Despite advances in the financial services industry, managing money today isn't easy. New services and technologies like payment-to-payment systems are being developed on a regular basis, but they aren't replacing old ones like cash checking services. With an excess of money management tools to choose from, it can be difficult for consumers to know which will make their lives easiest while being the most cost effective.
In fact, many people today are managing their money in ways that are unnecessarily costing them. Recent research from TD Bank found that nearly one-quarter of Americans with a bank account have used alternative banking products such as check cashing services (12 percent), money transfer agents (11 percent) and payday loans (4 percent). When they were asked why they used these products, 16 percent said they did not have a particular reason.
Making decisions like this could add needless cost to your monthly budget. Here are some ways consumers can ensure they're banking properly and not throwing their money away:
Have conversations with your banker
It's your banker's job to stay on top of all of the latest money management tools. So if you're ever unsure whether or not you're properly managing your money, call or stop by your local store to sort it out. This is especially important if you are paying for services such as payday loans. Your bank could offer a similar service at a less expensive rate - and merging the two services under one roof could be more convenient for you. Consider scheduling regular check-ins with your banker throughout the year. That way, you won't miss out on any new tools or services - or, any relationship benefits you might qualify for if you use more than one product or service at your bank.
Stay on top of new technologies
Any type of new technology can be intimidating, especially when using it requires you to share access to your finances and personal information. That being said, embrace the great technological developments in banking and money management, because they allow you to manage your money anywhere, anytime. Many banks offer remote deposit capture for checks, which not only saves you the time it takes to visit your bank location, but also the cost of getting there. To ensure you're being safe, thoroughly research a technology before using it - and if you still have questions, speak to your banker.
At major milestones, reevaluate
The technologies and services you're currently using to manage your money could make the most sense for you right now, but one pivotal moment in your life could change that. Major milestones such as graduating from college and getting married can completely and rapidly change your financial situation, and few people evaluate their banking services in those moments. Doing so could offer you significant cost savings. For example, some banks offer rate discounts to customers who link a checking account with a mortgage. So when you approach big life changes, be sure to check in with your bank to see what they can offer you.
Consider reloadable prepaid cards
According to the TD Bank research, only 13 percent of Americans take advantage of reloadable prepaid cards. This relatively new product category offers many of the benefits of checking accounts, such as the ability to receive a paycheck through direct deposit and to make purchases online. But it also has additional benefits, such as protecting users from overdraft fees. Plus, prepaid cards can serve as an introduction to banking for the "unbanked" population that currently depends on alternative financial service providers. The cards aren't a fit for everyone, but they could offer you significant benefits.
These four tips are designed to not only help you find ways to save money, but to make the process of managing your money more convenient. Getting savvy about the financial tools and services available to you is as smart as staying hip to the latest advances in smartphones and tablets. It will help you manage your finances as seamlessly and cost efficiently as possible.