What Are Bank Accounts Called in the UK?

Opening a bank account in any country is a big step forward toward living independently. Regardless of where you live, it is vital to have a bank account in order to pay bills, make purchases, and to have a safe place to keep your funds. While all banks have something in common in that they all have accounts available to consumers, the similarities may very well end there. For instance, there are many differences between the banks in the United States and those in the United Kingdom.

Most people in the US are familiar with checking account, but they are called current accounts in the UK. These accounts allow consumers to pay bills, use an ATM, and debit their account for the expenses that they incur. This is just one of the differences between bank accounts in the U.S. and the UK. Other differences include interest rates on accounts, banking hours, and fees for ATM usage.

Banks in the United States operate with extended hours, staying open late on weekdays and Saturdays, and sometimes even opening early in the morning throughout the week, all in an effort to gain the most business from potential consumers. Some banks in large cities are open seven days a week. Little by little, the traditional business hours have eroded away until banks in the United States have developed a business model which requires them to be open almost all of the time. The theory behind this is that the longer they are open, the more customers they will get. However, banks in the United Kingdom do not operate in this fashion. Banks in the UK have very standardized hours of operation, much more closely resembling the hours U.S. banks used to keep years ago. UK banks do not compete for business by staying open at all hours. As a matter of fact, when the typical work day is done and business is closed for the day, so to do the banks close. In addition, they do not have hours of operation on Sundays, as some U.S. banks do. They close on Sundays for religious reasons, as opposed to banks in America.

Another difference between banks in the two countries is the interest rates that are paid on accounts. For example, checking accounts in the United States may or may not pay any interest at all. It is determined by the individual bank how much the interest is that is paid back to the account holder, and in many cases, there is no interest to be paid at all on checking accounts. U.S. banks are paying interest on an increasingly rare basis, while banks in the United Kingdom pay approximately 3% on current accounts. This is important for consumers because they are able to get a small return on their investment with the bank. Whereas most banks in the United States force consumers to have several different types of accounts if they are to receive any interest, UK banks simply pay the interest on the most common bank account such as the current account. This allows account holders in the UK to receive a small amount of interest on their accounts, as opposed to being forced to pay exorbitant fees on their bank accounts as is most often the case in the U.S.

Using the ATM offers yet another contrast between banking in the U.S. versus the UK. U.S. banks almost always charge fees for using the ATM. Some banks do not charge fees if the ATM is owned by the same bank where the account is held. However, if the ATM is not owned by the bank, there is almost always a fee, sometimes as high as $3. Moreover, the customer’s bank often charges an additional fee for using an out of network ATM, which usually brings the charge to the consumer to around $5 for each time the ATM is used. Unlike the U.S. banks, financial institutions in the UK allow customers to use ATM’s without forcing them to pay fees to do so. Customers have the ability to withdraw their money as needed, free of penalties for taking their own money out of their bank accounts.

Opening an account in the United Kingdom is not a complicated process. Much like in the United States, customers usually have to present a given minimum amount of money to the bank to put in the account. This money activates the account. Certain things to pay close attention to when opening a bank account in the United Kingdom include whether or not the bank is willing to provide overdraft protection on the account. It may also be pertinent to take note of which banks are willing to add funds to the account when it is opened, as some provide a one-time payment to the customer’s account when it is activated.

current accountThere are many differences between banks in the United States versus the United Kingdom. It is imperative to understand the details of each account and know which fees, if any, are included. Bank accounts in the U.S. typically charge much more in fees than do banks in the UK, and often they do not pay interest rates the same as UK banks do, as the operating practices between banks in the U.S. and the UK are quite different.


Online Savings Accounts Feature the Highest CD Rates

When you want to avoid the pitfalls of making risky investments, choosing to invest in a CD is a great option. CDs have historically offered consumers solid rates of return. A CD makes a wise investment for several reasons. First, you do not have to worry about the value of your money suddenly dipping like it could if you owned stock options.

You also can earn a consistent rate of return every year with a CD. When you own stocks, the rate of return may differ every year. With a CD, that is not the case. You can earn consistent certificate of deposit rates.

1. Meet with managers from different banks.

Some people feel restricted to starting a CD with the bank that they currently use for maintaining a checking and savings accounts. You should not feel locked into using any particular bank when you are going to open up a new CD. Meet with the managers of different banks in your area to discuss the options that you have.

