Area Financial Institutions Offer Christmas Gift Ideas

Article excerpt

Cold, hard cash is a common _ and almost always welcome _ gift item for the holidays, but area financial institutions have some suggestions to dress up financial gifts for those on the list for whom the bottom line is foremost.

American Express is offering special Gold Gift Cheques which can be cashed like traveler's checks but come "beautifully packaged with a gold check and gold envelope," said Rita Watson, teller services director for Bank of Oklahoma NA Oklahoma City. "It is quite a pretty package and is nice for gift giving."

The gift checks can be purchased in denominations of $25, $50 or $100 and cost face value plus $2.50. The check is made payable to the recipient.

Watson also said that during December, American Express is donating $1 to Big Brothers-Big Sisters for every check sold at the bank.

Another common gift item for those who want their recipients to look a little further into the future are U.S. savings bonds.

Watson said the series EE bonds are sold in denominations of $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. The cost is half the face value, and the bonds mature in 12 years.

The current interest rate is 6 percent, which is better than almost any savings vehicle and is guaranteed for the 12-year life of the bond. The rate changes every May and November. The bonds must be held for at least six months but can be cashed before they mature. Of course, any interest earned is paid at redemption.

The bonds are issued by the Federal Reserve, but buyers make applications for them at the bank. They are made payable to the recipient, even if he or she is a minor. The buyer's Social Security number can be used if the recipient's is unknown, Watson said.

Coin sets also are popular gifts, and are moderately priced, according to Barney Lehmbeck, senior vice president of business development and marketing at Liberty Bank and Trust Co. of Oklahoma City NA.

Liberty has four sets available. The $11.75 set includes five uncirculated 1992 coins _ half dollar, quarter, dime, nickel and penny. The deluxe silver proof set has the same five coins made of 90 percent silver. It sells for $37. The 1992 American Eagle $5 gold coin sells for $64. A two-coin set including an American Eagle $10 gold coin and an American Eagle silver dollar sells for $175.

More ambitious savings instruments also can be purchased to finance major expenses for children or grandchildren, such as a car or college education.

Ken Schuerman, manager of retail banking for Boatmen's First National Bank of Oklahoma, suggested certificates of deposit or "strip" investment instruments with maturity dates that correspond with important dates in a child's life.

Strip, also called zero coupon, bonds are discounted instruments that are purchased at significantly less than the face value. They are generally sold in increments of $5,000 or $10,000, and the holder tucks them away for a specified number of years until maturity.

Opening regular or special savings accounts is another way for parents or grandparents to introduce children to the lifelong concept of saving.

Union Bank and Trust Co., for example, likes to use the Christmas holidays as an opportunity to market its Kids Bank, a savings program for children up to 18 years, according to Kenneth A. Skopec, vice chairman.

The Kids Bank program is designed to "create an awareness of thrift" among children. It also offers specials such as a higher, preferred savings rate, a newsletter, outings, and even a piggy bank.

"It has been very well received," Skopec said.

The bank also is offering an after-Christmas present for some lucky adult. Union, in cooperation with Dub Richardson Ford-Isuzu, will hold a drawing for a 1993 Ford Ranger valued at $11,500 at 10 a.m. Jan. 2.

People do not need to be bank customers to enter, and they can register for the drawing at any of Union's six branches. …