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If you have a Zecco Trading account, you can easily earn $75 by sending a referral to a friend. The gist of the Zecco refer a friend program is pretty straightforward, you send an invite by email to a pal that may be interested in opening an online discount broker account, your friend signs-up with the same invited email address, funds their account for $500, and you’ll get $75 cash deposited into your account (or a $75 Amazon gift certificate if you have an IRA). A cool $75 = a decent dinner for you and your friend; eight In-n-Out lunches with you and your friend; or you can just hoard the money and not share them with your pal — I’d suggest the hoarding (just kidding, you cheap bastard).

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Choosing a high-yield online savings account can be quite a headache, so hopefully this review will help you in your search for an online savings account.

As with all federal savings bank, E-Trade Bank is a member of the FDIC (certificate #30746), with all deposits in E-Trade banking accounts insured up to $250,000. E-Trade currently offers a few different options for their banking products, including high-yield savings & CDs, and high-yield checking.  For this review, we’ll be taking a look at the high-yield Complete Savings Account.

E-Trade Complete Savings Account Features:

  • No minimums or account fees. FDIC insured.
  • Yields more than 8x the national average.
  • Easy access to money with Quick Transfer.
  • Secure electronic statement.

Account Opening Process

After opening more than eight other high-yield online savings account, you’ll start to appreciate online accounts with simple opening processing. E-Trade made the account opening process fairly painless. You start with the usual personal information, follow by a quick identity verification (no hard credit inquiry, screenshot below).

E-Trade Identity Verification E-Trade Opening Process Complete

Once you verify your identity, your account will be opened and you’ll be presented with a screen providing you with your Complete Savings account number. It is recommended you print this page or write down the account number so you can immediately set up your online account functionality.

Within about a week or so, you’ll receive a mailer from E-Trade Bank. This was a pleasant surprise as most other online savings usually don’t bother to follow up with a banking and website usage guide.

E-Trade Banking Quick Start Guide E-Trade Banking Guide with Account Forms and Terms

The E-Trade’s Banking Quick Start Guide provides you with three quick step to get you started. 1) Log-on to account 2) make a deposit 3) maximize your money (by setting up automatic savings, online bill pay, etc.).  Included in this mailer is also a sheet of deposit slip for those that needs it, pre-addressed envelopes,  account agreement terms, privacy statement, and rate and fee schedule.

You’ll also find an “Account Holder Signature Card” in the mailing, which you’ll need to sign and mail back to E-Trade to complete your account opening. If you forget to send in your signature card, E-Trade will send you another mailing in about a few weeks to remind you.

Account Usage and Transfer Speed

Although E-Trade’s site has more navigation and menus that you’d clear to examine, once you’ve logged in, the account usage is pretty easy and straightforward. You’ll be presented with an overview page, listing the type of accounts you have (screenshot below), along with a Quick Transfer interface, giving you quick access to the ability to transfer your funds in and out of E-Trade.

E-Trade’s Quick Transfer setup is the same as any other Automated Clearing House transfer setup, put in the routing number and the checking account number for the banking account you want to link to your E-Trade account, and you’ll be presented with two methods to verify your external accounts (screenshot above).

You can choose the instant verification method which takes only a couple of minutes, and is available if your financial institution has an online website. You provide your website username and password and E-Trade will verify your account ownership.

If you’re not comfortable with the online instant verification method, you can use the good old deposit verification method, which entails E-Trade making two small random deposits into your external account, which you’ll have to verify. The deposits usually takes about 2-3 business day to show up.

Once you’ve finished setting up the Quick Transfer accounts, you’ll find that E-Trade fund transfer is one of the fastest in the industry. Tested fund transfers usually gets withdrawal from external account at the very next business day (if you initiate transfer before 4 P.M. EST), and is cleared for withdrawal from your E-Trade savings on the evening of the 3rd business day after the day of deposit.

Without a doubt, E-Trade’s fund transfer is as fast ING Direct’s transfer speed (if not faster), and E-Trade clearly beats out HSBC Direct or FNBO Direct in terms of fund transfer speed.

