Streaming TV Can Be a Money Saver Compared to Cable

First there was broadcast TV, which consists of basic channels like CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS. It’s considered “free TV” because all you need is an antenna to watch programming, since advertisers fund your viewing pleasure.
Male hand holding TV remote control.

Then along came cable TV, which delivers television programming through a coaxial cable system to paying subscribers. Cable providers include Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and COX.

While cable TV provides a broader spectrum of programming than broadcast television, that extra programming comes at a cost. And that cost seems to be climbing higher and higher. According to a report by Leichtman Research Group, the average American household with cable pays $103 a month for the service. Imagine if you could turn that $103 monthly bill into a $12 or $20 monthly charge? Your savings account would thank you!

The good news is that cutting out the cost of cable is easier than ever before, thanks to a wide variety of video streaming services that allow you to watch your favorite programming at a fraction of the cost. From Netflix to Hulu, the variety of video streaming services is mind-boggling. And the competition seems to grow every day.

So what is a video streaming service? It’s basically an on-demand online entertainment source for TV shows, movies and other media. If you have a computer, smart phone, or tablet, or a smart TV or a streaming device like Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire, you can take advantage of video streaming. The services you decide to use will depend on what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to spend. But the bottom line is that video streaming services are starting to replace cable TV for a lot of Americans.

Netflix is a popular choice, with countless movies, television series, children’s programming, and documentaries to choose from. Netflix offers three different pricing tiers to suit your needs. Their “Basic” plan is $8.99 per month and allows you to stream video content on one device at a time in Standard Definition. If HD is more of your thing, you can try their $12.99 per month “Standard” plan, which allows High-Definition viewing, and streaming on up to 2 devices at the same time. And they also offer a “Premium” plan for $15.99 per month that allows you to stream on up to 4 devices at a time in HD and Ultra High-Definition (UHD) when available.

If you’re looking to get a lot of bang for your buck, you may want to look into Amazon Prime Video, which comes included with an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Prime Video gives you access to a wide array of television series and movies, and your $119 per year Amazon Prime membership also grants you access to free two-day shipping on eligible purchases on Amazon.com (and in many cases, free one-day shipping), the ability to borrow free e-books via Prime Reading, commercial-free access to Amazon Music, and unlimited photo storage with Amazon Photos.

Hulu is another option, which allows you to watch episodes from both current and past seasons of your favorite TV shows. They also offer access to movies, and Hulu-original programming. Access to the service costs only $5.99 month, and if you’d like to eliminate commercials you can do so by paying $6 more a month. And if you’ve been hanging onto cable because you just can’t part with HBO or Showtime, you can add those to your Hulu subscription as well! It costs $14.99 per month to add HBO to a Hulu plan and you can add Showtime for an additional $10.00 per month. Hulu even has a new live-TV package for $44.99 per month. “Hulu with Live TV” includes Hulu’s regular on-demand video streaming, but also allows you to stream live television channels to supported devices such as Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation, Fire TV, and Roku.

Slightly newer services that also offer live TV streaming include Sling TV, owned by Dish Network, and YouTube TV, a paid-subscription version of the popular website.

The traditional networks like CBS and ABC have jumped onto the streaming bandwagon, too. By visiting their websites, or downloading their apps, you can tap into shows that recently aired. And premium cable channels like HBO, Starz and Showtime are in on the game too. All of them offer stand-alone paid viewing packages that give you access to a broad selection of original programs, special shows, and movies.

So if you’ve been debating whether to stash away some significant money each month by ditching your high-cost cable provider, there’s not much to debate anymore. Streaming is the new way to save!

Prepare for Opening Your First Bank Account

Maybe you’re a high school or college student. Or maybe you just haven’t had the need to open a bank account until now. Whatever your age or motivation, it’s important to “do your homework” before opening your first bank account – to ensure you get what it is that you need, and to make the account opening process as smooth and painless as possible.Happy savings

Here are some things to consider:

What type of account do you need?

