Monthly Archives: December 2018

15Dec 2018

Gift-card giving gift guide: How to use your credit card rewards this holiday season – Bankrate.com


Turn your hard-earned rewards into holiday gifts.

Gift cards are one of the most popular holiday gifts, whether you’re giving or receiving. According to InComm’s 2018 Holiday Shopping Index, gift cards are both the most requested gift and the most commonly given gift (along with clothing). InComm also reports that people will buy an average of seven gift cards for family members this holiday season, in addition to gift cards purchased for friends and coworkers.

Many credit cards let you redeem your rewards for gift cards, so before you finish your holiday shopping, log into your credit card account and see how many gift cards you can get for your points, miles or cash. Use this guide to help you determine whether your credit card is offering gift cards at a great value, or whether you’re better off purchasing gift cards on your own and using your rewards for something else.

How do you redeem credit card rewards for gift cards?

The easiest way to redeem your credit card rewards for gift cards is to log into your account or app. From there, you can access your credit card rewards and view the available redemption options. If gift cards are available, that’s where you’ll find them.

Which credit cards offer which types of gift cards?

In general, credit cards that let you redeem your rewards for gift cards offer a variety of gift card options, including both retail and dining. Gift card offers change often, and credit cards sometimes feature special offers that increase the value of your gift card or decrease the rewards required to redeem it.

For example: as of this publication, Discover® will let you redeem your Cashback Bonus® for gift cards at 113 different merchants, including Airbnb, 1-800-Flowers, and Sephora. In many cases, $20 cash back will get you a $25 gift card and $40 cash back will get you a $50 gift card. If you have a Discover it® Cash Back credit card, turning your rewards into gift cards is a smart move.

Chase Ultimate Rewards® offers 197 gift cards from popular brands such as Amazon.com, Spotify, and Barnes & Noble, with special deals that allow you to save 10% on a gift card redemption while supplies last — another good option, if you’re looking for value.

If you’re a Capital One® cardholder, you have 85 gift cards to choose from. Retailers include Amazon.com, Macy’s, and Crate and Barrel. Capital One does not currently offer any deals, so $25 in cash back rewards will get you a $25 gift card, $50 will get you $50, and so on.

Check your credit card’s rewards program. Whether you’re earning cash, points or miles, chances are there’s an option to redeem your rewards for gift cards.

What are the advantages of redeeming your rewards for gift cards?

Gift cards are good ways to use rewards that are too small for big-ticket items like travel. If you’ve only got 5,000 points, you probably can’t get a free flight — but you might be able to get a $50 gift card.

Plus, if your credit card offers gift card deals, you could receive a better gift card for your rewards than you would if you’d paid the same amount out-of-pocket. If Discover lets you get a $50 gift card for $40, for example, you’ve just added an extra $10 to your holiday gift without having to pay for it.

Are there any disadvantages to redeeming your rewards for gift cards?

Credit cards can adjust the value of your rewards depending on how they are redeemed, and gift cards are often one of the least valuable ways to redeem your credit card rewards. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card, for example, your points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash, and a point is worth 1.25 cents when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, the value of points redeemed for gift cards can vary at Chase’s discretion — and may never be as high as the 1.25 cents per point you’ll get when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Before purchasing a gift card with your credit card rewards, take a look at the exchange rate. A $50 gift card that costs 6,000 points might not be a great deal, especially if you can turn those points into $60 in statement credits (or $75 in travel). Sometimes it’s better to redeem your rewards for cash and pay for your gift cards out-of-pocket.

What else do you need to know about redeeming credit card rewards for gift cards?

If you want to use your credit card rewards to give gift cards over the holidays, it’s important to plan ahead. If you’re the type of person who redeems your credit card rewards for statement credits every month, you won’t have any rewards left over for gift cards — and if you’ve got a credit card that offers deals like a $50 gift card for $40, you could be missing out on some holiday savings.

It’s worth checking your credit card’s gift card options, including the typical redemption rate, before deciding whether to redeem your rewards for gift cards. Can you get a better return on your rewards if your redeem for cash back or travel? Are you satisfied with the available merchants and deals? Checking your credit card’s gift card offers before you plan your holiday shopping can help you make smart decisions. You don’t want to end up redeeming your rewards for a gift card you aren’t happy with just because there isn’t time to get anything else.

