From the category archives:

Banking

As you may have noticed from the sidebar, I have reached my goal of getting $500 to open an investing account which means it was time to close out my goal with SmartyPig, I also now have a full month under my belt with Ally with two milestones under my belt for these popular accounts I wanted to let you know a little bit more about my experiences with these companies.
 

SmartyPig Update

Some of you may remember my first foray into investing and how me not thinking things through properly was going to cost me a lot of money over the long run. I did what I said I was going to do and as you can see from the sidebar I have amassed enough money now to open that investing account at ScottTrade. For the past several months I have been putting my money in to an account at SmartyPig in order to reach my goal of $500. If you have never heard of SmartyPig before you can check out my review of them or visit their site directly for more information. In fact SmartyPig just raised their interest rates on balances less the $50,000.00 to 2.15%APY which solidly puts them at the top of savings account interest rates.

I reached my goal and I was excited about “quickly” gaining access to that money and getting it flopped into an investment account. I was a little bit taken aback when I realized SmartyPig wasn’t going to let me have my money for another three days. Like most bank accounts they hold deposits for three days to allow them time to clear. When I was finally able to close out the goal the process was painless. They give you the option to get a gift card to one of their incentive partners, get a SmartyPig debit card, or get it in a cold hard cash transfer. I opted for the cash transfer and poof had to wait another three days to get the money as I waited for that transfer to clear. Now I have my cash in my account and can go through the process of opening a Scottrade account with the $500 so expect a review of that process in the near future.

Ally Update

A while back I chose to make Ally bank my new online checking account provider. They had a pretty decent array of benefits and I had good experiences with their customer service folks, check out my review for more. Since I did my initial review of the Ally checking account I have a few updates to make. First and foremost, they really do pay you back for ATM fees. I got reimbursed for my ATM fee charges from last month. They deposited the money on the same day as my interest payment, which happened to be the 5th of April.

Now for the bad, something got messed up again with ATM card and I could use it as charge but I couldn’t withdraw cash. I talked to what is now 5 customer service reps before finding out they sent me a new pin in the mail and I should get it soon. I am sure I caused the problem but it shouldn’t have taken me 5 reps to find out they figured out a solution and someone forgot to call me. Oh well, I am still happy with the account and hope that I can get the pin situation straightened out now.

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This is a guest post by Manny Davis. Manny is a tax accountant and President of Back Taxes Help, LLC, a tax resolution firm that assists taxpayers in resolving major tax problems and file late taxes. Feel free to subscribe to their tax blog today.

The April 15th tax filing deadline is approaching for Federal and State taxes. If you cannot make this deadline, or you feel you need a tax extension for other reasons, you can obtain a six-month extension automatically. This essentially will give you until October 15th to file your taxes. Before breaking down the steps to follow in order to request a filing extension, lets get a better idea of why you would file a late tax return or file an extension in the first place.

Why Would One File A Tax Extension In the First Place?

Many people may file a tax extension this year because they may want to take advantage of the homebuyer tax credit, reverse an IRA conversion gone bad, or because they simply cannot make the deadline due to unforeseen events.

Unexpected Events

One of the reasons the IRS provides a tax filing extension is because they understand that sometimes deadlines cannot be met due to unintended events. Maybe you experienced a natural disaster, a death in the family, a serious illness, prolonged unemployment, incarceration or any other unexpected event which would have made meeting the April 15th deadline difficult.

You Need To Reverse A Traditional IRA to Roth Conversion

Many taxpayers may have converted a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in 2009. If you did convert your traditional IRA, you are expected to pay taxes on that conversion. However, what if since the conversion your Roth IRA has significantly lost value? Why should you pay taxes on money that is not there anymore? The good news is that you would not have to pay taxes on the conversion as long as you reverse or “recharacterize” the conversion before October 15th, 2010 (if you converted it in 2009). Make sure you submit the proper documentation to the financial institution that helped you with this conversion. Working with a tax professional here is in your best interests here if you decide to go through with this recharacterization.

