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11 Best Free Checking Accounts at U.S. Banks

By Brian Martucci

checkingIt’s becoming increasingly difficult to find truly free checking accounts. At many banks, you’re now required to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the privilege of keeping your checking account open. Such fees can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the bank and other associated perks. To avoid these fees, you may need to maintain a high minimum daily balance, make regular deposits of a certain size or frequency, or execute a minimum number of transactions in a statement period.

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The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN – Review

By Christina Majaski

american express business gold rewardsPlenty of credit cards and charge cards are designed to help small business owners earn rewards for their purchases. However, the value of the card you choose depends on the specific needs of your operation.

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN rewards both travel and business-related purchases. And, because it’s a charge card, no preset spending limits or interest charges are imposed as long as you pay your balance in full each month.

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Key Features

  • Sign-up Bonus. If you spend $5,000 within your first three months, you are awarded a bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points – redeemable for $250 in gift cards.

Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN – Review

By Christina Majaski

american express business green cardThe Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN (a Money Crashers partner) is one of the most recognized business charge cards on the market. That, plus a basic program for earning Membership Rewards points on travel purchases, makes it a great beginner option for fledgling operations.

Keep in mind that a charge card, unlike a credit card, requires payment in full every month, which means you cannot carry a balance.

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Key Features

  • Sign-up Bonus. You earn 5,000 Membership Rewards points, worth $50 in gift cards, when you make your first purchase within one year of approval.

FNBO Direct Review – No Frills, Online High-Yield Checking Account

By Brian Martucci

fnbodirectFNBO Direct is the online banking arm of First National Bank of Omaha, itself a subsidiary of financial conglomerate First National of Nebraska. While First National Bank of Omaha’s physical branches and account holders are confined to several states in the middle of the country, FNBO Direct accounts are available to anyone with a U.S. address.

FNBO sets itself apart with a high-yield checking account that features no minimum daily balance, no recurring fees, and a nominal opening deposit of just $1. It also has a savings account and multiple CDs, all of which have decent but not spectacular yields, and all of which come with FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per account. Additional perks include person-to-person transfers via Popmoney, Apple Pay functionality, and a Visa-branded rewards credit card that’s exclusive to account holders (but is contingent on qualification).

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11 Unique & Creative Wedding Gift Ideas on a Cheap Budget

By Jacqueline Curtis

wedding giftWhen wedding season is in full swing, you can spend a big part of your personal budget celebrating the brides and grooms in your life. Of course, gifts are important tokens of love to the people you care about, but there comes a point at which they cross over from gracious to burdensome. Conventional wisdom dictates that you should spend approximately the cost per plate that the bride and groom are spending on you as a guest, and taking one look at a registry packed with fine china and expensive appliances can have you wishing that weddings weren’t such big affairs.

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Prosper Review – Online Loan Marketplace for Peer-to-Peer Lending

By Brian Martucci

prosper logoProsper, a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) lending network that offers unsecured personal loans with terms of 36 or 60 months, has embraced the sharing economy with gusto. By matching individual borrowers with individual or institutional investors willing to lend funds at competitive interest rates, Prosper cuts out the middle man (traditional banks or credit unions). Relative to those institutions, Prosper has more relaxed approval standards and faster funding times for borrowers.

The platform earns money through origination and servicing fees. Its top competitors include other P2P lenders, such as Lending Club and Peerform, and low-cost personal credit providers such as Avant, which doesn’t use the P2P model and thus isn’t available to prospective lenders.

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Lending Club Review – Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Financial Lending

By Brian Martucci

lending club logoLending Club bills itself as the world’s most popular peer-to-peer (P2P) lending network. As a classic example of the emerging sharing economy, the platform connects thousands of individual and business borrowers with regular people willing to fund their loans. In doing so, it eliminates the need for borrowers to approach traditional banks and credit unions – whose lending standards may be much more stringent than Lending Club’s – to obtain financing.

For investors, Lending Club offers the opportunity to create diversified portfolios that aren’t directly tied to bond markets. Its investments offer better yields than CDs, money market accounts, and savings accounts, though it’s critical to note that the investments are not FDIC-insured.

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InboxDollars Review – Make Money Online With Paid Emails, Surveys & Games

By Brian Martucci

inboxdollars logoCould you use a few extra dollars every week? InboxDollars might be the perfect solution for you to pad your bank account with additional income.

With InboxDollars, you can create a small but real income stream by completing relatively simple tasks online. InboxDollars began back in 2000 as a service that provided nominal cash payments, typically a few cents per email, to members who opened and read sponsored emails (called PaidEmails) from companies that partnered with InboxDollars. If the partner companies allowed, users could earn additional payments, ranging from $0.10 to $25, for taking action requested in the email, such as clicking a link to the partner’s website and enrolling in a trial offer.

