Monthly Archives: January 2017

31Jan 2017

Ryan: Trump travel ban confusion 'regrettable' – The Hill


Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP chairman defends staff who helped draft Trump travel order The Hill’s 12:30 Report Pelosi aide apologizes after accusing Ryan of cursing reporters MORE (R-Wis.) said Tuesday he only learned about President Trump’s executive order barring most travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries as it was being rolled out, and called the confusion with the announcement “regrettable.”

“I think it’s regrettable that there was some confusion on the rollout with this,” Ryan said at a news conference in the Capitol. “No one wanted to see people with green cards or special immigrant visas like translators get caught up in all of this.

“Regrettably, the rollout was confusing,” he added.

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Ryan said, however, that he is confident Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will properly implement the new immigration program.

The Speaker said he had a lengthy conversation with Kelly on Monday to make sure permanent residents with green cards and other special segments of the population would not be restricted by the temporary ban.

Kelly, whose agency is responsible for implementing the travel restrictions, was getting his first White House briefing about it Friday when someone on the call spotted Trump on TV signing the executive order, The New York Times reported.

GOP leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers have expressed frustration that Trump allies on Capitol Hill were not informed of the executive order until Trump signed it Friday on live television.

Asked when exactly he heard about it, the Speaker replied: “Pretty much at the time it was being issued. We were briefed on the contents of it as it was being rolled out.”

In a closed-door GOP conference meeting earlier Tuesday morning, some lawmakers asked whether news reports were true that Judiciary Committee staffers had helped work on Trump’s executive order.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteGOP chairman defends staff who helped draft Trump travel order Ryan: Trump travel ban confusion ‘regrettable’ GOP group launches .3M campaign targeting Trump-country Dems on ObamaCare MORE (R-Va.) stood up and replied that he had authorized some of his staffers to assist the Trump transition team on issues of immigration law, something The Hill reported Monday night. But the chairman himself did not directly help shape the final product.

Ryan brushed off a question about whether it was appropriate for Hill staffers to be working on an executive branch order without leadership’s knowledge.

“Congressional staffers help the administration all the time,” said Ryan, who confirmed that Goodlatte had explained his staffers’ involvement. “We weren’t involved in this.”

Other GOP sources said leadership is not pleased that Goodlatte failed to inform them his committee staff was working on the executive order.

But in an interview Tuesday, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) downplayed any friction with the powerful Judiciary chairman.

“There were a lot of our members helping with the transition, which is commonplace for this kind of administration where members of the same party want to help the new team coming in,” Scalise told The Hill.

“Ultimately, we don’t have daily conversations with committee chairmen or staff that are part of that transition. I imagine the chairman of that committee knew what his staff were doing.”

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31Jan 2017

Qvivr raises $5M to move beyond its all-in-one credit card – TechCrunch



Qvivr, a Silicon Valley-based FinTech startup originally known for building the SWYP programmable credit card, has raised $5M in Series A funding.

The funding was led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from a large multinational Asian bank.

The startup was founded in 2014 and originally launched with a pre-order campaign for a hardware product that would let users program all of their credit and debit cards into one device. Called SWYP, the card was designed to compete with other multi-account cards like Coin and Stratos.

But none of these devices really took off. All were heavily delayed, and even Coin, the most promising of the bunch, ended up shutting down and selling its technology to Fitbit. These delays also plagued Qvivr’s SWYP product. Originally destined to ship last summer, the company had to stop production after just shipping a few units because of manufacturing issues, and is now planning to start shipments again sometime during this upcoming summer.

And even though Qvivr plans to ship the SWYP card to anyone who has preordered it or is on the waiting list, they don’t plan on continuing to sell the product after fulfilling these commitments.

So what is the new funding for?

Qvivr says that they are working on a new hardware product that will target millennials. Ashutosh Dhodapkar, founder and CEO of Qvivr, explained that the new product will leverage some of the technology in the SWYP card – like the bluetooth connected graphical display – and try to make payments “more fun” for millennials.

While Dhodapkar declined to elaborate, the new product sounds like it could be a swipe card that features the display technology in SWYP, but eschews the multi-card features. A card like this could be popular with banks, who are always looking for new products to differentiate themselves among customers.

