Friday, June 22, 2007

Find the Best Savings Rates

There are several online tools available that you can use to find the best checking and savings interest rates online or in your area. Tools like, MSN Money, and all offer up essentially the same information, so it shouldn't matter which one you use, right? Wrong. Today I'm going to outline the key features of each of these tools to help you decide which one is right for you. has a nice and simple user interface. Pick the type of account you're looking for (checking or savings) and answer three simple questions (state, city, initial deposit) and you're taken directly to the results sorted by annual percentage rate (APY).

The results listing offers plenty of useful information including introductory rates, compounding methods, minimum balances, and fees. The results also include how high a balance you need to keep to avoid fees altogether.

The flashy advertising and "Web 2.0" features make some of the pages load a little slow.

MSN Money is the easiest to use of the three options, but unfortunately it is also the least useful. Once you select the type of account from checking, savings, CDs, and money market you're taken directly to the results page.

The results appear to be a selection of banks that advertise with MSN. You don't have the option of choosing your state, city, or zip code, so you can't narrow the search to banks in your area. The only information given is the APY, minimum balance, and contact information (in case you're somehow moved to immediate action).

I'm not sure why, but I expected a lot better from MSN. Maybe because some of the other tools and articles on MSN Money are really excellent. It just makes me wonder who put this mess together. gives you essentially the same tools as There are options to select state, city, and the type of account you're shopping for. The information summary gives you most of the same key pieces of data as well. The thing I like most about the site is their lack of flashy advertising. It makes the pages load faster, and only shows me information I need, making the page seem less cluttered.

I'm going to declare the winner for their superior range of selection and information summary. comes in a close second, but MSN Money isn't even worth bothering with for tools in this category (I won't even waste another link on them).

Do you have any online financial tools that you couldn't live without? Leave a comment for me and my readers.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The $7 Scam

I've seen a lot of bloggers recently promoting something called The $7 Secret Report (non-referral link). Don't click any links on that site or send any money to anyone until you come back here to read why it's a scam. Back already? Good. Read on.

The site is promoting a report that claims to show you how you can make thousands of dollars a month by selling information reports on your Web site or blog. The author of the report will share his money-making secrets with you if you send him $7 via Paypal.

This reminds me of an old newspaper want-ad scam that's so old that your grandparents might remember it. I place an ad in the paper claiming that I know how to get rich, and I'll share my secret with you if you send $1 and a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope, for those of you born in the electronic age) to my P.O. box (Post Office box, as in snail mail). When you send me a dollar, I send you a letter instructing you to place an ad in the newspaper, just like I did, because lots of suckers will send you a dollar just like the one you sent to me.

If anyone is still unsure of how the $7 Secret scam works, just send $6 via Paypal to I'll explain the whole thing in detail.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Cut Your Monthly Food Bill

A recent Fortune magazine article revealed that "fast-food patrons have upped their monthly visits from 14 in 1999 to 17 [in 2006]" on average, nationwide.

Want to hear a quick way to cut your monthly food bill? (Not to mention your waistline, cholesterol, and risk of heart attack. But this is a financial blog, not a health blog.) Learn how to cook!

I went down to a local drive-thru to do a little "research". Here are the numbers:

17 visits per month * $4.50 (average) cost per value meal = $76.50 per person per month

That's a lot of money to be tossing down the hatch. Cut that down to twice-weekly visits and you could save $49.50 per person per month. Almost $200.00 for a family of four. You could almost feed that same family of four for the entire month on the savings alone.