Customer Service and Overall Impression:

Contacting E-Trade is straightforward enough. If you click on the “Online Service Center” link on the upper right hand corner of your screen, you’ll be brought to the Service Center page, which includes a link for you to send a secure message to an E-Trade representative.  Some basic questions regarding withdrawals and transfers were sent to customer service for testing, and an E-Trade customer service representative was able to reply (correctly) to the question within about 48 hours.  Not too bad, but nothing stellar either.

Customer service is of course, a your-result-may-vary issue that deeply depends on the complexity of your question or problem.  If you need immediate customer service, you should consider calling E-Trade Bank at 1-800-387-2331, from 7 A.M. to midnight ET.  You can also fax E-Trade Bank at 1-800-664-4641.  Take note that these customer service numbers are different than those of E-Trade Securities.

Overall, E-Trade’s Complete Savings account is a no frills high-yield online savings account.  It’s account opening process was easy to navigate, and they provide you with useful literature and instructions by paper mail once you’ve signed up. The annual percentage yield rate has been competitive with other high-yield savings, thus making rate-chase a lesser issue.

If you’re already an E-Trade brokerage customer, you’ll have instant access to your cash to/from your savings to your brokerage account.  If you’re looking for a new savings account, you should have little issues with E-Trade’s offering — whether you’re a veteran online banking user or a newcomer.

E-Trade Bank Online Savings Review Rating:

Account Opening Process: 5 out of 5

Rate Competitiveness: 4 out of 5

Ease of Use: 4 out of 5

Customer Service: 3 out of 5

Pros:

  • Account opening a breeze. Useful account usage literature provided after sign-up.
  • Rate has been consistent and remains competitive, if not the best at times.
  • Transfer speed is one of the fastest, compared to other high-yield online savings.
  • Perfect for those with an E-Trade Brokerage account for faster fund transfer between savings and investment accounts.

Cons:

  • Customer service via phone is a bit lacking.
  • E-mail customer service is better but response time could be faster.

Related Links and Resources:

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance just recently published their November rankings on the best online brokers, judging each brokers by their tools, commission cost (based on accounts with $50,000), investment choices, ease of use, and customer service.

Here’s the list of best online discount brokers, ranked by best to worst:

Online Broker Commission Cost Research and Tools Commission and Fees Investment Choices Ease of Use Customer Service
Fidelity $10.95 5 / 5 2 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 4 / 5
Charles Schwab $12.95 5 / 5 1/ 5 5 / 5 3 / 5 3 / 5
Muriel Siebert $14.95 3 / 5 3 / 5 4 / 5 4 / 5 3 / 5
TradeKing $4.95 3 / 5 3 / 5 3 / 5 1 / 5 5 / 5
E*TRADE $9.99 4 / 5 2 / 5 4 / 5 4 / 5 1 / 5
Optionshouse $4.95 2 / 5 5 / 5 2 / 5 2 / 5 4 / 5
TD Ameritrade $9.88 3 / 5 1 / 5 1 / 5 3 / 5 5 / 5
WellsTrade 100 free per year 2 / 5 4 / 5 2 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5
Firstrade $6.95 1 / 5 4 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5 2 / 5
OptionsXpress $14.95 2 / 5 2 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5 1 / 5
Zecco 10 free per month 1 / 5 4 / 5 1 / 5 1 / 5 3 / 5
Scottrade $7 1 / 5 3 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5 1 / 5

Your choice of brokers will really depend on how comfortable you are with certain aspect of investing.  For example, if you like to manually crunch your own numbers to spit out Schedule D, then you wouldn’t need any special tax tools from your discount broker. On the other hand, if calculating your cost basis gives you headache, then you may want brokers will more involved tools.

Kiplinger also judged each broker on ease of use, and I was actually surprised that Fidelity got 5 out of 5 stars, as I find the interface requiring a bit of digging, but maybe that’s just me. It was no surprise though for TradeKing to receive 5 out of 5 stars for customer service, as TradeKing always promptly respond to any of my questions regarding trades (even when I made the mistakes myself – hah).

