HIGH BOUNCER Before signing a bad check, take heed: nonsufficient-funds (NSF) fees continue to rise as banks pursue profits. In the past six months, the average bank fee for bouncing a check was up 2.4%, from $23.87 to $24.45. That's on top of NSF fees you may have to dish out to an angry retailer. Consider overdraft protection: though most banks charge a small fee for it, customers with several accounts may get it free.
HIGHEST NSF FEES IN THE COUNTRY
Mellon Bank, Philadelphia $35 Commerce Bank, New Jersey $32 First Union, Philadelphia $31 First Virginia Bank, D.C. $30
"BIG GULP" BANKING A money order with your Slurpee? 7-Eleven is joining the convenience banking crowd. The c-store chain has partnered with Amex and Western Union to offer banking services through Web-enabled kiosks called V.coms They not only function as ATMs but also allow you to cash a personal check, wire money and pay utility bills instantly. V.coms are being rolled out first in Texas and Florida, but expect to see them in all 5,300 nationwide stores by early next year.
GILDED RETURNS America's gold rush inspired many a Hollywood film, but it has given little inspiration to investors. Flourishing stocks and low inflation have tarnished precious-metal fund performances. Is this a comeback year? The average fund is up a shiny 14.6% YTD. But there's no consensus. The current volatile market seems ripe for a gold rush, but some analysts warn that the luster will fade when the market regains altitude later this year.
--By Carole Buia
YTD 5-YEAR FUND RETURN* RETURN*
Monterey OCM Gold 22.3% -14.7% Oppenheimer Gold Minerals A 17.2% -7.3% Scudder Gold S 16.2% -12.6% Vanguard Gold Precious Metals 10% -8.6%
Source: Morningstar *returns as of 5/10/01