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Topics: Financial Institutions > Automated Teller Machines > New Jersey Consumer Checking > Electronic Transfer Account

Financial Institutions

Shop for Services
Financial institutions vary in the services they provide and in their charges for those services. Shop around for an institution that offers the services that you want and whose fees are competitive. Be prepared to move your account if you are unhappy with the fees that are being charged. It should be noted that their field of membership limits deposits in credit unions and restrictions on the field of membership do exist.

Select Your Account Carefully
Most institutions offer several types of checking accounts and several types of savings accounts. The fees you will be charged for these accounts may vary depending on the types of services that are provided, the number of times that you use those services, and the amount that you keep on deposit at the institution. If you do not need elaborate banking services, or can keep a certain amount on deposit, you may be able to reduce your fees substantially by shopping around.

Avoid Activities That Will Result in Charges
Many fees are based on whether you engage in specified types of financial activities, such as using another institution’s ATMs, writing a large number of checks, or allowing your account balance to drop below a specified level. By taking special care to avoid these events you can reduce the fees that your account will be assessed.

Keep Careful Track of Your Balance
Losing track of your balance can result in your writing checks on insufficient funds (i.e., bounced checks). Not only can this result in substantial fees being charged by your financial institution, but retail merchants that accept checks for payment sometimes impose additional charges as well.

Take Advantage of Specially Priced Accounts
Institutions offer low-volume accounts that have lower fees. You should check with the institution about what accounts of this type it offers.

Take Advantage of Specially Targeted Accounts
A number of institutions offer accounts that are specially targeted to certain groups, in particular to senior citizens. (Note that the age for determining who is a senior citizen varies from institution to institution). A few institutions offer youth accounts. These accounts almost always have reduced fees.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)

While most ATMs offer the same general banking services, at some ATMs the customer can reorder checks, buy stamps, or send messages to the bank. While those machines may differ slightly from your own bank's ATM, many permit you to check balances, transfer funds and withdraw cash.
Consumer Cautions When Using ATMs
Never write your personal identification number (PIN), which gives you access to your account, on your ATM card.
Do not use your name, address, birth date or initials as part of your PIN. A thief who obtains access to your wallet can easily guess this information.
Remember to keep all ATM receipts with your records and compare them against your monthly statement.
With some ATMs, deposits are limited to certain geographic areas. You may only be able to make deposits into ATMs in the state where the card-issuing institution is headquartered.
Point of Sale (POS) terminals enable you to use your access card to pay for purchases in places such as retail stores, supermarkets and service stations. At the instant your account is debited, the merchant's account is credited and the transaction is complete. Like credit cards and checks, access cards replace cash. Unlike credit cards and checks, however, your account is debited immediately.
If your ATM card is lost or stolen, notify the issuing bank or institution immediately. Some issuers offer a 24-hour hot line for this purpose, which you will find on the back of your card. Write the number down and keep it handy.
Many people like the convenience of electronic banking, but fear their account will get "messed up." As with any bank account, the secret is good record keeping.
Source: Electronic Banking for Today's Consumer, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

New Jersey Consumer Checking

New Jersey statutes call for banks, savings banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions that offer checking accounts and are doing business in the state to offer the New Jersey Consumer Checking accounts.

These accounts must comply with the following terms:

  • Opening balance of $50 or less.
  • Minimum balance requirement of not more than $1.
  • At least eight free checks.
  • Additional per-check charge of $.50.
  • Unlimited and free withdrawal slips when such withdrawals are otherwise authorized.
  • Unlimited deposits into the account.
  • Monthly maintenance fees limited to $3.00.
  • Check printing and other service (ATM, certification, etc.) charges are restricted to no more than those fees charged to regular checking accounts.
U.S. Department of the Treasury Electronic Transfer Account (ETA)

The Electronic Transfer Account (ETA) is a low-cost account available at participating federally insured financial institutions for individuals who receive federal benefit, wage, and salary or retirement payments. All payment recipients are eligible to receive their funds safely and automatically through an ETA, even if they were unable to open an account at a financial institution due to past credit problems.

Direct deposit is regarded as the first choice for federal payment recipients, and nearly all financial institutions in New Jersey offer it to their account holders. The ETA is another option for customers who may not want a checking account or may not qualify for a bank account. For consumers who are comfortable doing business with cash and money orders and do not want to manage a checkbook, the ETA can be an entry product which offers them a secure, safe way to keep their funds while building a credit history and experience in maintaining a bank account.

The financial institutions that offer the ETA must enter into an agreement with the Treasury Department. The features of the ETA include no-minimum balance, at least four cash withdrawals and four balance inquiries a month from a teller and/or ATM, a monthly statement, and a $3 monthly fee or less.

Updated: January 10, 2002

OPRA is a state law that was enacted to give the public greater access to government records maintained by public agencies in New Jersey.
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