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Archive for January 2014

So you've been hacked, America: Ready for EMV now?

Published 2/1/14

So you've been hacked, America: Ready for EMV now? By Georgie Miller

The recent hacking of the Target and Neiman Marcus databases has many consumers worried about the security of their information. It seems like the technology used to store personally identifiable information should be better than it is today, but unbeknownst to many U.S. consumers, other countries around the globe have used a more secure technology for almost a decade.

What is this technology, you ask? It's involves EMV or "chip-and-pin" credit cards. Unlike the credit card with a magnetic stripe (magstripe) on the back that is probably in your wallet now, chip cards contain a microchip. Transactions made using cards with EMV chips don't reveal your account number to the merchant. This means that even if the merchant is hacked, your account would presumably be safe.

EMV cards have gradually been becoming the norm in other countries, especially those in Asia and Europe. In fact, consumers who travel internationally may already have with EMV-compatible cards. So why has the U.S., which prides itself on being on the cutting edge in all things, not adopted EMV already? Both cost and path dependence are likely factors.

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You know you need a new car when ...

Published 1/30/14  (Modified 1/31/14)

You know you need a new car when ... By Peter Andrew

Earlier this month I celebrated (admittedly, it was a low-key affair) my car's 19th birthday. When I bought it, nine years ago, a gear-head friend sniffily observed, "Oh, it's a BMW 520i. Bit basic and boring, but as long as you keep it topped up with oil and water, it'll go on forever."

And so it's proved. It gets routine servicing, and every few years I have to spend a couple of hundred dollars on replacing some part or other, but overall everything on it still works perfectly, and it delivers very cheap motoring. And it's now worth so little, I no longer suffer noticeable depreciation, nor have to bother with high insurance costs.

As you may have guessed by now, I'm fine with older cars. OK, if I won a huge lottery jackpot, I'd buy a whole fleet of brand new ones, but having one of the oldest vehicles in town doesn't bother me at all. However, there are plenty of circumstances when you (and even I) should know it's time to make a change. Here are five.

1. An embarrassing episode

If your teenage kids suddenly decide they want you to drop them off a couple of blocks from school, because they'd "enjoy the walk" (even though it's raining), you can be pretty sure you're seeing your car through rose-tinted spectacles. Maybe it's just not destined to become the classic you have in your mind's eye. Maybe it would look positively better as a cube of mangled metal after a scrapyard remodeling.

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Getting paid on a prepaid card? Know your options

Published 1/17/14  (Modified 1/18/14)

Getting paid on a prepaid card? Know your options By Holly Johnson

If your employer pays you on a prepaid debit card instead of a check, it doesn't have to be that way. Last fall, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a warning to employers in regards to how employees must be paid. According to the bulletin, employers can no longer force employees to accept payment on a payroll card, although they may still offer the option. In addition, employees who choose to accept payment on a payroll card became entitled to certain federal protections.

So, what is all the hubbub about? Basically, it's this: Many employers, particularly those of hourly employees, have moved away from traditional payroll checks and toward the use of prepaid debit cards over the last few years. And apparently, they have a big incentive to do so. According to Visa payment solutions, employers have a lot to gain from making the switch, with benefits such as convenience, less paper waste and significant financial savings.

Unfortunately, the benefits of prepaid debit cards aren't necessarily as obvious for employees. Firstly, according to the CFPB bulletin, some employees have complained about fees related to the use of their prepaid debit card, including fees for ATM use, teller withdrawals and balance inquiries. Secondly, many workers didn't realize that they had other options when it comes to how they're paid. These two issues helped prompt the CFPB bulletin outlining the current rules when it comes the use of the cards for payroll purposes, according to the agency's release.

Prepaid debit cards: It's your choice

Still, accepting payment on a prepaid debit card doesn't have to be all doom and gloom.

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Change in your pocket: Will Coin replace credit cards?

Published 1/14/14

Change in your pocket: Will Coin replace credit cards? By Justin Boyle

Late in 2013, the gadget-oriented segment of the personal finance community started rumbling about a new toy that could bring novelty and an extra measure of convenience to the world of credit cards. It's called Coin, and buzz abounds.

But the ever-present question of start-up tech remains: Will Coin deliver on the jazzed-up promises of its hype machine? Does the problem of carrying too many credit cards even need another high-tech solution? Let's take a look at the details.

How Coin works

Coin is the size and shape of a standard credit card, but there's more going on than meets the eye. Using a special smartphone attachment, you can swipe and store your credit cards, debit cards, membership cards, retail loyalty cards, gift cards, you name it. If it uses a standard magnetic strip system to identify itself, Coin can use it.

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