Banking options for those on the move

Q I just graduated from college, and I'm moving from New York to California. I'll be there a year. My bank accounts, which include an ATM card, are with a low-cost, small bank here. Do I really need to transfer my accounts to a California bank, or is it OK to keep on banking with the New York bank?

M.S., New York

A "Find the account that best fits your needs," says Janet Eissenstat, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association in Washington.

She says you should do a cost assessment by asking yourself:

1. Will my ATM card work in California? Your bank knows the answer.

2. Do I use my ATM card frequently to access cash? If so, you'll likely ring up lots of fees since you will be using an out-of-state card at other bank ATM machines.

3. Will I write lots of checks at local stores in California? They may not accept out-of-state accounts. Most utilities and large retail companies, however, usually take checks from anywhere as long as your check has a local address. So if you do keep your current accounts, change the address on your checks, Ms. Eissenstat says.

Q My father recently passed away. He had told me I am a beneficiary, but I don't have a copy of his will. How can I get the will, and how can I learn the value of the estate?

J.F., Short Hills, N.J.

A "Get an attorney and go to Surrogate's Court, Essex County, N.J., in Newark. It handles probate matters, " says the court clerk.

If the will has been filed, you can purchase a copy, for $3 a page. Or you can read it on microfilm for free.

A will is a public document. The exact value of your father's estate will not be determined until the matter goes before a judge.

Q Standard & Poor's and Moody's use different systems to rate bonds. Does it matter which one I use when seeking to buy a quality bond?

O.L., New York

A No. But remember, A's are top quality, B's are almost on top, and C's and D's are at the bottom. Anything at or above BBB (S&P) or Baa (Moody's) is considered investment-grade material. Anything BB or Ba or below is considered speculative, and carries greater risk.

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor 500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845 New York, NY 10110 E-mail:

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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