Making the switch to Schwab Bank

I recently made the switch from Chase Bank to Schwab Bank. After having use of the account for almost 1 month now, I feel I can make a report to all that might be interested.

First off, it was a pain to switch all of my bills over. That really isn’t Schwab fault though. The fault lies with the companies I’m doing business with. They don’t have a convenient way of switching banks online. Some want you to call them. Others want you to go through their agents. Others have outdated paper requirements. And on and on. But I can finally say that that’s all over with now. So that was Step #1.

Step #2 was to get my company to switch direct deposits over to the new bank. That was easier but may require me to accept a live paper check for one pay period. Not a big deal. I set it up so that most of the money goes directly into my Schwab account. I have $1 from every paycheck being direct deposited to Chase. Just so I can keep the account open for free as a back and to screw with them.

All of that was relatively painless. When it comes to using my new bank, I’m extremely happy. I did a cash withdrawal from a Chase ATM (!) where Chase charged me $3 for the privilege. Greedy bastards. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Schwab Bank promptly refunded me that charge. Nice. Then I headed over to Paris and made a cash withdrawal at the airport. No $5 foreign ATM fee. And the ATM owner didn’t charge me a fee either… that was HSBC… see that Chase? But that’s not even the cool thing. Schwab Bank gave me a great exchange rate. Almost as good as the going exchange rate that you can find on OANDA for example. And absolutely no foreign transaction fees! None. With Chase, I was out $5 for the actual foreign withdrawal, regardless if I took out $5 or $500. On top of that, their exchange rates sucked. And then they charged a 3% foreign transaction fee… that’s $3 for every $100 of spend. Those add up quickly. That was not the case with Schwab Bank at all.

The icing on the cake? I got $0.17 interest for a pretty low balance for the partial month in February. Yeah, it’s a pittance but better than $0 I’ve been getting since forever.

Overall I’m extremely happy with my experience and would whole heartedly recommend it. Aside from all of the startup housekeeping you have to do whenever you switch banks, it’s been a joy. And that’s worth sharing.

iOS 5.1 Update

iOS 5.1 update – If you haven’t updated your iDevice yet, this one’s worth it. The main feature that I love aside from the Retina Display support for the new iPad is that you can delete photos from your Photostream! Yay!

Ok, so it only affects the device you’ve deleted from but it’s still a welcome addition! I’ve been waiting for that for a while… sometimes you take a photo of temporary information (Internet hotel code, menus, etc.) and you don’t really want that clogging up your Photostream. The way it works also tells me that each device keeps a local copy of the stream at all times… which is cool since it means you can view them even without an Internet connection. A welcomed feature indeed!

iPad 3 ordered!

Well, now I’ve made it official.  I pre-ordered the iPad 3 this morning.  It’s a white, 64GB WiFi only model.  I should have it at home by next Friday and I’ll get to lay my hands on it when I come back to San Diego a week later.  Exciting!

iPad 3 pre-order receipt
iPad 3 pre-order receipt

Paris is getting nicer!

Well, February was a disappointment in Paris after January’s super mild weather.  I was hoping that spring would come earlier this year and that perhaps February would even be better.  In the end, it was much colder than expected although it didn’t rain nearly as much as I thought it would.  Maybe those two things balance each other out?

But now that we’re into the second week of March, I can say that things are definitely taking a turn for the better.  Today the sun’s out and the temperature has gone up considerably – 10 degrees easy – and it looks like it’ll stick around for a bit this time.  Nice & sunny at a brisk 52 degrees and getting to mid 50’s this weekend and into next week.  Now we only need to have the trees budding and everything will be perfect!

Paris in January

I have an opportunity to be in Paris frequently this year for work and I’m taking advantage of it to really get to know the city and improve my French.  January has been lovely.  Very mild; some rain but not bone chilling cold and some very nice days in there as well.  It’s been wonderful!

On the Pont des Invalides looking up the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower.A Parisian sunset.

Florence, Italy

The last time I was in Florence was 1998.  It was part of a European road trip that I did with friends after college.  I’ve always loved Florence and now have an opportunity to go back.  A colleague suggested we do a quick weekend in Florence and since it was my birthday, I decided why not?  The weather was just perfect.  It was a very mild winter throughout Europe and this particular weekend in Florence was beautiful.  No rain or snow and clear blue skies.  A bit cold but hey, it’s still winter!  Here are some photos:

The famed Duomo of Florence, Italy.
The famed Duomo of Florence, Italy.
The Duomo at sunset.
The Duomo at sunset.
Shopping at Panerai.  :-)
Shopping at Panerai. 🙂
At the Pontevecchio.
At the Pontevecchio.
At the Piazza della Signoria with my colleague.
At the Piazza della Signoria with my colleague.

Stock picks for 2012

Last year at about this time, I selected 4 stocks from the Dow 30 as my picks for 2011. It’s now time to see how they did. They were McDonal’s, Intel, IBM, and DuPont. Bought in 4 equal amounts, the cost basis were:

MCD – $49.8K (650 shares at $76.60)
INTC – $50.0K (2400 shares at $20.85)
IBM – $50.2K (340 shares at $147.48)
DD – $50.0K (1000 shares at $50.03)

All were purchased on 01/03/2011. Total cost basis: $200,039.

At the end of this year (12/30/2011), the market values were:

MCD – $65.2K ($100.33 a share)
INTC – $58.2K ($24.25 a share)
IBM – $62.5K ($183.88 a share)
DD – $45.8K ($45.78 a share)

Total value = $237.9K ($231.7K in equities & $6.1K in dividends). Total gain for 2011: 18.90%. By comparison, the Dow 30 was up 5.53% in 2011 and the S&P 500 was flat at -0.04% for 2011.

For 2012, I’m buying these 4 stocks from the Dow 30 in equal dollar amounts:

MRK, INTC, CVX, and WMT (Merck, Intel, Chevron and Walmart). The only remaining stock in that basket from last year is Intel, although both DuPont & IBM were close in making the cut again. Check back next new year’s to see how these stocks fare. If I can beat the market next year as well, awesome. Good luck investing!

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