This past Tuesday, residents of certain parts of the planet witnessed a rare astrological occurrence: the Transit of Venus. Venus, the next-closest planet to the Sun, crossed directly between the Earth and the Sun, so observers could see the silhouette of the planet against the backdrop of the Sun. Things like this presumably freak out the horoscope readers among us, and according to the Times of India, there are potential financial consequences relating to the Transit of Venus. “Will there be any effect on the Indian currency and economy?” the Times of India asks Sunita Chabra, “renowned astrologer.” “Yes,” he responds, “it indicates a good time for the common man which means that the government might be willing to review its economic policies.” Was the same true here in the States? Let’s check the news!
Ben Bernanke took to Congress to discuss the economy this week, and disappointed many by saying that the Fed has done all it can. So: thanks for nothing Transit of Venus. But the Fed did finalize its Basel III capital requirements for banks this week, which contains a lot of bad news for smaller banks. They will be subject to the same regulations as large banks — bad news for the common man, it seems. Also, Bernanke likely won’t be raising interest rates, which is bad news for savers. We looked at a few accounts that offer interest rates above 1% — there aren’t that many, which is more bad news for the common man.
On the other hand, the FDIC agreed to look into banks’ payday lending practices at the behest of a coalition of consumer advocacy groups. We understand the logic behind the consumer complaints, but banks actually behave more responsibly than other payday advance lenders: they provide backstops to the “debt trap” that these loans supposedly put consumers into.
This week was a mixed bag when it comes to other banking product news. As always, bad news first: PNC is scaling back its rewards program; SunTrust is slashing perks on its checking accounts; and overdraft fees are on the rise (and your bank isn’t being honest with you about it). In good news: BB&T launched a prepaid-only account for teenagers that has straightforward terms and fees, and great functionality, and Chase is eliminating overdraft fees on transactions under $5 — a nice break for consumers.
We also took a look at how to compare student checking accounts, and we offered some advice for using prepaid cards at restaurants — this is a bit of a problem, apparently.
Maybe you feel like all hope is lost in this down economy, and you’d like to go play your last $40 on scratchers because what the hell. Before you go and do that, read about SaveUp, the Intuit-powered program that encourages you to save money by turning money saved into, well, lottery tickets. The strange logic of SaveUp speaks to the weird times we live in right now.