You should also ask yourself whether it’s better to buy gift cards with your credit card and earn rewards on those purchases. Some retailers don’t allow you to purchase gift cards with a credit card, but many do — and if you want to give gift cards this holiday season and you’ve got a credit card that offers great rewards, you can buy the gift card for someone else and earn rewards for yourself!

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

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15Dec 2018

Wealthy family willing to pay $100k for photographer to travel world – KGO-TV


UNITED KINGDOM (KGO) —

Calling all photographers! Pack your passport and camera and get ready for an adventure.

A family in the United Kingdom is looking for someone to travel the world and take vacation photos.

They’ll pay one lucky person $100,000 dollars a year plus, travel expenses.

The perks are pretty amazing. Some of the places this family travels include, Abu Dhabi, Rio De Janeiro and Australia. Of course, there is a catch.

You have to be willing to travel for up to three months at a time and work ten hours a day.

You need five years experience and the ability to pass an extensive background check.
If you want to apply, you can check out the posting Perfocal, a website that posts jobs for photographers. The family wants the job to start in February.

(Copyright ©2018 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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15Dec 2018

This Week In Credit Card News: A Card To Help Control Your Vices; How The Rich Use Their Credit Card – Forbes


How Wealthy People Use Credit Cards Differently Than Most Americans

Debit cards were the most popular payment method in the United States in 2017, as a study by TSYS found 44% of consumers preferred paying that way, compared to 33% who preferred credit cards. Each time you went up an income bracket, the percentage of consumers who preferred credit cards grew. Among consumers who made between $25,000 and $49,999, only 25% preferred credit cards compared to 50% who preferred debit cards. But among consumers who made more than $75,000, credit cards continually won out. [Yahoo Finance]

Barclays has introduced a feature to block your card spending at pubs, restaurants and on gambling sites (Getty)

Barclays Lets Customers Block Payments to Pubs and Restaurants to Help Them Address Consumer Debt

Barclays will be the first bank in the UK to allow its customers to block payments to pubs, restaurants and gambling sites in an attempt to address consumer debt. Barclays mobile banking users can now choose to block their ability to spend with certain types of retailers, in a move designed to put people struggling with addictions more in control of their finances. [The Telegraph]

Visa Announces Fintech Partnership to Help Companies Eliminate $33 Trillion in Paper Checks

Visa is partnering with Ingo Money to launch a product for merchants and banks to quickly get onto the payment network’s systems allowing fast digital payments to customers. It’s the latest sign of the rise of push-to-card payments where companies use existing card networks to push money to customers, reversing the traditional flow of dollars. The method replaces paper checks or the decades-old Automated Clearing House (ACH) network, sending money over debit card rails directly into users’ checking accounts. [CNBC]

Many Consumers Not Taking Full Advantage of Balance Transfer Cards

Only 59% of cardholders have paid off their balance transfers before the end of the introductory period, according to a new survey from CompareCards. Balance transfer cards remain a popular choice for Americans with 41% say they have had a balance transfer card in the past. That number increases with income. A staggering 69% of respondents with a household income over $100,000 have used a balance transfer card at least once, and 47% have transferred balances more than once. Men were significantly more likely than women to pay off their transferred balances in full (70% vs. 43%) and more likely to get a balance transfer card in general (54% vs. 31%). [LowCards.com]

New Report Reveals Students Still Scammed by Campus Debit Cards

The Department of Education released a previously suppressed February 2018 report by the CFPB revealing that students are paying millions of dollars in dubious fees on debit cards. These cards were made available to students under deals struck between their college and banks, which in some cases paid the school for these exclusive marketing opportunities. In those situations, students paid three times as much in fees than their peers at other institutions. [U.S. PIRG]

Latest Mastercard Patent Filing Covers Anonymous Blockchain Transactions

Mastercard has applied for protection of yet another blockchain innovation–a platform that would allow anonymous blockchain transactions, using a somewhat familiar method. In what has been likened to a coin mixing or tumbling service, the patent application describes a system for splitting payments into separate transactions through a processing server to increase the anonymity of payments. The Mastercard system would mean completely anonymous transaction data. [Coin Geek]

U.S. Sanctions May Force Russia to Sever Connection to Visa, Mastercard Payment System

