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Archive for November 2013

American Express Bank review: savings accounts from the card giant

Published 11/27/13  (Modified 11/3/15)

By Peter Andrew

I'd better come clean. I rather like American Express. True, I don't have any of its products, but that's because the chances of the company approving me for any of its plastic are so tiny that I don't bother applying. People with my history aren't exactly core target market for AmEx. But I know it's won top spot in the J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study in every one of the seven years the survey has existed, including 2013. And a large part of that success is down to its card division's commitment to excellent customer service.

So when it comes to American Express Bank -- the company's online-based deposits division that offers savings accounts and CDs -- do the venerable company's best virtues still shine through?

Click here to open an American Express Bank savings account.

American Express Bank customer service

You're probably already aware that, at least at the time of writing, American Express Bank, FSB (federal savings bank) is paying competitive yields on its online savings accounts, and that it has done so consistently for some time. But has the deposits side of the business successfully absorbed the customer-service ethos of its sister company, the card division?

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Give like Santa, spend like Scrooge: 4 tips

Published 11/20/13

Give like Santa, spend like Scrooge: 4 tips By Holly Johnson

Whether we like it or not, the holidays are back. Did you miss them?

It really seems like last year's shebang just ended, but yards are already filled again with Christmas light displays and blow-up Santas. And if you're loved one's gift expectations are already through the roof, you're surely not alone.

But, regardless of those expectations, not everyone is able to shower their friends and family members with gifts this time of year. In fact, many are struggling just to pay their bills, let alone buy gifts. And for every family who is struggling, there's another who is tight on cash simply because they're saving for a new home, college tuition or other important expense.

Whether your funds are tight or you're saving for a goal, you may be wondering how to get through the holiday season without being renamed Ebenezer. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save on gifts without calling attention to yourself or your situation.

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GE Capital Bank: a (reluctantly) glowing review

Published 11/11/13  (Modified 6/3/14)

By Peter Andrew

Pushing 20 years ago, I bought a new television on credit through one of GE's numerous financial arms. One month, I somehow transgressed, and the whole account was passed to a collection agency. I judged that a massive overreaction to such a minor misdemeanor, and promised myself not only that I'd never buy an aircraft engine from the group, but also that I'd one day exact revenge.

So I was very happy when my editor asked me to review GE Capital Bank. A hatchet job would be a great opportunity to fulfill my promise, even if it was in the form of a dish served very, very cold. Sadly for me, I can't find a single bad thing to say about the bank.

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3 frugality myths that need to die

Published 11/8/13

3 frugality myths that need to die By Justin Boyle

It's always been a dorky thrill of mine to find small ways to save money. Over the last several years, I've developed a workable strategy for frugal living that decreases my everyday costs, but allows me to maintain a perfectly agreeable quality of life.

Along the way, though, I've taken a few suggestions from like-minded folks that have turned out to be less helpful than they sounded at first. Here are three myths on frugality that people should really stop spreading.

1. Generic electronics are no different from name brands

Although it's true for the most part at the grocery store and pharmacy, the phenomenon of near-identical generics doesn't stretch into all walks of life. Take phone chargers, for example: Internal electronic components that are poorly assembled or source their parts from unlicensed manufacturers can cause voltage spikes and fry the delicate sensors on your handset. Not only that, electronics blogger Ken Shirriff reports that unlicensed power adapters may deliver less than half of their advertised wattage output and produce "dirty" electricity with an extremely bad signal-to-noise ratio.

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Dear Secret Santa: Make the holiday work expenses stop

Published 11/5/13

Dear Secret Santa: Make the holiday work expenses stop By Georgie Miller

It's still October as I write this, but the holiday onslaught at my day job has already begun with our annual Halloween potluck and gift exchange. Yes, you heard that right. We are expected to bring a "sweet treat" for our co-workers as well as a spooky gift for a white elephant-style exchange.

And it doesn't stop there. As December approaches, so does the Cookie Party, the End of Year Reception, and the White Elephant Exchange. And those are only the official work events. There is no shortage of other opportunities to socialize with co-workers this time of year, and unfortunately, this type of socializing can get expensive.

But it doesn't have to be! In some ways, holiday-themed parties and happy hours are like children's birthday parties. While many people's default setting may be "no expenses spared," there are ways to enjoy the company of your colleagues without spending a fortune.

1. Pick your battles parties

Your normal strategies for avoiding office spending may not work as well during the holidays, when people are expected to attend a variety of organized events. But remember that you're not obligated to attend everything.

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