You Want To Take Advantage of the Home-Buyer Tax Credit

In 2008, the home-buyer tax credit was created as part of the Housing and Economy Recovery Act. Then in 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment extended the credit as long as a home-buyer purchased before December 1st. It was once again extended to April 30th, 2010. You can qualify for a tax credit if you sign a contract on or before April 30th, 2010 with a closing on or before June 30th, 2010. Therefore, taxpayers who want to take advantage of the tax credit on their 2009 tax return because they are closing after April 15th would have good reason to request a tax extension. Realize that you can claim this tax credit on your 2010 tax return if you are okay with giving the IRS an interest-free loan. Make sure you check the income level restrictions on claiming this tax credit for married and single filers.

Okay, So How Can I Get The Automatic Six-Month Extension to File?

Getting the six-month Federal tax extension or extending your deadline to October 15th is pretty simple. One thing to remember is that this is only a filing extension and not a payment extension. In fact, the IRS will need to have at least 90% of taxes owed. In order to obtain the extension you will need to file Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension To File Us Individual Tax Return.” This can be done electronically using tax software, the IRS e-file system, or by sending the form via US mail. If you file electronically, you will receive an acknowledgment or confirmation number for your records. One thing to remember is that you can get a tax extension if you pay your estimated taxes due by credit card — however, there are different fees depending upon who you use. Be sure to save the confirmation received from the service provider.

With regards to State taxes, a simple Google search will help find the correct form to request a filing extension. Most states, if they have an income tax, will allow you to file a six-month extension. Some states, like California, do not require you apply for one. Be sure to check your State’s website.

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Sadly I can say with absolute certainty that I am very seldom wowed by a business’ customer service. In most instances you are lucky to get someone to pick up the phone let alone actually help you with your problem. Even when you get the help you need they certainly aren’t going to compensate you for whatever inconvenience you suffered. Or will they???

Lets go back in time, you may have caught my review of my new Ally checking account. I mentioned their customer service was pretty good during the account setup process but I wasn’t prepared for what happened last night.

When I opened the account they were pretty speedy about getting me my ATM card. I got it in the next week and then a few days later I got the PIN letter in the mail. My biggest reason for getting the Ally account was that they will reimburse you for all of your ATM fees. You can imagine my chagrin when I hit the ATM at work and was denied access to my cash. It was the first time I tried to use the card so I figured I just didn’t get the PIN right, seemed reasonable so I didn’t think anything of it.

I got home that day and called the automated number to change my pin but the machine and I didn’t agree. I finally decided I wouldn’t have a problem remembering the pin so I forgot about it until yesterday. I went to the grocery store to pick up some things and the guy forgot to ring up a drink so instead of throwing another $1.85 on our joint account so I paid with Ally card. I rang it as an ATM transaction just to check and low and behold SUCCESS. It was obviously a problem between the keypad and me. Or was it.

As I was making dinner last night my phone rang with a strange 877 number. I am usually reluctant to answer but I did. It was a representative from Ally, they called me to apologize for the problems I was having with my ATM card. I was pretty taken aback as I had never had someone call me about a problem before. Honestly that would have been enough for me to call it stellar but then they told me they would be depositing $25 in my account for my trouble.

Like I said in the beginning of this article, I do not regularly end up having a good experience when I deal with customer service. In fact I count the good experiences on one hand, and honestly on two fingers. I was amazed that they would not only call me to apologize but then offer me something to compensate me for my trouble. I must say I am more impressed in these few weeks with my Ally checking account then I have been with my iGobanking account in over a year.

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Bank Accounts Aren’t Just About Great Rates

February 16, 2010
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We all try to do our best to maximize the return we get on our money. It has driven an entire subsection of the banking industry to cut costs and offer online savings accounts. The rates the banks offer vary as much as the interfaces they offer for you to manage you accounts. I constantly […]

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Can you Build a Credit History Without Getting a Credit Card

January 27, 2010
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Recently, when visiting MyFICO.com, I looked up the question, “How do I go about building my credit history.” This website that’s the authority on credit scores gave me two options: Apply for and open a new credit card. Open a secured credit card. Wait a minute…does that mean that in order to get a credit […]

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