9 Tips to Avoid Coupon Scams

by Guest on July 30, 2010

couponingToday’s guest post is from the team at CouponSherpa.com.

A sweet coupon is tough to resist, but offers that appear too good to be true can be fraudulent. Coupons are easy to find and have become so popular that scammers regularly reared their ugly heads with sophisticated cons. With a little experience and the following nine tips, you can spot these con artists and avoid being taken for a ride.

Good News for Consumers with Defaulted Credit Card Debt

by Guest on July 14, 2010

debtThis guest post was written by Bob Brooks, host of the Prudent Money Radio Show and President of Prudent Money Financial Services. For more information please visit www.prudentmoney.com.

About a year ago, I wrote that things might really start to change in the process of how credit card companies go after consumers who have defaulted on their accounts.

Interest Rate Disclosures Still Misleading Consumers

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on July 9, 2010

ConfusionA credit card agreement isn’t anyone’s first choice for reading material. The language is arduous and the terms are intentionally vague. That being said, it’s still important for consumers to understand the message that they are ambiguously trying to convey. The new credit card law (Credit CARD Act) was supposed to bring clarity, but some credit card companies are using old tricks in order to keep consumers in the dark regarding their protection from interest rate increases.

It used to be that credit card companies, such as Chase, Bank of America, Citi, and American Express, could re-price your APR on your entire balance for any reason and at any time. All they had to do was give you notice and there wasn’t a lot that you could do to avoid the increase. The CARD Act has certainly made the rules around rate increases better for consumers – but that hasn’t stopped credit card companies from trying to make you think otherwise. Although the fine print is confusing, you should rest easy knowing that the consumer protection rules in the CARD Act apply to all credit cards, with the exception of business credit cards.

Best Time to Buy Guide

by Guest on July 7, 2010

best-time-to-buyToday’s guest post is from the team at FreeShipping.org

The lazy days of Summer may be in full swing, but bargain shoppers might want to consider a little break from the beach.  There are quite a few deals to be had for those willing to plan ahead on major purchases.  FreeShipping.org‘s “Best Time to Buy Guide” covers over 75 products and services, offering helpful tips on when to save the most money.  Knowing the best time to buy that new car, house or lawn mower could be the difference between saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year.  Read on for your best bets in July and August, use them wisely, then kick back with the knowledge that while temperatures may rise, your credit card bills don’t have to.

Watchdogs Patrol World Cup Credit Fraud

by Guest on June 29, 2010

scamThis guest post is written by Ted Higgins, a financial writer for the Total Bankruptcy Blog.

During the World Cup, soccer players will flop, feign, and fall in order to draw penalties against their opponents. Unfortunately, this sort of scamming also occurs away from the field. In fact, major international events like the World Cup create a golden opportunity for criminals operating credit card scams.

Make Your Credit Cards Work for Your Business

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on June 25, 2010

funding-for-small-businessRunning your own business takes energy, organization – and a whole lot of money. Using a credit card for funding a small business can provide you with the resources you need when you don’t have the cash. However, due to small business credit cards’ exclusion from protection under the Credit CARD Act, you should think twice before carrying a balance on your small business credit card.

Even though it’s called a business credit card, the business owner is still personally responsible for the debt incurred at the end of the day. Since the owner is assuming this risk already, it makes sense to use a personal credit card for purposes such as funding or any other expense that you can’t pay back right away. This way the Credit CARD Act will provide the protection you need when carrying a balance.

2010 Starts with an Alarming Debt Trend

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on June 18, 2010

swiping-credit-cardThe storyline in recent months has been that we are in better financial shape than we were this time last year. While that may be true by some measures, CardHub.com released the Q1 2010 Credit Card Debt Study this week, which revealed that consumers are on track to end up with more debt at the end of 2010 than 2009, despite positive signals in the economy.

The CardHub.com study focused on consumer debt data from the Federal Reserve’s G19 report in conjunction with quarterly charge off data to determine how much of the decline in consumer credit card debt is actually due to consumers paying down their debt versus bad debt being written off. The study also made projections on how much debt consumers will accumulate in subsequent quarters of 2010.