Some banks may offer a CD option that has a higher rate of return in comparison with CD options from other banks. Make sure you speak with managers from multiple banks so that you can find the best option for you.

2. Consider buying a CD online.

Online banks frequently hold promotions in order to increase the number of patrons that they have. One promotion offered is that you can buy a CD online and earn a higher rate of return as a result. Try to look for FDIC-insured online banks that offer CD promotions. You can usually find these promotions and earn an interest rate of five to six percent.

3. Look for online reviews.

You can read through online reviews to also get an idea of the best CD rates out there. Banking comparison websites usually feature hundreds of consumer reviews that can help you make the right choice if you are thinking about opening up a CD online. These reviews can also help you gain a better understanding of the customer service that a bank offers for its customers. It is always a good idea to check out what other people have said about a bank before you decide to open up an account with it.

4. Do check with your home bank.

Home banks may offer you the best CD interest rates because they want to keep your business. While you should always shop around for CD interest rates, you also should not immediately dismiss the idea of opening a CD account with your home bank. Your home bank may even go out of its way to beat the interest rates offered by competing institutions.

Following these tips will help you find the highest CD rates and earn more for your money. Keep researching the best CD rates, and you may find a great investment that provides you with additional income for the years to come.


The 10% Rule for Investing

Everyone loves the idea of hitting a home run as an investor – buying the next Apple (APPL) when it’s at $10 a share and watching it climb to $100, then $200, then split, then climb to $300, $400, $500, etc.  That $10 investment can quickly become worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, for every home run you hit, you are just as likely to strike out. That is one of the inherent risks with investing. There are times when you can win big, and there are times when you can lose big.

But there are things you can do to mitigate your overall risk. For example, you can thoroughly research your investments. That won’t remove all of the risk, but it may help you reduce the number of clunkers in your portfolio. The other thing you can do is limit your exposure. And that is one of the greatest things you can do to ensure you don’t risk your retirement fund.

Playing with Mad Money – the 10% Rule for Investing

If you are the type of investor who wants to have a little fun and play your hunches, then don’t deny yourself the pleasure and the opportunity to make a nice return on your investment. But do it responsibly. Many studies have shown that a balance of index funds that mirror the major stock market indexes outperforms managed mutual funds over time. And of you go back and look at the greatest investors of all time, you will find that only a handful have been able to beat the markets for any sustainable measure. I know my investing skills aren’t as good as Wareen Buffet’s!

But even though I’m not Warren Buffet, I still want to try my hand at investing outside of the traditional index funds. For example, I would like to invest in day trading and Foreign Exchange (currency trading). I even opened a free demo account to learn more about Forex trading.

So if you feel like having fun or taking some risks with your investments, then consider maintaining a portfolio that is a balance of low cost mutual funds, bonds, and other “boring” investments that historically perform fairly well and are relatively hands off. But feel free to set aside around 10% of your portfolio as “Mad Money.” This is money you can use for whatever investments you feel like. The goal, is to limit your exposure to excessive risk and hurting your long term investment prospects. If you hit an investment home run, then your portfolio will grow and you can take some money off the table and place it in relatively safer investments. If you strike out on your investment, then you won’t lose too large a portion of your portfolio and you will be able to recover more easily than you would if you had staked a larger percentage of your portfolio.

It’s true that you may not earn as much money this way, but it is also true that you won’t lose as much either. And here is the kicker – you can use the 10% rule as a starting point. If you find that your Mad Money investments are paying off at a good clip, then you can consider letting the money ride in other investments, or adding a larger portion of your investments to your Mad Money portfolio. On the flip side, you might want to reconsider how much money you keep in your Mad Money section of your portfolio if you are consistently losing money on your investments.


New Rules for Bank Overdrafts- Did You “Opt-in”?

In the past, banks could automatically enroll their customers into overdraft protection plans for checking accounts.  The protection plans typically allowed checks and debit card transactions to go through even if you’ve spent all of the money in your bank account.  If you overdrew your account, you would simply be charged an additional $25 to $35 per item overdrawn.  As of August 15th, the Federal Reserve created new rules which require banking customers to “opt-in” (agree) to overdraft protection.  If you don’t opt-in for the protection, your debit card will be declined if you spend more than what’s available in your checking account.

