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Say you are out having dinner with friends when the waiter brings back your debit card, shaking his head and asking if you have some other way to pay. How embarrassing. What is it worth to avoid the inconvenience of having your transaction declined because your checking account is a bit light? A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau spells out how costly it can be; here's how to tell if your bank's overdraft protection program is a useful convenience or an expensive trap.
It's been more than a week since the British newspaper The Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency is indiscriminately collecting Americans' telephone records (or, in NSA parlance, "telephony metadata" -- which includes when and where you made a phone call and what number you called, but doesn't reveal what you said). Since then, numerous leaks have spilled out about what else the intelligence agency is collecting -- including the revelation that credit card purchase data may be getting swept up as well.
By virtue of their permanence, our Social Security numbers have grown into the all-purpose numeric can opener with which we file our income tax, acquire mortgages and open bank accounts and credit cards.
And as Hamlet would put it, there's the rub, because con artists also have come to covet our Social as their quickest means to slip into our identity, steal our IRS refund and/or open and abuse a credit card in our name.
Why not make it harder on them, the way we do with credit card numbers, by requiring the numbers be truncated?
There's a little-noticed weak link in the federal government's plan to extend health care insurance to millions of Americans who now lack it: The uninsured may have to stay uninsured if they're also unbanked. So says a report issued by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, titled "Uninsured + Unbanked = Unenrolled." It points out that one in four uninsured Americans eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) do not have bank accounts. In the parlance of the financial industry, they're "unbanked." Unless insurance companies allow customers to pay their premiums using prepaid debit cards -- which they're not required to now -- it could put a chill on who actually enrolls.
Gone, apparently, are the days when gaming was a fairly straightforward pastime: You bought the CD, popped it into your (or a friend's) computer, and when the thrill was gone, you sold it used.
Gamers who previously enjoyed freely swapping and selling their games will now have limits placed on them -- and they're not reacting well, threatening credit card boycotts of the giant game-makers.
Debt collectors, federal regulators and consumer advocates sat down together this week to begin the process of changing debt collection, which the feds have labeled a "broken" process.
It's looking like some agreement is emerging that would eliminate some of the consumer-hostile practices that make debt collection the most-complained-about industry overseen by the feds.
If you're an American moving overseas, be prepared. Along with concerns about language, housing and centigrade temperatures, there are myriad financial details you'll need to sort out.
The past several years have often seemed packed with high-profile weather events.
Now, lenders and credit reporting agencies are taking note and are taking special precautions to lessen the odds of another type of harm. The moves shield from harm the credit scores of people who missed loan payments due to severe weather.
Last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provided the first look at how complaints against the Big Three credit bureaus stack up -- and the stacks are far from even.
Some dismiss it as hype. But the buzz around using social media data with, or in place of, traditional credit scores is still around and has won over some influential evangelists.
Bill Clerico, CEO of the small business payment processing service WePay, for example, recently became the latest social media advocate to extoll the virtues of using social media profiles to help decide whether a person or a business can be trusted.
Forget rum punch; these guys reportedly tore through the city's most exclusive gentlemen's clubs, hammering back whiskey and $3,860 bottles of sparkling wine while basking in the chaste attentions of attractive hostesses who are paid to treat all male customers like Bond, James Bond. But who got stuck with the headache? Dad, but mostly American Express.
The report is out, and it's official: We don't necessarily suffer from a lack of information when we make decisions about money. Often, what we suffer from is too much information -- it's just not in a language we can understand.
When it comes to managing money, women often get a bad rap.
Just try googling the phrase "women and money," and you'll find dozens of articles, books and links to conferences lamenting women's lack of financial know-how -- as well as numerous sales pitches for financial services and coaching tailored specifically for clueless gals.
A positive outlook helps get through the day, but too much of it can really land you in trouble when it comes to your finances. In fact, a skeptic would say that lenders, some of them anyway, have built profitable business models on our excess optimism.
Several months ago, my favorite coffee shop in Austin switched from using a traditional credit card reader to the free Square device that attaches to an iPhone. I groaned when I saw it. Every time I swipe my card through a Square reader, the whole transaction feels slower and more cumbersome and often takes a few tries to get right.
This week, Square introduced a new product, the Square Stand, designed to fix that problem and make transactions faster and more seamless.
When suddenly confronted with those of lesser means, I'm wont to whisper to myself, "What would Jay Gatsby do?" That exact question leapt to mind recently when my personal assistant Parker interrupted my morning facial to discuss a new mobile app he'd discovered online called Smart Jets.
When it comes to credit report errors that are hard to get fixed, not even U.S. senators are immune.
At a senate hearing held Tuesday to discuss the country's controversial credit reporting system, three Democratic senators sitting on the panel, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, confessed that they, too, had found errors on their credit reports.
In loving tribute to my mother this upcoming Mother's Day, I'd like to thank my mom for teaching me how NOT to manage money. Don't worry, she won't be offended. She'll be the first to admit that she has never managed money well and has made numerous financial blunders during her lifetime. And that's how I learned. Don't worry, she won't be offended. She'll be the first to admit that she has never managed money well and has made numerous financial blunders during her lifetime. Yes, I have made money mistakes. Who hasn't? But I am far more financially savvy than my mother.
If you prefer to pay with plastic rather than with your smartphone, you're not alone. Despite ongoing hype about how mobile payments are poised to take over the way we pay, most people seem happy to stick to what they've got.
As Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an earnings call last week, mobile payments are "just getting started" and have yet to reach a tipping point with consumers. That's good news for entrepreneurs, since opportunity abounds if you're innovative enough to create something that will stick.
It has recently come to my attention that my credit cards have been frolicking buck naked in public lo these many years, their account numbers, card validation codes and expiration dates on full display for tout le monde to see.
This innocent indiscretion seemed perfectly harmless until I stumbled upon an online company called MaskYourCard (get the phonetic?) that offers to cover up the good bits on my chits with custom-made, wraparound bandages that sell for a dollar a pop, half off for Christian-themed strips. For $10, you can design your own.
Card issuers seem to be putting more distance between themselves and 'gotcha' tactics. Is transparency coming into fashion?
Last week, Colorado became the ninth state to limit employers' use of credit reports when checking job applicants' backgrounds. Now, at least 13 other states -- and even some municipalities -- are eyeing the practice, which has grown increasingly controversial at a time when nearly everyone knows at least someone who's been thrown into unemployment through no fault of their own.
If sharing information about what you buy with strangers makes you squeamish, then you may want to think twice about swiping your credit card.
Everyone from the IRS to your neighborhood burger joint wants to know what you charge to your card. And, increasingly, new tools and services -- courtesy of credit card issuers and other businesses -- are allowing them to sneak a peek.
Square, the free square-shaped card reader, already transforms any Android device, iPhone or iPad into a nerd magnet.
Now, members of the oldest profession are using it to meet up with members of one of the youngest. The average tech salary of $96,000 tends to attract friends for hire, and the Square is helping to facilitate their interactivity.
Lovers of vinyl records know that a certain amount of distortion goes with them -- a hiss that is specific to that record. In the wake of the big Scnuck's grocery store data breach, a California security company found the same applies to the magnetic stripes on credit cards. It's a discovery that may give credit cards a "fingerprint" able to thwart thievery such as befell Schnuck's the grocery chain.
It happens to the best of us.
NBC News reporter Chuck Todd recently learned that an unpaid red light ticket that he ignored (or, according to his tweets, just didn't see) has tarnished his credit score, according to MediaBistro's FishbowlDC.
They're the pieces of plastic we love, and love to hate. Get the latest news, tips, research and more from the CreditCards.com staff.
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