Russia’s Central Bank has reportedly warned leading financial institutions across the country that they could soon be disconnected from the global Visa and MasterCard credit card payment systems because of U.S. sanctions. Russia’s central bankers appear concerned over provisions in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which target banks involved in “substantial transactions” with Russian enterprises connected to Moscow’s army and intelligence agency. [The Washington Times]

Robinhood Launches No-Fee Checking/Savings with Mastercard

Robinhood is undercutting the big banks by forgoing brick-and-mortar branches with its new zero-fee checking and savings account features. With no overdraft or monthly fees, a juicy 3% interest rate and a claim of more U.S. ATMs than the five biggest banks combined, Robinhood is using the scalability of software to pass impressive perks on to customers. The free stock trading app already used that approach to attack brokers like E*Trade and Charles Schwab that charge a per-trade fee. Now it’s breaking into the larger financial services market with a model that could put the squeeze on Wells Fargo, Chase and Bank of America. [Tech Crunch]

Marriott Data Breach Is Traced to Chinese Hackers as U.S. Readies Crackdown on Beijing

The cyberattack on the Marriott hotel chain that collected personal details of roughly 500 million guests was part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering effort that also hacked health insurers and the security clearance files of millions more Americans, according to two people briefed on the investigation. The hackers are suspected of working on behalf of the Ministry of State Security, the country’s Communist-controlled civilian spy agency. [The New York Times]

Bank of America Will Launch Cash-Back Card With Choices

Bank of America is ringing in the new year with a card launch, debuting a fresh version of the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card in early 2019. Cardholders will be able to choose which category they earn 3% cash back rewards in, from a list of six categories: Gas, Online shopping, Dining, Travel, Drugstores, and Home improvement and furnishings. [NerdWallet]

P2P Dominates Banks’ Mobile Apps in Payments, but Other Functions Lag

All but two of 27 bank mobile apps examined in a new S&P Global Inc. study offer person-to-person payments and another bank will soon add the feature to its app. But less than a third of the apps support cardless ATM transactions. Wells Fargo and Bank of America topped with rankings by offering all 23 features. But only seven, with one other planning a rollout, currently offer cardless ATM functions such as arranging a cash withdrawal in advance and using the app at the ATM to initiate dispensing. And just three of the financial institutions surveyed offer so-called picture bill pay through their mobile app. [Digital Transactions]

Western Union, TerraPay Form Alliance to Enable Mobile Wallet Payouts

Western Union announced an alliance with TerraPay, which will allow remittances to go directly into mobile wallets and bank accounts in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. TerraPay operates a low-value payments network that lets customers send and receive payments across various domestic, regional and international markets. Western Union offers funds transfer services across 200 countries and westernunion.com is available in 50 countries. [Mobile Payments Today]

Provided by LowCards.com

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14Dec 2018

Online ads and games would benefit from more rewards, according to UCLA survey – TechCrunch


A new study from Versus Systems and the MEMES (Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports) Center at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management examines how gaming and advertising are evolving, and how one influences the other.

As Versus Systems CEO Matthew Pierce put it, the goal was to study, “What is the impact on advertising as interactive media grows, and as more people consume interactive media?”

The individual findings — People like rewards! Not everyone who plays games calls themselves a gamer! — may not be that shocking to TechCrunch readers. And because Versus Systems has built a white-label platform for publishers to offer in-game rewards, the study might also seem a bit self-serving.

But again, this was conducted with UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and both Pierce (who’s a lecturer at the school) and UCLA MEMES head Jay Tucker pointed to the size of the study, with 88,000 (U.S.-based) participants across a broad range of demographic groups.

Of those respondents, 50 percent said they’ve played a video game (on any platform) in the past week, while 41 percent said they’ve played a game in the past 24 hours. However, only 13 percent of respondents described themselves as gamers. That “identification gap” is even larger among women, where 56 percent played a game in the past week but only 11 percent identified themselves as gamers.

Why does that matter? Well, the MEMES Center and Versus Systems argue in the study press release that “advertisers that are recognizing the value in advertising in-game may be underestimating how large and how diverse the gaming audience really is today.”

The study also suggests that traditional advertising may be facing more resistance from consumers, with 46 percent of respondents saying they frequently or always avoid ads by “clicking the X” to close windows or changing channels or closing apps. Only 3.6 percent of respondents said they always watch ads all the way through.

