Monthly Archives: July 2013

What Are the Different Types of Bank Accounts I Can Choose From?

Scarsdale tax preparer Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions!  Bank Account Choices from Scarsdale Accountant

What are the different types of bank accounts I can choose from?

Checking Accounts

Checking accounts provide you with quick, convenient access to your funds. You are able to make deposits as often as you wish, and most banks provide you with an ATM card to access your funds, or to charge debits at stores. Of course, you can also use the conventional method of writing checks.

Some checking accounts pay interest. These are called negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts. The more commonly used type, a demand deposit account, does not pay interest.

There are several fees that are associated with checking accounts, other than the check printing fees. These will vary depending on the bank you choose. Some will charge a monthly maintenance fee regardless of your balance, others will charge a monthly fee if your balance drops below a certain point. Further, some institutions charge you based on the transactions you make, such as each ATM withdrawal, or each check you write.

Money Market Deposit Accounts (MMDA)

An MMDA is basically an account that accumulates interest. You can also write checks from it. The rate of interest is usually higher than that of checking or savings accounts. However, they require a higher minimum balance in order to earn that interest. The higher your balance becomes, the higher your interest rate may rise.

However, it is less convenient to withdraw money from an MMDA than it is from a checking account. You are limited to six transfers from the account a month, and only three of these can be through writing a check. Also, there are usually transaction fees associated with these accounts.

Savings accounts

You may make withdrawals from savings accounts, but there is less flexibility than with a checking account. Like an MMDA, the number of withdrawals or transfers may be limited.

There are a few different types of savings accounts. The two most common are passbook and statement. Passbook accounts involve a record book that tracks all deposits and withdrawals and must be presented upon making these transactions. With a statement savings account, you are mailed a statement showing all withdrawals and deposits.

Minimum balance fees may also be charged on savings accounts.

Credit Union Accounts

These accounts are similar to those of banks, but with a different title. In a credit union, you would have a share draft account (a checking account), a share account (savings account), or a share certificate account (certificate of deposit account).

The great thing about credit unions is that they usually charge less for banking services than banks do. If you have access to one, use it!

Certificates of Deposit (CD)

CDs are time deposits. They offer a guaranteed rate of interest for a specified term which can be as short as a few days or as long as several years.

When you pick the term you generally can’t withdraw your money until the term expires. In some cases the bank will let you withdraw the interest you have earned on the CD. Because CDs are for a set amount of time, the rate of return is usually higher – and the longer the term, the higher the annual percentage yield.

A penalty can be issued if you withdraw your funds before the maturity of your term. Sometimes the penalty can be quite high, eating into your interest earned as well as your principal investment.

Your bank will notify you before your CD matures, but often CDs renew automatically. You should keep track of your maturity date if you would like to take out your funds before the CD rolls over into a new term.

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, Bedford NY, Mount Kisco NY, Purchase NY, Harrison NY and beyond.

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Loan FAQ’s

Scarsdale tax preparer Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! 

As tax professionals, our Westchester CPA firm sees firsthand many shared financial questions and concerns. In our “FAQ Series,” we will discuss these common topics and share our insight. Loan FAQs from Scarsdale Accountant

What are the possible implications if I co-sign for a loan?

The co-signer enters an agreement to be responsible for the repayment of the loan if the borrower defaults. A lender will usually not go after the co-signer until the borrower defaults, but they can lawfully go after the co-signer at any time.

It has been stated by finance companies that in the case of a default most co-signers actually pay off the loans that they have co-signed for including the legal and late fees that end up being tacked on. Clearly this can be a large financial burden, and it can also reflect negatively on the co-signer’s credit.

If you do agree to co-sign on a loan for someone, you can request that the financial institution agrees that it will refrain from collecting from you unless the primary borrower defaults. Also, make sure that your liability is limited to the unpaid principal and not any late or legal fees.

Upon co-signing you may have to brandish financial documents to the lender just as the primary borrower would have to.

Co-signing for a loan gives you the same legal responsibility for the repayment of the debt as the borrower. If there are late payments, this will affect your credit as well.

If you are asked to co-sign for someone, you may want to provide another option and suggest that they get a secured credit card. This way, they can build up their own credit history and not open themselves up to the possibility of taking on a debt too large, placing themselves, and you, in financial danger.

▼ How can I ensure that I get the best possible rates on my loans?

Be careful when signing up for a home equity loan or line of credit – the disclosed APR does not reflect the total fees that are associated with the loan, such as closing costs and others. Do not forget to compare this cost, as well as the APR, across multiple lenders.

The vast majority of home equity plans will utilize variable interest rates instead of fixed. A variable rate reflects the current prices of a publically available index, like the prime rate, or the U.S. Treasury Bill rate, and the rate of your loan will oscillate accordingly.

Generally a lender will offer a discounted introductory rate, often referred to as a “teaser rate.” Take caution – these rates can sometimes fluctuate unless it is stated that there is a fixed rate. Sometimes the lender will give you a great introductory rate that is variable and can change with time to a rate much higher than you originally agreed to.

