Banking Deals of the Week: Sept. 29

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Bank rate watchers may be growing weary, but we seem to be at yet another crossroads for interest rates.

After some genuine upward momentum in bank rates in September, particularly in the first half of the month, things have leveled off heading into October.

All the usual suspects are coming into play: The unemployment rate still hovers near 10% and interest rates are depressed. Any lowering of the former would really help the economy, but we haven’t seen much evidence of that happening any time soon, and the Federal Reserve, ultra-cautious with the economy these days, appears ready to kept interest rates low.

Then there is the elephant in the room - the U.S. consumer. This week, the Conference Board came out with a much lower consumer confidence number than experts had anticipated.

The Board’s “sentiment index” clocked in at 48.5 – significantly lower than the 52.1 level economists had predicted in a Bloomberg News survey. It’s the lowest number since February. To show how far the economy has fallen, consumer confidence averaged 96.8 on the index in the last month of 2007, just before the economic tsunami hit.

Short of a huge piece of favorable economic news, like a much lower unemployment number or a high gross domestic product (GDP) figure in October, we can expect bank rates to bounce along the bottom of the economic landscape for the rest of the year.

That’s why it’s so important to get your microscope out and find the best bank interest rate deals possible. That, after all, is what Deals of the Week is all about.

Personal Checking

Let’s kick off this week with a big checking account deal from MetaBank.

It’s a 4.00% APY on the bank’s rewards checking account. Metabank is throwing in a pretty good pot-sweetener, too: six months’ worth of free identity theft protection. The bank estimates that deal to be worth $2,500, but we can’t find any data on the web site detailing how bank analysts arrived at that figure.

Let’s break down the details:

•    You’ll receive a 4% APY on “qualifying” checking accounts, however the deal is only good for account balances up to $25,000. If your balance is higher, you’ll see your rate decreased to 0.5%

•    Non-Qualifying checking accounts earn .10% APY on the entire checking account balance.

•    You must make 15 purchases each month using the bank’s debit card.

•    You must have at least $100 directly deposited every month.

•    You must enroll in electronic statements.

If you can manage all that, you’ll get the great 4% rate. Right now, the national average for personal checking accounts is 0.111%, as measured by the BankingMyWay Weekly Interest Checking Rate Tracker.

Visit BankMeta more information.

Credit Cards

There’s no shortage of bank credit card providers upping the ante on airline rewards credit cards.

The latest provider up to bat is Citibank (Stock Quote: C), which has rolled out a new deal on its Citi Gold/AAdvantage World Master Card.

The card, aligned with American Airlines (Stock Quote: AA), gives new applicants 30,000 bonus miles to use on the airline. Just make $750 worth of purchases using the new card within the first 120 days of card ownership and the world is yours.

Citi estimates that 30,000 rewards miles will pay for one round-trip domestic airline ticket. Citi will also waive the $50 annual fee for new card members.

Furthermore, card members can also earn one AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on purchases. The website claims the air miles will “never expire,” but double check to be sure.

Learn more at Citibank.

Certificates of Deposit

Two things you rarely hear in the same breath are “American Express” and “good CD rate deals.”

But Amex (Stock Quote: AXP) seems like it’s out to change that mindset among bank rate consumers.

Right now, Amex Bank’s CD rates are at year-long highs in several categories, and as competitive as any bank CD rates out there.

Take the bank’s 1.75% rate on its two-year CD. Matched up against the national rate of 0.959% for two-year CDs, as measured by the BankingMyWay Weekly CD Rate tracker, the Amex rate comes out ahead.

The same thing goes for the Amex Bank 48-month CD. Once again paired off against the BankingMyWay tracker, Amex comes out ahead of the national average: 2.15% to 1.491%.

Climb up the ladder to the 60-month CD, and you’ll get the same story: The national average of 1,738% pales against the 2.50% you’ll get with the Amex five-year CD.

Amex Bank doesn’t have a great reputation for high rates, but with its recent CD deals, it’s definitely making up for lost time.

Find out more at Amex.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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