Credit CARD Act Creates Loophole in Payment Allocation

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on June 9, 2010

LegislationAs we all know, the Credit CARD Act that came into effect earlier this year was meant to protect consumers from egregious practices by the credit card companies. By and large, the new rules do a good job in accomplishing this goal. However, there was one revision in the final draft of the bill around payment allocation that does not have the consumer’s best interest at heart.

The new payment allocation rules state that any payment above the minimum must be applied to the balance with the highest APR first. While this is an improvement from the previous payment allocation rules, it still offers no benefit to people who can only afford to pay the minimum payment each month – that’s 29 percent of Americans according to a FINRA National Survey.

How to Save Money on Life Insurance

by Lynn B. Johnson on May 27, 2010

InsuranceIf you have kids or someone in your life who will need to be supported in the event of your untimely demise, you should have some life insurance. But how much is enough, and how can you make sure you’re getting the right rate? Here are some important facets that I recently had to consider.

When my husband and I had our first child, we went to talk to a life-insurance agent. Our agent suggested that term-life insurance would be the most affordable option for us. We were new parents, and therefore paranoid, so we covered my husband for $600,000 and me for $500,000. This would be enough to support us in a manner in which the survivor would like to become accustomed, while also saving enough for Babykins to head to an Ivy-League school in 2018. Good plan.

FreeCreditReport.com Flip-Flops

by Guest on May 17, 2010

freecreditreport-dudeThis is a guest post by Joshua Heckathorn, who runs Creditnet.com and holds an MBA and B.S. in Finance. Creditnet is a free resource for anyone who wants to learn more about credit or debt and compare hundreds of the best credit cards online. When Josh isn’t glued to the screen of his Mac, you’re bound to find him at the nearest rock-climbing wall or sushi joint around Seattle.

It’s been just over a month since new rules took effect requiring free credit report sites to prominently disclose that there’s only one place to truly get your credit report for free—AnnualCreditReport.com.

How to Save Money on Childcare

by Lynn B. Johnson on May 13, 2010

save-money-on-child-careIf you’ve had a kid recently, you’re probably torn between delight in your babykins and astonishment at the astronomical costs of childcare. Yeah, me too. Here are some tips for keeping at least part of your salary in your own pocket.

1) Neighborhood co-operative: If you have neighbors who are in the same boat, get everyone together to discuss ways you might be able to share the childcare burden. Taking one day off a week in exchange for two or three days of childcare can be a good deal. If you have even one neighbor who stays home with his/her kids, talk about whether they might be willing to accept a pittance in exchange for a morning/day/days of watching your own little one.

Making the Most of Your Credit Card Overseas

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on May 10, 2010

no-foreign-fee-credit-cardsCredit cards are a great addition to any trip, especially when traveling overseas. They offer some of the best exchange rates and the convenience and security of carrying around as little cash as possible. Using a credit card also ensures that you won’t be stuck with left over foreign currency at the end of your trip.

Knowing this, imagine that you go on a trip to Europe and spend $3,000. You use your credit card for most of your purchases because, in addition to the advantages above, you earn rewards in the form of extra cash or airline miles for every purchase you make. At each point of sale, the merchant asks if you would like to convert your transaction from the local currency into U.S. dollars. You say yes every time, and are satisfied with seeing your transaction in a currency that you are familiar with.

The Best Way to 'Shop' Your Closet

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 27, 2010

shop-your-closetWith the onset of spring blossoms comes the yearly fervor to transition one’s wardrobe from winter to summery looks. Here’s the best possible process for taking care of your closet.

Empty it. No cheating here. Take every single thing out of your closet. This is best accomplished with a not-too-complimentary friend. As you are taking things out, divide them into three piles: Keep, Donate, Throw Away. The Donate and Throw Away items should be placed in black plastic lawn-and-leaf bags, which are taken immediately to the porch once filled so as to minimize what I call “stuff-divesting remorse.” I love Peter Walsh’s tip: The garbage bags are hungry. Feed them often.

