What the experts say

Sidestepping bank fees; Shop now for Medicare savings; The best ways to leave money

Sidestepping bank fees

Eager to avoid new debit card fees? asked Catherine New in DailyFinance.com. You might want to move your money to a credit union. These “nonprofit, member-owned” financial institutions typically offer “no- or low-fee checking accounts, low minimum balances to open accounts, and lower interest rates for small loans and credit cards” than mainstream banks do. Credit unions typically have fewer locations and smaller ATM networks than national banks, but many of them aim for more personalized customer service. And some of the perks can be sweet: One San Antonio credit union actually pays its customers 10 cents every time they use their debit cards. For people who want an alternative to Wall Street retail banks, says industry spokeswoman Patricia Briotta, credit unions are “a Main Street option.”

Shop now for Medicare savings

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The next two months present “one of the best opportunities of the year for seniors to save money,” said Mark Miller in Reuters​.com. The health-care-reform law is reshaping the Medicare marketplace, and seniors can change their plan enrollment between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. With premiums projected to fall an average of 4 percent in 2012, seniors in search of potential savings should compare plans, especially for prescriptions. “This is a year of change,” says health policy consultant Dan Mendelson. “It’s a year where patients really need to shop.” The Medicare Plan Finder at Medicare.gov is the “best online tool” for weighing options. Simply plug in drug needs, and the site will compare plans by coverage, price, and customer satisfaction.

The best ways to leave money

Thanks to changing estate-tax rules, leaving money to charity has “rarely been more confusing,” said Rachel Emma Silverman in The Wall Street Journal. If your main concern is minimizing estate taxes, one of the “simplest—and often most overlooked—ways” to support a charity after your death is to make a bequest, which comes out of your estate before taxes are levied. Those “worried about maintaining cash flow,” on the other hand, should consider a charitable remainder trust. In this option, assets are transferred into an irrevocable trust, which then pays the donor a set amount each year until the donor’s death. Those payments are taxed, but “the donor receives an up-front tax deduction for the money expected to be received by the charity.”

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