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Archive for 'Credit Cards' Category


Traveling abroad? Know these 5 credit card facts

Published 3/16/15  (Modified 3/20/15)

Traveling abroad? Know these 5 credit card facts By Peter Andrew

Do you believe that 41.8 percent of adult Americans failed to take a single vacation day in 2014? And that another 16.1 percent took fewer than five? Those figures, which comes to you courtesy of the Skift travel website, are derived from an online survey with a sample base of 1,500, so they're hardly bulletproof statistically. But do you share my sneaking suspicion they could be correct -- or at least pretty close to correct?

It wouldn't be surprising. In 2013, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a list of the paid vacation time provided in each of the 21 most advanced economies. The U.S. was alone in providing none. Add paid holidays to paid annual leave, and some countries were startlingly generous. You won't be surprised by the 31 days in France, but how about the 34 in Germany and Denmark or the 27 in Australia and New Zealand? Even the Japanese are guaranteed a minimum of 10 vacation days a year.

But not Americans. And yet vacation time can have an important influence on how we feel about ourselves. A few months ago, Gallup found some amazing results when it asked survey respondents about taking proper breaks from work.

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This holiday season, say no to store credit cards

Published 12/9/14

This holiday season, say no to store credit cards By Peter Andrew

I'm such a nostalgia junkie. Even now I'm an adult (allegedly), I can't help but overlay the hell that is getting through holiday preparations with precious childhood memories. There were happy songs on the radio. There was no pressure to judge gorgeously gaudy decorations through the prism of taste. Church -- something rarely other than boring to a 6-year-old boy -- suddenly became upbeat and fun.

And, when it came to festive-season department stores, the tables were turned: Instead of Mom dragging me for seeming eternities through endless displays of china, linen, silverware, menswear and -- the ultimate humiliation -- womenswear, I got to drag her to the toy department.

"Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven," Wordsworth might have written about kids and holidays, had he not already used the lines to describe the French Revolution. Come to think of it, in our house, the two could get similarly bloody (at least metaphorically) by Christmas night -- though not for us kids.

Trouble in store

You have to feel sorry for today's 6-year-olds. It must feel as if every time mom comes to pay in a department store they have to settle down to witness a clerk giving her the hard sell on the retailer's plastic. And quite a lot of those moms (and dads and others) are falling for the pitch.

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Yes, Obama's credit card was declined -- but yours needn't be

Published 10/30/14

Yes, Obama's credit card was declined -- but yours needn't be By Peter Andrew

President Obama and I are like two peas in a pod. We both have quite a lot of grey hair. Er ... we both live in houses with street addresses that begin with a "1." And, um, we've both in the past had our credit cards wrongly declined. You see? POTUS and I are like brothers from different mothers.

Presidential plastic

Unexpectedly, given his multi-million dollar personal fortune, Mr. Obama's plastic was refused more recently than mine. He was in New York in September, attending the United Nations General Assembly, when he took the First Lady out to dinner. When the check arrived, his card issuer declined the payment.

Presumably after a short conference around the restaurant's payment terminal ("You tell him." "No, YOU tell him." "No way."), some poor sap was sent to inform the President of the United States that he was using dodgy plastic.

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So you've been hacked, America: Ready for EMV now?

Published 1/31/14

So you've been hacked, America: Ready for EMV now? By Georgie Miller

The recent hacking of the Target and Neiman Marcus databases has many consumers worried about the security of their information. It seems like the technology used to store personally identifiable information should be better than it is today, but unbeknownst to many U.S. consumers, other countries around the globe have used a more secure technology for almost a decade.

What is this technology, you ask? It's involves EMV or "chip-and-pin" credit cards. Unlike the credit card with a magnetic stripe (magstripe) on the back that is probably in your wallet now, chip cards contain a microchip. Transactions made using cards with EMV chips don't reveal your account number to the merchant. This means that even if the merchant is hacked, your account would presumably be safe.

EMV cards have gradually been becoming the norm in other countries, especially those in Asia and Europe. In fact, consumers who travel internationally may already have with EMV-compatible cards. So why has the U.S., which prides itself on being on the cutting edge in all things, not adopted EMV already? Both cost and path dependence are likely factors.

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6 ways to wreck your credit without knowing it

Published 8/9/13

6 ways to wreck your credit without knowing it By Justin Boyle

I was at the house of a songwriter friend of mine who recently came back from a tour of Texas and Oklahoma, and he showed me an unusual souvenir he picked up on the road: a bill for the credit card he used to buy gas for the trip.

While that might not be a strange souvenir for most people, for him it was practically unheard of. As long as I'd known him, he had never had a credit card. He had been careless with credit in his early 20s, and for years he had been unable to get a decent rate from a credit provider.

After years of collection-agency calls and a near-bankruptcy, he's far from careless now. But not everyone has had the opportunity to learn good borrowing behavior the hard way.

If you don't want to learn the hard way, here are six things you may want to avoid as you build your credit history.

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2 steps to beneficial credit card spending

Published 7/17/13

2 steps to beneficial credit card spending By Georgie Miller

Sometimes it seems to me that every personal finance article on the Internet suggests that the only side effect of credit card use is overspending. And obviously overspending is something that needs to be avoided. However, it is actually possible to use credit cards to keep your spending in check.

How? By being a conscious consumer, you can use a credit card to simplify your record-keeping and make better spending decisions. Try the two steps below to see if you can use your credit card to improve your finances.

Step 1: Track your total balance

By tracking the total amount I've spent each month rather than considering each individual purchase, I can more easily decide the effect that purchase is going to have on my bottom line. Let's say a friend asks me to go to dinner and I have $30 in my wallet.

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