25
May

If you are thinking about buying an Ultrabook, better wait until October. Of course, if you can’t wait, and you have $800-$1,500 or so to spend, you’re going to love the lightweight super thin form factor. You’re going to love the fast start up time and long battery life. Here are three reasons to wait:

Finally, prices will continue to come down. So, why spend $1,000 today for an ultrabook when $800 will get you the same or better in a few months?

Also look for models that don’t quite earn the Intel-approved Ultrabook label but are just as thin and just as fast. These non-ultrabook ultrabooks will likely have the AMD chips, which are typically lower cost than Intel’s chips.

Category : Uncategorized
26
Apr

An article in today’s New York Times highlights the trend of national banks going after the “unbanked” with offerings that include high interest and fees. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimates that about nine million households in the country do not have a traditional bank account, while 21 million, or 18 percent, of Americans are underbanked.

There is little to distinguish some of the loans being offered by the banks compared to the notoriously bad for consumers pay day loans. Banks see a potential to make as much as $45 billion from short term loans, high-fee checking accounts, and check cashing services.

When a consumer walks into a bank, they can’t easily understand all the many different products being offered. What’s worse, lower income customers are “profiled” and then steered towards prepaid debit cards that don’t stack up against some of the better prepaid cards on the market, because they include high fees and minimum balances. Some banks are competing for the lucrative payday loan market. According to the article, “The loans can get expensive. When the loan comes due, the bank automatically withdraws from the customer’s checking account the amount of the loan and the origination fee — typically $10 for every $100 borrowed — regardless of whether there is enough money in the account. That can lead to overdraft and other fees that translate into an annual interest rate of

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more than 300 percent, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.”

So what can the unbanked do? The best bet is to research various alternatives using the Web, to understand fees before stepping into a bank and being squeezed into something that may not be a good financial fit. It would be nice if banks listed a complete menu of their products in an easy to read format.

Category : Banking
30
Mar

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that more than 10 million Visa and MasterCard holders may have had their account data stolen by hackers. Both card companies were quick to say their own systems were not compromised. Rather, a payment processor, Global Payments, was hacked, potentially exposing millions of accounts.

The safest thing is to monitor your card activity for unauthorized purchases, and contact your card issuer if anything looks fishy. Gartner security analyst Avivah Lita reports that the hackers have begun using some of the stolen card data. CNN Money reports “None of the three companies would comment on the scale or nature

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of the breach, but the Journal’s report says the information that was taken could potentially be used to counterfeit new cards. The breach reportedly took place between January 21 and February 25 of this year.”

Unfortunately, hackers continue to find ways to get to data that should be protected. It’s frustrating that there is nothing an individual can do to protect oneself, when processors and retail locations are the places targeted by hackers. A next generation encryption technology known as “smart chips” to replace the familiar magnetic strip on the back of debit and credit cards is popular in Europe. It’s more secure, but the costs of switching the US over to this better technology has prevented wide adoption by the banks issuing the cards. Retailers would have to replace their swipe hardware with “wave and pay” hardware.

Category : Uncategorized
26
Feb

Many studies have shown that tap water is often healthier for you than bottled water. Despite the costs of bottled water, more than 8 billion gallons of the stuff are sold every year. Typically, you’ll pay nearly $2 for a 16 oz. bottle of water in a plastic bottle. Most of these bottles will not be recycled but instead will end up in a landfill.

A study by the National Resources Defense Council showed that while bottled water is safe, at least a third of the test samples contained bacterial or chemical contaminants, including carcinogens, in levels that went beyond industry or state standards. NRDC tested more than 1,000 bottles of

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103 brands of water. Since the report, no major regulatory changes have been made and bottlers haven’t drastically altered their procedures, so the risk is likely still there.

The researchers from Goethe University sampled 20 brands of bottled water packaged in plastic and glass bottles and found that 78 percent of the samples packaged in plastic bottles had high amounts of chemicals called “endocrine disrupters,” compared with 33 percent of those bottled in glass.

Fact is, a lot of bottled water is just municipal water that has been filtered. Even if it the bottle you buy is labelled water from deep spring wells, that’s what municipal water can be in some places. Many well known brands such as Dasani, and Nestle are simply processed tap water. So what are you really buying when you get bottled water? Convenience, because you are thirsty and stopped at a convenience store? Refrigeration instead of room temperature water? Or do you buy bottled water for status?

Here are some ideas to save money and drink healthy water from home. Buy some insulated steel water bottles. They may set you back $10, but will pay for themselves when you avoid buying bottled water all year at $2 a pop. You can fill these bottles at home with ice and water, and the water inside will stay cold all day, or on a long car trip. Bottles come in all sizes, including just the right size to fit on a bicycle water bottle holder or a car cup holder.

Your municipal water supply is regularly tested, so contact your local government (e.g., city hall) and ask for the results of the testing to give you peace of mind.

Avoid plastic reusable bottles that are labelled BPA plastic. I know a farmer that uses simple glass mason jars for his water bottles. Glass provides a sanitary inexpensive way to carry around water, and it is hip and retro.

Category : Uncategorized
13
Nov

Black Friday Deals

Posted by David Pratt Comments Off

It’s that time of year again. Love it or hate it, Black Friday (the shopping day after Thanksgiving) is coming around the pike, and retailers are going overboard with special sales to try and lure you in. If you have been holding off getting a piece of electronics or other gift, waiting for deals after Thanksgiving, you are in luck, because major retailers such as Wal Mart, Best Buy and Target have announced some great deals.

