Practical Life in Miami

Bank services in Miami

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Banking hours are generally 9.00AM to 2.00PM or 9.00AM to 6.00PM and some banks are open on Saturday mornings.

The average delay is 3 to 4 days for transactions originating from Florida and 6 to 8 days for out of State or international transactions. Overdrafts are not authorized in the US; the fees are generally between $25 and $35. This also applies to bounced checks, checks written for more than you have in your account, in which case both the writer and the recipient of the check will suffer penalty charges.

Various types of accounts are available:
1. Checking account - free in most cases but some banks charge $9.50 to $15 if you don't maintain a minimum balance of a $1000
2. Savings Account - yields interest from 1.5% to 3.5% - Internet Banks such as Direct Emigrant or ING Direct offer savings accounts with rates between 4.5 to 5.5% - all transactions; withdrawals, or deposits can be done via Internet by direct transfer between your savings and checking accounts
3. Money market account - yields rates from a 3 to 4% variable according to the bank - a check book with a limit of 5 to 6 check a month.

Accompanied with your checking account is a "debit card" which immediately debits the amount from your account when you use the card as cash or a check. Obtaining a credit card is much more complex, since you normally need a Social Security Number and a credit history. Some banks offer a "secure credit card" in which you block approximately $1000 on a separate savings account for a year. This reserve serves as a line of credit thus the bank may use this money if late with your monthly payment.

The credit cards system differs from France. At the end of the month you receive an invoice itemizing all your purchases which you then pay by check. You have the option of paying the entire balance or just the minimum charge of $15 or $25 according to the credit card organization.

A credit history plays an important role in obtaining a mortgage in the US. What is a credit history? It's your financial portfolio based on your banking history and your payment history in relation to credit and charge cards and major store credit such as JC Penny, Macy”s, Sachs etc.. This is the first step loan institutions will take before negotiating a car or real estate loan and its result will determine the conditions of the loan or may cause you to be denied the loan if the report is negative. Crdit card companies also use this system to determine whether you're eligible for credit and will base your credit limit on the results of this report. You may check your credit history for free once a year, which is strongly advised, in order to verify and justify information appearing on your report. You may also consult your credit history if you're denied a loan or credit card to be sure the report is accurate. Experian, Equifax or Transunion are the top three companies recommended in the US for checking your credit history.

Very few establishments accept checks for payment in the US as Americans ussually pay by cash or credit card. On the other hand you may pay your bills by check although more and more people pay directly online from their checking account or credit card. It is recommended that you make as many transactions as possible with your credit card in order to build your credit history.

Update 13/06/2008


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