Do you need a checking account, a savings account, or both? If you’re looking to pay routine bills like rent or utilities, make purchases with a debit card, or withdraw cash on a regular basis from an ATM, a checking account is likely the way to go. If your intent is to save money or establish an emergency fund, you’re going to want a savings account.

What features do you need, and what fees are you looking to avoid?

One of the biggest considerations when opening a savings account is the interest rate. When you deposit money into a savings account, you typically earn interest on that money. And the higher the interest rate, the more money you’ll earn! You should also look to see if there is a minimum balance required in order to earn interest.

There are even some checking accounts that offer interest. Online banks like Bank5 Connect typically don’t have as many overhead costs as brick-and-mortar banks, so they’re able to offer high-interest checking accounts.

It’s also important to read all the fine print associated with an account and understand any fees you could be subject to. Some checking accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee, or charge you a fee if you don’t maintain a certain balance. Luckily, many banks offer checking accounts that are free of these types of monthly fees. Bank5 Connect’s High Interest Checking account doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee or a minimum balance fee (however, you do need to maintain a minimum balance of $100 in order to earn interest).

How do you plan to access and manage your money?

These days there are many ways for you to keep track of your bank account. Most banks offer online and mobile banking. Through the bank’s website or mobile app you can typically check balances, transfer money between accounts, pay bills, and view statements. In some cases you can even set up email and text message alerts to warn you about low balances or suspicious activity. If you’re looking to utilize these types of tools to manage your finances, it’s a good idea to ensure your bank offers them before you open an account.

And then there’s the matter of ATMs. Your ATM or debit card will give you access to your bank’s network of ATMs, but what happens if you use an ATM outside of the network? What fees will you face? Will your bank waive those fees? If having ATM flexibility is important to you, you should be sure to review the bank’s ATM policy thoroughly. At Bank5 Connect, in addition to offering our customers free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide through the SUM ATM network, we don’t charge our customers a fee for using an ATM outside of the network. What’s more, we will reimburse them for other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle!

What information will I have to provide the bank with?

Whether you’re opening an account online, or in-person at a branch, you’re going to need to formally identify yourself. If you’re opening your account at the bank, they’ll typically require you to show them a valid, government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, or a passport. Some banks require a second form of ID as well, such as a social security card or birth certificate.

If you apply online, you’ll have to enter your license number, passport number, or ID card number, and you’ll have to supply additional information such as your Social Security number, phone number, physical mailing address, and email address. You may also have to answer “ID verification” questions online to prove you are who claim to be.

And remember that if you’re under the age of 18, you’ll need a parent or legal guardian to apply with you as a joint account holder. They’ll need to be with you if you apply in-person, and if you apply online they’ll need to be present to enter all of their identifying information into the application.

Lastly, you’ll need to provide the bank with money to fund the account. Some banks allow you to fund your new account with a credit card, others will require the initial funds be deposited in cash, by check, or through a transfer from an existing account.

Put Your Kids On The Road To Financial Literacy

Chances are you’re not going to find a book titled “The Basics of Financial Literacy” in your child’s backpack from school. But it certainly would be a helpful part of their curriculum.Boy and a Pile of Coins

If your child isn’t learning financial basics in the classroom, like how to save money, how to create a budget, or how to balance a bank account, that means the burden falls on you to teach them the financial ways of the world. Research has shown that kids who have sound money management skills, and who develop good money habits, have a greater chance of personal financial success in adulthood.

So when should you start laying this groundwork? Early on, according to experts. One of the first financial lessons you can teach your child revolves around that time-tested tool – the piggy bank. The simple act of having your child put coins in the bank on a regular basis can set the stage for learning how to save. You can even show them by example by having an “adult” piggy bank they can watch you put money into.

Once your child is a bit older, it’s time to introduce them to real-world situations where money is involved. A trip to the bank is a good place to start. Your child can watch you deposit money into a savings account, and you can explain to them that you’re putting that money aside, just like they do with their piggy bank. You can drive this point home even more by helping them to open a savings account of their very own.

