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Common Banking Mistakes

Many common banking mistakes result from not looking at the big picture and rather focusing on one attractive aspect of a banking service.

For example, consider Lester, who keeps the required minimum of $2,000 in his interest-bearing checking account at his bank. The bank rewards him with the princely interest rate of 1%. (Lester is pleased with this, because other checking accounts at the bank offer even lower rates or no interest at all, although the minimums are lower.) So Lester earns about $20 per year. Meanwhile, though, this account charges him $9.95 per month as a "service charge." This amounts to roughly $120 per year in costs, leaving poor Lester with a loss of $100 for the year. Ouch!

Another big mistake is keeping too much money at your local bank, especially in savings accounts and other accounts that pay paltry interest rates. That money could be put to work for you much more effectively.

For example, let's say that Sonia has managed to save $6,000 in her savings account. (Way to go, Sonia!) She's not yet ready to invest in stocks, so she's content earning a little interest. But her savings account is paying her just 1.5% per year. For $6,000, that amounts to just $90. She should consider some other options.

If she assumes that she won't need $2,000 of that money for at least two years, she could park it in a two-year CD earning, let's say, 3.3%. That will amount to $66 in the first year. If she won't need another $2,000 for at least one year, it could earn 2.6% in a one-year CD, amounting to $52 in the first year. She might park another $1,000 in a three-month CD (renewing it every quarter), earning 1.8%, or $36. So the $5,000 she shuffled out of her savings account will bring her a total of $154 that first year, instead of $90. Not bad! (Oh, and let's not forget an additional $15 on the $1,000 still in her savings account.)

You can get additional money-saving banking insights in our Foolish Banking area and short-term savings guidance in our Savings Center.

By the way, if you'd like to receive several promising stock ideas delivered via email each month, learn more about our suite of investment newsletters (which are offered along with some free research reports). Their performance may surprise you. You can also learn all about brokerages and find one that's right for you in our Broker Center. (Did you know that some well-regarded brokerages are offering commissions as low as $5?)

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