What the Future Holds for Credit Cards

Throughout its long history, currency has adapted to keep up with the times and remain relevant in ever-evolving economic climate. And the credit card has formed the backbone of our cashless society.

In the wake of ATM hacking activity and an increase in the number of cases involving identity theft, the demand for new solutions to curb malicious intent is at an all-time high. But it’s more than just the card itself that needs improved security features.

Thought must be given to the infrastructure that has allowed credit cards to become such a ubiquitous form of payment. In America, the credit card system is currently undergoing an unprecedented $33 billion upgrade to chip-based smart cards.

But will that be enough? Experts think not.

The Changing Face of Credit Cards

A recent CNNMoney article outlines the new ways credit cards are changing and identifies the efforts of Oberthur Technologies, a French secure technology company in reducing credit card fraud.

As one of the last lines of defense against such activity, the company’s new prototype will see the CVV code randomized every 40 to 60 minutes via an ink screen display powered by a miniature lithium battery.

Unfortunately, a significant barrier threatening the adoption of the dynamic CVV lies hidden in the price. To be viable, it must catch on with the major banks – and this may prove difficult to achieve.

A single card will be 8 to 16 times more expensive for banks to purchase when compared to the latest EMV or chip-ased cards – a tough sell after the current upgrade.

Another concern with an alternating CVV code is it doesn’t address the need for multiple levels of security, nor does it fit with people’s preference to conduct mobile transactions from their phone or tablet.

While mobile applications will undoubtedly make things easier for consumers in the short-to-medium term, the sector tends to be reactionary and therefore tends to focus more and more on the problems at hand.

Additional Security Layers Lead to Solutions

Ultimately, methods of payment are tied to locality. For instance, the act of paying for an item online is entirely different to the way consumers purchase products or services when they’re within a physical store.

As a result, two-step authentication approaches – which require buyers to enter a one-time randomly generated password – seem to be rather unwieldy in the real world. This means they may not see as much use in the U.S. as they do elsewhere.

This has prompted the development of interactive credit cards featuring built-in mini computers, LCD screens and keypads that are capable of generating temporary passwords. They fill the role of ATMs somewhat in that they can display the balance, transaction history and more.

Once again, it’s up to the major banks to adopt the technology in order to make it mainstream. At present, only a handful of banks across Europe, the U.S. and Asia are offering these credit cards to customers.

A Revolution in Payment Terminals

Forward-thinking from financial institutions has resulted in the health care industry implementing new payment paradigms that provide a “future-proofed” payment terminal for medical facilities. It amends the fragmented experience many hospitals are forced to offer their patients.

Perhaps what needs to happen is a transition from outdated EFPOS facilities – regardless of whether they’re updated or not – to an entirely new payment paradigm.

The bench-top technology encrypts information sent between the bank and the terminal to allow for more secure transactions. This solution suggests that the credit card is here to stay.

Only with the benefit of hindsight will it become clear which way the world will lean, but when $33 billion is spent on overhauling an essentially effective way of paying for things, it’s difficult to see any future without plastic.

Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger who started and maintains Current on Currency. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

6 Personal Safety Apps for Your Kids in College

Because of the huge number of crimes committed on campuses, the need for personal safety apps is increasing. The concern for parents and students is justified, but there are ways to help them. Despite the presence of police officers near campuses, safety is still a major concern and mobile apps can help fill this gap. If you are the parent of one or more students, you should consider these personal safety apps for your kids in college:

1. Guardly

Guardly is a personal safety app for students and works on iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. This application allows students to instantly connect with their friends and family members in emergency situations. All students have to do is tap a few times for dialing and sending an alert. Their location will be tracked in real time. Another way to use the app is by sending photos that have been captured to authorities or mobile contacts. Downloading the application is free, but there is a monthly subscription.