Making a FinTech product just for millennials is a bold initiative. But it’s probably a smart business move considering our generation tends to swipe their debit or credit card many more times than older Americans each month.

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31Jan 2017

Frequent flyer points: How I became a convert – News.com.au – NEWS.com.au


  • Video
  • Image

Light-hearted promo for Qantas and Airbnb0:30

Light-hearted look at the new partnership between Qantas and Airbnb that will allow frequent flyers to earn points on every dollar spent on an Airbnb short-term rental.

I was a sceptic of credit cards and frequent flyer programs, but not anymore. Picture: Martin Meissner/AP

Kirrily Schwarznews.com.au

I’VE just booked a flight to the USA for $281.

No, there aren’t a million stopovers or ridiculous extra charges for a checked bag, or carry on, or entertainment, or a meal. And no, it doesn’t arrive in the middle of the night at some remote airport miles from where I actually want to be.

I’m flying Qantas from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth, which is the third-longest commercial flight in the world. So how was it possible?

Until now I’ve never really believed in frequent flyer programs.

I know a lot of people who collect points religiously, but apart from getting a rare free flight or the occasional cheap blender, I was sceptical if it actually paid off.

I figured you’d have to spend thousands before you got anything in return.

My salary is pretty modest, and I don’t fly a lot, so when I do travel to see my family, price is everything. I can’t afford to stick to the same airline for the sake of points.

I figured shelling-out for an expensive flight basically meant you were just paying off a future free flight in installments.

Using the same logic, I figured you may as well save yourself the money by choosing budget carriers and just buy future tickets on sale.

However, I finally became curious enough to try it out, and I’m officially converted.

My first lightbulb moment came after a horror budget experience in Queensland.

The airline refused to let me board the plane, and I stood helplessly in the terminal until a Qantas lady came out from behind the counter to offer assistance.

I ended up shelling out $400 for a last-minute seat, and I couldn’t help but think I should have just booked Qantas in the first place.

For starters, they would have let me board the plane.

Second, even primary school-aged self could see one expensive Qantas ticket is cheaper than a forfeited low-coast fare plus a last-minute Qantas flight.

I’m really excited about taking my first international flight with Qantas.

I’m really excited about taking my first international flight with Qantas.Source:Supplied

I’m hardly the first person to realise the merits of frequent flyer points.

Points expert Matt Moffitt wrote an article for news.com.au only a few months ago, explaining how to get the maximum amount of value out of your points.

(Pro tip: don’t use them to buy a blender).

Many of my friends travel for work, and they all have frequent flyer accounts.

One day, I decided to see what it was all about, so I did some research, asked for recommendations, and applied for a credit card.

It came with a sign-up bonus of 45,000 points, and waived the $80 Qantas sign-up fee. All I had to do was spend $2500 within three months.

A short time later, I received two cards in the mail: an Amex, which racks up points very quickly, and a Mastercard to use when the Amex isn’t accepted.

I’m single and I live in a share house, so my expenses are pretty low. I use my credit card to pay for everyday purchases like groceries and public transport.

They’re all things I was buying anyway — I haven’t gone on any spending sprees, or booked any expensive flights.

When I started researching my trip, I tried everything to keep the cost down.

I kept my departure date flexible. I looked at stopovers. I compared return tickets with different combinations of one-way flights. I compared search engines.

Eventually, it occurred to me to open my unused Qantas app. The flight to Texas said “from $1445” one-way, and I was gutted. That’s huge amount to pay for a one-way ticket.

Curiosity prompted me to click on it anyway, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

It said: “Economy Classic Reward: 55,000 points + $281”.

Since I’ve done literally nothing to accumulate those points, it’s basically just $281.

That, my friends, is why I’m a frequent flyer convert.

Obviously, Kirrily Schwarz paid for this flight and for the credit card herself.

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31Jan 2017

5 Ways To Maximize Your Cash Back Rewards – Forbes


I’m always amazed by stories of people who travel the world for free. They’ve mastered the art of credit card rewards and use points to visit exotic locations. You can find stories of their adventures here, here, and here.