Two Well-Incentivized Checking Accounts

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 26, 2010

High-Yield Checking AccountA couple of checking accounts that come with worthwhile incentives might be of interest to you: one offers tunes, the other, cash.

Florence Savings Bank has a “FreeTunes Checking” account with no minimum balance, no monthly fees, and nationwide ATM refunds. On top of those bonuses, FSB offers free iTunes® downloads at sign up and then monthly, so long as you maintain qualifying status. Pretty neat. The account is only available to those who live in Western Massachusetts, though.

Sell Your Gift Cards at the New Gift Card Exchange

by Kimberly Cole on April 21, 2010

gift-cardAccording to TowerGroup, the gift card industry was worth $87 billion in 2009 alone. However, 6 percent of this huge figure – nearly $5 billion – was wasted due to gift cards that went unused. To help consumers take advantage of this five-billion-dollar untapped resource, CardHub.com is pleased to announce the launch of the Social Gift Card Exchange. This is the first gift card marketplace to cut out the middleman and provide a trustworthy environment for direct user-to-user interaction.

Card Hub brings a new level of innovation to the industry with its Social Gift Card Exchange that not only includes the primary functionality of other gift card depots, but also provides a platform for users to trade their gift cards directly with their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and trusted companies.

5 Reasons You Should Only Pay Cash For Rental Properties

by Guest on April 14, 2010

rental-apartmentThis is a guest post written by Erik Folgate, an editor at Money Crashers.

Yes, you read the title right. You’re probably thinking that it’s ridiculous to suggest that you pay cash for a rental property (which I’m defining as a property you buy for the purpose of renting it out), because it’s unrealistic to think that someone has enough cash to pay for a rental property outright.

Google's 'Unbiased' Search Results

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on April 12, 2010

net-neutralityGoogle supports net neutrality when it comes to Internet Service Providers, staunchly insisting that ISPs should not be allowed to preference their own content. In an article concerning net neutrality, Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, argued that regulation is needed to prevent abuses of the availability of internet content by ISPs and “to combat incentives for carriers to pick winners and losers online.”

It would make sense for Google to adopt a similar stance towards its own actions. Instead Google straddles the fence, nodding in support of net neutrality and regulation for ISPs, while employing sneaky business strategies that preference its own content over anyone else’s.

What should you do if you cannot pay your taxes in full?

by Guest on April 7, 2010

irs-installment-agreementThis guest post was written by Manny Davis. Manny is President of Back Taxes Help, LLC, a tax resolution firm that helps businesses and taxpayers pay back taxes. Visit BackTaxesHelp.com for more information on various IRS tax settlement solutions.

Every year millions of Americans find themselves with back taxes or tax bills they cannot afford to pay all at once. Whatever the cause, the IRS is willing to work with taxpayers and offers a variety of Installment Agreements (IRS Payment Plans), depending on the total amount they owe. An IRS Installment Agreement (IA) will allow you as a taxpayer to pay off your taxes through monthly payments that can last anywhere from three to five years depending on the amount you owe.

Are Eco-Friendly Funerals More Cost-Effective?

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 1, 2010

green-funeralThe only two sure things in life are death and taxes. We all know that April 15th is looming, so I thought I’d look at the other side of my opening truism. We’re all going to die, sure, but how can we encourage our survivors to make our own post-life existence as eco-friendly and “green” as possible? Will greener choices save money? And, let’s be real: what is the “ick” factor?

The only thing I knew about green funerals was what I saw on the last-season episode of “Six Feet Under.” One of the men who ran a family funeral home died, and his brother pushed the family to follow a greener, more eco-conscious funeral plan. The scene was awkward and a little more hands-on than appealed to me.

Save on Taxes, Now and Next Year

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 26, 2010

TaxesSo, April 15 is right around the corner, and with it, the dreaded looming day to pay Uncle Sam. If you earned too much money last year and are looking for some ways to trim your tax bill now, as well as next year, look no further.