2. Smart24x7 Campus

24×7 is an application that has different purposes, as it can be used for the personal safety of kids, seniors, women, college students, employees and other people. The section dedicated to students is called 24×7 Campus. The application is available on Google Play, Windows Phone, App Store and App World. It can give students instant access to police or administration. With this app, students can get prompt medical support whenever they need it.

3. OnWatch

With this Android and iPhone application, friends and authorities can be immediately alerted in case of an emergency. The app has six functions: call 911 and friends, call 911, call campus police, watch my back, contact friends and I’m here. Watch my back allows students to set a timed alert that can be deactivated with a passcode. The free options are call 911, call campus police and I’m here.

4. MyForce

MyForce is a subscription based personal safety app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Whenever a student feels danger, an alert can be sent with just a few taps. A discreet alarm can be activated by pushing the red button of the app. After the alarm is activated, the software will record the call and will track the student’s location. The mobile operator will consider this an emergency situation and will call 911. This application can be great when students are walking home during the night through desolate areas.

5. EmergenSee

EmergenSee is an award winning personal safety application that can be downloaded from iTunes and Google Play. It uses live video streaming, along with GPS and audio data for ensuring personal safety. When the student or someone nearby is in danger, a few taps will help them to send the streaming data to friends and family members, but also to Professional Monitoring Centers. The application provides 24/7 professional monitoring.

6. Circle of 6

Circle of 6 is an application for iPhone and Android that has the purpose of helping students get out of dangerous situations. Students can include the phone numbers of up to six friends, classmates, or family members. When danger occurs, a mass message can be sent. There is a car icon that can be pressed for sending a text message, while the location of the student is tracked. If the phone icon is pressed, a special message is sent to all the numbers that have been inserted into the application. The app also allows students to call 911 if there is a true emergency.

Find more college related articles at http://easyscholarshipsnow.com.

No Tengo Dinero: How to Visit Spain on a Budget

We’ve all seen this scenario before: You’ve been planning a trip to Europe for years and you finally settle on one European country that has it all: Spain. Vibrant mega-cities, wonderful beaches, great food and warm people make this country on the coast of the Mediterranean a must see for any pale skinned North American.

After all the research and planning, you’re finally ready to set the wheels in motion. But there’ a problem: a financial miscalculation has wiped out half of your vacation funds! Bummer! Is this the end? No, not by a long-shot if you know how to travel on a budget. You need to regroup, breathe, and follow these tips to salvage your much anticipated trip.

1.     Book a flight in advance

Scour the internet for cheap flights by booking months in advance. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a cheap airline, because the cheap ones are known to have a ton of hidden charges. You can also book a flight and land anywhere in Europe and just take a cheap local flight going to Spain. Use Skyscanner or Vayama to compare flights from different carriers.

2.     AirBnB, Hostels and Couchsurfing

If you have no qualms about sleeping in someone else’s house or sharing sleeping quarters with complete strangers, you can skip the hotel and look for good deals online. AirBnB will help you locate locals willing to rent out a room in their homes for a fee. Some of the locals would even show you around town, so no need to pay for Spanish translation services or a guide.

Couchsurfing can help you find locals willing to let you sleep on their couch or mattress at no charge. Just make sure you treat your hosts with respect and try to get to know them. It’s also a good idea to bring your hosts a gift for letting you spend your vacation in their home.

Hostels do the job if you’re on vacation to party. Although AirBnB and Couchsurfing are considerably cheaper, it’s a little bit of a problem to your hosts if you love to come home late and hammered from all night drinking, so hostels maybe the right choice for you if you’re there to party.

3.     Take the Train, Bus and Subway

When you’re in Spain’s big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, the subway is a cheap and indispensible way to travel. Taking the train on the other hand, is usually more expensive than taking the bus, so be sure to check the local fares first before hopping on.

4.     Eat like a Local

Spaniards are heavy lunch eaters. They have a small breakfast, a humungous lunch and a normal dinner because dinners in Spain are more expensive than lunch. It’s a legal requirement in Spain to offer a Menu del Dia or a complete meal of soup, salad, main course, side dish and dessert – all for one price. This is the most economical way to eat in these parts, so don’t eat a heavy breakfast! You can get away with eating a cheap and light dinner because of all the food debauchery you did for lunch.

