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Desire for debit card may require a new bank

Q My bank, where I maintain a savings account, is quite small. It does not yet offer a debit card, although it does have an ATM card. It has said it may offer a debit card in the future. How can I get a debit card?

J.H., Los Angeles

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A You could wait for your bank. But if you need a debit card now, consider other banks in your area.

Large banks that provide debit cards include Bank of America, Bank One, and Chase Manhattan.

Since debit cards are commonly tied to checking accounts, you will have to open another checking account with the new bank.

In "Personal Finance for Dummies." (IDG Books), finance writer Eric Tyson suggests that if you have amounts to invest ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 and up, you might want to consider getting a debit card linked to a brokerage-house account, such as those offered by Charles Schwab, or Fidelity Investments. Besides wowing your friends, you can do some serious saving and investing through such accounts.

Q Both Morningstar and Value Line have ranking systems for mutual funds. How do they work and how do they differ? Is one system better than the other?

E.N., Everett, Wash.

A Both systems garner high marks from investment professionals.

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Each rating service writes up one-page reports on specific funds, identifying them by category, such as an "international equity fund," or a "balanced fund." Past performance records are also included. The analyst writing the report briefly discusses a given fund's strengths and weaknesses.

Rankings are slightly different: Morningstar, the older of the two systems, uses stars: Five stars are better than one star. Value Line uses numbers. One is the highest rating, five not so good.

Q I am working on a project that could let me, over time, make a large sum of money, perhaps in excess of $100,000. Banks only insure accounts up to $100,000. How do I make certain this money is federally insured?

R.P., Ontario, Ore.

A According to a spokesperson for the American Bankers Association, in Washington, you will have to use more than one bank. Your accounts at each bank would be insured up to $100,000.

- Guy Halverson

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society