In this photo illustration, One Pound coins are seen besides US Dollar bills on January 16, 2017 in Bristol, England. (Photo Illustration by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

What about those of us who stay closer to home? Recently Citibank sent me an email about the Citi Double Cash card. I’ve carried the card since 2014 because it pays 2% cash back (1% on purchases + 1% when you pay for the purchases). Periodically Citi reminds me of just how much cashback I’ve earned. I was stunned by the latest figure–$5,474.32.

It took me some time to remember just what we put on the card to generate so much cash back. Some of the rewards were earned on unique purchases as you’ll see below. But the majority of the rewards came from taking a little effort to put every purchase we can on rewards credit cards.

Here’s how we did it.

1. Pick the right card

The first step is to pick the right cash back card for everyday purchases. While I use the Citi Double Cash card, it’s not the only option. My basic rule of thumb is that you should have a card that pays at least 1.5% on every purchase (1% is the industry standard). Several card issuers offer these higher paying options, including Capital One, Discover, and of course Citi. You can find a regularly updated list of these offers on my site, Consumerism Commentary.

2. Pick the right specialty card

In addition to our everyday card, we use a second card for travel and restaurant purchases. It’s the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and it pays 3x points in the travel and restaurant category. If used for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, we get a 50% bonus, bringing the total rewards to 4.5x.

The key here is to find a card that pays more than 2% in one or two categories where you spend a lot of money. There are several 5% cash back card options as well as some that pay as high as 6% at grocery stores (with spending limits).

Some actually use three or four cards with cash back in select categories that exceed 2%. I’ve found that two cards are the right mix of convenience and rewards. Those open to juggling more cards, however, can earn even more.

3. Pay monthly bills with your credit card

Once you’ve got the best cards for your spending habits, set up automatic bill pay using the card. We pay every monthly bill that accepts credit cards with the Citi Double Cash card. These bills include the following:

  • Cell phone
  • Internet & TV
  • Subscriptions (e.g., Netflix, Hulu Plus)
  • Utilities
  • Car lease
  • Health insurance (we currently buy our insurance through COBRA)

4. Use the best card for everyday purchases

For everyday purchases, we charge everything to one of the two cards. All travel and restaurant purchases go on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. All other purchases go to the Citi Double Cash. Using a credit card is secure, and it helps us maximize our rewards.

We’ve also made sure that our everyday card is the default selection on Amazon and other online shopping portals. We’ve started using Amazon more and more for everyday purchases. You can set up a subscription to automatically purchase items you’ll need periodically. All of these purchases go to our Citi Double Cash card.

5. Use credit for big purchases

It’s the big purchases that have really helped us reap significant rewards. The big one for us is our children’s college education. We put their tuition, room and board, and books on our cash back credit card. By paying upfront we get a discount from the school, and we earn 2% cash back.

Beyond tuition, we have paid for a boat, boat lift, and a car (up to the limit allowed by the dealer) with credit cards. We paid to replace our furnace with a credit card, and we paid for a generator with plastic.

6. Take advantage of one-time rewards

Finally, we looked at signup bonuses when deciding on the best rewards cards. In our case, we earned 100,000 points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (the bonus is now 50,000). This translates into $1,500 if used for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. When we add that and the points we’ve earned through purchases on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to the cash back from the Citi Double Cash card, our total earned rewards exceed $7,000.

With a little effort, you can automate much of the process and earn rewards for purchases you’d make anyway. The key, of course, is to pay your credit card bill in full every month. You can check out some of the best cash back credit cards here.

Rob Berger foundedDoughroller.net, a personal finance website, allcards.com, a credit card and banking website, and Dough Roller Money Tips, a free weekly newsletter.

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31Jan 2017

First on CNN: Justice Dept. will not defend executive order on travel restrictions – CNN


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Reuters

First on CNN: Justice Dept. will not defend executive order on travel restrictions
CNN
Washington (CNN) Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees, according to sources familiar with the order.
Top government lawyer defies Trump on immigration orderReuters
The number of people affected by Trump's travel ban: About 90000Washington Post
Acting US attorney general directs Justice Dept. not to defend Trump travel banCBS News
New York Post -The Hill
all 696 news articles »



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31Jan 2017

LPD VIDEO: Suspect accused of using stolen credit card – KCBD-TV


The Lubbock Police Department is preparing to attend Tuesday’s “No Bans No Walls” protest, leaving some participants to wonder what that might mean for them. Organizers of the event say some participants are worried police presence may mean arrests and potential deportation following President Trump’s executive order this weekend. 

The Lubbock Police Department is preparing to attend Tuesday’s “No Bans No Walls” protest, leaving some participants to wonder what that might mean for them. Organizers of the event say some participants are worried police presence may mean arrests and potential deportation following President Trump’s executive order this weekend. 

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30Jan 2017

Japanese Karaoke machine rewards good singing with pictures of naked women, but also punishes – RocketNews24


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RocketNews24

Japanese Karaoke machine rewards good singing with pictures of naked women, but also punishes
RocketNews24
Of course, as with other games based on the play mechanics of “reward with sexy ladies/punish with muscular men,” if you actually prefer the latter, you can always flub your performance on purpose. Alternatively, you could just skip going to karaoke



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30Jan 2017

Donald Trump's travel ban fundamentally changes American history – CNN


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30Jan 2017

Paying off debt: A credit card expert's guide to balance transfers – Military Times


Almost everyone sets new resolutions on January 1, but that’s the easy part. Your resolutions might be job related, like scoring higher on your PT test. Or maybe it’s financial, like staying within budget and paying down debt. When it comes to debt, have no fear – there are great financial offers and tools available to help pay off credit card debt and get you back on track.

We all know the best way to get out of credit card debt is to pay it off as quickly as possible. Start small by paying more than your minimum monthly credit card payment. But there’s also a top secret tip you might not know about – you can also lower your monthly payment by using a balance transfer.

How can I use a balance transfer to pay off debt?

A balance transfer allows you to move your current credit card balance to a new card with a lower rate. That way, you can pay off debt faster since you’re paying less each month. Many financial institutions offer attractive balance transfer offers – especially around this time of year since they know consumers have holiday debt to pay off.  

If your credit card has an interest rate between 10 to 20 percent, you may be paying more in interest each month than you have to. The goal is to find a new card that works with your spending habits, offers a lower interest rate than your current card, and has low to no fees. It’s also important that the balance transfer offer allows you enough time to pay off your balance before the regular, higher Annual Percentage Rate (APR) kicks in – on average about 12 to 15 months.

What are things I should consider when looking at offers?

Factor in the pros and cons before taking action, just as you would a successful military operation plan. Consider interest rates and fees first when looking at available offers. Once you pay off your debt or the introductory period expires, you’re still responsible for that new card and its new interest rate. Make sure when that time comes it’s still valuable for you. Also consider secondary benefits when opening a new credit card using a balance transfer, such as rewards programs or credit limit.

Always read the fine print before opening a new card. Some issuers charge interest retroactively if you haven’t paid off your balance in full before the introductory rate expires. This could end up costing you more money in the long run. This is also where smart budgeting and responsible spending comes into play.

Will my credit score fluctuate after making a balance transfer?

In general, when you apply for credit, you’ll see a small decrease in your credit score. It’s not a major factor in determining your overall score, so the decrease from a balance transfer should be temporary. However, if you plan on making a large purchase in the very near future, such as a car or home, weigh the pros and cons before opening a new credit card. It might not be the best option for you at this time. Generally, you should spread out requests for new credit over time to minimize any impact to your credit score. 

What’s the deal with fees?

The good news is it’s possible to find balance transfer offers with no fees. For example, some financial institutions, like Navy Federal Credit Union, never charge a balance transfer fee.

In addition to watching out for fees, beware of the zero-interest rate offers. At first they appear attractive, but they could cost you more money in the long run. You may be paying zero interest on your balance month to month, but the upfront charge of 3 or 5 percent on your total balance is more costly than a 2.99% introductory APR offer with no fee. You do the math.

What if I can’t pay my balance before the intro rate period is over?

The goal of a balance transfer is to pay off your debt in full before the introductory rate ends. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you have a considerable amount of debt. Your APR will increase when the intro rate expires. This is why it’s important to know the card’s standard APR before making that balance transfer.

If your New Year’s resolution is to pay off holiday debt or that looming credit card balance, consider a balance transfer offer. Be sure to read the offer’s fine print before you transfer your balance and speak to your financial institution to make sure you’re making the right choice for you. 

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