When asked what would make them play games more, the most popular answer was “winning real things that I want when I achieve things in-game” — it was the number one result for 30 percent of respondents, and among millennials, it did even better. (In comparison, 18 percent put “if the games were less expensive” as their top answer and 11 percent said “my friends playing the same game(s).”) This attitude even extended to TV, where 77 percent of respondents listed rewards as one of the things (not necessarily the top reason) that would make them watch more television.

Meanwhile, 24 percent of respondents listed “if more games/more shows were made for people like me” as the number one thing that would convince them to play or watch more.

Tucker suggested that these seemingly scattershot answers are actually connected. On the advertising side, “We’ve got folks who are used to being part of a community all day, every day, whether that’s social media or massively multiplayer games. We see users are increasingly connected and are not really interested in getting pulled out of an experience. Rewards, if done properly, can reinforce being part of a community … you can amplify that sense of connection.”

“The introduction of choice seems to make a big difference,” Pierce added. “We need new models where we can foster choice, foster community, foster more aspirational relationships between viewers and brands that ultimately allows content developers to have a relationship with the brands that isn’t so adversarial.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to content and storytelling, Tucker said we’re entering an “age of personalization.” Among other things, that means more diversity, in what he described as “a generational shift away from stories that assume everybody’s looking at life from the same perspective.”

Pierce and Tucker suggested that they’ll be taking an even closer look at the data in the coming months (“needs further study” was repeated several times during the interview), particularly by examining responses within smaller demographic groups.

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14Dec 2018

Convenience, comfort and cost-savings while you travel for the holidays – KTRK-TV


HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) —

Right after safety, comfort, convenience and cost-savings are my family travel goals.
Here are some things I never travel without:

Travel Rest Pillow: I always tell my girls to grab their pillows before a big road trip, but of course, it is never very comfortable to sleep in the car. The travel rest pillow sits on one shoulder and lays across your body for easy comfort. It deflates and rolls up for easy storage. It sells on Amazon for about $25.

Unbuckle Me: Tired of trying to squeeze open the middle buckle on your child’s car seat? Grandma’s arthritis giving her a hard time?

“Unbuckle Me” springs the middle buckle with no effort at all! Pick one up or order online from the Pure Parenting Shop in the Heights. https://thepureparentingshop.com/

Yeti cup: I couldn’t find this cup anywhere last Christmas because it was so popular. Is it pricey? At almost $30 for a travel mug, you bet. However, it keeps drinks cold or hot for hours. Great for road trips!

Digital bag sizer: I use this tab inside my Southwest Airlines app to measure my bag before I head to the airport. Is it really small enough to carry on? There’s no tape measure required when you measure a bag the digital way! Other airlines and travel apps also have digital bag sizers.

Parking reservations: I almost always try to make a reservation for parking. It eliminates circling the lot while you stare at your watch, wondering if you’ll make your flight.

If you’re running late, use valet parking. The extra expense is nothing compared to missing your flight! Valet at Bush and Hobby allows you to turn over your keys, unload your luggage, and walk right into the terminal. A serious time saver! An added bonus: you won’t have to remember where you parked your car.

Safe travels!

Follow Elissa Rivas on Facebook and Twitter.

(Copyright ©2018 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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14Dec 2018

Jewelry store's fake discount leads to credit card scammer's arrest – NBC2 News


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News

Police arrested a man accused of racking up thousands of dollars worth of purchases using fake credit cards in Fort Myers.

Thursday, December 13th 2018, 4:11 PM EST by David Belleville

Updated:

Thursday, December 13th 2018, 4:15 PM EST

Image

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Police arrested a man accused of racking up thousands of dollars worth of purchases using fake credit cards in Fort Myers.

Terris Devon Washington, 27, recently used a fake credit card at a local jewelry store to buy a $13,000 watch, police said. It was a purchase that would eventually lead to his arrest.

Washington allegedly bought the watch at Cerio’s Jewelry using a Mastercard with the company, "Univision" printed on it.

After the purchase, the store’s owner was notified that the card was a fake. The store owner would use that information to their advantage when Washington returned a week later.

Now aware of the scam, the owner told Washington that if he returned later, he would receive a discount on his purchase. So, Washington left, and the owner called the police.

When Washington returned later that day, the discount was no longer available. However, he did get two free bracelets in the form of handcuffs, as well as a complimentary trip to the Lee County jail, as police were there waiting for him.

When police searched his car, they said they found numerous other cards with different numbers and companies imprinted on them.

He was booked on on Wednesday on charges of grand theft.