In a controversial move, many leading retailers are opening earlier than the traditional 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. time

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on Friday morning. Many will be opening at midnight, and Wal Mart is going a step further and opening at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. This means that for all the die hards who wait in line to be among the first shoppers making a mad rush into the store to scramble for the very best low priced deals, they will have to now essentially stay up all night. Employees too are having to sacrifice family time, to show up for work in the middle of the night. So, instead of watching a football game with uncles they will have to take a nap to prepare for the all nighter.

Best Buy

Best Buy is offering a free Blu Ray player when you purchase a Sprint smart phone. Or how about this, a 55″ LCD tv for under a thousand bucks. Its top doorbuster sale is a 42-inch 1080p Sharp LCD TV for just $199.99. (Another doorbuster is a Toshiba Blu-ray player for a mere $39.99.) That beats the 40-inch Element LCD that Target is offering for $265.

Wal Mart/h2>

Walmart Kicks-off Three Black Friday Events starting at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Today on Thursday, November 10, 2011 the Walmart Black Friday flier was released on Facebook and Walmart.com. It is supposed to help families with their Christmas shopping and to save them money. There are three special-shopping events. The first one is for toys, home, and apparel starting at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day(November 24th). The second event starts at midnight on Black Friday(November 25th). This second event is for electronics. The third event starts at 8 a.m. on November 25th through the weekend. It is for presents for the entire family and electronics. These events are good while supplies last. You can get the hot new Xbox release Batman, Arkham City for under $30, a 50% discount.

Target

Target seems to have Best Buy and Walmart beat n base models of video game consoles. It’s offering a 4GB Xbox 360 for a mere $139.99 and a 160GB PlayStation 3 for $199. only one other Black Friday TV deal: the 32-inch Samsung LN32D403 for $277.99, which is about $50 less than what Amazon is selling it for now.

Amazon

Amazon knows when you are looking for its Black Friday deals, because when you Google it and hit an Amazon page, it actually lists early Black Friday deals tailor made for you, based on your previous browsing history. Of course, Amazon offers some nice deals in Electronics, such as 30% savings on a Leap Pad Leapster. Or $3.99 for the latest Harry Potter DVD. You can also sign up for the daily deal of the day delivered to you via email.

Category : Saving Money Tips
6
Nov

Toys-R-Us Debit Cards

Posted by David Pratt Comments Off

Toys R Us does accept prepaid debit cards for purchases on the retailer’s website and in store locations. They also welcome gift cards. Indeed, you can get a Toys R Us gift card in a variety of design, or even personalize your own card.

Toys R Us had a problem back in 2009, reports the Consumerist, of accidentally double charging some customers for their purchases. However, the store credited everyone

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who experienced a double charge for the erroneous charge.

Toys R Us accepts Visa and MasterCard debit, prepaid, and credit cards. They do NOT accept personal checks, COD or layaway plans.

Category : Uncategorized
6
Nov

650,000 consumers left big banks to join credit unions in the past month, ahead of Bank Transfer Day, according to Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Bank Transfer Day happened Nov. 4, 2011. It was the brainchild of a fed up consumer, Kristen Christian, who set up a Facebook page to encourage people to send big banks like Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America a message by transferring their accounts to credit unions or smaller banks that presumably would provide more personalized service and not have excessive fees. Even though Bank of America backed down from its plans to charge most of its individual account holders a $5 a month fee for the privilege of accessing their own money via a debit card, and other banks followed suit, consumers are still mistrustful. Will big banks continue to seek ways to recoup their lost profits from the new consumer protection laws that among many changes lowered the swipe fees banks could charge merchants for every debit card transaction.

If one person can set up a Facebook page and get more than 80,000 people to pledge to close their bank accounts with big banks, where does it end?

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After all, governments have fallen in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, thanks in part to the power of social media to unit people in protest. Now Occupy Wall Street has captures the imagination of Americans fed up with income inequality, and the sense that the levers of power around the world are controlled entirely by the financial elite. When voting doesn’t seem to change anything, more people are captivated by the idea that change can happen when people unite in collective actions such as public demonstrations, boycotts of certain products, or selective transactions.

Can just 80,000 people moving their money into credit unions make a difference? According to Forbes magazine: “If the 80,000 signed up for Bank Transfer Day indeed move their money, they stand to save a combined $4.8 million a year as credit union members save on banking fees, states Bill Cheney, CEO of CUNA. If over 400,000 consumers made the switch, they’d stand to save about $29.8 million just by joining a credit union. When you look at what consumers could gain and not just what banks would lose, it becomes a positive movement with long-standing legs.”

Think about the environmental movement and the countless concessions big businesses have made to “go green.” Grocery stores now all offer reusable grocery bags as an option at check out, for example. Trucking companies are switching to bio-diesel fuels.

People are outraged at other fees such as overdraft fees and transfer fees. And small business owners are frustrated that banks have tightened up their lending policies to the point that it is very difficult for them to get loan to expand their business. While banks have not signalled any concern about individuals closing their accounts, since each account does not represent a large deposit, they have discussed concerns about business closing business accounts. If enough small businesses closed their accounts, it would likely result in banks pivoting to create new programs to try and lure them back, or keep them from leaving in the first place. In the end, the power of the purse is the best lever individuals have, because when they band together in collective action such as Bank Transfer Day, it gets the attention of the media, and in turn, attention of big business, politicians, and big finance.

Category : Banking

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