on older accounts is 0.25% — still among the best from a brick-and-mortar.

    Standout accounts

    High Yield Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses up to $15 in surcharges a month.
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.5%

    Smart Savings

    • Maintenance fee: $5
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $300
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.5%

    NOTE: Interest rates may vary from state to state. Capital One is in Conn., Del., La., Md., N.Y., N.J., Texas, and Va.

  • Best Midsize Bank, part 2

    Winner: Susquehanna
    Branches: 247 in four states

    Why it’s a winner

    Susquehanna has interest-earning checking with relatively simple hurdles to avoid fees, and above-average rates on savings. Plus, with the free Stellar Checking, you can juice your return with a rewards program that gives you, for example, 5¢ for every bill paid online, 5¢ per debit purchase, and $1 each month you transfer $100 to a bank savings account.

    Caveat

    Checking accounts have high foreign-transaction, insufficient-fund, and inactivity fees ($25, $40, and $10, respectively).

    Standout accounts

    Stellar Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $2, but up to four are waived and four surcharges a month are reimbursed with a $2,500 balance
    • Interest rate on all balances of $1,000 or more: 0.05%

    Premium Money Market

    • Maintenance fee: $12
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $1,000 daily
    • Interest rate on…

    $20,000: 0.1%
    $40,000: 0.2%
    $100,000: 0.4%

    NOTE: Interest rates may vary from state to state. Susquehanna is in Md., N.J., Pa., and W. Va.

  • Best Midsize Bank, part 3

    Winner: Zions
    Branches: 127 in two states

    Why it’s a winner

    On the low end, Basic Checking has no maintenance fee. But Gold Interest Checking offers more — four out-of-network ATM transactions a month and a little interest — with a relatively low balance requirement. Ultimate Savings has nearly double the average interest of the banks surveyed.

    Caveat

    Basic Checking has a $2 nonbank ATM fee.

    Standout accounts

    Gold Interest Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $12
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $2,000
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $2, but up to four waived a month
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.04%

    Ultimate Savings

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Interest rate on all balances above $5,000: 0.16%

    NOTE: Interest rates may vary from state to state. Zions is in Idaho and Utah.

  • Best Midsize Bank, part 4

    Winner: Bank of the West
    Branches: 615 in 19 states

    Why it’s a winner

    Above-average yields and no out-of-network ATM fees for those who keep a high balance. Bank of the West does not have free checking, but you can waive the $8 on Easy Checking with a $250 monthly direct deposit.

    Caveat

    Must have linked Premier Checking to get yields below.

    Standout accounts

    Premier Relationship Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $30
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $15,000, or $25,000 across all accounts
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses up to $15 in surcharges a month
    • Interest rate on $3,000: 0.01%

    Choice Money Market

    • Maintenance fee: $15
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $5,000 or $75 monthly direct deposit
    • Interest rates on…

    $20,000: 0.12%
    $40,000: 0.21%
    $100,000: 0.35%

    NOTE: Interest rates may vary from state to state. Bank of the West is in Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, lowa, Kans., Minn., Mo., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.D., Okla., Ore., S.D., Utah, Wash., Wis., and Wyo.

  • Best Military Bank

    Winner: Navy Federal Credit Union
    Branches: 235 in 31 states

    America’s armed forces — and their relatives — have access to some very decent banking options. MONEY looked at six military-oriented financial institutions, most of them credit unions, and found that free checking was almost standard (all but one institution had it) and higher rates were customary (the median savings yield for deposits of $20,000 was 0.28%). The institution above was a runner-up for many categories surveyed.

    Why it’s a winner

    Navy Federal — which you can join if you are active-duty military, a Department of Defense or Coast Guard civilian employee or contractor, or are a household or family member of an NFCU member — gets a special nod because of the top-shelf terms it offers across a variety of accounts, both personal and business.

    EveryDay Checking has no monthly service fee and pays a 0.05% rate; Flagship Checking, which is fee-free if you keep a balance of $1,500, has an APY as high as 0.45% and reimburses up to $10 in ATM surcharges a month. (It’s also worth noting that Navy Federal participates in the CO-OP network, which allows you to use 55,000 ATMs for free, plus you also pay only $1 to use a Plus network machine.) Navy Federal’s Money Market Savings Account, meanwhile, offers 0.5% on $25,000.