© Copyright 2018 WBBH/WZVN (Waterman Broadcasting). All rights reserved.

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13Dec 2018

Razer's Terrible New Rewards Program Mines Cryptocurrency on Your PC – ExtremeTech


This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

The internet can be a dangerous place, and if you’re not careful, you could end up running crypto miner malware. Alternatively, you could voluntarily install crypto miner malware to earn fake coins and buy a new keyboard. Seriously, that is Razer’s new rewards program. It seems that Razer thinks its fans would like to donate their spare processing power to mine cryptocurrency for the company.

The massively ill-conceived endeavor is known as Razer SoftMiner, a Windows application you can download from Razer’s site. When you’re not using your PC, the software swings into action and uses your GPU to crunch numbers on the blockchain. Razer doesn’t say precisely what currency SoftMiner generates, but it’s probably Bitcoin.

You get rewarded for running SoftMiner but not with the cryptocurrency your machine generates. No, you get Razer Silver, imaginary internet points that you can spend on Razer products. Meanwhile, you’ve been paying for the electricity it takes to generate cryptocurrency for Razer, which doesn’t seem like a terrific deal.

The amount of Razer Silver your machine earns will vary based on the power of your GPU and how much time SoftMiner gets to run. So, the Silver rewards are tied to how much crypto Razer earns from your machine. According to Razer, an ideal gaming rig could net you about 500 Silver per day. Alright, what does that get you? Nothing—this is somehow an even worse deal than it first appears.

The rewards are… not great.

If you want the middle-of-the-road BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard (it doesn’t even have RGB), that costs a whopping 154,000 Silver. It would take you 308 days of optimal mining to get that much Silver, and the points expire after 12 months anyway. It’s actually impossible to earn larger rewards like the Razer Huntsman keyboard (210,000 Silver) even with the best GPUs. Razer will at least give you a $5 discount code for its online store for just 1,500 Silver. It’s better than nothing, but that means each unit of silver is worth about a third of a cent. That really puts things in perspective. 

Maybe SoftMiner would be worth using for people who don’t care about cryptocurrency if Razer actually offered good rewards, but it does not. You’re going to spend more on the electricity than the value of any Razer Silver you may earn. Now seems like a weird time for Razer to start mining crypto anyway. A better time would have been last year when the value wasn’t dropping like a rock. This is one of those rare ideas that’s bad from top to bottom.

Now read: Razer Core X Is a Cheaper External GPU Box That Supports PCs and Macs, Razer Phone 2 Gets RGB Logo, Even Higher $799 Price Tag, and Razer Announces new 15.6-inch Blade Laptop with Nvidia Max-Q Graphics

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13Dec 2018

Traveling with pets this holiday season? Read this first – USA TODAY


For many of us, the holidays mean spending time with family and close friends, even if it requires traveling. And for many travelers, pets are both family AND friends, so the thought of celebrating without these companions is unthinkable.

Animal experts, however, offer strong warnings about traveling with pets, particularly by air. And since much of the country will experience freezing weather conditions during this period, the holiday season can be especially challenging.

Flying with animals has become more complex than ever, and in an upcoming column I’ll address the specifics of several recent changes, particularly for service animals and emotional support animals. Below are some very broad guidelines for various sectors of travel that can help you better decide if this year it’s best for your furriest friends to remain behind with a trusted friend or relative, or at a reliable boarding service.

Thinking it through

First things first: The travel industry groups animals into very distinct categories, and each category contains numerous rules and caveats.

• Service animals
• Emotional support animals
• Pets accompanying travelers
• Pets traveling as baggage
• Animals (both pets and nonpets) traveling as cargo

As a general rule, service animals and emotional support animals are welcome on most forms of public transportation, including the 10 largest domestic scheduled airlines. But the rules for pets are much more complicated, and certain breeds – such as pug-nosed animals – are banned on many airlines. The most important advice, for all modes of travel, is to check with your veterinarian before planning any trips.

The nation’s leading animal rights organizations are quite clear in cautioning about the dangers of travel, especially air travel and most especially in aircraft cargo compartments. Consider the following warnings from experts:

• American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states: “Unless your furry friend is small enough to ride under your seat, it’s best to avoid air travel.”

• People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offers blunt advice in bold type on its website: “We strongly advise against transporting your animal companion by air in the cargo area.”