Many customers have chosen to keep overdraft protection on their checking accounts, despite the hefty overdraft fees for each transaction that may go over their available balance.  For some, it happens so infrequently that the protection just saves them from a potentially embarrassing mistake where their card is declined in the store.  For others, they rely on the ability to overdraw their account just to make it through until the next payday and the $30 overdraft fee is well worth that convenience.

If you’ve declined overdraft protection, or you’ve chosen to keep it – you have options.  Here are some tips from a financial expert for not using overdraft protection and spending so much money in overdraft fees.

Connect Your Savings to Your Checking Account

Some banks will allow you to connect your savings account to your checking account.  If you accidentally write checks or swipe your debit card for more money than you have available, the bank can pull money to cover your transactions from your savings account instead of charging overdraft fees.

Most banks do charge for this service.  The average rate is around $10 each time the bank has to move money from your savings account to your checking account – but it is still less than paying overdraft fees.  Ideally, you’ll keep a close eye on your account balances though, and when you notice your checking account is getting close to being overdrawn, you can make a transfer from your savings account to your checking account yourself – without paying any fees.

Get a Line of Credit

A line of credit is a revolving ‘loan’ attached to your checking account.  It’s similar to overdraft protection in that the bank will pull from your line of credit to cover any purchases you make that go over your available checking account balance, but there is no overdraft fee associated with each transaction that gets overdrawn.  Instead of overdraft fees, you’ll pay interest on the amount of money you borrow from your line of credit.

Create Your “Own” Line of Credit

If you aren’t eligible for a line of credit through your bank due to credit reasons or because your bank doesn’t offer it, you can always create your own “line of credit”.  Deposit extra money in your checking account, but don’t include it as part of your balance on your check register.  If you overdraw your account, the money will be there to cover it.  No interest charges and no overdraft fees!  Keeping about $200 extra in your account should cover most accidental overdrafts, but remember if you do end up dipping into this reserve, you’ll want to replace it so that it’s available for the next time.


Inheritance; Your Financial Options

Aside from the obvious grieving period, the aftermath of the passing of a friend or relative can be a stressful period for another reason – namely, the process of dealing with any inheritance and the pressure of what to do with it once it is obtained. However, used wisely an inheritance can make a substantially beneficial impact on your finances and your future. There are a few things you can do with an inheritance that will ensure you are on a stronger financial footing in later life.

Take Your Time

Quite frankly, the first thing you should do when dealing with an inheritance is not rush into anything. You and your family need a period to grieve and making rash decisions can impact you negatively if you’re not careful. Take the necessary time to deal with the person’s passing before moving on.

Do Your Research

If you have a family solicitor, they should be able to help you make the necessary arrangements to deal with the deceased’s estate. The Government is a good source of information on this, offering detailed guides on what to do in the event of a received inheritance.

Pay The Government

The Government will want a cut of the inheritance in the form of an estate tax. The IRS works out what the deceased’s total net worth was and requires a percentage of that, which is often more than the relatives have hanging around in their bank accounts. One of the best ways to pay for inheritance tax is to sell unwanted properties, with ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ sites proving a viable resource when selling unneeded houses. Sites like these will often sell houses no matter what the condition, so don’t feel like you need to pay for repairs before trying to sell.

Erase Your Debts

Receiving a large windfall at an unexpected time is the perfect opportunity to clear your debts and improve your credit rating. Pay off any outstanding balances on credit cards or perhaps even your entire mortgage. Sorting out your debts will put you in a much better position for the future.

Invest Your Money

Research various bank accounts, ISAs and bonds that have increased interest rates and put your money aside into these. However, you should keep an eye on these accounts as interest rates constantly change – just because a particular account is a strong performer one year does not necessarily mean it will be so the next, so be prepared to move your money around.

Give To Family Members

Spreading the wealth amongst family is not only a great way to help those nearest and dearest to you, but will also help keep the memory of your deceased loved one alive. Giving the money away as gifts early will also mean the Government will have a smaller claim on your own estate in the future.

Enjoy Your Windfall

Whether you spend your money on more education to improve your career prospects or use it to buy stocks in a strong-performing firm, make sure you enjoy it – your deceased loved one would want you to.


