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smart spending
100 tips to help you save

7. Some online banks offer high-interest checking accounts. If these accounts meet your needs when it comes to balance requirements, debit card usage and convenience, why not earn interest on your balance?

8. Stay up-to-date on your checking balance, either by balancing your check book or checking your account online frequently. You'll avoid overdraft fees and better track what goes in and out.

9. If you bounce a check, and it's the first time, ask for forgiveness, including waiver of any fees. A bank will sometimes do that for goodwill. Of course, don't become a repeat offender.

10. Make it a habit to use only your bank, thrift or credit union's ATMs. You'll avoid paying surcharge fees to your bank and the other bank. Or consider opening an account with an online bank or brokerage that covers out-of-network ATM fees.

11. To avoid ATM fees, get extra cash at the grocery store -- most of the grocery store point-of-sale terminals are free.

12. Think before you charge. Unless you're in the habit of paying your credit card bill in full each month, don't use the cards for anything you can eat or wear and avoid using credit cards to buy "wants" such as a new stereo or TV. Wait until you have the money to buy it.

13. If you're knee-deep in credit card debt, get rid of all of the credit cards but one. Take that one and make it hard to impulse shop with -- freeze it in a bowl of water in your freezer.

14. Don't take cash out of your credit card. The rate for cash advances is much higher. And there is no grace period -- you start paying interest right away.

15. Read your monthly credit card statements carefully. Look out for hidden charges, such as credit insurance.

16. Don't pay for theft insurance on your credit card. If your credit card is stolen, you're only liable for $50 at most.

17. Avoid credit card fees. Dodge $39-and-growing fees by not exceeding your credit limit. And send your payments in early -- if you're five minutes late it could cost you $29 or more.

18. Pay more than the minimum. It'll take a very long time and cost you a lot in interest to pay off your balance if you only pay the minimum.

19. Don't be late on any loan or credit account payment. Credit card companies check their customers' credit reports frequently, looking for any late payments to justify raising the interest rate -- a phenomenon called "universal default." In some cases, triggering a universal default can double your credit card's interest rate.


20. Negotiate better terms -- lower interest and higher limits -- with your credit card issuer, especially if you've had a year of on-time payments.

21. Consider transferring your balances from high-interest cards to low-interest credit cards. Then, make the same payment as before, or double the minimum.

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