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You may need Berlitz to decode "bank-speak'

All together, now. Do you know what APR and APY stand for?

They're part of bank-speak, that strange, confusing language that bankers call their own.

Consumers don't understand it, yet increasingly they're bombarded by banking buzzwords, acronyms and other fascinating nebulae that swirl around their accounts at Friendly Federal.

Did Friendly ever give you a handy little glossary to carry around in your pocket, one that would help you tell a "transaction" from "truncation" in one easy sentence?

We thought not. So let's create our own:

APY: Stands for Annual Percentage Yield. Under the new Truth in Savings Act that takes effect today, the whole banking industry must do away with "annual effective yield" on your savings accounts and use APY instead. Fear not; it works out to virtually the same thing.

Transaction: It used to mean "per check," but in bank-speak it now also means an ATM withdrawal, teller visit, deposit, transfer or balance inquiry.

Per debit: The same thing. At some outfits it simply means per check, but there's nothing to stop it from also meaning an automatic payment, such as on a car loan, or an ATM fee.

Per credit: We've seen this one mean teller deposit or ATM deposit.

Item: If you're charged for one, it can be anything your bank wants it to be.

Collected balance: The scourge of folks who try to play the float when they write checks, or avoid NSFs (insufficient funds). It means you can't draw on funds over that amount, or earn interest on your check deposit until the check has been collected by the bank _ according to THEIR records.

OD: Not what some hipsters might think it is. It stands for overdraft, which means your account balance is showing a minus.

Check safekeeping: An endearing term that banks love to use, sometimes called truncating. It means sorry, Charlie, we're not giving you your canceled checks back with your monthly statement.

Jumbo CD: Technically, it means a $100,000 deposit, but many banks consider a jumbo to be in the $500,000 to million-buck range. "Mini-jumbos" are likely to be $50,000 or $75,000 accounts.

Index: A published benchmark, such as the Wall Street Journal prime rate or the Bank Rate Monitor averages, by which a bank sets its own rates. But how frequently the bank changes a rate above or below the index is at the institution's discretion.

Margin: That's the amount the bank adds on to, or subtracts from, the index to arrive at your rate. In department store lingo, you could call it a markup.

Combined balances: Popping up in more and more bank-speak. Many outfits allow you to combine balances in a number of accounts to avoid service fees or earn a freebie. Exactly which accounts are covered and what the balances are, is up to the bank.

Network ATM: Often this means an automatic teller machine that isn't owned by your bank. Networks that link ATMs electronically can be local, regional or national. The transaction fee you get socked with depends on which network you use; ask your bank to explain, because you can save money.

Lifeline or budget account: Probably your bank's lowest-priced checking account, which almost never pays any interest. Usually you're able to write a few checks monthly before you start getting zapped by fees. Find out if they return your canceled checks with your statement.

Money Market Checking: Is it really unlimited checking or a Money Market Account that limits you to three checks per month? Exceed that, and it could cost you between $10 and $20 per check.

APR: Annual Percentage Rate, the most complicated animal of them all. It relates to any type of borrowing and includes the interest rate and points. You don't want to know the lengthy Federal Reserve definition on this one.

Latest rate trend: Down, just as I predicted last month despite economists' false hoopla about inflation. Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by one-tenth of 1 percent to 7.28 percent, while all CDs ranged between flat and tiny dips.

Robert K. Heady publishes Bank Rate Monitor, 100 Highest Yields and other financial newsletters from his office in North Palm Beach.

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