Jam Jar Accounts: Will They Set the Standard in Smart Banking?

Over the last few years, various people have been badly affected by the economic downturn. It has not been kind on many people’s finances, so a lot of people find themselves relying on overdrafts and credit cards to respond to rising living costs. However, a number of banks, as well as the British government, are now working on a new solution that could really help citizens avoid debt: jam jar accounts.

While the name may not ring any bells with a lot of people, jam jar accounts are an extremely clever way of working with money on a monthly basis, and ensure that all bases are covered – all the while working against the threat of debt. The “jam jar” element of these accounts is the way a single account is split into three distinct pots, dealing with personal spending, standing bills and savings. Limits on each one can be set by the bank or customer, depending on their circumstances.

The particularly clever thing about jam jar accounts is the automation involved between the three. A larger support framework keeps things balanced, so standing bills are always covered, prioritizing these above personal spending. Budgeting and bill payment behavior will be updated through low-balance alerts via text or email, notifying the account owner of automated fund transfers that are made between jam jars to avoid people going into the red.

On top of this, trained “money managers” are on standby at any time for people to speak to, and these experts give personalized budgeting advice as well as direct access to consumer services like the Citizens Advice Bureau, should further help be needed.

These accounts have received the backing and recognition of a number of organizations. Alongside ethical banking institutions – which naturally operate these offerings – the Fair Banking Foundation also promotes their usage. While trusted services such as local authorities are slow on the uptake, the issue is being brought up in parliament by MPs, with notable consumer rights champions.

Of course, this all comes at a small price, though not an excessive amount. Treasury-commissioned reports are currently pushing for prices of between £5 and £7 a month, which works out at an average of £1.50 a week. This effectively means that one snack or coffee a week is all a person would have to sacrifice for peace of mind.


Five Things to Look for When Opening a Savings Account

Are you considering opening a savings account? These tips can help you find the best savings account for your needs, regardless of whether you are a financial pro, or if you are just starting your path to savings.

For beginners

The savings account landscape – both in Australia and across the rest of the world – offers more choice than ever before. And it is doubly important to get your savings in order as the world deals with being in the grip of such severe financial upheaval. Australia has dodged the worst of this, of course, meaning that the interest rates of our savings accounts are not as grim as they might be.

So the rewards that can be had from a good savings account remain potentially very good. But with the sheer number of banks and other financial institutions on the market, anyone not familiar with the details and possibilities of a savings account can be overwhelmed with information, jargon, offers and options. Nowadays of course, the savings account market is largely dominated by online banking.

So with taking care of your savings, and maximizing them if possible, such an imperative part of personal financial planning, here are some basic things to consider when confronted with the decision over which account and which bank to go with.

Interest rate

This will be the deciding factor for many. A good interest rate is essential for maximizing your savings, and should be the first thing you look for. At the present time, a reasonable rate in Australia would be between 5.2% and 5.5%, and a good one over 5.6% for a straightforward online savings account.

An additional, vital factor affecting interest is how often it is paid out on your account. Some institutions pay interest monthly, perhaps others daily. This will affect your broader savings strategy, and the timing of your deposits into your account.


Be sure to check on a bank’s history, reviews and financial standing before taking up one of their savings products  – particularly in the current financial climate.

Some of the bigger, more established banks may therefore be the safer option, such as UBank, NAB or the other major institutions.

Your situation

There are many reasons you could be saving money, such as for a home, car, big holiday, education or whatever. In these cases, a high-interest savings account would be a good option.

However, you may be a student or a first-time saver. If so, you are a major target for many banks. Students may need a good deal of flexibility in their savings account and preferably no costs or fees.  Students, as well as first-time savers, may well also be eligible for special offers, deals and indeed interest rates as first-time customers.


Many major banks offer good incentives for your savings. Be sure to keep an eye out for additional interest paid if you make regular deposits, or indeed waiving of certain fees if you place a certain sum in the account. You may also be eligible for higher interest rates once you reach a certain balance. Introductory rates are also a common option from banks, though always be aware how much lower the rate will be once the introductory period expires.


You must decide how easily available you want your savings to be. If your savings account features mobile or online banking, you can transfer your money straight over to your current account. The convenience of this may be an attractive proposition for some, though the temptation to access savings may make this an unwise option. An over-the-counter savings account or perhaps a term deposit might be worthwhile for those who do not want easy access to their savings.