5.     Visit Museums for free

Many of Spain’s museums have “free” days where you can visit without paying anything. You can also consider getting a discount card if you’re hell bent on seeing all the priceless art on display.

6.     Drinking in Granada

If you find yourself I Granada, don’t forget to drink up! Every alcoholic beverage you order in Granada will be served with Tapas, or small portions of appetizers. You can get your fill with just a few orders of beer. Eating for free never tasted this good!

See you in Spain

There you have it, tips on how to save a fortune on travel costs and see Spain on a budget. Don’t forget to book your flight early in advance and take advantage of early bird promos. AirBnB and Couchsurfing are also great ways to save money while meeting new people and possibly making lifelong friends in the process.


How to Apply and Be Approved for Title Loans Online

Auto title loansYour vehicle is likely to be hugely important in your life. It allows you to get from A to B, to work and to school. It is also a financial asset and if you need money fast, you could use it as collateral to get some money. For many, this is a better option than selling it, as this would mean you can no longer use your vehicle for anything. Using your vehicle as collateral is done through a title loan and you can apply for title loans online. But how do you apply, and how do you get approved? Let’s take a look at the process.

Step 1 – Find a Loan Company

This will take you the longest of all. You need to find a company that offers good rates and has an excellent reputation. There are a few searches you can do to make sure you’re not becoming a victim of some sort of financial scam. Unfortunately, while the industry is regulated, it is still too easy for companies to trick customers out of their money.

Step 2 – Compare Rates and Loans

One of the most important things to look for is the most affordable loan interest rate. Whenever you borrow money, you will have to pay back that amount (the loan principal), as well as interest. Interest is how lenders make their money. These rates vary from one provider to another. However, they are often very high with title loans and you need to find the one that is the most affordable. Generally speaking, the worse your credit rating is, the higher your rate will be as well.

Step 3 – Make Sure You Meet the Minimum Requirements

Exact requirements for title loans vary from one company to the next. However, commonly, you will have to prove that:

  • You are the registered owner of a clear title.
  • You are over 18.
  • You have a regular source of income.
  • You are a permanent and legal resident of this country.
  • You have a bank account.

Step 4 – Apply for the Loan

When you apply online, you will usually have to provide a number of details that will enable the company to check your credentials. Sometimes, you will have to fax a few pieces of paperwork as well, but this is becoming increasingly uncommon.

Step 5 – Receive the Money

In most cases with title loans, you will receive the money within 24 hours of applying. Some even guarantee same day payments. Once received, you can spend the money in any way you see fit, which is also a difference with other loans, where you often have to indicate what you will be using it for.

Step 6 – Pay the Money Back

Finally, you will have to meet your repayments. With title loans, you absolutely cannot default on your payments, because your vehicle will immediately be repossessed. This is also why you should only apply for one of these loans if you are sure that you can pay it back.

Spending Money Out of Kindness: The Girl Scout Cookies Example

So, I was out the other day with the kids, running all over town. First there were sports classes, then we ate a healthy(ish) lunch – followed by a going to two local parks that offered some amazing activities. As in, a big hill to run up and down, a zipline, and lots of playground equipment for them. I’m sure there were more than a few calories burned.

As a treat, since it was a warm spring day, we later hopped over to a local frozen yogurt place. They were excited to go there, particularly with the myriad toppings there that would probably negate that fairly nutritious lunch we ate earlier. But after an active day, I thought it would be a refreshing activity.

As we pulled up to the yogurt place, which was in a strip mall (yes, we’re in suburbia), I noticed a big group of people with a table set up out front. My first impression was that it was some kind of sidewalk sale.

It was actually a group of parents and their kids that were there for the purpose of selling Girl Scout cookies. I’ll admit, my first thought was something along the lines of:

“No, I don’t want to buy any cookies. I don’t want to spend money, and I don’t want to eat that stuff.”