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The Rise of Virtual Financial Robo-Advisors for Your Investments – Types, Pros & Cons

By Michael Lewis

using automated online portfolio management servicesIn the past five years, a new type of financial advisor has emerged to compete with traditional investment advisory firms. Funded by venture capitalists, these new advisors exploit the latest technology to offer competent investment advice in exchange for drastically reduced fees.

Just as technology changed the full-service brokerage industry by lowering transaction costs and enabling online trading, it will also ultimately change the practice of investment advisors by automating portfolio management and investment advice. According to Grant Easterbrook, analyst at Corporate Insight, “These newcomers offer average Americans access to low-cost advice and investment solutions with fewer potential conflicts of interest and greater performance transparency.”

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6 Celebrities Who Recovered From Financial Failure Before They Became Famous

By Mary McCoy

madonna, photo by cinemafestivalNothing is quite as American as a good rags-to-riches story, and it’s safe to say that many folks also enjoy the occasional macabre tale of the riches-to-rags variety. But despite all the attention paid to financial failures and cautionary tales, there are many hardworking people who have managed to rebound from the brink of financial disaster and bankruptcy. Some of them are even major celebrities that you’d never associate with monetary mishaps.

Here are several famous people who managed to rebuild their bank accounts after a substantial financial setback. If you’re feeling down about your own situation and need a little pick-me-up, these household names might just put the wind back in your fiscal sails.

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Discover Bank Review – Online Banking for Savings, Money Markets & CDs

By Brian Martucci

discover logoYou’ve probably heard of Discover Financial Services, a publicly traded company (NYSE: DFS) that offers consumer-friendly credit cards like the Discover it Card. According to the Nilson Report, it’s among the United States’ 10 biggest credit card issuers.

What you may not know as much about is the online-only bank that Discover administers, Discover Bank. It offers a checking account, savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, and retirement products, all of which are FDIC insured. This segment of the company competes with online banking heavyweights such as Ally Bank and EverBank.

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How to Build a Cinder Block Kitchen – Step-by-Step Guide

By Laura Williams

cinder blockMy husband and I renovated a barn into a new home. We wanted a simple, small, but roomy space that we could customize according to our needs without breaking the bank. And in keeping with the spirit of thrift and originality, I decided one of the standout features would be a kitchen made of cinder block.

I’m not 100% sure why I chose this. Maybe it was the cool cinder block gardens I’d seen on Pinterest, or perhaps it was the fact that trying to understand IKEA’s online kitchen planner made my head want to explode.

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3 Controversial Ways to Improve the Economy & Drive Economic Growth

By Lewis Humphries

growthSince the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009, the global economy has struggled to sustain reliable and long-term growth. This is largely due to the fluctuating fortunes of individual economies and market sectors. Considerable peaks and troughs in real estate and a prevailing lack of permanent job opportunities create unsustainable booms and sudden, unexpected busts.

The need to create a buoyant financial landscape with long-term prospects has never been more pressing. With this in mind, now is the ideal opportunity for government and economic leaders from around the world to consider innovative and unusual methods to drive long-term growth. While some of these ideas may be controversial, it is important to weigh concerns relative to the benefits offered by these methods for developed and developing economies alike.

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Digit Review – A Great Tool to Automate Your Savings

By Brian Martucci

digit logoI’m in favor of anything that makes it easier to add to my savings account balance, and Digit definitely fits the bill. It’s a free-to-join, automatic savings tool that ties into your checking account, uses a sophisticated algorithm to analyze your income and spending habits, and then makes regular transfers to your FDIC-insured Digit savings account, typically every week or every few days.

You don’t have to direct or schedule these transfers in any way. In fact, you don’t even know in advance how much Digit will transfer. With its automated, hands-off saving algorithm, pretty much all you have to do is sit back and watch your savings account balance grow over time. Though if you’re unsatisfied with the pace of Digit’s automatic withdrawals, you can tell it to save more or less with each withdrawal.

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What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Eligibility & Rules

By Brian Martucci

medical leaveIn a fast-paced, rapidly changing economy that rewards innovative, adaptable workers and penalizes those who don’t keep up with the times, the idea of an equitable work-life balance seems out of date. Many employers, particularly those operating in competitive industries or requiring lots of unspecialized or low-skill labor, expect their employees to be flexible and work as hard as possible. Though employers can’t afford to treat highly skilled or specialized workers as expendable, it’s a different story when there are 10 such workers with equivalent skills eagerly lined up at the door.

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