Another great way to teach your child about money is to take them with you on a shopping trip. Even just heading to the grocery store is a great start. Your child can help you make a list of what you need at the store, and you can even have them add an item or two that they want. Once at the store, try to pay with cash so they can see that money is being used to purchase the items – the same kind of money that they have in their piggy bank.

If they have money of their own saved up, you can even let them bring it with them to the store. This can be a good opportunity to explain “needs” versus “wants” with your child. And, by letting them make a decision about whether to spend their money on a toy or a candy bar, or save up their money to purchase a “big ticket item” down the road, they’ll be able to start thinking about the financial choices available to them on a daily basis.

As they enter their teenage years, kids are old enough to understand the importance of creating and sticking to a budget. Again, showing by example is a good way to convey this knowledge. Let them sit with you while you pay the bills and explain what you’re doing. By showing them the importance of knowing how much money is coming in and going out of the household each month, you’ll be driving home a valuable lesson that will help them to manage their own money.

You might also consider helping your teen to open their own checking account. Since you’ll be acting as a co-owner on the account (children under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian to open a bank account with them), you’ll have a chance to oversee your child’s spending and money management habits, and step in when you see they need some guidance. By allowing them firsthand experience managing their own money, they’ll be a lot more financially savvy by the time they head out into the “real world”.

Once your teen proves to be responsible with their checking account, you can introduce them to the world of credit. Explain the basics of establishing credit and what it means to carry a balance on a credit card and pay interest on that balance. You can even walk your child through the process of applying for a credit card if you think they’re ready. And don’t forget to stress the importance of making credit card payments on time and paying at least the minimum required. A later lesson would be to show how maintaining good credit is important when it comes to taking out a car loan or applying for a mortgage.

Let’s be honest; what parent doesn’t want a bright financial future for their child? By introducing your child to the skills and knowledge they’ll need to manage their own money, you’ll be helping them to build a strong financial foundation they can take with them into adulthood.

Teach Good Money Habits with a Children’s Savings Account

As a parent, don’t you want your child to have a strong financial future? If so, the earlier you can start teaching them about money, the better. Research has shown that children start to understand the concepts of saving and spending as early as three years old, and some experts believe that money habits are formed by age seven. One way to get your child on the right track financially, is to give them a savings account of their very own.Young boy putting money in piggy bank

A children’s savings account can help lay a solid financial foundation. From teaching the benefits of putting money aside, to allowing children to discover what interest is all about, a savings account can be a great educational tool.

Some of the specific benefits of opening a children’s savings account include:

  • It gets children in the savings habit. By regularly depositing the contents of their piggy bank into a savings account, your child will foster good savings habits they can take with them into adulthood. By the time they head off to college or out into the “real world”, they’ll already be used to routinely putting money aside. As they say – “old habits die hard” – and saving money is a habit you won’t want them to break!
  • They can watch their money grow over time. One valuable lesson is that you don’t have to spend it just because you have it. Kids tend to get excited when they find themselves with a few bucks, but instead of blowing their money on candy or cheap toys, placing it in a savings account can allow them to save up for something special. It can be a satisfying experience for them to watch their money grow with each deposit they make. And, a savings account that pays interest shows a child firsthand how their money can make more money.
  • It puts them on the road to financial freedom. Using a savings account to save for something special can be a great way for your child to learn about financial independence. Rather than rely on Mom and Dad to buy them a new tablet or skateboard, they can use their own funds to make the purchase. Not only does this provide them with a sense of achievement, but it helps to teach them the value of a dollar. They won’t be as inclined to waste money down the road once they know how much effort goes into saving up for a treasured item.
  • It can serve as a stepping stone to other financial products and services. By managing their funds in a savings account, kids can learn about interest and the difference between deposits and withdrawals. If their account comes with an ATM card, they’ll also learn how ATM transactions work, and what the consequences can be if they overdraw their account. All of these lessons will come in handy down the road when they open a checking account, or try out different savings vehicles like certificates of deposit (CDs), or Money Market accounts.

A children’s savings account can be a great way to lay the groundwork for sound financial habits. As for deciding where to open your child’s account, there are many options out there. You can go with an account specifically tailored to children, you can opt for an online-only account – which typically offer higher interest rates than traditional accounts – or you can open an account at your regular bank. Generally, you’ll want to look for an account that offers a competitive interest rate, and that doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement or monthly maintenance fee. And keep in mind that no matter what type of account you choose, any child under the age of 18 will need a parent or guardian listed on the account as well.

Tax Tips for a Safer Tax Season

Did you know that if you haven’t filed your tax return yet, a criminal could beat you to it? This type of crime is becoming more widespread every year. But luckily, there are some tax tips you can follow to help protect your return from these unscrupulous criminals.Tax form concept

Because the Internal Revenue Service only accepts one tax return per Social Security number, the sooner you file your return, the less likely you are to have a thief snatch up your rightful refund.

In additional to filing as early as possible, it’s important to do everything you can to shield your personal information from potential criminals. If they can’t get their hands on your Social Security number, they can’t file a return in your name. Here are some general recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Ensure that your computer and mobile devices have the latest web browsers, and security software installed. This is your best line of defense in protecting the contents of your device, and the information you share online.
  • Always use a secure internet connection when you submit or transfer sensitive information online. You can tell that a website is secure by checking for a URL that begins with “https://”, and a padlock symbol alongside the URL in the address bar of your internet browser.
  • Remember to shred paper documents that contain sensitive information, instead of just tossing them in the garbage. These types of documents could include drafts of your tax returns, copies of your W-2 forms, pay stubs, medical bills, or credit card and bank account statements.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. And don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or store the number on your computer or cell phone.
  • Do your homework before hiring a tax preparer. Make sure you can trust them with your personal information. And ensure that they sign your return with their IRS Preparer Identification Number. The tax preparer identification system was developed as an added layer of protection against tax fraud.
  • Don’t use public wireless networks (such as those in coffee shops and restaurants) to work on your tax return or file it. Cyber crooks can intercept internet connections on these unsecure networks and gain access to your information.
  • Use strong, complex passwords for all of your online accounts, especially your online tax e-filing account, if you have one.
  • Consider using a USB memory stick or external hard drive to store sensitive tax data that you need to prepare your return. This will lessen the chance of cyber crooks stealing the information directly from your computer. The external drive or stick also serves as a backup should you encounter a crash or other problem with your computer.
  • Be aware that the IRS will never email or call you concerning tax issues or any back taxes you may owe. If the IRS needs to contact you regarding a tax matter, they will do so via regular postal mail. So, if you receive an email or phone call from someone who says they are from the IRS, odds are that they’re an imposter looking to steal your personal information. Never provide them with your bank account credentials, or your credit and debit card information, and never wire them money – you’ll never get it back.

It’s a shame that there are so many criminals out there looking to get their hands on your hard-earned tax refund, but armed with these tax tips, you should stand a much better chance of protecting yourself this tax season.

Sweetheart Scams to Watch Out for This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is on the way. Love is in the air and it’s easy to be swept away in those feelings of affection. But it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they claim to be. Valentine’s Day is a preferred time for many cyber crooks attempting to lure in unsuspecting victims who are looking for love.Liebe und Dating mit dem Smartphone

With the ever rising popularity of social media, it’s no wonder that many people turn to online dating sites and social media networks on their quest for romance. But while these types of websites can facilitate loving relationships, they can also be prime hunting grounds for scammers armed with fake profiles. According to the FBI, over $220 million was lost to online dating scams in 2016. To avoid these types of scams, it’s important to be on the lookout for them. If your online love interest is displaying any of these common warning signs, it’s probably best to walk away:

  • They prefer to speak with you through email, text, or online messaging, rather than talk to you on the phone. Oftentimes, a phone conversation can give an online scammer away. You may notice they have a strange accent, or that the number they’re calling from doesn’t match with the area they claim to be from.
  • They tell you they’re currently overseas traveling, or out of the country on business.
  • Their feelings for you seem to be growing extremely fast. If they’re already telling you they love you after a few conversations, you should be highly suspicious.
  • They always have an excuse for not meeting you face-to-face.
  • They tell you they need money for some type of emergency.