As for the other discount broker on the list that I also use, Zecco’s rating was pretty spot on. However, depending on your investment requirements, Zecco’s low cost can be a good choice.

At the end though, I believe most people will have multiple accounts at various discount brokers. Usually a central location for their IRA, 401k, and other supplement accounts for making various type of individual stock trades and options speculations (hah).

Related Links:

  • TradeKing – SmartMoney #1 Discount Broker
  • E*Trade – 100 Commission Free Trade
  • Zecco – $4.50 per trade plus 10 free trade per month*

Quicken Online Home Page View Overspending

In a move to no doubt better compete against other free online personal finance management tools, Quicken Online is now free (axing away the monthly $2.99 fee). I took the beta for a test drive sometime last year, but haven’t really checked back as I seriously had too many different tools to use.

Updated 9/14/2011: Quicken Online, for those that didn’t know, has basically been updated & replaced by Mint.com. It has same functionality and more features.

The above screenshot has one credit card account added (well technically three, with two balance transfer cards in the Chase account).

Geared for the fast and simple crowd, Quicken Online is fairly easy to use. You add in financial accounts of your choice (banking, credit, some investments), and Quicken Online will quickly chug out data on if you’re living within your means (money in vs money out).

Features of Note:

  • Quicken Beam: Access your balance info faster via a smartphone friendly site: m.quicken.com or text BAL to 636363 to quickly get your balances.
  • Set monthly budget at the My Budget tabs for categories you want to track.
  • Am I Living Within My Means calculation on front page. Works well enough if your cash flow is simple and straightforward.

Once accounts are added, the last 90 days of data will be grabbed and chugged into your Quicken Online account. Transactions are categorized well enough, but you’ll most likely have to tweak quite a few transactions. You won’t be able to import data from your other Quicken products, but Quicken Online isn’t really designed for in-depth personal finance analysis anyway.

You can only add in major investment accounts, as I don’t see too many other discount brokerages listed in the add accounts page. Which is well enough, as besides balance and transaction listing, there’s not much you can do when you add in investment accounts.

Quicken Online is overall pretty light when compared to Quicken’s desktop offerings. There’s a small categorization bug where they listed a Jack in a Box transaction as a monthly bill, but other than that minor quirk the service can be attractive for those needing a simple personal finance solution, especially considering the new free price tag.

Look for a full review in the future when I get around to taking it for a deeper test spin.

Related Links and Resources:

FNBO Direct BillPay Bonus

FNBO Direct is running a $25 opening bonus for their Online BillPay account.

Promotion details:

  • Open a new FNBO Direct Online BillPay account (FNBO Direct Savings required).
  • $25 bonus credit to account within 30 days after opening.
  • BillPay account will need to be opened for 90 days and you’ll have to make at least one BillPay payment during that period.
  • Promotion ends on 9/30/08.

Seems straight forward enough, especially if you already have a FNBO Direct Online Savings account. Open the account, transfer in $50 bucks, make a payment for your monthly subscription to Cereal Digest Monthly and claim the $25.

Thanks to this promotion, I just remembered the FNBO savings account that I’ve opened over a year ago (with $102 in the account). It’s like finding five bucks under the sofa cushion. Sweet!

From [Blueprint for Financial Prosperity]

Mint.com Free Personal Finance Web-App

Welp, there it is.

 

Remember how my Bank to Bank Transfer got suspended because I foobared a transfer?

Well… two calls, two emails and two months later, it’s been reactivated. Huzzah.

The calls never did much, but the email through their site interface seemed to have worked.

This is a friendly reminder to everyone that high-yield online savings account (and to some extent other online-only banking accounts) are generally self-served accounts — expect lighter customer service in return for higher-yields.

I generally don’t mention online savings that require a minimum balance, but E-Loan’s Online Savings of 5.50% APY is a pretty hot deal. For people with more than $5,000, this account easily beats out any other current high-yield online savings offerings.

One caveat: You’re not allow to ACH pull from outside sources. So the only way to withdrawal your funds are via E-Loan’s site.

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