Should you choose a community bank?

Katie Valentino, a licensed family therapist in the Chicago suburbs, recently pulled her money out of two large banks and moved it to a community bank.

Concerned about branch closings and aggravated by account fees, Valentino put the money into checking and savings accounts at hometown bank Itasca Bank & Trust Co.

Rapid changes in retail banking have left many people wondering whether to choose big regional and national banks, or smaller local institutions. Personal finance experts say it comes down to how you want to access money and the type of relationship you want with a bank. [Read the full article]

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The unnamed people who captured on video and made public the shooting death of an Iranian protester have been chosen as winners of a George Polk Award, the first time the journalism prize has honored work produced anonymously.

Other winners of the 2009 Polk Awards, announced Tuesday in New York, include David Rohde, a New York Times correspondent recognized for a five-part series detailing his kidnapping and imprisonment by the Taliban, and David Grann, whose New Yorker magazine piece throwing into doubt the guilt of an executed convict sparked a national outcry.

The awards, presented by Long Island University, are considered among the top prizes in U.S. journalism. They were created in 1949 in honor of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. They will be bestowed at an April 8 luncheon in Manhattan. [Read the full article]

A bill that would require global online shopping giants such as Amazon to start collecting and paying Virginia sales taxes won easy Senate passage Tuesday.

The Senate voted 28-12 to advance to the House a bill intended to collect millions of dollars in lost revenue at a time when the state faces a $4 billion shortfall.

Sponsor Emmett Hanger argued that struggling owners of so-called “brick-and-mortar” stores are struggling and shouldn’t have to compete with monied multinationals who ignore state taxes.

“They’re being undercut by businesses that don’t pay sales taxes, and that flaunt it,” said Hanger, R-Augusta, noting that their Web sites entice customers to avoid the 5 percent tax.

While sales have been flat or worse for traditional retailers who have to pay the tax, Hanger said, multinational Internet sales behemoths have seen profits soar, Hanger said. [Read the full article]

With some payday lenders already finding ways around a two-week-old law meant to curb predatory lending, South Carolina legislators said Tuesday they’ll try again to close loopholes and threatened to ban the industry outright if it doesn’t cooperate.

Legislators passed restrictions last May that were meant to prevent payday lenders from ensnaring poor people into a cycle of debt. The law limited the number of loans to one at a time, of up to $550, and required lenders to check a new online database to ensure customers have no outstanding loans elsewhere.

“The ink wasn’t dry more than a couple of days, and there they were, scheming again, figuring out a way to circumvent the bill,” Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, said of the compromise approved on the last day of regular session.

But payday lenders are skirting the database mandates by re-characterizing their loans, according to senators and advocates for the poor. [Read the full article]

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