    All of Navy Federal’s business accounts allow unlimited electronic deposits. The maintenance fee-free Business Checking can make sense for those with a side gig, while more established companies should look at the Premier Business Checking account, which has a higher free-transaction limit.

    Caveats

    Navy Federal’s most basic business account offers only 30 free cash transactions (though all electronic transactions are free).

    Standout Accounts

    NFCU Flagship Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $10
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $1,500 daily
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses up to $10 in surcharges a month
    • Interest rate on $3,000: 0.35%

    Money Market Savings

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Interest rate on… $20,000: 0.45%; $40,000: 0.5%; $100,000: 0.55%

    Business Checking Terms

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Free-transaction cap: 30 cash deposits (unlimited electronic)
    • Fee per additional transaction: $0.25
    • Cash deposit limit: None
    • Fee per additional $100 deposit: None
  • Best Checking Account

    Winner: Ally Bank
    Branches: None

    Splitting your deposits among multiple institutions can allow you to chase the best yields, since some of the banks that pay the most on savings and CDs do not also offer checking. No surprise that online banks took all the prizes here, though interest rates had fallen a hair since last year. Ally, which had paid 1.01% on one-year CDs, now pays 0.94%.

    Why it’s a winner

    Ally has a fee-free checking account that pays interest — with no linked savings account required. (That’s important if you’re splitting up your banking.) Best of all, the yields — 0.4% below $15,000 and 0.75% above it — outdo those on savings accounts at most banks.

    Caveat

    Capital One’s High Yield Checking across-the-board 0.5% rate beats Ally’s for balances less than $15,000. That 0.5% APY is locked in for only a year, however, after which it has been resetting to 0.25%. So Ally’s the better deal in the long run.

    Standout account

    Ally Interest Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $0
    • Interest rate on $3,000: 0.4%

  • Best Teen & College Student Checking

    Winner: Citibank and U.S. Bank (Tie)
    Branches: 982 in 13 states and the District of Columbia for Citibank, 3,087 in 25 states for U.S. Bank

    MONEY looked at 36 checking accounts geared toward teenagers and/or college students. Two-thirds had no minimum balances or maintenance fees, though about half did not offer any discernible perks over a normal account.

    The winners combined free accounts with educational tools to teach budgeting and financial skills and offered at least a few free out-of-network ATM transactions a month (an important consideration for busy college students, who often forget to take out cash until the last minute).

    Which of the two is best for your child depends on which offers the closest ATMs, so as to reduce the ding of out-of-network fees or surcharges.

    Why they are winners

    Citibank’s account for college students has no minimums or fees, plus out-of-network ATM usage won’t rack up charges (at least not from Citibank). Also, if parents are co-signers, they can receive SMS or email alerts to keep them abreast of account activity. Another perk is Citi’s suite of online financial management tools. These are available for all customers — not just students — but can be particularly useful to those on a budget for the first time. Your child can track goals, set bill reminders and budget alerts, and create spending reports.

    U.S. Bank’s no-fee student checking is open to both high school and college students, and it features educational materials geared toward young people on money management topics like avoiding overdrafts and preventing identity theft.

    Although this account waives only four out-of-network ATM fees per cycle, the high number of ATM locations (the bank has 5,000 plus participates in the MoneyPass -surcharge-free ATM network, adding another 25,000 nationwide) means there’s a good likelihood teens can limit withdrawals to U.S. Bank ATMs. As with Citi’s account, co-signing parents can receive SMS or email alerts on account activity.

    Caveats

    Teenagers who are not yet in college can’t use Citibank’s account. U.S. Bank provides educational articles but no tools for budgeting or money management beyond basics like account alerts.

    Standout accounts

    Citibank Student Account

    • Minimum deposit: None
    • Maintenance fee: None
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: None

    U.S. Bank Student Account

    • Minimum deposit: $25
    • Maintenance fee: None
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: Four free transactions a month, then $2.50
  • Best Checking for Established Businesses

    Winner: Capital One
    Branches: 929 in eight states and D.C.