• Humane Society of the United States is equally blunt on its website for those considering flying with pets: “Look for another option.”

• American Veterinary Medical Association echoes other experts by providing detailed Q&A on whether travel is right for your pet.

Here’s a breakdown.

Airlines

A recent Airfarewatchdog poll of 1,500 travelers found that 47 percent flew with their pets in the past year. When asked why, 41 percent of that group stated they “simply can’t or don’t want to leave them behind.” Yet many should reconsider this, since in 2017 the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 24 animals died on U.S. commercial flights, while 15 were injured and one was lost. That’s a small percentage of the 507,000 carried – unless it’s your beloved pet.

But there’s a caveat: The DOT’s reports only cover animals traveling in baggage compartments, so there are no reliable figures on pets injured or killed in cabins. For example, the widely-publicized death of a French bulldog forced to travel in an overhead bin by a United Airlines flight attendant wasn’t included in the DOT report for last March.

More: Report: United Airlines reaches settlement for dog that died in overhead bin

All 10 of the largest U.S. scheduled carriers allow pets in the cabin, but there are dozens and dozens of requirements and exceptions, so it’s absolutely vital to contact the airline in advance. There are varying rules for the number, size and breed of animals; approved pet carriers; proof of vaccination; booking and check-in requirements; bans on specific aircraft and destinations (especially outside the U.S.); etc. Fees range from $35 to $200 one way.

As for transporting pets in luggage holds, Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian and United allow this, albeit with many restrictions, and for fees ranging from $60 to $225 one way. Allegiant, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit do not allow pets outside the cabin. But even when certain animals are allowed, it’s still absolutely critical to check with your veterinarian first. The warnings from animal experts posted above apply to air travel more so than any other mode, and experts also don’t recommend tranquilizing animals for air travel.

Driving

Long road trips aren’t right for all pets. AVMA’s advice: “If your pet does not ride well in a car, consider leaving your pet at home, with friends or family or in a boarding facility.” If your animal is susceptible to carsickness, then it’s important to discuss this with your veterinarian in advance.

ASPCA offers practical suggestions for road tripping with your pet. These include:

• Prepping in advance by taking short drives and gradually lengthening them

• Using well-ventilated crates

• Never allowing pets in front seats, or sticking their heads out windows

• Using a back-seat buckled harness

• Packing a pet travel kit

• Never leaving an animal alone in a car, even in winter; the ASPCA notes, “In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator”

Rail

Amtrak provides a detailed page entitled “All Aboard, Pets.” The key policies are dogs and cats up to 20 pounds are allowed on trips of up to seven hours. While this applies to “most routes,” there are exceptions, including Auto Train and Acela Express on weekdays. The cost is either $26 or 800 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. There are numerous rules and restrictions and it’s first-come, first-served, so check out the page in advance of planning your trip. Reservations must be made in person at a staffed station or by phone at 800-USA-RAIL.

Motorcoach

On Greyhound’s website, the “dos and don’ts” are very clear: “We don’t let animals on board (not even Greyhound puppies). The only exception is legitimate service animals riding together with a disabled person.”

The same rule applies at Peter Pan, but with exceptions. Other than service animals, pets aren’t usually permitted, but the bus line allows them on specific routes connecting certain cities in New England with Boston’s Logan Airport and Providence’s T.F. Green Airport. Passengers must be traveling directly, with no transfers en route. In addition, pets must be transported in suitable containers for the duration of the trip and the container must be “confined to the seating area of the customer.” Peter Pan explains this means it should “not take up the space of another seat or take space in the bus aisle.”

At sea

For personal boats, AVMA offers detailed suggestions on securing your pet, including proper-fitting personal flotation devices.

Most cruise lines forbid bringing pets on sailings. But there are exceptions: Cunard offers a “unique service” for dogs and cats with trans-Atlantic crossings on board the Queen Mary 2. The Kennel Programme operates in either direction between New York and Southampton, England, and is overseen by a Kennel Master providing feeding and walking. Reservations must be made in advance, and are subject to space availability. Information on fees is available at 800-728-6273.

Hotels

The subject of allowing pets in hotels can be contentious, and travel blogs are filled with negative comments from travelers concerned about allergies, phobias, pet hair, smells and loud barking. That said, there are many major chains that welcome animals, though of course there also are lots of rules and exceptions.

