Forecast 2009: Your savings and credit
The prediction: Continued low interest rates on savings - but slightly easier credit
(Money Magazine) -- The good news: The government bailout plan that injects banks with capital will "help make credit somewhat easier to get" in 2009, says Mesirow Financial's Diane Swonk.
The bad news: The difference likely won't be dramatic. So don't expect tough rules for getting the best interest-rate deals and the highest credit limits to ease up next year.
As for interest rates, the federal funds rate has dropped to 1%. That's likely to slightly lower average yields on savings accounts, money-market funds and certificates of deposit.
On the bright side, the best rates available on credit cards and car loans are likely to fall a bit too (see the chart to the right). The exception: rates on home-equity loans (vs. lines of credit). HSH Associates projects them to rise from 7.9% to 8.3%.
In order to pay the bigger insurance premiums they now face, many banks will increase the fees they charge you for things like overdrafts and ATM withdrawals, predicts economist Mike Moebs of research firm Moebs Services.
By the way, more banks will almost certainly fail next year. Those most at risk are smaller ones that don't benefit from the bailout, say experts.
- Consumer distress
Overwhelmed by mortgage and credit-card debt, Americans could default in droves. That could make banks even more skittish about lending.
- Check your coverage
No matter how shaky your bank is, remember that so long as your deposits are FDIC-insured (the new limit is typically $250,000 per institution), you're protected.
To check, use the Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator at myFDICinsurance.gov.
- Shop for the best bank deals
Just because average rates on savings will be low next year doesn't mean some places won't offer slightly better ones.
Top-yielding savings and money-market deposit accounts provide returns that should almost keep up with inflation. GMAC Bank, for example, recently offered 3.75% on a savings account.
To find the best rates - and check for the lowest bank fees while you're at it - click on the Bankrate.com rate finder to the right.
- Nab a good credit-card deal now
With more stringent regulation likely on its way and conditions tighter for lenders all around, dazzling offers like low-balance transfer rates for the life of the loan will all but disappear in 2009, says CardRatings.com founder Curtis Arnold. "Take advantage of those while they're still around," he advises.
- Shore up your credit
If you plan to borrow next year, see "Improve Your Credit Score."Send feedback to Money Magazine