As we got out of the car, a few of the little kids walked over with big smiles and shrieked:

“Would like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?!?!”

Seeing these kids so enthusiastic brought my defenses down right away. I still didn’t want to buy any cookies, but instantly had some guilt.

So I smiled and talked a little bit with them and the parents there, and nicely said that I wasn’t going to buy any – but I hope that they have fun and sell a lot that day.

Instantly, I could see a little bit of disappointment in the faces of the parents. It got me thinking about how I might have reacted if I saw someone reject my daughter trying to sell cookies when she was younger. It’s not something that would bother me much, but there would be that slight twinge of disappointment to see your kid get rejected. Yes, it’s the way life is and they’re learning good lessons by hearing people say no, but as parents we’re not always 100% coldly rational :)

So that softened me up a little bit. But before I could move on and walk towards the yogurt place, a little kid very smartly handled my rejection by asking if I have tried the new toffee cookie they were selling, which was gluten free. The kid was so nice and enthusiastic, that my final barrier was broken down.

At that point, I smiled and said “Ok, I’ll buy a box!”

Yep, they got me. Hook, line, and sinker.

But you know what, it felt like a good thing to do at the time. I’ve actually written before about the topic of whether or not to buy Girl Scout cookies, and had advocating buying them. So, I guess I was putting my money where my mouth – or at least keyboard – is!

If I needed further affirmation, it came after I made the purchase – when one of the parents told me that the yogurt place was offering 10% for anyone who bought cookies. Hey, perhaps there was some karma involved for making a purchase based on kindness rather than need.

The bottom line, and moral of the story, is that sometimes it’s okay to just give in and spend money on something we might not really need or want. In particular, when it comes to helping people, it can actually be a good thing!

My Questions for You

Have you ever spent money based on wanting to help others, even if you originally didn’t want to?

Do you buy Girl Scout cookies?


Walmart or Target: Which Store Do You Prefer?

prefer walmart or target?At which of these two retailers, Walmart or Target, do you prefer to spend your money?  I had a recent visit to each, one after the other, and my customer experience tells the story.

The Walmart Visit

Recently I had to go out to pick up a few things, and remembered that I had a Walmart gift card. I normally don’t shop there too often, but a gift card is of course a good enough reason to visit a store! So, off I went to tackle that mini-shopping list.

As I walked into the local Walmart, I was immediately struck by downtrodden appearance of some of the other customers walking in. Not that there is anything wrong with people looking one way or another, but it was a different scene than what you’d see at other stores in this area. But, I’m not there for a fashion show; rather, I was there to save money!

So as I walked around the store, looking for the aforementioned items on my list, I noticed that the prices at the store didn’t seem incredibly low. Maybe some things were at prices comparable to those at other stores, but a few were certainly a little bit cheaper. Sure, I could probably save a few bucks here!

But the selection wasn’t great, and I didn’t find everything I wanted. Furthermore, the place was dirty. Floors didn’t seem all that clean, and I saw misplaced merchandise all over the place.

In the checkout line, I noticed that the cashiers didn’t seem too enthusiastic to be there. Some of the customers seemed to have an “edge” to them too, as I noticed one giving another a really dirty look for walking in front of him. The cashier in my line seemed quite annoyed at the lady in front of me who asked for a price check.

Meanwhile, there was a grown man in his 40’s waking around wearing pajamas. You know, just to add to the character of the place.

So I bought a few things and took off. Next stop: Target

The Target Visit

As I walked into Target, the first thing I noticed was the very new looking shopping cart. Much nicer than what I saw at Walmart. This was representative of the rest of place, actually. The store was cleaner than what I saw at Walmart.

In terms of selection, I found there to be higher quality merchandise at Target. The variety seemed greater, and the merchandise was organized better. Now, the prices were not always the same. Some things were comparably priced to Walmart, but it seemed like a few things might have been a little bit higher priced. Not a scientific study we’re talking about here, just some observations.