Since the rate is linked to an index rate, find out which one it is and how much their margin is. Some companies will have a cap on how much your rate can vary within a particular period of time.

▼ Is it better to get a home equity line of credit or a traditional second mortgage?

With a second mortgage you will have a fixed amount of money that is repayable over a fixed period of time or is due in full at a given time. A home equity line of credit, on the other hand, is much more open-ended. You have a line of credit that can be borrowed from as you wish, and generally has a variable rate as opposed to a fixed rate.

Pay attention to the fact then when the APR is calculated it takes into account the interest rate charged plus points, finance charges and other fees, whereas with a home equity line the APR is calculated with solely the periodic interest rate.

▼ What will the loan cost?

Before you are charged any fees, the Truth in Lending Act requires that the lenders disclose to you all pertinent terms of the agreement: the APR, payment terms, other charges, and any information about variable interest.

Generally you will receive these disclosures at the same time that you receive an application form and any additional disclosures promptly after. If any of the terms change prior to the loan closing, the lender must return all fees that have been applied, should you choose to back out of the deal.

The finance charge is the total amount paid in exchange for the use of credit, which includes the interest rate, service charges and insurance premiums. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the percentage paid on a yearly basis.

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves White Plains NY, Scarsdale NY, Purchase NY, Mamaroneck NY, Larchmont NY, Katonah NY and beyond.

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ATM Transaction FAQ’s

Scarsdale tax preparer Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! Banking ATM FAQs from Scarsdale Tax Preparer

 

As tax professionals, our Westchester CPA firm sees firsthand many shared financial questions and concerns. In our “FAQ Series,” we will discuss these common topics and share our insight.

How do ATM transactions work? 

There are a variety of electronic transactions one can execute:

  • ATMs allow you to bank electronically, get cash, make deposits, pay bills, or transfer funds between accounts. These machines are used with a debit or ATM card and a personal identification number.
  • Point of Sale Transactions. Some ATM cards and debit cards can be used in stores to charge merchandise. Money is electronically drawn from your account and paid to the store.
  • Pre-authorized transfers. This is allowing for the automatic deposit of fund or withdrawal of funds to or from your account. For example, one can authorize the direct deposit of wages, social security, or dividends directly to their account. You can also pre-authorize your bank to make automatic transfers for bill paying.
  • Telephone transfers. You can transfer funds from one of your accounts to the other, or order bill payments over the phone.
  • Most ATMs provide you with a receipt for the transaction, as do point of sale purchases. These receipts are the records of your electronic transactions and should be kept. Additionally, your periodic bank statement will show all the electronic transfers performed. This monthly statement is your proof of payment to another party and is your record for tax and other purposes. Any inconsistencies can be taken up with your bank.

▼ What should I do if I find an error on an EFT or ATM transaction?

Call your bank as soon as possible, or within 60 days of the error. They may ask you to submit your account information and the alleged error in writing. Generally they have 10 business days to investigate the error, and if they fail to come up with an answer your funds should be reimbursed. If the funds in questions were withdrawn from a point-of-service debit or a foreign electronic transfer, the bank may be allowed more time to investigate the error. In the meantime, however, you should have full access to the funds in question.

Your bank should notify you immediately of their findings. If you were correct about the error, they must immediately finalize the re-credit to your account. If there was no error, they must present in writing the findings of their investigation, and notify you of any funds they have deducted after you had been re-credited.

▼ What if my ATM card is lost or stolen?

It’s important to note the difference in how you will be reimbursed for credit cards vs. ATM or debit cards. For a credit card your loss is limited to $50.

However, for an ATM or debit card the loss is limited to $50 if you notify your institution within 2 business days after the card is lost or stolen.

Keep in mind that the loss could be up to $500 if you do not tell your bank within two business days of the loss or theft.

If you do not report unauthorized transfers within 60 days of your statement being mailed to you, you run the risk of having unlimited loss on transfers made after the 60 days.

▼ Can I use my ATM card abroad?

Yes, there are plenty of ATMs all around the world, but it is wise to check beforehand. With Visa and MasterCard, you can pinpoint ATM locations worldwide on their website.

Often it is a good idea to travel with an ATM card because you can withdraw foreign currencies at a better exchange rate, and also if you lose your card and report it promptly you will not experiences the type of losses you would with cash. Be wary of fees your bank will charge you for each withdrawal – it may be wise to withdraw larger sums to minimize the frequency of transactions.

▼ How do I know when a pre-authorized credit has been deposited into my account?

Your institution may notify your employer, or you. Many times your bank may only notify the recipient if a scheduled credit does not come through. Often, you can check your statement online or call your bank to check on your credits.

▼ How do I cancel a pre-authorized payment?

You can call or write your bank, or often stop the payment by going to your bank’s website. Do this at least 3 days before the scheduled payment. It is a good idea to request a written confirmation of giving a telephone notice to stop the transfer.

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, White Plains NY, Mount Kisco NY, Pound Ridge NY, North Salem NY, Mamaroneck NY and beyond.

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Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.