Like surgery, medical credit cards offer risks and rewards


Like surgery, medical credit cards offer risks and rewards

Published 1/12/11  (Modified 3/9/11)

Like surgery, medical credit cards offer risks and rewards By Joe Taylor Jr.

If you feel awkward getting asked to open a store credit card when you're shopping for blue jeans, imagine what happens when you get the same offer in the emergency room.

Medical credit card applications abound at the offices of dentists, doctors, and even veterinarians. While relaxed approval processes make these cards appealing to Americans in need of urgent care, critics of medical credit cards warn that the cure for long term medical debt might be worse than the disease. Do these credit cards deserve their bad rap?

How medical credit cards hit the market

It was unheard of for earlier generations of Americans to let medical bills go unpaid. Our parents and grandparents couldn't run the risk of bumping into the neighborhood doctor at church or in the supermarket with outstanding invoices hanging over their heads.

Over the years, deductibles and co-insurance ceilings got larger, forcing health care providers to take on greater risk. Practices got bigger, too, enabling more of us to slide our medical bills to the back of the stack without feeling very guilty. Lenders partnered with medical providers to offer easy applications, using many of the same techniques perfected in retail stores.

Shifting medical credit cards from emergency coverage to elective financing

With finance charges and payment options similar to retail credit cards, most consumers found terms reasonable enough to get them through a crisis. However, the medical credit card market kicked into high gear

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Chase Sapphire credit card -- what's not to like?

Published 1/10/11  (Modified 12/17/13)

By Peter Andrew

I'm not expecting any sympathy, but it's not easy writing product reviews. That's because it's rarely possible to rank different features in a way that's meaningful to everyone.

Take televisions as an example. I badly need a new one, and recently started reading TV reviews. All I've discovered so far is that there isn't a perfect model, or certainly not one in my price range. One has a brilliant picture, but slightly lower sound quality, or vice versa. Another is great except for occasional motion blur during action sequences. Yet more are good, but ugly, and don't fit in with my living room decor. When I eventually come to make a choice, I'll have to decide which of these factors are most important to me personally.

And it's the same with credit cards. I can tell you all about the Chase Sapphire? credit card, but whether it's the best for you will depend on your individual needs and wants. What I can say for sure is that it is a good all-rounder, and that you should almost certainly include it on your list of potential cards.

Not for everyone

But let's begin by identifying those who should think carefully first before including it on their list of possibilities. If your credit score's going through a down patch, the chances of your application for a Chase Sapphire card being accepted are remote. This is a premium product that's reserved for those with great credit.

In...

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Kardashian Kard killed - but prepaid cards set to take off

Published 1/6/11  (Modified 3/17/11)

Kardashian Kard killed - but prepaid cards set to take off By Peter Andrew

Call me old-fashioned (no, really--everyone else does), but I know next to nothing about the Kardashian sisters. However, even with the tiny amount of knowledge I have, I struggle to picture a family breakfast scene in which Kim, licking maple syrup from her perfectly manicured fingers, glances up from her copy of The Wall Street Journal, and remarks to Khloe and Kourtney: "It says here that analysts are forecasting explosive growth for the prepaid card market. I think we should establish an aggressive presence in that sector."

No, I suspect that some Svengali-like figure on the sisters' business management team persuaded the family that launching the Kardashian Kard was a good idea. And it might be fairer to blame him or her than the girls for the fact that the Kard is likely to end up entering the record books as one of the shortest-lived products in the history of financial services.

Kard killer

The Kard was withdrawn Nov. 30, just three weeks after its glitzy launch. And its cause of death was the sheer weight of negative publicity that followed a blistering attack on it by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. He's quoted as referring to the product's "pernicious and predatory fees," saying, "Among the prepaid debit cards now on the market, the Kardashian Kard is particularly troubling because of its high fees combined with its appeal to financially unsophisticated young adult Kardashian fans. Keeping

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6 banking innovations to look for in 2011

Published 1/5/11  (Modified 3/9/11)

6 banking innovations to look for in 2011 By Clark Schultz

I have always thought of banks as the bad guys. They charge too much on my credit card balances. They pay too little interest on my savings. And they charge me fees for every little thing. In the last couple of years we even had to endure our tax dollars going to bail out banks that went a little crazy with their lending.

Lately, though, I have started to look at banks differently. In the last year, banks have become more responsible with their lending and have implemented features and services that are useful to me. And it looks like that is just the tip of the iceberg. I think 2011 is the year that banks become the good guys again.

Here are six banking innovations to look for in the coming year that can help make life easier:

  • Social savings accounts

    I realize now that reaching a savings goal when interest rates are low can be tricky. You lose the power of compounding interest and inflation can actually decrease the worth of your money. To help you save in spite of these problems, a new form of savings, called a social savings account gaining steam. The account helps you increase your savings by publicizing your savings target with a widget or personal message on a social network, blog or website. This allows friends and family to hear your story and contribute to your goal.

    Savings is now a higher priority for Americans. The question

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    Is it safe to bank with an iPhone?

    Published 1/4/11  (Modified 3/9/11)

    Is it safe to bank with an iPhone? By Clark Schultz

    The Apple iPhone is the one of the world's biggest technology phenomena. Behind the popularity is a wide selection of unique mobile applications that can be easily downloaded. This includes banking applications that are about to take mobile banking to the next level.

    Setting up mobile banking

    Mobile banking has been around for close to 10 years. Up until this year, the most popular way to access banking information with a phone has been through using SMS text messages or mobile Internet browsers. Both methods have limitations and can be frustrating for users.

    All of that looks set to change with the explosion of applications being developed for the iPhone by some of the best online banks. Banking applications allow a faster and more secure connection to a bank's server than if you use a mobile browser or SMS. Developers are continually adding more mobile banking features and security enhancements to banking apps.

    If you have an iPhone, you can check the iTunes store or your bank's website for the most current mobile banking applications. Wells Fargo Bank, U.S. Bank, PNC Bank and USAA Federal Savings Bank are just a few of the financial institutions that have applications that can be downloaded for free. After your application is up and running, you can check balances, pay bills, transfer money, set up banking reminders and find the closest ATMs.

    Securing your financial data

    Accessing

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