Category: Banking Basics

Same Day ACH – Does it Impact Me?

September 6th, 2017 by

For those following the new rules towards the processing of ACH transactions, it’s no surprise to you that Same Day ACH will now apply to debit transactions in addition to credit transactions starting at the beginning of September.  For those who perhaps haven’t been following this as closely (it’s okay, we understand), let’s back up and explain to you what this is all about and how it may impact you.

ACH 101?

The Automatic Clearing House (ACH) is an electronic network that processes financial transactions in the United States.  In short, if you didn’t use your debit/check card to move money but money was electronically deposited or withdrawn from your account, it moved using the ACH rails.  ACH processes all electronic transactions except debit/credit card transactions.  There are two primary ACH providers, the FedACH that processes about 60% of all ACH transactions and the Electronic Payments Network (EPN), a privately owned network that processes the other 40% of ACH transactions.

What is Same Day ACH and What Have I Missed?

The National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) is a governance group who manages the rules dictating the ACH movement of money.  In an effort to expedite the movement of money, NACHA has introduced rules allowing two new settlement times, 1PM and 5PM, allowing banks to process ACH transactions during the day and again overnight during batch processing. (more…)

What Is a Certificate of Deposit (CD)?

June 29th, 2017 by

Certificates of deposit, or CDs, are not the most exciting investments, but they are among the safest. They make perfect sense for the risk-averse or for people just looking to park some cash over a specific period of time.

The ABCs of CDs

CDs differ from traditional savings accounts in that you are committing to keep a sum of money put for a set period of time. Known as the “term length,” these periods (more…)

How to Boost Your Small Business Credit Score

June 27th, 2017 by

Are you a small-business owner who’s not getting the love you need from lenders? Are suppliers insisting on terms you find downright unfriendly?

The common denominator may be a poor business credit score. Here are some steps you can take to fix it.

What goes into your business credit score?

Just like a personal credit score, a business credit score measures the level of risk you pose for a lender. Unlike personal credit scores, most of which adhere to the FICO model, business credit scores don’t follow an industry standard.

The three major bureaus — Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian — use different methods to compile and monitor business credit (more…)

How to Save $1,000 a Year — Without Breaking a Sweat

April 13th, 2017 by

Nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions offers 10 tips for saving big on a limited budget.

GuidewellConsumers who have never saved before sometimes worry they won’t be able to make it a habit, especially if they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.  However, small changes in financial choices and lifestyle can lead to tangible savings rewards. To celebrate Financial Literacy Month, nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions (aka Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware) shares these tips on how to save a thousand dollars in a single year:

Use direct deposit. This is an effective way to start saving. Here’s how it works – Have paychecks electronically deposited into a checking account.  Before the money goes into checking, have $10 automatically deducted and directly placed in a personal savings account.

Savings = $240/yr or more 

Brown bag it!  Bring lunch from home ($1-3 per meal) instead of dining out at work ($8-15 per meal).

Savings = $1,300/yr or more

Less is more.  Downsizing the family cell phone, cable, or satellite television package is a simple way to put more money in the bank.

Savings = $600/yr or more

Avoid putting the pedal to the metal.  Even in this era of low gas prices, the cost of fuel, oil, tires, and vehicle depreciation averages about 52 cents a mile for consumers who regularly drive to work. To reduce transportation costs, consider carpooling, walking, or biking just two days a month.

Savings =  $288/yr or more

Compare banking options. Paying for checking account services? Shop around and find an account that doesn’t charge monthly fees.

Savings = $120/yr or more

Say “no” to the one armed bandit.  Putting change into the office vending machine is convenient, but it comes at a cost.  Bring snacks and sodas from home instead.

Savings = $100/yr or more 

Stick to in-network ATMS. It’s handy to get cash from on-the-spot ATMs, but the fees really add up. Plan withdrawals so they only take place a ATMs that belong to your bank.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Go local. Rent free books and DVDs from the public library instead of renting or buying them online or at a store.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Do some homework. Comparison shop before purchasing or renewing auto, renters, or homeowners insurance. Also think about increasing the plan deductible.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Practice paycheck power. Employees who get paid bi-weekly receive three paychecks for the month twice a year.  Each time this happens, place the extra paycheck into savings.

Do the math!

Consumers who have never saved before can begin by tracking where their money goes. Before setting up a savings plan, it may also help to get outside budgeting advice and support from a reputable nonprofit agency. Guidewell Financial provides financial counseling and financial coaching in person or by phone. For an appointment or resources, call 1-800-642-2227 or visit the agency website. Small changes made now and carried throughout the year will lead to less stress and greater financial security in 2016.

About Guidewell Financial Solutions

 Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware) is an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that helps stabilize communities by creating hope and promoting economic self-sufficiency to individuals and families through financial education and counseling.  Maryland License #14-01 / Delaware License #07-01  

Copyright © 2017 Guidewell Financial Solutions.

Buying a Home: Navigating the Mortgage Process

September 12th, 2016 by

David Fitzell, MortgageBuying and financing a home can be challenging. With so many options, it is in the buyer’s best interest to partner with a professional mortgage banker to navigate this process.

