Monday, March 17, 2008

Personal Check Security

Life is more complicated than it used to be. Your checks have to have certain information - your name, the name of your financial institution, your account number and the ABA routing number - but are you putting too much information on them?

Security experts now recommend leaving off information like your phone number because it makes it easier to steal your identity. It seems easier to have it printed on the check, since many retailers will ask for it, but that convenience could leave you open to possible fraud.

Here are some security features that you can get on printed checks:

Void Pantographs: This is an invisible Void that only appears if the check is photocopied or scanned.

Chemical Voids: Again, this is invisible until eradication chemicals are applied to the paper, then either the word Void will become visible or the paper will show a stain, making the check unalterable.

Erasure Protection: The paper will show a stain if anyone tries to erase the writing on the check.

Watermarks : Watermarks can only be viewed by holding the check at a specific angle and cannot be reproduced by a scanner or copier.

Invisible fibers and security ink: These are only visible under black light, and are very difficult to reproduce.

Save That Refund

What are you going to do with your tax refund? Before you start planning trips to tropical islands or buying a shiny new car, consider what financial situations have been pressing on you in the past year.

Do you have credit card debt? As fees and interest pile up, do you always pay the minimum payment? Consider using part or all of your tax refund to pay down your credit card account. You will save money in the long run, and have that payment you normally make to the credit card to use for other expenses, or for saving.

Speaking of saving, do you save enough? Everyone needs at least three months worth of expenses set aside in savings in case of emergency. Your emergency fund should cover everything from rent to dry cleaning bills, any regular expense, for at least three months in case of illness or the loss of a job. Consider using your tax refund to bolster your savings account, whether it's for your emergency fund, college tuition or retirement.

Is it wrong to have a little fun with your refund? Not necessarily, but make sure that the bulk of it goes to accomplish something useful that will give you more financial peace of mind throughout the coming year. Then buy yourself some nice treat on your wish list.

The best advice? If you're getting a large refund, it is time to review your tax situation and witholding. Having the IRS hold your money for you is not the best solution. Better to put that money in an savings account where it will accrue interest or invest it in your 401K or IRA.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Credit Card Companies Oppose House Bill

Credit card companies are opposing a House bill that is aimed at making life easier for consumers who hold credit card accounts. The bill's goals are to stop arbitrary interest rate increases, as well as hikes in fees and penalties for customers who don't pay on time or have changes in their credit ratings.

The card companies say they prefer a Federal Reserve plan that would require lenders to more clearly elucidate the terms of their credit agreements. They warn that the House bill would limit business and cause everyone to pay higher rates if lenders were not allowed to reprice the risk based on the borrower's credit history.

Many consumers have found their interest rates being increased because of a late payment on another debt that is not related to the credit card. Protecting consumers from this practice of penalizing the consumer with higher rates on a debt for which they have not been late in payment or defaulted on was partly the reason that the House bill was drafted.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Consumer Confidence Down - Credit Spending Up

Although personal income rose slower than inflation in January, credit card spending rose for the second straight month with consumers spending twice as much on credit cards as the month previous.

With the collapse of the subprime mortgages, consumers who are finding it hard to qualify for loans are seeking alternate financing routes, using credit cards to span the financial gaps.

Many see the trend of consumers turning to credit cards to make ends meet as the first herald of a coming recession in the economy.

With bad news in the jobs sector and on Wall Street, consumer confidence sank to 33.1 last week, down from 48.5 in February.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Credit Card Scam at Disney World

Credit card scams are multiplying faster than we can get the word out about them, and apparently nothing is sacred to a scammer, not even Disney World.

Several guests at Disney World received phone calls regarding Disney tickets at cut-rate prices, purportedly from a Disney employee. In each case, their credit cards were charged for staggering amounts, $1500.00 in this case, for a total of $11,000 amongst the cards compromised.

Disney did the right thing and returned all the money to their customer's credit cards, but this is just another instance in which something that seems safe, could be a scam.

Always guard your credit card numbers and don't give them out over the phone unless you know for sure who is on the other end.