But the people were distinctly friendlier. No angry glares, and the cashier was relatively friendly too. I did get the standard question about whether or not I wanted to save 5% by opening a card, and I declined.   There was even a pleasant reaction to that!

The Assessment

You know, I like saving money just like the next person. Ah, who am I kidding…..I probably like saving money more than the next person! But the shopping experience at Walmart is so dreary compared to Target, and for what I look for, the selection is not as good while price savings are not exactly drastic. I’ll take Target!

I’m sure there are some good quality Walmart stores out there, and in some less-populated areas they may be the only game in town. But customer experience matters, and that pushes me away from Walmart and toward Target or perhaps other alternatives.

My Questions for You

What are your thoughts about Walmart vs. Target?

Which store do you prefer?

Are you willing to spend a little bit more to have a better customer experience (cleaner store, better service, etc).

How to Get Funds for your Postgraduate Degree

Paying tuition for graduate school can be pretty tough, especially if you have a family to look out for. However, you can’t let your financial problems get in the way of seeking higher education. Pursuing a master’s degree is very important if you want to have a steady career and better income.  If, for example, you want to become a financial consultant or an operations manager of an accounting firm, a Master of Science in accounting degree can help hasten your promotion. In addition, it also adds more credibility to your professional career.

Funding your tuition needs can be a difficult task. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s an impossible one either. With the right motivation and resourcefulness, you can surely find the money that you need. If you really want to pursue higher education without breaking your bank, read on to learn more about useful solutions for funding your postgraduate schooling.

  1. Don’t store your eggs in just one basket

Simply put, this means that you shouldn’t put all your energy in finding just one sponsor.  There are a lot of universities and charitable institutions out there that offer aid to students. In addition, you should also search for other creative ways in searching for money. Instead of just relying on one big grant, you can also opt to apply for several awards. On their own, they do not really provide a large amount of money. But together, you can pull enough funds to accommodate all your basic needs.

  1. Get an on campus job

Most universities are generous enough to provide on-campus jobs to worthy candidates. Aside from a salary, you can also get great perks like tuition discounts. You can apply for a secretarial job or as a research assistant. Aside from earning money, you can also be exposed to a lot of new information about your chosen field.

  1. Discuss options with your employer

If you are studying a course that is in line with your field of work, you can talk to your employer and ask for financial assistance or joint funding. They can also arrange a work schedule so you work and study in a more organized way.

  1. Plan early

 If you are planning to go full-time with your studies, you need to plan one year before you actually enroll. This is a big financial commitment, so every step of you plan must be organized. Make an estimate on all the expenses that you might incur while studying.

These are just some of the tips for funding your postgraduate degree. If you can share other pieces of advice, feel free to do so in the comments.

Importance of Managing Risk with Binary Options

BINARY OPTIONSRisk management, similar to the insurance policy placed on your car, house, or any valuable asset to you, is an important element to any financial investment. As a binary options trader, the risk potential that you face is limited in that you don’t lose more than your initial investment. In addition, if your trade expires out of the money, you can still receive a small percentage of your beginning investment back to your trading account. Managing risk while trading can make the difference between generating profits in your trading career or clearing your capital completely.

It’s very important to have a good understanding of how much risk you’re exposing yourself to if you desire to be successful in binary options. The purpose of this article is to look at the importance of risk management, how to control your losses and what risk and strategies to use when managing your risk in binary options.

Why Managing Risk is Important

Risk management is one of the key elements to surviving in the investment world. As a binary options trader, you have the knowledge of how much risk and profit potential you have before you place a trading position. However, this doesn’t eliminate your trading performance risks, how many trades lose, and whether you’re placing suitable investments.

As a trader, you have a certain sense of fear that you can lose all of your money without being cautious. This alone is the reason why most traders are able to grasp such a concept easily; the only difficulty they face is the actual application of it. Most brokers place a lot of emphasis on the benefits of binary options while ignoring the drawbacks. This causes most traders to believe that large, risky trades and big money aims are the way to go.

