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Deals of the Week is designed to get you the best deals on the bank rate marketplace each week.

The idea is to discuss recent economic and market events that might impact bank rates over the short-term – things like the unemployment rate or consumer confidence numbers, or the latest economic outlook from the Federal Reserve.

It’s certainly not meant to discourage bank rate investors – the goal of Deals of the Week is getting you motivated about good banking values.

But given the steady stream of bad news on the economy this summer, it seems that we haven’t heard significant news affecting bank rates in a positive way.

When it comes to your bank investments, you don’t want us to sugarcoat. But it’s been a down year and since we live in the real world, there’s no sense in touting a robust economy with an avalanche of “great” bank deals.

This week, the bad news continues with the U.S. Treasury Note market, where yields on the 10-year note fell for the fourth week in a row to 2.61%, its lowest level since March 2009. That’s hurting bank rates.

“You see all the fear again that’s driving rates,” Charles Comiskey, head of Treasury trading at Bank of Nova Scotia in New York, told Bloomberg late last week. “Money’s being forced to reach for yield, growth is going to remain subdued, unemployment is going to remain high, pressure’s going to remain on the economy.”

That’s where we’re at with bank rates this week, and exactly why it’s important to find a few good places to park your money until the economic smoke clears.

Free Checking

Let’s start with a good deal from Massachusetts-based Rockland Trust Bank and its Free Eco Checking account. As the bank describes it, Eco Checking “is a free personal checking account that pays rewards when you use your debit card – at the grocery store, the mall, the gas station, restaurants or wherever you use your card.”

Now you can earn up to $300 annually by using the bank’s Free Eco Checking debit rewards card and receiving monthly bank statements electronically. The bank pays you 10 cents for every eligible purchase you make with the debit card, up to $25 per statement cycle (about a month) and only up to $300 per year.

You’ll have to deposit at least $25 to open an account. After opening the account and beginning to make purchases, you’ll start receiving your bonus funds in your Free Eco Checking account during the same statement cycle when you made the purchase.

As always, there is one caveat: The Rockland website says the bank “may terminate the program at any time without notice.”

It’s hard to believe a bank would pull the plug on a deal a good customer likes, but it wouldn’t be the first time. In other words, buyer beware.
For more details, visit the bank’s website.

Student Banking

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Sovereign Bank (Stock Quote: SOV) is out with a good head-start for college kids heading back to campus this week.

Through Sept. 10, college students opening either a Student Checking or Student Savings account, with free Online Banking services and a Sovereign debit card, can earn up to $50 in bonus cash that will be deposited right in their accounts.

To get the full $50, students need to use that Sovereign debit card to make five purchases within 60 days of opening the account. Otherwise, they’ll only earn $25 for opening the account.

Soverieng’s Account Features include:
•    No minimum balance and no monthly fee
•    No fee to use other bank ATMs in the U.S.
•    Sovereign Free Student Savings with a great rate
•    Unlimited Free Online Banking with BillPay
•    Sovereign Debit Card with up to 20% in Cash Rewards
•    Unlimited telephone, branch and ATM banking
•    Free Incoming Foreign and Domestic Wire Transfers
•    Free one-way deposit transfers from a parent’s account
•    Free first order of checks
•    Complimentary Student Guide to Money Management

You don’t even have to be a full-time college student to get the cash – part-time students qualify, too.

Note that the offer is available only to residents in the following states: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

For more information, visit their website.

Business Checking

JP Morgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) has committed $10 billion in financing to small businesses this year, and as part of that promise the bank is offering small business owners interest-rate discounts on loans and lines of credit.

It’s all part of Chase’s “Loan For Hire” program, and here’s how it all goes down.

When you’re approved for a small business loan or line of credit up to $250,000 from Chase, the bank will reduce your interest rate by .5% for each new employee you hire, up to three. If your business checking account is with Chase, it will add another .5% discount, bringing the deal to 2% off on the interest rate tied to your loan.

Here are more details:

  • Discounts provided for new employee hiring are good for the life of the line of credit.
  • Chase business checking customers receive an immediate .5% discount. This discount is valid as long as the customer retains the business checking relationship.
  • Existing Business Line of Credit customers may also receive the Loan for Hire rate discounts (based on new interest rate pricing) when approved for a line of credit increase of $10,000 or more.
  • The offer is valid from June 29 through Dec. 31.

Get the full scoop at the Chase website.

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