If you need a break now and have a few extra thousand dollars kicking around, now is a great time to invest that spare cash in a traditional IRA. Make a regular (NOT a rollover) contribution and see how it reduces your adjusted gross income. This will lower your tax bill across the board, though the maximum deduction is dependent upon your modified adjusted gross income total and also your filing status and cohabitation situation (where applicable).

Save Money on a Car Purchase

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 23, 2010

car-purchaseWhen I pitched the idea of “how to get a better deal on a car” to the illustrious Wallet Blog editor, he came up with a sneaky strategy to make sure you drive down the price as low as possible.

Get a car loan from the dealer, even if you don’t need one. Allow the dealer to sell you a loan with a ridiculously high interest rate, but MAKE SURE that there is no penalty for paying off the loan ahead of schedule. The dealer will make a higher commission on a loan with a higher interest rate, which will make them more likely to agree to your low-ball offer on the car.

Slow-Consumption: Healthier for Wallet, Body, Soul?

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 16, 2010

slowI remember reading a profile of the now-dearly-departed Fred Rogers in Esquire magazine about 12 years ago. Mr. Rogers was looking up at a clock and commenting on how big it was, and wouldn’t it be nice if we would all wake up one morning and concentrate on doing something small, not big. Quiet, not loud.

Shortly after that, I heard the first rumors of a new-wave of cooking, called “slow food.” Italians had a festival celebrating the time-consuming recipes of their grandmothers; they held the festival outside a McDonald’s, as I recollect.

Cash For Caulkers

by Brian Johnson on March 13, 2010

cash-for-caulkersThere has been some talk about a ‘Cash for Caulkers’ program that would refund homeowners 50% of their costs to renovate their properties in order to make them more energy efficient.  The program,officially called Home Star,  is unofficially being dubbed ‘Cash for Caulkers,’ and represents another effort in getting us out of the recession.

The program is obviously trying to emulate the Cash for Clunkers program, which helped stimulate the auto industry.  While I agree that Cash for Clunkers was a great idea, it was not without its faults.  Most notably, though it put people into new cars, it did nothing at all to make America more competitive on the global market.  What Cash for Clunkers did, essentially, was to tell the American people, “don’t worry about the recession; buy a new car!”  The day after buying their new car, however, Americans saw more unemployment, more banks failing, and more homes going into foreclosure.  It didn’t solve the real problem.  The money set aside for the Cash for Caulkers program will likely have the same effect:  it will make Americans spend money, but it won’t do anything to really end the recession we’re in.

Save Money on Food

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 9, 2010

save-money-on-foodFood is one of the major line-items in my family’s budget. In my goal to save more money this year, I’ve been trying different ways to slash-and-burn my grocery bills. Allow me to share my hard-earned do’s and don’ts with you. Some might sound strange. It’s OK; when saving money is concerned, I have no pride.

Do shop at non-grocery stores: Many of the big-box stores have been increasing their grocery offerings. Seems you can hardly turn on the TV without seeing an ad about money-saving groceries at Walmart, but I’ve found another big-box store with surprisingly good grocery deals; if you have a Big Lots store in your area, check out their grocery aisles. They offer name-brand breakfast cereals, as well as canned and snack-food items you may never have heard of. They’ve been a particularly good source of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and canned beans, at prices at least $.25 less than my typical grocery store. (It’s better to go in with an open mind rather than a set menu, though I found black-eyed peas there in time for New Year’s Day, which was a pleasant surprise).

Pet Insurance: Money Saver or Scam?

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 5, 2010

pet-insurancePets can be a serious line-item in your yearly budget. A yearly vet physical can set you back anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars, depending upon whether the veterinarian finds anything wrong with your fuzzy, feathered, or scaly companion, to say nothing of the unexpected costs that arise when your pet is ill or suffers an accident.

I first became aware of pet insurance when my kitten, Maxwell, got into a scrap and had to have his face drained (sorry, TMI). I never signed up for it, though. It just sounded like a hassle and I wasn’t convinced the benefits would outweigh my assumptions.

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