Maximizing Your Savings Returns

Remember when you were ten years old and you started a savings account and had your very own pass book? You put your allowance or paper route money into the account and earned seven percent interest. You thought it was so cool that after a year your fifty dollars became $53.50. Of course, at that time your parents were paying eighteen to twenty percent on their mortgage, or more.

What to Consider in Choosing an Account

If your concern is maximizing your savings returns in today’s day and age of prime at 3.25 percent, you have to be studious and determine which type of account best suits your needs. You have to consider the following:

  • Rate of return
  • Liquid or fixed?
  • Minimum balances
  • Monthly fees
  • Federal regulations on type of account

Account Types and Their Characteristics

Most savings accounts pay interest in basis points instead of full percentages. There are minimum balances to consider, as well, and monthly fees that are far greater than the tiny interest they pay. Money Market accounts are similar to savings accounts but are designed for much larger sums of money. They usually pay between two and three times the interest of a straight savings account, depending on your principal. Smaller sums pay less interest. Savings accounts and Money Market accounts are liquid assets, which means you can access the money any time you want.

Regulation D, however, controls the number of transactions you can have on these types of accounts in a month. These are not Demand Deposit Accounts, or DDAs, where you have unlimited transactions. If you go over six transactions of certain types in a calendar month, your account could suffer consequences ranging from removal of interest to closure of the account.

You also have the option of certificates of deposit, or CDs. These are fixed, non-liquid assets where the money is tied up for a predetermined period of time. There are penalties for early withdrawal. CDs generally pay the same as Money Market accounts, and sometimes much more. You will never have the returns of a high risk mutual fund portfolio, but savings type accounts offer unparalleled safety. Peace of mind is worth a lot.

As a rate comparison, remember that savings accounts offer the least growth. Money Markets and CDs offer more interest, but come with different stipulations. Check around and you will find what you need.


Limit Six Savings Account Withdrawals Per Month

Many people may not be aware of it, but the Federal Reserve limits the number of transfers and withdrawals you can make from your savings accounts to a total of 6 per calendar month or statement cycle. (A statement cycle is equivalent to one month for most institutions.)

This regulation has been around for a while, but many people still get tripped up by it, probably because it is not talked about often. With more and more people looking to online savings accounts to earn higher interest rates, this is an important rule to be aware of.

Here’s what types of withdrawals are limited on certain accounts.

Savings account transactions that are limited

This savings account withdrawal limitation only applies to certain withdrawals and transfers:

  • Online transfers from savings account to a linked non-loan account (checking, CD, etc.)
  • Outgoing online transfers or payments to third party accounts via wire transfer or ACH
  • Transfers or payments made via telephone or fax
  • Pre-authorized deductions by a third party
  • Checks written from a money market account
  • Transfers for overdraft protection
  • In addition no more than three of the 6 transactions may be made by check, draft, debit card, or similar order and payable to a third party

Savings account transactions that are NOT limited

Good news – these types of transactions are not limited:

  • In person transfer and withdrawal requests
  • ATM transactions
  • Transactions made via mail
  • Transactions to make a payment on a loan account at the same institution

Why does the Federal Reserve limit transactions?

It all has to do with how much money the banks can lend. Savings accounts are classified by the Federal Reserve as a “saving deposit.” The reserve requirement for savings accounts is 0%, which means banks don’t have to hold back any of the money you place in savings with them. They can lend out the exact amount you put in.

Other accounts that are labeled as “transaction accounts,” such as checking accounts, have a reserve requirement of 10%, meaning the banks must keep 10% of the balance on hand and cannot loan that money out. The reason for the difference is the assumption that you will be withdrawing money more often from transaction accounts than from saving deposits.

Be careful when using online savings accounts!

Since most high yield savings accounts are only online, you might need to plan your transactions carefully so you don’t go over the withdrawal limit. I usually keep a local bank handy for paying bills and keep use one of the best online savings accounts strictly for the high interest rates.


9 Ways NOT to Save Money

You are no doubt being told continually to save money, especially if you are somewhat of a spendthrift. A good way of doing this is to open an online savings account and start making regular contributions. This will not be the end of things however, as having a savings account doesn’t do you any good if you continuously delve into it to pay everyday living expenses. This means once you have opened your online savings account, you must leave it alone for it to work. The only way of doing this to have a separate account, such as a checking account or another savings account, for everyday use.

