Leaving My Bank – Comparing Online Bank Accounts.

Elisa Cundiff is the guest blogger today, she is the Outreach Coordinator at Thrive, a free online budgeting tool.

Every morning I review all my financial accounts on Thrive, but last Thursday, I noticed something strange: a “$3 non-Citi atm fee”. This was an additional $3 that my bank was penalizing me with for not using a Citi-bank machine. This means that I’m paying upwards of $6 every time I withdraw money from an ATM, because I live in a town where there are no Citi-bank ATMs.

I called Citibank and threatened to switch banks unless they dropped the fee in the future. The refused, and now I’m stuck with finding another bank. But since I’m at it, I’d like to find a really good one! At least one that meets my needs right now, so that I’m not in the same place a month down the road, with another poor customer service rep at a new institution. So, I’m off to find the best bank.

For me, the best online bank must fulfill the following requirements:

  • It must offer free online bill pay
  • Must not charge me for ATM withdrawals
  • It must support online transfers between internal and external accounts
  • Low fees
  • Good interest rates
  • Must be linkable by Thrive (a personal financial advice software program that I both work for and use)

For this exercise, I’m going to rate tree different online banks; E*Trade, Charles Schwab, and ING Direct, by giving them a point for each of the above criteria that they meet.


  • Supports online transfers ““ 1 point
  • Has online bill pay ““ 1 point
  • Has low fee options ““ 0.5 points
  • Linked to Thrive ““ 1 point
  • .05% interest rate ““ 1 point

Charles Schwab

  • Does not charge for ATM withdrawals, and will even reimburse the ATM fees your hit with by the bank you withdraw from ““ 2 points
  • Supports online transfers ““ 1 point
  • Has online bill pay equivalent (called Checkfree) ““ 1 point
  • Has many low or no fee options ““ 1 point
  • Linked to Thrive ““ 1 point
  • .25% interest rate ““ 1 point

ING Direct

  • No fees ““ 1 point
  • Supports bill pay ““ 1 point
  • Supports online transfers ““ 1 point
  • Does not link to Thrive (yet) ““ 0 points
  • 1.30% variable interest rate ““ 1 point

How did everyone rank up? According to my ranking scheme based on what I’m looking for in a bank right each bank scored the following:

E*Trade: 4.5
Charles Schwab: 6
Ing Direct: 4

So, Charles Schwab it is! The great thing about switching to Charles Schwab is that it will save me about $144 this year in ATM fees ($6 twice a month for 12 months), and I’ll have a slightly higher rate of return on my savings. Now, if that isn’t the perfect motivation to go ahead and fill out this mountain of Scwab paperwork I just printed out”¦


Money Quote Friday – Tomorrow Is A New Day/Moving Edition.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s time to move on and start over. Today is the day I am moving to Colorado, so My Two Dollars will be offline for a few days until I get settled in up there (and get an internet connection back). I hope you guys all have a fantastic weekend and see you next week. Wish me luck.



A Dream Will Lead You Out of Debt.

The processes and practices of getting our personal finances in order are simple to understand, but difficult to implement because they involve behavior changes. In the past something about how you were managing your finances was working for you – you were getting something beneficial from it or you would have been doing it differently. For me, I was getting to avoid facing reality and could go on pretending to be “successful”.

A dream is what is going to get you through the process of changing your behavior. A Dream is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal; an idea that today seems a bit unrealistic, but so moving that the possibility of getting there will influence how you choose to live your life.

Somewhere along the way in life you may have stopped dreaming. I know I did. I don’t know the exact date, but I can pinpoint the time. It was when I began to see my options evaporating because of the choices I had made. My accumulation of debt left me needing to work at jobs that were not my passion. Debt left me unable to afford to travel – one of my passions. The Dream of taking a year off from working to travel the world no longer seemed anywhere close to being a reality.

Today, after getting my personal finances in order, my dream is becoming a reality. This dream serves as a compass by which I can check my habits and behavior. I can ask myself daily, “Is this action going to lead me in the direction of my dream or is it going to lead me somewhere else?” If my behaviors aren’t leading towards my dream then I can change my behavior to get back on course.

What is your DREAM?

Personal finance coach Matt Kelly blogs at personalfinancecoaching.com; through his coaching he empowers clients to become accountable and responsible for their dreams. This transformation eliminates the “usual” stress of financial worries and improves all aspects of his client’s lives.


The 2009 Best Small Towns To Live In.

CNN/Money has come out with their 2009 Best Places To Live – Small Towns list, and I always enjoy checking out the towns that they include. And to my surprise this year, my hometown was ranked #16! I mean, it’s a great New England town, for sure, but to see it at #16 was pretty cool. I am sure that my mom would agree, and I have fond memories of growing up there. This is what they said about Acton, MA:

With its myriad landmarks from the American Revolution and its 1,600 acres of conservation land, Acton has a traditional New England vibe. But it’s also a highly diverse town with a large Asian community and a nonprofit Chinese-language school. The town’s progressive school system is ranked among the best in the state. Jobs are relatively stable here, thanks to large area employers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Cisco. Many residents commute into Boston by rail.

Here are the Top 10 small towns, and you can check out the site to check out all 100:

1 Louisville, CO
2 Chanhassen, MN
3 Papillion, NE
4 Middleton, WI
5 Milton, MA
6 Warren, NJ
7 Keller, TX
8 Peachtree City, GA
9 Lake St. Louis, MO
10 Mukilteo, WA


Looks Like Progressive Insurance Is Cheapest…

…for my car in Colorado, at least. I have had State Farm car and renter’s insurance here in New Mexico, and while they have been fine I do think that they are a little on the expensive side for Colorado. The best insurance company I have ever had the pleasure of doing business with was Wawanesa, but they are only for residents of California and Oregon (unless that has changed and I didn’t notice). So, I had to start looking around and it looks like Progressive is going to be the best combination of price/value/convenience for me in Denver. And because I am a new customer, I will be signing up online, and I am going to pay my 6 month premium in advance, I am getting a one-time discount of $69 off my 6 month rate. So for my 2008 Subaru with very decent coverage, I will pay $357 for 6 months – or the equivalent of $59.50 per month. Not bad at all.


No insurance company is complaint-free though, and Progressive is no different. There are plenty of complaints on the internet about every company, so I cannot choose an insurance company based on those alone. Several people I know have had good luck with Progressive, so I will have to trust that these guys will be OK for what I need. And that brings me to you guys – what insurance company do you use? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Maybe a few comments from readers can give me some insight I may be missing out on!

Photo from Shutterstock

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