There’s assistance online for finding the right hotel, including Petswelcome.com and BringFido.com. These sites offer lists of pet-friendly properties, along with details on their pet policies and even ratings. But always check with the hotel first to confirm those policies, and remember to ask detailed questions. You don’t want to find out your pet isn’t welcome when you’re checking in at the front desk. The same diligence is required if your accommodations are through Airbnb or home exchange programs.

Wanting to spend special moments such as holidays with those you love most is easily understood. But not all pets are conducive to traveling, particularly on airplanes, so it’s in their best interest to consider alternatives.

Bill McGee, a contributing editor to Consumer Reports and the former editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, is an FAA-licensed aircraft dispatcher who worked in airline operations and management for several years. Tell him what you think of his latest column by sending him an email at travel@usatoday.com. Include your name, hometown and daytime phone number, and he may use your feedback in a future column.

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13Dec 2018

Cash Back vs. Points: How to Choose the Right Credit Card – Yahoo! Finance News



<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Not sure if you should go with cash back or points? Find out the advantages of each and how you can choose the right type of credit card.” data-reactid=”11″>Not sure if you should go with cash back or points? Find out the advantages of each and how you can choose the right type of credit card.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="
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GettyImages-687045604
GettyImages-687045604

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=" Image source:  Getty Images” data-reactid=”24″> Image source:  Getty Images

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The first big decision to make when you’re picking a new credit card is whether you want to earn cash back or points on your purchases. You can’t exactly make a bad choice either way, because both mean you’re getting something back on the money you spend, but you’ll get the most value by choosing the right credit card for your lifestyle and needs.” data-reactid=”25″>The first big decision to make when you’re picking a new credit card is whether you want to earn cash back or points on your purchases. You can’t exactly make a bad choice either way, because both mean you’re getting something back on the money you spend, but you’ll get the most value by choosing the right credit card for your lifestyle and needs.

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="How cash back and points differ” data-reactid=”26″>How cash back and points differ

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Cash back and points are different types of reward currencies that credit cards can earn every time you use them.” data-reactid=”27″>Cash back and points are different types of reward currencies that credit cards can earn every time you use them.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Cash back is exactly what it sounds like. When you use a cash-back card, you build a cash balance. You could get that cash in the form of a statement credit, a deposit to your bank account, or a check in the mail, depending on the credit card and the redemption method you choose, but it’s cash, all the same.” data-reactid=”28″>Cash back is exactly what it sounds like. When you use a cash-back card, you build a cash balance. You could get that cash in the form of a statement credit, a deposit to your bank account, or a check in the mail, depending on the credit card and the redemption method you choose, but it’s cash, all the same.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="When you have a credit card that earns points, you can redeem those points through the card issuer’s rewards program. Potential options include:” data-reactid=”29″>When you have a credit card that earns points, you can redeem those points through the card issuer’s rewards program. Potential options include:

  • Travel award bookings — Book airfare or a hotel stay in points.
  • Fixed-rate travel redemptions — Apply your points towards travel purchases at a fixed rate. For example, a card issuer may let you spend 50,000 points to book $500 of travel.
  • Transfers — Send your points to a rewards program’s airline or hotel partner, where you can then make an award booking with that partner.
  • Product purchases — Buy a product from the rewards program’s catalog using your points. You typically get less value for your points this way, making it a poor choice.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Some rewards cards offer one of those options, and others offer several.” data-reactid=”35″>Some rewards cards offer one of those options, and others offer several.

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Cash-back cards vs. rewards cards: Pros and cons” data-reactid=”36″>Cash-back cards vs. rewards cards: Pros and cons

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Each type of credit card has its advantages and disadvantages. The key areas where cash-back cards have an edge are:” data-reactid=”37″>Each type of credit card has its advantages and disadvantages. The key areas where cash-back cards have an edge are:

  • They’re simpler and less time-consuming — You don’t need to learn anything new to use a cash-back card. They’re easy to understand, and many cards even let you automate your cash-back redemptions to save time.
  • They usually don’t have annual fees — While this isn’t always the case, most cash-back cards don’t have annual fees, whereas travel rewards cards often do.
  • Cash back has consistent value — The value of points can depend on how you use them and whether the card issuer does anything that devalues them, such as making award bookings cost more. Cash back won’t have these fluctuations in value, unless the value of the dollar plummets.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Rewards cards also have some important selling points:” data-reactid=”42″>Rewards cards also have some important selling points:

  • They have bigger sign-up bonuses — Although both cash-back and rewards cards can have some attractive sign-up bonuses, rewards cards tend to offer much larger bonus amounts.
  • They often include travel benefits — Since rewards cards are more travel-oriented, many of them include benefits to improve your traveling experience, such as airport lounge access or free checked bags.
  • Points can have high potential value — With certain award bookings, you could get $0.03 per point, $0.05 per point, or more. These aren’t commonplace, but they’re out there, and they significantly increase the value you get from your credit card.