For first time home buyers especially, there are numerous grants and government-backed loan programs to improve the odds of home ownership. Each of these programs is a little different, with a myriad of rules and requirements, so the guidance of a professional schooled in these programs can be very helpful.

Howard Bank’s mortgage professionals are highly experienced with many grant programs. David Fitzell, Senior Vice President of Howard Bank Mortgage, says, “First-time homebuyers need to know that there are a lot of phenomenal grant programs that Howard Bank offers. We do a tremendous amount of business with the Maryland Mortgage Program and the FHLB Grant Program. We participate in all the grants that are offered in Baltimore County and the surrounding areas, including the Community Development Block Grant and Buying into Baltimore programs. So if there’s a program that helps people get grants or down payment and settlement assistance for properties, we take part. We’re seen as experts in that space.” What’s more, “We know how to (more…)

The Future of Branch Banking

September 12th, 2016 by

As digital banking use continues to increase, bank branch traffic is decreasing. But that doesn’t signal the end of branch banking. Quite the contrary; the interactions that are occurring in the branches are very important.

While consumers want the convenience of online and mobile banking, when they are making a large purchase (think home or car), need financial advice or have a service need, a person-to-person connection is the overwhelming choice, not an app. When people are making a major financial decision that involves short and long term financial planning they really want that personal relationship. And this is what sets Howard Bank apart from other banks – a hands on approach.

Branch banking will continue to change over the next five to ten years. The trend of customers coming into the branch less for transactions and more for advice will continue. “Our branch layout will change from the standpoint that there’s no need to have a 4,000 square foot branch tomorrow; an 800 to 1,200 square foot branch storefront is more appropriate,” says Barry Luciani, Senior Vice President, Branch Executive at Howard Bank.

The core function of the branch has become relationship building. And this means that the (more…)

Mortgage Tips for First-time Homebuyers

September 1st, 2016 by

David Fitzell, MortgagePurchasing your first home is a big investment and commitment. When it comes to a mortgage for that home, it makes sense to seek the help of a professional who understands the intricacies of these loans.

Howard Bank’s mortgage team has the experience and the tools to assist buyers through this process. Senior Vice President of Howard Bank Mortgage, David Fitzell says, “For many families, this is their largest investment, and they want personal interaction. And all banks and lenders are not created equally. Navigating through some of the (financing) complexities takes a strong, educated mortgage banker to help you through that.”

Fitzell outlines some of the elements that a Howard Bank mortgage officer helps customers manage.

  • Get educated up front. Come talk to a lender.
  • Consider all the grant programs and government backed loans that may be available to you. Howard Bank participates in numerous grant programs and is an expert in that space.
  • Determine what you can reasonably /comfortably afford. This is not necessarily the amount you qualify for.
  • Do you have money for a down payment? Many consider 20% an industry norm, but there are other options available.

“Interest rates are at historic lows. This really makes this an opportune time to buy,” says Fitzell.

Do You Know How to Void a Check?

March 15th, 2016 by

When you set up automatic payments or deposits, you often need to provide a voided check. Your bank information is printed on each check, and whoever asked for the voided check will copy that information and set up an electronic link with your account. There’s only one hitch: you need to know how to void a check, and you may not have ever done it before.

How to Void a Check
Voiding a check is really pretty easy.
Write the word “V O I D” across the front of the check in large letters. Make the word tall enough and wide enough to cover most of the check. However, don’t cover up the numbers at the bottom of your check — those are needed to set up the link with your bank account. Use a pen or a fine tipped marker so that nobody can erase the word “VOID.”


how-to-void-a-checkImportant: don’t just email that check, do something to hide your account information from thieves.
Once you’ve done all this, make a note of it in your check register so that you know where the check in question went; you don’t want to wonder whether or not you wrote a large check to somebody and worry about it hitting your account. Just write “VOID” next to the check number and date, and note who you gave the check to.
Writing “VOID” across the front of the check prevents anybody from using the check to make a payment (by filling in a payee and an amount). Nobody will have access to a blank check, which could be used to steal your money.

If you don’t have Checks: How can you void a check if you don’t have any checks?
You’ll have to find another way. If you’re setting up direct deposit, ask your employer if there are any (more…)

How to Make ATM Deposits

February 25th, 2016 by

atmMaking deposits at an ATM can make your life easier. There’s no need to visit a branch or wait for the mail to get your checks to the bank. But many people don’t know how to deposit funds at an ATM, or they’re not comfortable with the idea of ATM deposits. How does it work, and what do you need to know before you try it?

Be prepared ahead of time. If it’s your first time, you’ll be in learning mode, but the idea is to make a habit of having everything you need; you’ll want to move as efficiently as possible so that you can safely get funds into the ATM and avoid holding up the line.

Bring the following:

  • A pen for endorsing checks and filling out a deposit slip (bank pens are often missing or out of ink)
  • A deposit slip, if your bank requires one (grab a few extra so you can fill these out before arriving at the ATM next time)
  • An envelope, if your bank requires one


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