Belmont Savings Bank Ups PlatinumBlue Savings Rate to 1.15% APY

Belmont Savings Bank Ups PlatinumBlue Savings Rate to 1.15% APY

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Belmont Savings Bank has broken ranks with the majority of banks and increased the rate of its PlatinumBlue Savings account from 1.10% APY to 1.15% APY. That's one of the best savings rates in the country.

Belmont Savings Bank has broken ranks with the majority of banks and increased the rate of its PlatinumBlue Savings account from 1.10% APY to 1.15% APY. That's one of the best savings rates in the country. In the process of doing it, they also attached some additional requirements. To receive that savings rate, a depositor must also open a PlatinumBlue checking account that comes with a bevy of free features (free online banking and bill pay, free check images, free ATMs, free mobile deposits). The account has a $25 monthly fee that can be waived with one of the following:

  • Direct deposit
  • $2,500 average daily balance
  • 5 debit card transactions (pinned or signature)
  • 5 third party cleared checks per monthly statement cycle

PlatinumBlue Checking also has a $250 initial deposit requirement.

PlatinumBlue Savings is a tiered account and the rate depends on your balance level. The tiers and their respective rates are:

Tier 1: $10.00 - $100,000 - 1.15% APY

Tier 2: $100,001 + : .35% APY

If the requirements are not met on the PlatinumBlue checking account then the savings rate drops to .25% APY for any balance.

Both savings and checking accounts can only be opened in a branch. The offer is only valid to those customers who live near Belmont Savings in Massachusetts.

Belmont Savings Bank is a community bank with $820 million in assets. It's Texas Ratio of 3.04% is well below the national average of 18.73%. A low Texas ratio tends to indicate a financially sound institution.

For savers who don't mind changing their primary checking relationship, or who already have a relationship with Belmont Savings, PlatinumBlue might be a good way to get some extra yield. It's unclear how long the bank will maintain this high rate, so I don't recommend switching unless you are open to a longer-term relationship with the bank and the chance that the savings rate could drop significantly in the future.


ING DIRECT: Will it be a 360-Degree Change?

ING DIRECT: Will it be a 360-Degree Change?

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In June 2011, ING Group agreed to sell ING DIRECT USA to Capital One for $9 billion. Since then, many ING Direct’s customers have feared that their beloved bank would change. Beginning February 2013, the bank will be known as Capital One 360, but what other changes will come in association with this merger?

The ease of setting up an account, its web interface and bill paying features, the absence of fees and minimum balance requirements, and decent interest rates compared to its competitors have provided more than enough reasons for ING Direct customers to use the online bank. And while ING Direct’s interest rates have fallen considerably since the Great Recession, the current rates offered by the bank have remained competitive and therefore attractive for customers.

Capital One Bank has traditionally rather competitive money market and savings account rates without monthly service fees.  However, by contrast to ING Direct, it has never been a bank known for providing excellent rates and outstanding service. Nevertheless, in acquiring ING Direct and converting its name to Capital One 360, the bank has made the following pledge on the ING Direct website. "We’ll deliver real value. We’ll continue to be home to no-fee, no-minimum checking and savings accounts—with the great rates that we know are important to you."  

But the question remains if the bank will be able to keep this pledge, especially if rate cuts similar to the ones in October 2012 continue. At that time, the bank’s Orange Savings account rate fell 5 basis points to 0.75%, and its Electric Orange checking account also fell by 5 basis points across all deposit amounts (The rate for balances of $100K or higher, and the rate for balances between $50K and $100K are now at 0.85% and 0.80%, respectively). Additionally, all CD rates fell 10 basis points, with the 5 year CD being at only a mere uncompetitive 0.90% now.  

In addition to possible changes in interest rates, what other changes should existing customers expect to see? First, there’s good news for the frequent traveler. The bank has waived foreign exchange fees on debit card purchases outside the U.S, consistent with Capital One’s policy.  Second, with “On Us” checks, money will be made available sooner to customers. Checks (“On Us” checks) written from one ING Direct or Capital One 360 account and deposited into another will have next business day availability.  Third, all accounts will be covered by Capital One’s tighter privacy policy.

One significant note of importance is that customers with large deposits at both ING DIRECT and Capital One may lose FDIC coverage in May 2013.  Any customer whose balances across both accounts between the two banks will exceed FDIC coverage amounts on that date should reallocate their assets prior to May.

Now that the legal acquisition of ING Direct was completed on November 1, 2012, customers may see lower rates and a deterioration in service levels.  Overall, customers have continued to be loyal to ING Direct because of its competitive rates. But with more rate cuts like those in October and any slippage in service, and customers may begin to leave quickly and en masse.

 


Now That the Election Is Over, What Can Savers Expect Over the Next Year?

Now That the Election Is Over, What Can Savers Expect Over the Next Year?

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With Obama's re-election to a second term, Bernanke's job as Chairman of the Fed is now safe. Akin to what Bernanke's been doing, the Fed will most likely continue to keep rates low and print more money.

In September 2012, the Fed said it expects to keep short-term interest rates near zero until 2015, and to continue its Operation Twist policy to suppress long-term rates well into 2013.   In addition, the Fed is now undertaking QE3 through which it is pumping $40 billion each month into the struggling economy through mortgage bond purchases.

The arguments made for keeping rates low were due to concerns about high unemployment rates and “strains in global financial markets” and that low rates will stimulate more economic activity. In theory, in a low rate environment, consumers will be induced to borrow and to spend, but the economy has yet to recover its footing in a way that enables the Federal Reserve to abandon this policy.  Rather, unemployment is still at a record high and the economy really has not gotten much better.  Nevertheless, the Fed, by insisting to keep rates low, is bidding for some progression in the story over the next few years.

Many are concerned that the expansion of the Fed balance sheet as a result of its monetary policies will become inflationary. As of now, inflation has been in check due to the declining velocity of money with the public sector and corporations cutting back on debt. Public sector borrowing will most likely be further reduced in 2013 through spending cuts and tax increases, slowing the velocity of money even more, and helping to keep inflation in place.  

Even if savers are not worry too much about inflation at the point, what does a continuation of a zero interest rate policy really mean to them? Low rates mean that yields cannot go any lower, and with virtually no return, there is no reason to park any money in bonds. Eventually, all the money that the Fed is pumping into the economy and low rates for savers could result in still higher stock prices. 

Commodities too represent a particularly sensitive area in 2013.  As the Fed continues to print money in support of its quantitative easing policy, the dollar will most likely remain weak.  With Obama’s reelection, some pundits are calling for gold as high as $3,500 per ounce and silver over $100 per ounce by the end of 2013.   Yet, commodities too bear risks, and a significant collapse in China or India or continued weakness in Europe could cause them to fall dramatically.

Ultimately some savers will take more risk in areas like equities and commodities as low rates continue for a longer and longer period, but many savers will become accustomed to lower rates and make necessary adjustments in their expectations in order to safely get through 2013.