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="When to get a cash-back card” data-reactid=”47″>When to get a cash-back card

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="First things first — if you aren’t traveling at least once or twice a year, then you should look at cash-back cards. Rewards cards are best for travel rewards, and if you don’t travel much, then you’ll struggle to get much value from your points.” data-reactid=”48″>First things first — if you aren’t traveling at least once or twice a year, then you should look at cash-back cards. Rewards cards are best for travel rewards, and if you don’t travel much, then you’ll struggle to get much value from your points.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Even if you’re a frequent traveler, you may still be better off with a cash-back card if:” data-reactid=”49″>Even if you’re a frequent traveler, you may still be better off with a cash-back card if:

  • You want a credit card without an annual fee.
  • You prefer quick, easy redemptions.

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="When to get a rewards card” data-reactid=”53″>When to get a rewards card

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One way to look at rewards cards is that you get out what you put in. Here’s what I mean by that:” data-reactid=”54″>One way to look at rewards cards is that you get out what you put in. Here’s what I mean by that:

  • The more you travel, the more you can take advantage of your points and your card’s travel benefits.
  • The more you spend, the more points you’ll earn, making any annual fee your card has less of an issue because of the value you get from those points.
  • The more you learn about travel rewards, the more you can find high-value redemptions that maximize your points.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If you travel multiple times per year, have high spending, or you’re willing to learn how to stretch your points, then you’d probably get more out of a travel rewards card than a cash-back card.” data-reactid=”59″>If you travel multiple times per year, have high spending, or you’re willing to learn how to stretch your points, then you’d probably get more out of a travel rewards card than a cash-back card.

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13Dec 2018

Airlines should think twice before devaluing their frequent-flyer points – The Economist


THE DEVALUATION of a currency is often regarded as a bad thing by economists, in part because it discourages saving and investment. In the words of John Maynard Keynes, a British economist:

Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency… [he] was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

If the devaluation of a currency is bad for those who hold it, it must follow that slashing the value of loyalty-scheme points is bad for frequent flyers. Many airlines are resorting to this trick to boost margins as oil prices rise and competition in the skies increases. Recently, the number of miles required to buy many flights has increased by 45% on Qatar Airways and 30% on Japan Airlines. Six of the 10 American airlines surveyed by WalletHub, a consumer website, devalued their miles last year. Samuel Engel of ICF, a consultancy, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that the devaluation of miles is starting to look “like the hyperinflation of Zimbabwe or Venezuela.” Now many are warning that the move could blow up in the industry’s face.

Frequent-flyer programmes are massively profitable for airlines. A carrier can charge credit-card companies far more for the miles or points they offer customers than it costs the airlines to redeem them. (It basically becomes free money when customers do not redeem all their points.) Airlines are becoming increasingly reliant on these schemes as a source of income. A public filing last month from American Airlines revealed that the world’s biggest airline—with the world’s biggest frequent-flyer programme—was earning all its profits from this scheme instead of actually flying passengers.

But last month Mark Ross-Smith, the former head of Malaysia Airlines’ loyalty programme, published a piece warning full-service carriers of the existential risk they faced if they continued to devalue miles. His argument is simple. As airlines slash the benefit passengers get from such schemes, fewer flyers will make their flight decisions on the basis of loyalty programmes, and more will do so on the basis of price. That deprives legacy airlines of one of their biggest advantages over low-cost carriers, which tend to win customers on the base of price rather than loyalty scheme. “In this sense,” Mr Ross-Smith writes, “the loyalty programs that partake in these devaluations are losing their foothold into the massive cash-generation machines they’ve enjoyed for over 20 years—by pushing cashed up loyal members into the open arms of low and ultra-low-cost carriers.” In short, just like with real money, devaluing frequent-flyer points not only discourages flyers from spending them—but also bothering to save them at all.

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