For many years, I was a user of ING Direct and their online banking products. When word went out a while back that the US branch of their online bank was being sold I began to worry that a good thing was about to be ruined. When we learned that the company that was buying them was Capital One, it didn’t exactly help me not worry. I’ve had a credit card from Capital One for longer than I’ve had an account at ING Direct, and while I’ve never had a terrible experience with them, I’ve never really felt that I was anything more than just another cardholder; easily replaced and nothing worth going out of their way for. If that level of service came to the online bank side after the purchase of ING Direct, I might have had to find something else.
The prospect of having to move my accounts at what was ING Direct to somewhere else upset me a bit. I’ve tried several of the online bank options, and so far, haven’t found one that was as easy to use as the accounts were with ING Direct. Now that ING Direct US is no more, and it’s been sold to Capital One, and re-branded to Capital One 360, what has my experience been?
Surprisingly, I have no complaints. I truly expected that they’d start squeezing in some new fees, or making it harder to get things done, but the experience so far has been very similar to what it was with ING Direct. There’s the obvious rebranding that came with a change of logo and color scheme, but for all intents and purposes, they’ve done a very good job of keeping the function and service levels where they were when it was ING Direct.
I suppose there may be some things behind the scenes that I don’t see that are different. And they may just be biding their time before they start implementing some new fees and roadblocks, but if so, they are taking their sweet time doing it. In the mean time, many of the features that I really loved about ING Direct are still resident in the Capital One 360 system. It’s still super easy to create a new account, making it simple to have an account for each purpose and being able to segment your money by purpose. Every other place I’ve tried this at, make it much more difficult to create a new account and that process becomes a roadblock to use.
The interface of Capital One 360 is very easy to use, with all of the major functions and features that most bank customers use right at your fingertips (or mouse pointer I suppose). The rates that they pay on their savings and CD accounts still aren’t the best around, but they remain competitive with most other online banks, and they are double and triple what my local banks and even Credit Unions are paying.
The connection between Capital One 360 and Capital One Sharebuilder remains, making it easy to transfer money to investment accounts and IRAs at Capital One Sharebuilder. Does that make a huge difference? Not really, but it is convenient.
Overall, I think Capital One has done a really good job of bringing the Capital One 360 accounts into the fold and not rocking the boat. I hope that they remain dedicated to keeping the excellent service and system in place. Even with a new name, Capital One 360 is still my favorite online bank.
This post brought to you by Eden Smith, a professional business analyst from London.
In that odd communist/capitalist empire called China the rules are flexible and the goalposts are mounted on wheels. Even when new rules are announced it is not always easy to see through the alterations and understand what their new impact will be. So it is with the latest announcement about capital gains taxes on residential property. Anxious to forestall a real estate bubble, the authorities in Beijing have announced a strengthening of the restrictions on property purchases and a stricter implementation of the 20% capital gains tax on sales. With details still unclear it is possible that the rule change will cause a short-term spike in prices and in foreign currency exchange rate by moneycorp as investors hurry to beat the new legislation.
Against such a chaotic background the Liberal Democrat’s fruitless attempt to impose a “mansion tax” on large UK houses looks quaintly English. It isn’t going to happen and, for the foreseeable future, residences will remain free of capital gains tax. That consistency of tax treatment is one of the attractions for overseas buyers of UK real estate.
Another is the undervalued send money abroad feature by moneycorp especially in pound, which has become even more affordable since the turn of the year. Compared with its levels on 1 January sterling is down by 7% against the US and NZ dollars, 6% against the euro, 5% against the Australian dollar and 4% against the Canadian dollar. Investors who have been biding their time will be delighted to see how much further their money will go.
A recent development that has helped their situation is the decision by Moody’s to lower Britain’s credit rating from Aaa to Aa1. Although the move was widely expected, and despite the United Kingdom retaining AAA ratings from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, the time-honoured reaction of currency traders is to sell the currency of a country that receives a downgrade, and that was exactly what they did.
In the event, it was only 72 hours after the post-downgrade sell-off that the pound rebounded sharply against the euro. Investors found something bigger to worry about; the rudderless political situation in Italy. In February’s general election the Five Star Movement, an anti-establishment, anti-austerity group with no previous representation in parliament, won a quarter of the vote and, with it, a controlling position in the Senate. The result raised the spectre of Italy abandoning the Mario Monti government’s strategy of fiscal prudence and austerity. Were that to happen, Italy would almost certainly lose the support of the European Central Bank safety net and the euro would once again face an existential threat.
So the pound is not the only major currency under pressure but Britain offers Europe’s – if not the world’s – premier real estate investment opportunities. Affordable property and an even more competitive pound together make a compelling case to invest now before the opportunity slips away.
The other day, as my daughter was on her way to the car when I picked her up from daycare. Along the way, she noticed something on the ground. In the excited voice of a 4 year old, she said “Daddy! Look! A rainbow!”, and then pointed at the spot on the ground she was looking at. As I got closer, I found that she was looking at a spot on the wet ground where some sort of oily fluid had likely leaked out of the bottom of a vehicle. Of course, oily fluids, on wet ground tend to separate out into what you and I would probably best describe as an oil slick. But, to my 4 year old, it was a rainbow on the ground. As we drove off to pick up her brother at school, I began thinking about what had just happened.
The thoughts were amplified when she noticed another “rainbow” on the ground on the way into the school. On our way back out of the school, with her brother, she excitedly called her brother over to show him what she had found. My son is 6 (nearly 7), and so has a slightly more advanced knowledge of the world than his sister. I fully expected, in the way that only a brother who doesn’t understand a 4 year old is likely to do, that he would quickly dismiss it for what it was, an oil slick on wet ground, and that her excitement would quickly dissipate. Instead, as she pulled him over and pointed it out, saying “Look!”, he quickly said “A rainbow!”. He saw it too.
As parents, we’re always so excited to teach our children new things. We’re often quick to correct them when they don’t get something right, or don’t understand it. They saw a rainbow. I didn’t. All I saw was an oil slick. Obviously, I saw the resemblance. But, I knew what it really was, so the wonder that my children had for it was lost on me. But, it kept me thinking.
How often do we take what we know, and use it as a filter for the world. Surely, that’s what knowledge is for, right? I know that 1+1=2, and that certain letters spell words, and that drops of oil on wet ground make a oil slick. Yes, it’s colorful, but it’s an oil slick, not a rainbow. How many times do we become so certain in our knowledge, and the filtering that we use it for, that we fail to see the rainbow?
How many people out there are so set in the knowledge that a bank is the lender, and use that to filter the idea of peer-to-peer lending as a sham, without allowing for a little of the rainbow to shine through?
The point is this: If you never question what you think you know, how will you ever know if you’re wrong? Sometimes the formula and constants change. Sometimes, the environment itself is what has changed. Heck, look at the newspaper industry. How long did they refuse to see the emergence of blogs (like this one) as a major change in the dynamic of how people get their news? Some of them still refuse to see that rainbow.
If you do one thing to improve your personal finance today, question what you think you know. Most of the time, you’ll still be right. But, maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a rainbow instead.
What are some rainbows that you’ve found by questioning what you thought was true? What methods do you use to find the rainbows in your life?
Original Image credit:Oil slick. @blackmetalbike by Growinnc, on Flickr
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