New Fidelity High Interest Checking Account

Fidelity has released a new high-interest checking account called the mySmart Cash account. The account is currently paying 3.5% interest, whereas traditional checking accounts at brick and mortar banks are paying .5% or less. Fidelity's new checking account offers no minimum initial deposit, no minimum monthly balance, and no monthly maintenance fees. Also free are checkwriting, standard checks, and online bill pay.

If you're concerned about accessing your cash easily at ATM's, Fidelity also has you covered. You can use ATM machines displaying the Visa®, PLUS® or STAR® logo for free with your debit card (also free). Another benefit of having this checking account is that it makes you eligible for a 1.5% cash back Fidelity credit card where for every $5,000 you spend, you will get 5,000 World Points redeemable for a $75 deposit to your mySmart Cash account. I imagine you can also exchange your World Points for the other usual options like gift cards and airline tickets if that's what you prefer.

I know this almost sounds like an ad, but I have no affiliation with Fidelity and no incentive to tell you about this new account. I just think it's a great deal, particularly if you already have an account with Fidelity because of the added convenience of keeping your checking account and your savings and investment accounts all in the same place. Unlike some banks, whose checking account structures seem designed to fleece users of an ATM fee here and a monthly maintenance fee there, Fidelity's account comes with no strings attached and a much better interest rate to boot.

What would be the possible disadvantages of opening this account? Primarily, the inconvenience of closing your existing checking account and opening a new one. If you have any automatic deposits or withdrawals to your existing checking account, you'll have to make sure you change all of them to avoid potential problems or fees. You'll also have to update your checking account information with any credit cards or other bills that you pay manually online, which can be a pain because some creditors, like Citibank, make you wait up to two weeks before they "authorize" your new checking account. This can be very painful and expensive if you don't time it right, as I once learned the hard way, if it causes you to be unable to pay your credit card on time. Some people also might consider it a security risk to keep too much of their money in one place.

Personally, I do not plan to open a mySmart Cash account due to the inconvenience, but I still think it is a great deal. For more details, check out Fidelity's mySmart Cash FAQ.

Save Money with DIY Car Trouble Diagnosis

I just came across this nifty gadget at Amazon called the Actron CP9135 Auto Scanner that claims to "unlock the information stored in your car's computer" so you can find out what is wrong with your car yourself. You can also use it to turn off the car's check engine light (and help diagnose why it came on in the first place). Unfortunately, it only works on models 1996 and later, which means that my much older vehicle is out.

For $70, I think this device is a great deal because it could potentially save you a significant amount of time and money on trips to your mechanic. It also increases the level of control and knowledge you have over the maintenance and repair of your vehicle, meaning you're less likely to get ripped off my unscrupulous mechanics. I imagine it could also help you identify problems before they get so bad as to leave you stranded. Finally, according to Actron, no car can pass a smog test if the check engine light is on, so if all that's standing between you and a successful smog test is the check engine light, now you have a fast and easy way to take care of the problem. Out of 66 reviews on Amazon, almost all of them are four or five star. The reviews contain a wealth of tips for how to get the most out of the scanner.

Note: Manufacturer's Stock Photo

Complaint Letters Work

When you have a bad experience with a company's service or product, writing a complaint letter can be a highly productive way to vent your frustration and often get something for free that you'll actually use. Here are some examples of things I've received in response to complaint letters I've written.

Gap - $15 gift card
Luna Bar - Six Luna bars (total value: $7)
Amy's Organics - Coupons for free items of my choice along with a few $1 off coupons (total value: $16)
Apple - my computer fixed for free and a Pro Care membership (total value: $375)

Calling can also be effective, if that's what you prefer, but I find letter writing to be both fast and effective--there's no bouncing around automated systems, holding, or pleading to speak with a manager.

As someone who regularly writes complaint letters, I also make it a practice to write compliment letters whenever I have a particularly good experience with an employee or a company. It just seems like a good idea to maintain that sense of balance and to try to appreciate things at least as often as I moan about them.

Photo by heatherrrrrrr

Back from Hiatus

If you're wondering about that six month gap in postings, I took a hiatus from managing my own site in order to take advantage of a bigger writing opportunity. Juggling all of my various hobbies and odd jobs on top of my full-time job was taking a bit too much out of me, so I had to cut back for a while for the sake of my sanity. I'm back now, though, and looking forward to putting effort into this site again. Once I've learned enough from the web design class I'm currently taking, I may even forgo the blog format in favor of designing my own website (though that may just be the ramblings of an overly-ambitious beginner!).

Thanks for reading. I hope you'll enjoy reading all of my practical money-saving tips.