Even if you don’t notice anything suspicious about the person you’re getting to know online, it’s still a good idea to go into any new online friendship or relationship with your guard up. If anything seems off about the photos they’ve shared with you, you can run them through a reverse image search on Google to see if they were taken from another person or website. It’s also a good idea to talk with your family and friends about your new love interest. Sometimes feelings of affection can blind us to warning signs that others can easily see. And perhaps the most important thing to remember with any new online acquaintance – never give them money. No matter what kind of story they give you regarding why they need money, it’s important to remember that you’ll likely never see your funds again if you wire money, mail cash, or give your bank account information to someone you’ve just met online.

And online dating scams aren’t the only “love scams” making the rounds this Valentine’s Day. There are flower delivery scams out there as well. One version involves an email claiming to be from a flower delivery company asking the victim to verify their credit card details before their flowers can be delivered. There’s even an in-person scam where victims receive a delivery of flowers or a package at their home, and the deliveryman tells them that there is a small delivery fee. They also tell the victim that the delivery fee can only be paid via credit card. In both of these scams, the crooks are looking to get their hands on your credit card information.

No matter what type of scam a criminal decides to use, the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim is to be on high alert. If you think you may have already been targeted by a scammer, there are some immediate steps you should take:

  • If you’ve sent money to a potential scammer, or have given them your bank account information, let your financial institution know immediately
  • Report the activity to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/, and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/
  • If the scam occurred on a dating site or social media network, report it to the website’s management

No matter what your relationship status, it’s important not to let your emotions cloud your judgement. Being watchful and vigilant can help protect your heart (and your wallet) this Valentine’s Day.

Infographic-online-dating-scams

Earn Interest with a Checking Account

It pays to have a checking account with an online bank – literally.

While many traditional checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks do not earn any interest, online banks are a different story. Because online-only banks don’t have physical branches, they have less overhead costs than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. This allows them to offer high-yield, interest-bearing checking accounts.
Man writing a check

Many interest checking accounts require you to maintain a minimum balance in order to earn interest, and some accounts have certain requirements that must be met – such as a minimum number of debit card transactions – in order for customers to qualify for the stated interest rate. It’s important to note that some banks also cap the balance you can earn interest on. At Bank5 Connect, we try to keep it simple by offering a high-interest checking account with a minimum balance of just $100 to earn interest. There are no balance caps, and no additional hoops to jump through. There are also no monthly maintenance fees associated with the account. Learn more about our High-Interest Checking account here: http://www.bank5connect.com/home/high-interest-checking.

It’s important to keep in mind that oftentimes, interest-bearing checking accounts require you to conduct all of your banking activities online. This will probably be expected if you’re opening an interest checking account at an online bank that doesn’t have any physical branches, but it may come as a surprise if you’re opening an interest checking account at a local bank down the street. Some brick-and-mortar banks do in fact offer interest checking accounts, but it’s not uncommon for them to charge those customers a fee for in-branch transactions. They typically do this as a trade-off to help the bank offset the interest the customer is earning.

So, before opening an interest-bearing checking account, be sure to read all of the fine print to understand how, where, and when you will have access to your money. With a Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking account, our customers have free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide through the SUM Network. And, if they use an ATM outside of that network we still won’t charge them, and we will reimburse them for other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle.

There are many high-yield, interest checking accounts out there to choose from, so be sure to review all of your options to find the account that’s right for you, and websites like GoBankingRates, Nerdwallet and The Simple Dollar can help you compare what’s out there.