How to start saving money

You will need to draw up a budget and after you have determined how much it will cost you to live each week, month or fortnight (whatever it is between pay days) put that amount into your daily living account and anything left over into the online savings account that you never touch, unless it is for an emergency or the purpose that you originally set it up.

Some people find they can save money easily, others find it a struggle, whichever group you fall into you must make certain that saving money doesn’t make you a miserable person to be around. At the same time you don’t want your life to fly by in a whirl of debt without you being able to enjoy any experiences.

Therefore, when deciding the amount to deposit into your online savings account choose an amount which will ensure you are financially secure, without having to give up on important life experiences.

9 Ways NOT to Save Money

Following are nine quite effective ways to save money when done in moderation, but if you take any of these tips too far, you will find saving money a miserable experience:

1. All Work and No Play. If you find you are only living for your work, something is wrong, seriously wrong. You rise in the morning, go off to work, come home and watch TV until ready for bed. This is not what life was meant to be like. Sure, you will save money, lots of it, but are you really living? An important part of life is interacting with others, sharing experiences, seeing and doing new things so get off the couch, go for a stroll and stop off at the cafe for a coffee, whenever you feel like it.

2. Shirking Your Responsibilities. When drinking with friends do you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom when your shout comes around? Do you make the excuse that you must go now and make a hurried exit as your turn get closer? Do you let your date pay for her own meal when you take her out for dinner? Don’t pay your share of the pooled transport costs when you travel to work with friends in someone-else’s car. If this is you, it won’t be long before you become known as a cheap-skate. Once again it is a sure fire way of saving money but you’ll probably save yourself from having any friends to worry about too.

3. Becoming Obsessed With Getting Good Deals. This happens when collecting coupons for great deals becomes a passion. You soon find you are purchasing things a half price or lower just to save money but many of these things are not what you really need. Just items that you felt you must have because you saw yourself as saving money.

4. Chasing That Elusive Lottery. You buy your lottery ticket and wait eagerly for the result as you believe you have the winning number. You have even worked out how you will spend it, in your head. Then comes the inevitable disappointment. Your life can become involved in chasing lotteries. Sure if you win it will be worth many years of frugal savings, but have you ever considered the odds. Your savings habit could soon be lost to chasing a dream that will never eventuate for the majority.

5. Gambling. Sitting in front of a poker machine for hours. You have already won a considerable amount but have gone through it all trying to make more. It is your savings you are using here and eventually you will even gamble more than that. It is a no win situation you have found yourself in, and you can only end up feeling miserable and broke.

6. Fast Food Addict. There is no argument that fast food is cheaper than eating out at a good restaurant. Often cheaper than what you could knock up yourself. However, it is actually false savings as this too can become addictive and could be adversely affecting your health at the same time – something that may be quite expensive to remedy in the future.

7. Buying in Bulk. Have you noticed that when you see an item for sale you can often buy cheaper if you buy in bulk. This is a sales gimmick. Sure the individual item will be cheaper when you buy in bulk, but you have actually spent more in order to get the bargain. Such purchasing will often load you up with products that you wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

8. Not Buying Quality. You find you need another car. The old one has gone past its use-by date so you visit a few car yards to see what’s available. Two cars of the same make and model take your eye. One has done 200,000 miles, the other 100,000. One has been religiously serviced its whole life the other has no service book in the glove-box. The more neglected car with the extra miles is several thousand dollars cheaper, so you grab the bargain while you can. Six months later the gearbox crashes and it costs you more than you saved to have it fixed and you’re miserable again catching the bus to work until you can afford to have it repaired.

9. Relying on Debt. If you plan your financial life responsibly right from the start you will stay out of any serious debt. Once you get into debt it can take many miserable years to become financially free again. By putting some of your earnings in an online savings account regularly you will be building up a financial cushion that you can fall back on to pay for things such as car repairs and other emergencies. Such extra costs can come about at any time without warning.

Live your life responsibly but never mistake the obsessive saving of money for savings sake as a magic way to find happiness. Financial happiness comes from using your online savings account as a means to save money that would otherwise be wasted. Not just a means to get rich.