    Only 15% of the business accounts surveyed had no maintenance fee. Among the rest, charges ranged from $5 to $95, and averaged $16. In choosing an account, consider how many transactions you make a month (some offer as few as 25 for free, others are unlimited) and how much cash you deposit (accounts varied in the amount allowed without charge).

    Why Capital One is a winner

    For businesses that generate and spend a lot of money, Spark Business Unlimited provides a sweet suite of features: no cap on free transactions plus the fourth-highest cash deposit threshold.

    Caveat

    Minimum balance is high — and so is the fee — so the account makes sense only for businesses that already have a cash cushion.

    Standout account

    Spark Business Unlimited Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $35
    • Minimum balance to avoid fee: $25,000
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $2
    • Free transactions: unlimited
    • Cash deposit limit: $40,000; above it you may get moved to another account

  • Best Checking for Startups or Side Businesses

    Winner: PNC
    Branches: 2,780 in 19 states

    Why it’s a winner

    PNC’s Free Business Checking was one of only a few small-business accounts that had no minimum balance and charged no maintenance fee — musts for businesses that don’t have consistent or significant revenue. Plus, the account allows a generous number of free transactions per month (200, vs. the average of 142 among no-fee small-business accounts). Moreover, the $5,000 in free cash deposits is nearly $500 more than its rivals. Finally, there’s no monthly inactivity fee, so if business is slow, at least you won’t have to worry about the bank putting you one step closer to the poorhouse.

    Caveat

    Because of the costs for transactions over the limit and for cash deposits over $5,000, a bigger business will do better with the Capital One account on the prior slide.

    Standout account

    Free Business Checking

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Out-of-network ATM fee: $2.50
    • Free transactions: 200
    • Fee per additional transaction: 50¢
    • Cash deposit limit: $5,000
    • Fee per additional $100 deposit: 50¢

  • Best Savings Account

    Winner: Barclays and GE Capital Bank (tie)
    Branches: None for either

    Why they are winners

    GE’s Online Savings account and Barclays’ Online Savings account are neck and neck, both offering the highest rate among all the accounts surveyed — a flat 0.90%, with no fees or minimum balances.

    Caveats

    Interest rates may vary after the accounts are opened, though both have been relatively consistent. Neither bank offers checking accounts.

    Standout accounts

    GE Online Savings and Barclays Online Savings

    • Maintenance fee: $0
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.90%

  • Best for 12-Month CDs

    Winner: GE Capital Retail Bank and Ally Bank (tie)
    Branches: One for GE, none for Ally

    Why they are winners

    On one-year CDs with balances of $25,000 and up, GE pays more than any other bank surveyed (the average was 0.45%, the median 0.25%). For balances below $15,000, GE pays a high rate, but is outdone by Ally’s 12-month CD and tied with Ally’s no-penalty 11-month CD.

    Caveats

    GE’s penalty for early withdrawal is 90 days’ worth of interest; Ally’s is 60 days’ interest. Ally’s No Penalty CD does not deduct interest if you withdraw after the first six days.

    Standout accounts

    GE Capital 12-Month CD

    • Minimum deposit: $2,000
    • Interest rate on…

    $10,000: 0.85%
    $20,000: 0.95%
    $30,000: 1.05%

    Ally High Yield 12-Month CD

    • Minimum deposit: $1
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.94%

    Ally No Penalty 11-Month CD

    • Minimum deposit: $1
    • Interest rate on all balances: 0.85%

     

    MONEY looked at the 40 biggest retail banks by consumer deposits and number of branches, plus the 15 biggest online banks and three biggest credit unions by deposits, according to financial services consulting firm Novantas. Banks with more than 1,000 branches were in the running for Best Big Bank, while those with fewer were up for Midsize. All banks surveyed were candidates for best customer experience, business accounts, app, and standalone accounts.
    The top consideration for checking picks was maintenance fees and ease of waiving them, followed by other charges, restrictions, and perks, like interest. For savings and CDs, MONEY weighted rates first, followed by fees, minimums and other rules. For customer experience, we looked at the availability of service; for mobile, breadth of features and ease of use. As a tiebreaker, MONEY used data from independent customer service studies.

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