Banks love to open new accounts for college students. That’s why banks set up tables and booths on campus at the start of the school year with giveaways if you open an account on the spot. Most college students have very little or no experience dealing with banks before going to college, so banks can nail them for fees that older, more experienced customers have learned to avoid. Banks earn billions of dollars a year from these fees. Here are some common bank fees that you can avoid.
Overdraft fees. These can be expensive. They typically run $25 to $35 per check. You can avoid overdraft fees by monitoring your balance with a free smartphone bank app or signing up for email alerts that tell you when you balance is getting low. You should opt out of bank overdraft protection plans that set you up to overdraw on your checking account. If you have more than one account at your bank, like a checking account and a savings account, you can often link them together so that if there isn’t enough money in your checking account to pay a check, money is automatically transferred into your checking account from your savings account, avoiding an overdraft fee.
ATM Withdrawal Fees. These are less expensive, typically $2 or $3 per transaction, but they can add up. You can avoid these fees by using your own bank’s ATM machines or by using your supermarket’s cash-back feature when you pay with a debit card, which at most banks is also your ATM card.
Checking account monthly fees. These typically run $8 to $15 a month. Recurring monthly fees like these can really add up over time. If you are paying your bank a $10 a month account fee, that will cost you almost $500 over 4 years. Some banks offer free checking accounts if you sign up for other bank services, like direct deposit. You can also switch your checking account to a credit union or a branchless online virtual bank where free checking is common.
Check printing fees. Some banks charge $75 for printing checks. A lot of people assume that you have to get your checks printed by the bank where you have your account, but that isn’t true. You can get your checks printed anywhere. Costco has the best deal on check printing. You can get 500 printed-to-order high quality checks from Costco for just $12 to $15 with free shipping. Licensed character checks, like Finding Nemo or Mickey Mouse checks cost $5 more. If you do not have a Costco membership card, you probably know somebody who does. You can order checks from Costco online. You don’t have to go to a Costco store.
Beware of Convenience Fees. A lot of colleges allow students to pay their bills with credit cards. Some students get excited when they see credit card logos on their college’s web site payment page – but beware! Many colleges tack on ‘convenience fees’ when you pay them with credit cards. For example, on the U.C. Berkeley payment page, it says that they will accept Master Card and Visa for the payment of room, board, and tuition; but they charge a 2.75% ‘convenience fee’ on all credit card payments. That’s a lot! Think about how much that will cost you in dollars and cents over the time you will be in college. Their ‘convenience fee’ is in addition to the interest that your credit card issuer will charge you. If you can pay your tuition some other way, you should probably do so.
What Is a ‘Convenience Fee’? U.C. Berkeley isn’t the only university that tacks on ‘convenience fees’ when students pay them with credit cards. This is now a common practice at colleges all over the U.S. But just what is a ‘convenience fee’? It has always seemed to me that the term ‘convenience fee’ is a misnomer. After all, a convenience fee isn’t really a fee you pay for your convenience. Most people would find it more convenient to not pay an added fee. What businesses call a convenience fee is really a credit card usage fee, even though few businesses are willing to admit that that is what it is. The term ‘convenience fee’ implies that the fee benefits the person paying the fee, but a convenience fee is always for the benefit of the business (or university) that receives the money. I think it would be more accurate to call a convenience fee an ‘inconvenience fee’. Hmmmm. I wonder what my tenants would say if I said to them: “Well – I know your lease says that your rent is $1,800 a month, but it would be more convenient – for me – if you made out your monthly rent checks for $2,000.”
The swimming pool at the RSF (Recreational Sports Facility) on the U.C. Berkeley campus is certainly much better than the average college swimming pool, but it is far from top of the heap. The best college swimming pool in the United States is probably the one at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Below is a photo of the pool’s indoor lazy river, which is lined with palm trees and passes under a waterfall. Students can also join an on-campus, resort-quality beach club called ‘Truman’s Pond,’ named after President Harry Truman, who lived nearby.
More and more people want to work at home, and it’s easy to see why. Rush hour traffic in the Bay Area is grinding to a crawl. In Los Angeles, it has been that way for decades. On a typical day, it can take an hour or more to drive 20 miles during rush hour on the I-5 in Los Angeles. Many other big American cities have rush hour traffic that is just as bad as L.A. I know people here in Berkeley who spend 3 hours every day driving to and from work. I am glad that I don’t have to do that. I have been working at home for 30 years. If you would like to work at home, get a college degree first. Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month shows that college-educated workers are more likely to work at home than any other group, aside from the self-employed. The data shows that while only 1 in 20 employees with less than a high school degree work at home, almost 40% of college graduates now work at home on a regular basis. Here are the numbers.
The percent of workers 25 years of age or older who worked at home on an average day in 2012.
Less than high school diploma 5.4%
High school graduate 12.7%
Some college, including associate degree 21.1%
Bachelor’s degree and higher 38.4%
I teach history one day a week at Orinda Intermediate School, and I come unarmed. Teachers in California are not allowed to bring guns into public schools, but teachers in Texas and several other states can bring loaded guns to class. And in some states, college students are also allowed to bring guns to class. A few weeks ago, Liberty University, the largest religious–affiliated school in the U.S., announced that students can now bring loaded guns into classrooms at the school’s Lynchburg, Virginia campus as long as they have an easy-to-obtain Virginia concealed weapons permit. University staff and visitors may also carry firearms on campus. Liberty joins 25 other colleges in Virginia, Colorado, Utah, and Michigan that allow staff and students to carry concealed firearms on campus. Liberty University is a Christian institution founded by television evangelist Jerry Falwell. Liberty University students are STILL prohibited from watching R-rated movies, listening to ‘un-Godly music’, dancing, kissing, or staying in a motel room with a member of the opposite sex, as outlined in the school’s student handbook. Doing any of these things can result in disciplinary action, including expulsion from the university.
The University of California does not allow students to bring guns to class, but Cal students are allowed to dance, kiss, and watch R-rated movies. Furthermore, I am reliably informed that Cal students have been known to stay in motel rooms with members of the opposite sex. Anyway, that’s the rumor.