Monday, March 17, 2008

A Rant

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I'm currently working as a substitute teacher and most of the schools are on spring break so I didn't get called today. Boohoo. It's nice to have the day off but it sucks because if you don't work, you don't get paid. Waaaa. Well, I figured I'd try to make it a productive day by blogging, working on my garden, and doing some research. So here it goes. :)

This post is going to be somewhat of a rant. A rant with a happy ending. I think those are the best types of rants anyways.

Well, let's just start at the beginning, shall we? As most of you know, after I paid off my debt I decided to go to Thailand to be a teacher. I opened a Citibank account because they told my friend that they had branches in Thailand and she would be able to access her U.S. account at those branches. Plus, at that time they had a great savings rate at about 5% so it didn't seem like a bad idea.

We get to Thailand to find out that yes, they have a branch in Bangkok but that's it...A branch. As in one. We supposed it was better than nothing so I called the customer service line for the Bangkok branch and asked them if we could make deposits to our U.S. accounts at their branch. She told me yes, we could, although I'm not sure if she even understood my question. So, we take a long (and expensive) taxi ride to the financial district of Bangkok only to find out that Citibank Thailand is a completely different bank from Citibank U.S. In short, we made the long voyage in vain because we couldn't make a deposit without paying all kinds of currency conversion fees and wire transfer fees.

All of that doesn't really matter now, but it did perturb me that when my friend specifically asked if we could make deposits into our account from Thailand they emphatically said "yes." Lame. Lame.

But now, I'm home in California where I don't sweat 24 hours a day and the food does not burn a hole in my stomach. Hallelujah! Alas, Citibank's previous savings rate of 5% has dwindled to a measly 3% so I started shopping around for rates. ING Direct is only at 3.10%. Emigrant Direct 3.3%. Like I said before, if inflation is at 4% you end up losing money if you save it at anything under 4%. So of course, my over-active mind starting going to work.

I thought of putting the money in a CD account and discovered that the rates on CDs are even lower than the rates on savings accounts! What? At first, this made absolutely no sense. Why would I put my money into a 12 month CD for 3% when I can get 3.1% in my regular old savings account? Then I realized that they must be planning on lowering savings rates even more and my over-active mind got even more active.

Stock market? No. Foreign currency? Nah. Gold? Uh uh. Hide it under my mattress?????

Then I thought about microlending sites and thought hmmmm, now there's an idea. I remembered hearing about Prosper and thought I'd check it out. I figured since banks are getting more and more conservative with lending and credit card rates are rising, people are going to start looking for alternatives (like Prosper). I figured I'd try it out with a small amount of money.

I was all set to fund my account when I realized that the account that I had set up years ago (but never actually funded) was using my old Wells Fargo account that I closed when I went to Thailand. I tried to update with my Citibank account but Prosper required that I send them a canceled check to prove the account was mine.

Still with me?

The problem was was that I never actually got checks for my Citibank account. I haven't written a check for years! I definitely didn't want to pay $19.95 for a box of checks just so I could open this account so I called Citibank to see if they would comp me a box of checks.

The answer? A big, fat NO! I tried to pull the "But your competitors offer free checks" card but it had no effect. So what did I do? I started looking at other banks who would give me free checks.

And I found out that Washington Mutual not only will give me free checks but also has a 4% rate on their savings account. Score!

Now, I'm just waiting to get my new account set up and receive my new checks and my Prosper adventures will begin. I'll keep you all updated!

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