1.10.09

AN INCENTIVE TO MAINTAIN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

Chicago Tribune consumer advice columnist Kayce T. Ataiyero discovers that converting coins to currency involves transaction costs.
One of the tricks I use to get myself to save money is to collect spare change. When my 5-gallon water jug gets reasonably full, I count the coins and deposit them in the bank.

When I first tried this little savings experiment a few years ago, I ended up with more than $800. This time, my haul was a little less but still respectable: $510. The plan was to deposit $450 into my Bank of America savings account and keep the rest as a reward.

Then I hit a snag.

When I arrived at the bank, I was informed that Bank of America no longer counts coins on site. If I wanted to convert my coins to bills, I'd have to ship them off to be counted and that it would take seven to 10 days for the money to make its way to my account. And since that week's shipment had been sent, I would have to tack on another week.

"But they're rolled," I said to the teller, trying to plead my case to no avail.
A five gallon jug with $500 in it is heavy. I've discovered that banks prefer the coins be loose, as there's potential for fraud in a deposit of rolled coins. A half-gallon commercial spaghetti sauce jar is good for about $100.

Ms Ataiyero discovers banks that will waive the counting fee for depositors.
After calling a few banks to ask about their policies, I found that the easiest way for me to get my money was to open another bank account. I decided to go with TCF Bank because I was told over the phone that I could use my coins toward opening the account and because they were running a promotion in which new customers got $50 for opening an account with a minimum $25 deposit.
The column includes a list of Chicago-area banks that will count coins for depositors.

The information ought to be part of the personal finance curriculum. A large proportion of urban poor people are what we call "unbanked" and cash stashes in water bottles are probably not rare. Those stashes are temptation to thieves, they represent money sitting idle, and a relationship with a deposit-insured bank is a step away from the check-cashing and payday-loan institutions that too often are the poor person's only contact with the financial system.

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