It’s very easy for those that have a demo account to practice risk management, but after emotions and real money come into play, the game completely changes. This is why managing risk with binary options is important.

Risk Management: Loss Control

A good way to manage risk is by taking control of your losses from each trading position. Understand that losing in binary options is completely fine and normal. In fact, most professional traders lose every now and then; winning each trade every time is not realistic. Unlike forex and stock trading, binary options don’t have a stop loss feature on trading platforms. Instead, you can cover your lost trades by placing a trade whose profit will cover the lost investment plus an addition to your total profits.

Bottom Line

Managing your risk in binary options is all about maintaining control. The more control you have on risk exposure, the more flexible you can be when the occasion arises. As a trader, you should have the ability to act when an opportunity arises. Directing your attention to inherent risks will enable you to continue trading even when things don’t go as planned. Managing your risk in binary options is very important, as it can be the difference between being a professional binary options trader or another chart statistic.

My Experience Switching from Hiring a Tax Preparer to Using Tax Software

save using tax softwareDid you do your taxes on your own, or did you hire someone to do it for you?

The answer to that question, in recent years, has been the latter for me. Up until this year, I went to see a tax preparer to help me get things done. I even wrote about this in the past, extolling the virtues of hiring a professional to do your taxes.

I still think it can be a good idea for many people, depending on your situation. In my case, it had been getting more expensive to get them done, which precipitated my assessing whether or not it was truly necessary to pay someone. After taking a look, I proceeded to take the plunge and do taxes myself this year.

Now, for many years I did taxes by myself. As in, the manual way using pen and paper. Getting free tax forms from the library (yet another way the local library can save you money) might still be an option, depending on the type of return you’re filing.

However, this year I decided not to go back in time, so to speak, to the days of pen and paper tax preparation. Instead I chose a happy medium: using tax preparation software.

We went to Costco, and I was able to pick up a copy of TurboTax at a good price. Paying under $100 for the version I needed seemed like a potential bargain compared to the $400+ fee I shelled out last year.

Yes, I realize $400 is quite expensive – hence the move to trying it out using Turbo Tax. Actually, the guy I went to in years past charged me just over $200, which seemed like a good price. He passed away, just months after preparing my return a couple of years ago. He was a great guy, and made getting taxes done an almost enjoyable experience with his sense of humor and joking manner. So last year I went to a totally different preparer and was a bit surprised by the $400+ fee.

What did I think of TurboTax?

The bottom line is that I found it to be pretty good!

What I liked about it were three things in particular:

  1. Super convenient. It’s not like you have to make an appointment to get taxes done with this approach! Whether its 7am or 7pm, you can work on it at your own schedule. You can also work on it at your own pace, and save it in progress. That’s an advantage over setting appointments with tax preparers.
  2. Easy to use. Really, it’s set up in such a way that you don’t need to know much about taxes at all. As a personal finance blogger, I’m naturally going to be more financially literate than the Average Joe or Jane out there. But still, it’s nice to have software walk you through the steps automatically.
  3. Inexpensive.  This cost me less than 25% of the prior year’s tax preparer expense.  That’s appealing to this Squirreler!

Those of you that have used TurboTax or other software for a number of years now probably know these advantages really well. But maybe you’ve wondered how things might be if you actually went to a tax preparer instead.

Well, in my updated view, for a return without a ton of complications, you might as well do it on your own with the right software (whichever that might be). Besides, by comparing to how the preparers did it in prior years, I think this turned out fairly consistent to past returns and was done without too much time being invested.

If your return has a lot of complications, I can still see great value to hiring someone though, no doubt about that! Expertise matters in those situations.

My Questions for You 

Did you get your taxes done this year, or did you take a DIY approach?

If you did your own taxes, what was your method?

If you hired out, do you think it’s worth the extra cost?