NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Here is what you could do on today: go to a nearby bank, stand in line, deposit your paycheck, and ask the teller to give you $100 cash back, in a mix of 20s, 10, and 5s.
That may be what your father does. It definitely is what your grandfather did, and he, by the way, may carry just one credit card, possibly still carries around a checkbook, and definitely has a money clip with maybe $100 in assorted bills. Wake up: this is 2015. You are not your grandfather. You are not your father. You don’t have 15 minutes to waste in line at a bank and who knows how many minutes it takes to get there. Besides, there now are better, smarter ways to handle your money that will save you time, may even save you money, but mainly you won’t seem as though you are stuck in repeating a Groundhog Day reprise of banking circa 1980.
Step one: Always use mobile remote deposit capture. The phrasing is inelegant; the tool isn’t. This is the app that lets you snap a photo of the front and back of your check and deposit it in your bank. Stick the paper check in a drawer in case something comes up (though that almost never happens). Presto, you just put money in your account without moving from your chair. Your bank doesn’t offer MRDC? Switch banks. Note: many banks and credit unions set ridiculously low MRDC limits, such as $1,000 per day. Call and ask for an increase. Good customers - no bounced checks, a decent balance - will almost always be obliged.
Step two: Get cash out of ATM machines, not from tellers. I use fee free machines at CVS and Safeway, stores I will be in anyway. Or I get cash when using a debit card to purchase at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, wherever you shop. Most stores let you add $60 to $100 or higher in cash to a purchase. Never go out of your way to get cash from a bank, not even from its ATMs. Never.
Step three: Never again pay an overdraft fee, urged financial expert Harrine Freeman. A dirty secret of banking is that many of them have gotten fat and happy slapping $29 and higher overdraft fees on the smallest miscalculations. Freeman’s advice: set up balance alerts - sent via SMS to your cellphone - when accounts are perilously low.
Step four: eliminate paper checks, said Carlos Dias, Jr. of Excel Tax & Wealth financial planners. Pay instead via electronic funds transfer, said Dias. Do the math. Put a check in an envelope, lick on postage, and you are probably into that over 75 cents. Use bill pay in your online banking and the transaction is free to you at most institutions. Pay 10 bills a month that way, and you just bought yourself a free glass of wine. And the bonus is that you aren’t one of those dorks who is still paying via check.
Step five: Use PayPal to pay friends, said Northern California based software consultant Bhavna Devani. Owe a co-worker $10 from lunch, fire off a sawbuck via PayPal or even Venmo. Want to send a $25 birthday gift to a cousin cross country? Peer-to-peer mobile money transfer is the ticket. Those payments are free, to you and the receiver if you follow the platform's rules. Yes, you could run to an ATM to get cash for that co-worker and you could write a paper check to that cousin, but PayPal and Venmo are honestly free. Plus, the process is fast, and it is 21st century.
Step six: Set up automatic bill pay on recurring accounts. You could hunt for the paper bill, and a stamp and a check. Or you can handle it 21st century style. With me, Discover Card monthly pulls out what I owe from my checking account, with me doing nothing. The New York Times grabs $15 from PayPal for my monthly digital subscription. Netflix does similar. Around 10 recurring bills - usually small and predictable amounts - effectively pay themselves with no active involvement on my part. An advantage to this: you will never pay a credit card late fee again if you have set it up to pay itself and, note, with most cards you can configure this to take out only the minimum payment if that is your comfort level. Either way, no more late fees.
Step seven: Keep your leather wallet in your pocket or purse and use a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet or Softcard. The second two run on Androids, the first only on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. But it is rapidly becoming obsolete to fumble with your physical wallet in a search for a plastic card. Mobile wallet payments are as fast, they may be more secure (data is significantly less visible to hackers) and it just looks a lot cooler to pay by phone, which you can do at Whole Foods, Panera Bread, Walgreen’s, McDonald’s, Subway and a fast expanding list of retailers.
Remember this: it’s not your grandfather’s money any more, it’s yours. Act accordingly.
-Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet