Monthly Archives: July 2017

31Jul 2017

NerdWallet's Best Credit Card Tips for August 2017 – NerdWallet (blog)


With so many websites offering free financial tools, it can be hard to know whom to trust. At NerdWallet, we spend literally 1,000s of hours researching partner offers and following strict editorial integrity to match you with the perfect choice. We even share how we make money so you can enjoy our expert advice and researched recommendations with total clarity and confidence.

August is typically the steamiest month of the year in the U.S., and the Nerds have some cool credit card tips to help you weather the temperatures and make the most of your plastic.

Take advantage of back-to-school offers

As summer winds down, the reality of going back to school hits kids hard — and back-to-school shopping hits parental wallets hard. The National Retail Federation projects back-to-school and back-to-college spending will top $83 billion this year. “Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $687.72 each,” the group says.

But you might get some relief — in the form of discounts or bonus points — if you shop your credit card issuer’s online bonus mall. And Chase Ultimate Rewards®, Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards and Barclaycard RewardsBoost, for example, all feature special sections for back-to-school shopping. Here are some of the deals we’ve seen lately:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards®: 6 points per dollar spent at Dell Home; 4 points per dollar spent at Staples.com
  • Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards: 6 bonus points per dollar spent at Bed Bath & Beyond’s website; 5 bonus points per dollar spent at JCPenney.com
  • Barclaycard RewardsBoost: 3 points per dollar spent at The Container Store; 6 points per dollar spent at Under Armour

You can also explore the Citi Bonus Cash Center and Discover Deals for back-to-school needs.

Say goodbye to cash

Last month, Visa made news by encouraging owners of small food-service businesses to go cashless. If you also need some encouragement to go cashless when you dine out, here are some cards that offer robust restaurant rewards:

The Capital One® Premier Dining Rewards Credit Card has a $0 annual fee; the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi has a $0 annual fee, but requires a $60 Costco annual membership; and the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is $450.

Apply for a hotel card

Even if you’ve already planned or taken your summer vacation, consider getting a hotel credit card for your future travels. According to NerdWallet’s 2016 Travel Credit Card Study, August is the best time to apply for a hotel credit card. Our research shows that issuers made the most bonus offers during this month.

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card currently has a big sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Bonus offers don’t last forever, so if you frequently stay at Marriott properties — including Starwood hotels — now might be the time to apply for the card.

Look to the sky!

A total solar eclipse will be visible across a wide swath of the U.S. on Aug. 21. NASA’s website covers every aspect of the event, including a map that shows the percentage of the eclipse you can expect to see based on your location.

Some lucky people — from the Oregon coast, across the Plains and Midwest, to Charleston, South Carolina — will be in the path of “totality,” meaning they’ll get the best view. If you want to join them, you could try to book a hotel somewhere within that eclipse path, earning you bonus travel or hotel points while also allowing you to witness one of nature’s most awesome sights. But act fast: Hotels are booking up quickly for the event.

If the hotel you’re eyeing is full, ask the representative to check nearby properties, which might not be as fancy but will still offer you a good view. You might also have better luck avoiding big cities and searching smaller towns located along the path of totality.

Wherever you view the event, you’ll want to purchase eclipse glasses and follow safe viewing guidelines.

Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon. 

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31Jul 2017

Toronto: the city of 140 languages – BBC News


Growing at a clip of more than 100,000 new residents a year, Canada’s largest city keeps getting larger. But the continued population boom hasn’t changed Toronto’s character. Long known for welcoming multiculturalism and diversity (more than 140 languages are spoken here), the city has also made substantial investments in public transportation and technology, making the city even more attractive to newcomers and Silicon Valley talent.

However, it can take time to fully appreciate all that Toronto has to offer, say residents. “The city doesn’t give up its secrets easily,” said Alyssa James, Toronto native and travel blogger at Alyssa Writes. “I love Toronto because you really have to know it to love it.”

Among those secrets are beaches right in the city’s backyard. “People don’t think of Toronto for waterfront or beaches because we aren’t near an ocean, but we do have great lakes,” said Bruce Poon Tip, who has lived in the city for 27 years and founded G Adventures. “The water is clean and the waterfront has been developed in a way that maximizes quality of living.” The beaches, just 10km east of downtown, also host an internationally renowned jazz festival every July.

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The city is also known for its wealth of parks and trails; one recent study by MIT found that the city ranks fourth in the world when measured for its tree canopy.

It’s a hub of innovation and idealism and it’s beautiful

“Toronto gives me big city benefits with small-town living,” Poon Tip said. “It’s clean, it’s safe, it’s secure, it’s a hub of innovation and idealism and it’s beautiful. But it’s also extremely diverse in culture, people and ideas.”

Where should you live?

A big part of Toronto’s character comes through its many cultural neighbourhoods, which include Little India (6km east of the city centre), Little Italy (3km west), Portugal Village (3km south-west), Greektown (8km north-east), and Chinatown (2km east), the largest outside San Francisco.

“Diversity is huge in the city, especially when it comes to food. You can find every imaginable culture represented in some way in this city,” said Matt Chong, originally from Vancouver and founder of Chong Tea Co. “In the same day, I can get a world-class Vietnamese banh mi or a delicious platter of Ethiopian injera covered with kitfo.”

Kensington Market just north of Chinatown is a favourite among locals as one of the city’s most multicultural and eclectic pockets, with lots of local businesses and a strong independent art scene. Queen West and West Queen West (both 3km west of the city centre) also offer lots for creative types “with tons of shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants and bars,” said Chong, and was named one of ‘the coolest neighbourhood in the world’ by Vogue for its art hotels, independent fashion labels and contemporary art museum.

The city’s east side is emerging quickly, with still-affordable neighbourhoods that are a mix of old homes and urban condos. The historic Distillery District (2.5km east of the city centre), the health-oriented Canary District (2.7km east), and up-and-coming Riverdale (4km north-east) are all favourite eastern neighbourhoods for young families.

Where can you travel?

City Island, just a 20-minute ferry ride from the city, is a favourite among locals for easy summer day trips with its boat rentals, bike trails and beaches.“There is even a section where full-time residents live in cottages that were built as summer vacation homes at the turn of the century,” said John Phillips, a local real-estate agent who shares local tips on his website. “This is an amazing area to explore.”

Niagara Falls is just 128km south of Toronto, but outside of the touristy Falls themselves, and residents love exploring its nearby wineries. “One of my favourites is Redstone Winery, which has an incredible restaurant and wine list,” Chong said.

Prince Edward County (200km east of the city) is one of Ontario’s best wine growing regions. The county is home to the area known as 1,000 Islands (an archipelago of closer to 1,800 islands) within the St Lawrence River between the US and Canada. “A fashionable retreat for the elite in the late 19th-Century, today the area is a hub for outdoor activities,” Phillips said. “It’s home to elaborate island mansions such as the German-style Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island, with its Gothic windows and secret passageways.”

The Blue Mountain ski resort (160km north of Toronto) is also a favourite year-round destination for its skiing, Scandinavian Spa and summer activities like boating and bike riding.

Is it affordable?

While residents agree that the city is expensive compared to the rest of Canada, they also say it’s still much more affordable than other big global cities. The 2017 Cost of Living Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Toronto at 86 of 133 cities, well behind New York, London and even Mexico City.

“When you take into account global currencies, like the British pound, you get tremendous value for your money – almost two for one,” said Poon Tip. “I have friends from Europe, from the United States, from the UK, who fly in just to shop.” 

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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31Jul 2017

Uber and Lyft Look to Hail Credit-Card Deals – Fox Business


Ride-sharing rivals Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. may soon take their fight to your wallet.

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Uber is rolling out a credit card for its U.S. customers, choosing Barclaycard, a unit of Barclays, as the issuer, the companies said Friday. The card will be available in the fall, according to a Barclaycard spokeswoman.

Visa is expected to be the network for the card, according to a person familiar with the deal.

San Francisco-based Uber would be the first major ride-sharing company to launch a credit card. It could help the firm lock in more customer relationships, a crucial goal as it faces an invigorated Lyft, which recently raised fresh funds and has been expanding into new U.S. markets. Lyft is also working on rolling out a credit card, according to people familiar with their plans.

Uber, meanwhile, has been grappling with a series of scandals, including charges it tolerated chauvinism, a lawsuit over trade secrets and a depleted executive suite. It is nearing a decision on a new chief executive after the surprise resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick in June.

Ride-sharing is a relatively new sector in the credit card market, where partnerships with banks in the travel sector have been mostly dominated by airlines and hotels.

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“This partnership represents a unique opportunity for Barclaycard to work with a globally-recognized disrupter,” Barclaycard said.

The bank’s CEO, Jes Staley, announced the partnership on Barclays’ earnings call on Friday.

An Uber spokeswoman said the company will be launching a co-branded card with Barclays, but declined to share more details. Consumers will be able to use the card outside of Uber. Potential rewards for card users aren’t yet clear.

Credit card issuers already have been including Uber benefits on their cards to entice more usage, in particular with millennials. When American Express boosted the benefits on its Platinum card earlier this year it added $200 worth of Uber rides a year. An AmEx spokeswoman said the benefit will continue.

Barclaycard is the ninth largest U.S. card lender based on purchase volume and outstanding balances, according to 2016 data, the most recent from trade publication Nilson Report.

Uber’s decision marks the latest in a string of wins for the card issuer that in recent years included the JetBlue credit card account that was previously with AmEx and becoming one of the issuers for the American Airlines co-branded card that it shares with Citigroup Inc.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com and Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 30, 2017 10:46 ET (14:46 GMT)

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30Jul 2017

WOODY: CTE study concerns players, but they accept risks for the rewards – Richmond.com


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Even though it came with a caveat, the news was stunning and eye-opening, so much so that Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis said, “I was astonished.”

In a study performed by doctors at Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 177 of 202 donated brains of former football players, from high school, college and the NFL, showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. That’s 87.6 percent.

Of those 202, 111 had played in the NFL, and 110 had CTE.

That’s 99.1 percent. One interpretation is that any player who reaches the NFL is almost certain to suffer brain damage.

But there’s the caveat the researchers are quick to note: These were donated brains from deceased players who had shown signs of the effects of CTE — Alzheimer’s disease, depression, mood swings, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Until there is a random study with a control group consisting of nonfootball players, no one can say with certainty that playing football, especially in the NFL, will result in CTE.

Still, this is daunting evidence, and even the NFL acknowledges a link between the game and the disease.

Those 111 NFL players included stars who had long careers and relatively unknown players who had short careers.

This study should be sobering not just for those who play football, but also for those who are thinking of playing football, and their families, as well as those who watch games and relish the bone- and brain-rattling collisions that are so much a part of the sport.

“Anytime you get information like that, it’s a little disturbing,” Davis, 33 and in his 12th NFL season, said of the study. “But knowing how brutal this game is, anything could happen.”

In football, we seem to be past “could” and are reaching “will.”

NFL players have every reason to hope this overwhelming evidence will be less overwhelming if a random study, complete with a control group, ever is conducted.

Their health and wealth are at stake.

Professional players earn lucrative salaries. The lowest paid earn a minimum of $465,000 per season while the game’s biggest stars take home as much as $25 million per year.

Put together a long career, and your family is taken care of for generations.

“The CTE study certainly was interesting to read about,” said Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will earn almost $24 million this year. “The question I would have is what is the statistic for brains of people in general who did not show unique symptoms that made them say, ‘We want to see if he has CTE.’

“Certainly this study brings to light that it is an issue. We, as players, are doing all we can to wear the best equipment and play heads up and play smart. The league, to its credit, is doing a good job changing rules and creating a game that is as safe as possible while not taking away from what makes football football.”

It’s times such as these, and studies such as this one that make the logic of playing, or even watching, football elusive. It’s difficult to suspend reality during a game and not think of the long-term effects of a jarring blow.

The NFL is concerned about the issue. In 2016, it pledged $100 million to support medical research and engineering. Players are fined and/or suspended for improper use of their helmets when blocking and tackling.

Research is being done and patents are being issued for what is hoped will be better, safer helmets.

“I honestly feel information like this could help the NFL when it comes to modifying the rules and regulations of the game,” Davis said. “They might have to give and take, maybe change a few more rules and help manufacturers when it comes to creating the product, helmets and pads. It’s all about evolving, making it better. That’s what I see when it comes to the analytics of concussions.”

For now, though, we have a study that shows football, from high school to the NFL, and CTE are inexorably linked.

A handful of NFL players have opted for early retirement, in essence saying they value their long-term health more than the potential riches of the NFL.

But most who reach the NFL love the game and crave the competition. The idea of walking away when they feel healthy and happy is antithetical to them.

Redskins inside linebacker Will Compton is 27, and he was a long shot for success when he signed as a rookie free agent in 2013. Yet, he has worked his way into a starting job. He’s not going anywhere.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I did see the study. It definitely gets on your mind. But I’m still out here, ready to go and excited to play.”

NFL players are not in denial, nor are they oblivious to the risks of their profession. They have a sense of resignation along with a glimmer of optimism about their futures.

“In this life, everything comes with pros and cons,” Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams said. “My daddy worked on cars for 30 years, and he’s got a bad back, bad knees, arthritis in his joints. Standing on concrete that long will have its effects on you. But you’ve got to feed your family.

“When you’re blessed to play something you love and get paid handsomely for it, you can’t expect everything to be all peaches and cream. If that’s (CTE) what comes with it, that’s what comes with it. I’ll just continue to keep my faith in the Lord and hope he blesses me and lets me continue to live a good quality of life.”

One theory for the high percentage of CTE in former NFL players is that the longer a football career lasts, the more likely brain injuries are to occur.

Williams, 29, is beginning his eighth NFL season.

“Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “The book is already written. I’m just living it out.

“You’ve got to live your life and have no regrets.”

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30Jul 2017

I'm going to do exactly what this travel startup tells me to do … – TechCrunch



I’m gearing up for another trip, but instead of taking a sleep pod bus, I’m flying (like a normal person) to Berlin. I’m going with my mom, who has never been out of the country, so I want to make sure it’s a good trip. That’s where Journy, founded by Leiti Hsu and Susan Ho, comes in.

Journy is essentially a travel startup for millennials that is designed to function somewhere in between a high-end travel service and a DIY approach to jetsetting, Hsu told me.

“It’s about the service and the recommendations and the quality of them,” Hsu said.

Here’s how it works. For $25 a day, Journy will act as your personal concierge for your travels, handling everything from planning to booking tables at restaurants and rooms in hotels. All I had to do was answer some questions about my traveling style (a see-it-all versus a more laid back approach), dietary restrictions, what time my flight arrives, and other travel logistics. Within a few days, my personalized itinerary arrived in my inbox.

For our two-day rendezvous to Berlin, Journy recommended six potential restaurants, eight activities for day one and nine activities for day two. Ahead of time, I can download the itinerary via PDF or access it via Journy’s mobile app.

For our first day, Journy has us kicking things off at Hashtag Berlin for some coffee and brekkie. Next, which is just a ten-minute walk away, we’ll bop over to Checkpoint Charlie, which Journy describes as one of the “most prominent border crossing spots for foreign visitors in pre-1989 Berlin.”

Next on the agenda is The Jewish Museum, which specifically highlights the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Our two-day agenda also includes activities like visiting a pop-up urban garden, checking out the art at the Berlin wall and reflecting at the Holocaust Memorial.

The trip is next month, so I’ll either update this post or write a new one to let you all know how it went and if anything went wrong. Worst case scenario is they send us somewhere that’s closed or incredibly dangerous, but we’ll see!

My roommate thinks this is a stupid idea, saying, “For $25, you can just make your own map.” Touché, roommate. Tou. Ché.

In fact, I did create my own map (for free) for the last big trip I planned. But it required a fair amount of effort. It consisted of me asking friends for recommendations and browsing sites like TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet and other random sites, and then organizing all that information into my own custom Google Map of places I wanted to go.

So, yes, dear roommate, I can just make my own map. But as some people say, time is money.

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30Jul 2017

The five words you never want to say when you're paying by credit card in a foreign country – Los Angeles Times


Question: We recently traveled to Spain and Portugal. When paying by credit card, we were given the option of paying in euros or dollars. It was unclear which was more advisable. I carry a co-branded airline credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, so if you can pay in dollars and not incur a foreign transaction fee, then there is no reason for us to be paying $95 for a card that doesn’t charge the fee. Are we missing something?

John Martin

Glendale

Answer: If you’re paying in dollars, you’re probably missing a chance to save money.

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30Jul 2017

Airlines reap $28 billion from selling travel 'extras' to flyers – CNBC


Nowadays, buying an airline ticket has a lot in common with a trip to the grocery store, or the purchase of a new car.

Like the pint of ice cream that wasn’t on your shopping list—or the heated seats the car salesman convinced you that you needed—modern day extras on airfares can really add up.

“Shoppers don’t know the total cost of all the things they put in their grocery carts till they check out,” said Jay Sorensen, president of research firm IdeaWorks and the author of a new report that breaks down how airlines are reaping a windfall from extras. “And most people don’t just buy the base model of a car. They start with the base model and then start adding on features.”

After going up and down the figurative aisles on travel sites, flyers have a similar experience to a car dealership or grocery store, Sorensen added. “That’s how air travel is now priced,” he explained.

In 2007 the top ten airlines (ranked by total ancillary revenue), was $2.1 billion, according to an IdeaWorks report. Yet in 2016, the top ten ancillary revenue-earning airlines alone took in more than $28 billion from “beyond tickets”—sales of everything from baggage fees, commissions on care rentals and vacation packages to frequent flyer points and products sold in ‘bundles.’

Spirit Airlines markets itself as an “ultra” low cost carrier. However, at an average of $49.89 per passenger, the Florida-based airline topped the list of earnings per passenger from a la carte extras such as checked bags, assigned seat and extra legroom. In 2016, that represented 46.4 percent of the airline’s overall revenue, according to the report.

Other bargain carriers like Allegiant and Frontier were also standouts: They earned, respectively, an average of $48.93 and $48.60 in ancillary revenue per passenger, according to the report. That represented 42.4 percent of Frontier’s total 2016 revenue and 40 percent of Allegiant’s.

When measuring total ancillary revenue, airline giants like United, Delta, American and Southwest topped the list, reaping $6.2 billion, $5.1 billion, $4.9 billion and $2.8 billion respectively.

These larger airlines, notes Sorensen, earn their high rankings due mostly to the sale of miles, or frequent flyer points to banks that issue co-branded cards. Yet Ryanair and EasyJet, also among the top ten earners (more than $1 billion each) earned the bulk of their ancillary income through a la carte fees and commissions on products sold on their websites, such as car rentals and travel insurance.

“Some of the best in this category have extensive holiday package business with route structures built upon leisure destinations,” Sorensen noted in the report. “Allegiant in the US and Jet2.com in the UK share the common bond of emphasizing leisure travel. These are essentially holiday package companies that own an airline.”

For these airlines, everything for revolves around the ability sell hotels, car rentals and attraction tickets to people traveling to vacation-oriented destinations, Sorensen added.

“Airlines increasingly see themselves as retailers that up-sell and cross-sell as their focus shifts from optimizing the revenue per seat to maximizing revenues per passenger,” Raymond Kollau of trends research agency AirlineTrends, told CNBC recently. “For example, Ryanair now regards itself as a digital platform with an airline attached. It eventually aims to give away the seat ticket for free and earn their income via all kinds of ancillary services.”

—Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including “Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You,” and theStuck at the Airportblog. Follow her on Twitter at@hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.

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29Jul 2017

Target is ending its rewards program next month | WPXI – WPXI Pittsburgh


by: Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Updated: Jul 29, 2017 – 6:27 AM

Target will be ending its Cartwheel Perks program next month, with Aug. 27 the final day to compile points and Sept. 27 the last day to select deals, CNBC reported.

>> Read more trending news

The program, which was launched in September 2016, allowed shoppers to collect points from purchases and receive digital coupons that offered savings from 5 percent to 50 percent off specific items in the store. Shoppers would present the barcode on their phones at checkout to receive discounts.

While the Cartwheel Perks program is ending, Target officials are not ruling out another incentive program for shoppers. 

“We had many leanings about how to engage and reward guests that we plan to leverage in the future,” a Target spokesman told CNBC. 

Several shoppers took to Twitter to express their displeasure.

“Half the reason I go to @Target and use Cartwheel so often is the Perks, so I’m a little upset that they’re ending it,” one shopper tweeted.

Target, in an email, said “exciting changes” are ahead for Cartwheel.

“We can’t wait to share them with you,” the company wrote.

 

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29Jul 2017

I'm going to do exactly what this travel startup tells me to do – TechCrunch



I’m gearing up for another trip, but instead of taking a sleep pod bus, I’m flying (like a normal person) to Berlin. I’m going with my mom, who has never been out of the country, so I want to make sure it’s a good trip. That’s where Journy, founded by Leiti Hsu and Susan Ho, comes in.

Journy is essentially a travel startup for millennials that is designed to function somewhere in between a high-end travel service and a DIY approach to jetsetting, Hsu told me.

“It’s about the service and the recommendations and the quality of them,” Hsu said.

Here’s how it works. For $25 a day, Journy will act as your personal concierge for your travels, handling everything from planning to booking tables at restaurants and rooms in hotels. All I had to do was answer some questions about my traveling style (a see-it-all versus a more laid back approach), dietary restrictions, what time my flight arrives, and other travel logistics. Within a few days, my personalized itinerary arrived in my inbox.

For our two-day rendezvous to Berlin, Journy recommended six potential restaurants, eight activities for day one and nine activities for day two. Ahead of time, I can download the itinerary via PDF or access it via Journy’s mobile app.

For our first day, Journy has us kicking things off at Hashtag Berlin for some coffee and brekkie. Next, which is just a ten-minute walk away, we’ll bop over to Checkpoint Charlie, which Journy describes as one of the “most prominent border crossing spots for foreign visitors in pre-1989 Berlin.”

Next on the agenda is The Jewish Museum, which specifically highlights the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Our two-day agenda also includes activities like visiting a pop-up urban garden, checking out the art at the Berlin wall and reflecting at the Holocaust Memorial.

The trip is next month, so I’ll either update this post or write a new one to let you all know how it went and if anything went wrong. Worst case scenario is they send us somewhere that’s closed or incredibly dangerous, but we’ll see!

My roommate thinks this is a stupid idea, saying, “For $25, you can just make your own map.” Touché, roommate. Tou. Ché.

In fact, I did create my own map (for free) for the last big trip I planned. But it required a fair amount of effort. It consisted of me asking friends for recommendations and browsing sites like TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet and other random sites, and then organizing all that information into my own custom Google Map of places I wanted to go.

So, yes, dear roommate, I can just make my own map. But as some people say, time is money.

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29Jul 2017

How to make your credit card act like a debit card – Minneapolis Star Tribune


Young adults these days are wary of credit cards. Yet building credit is important to qualify for loans for major purchases like a car or home. A fledgling digital tool aims to solve that problem, by helping credit cards mimic debit cards.

Debitize, an online tool that will be available as a mobile app later this summer, works to convert a credit card into a sort of debit card with benefits. The idea is that users can build credit and get the perks that come with many credit cards, while protecting themselves from getting mired in debt. (Debx, another start-up, takes a similar approach, using a mobile app.)

Here’s how Debitize works: First, customers need both a checking account and a credit card. Then, they register online for Debitize and link both the bank account and the card to the tool. (As with many digital financial tools, users must share personal and account information with the service; Debitize said it uses bank-level security and doesn’t store account login credentials on its servers).

Debitize then tracks credit card spending and pulls cash from your checking account when you make purchases using the credit card. The money is held in a separate Debitize account (an FDIC-insured account at a bank that works with Debitize), and the tool pays the credit card bill automatically when it’s due.

The basic service is free; Debitize may earn referral fees in the future, such as when users open recommended credit cards. The company also may earn interest from funds accumulated in the reserve accounts, said Liran Amrany, the chief executive and co-founder of Debitize.

Card balances are paid monthly, or, for a $3 monthly fee, they can be paid weekly, which helps to keep card “utilization” — an important factor in calculating credit scores — low. (A representative of the FICO credit score model didn’t respond to a request for comment).

Why would someone want to do that, rather than simply use a debit card in the first place? Debit cards, which offer pay-as-you-go spending, are especially appealing to millennials who may be burdened by student loans and wary of taking on more debt. And some people, regardless of age, may simply be averse to the risk of running up unmanageable debt.

But there are good reasons to use a credit card instead of a debit card, especially when the balance is paid in full each month, Amrany said. Spending on credit cards is reported to the major credit bureaus, helping consumers to build a credit file and a credit score that can enable them to borrow larger amounts in the future.

Plus, credit cards often offer reward points or cash back for spending. Credit cards offer strong protections in case of fraud or a dispute with a merchant, and many offer automatic extended warranties for items purchased with the card. And renting a car is difficult without one.

“To me, there’s no reason to use a debit card,” said Amrany. So when two of his friends told him that they were abandoning their credit cards in favor of debit cards, the need for a tool like Debitize was clear, he said. “Why not pay for credit card purchases, every day?”

Christopher Abbott, 33, who works in sales in Los Angeles, said he started out with one credit card linked to Debitize late last year and recently added a second. “I make all my purchases now using my credit card, so I can get my travel points,” he said.

 

Ann Carrns writes for the New York Times.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



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