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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

Content is the opinion of the author and does not represent the position of any other person or entity. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed.

The author is paid for product endorsements and has an ownership or other financial interest in the businesses related to the topics covered.

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Banking Questions Index

Bank account for HRA

posted on: 9/13/2006    revised:

Q: I asked First American Bank if they would accommodate an HRA account.  They said no, that they serve HSAs only. The seemed unfamiliar with HRAs. I wonder if First American just needs some coaching in order to become willing to also take HRA deposits? Do you know of a Pennsylvania bank which will pay interest on HRA deposits, since First American is not amenable, and since we are a Pennsylvania business (in Chester County, Valley Forge area)?

A: I suspect you may misunderstand how an HRA usually works in a small business. Most small business HRA plans do not use a separate bank account. The word "account" is used in the accounting sense (i.e. the phone expense account, the rent account, the office supply account); not usually held as a separate bank account. If you do want a separate bank account then any regular bank will accommodate it; the obvious choice is to use the same account as the business's other bank account. Just remember to keep the money in the employer's tax ID number or else it ceases to be a tax qualified health plan. As far as administration, there is no relationship between HRAs and HSAs. First American bank serves a trustee to HSA accounts. HRAs do not use trust accounts. More information on HRAs is available at and more information on this topic is included in the employer's administration guide that is included with the set-up of every HRA.

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Bank credit card scam

posted on:10/25/2005      revised: 12/08/2009

Q: I have noticed that every month $19.95 has been coming out of my check and I'm not sure why. I have a number on my monthly statement from my bank, the number is 8886623262, from “Freedom Benefits”. I would like you to check this out as to why this is being taken out monthly in my check,& I would like it to stop Immediately. I would like to know how long this has been going on, & why this has been coming out if my check monthly,& who authorized it ? I would like a refund of all the money that has been taken of my check since this had begun.

A: You are apparently another victim of a long running scam that first surfaced in 2001. The scam is usually tied to the offer of a credit card but results in unauthorized charges to your bank account. The Better Business Bureau and many state attorney general offices have investigated this matter. You should report the problem to your bank, local police and your state attorney general’s office. Note that the scam has nothing to do with the legitimate Freedom Benefits companies that are in the business of providing employee benefits advice and do not have anything to do with credit cards or the processing of electronic transactions. The legitimate Freedom Benefits companies have already cooperated with and been cleared of any association with this scam by attorneys for the Better Business Bureau and some state attorney Generals’ offices. We regret that our business name has been pirated by these scam artists, but unfortunately it seems that there is little else we can do to stop the scam or help you recover your money at this point.

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Credit card not accepted for online insurance payment

posted on:4/12/2006      revised: 7/18/2009

Q: I applied for life and health insurance online but it would not accept my credit card because the address on the card is different from the address on the application because I am moving. Is there a way to make the payment manually and still get a fast proof of coverage?

A: When a credit card is not accepted for an online transaction, it is often caused by a simple issue like a mis-typed number, a missing digit or a mis-matching address. Insurance companies usually do not get a pre-authorization for the payment at the time of application so it generally takes a few days before any potential credit card problem would be reported.

Here is an alternate method that can be used to solve an online credit card payment problem with most insurance policies: back up to the payment screen and change the payment method to "mail in payment" as if you were going to pay by check. But then when the application is complete, simply telephone the insurer using the number listed on the e-mail confirmation and give your credit card information by phone. You will receive an e-mailed confirmation of coverage the same as if you had paid with a credit card online.

Other Resources:

Medical Savings Account online

posted on:5/13/06      revised: 12/08/2009

Q: How do I get to view my Medical-Savings account on-line? I can't seem to remember the address.

 A: Most of these older Medical Savings Account plans do not offer online account access. This is especially true of the companies that offer mutual fund investments. None of the nation's MSA account managers, to our knowledge, offer online account access.

All of the Health Savings Account administrators now offer online account opening and administration. You may wish to consider updating your Medical Savings Account to a Health Savings Account. A listing of popular HSA options is available through the link below.

Other Resources: