Holiday bookings up 10% in 2015, says Barclaycard

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The overall number of holiday bookings has risen by 10.3% this year, a new study shows.

Hotel spending rose by 7.8%, compared with 4.5% last year.

The economic recovery at home has helped to increase Britons’ spending on holidays, with an increase of 7.5% in the first six months of this year compared with 2.4% in the same period last year.

Britons spent more on drinks, food and shopping with a 13% increase this year, 8% better than last year.

But spending by British tourists in Greece was down 20% last month, compared with the same period last year, reflecting the country’s long-running economic problems.

Barcelona beat New York and Paris as the favourite holiday destination for British travellers for the second year running.

A survey of spending habits commissioned by Barclaycard found that Dublin came fourth, followed by Rome.

New York, Dubai and Turkey rose in popularity, with New York climbing from third place last year to second, above Paris.

Turkey went up from tenth to ninth and Dubai jumped two places to seventh.

Sterling’s strength against the euro has helped Barcelona to retain its place in the survey, which was based on spending on credit and debit cards.

Barclaycard chief operating officer, Chris Wood, said: “As a cosmopolitan city by the sea, Barcelona has the best of both worlds, so it’s not surprising that it is holding steady as a favourite holiday destination.”

Although Britons are still the biggest group by nationality visiting Spain, the rising strength of the dollar against the euro has generated a 21% increase in Americans spending their holidays in the country, the Times reported.

The Crisis In Greece Seen Through Icelandic Eyes

Published August 16, 2015

In October 2008, Iceland was hit by a ton of bricks in the form of three collapsing banks. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to help Iceland out with a loan of $2.1bn, then approximately 20% of the country’s GDP. Greece, too, was hurting at that time, though it was not until March 2010 that it had to seek assistance and the IMF–in addition to European institutions and EU member states–came to its rescue with a loan of EUR110bn. But this did not solve the debt problem and it received another loan package in March 2012, this one worth EUR164.5bn. Now, as Greece’s public debt reaches 180% of its GDP, a third rescue package worth approximately EUR90bn is being negotiated.

It just so happens that the same man, a Dane named Poul Thompsen, was the International Monetary Fund’s head of mission in both Iceland and Greece. His task was to coach the two countries through a country-specific financial assistance programme, to ensure that their loan would be used to restore the economy. However, the outcome of the assistance in the two countries could hardly have been more different.

The Icelandic programme, which ended in summer 2011, has been deemed a total success, much to Thomsen’s credit. Meanwhile, Greece has staggered from crisis to crisis and Thomsen has been much maligned for the unsuccessful attempts to revive the nation’s economy. The differing outcomes clearly have a lot less to do with the stoic Dane than they do with the circumstances in Iceland and Greece. Unlike in Iceland, the political class in Greece is unwilling to acknowledge past failures. Instead, there is stubborn refusal to embrace changes to the nation’s “clientelismo” economy, wherein public funds have for decades been used to buy political favours and support special interests.

To stabilise the Greek economy, creditors will either need to accept a writedown of a substantial part of the nation’s debt or agree to a debt holiday for up to 40 years, during which time Greece would not pay off its debt. Yet, doing so is tricky, as it absolves clientelismo politicians of all their mistakes.

The fallacy of “happy times are here to stay”

Iceland was literally flush with success in the years following the privatisation of its banks in 2003. For a period of five years, Icelanders seemed able to both walk on water and fly. This boom was fundamentally different from past booms: It did not stem from something as fickle as fish stocks, but from a financial sector where all curves pointed firmly skywards. The nation’s politicians blissfully neglected lessons from the world’s economic history, where bust follows boom as night follows day.

Icelanders’ savings were clearly not enough to fund a financial system growing from one GDP in 2002 to nine times the GDP by 2008. International credit was cheap and easy to acquire, and everything was going swimmingly. With international investors seeking to profit from Iceland’s high-interest environment, the króna became particularly strong. This eventually became a millstone on the Icelandic economy, as the króna depreciated through 2008, culminating in a banking collapse in October.

Despite an unfortunate expansionary policy of lower tax and public investments during the boom years, there was a budget surplus and public debt was only around 30% of GDP when the crisis hit.

Greece, too, was doing well in the years after joining the Eurozone in 2001. As in Iceland, the expansion was driven by a strong domestic demand in an environment of unprecedentedly low interest rates. However, in Greece, the government used the boom years to instigate more deficit and debt, which stemmed from an unsustainable pension system.

In fact, Greece had been suffering from a chronically high level of debt and deficit since the mid 1990s. Miraculously, these numbers dived down to the Maastricht criteria (public debt below 60% and budget deficit of no more than 3%) in time for adopting the Euro. Upon closer scrutiny, this upheaval was no miracle, but simply a case of falsified statistics.

Foreseeable, not just in hindsight

Differences aside, the Greek crisis is still worth considering from an Icelandic perspective. In Iceland, an over-extended banking system caused the collapse, even though public finances had been sound. In Greece, however, unsound public finances eventually crippled the nation’s banking system.

The IMF did not foresee the Icelandic collapse. Yet, an IMF statement on Iceland in June 2007 brought both praise–“the medium-term prospects for the
Icelandic economy remain enviable”–and stark warnings: fast-growing banks might undermine stability. Consequently, the government should prepare for imminent risks stemming from maintaining such a large financial sector.

Greece got a much stronger warning in an IMF report in December of 2007. After the sweet reminder that the Greek economy had grown fast for several years there came serious warnings, that had by then been repeated for a few years: competitiveness was steadily eroding and the labour market rigid; public debt was high and rising because of an unsustainable pension system. As in earlier years, the government recognised the weaknesses and claimed to be working on improvement, according to the IMF report, and yet little had been done so far.

Interestingly, the 2007 IMF message to Greece was: do not be complacent during the good times, instead use them to accomplish necessary reforms and avoid later pain. As the IMF foresaw already in 2007, the consequences of inaction have been severe.

Ignored warnings

Iceland’s government did not pay particular attention to the words of warning in 2007. All through 2008, the Icelandic Central Bank (CBI) was trying to convince other central banks to make currency swaps with Iceland, which was growing dangerously short on foreign currency. Time and again, central bankers in the other Nordic countries, in Great Britain and the United States, warned the CBI in no uncertain terms that its gigantic banking sector could be problematic. The CBI resolutely ignored the warnings.

Meanwhile, the same situation was unfolding in Greece. The IMF and others kept warning the Greek government, which–like Iceland’s–resolutely ignored their advice. Iceland effectively lost market access in the summer of 2008 as no one wanted to lend money to Iceland. Not until late October, some weeks after the banking collapse, did the Icelandic government turn to the IMF for a loan.

Greece lost market access in March of 2010. On May 2, 2010, the Greek government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), receiving a bailout packet from the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Eurozone countries, worth EUR110bn, to be paid out over three years. In return, Greece agreed to follow the IMF’s adjustment programme. In 2012, the programme was adjusted along with a new loan package of EUR164.5bn.

Iceland: from crisis to a steady recovery

During the first weeks and months of disbelief and shock following the banking collapse of October 2008, Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, took action in several matters that have later proved to be steps in the right direction. Alþingi established an independent Special Investigation Committee (SIC) to look into the causes of the banking collapse, which published its report in April 2010.

Also, the Office of a Special Prosecutor was established to investigate and eventually prosecute alleged crimes connected to the overgrown banks’ operations. Strictly speaking these were not measures to improve the economy but it can be argued that this aided the economy by freeing political energy from the blame game; instead it could concentrate on more constructive work to rebuild the economy.

Later on, the Social Democrat-led coalition with the Left Green party, in power from early 2009 until spring 2013, instigated measures to write down mortgages. This helped alleviate nonperforming loans in the banks and set things in motion again. Another helpful measure was a change in bankruptcy law, which shortened the time limitation of bankruptcy to two years from the earlier four, ten or twenty years, depending on the kind of claim.

By mid summer 2011, Iceland had entered a steady growth phase. Yet, the mood in Iceland changed slowly, and it took the country some years to get out of crisis mode. Icelandic households have always been good at spending on credit, but since 2009 households have actually been paying down their debt.

Greece: from ignored warnings to ignored measures

Greece has followed a more unfortunate path. Changes that the IMF had been advising for years before Greece lost market access in March of 2010 were part of the prescriptions in the bailout programme. However, the Greek authorities did not embrace the changes suggested by their lenders, nor did the Greek governments find other means to reach the goals of a sounder economy.

Greek politicians behaved much like Icelandic politicians did in 2008: they made empty promises in order to secure much-needed assistance. Understandably, lenders today worry that Greek politicians will behave as they have in the past: promising all they could and then delivering on only a fraction of the promises.

Greece also has a history of cheating on statistics and giving erroneous information on certain financial transactions–swaps–made with the US investment bank Goldman Sachs in 2001, in order to hide loans and make it look as if the state finances fit the Eurozone. These deceptions surfaced in early 2010, just before the bailout.

Since a new president, Andreas Georgiou, took over at the Hellenic Statistical Authority, ELSTAT, in August of 2010, the statistics have been in accordance with international standards. However, Greek politicians have continuously threatened Georgiou and two ELSTAT managers with charges of treason–for correcting upwards the deficit number for earlier years. Being sentenced for treason could have resulted in a prison sentence for life. These charges have been dropped but Georgiou still faces minor charges. Yet, those guilty of wilfully reporting false statistics have never been touched.

Embracing change, or resisting it

After some initial resistance to seeking help from the IMF, politicians in Iceland have came to value the expertise that the IMF had to offer in dealing with the crisis. Iceland’s governments, first on the right and then on the left, cooperated with the IMF. As planned, the programme ended in summer 2011.

Meanwhile, politicians in Greece have fought and resisted changes, accepting IMF prescribed programmes to access funds but failing to fulfil them. Two committees set up by the Greek parliament are less occupied with investigating the causes of the Greek collapse than proving that the crisis was caused by foreigners and their Greek emissaries, and that Greece’s public debt should therefore not be repaid.

All of this, in addition to the falsified statistics, has caused huge irritation and eventually a breakdown of trust among lenders to Greece. It was no coincidence that there was great emphasis on the need for renewed “trust” in the July 12 Euro Summit statement, which formed the basis for a new programme.

Write-down and securing change for good

Much of the debate about Greece will seem familiar to any Icelander. There are foreign pundits who feel tremendously sorry for the Greeks, and want their debt written down for humanitarian reasons. This, however, seems based on the assumption that things were done to Greece–that the nation’s governments were somehow blameless–which is a misconception. As mentioned earlier, there was no lack of warning signs, which Greek governments chose to ignore for more than a decade.

Mistakes have certainly been made by creditors, from Greece’s first bailout in 2010 and onwards. As the IMF has already admitted, demands for cuts in public spending were too great, causing a needlessly harsh contraction in the economy. A write-down of approximately 50% of Greek debt in 2012 helped, but only briefly, partly because the Greek government again did not do what was advised, nor did it come up with solutions of its own.

Still, it’s evident that Greece needs some form of a write-down of its public debt or an extension of its loans. The German government, as well as the Finns and many other stakeholders, oppose this, but there are some indications that it will eventually happen.

Until some compromise is reached, Greece is stuck. But then again, not much will happen if Greek politicians continue to dig in their heels to protect the status quo, which caters to special interests. Greece is yet to come up with sustainable solutions, and the lenders have failed to come up with the right incentives to push the nation into the right direction.

However, absolving Greece of all its debt, as if nothing had happened, will only bolster the political forces that caused this mess in the first place–and in the long run, this will not help Greece. This is not about crime and punishment, but about a country that needs to learn good governance and sensible lessons from a crisis long in the making.

The Perils of Employment Credit Checks

You applied, aced the interview and received a contingent job offer. But then the company pulled it after checking your credit. It’s a scenario that happens often across much of America.

Forty-seven percent of organizations polled in a 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management said they conduct credit checks as part of the employment-screening process. Of those that do, 58 percent do it after a contingent job offer, and 33 percent after the interview.

But Susan Shin, a senior staff attorney for the New Economy Project in New York, says that the credit checks sometimes don’t even stop there. “Employers are also running these credit check on their current employees,” Shin says. “So it’s not just job applicants, but also their current employees who are suffering from this.”

The top reasons companies gave for conducting credit background checks on job candidates in the SHRM study were to reduce/prevent theft and embezzlement (45 percent), reduce legal liability for negligent hiring (22 percent) and to assess the overall trustworthiness of the candidate (19 percent). Unfortunately, there’s not much evidence to support credit checks’ effectiveness in getting at these qualities.

“There’s an assumption that if you have certain things in your credit report, then that says something bad about you, but there’s no evidence to actually suggest that,” says Jeremy Bernerth, an assistant professor in the EJ Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University, who co-authored a 2011 empirical study investigating the topic.

In the study, the researchers had about 200 people fill out a personality survey, ran their credit score, and then had their boss fill out a performance evaluation on them. “The credit score was not related to counterproductive or deviant aspects of performance,” Bernerth says. “I think there’s an assumption that if you’re in debt you might steal or embezzle from your company. But our study didn’t find that at all.”

Credit scores are traditionally used by lenders, insurers and landlords. But by marketing to employers, the major credit bureaus were able to successfully develop another customer category. Bernerth and his colleagues launched their study after hearing radio and television ads touting credit checks as a legitimate tool to screen job candidates. “And we’re looking at each other as people who study this for a living and said ‘What? Where’s the evidence to back up that claim?'”

While the study was published in 2011, Bernerth is unaware of additional research published since that confirm the merits of credit checks as an employee selection tool. Instead, what a credit check may reveal better are unfortunate life circumstances. A 2013 study by the think tank Demos found that poor credit is associated with factors such as household unemployment, lack of health coverage and medical debt. A 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission revealed that 20 percent of consumers had errors in their credit reports. And a 2014 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that consumers’ credit scores may be overly penalized for medical debt.

The practice also may raise privacy concerns. “Why should a person have to share with an employer that he or she may have had some serious medical issues? Or that they had to file for divorce? Or that they have a lot of student loans? Sharing that level of personal info veers into areas that employers already cannot ask about under a lot of human rights discrimination laws,” Shin says.

To check your own credit, you can request a free credit report from each of the major national credit agencies once every 12 months; visit annualcreditreport.com to request a report. You can request an additional free report if you are denied a job because of bad credit or if you are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days of the request.

3 ways millennials can improve low credit scores

So, young people with not-so-great credit, heres what you can do to improve your situation.

Pay Your Bills on Time

If you have credit cards or loans (student loans, probably),make the payments on time. Your payment history has the greatest impact on your credit scores. Setting your bills toautopayis a great way to ensure that happens, but you need to make sure you have enough money in the bank to cover those bills, and you also need to check to make sure the payments go through.

Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low

According to the Experian data,millennialshad the lowest average credit card balance of any generation: $3,403. (National average is $5,340.) At the same time,millennialsused more of their available credit than any other generation: 43 percent. (National average is 34 percent.) This indicates thatmillennials, on average, have lower credit limits than older consumers, so whether or notmillennialscan afford their credit card bills is irrelevant what matters is that balance-to-limit ratio, which should be as low as possible if you want a good credit score.

Its called credit utilization. Many experts say that keeping your credit card balances to less than 30 percentof your available credit is beneficial to your credit scores; 10 percent or lower is even better.

Be Patient

Gen X, baby boomers and the Greatest Generation have an advantage overmillennials time. The average age of your credit accounts plays a significant role in your credit scores (the older, the better), and even the most responsible young person cant do much in that area if shes only had access to credit for a few years.

Time has indirect consequences, too: The older you are, the more time youve had (theoretically) to save a down payment for a home and pay down education debt. Perhaps youve also had enough time to leave the financial mistakes of your20sbehind you.

Anyone who wants to improve his or her credit needs to recognize the value of patience, because building a great credit score typically doesnt happen quickly. Doing the basics right, like paying bills on time and keeping your debt low, will help you establish a positive credit history, and the longer you maintain those habits, the better your score should get. Age only has so much effect on credit; its really about knowledge and decision-making.

You can be a millennial with excellent credit. You can also be a retiree with really bad credit its all in how you manage things. Throughout your life, your credit scores will go up and down, and even if you encounter a financial disaster or two, you always have the opportunity to rehabilitate your credit standing. Wherever you stand now (you can get two free credit scores on Credit.com), use that knowledge to inform your financial decisions going forward, so you can build better credit and experience the benefits.

More from Credit.com

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This article originally appeared onCredit.com.

Don’t get defrauded by so-called fraud protection

You can take all the actions you need to protect yourself for free through simple actions that you should be doing anyway.

Step 1. To stop theft, keep a close eye on your account balances. If you see a purchase you didnt make, even on a debit card, you can call the bank and usually have it canceled. In the case of an unauthorized use of your credit card, your liability is limited by law to $50.

Banks like Chase will allow you to set up a personalized alert so you get a text message notifying you of any charge placed on your card over a certain amount, say $100.

If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, cancel your cards immediately to prevent unauthorized use. This is why its probably a good idea to stash a little cash at home, or a backup credit card if you have one.

Step 2. Monitor your own credit. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three credit agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can space your requests to get one from each bureau every four months if you want. The time that it makes the most sense to monitor your credit this closely is, of course, when you are trying to raise it, say, to qualify for a good mortgage a year or two from now. Note that only the reports are free. You may be able to contact your credit card company for free access to your three-digit credit score.

Step 3. Stop fraud.

Lets say you get one of those increasingly common letters saying your vital information was breached. Or youre a victim of identity theft from a stranger or an ex.

Call one of the three credit agencies and ask for a fraud alert. The alert should last for 90 days and the credit agency should inform the other two agencies on your behalf. This alert means that no one can open a new credit account in your name without contacting you first, so make sure the credit agency has your contact information. The alert can be renewed after 90 days. And its absolutely free.

(Anya Kamenetz most recent book is The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing, but You Dont Have to Be. She welcomes your questions at diyubook@gmail.com.)

(c) 2015 ANYA KAMENETZ DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

Bristol Advice Squad: Is smart gas or electricity meter right for you?

A smart meter should also save you money. Some smaller suppliers, such as Utilita and OVO, have very good rates and are offering smart prepayment meters to new pay-as-you-go customers. You should always do a comparison before you change supplier, because no single deal is the best option for everyone. Work out how much you spend on gas and electricity in a year and then use a comparison site.

Make sure that you select the option (if there is one) to see all the available tariffs, not just the ones you can switch to there and then. Just changing supplier could save you around £200 a year (according to a Government report published in February this year; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa… ). …/

Once you have a smart meter, the information on the display will help you stay in control of how much you spend on your energy. It shows how much credit you have left and how long this is likely to last. You can set a daily or weekly budget and see if youre on track to meet this. A quick glance at the screen will tell you if there are things left on that you should turn off, and whether you can afford to have the heating on for an extra half an hour.

Before you switch to a new smart prepay, do consider if you would be better off with a standard credit meter (this is often a cheaper way to pay). You can switch meters without paying any fees or undergoing a credit check, and the centre for Sustainable Energy has leaflets to guide you through the process see www.cse.org.uk/meters.

For more information call the Home Energy Team free on 0800 082 2234 or email home.energy@cse.org.uk.

Promotional offers drive competition in the credit card industry: IBISWorld

While these offers put downward pressure on provider revenue, according to IBISWorldthe increased uptake of credit cards as a result has led to record revenue growth for credit card issuers of 2.8% over the five years through 2015-16, bolstered by annual, cash advance and other fees.

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However, the credit card industry still faces a number of challenges. Weak household consumer sentiment, combined with more consumers paying down their debt, or taking advantage of interest-free periods, has led to a lower proportion of interest-generating credit card debt.

Increasing debit card use, from 34.2% to 42.5% of all payment card transactions, has provided added competition in the sector, as debit cards generally don’t charge an interest rate, and generate less revenue due to lower fees.

To tackle these challenges, credit card issuers have implemented a number of strategies to drive up the number of credit card accounts, particularly as the total value of credit card balances in Australia is set to fall. Fees are expected to become a significant source of growth, and credit card issuers are tipped to expand promotional offers and boost market expenditure to win more credit card accounts.

The introduction of new payment technologies has also boosted fee revenue for credit card administrators. Visa’s payWave and Mastercard’s payPass have increased the convenience of payment and encouraged more spending on credit and debit cards, benefitting administrators. As competition increases and newer technologies are adopted, the gradual shift to a cashless society is expected to open up further opportunities in the credit card sector.

I Saved $800 in 6 Months By Quitting Smoking

Dan Baier, 22, quit smoking in March, and as of the start of August, he had saved about $800 by not buying cigarettes. Quitting wasnt a financial decision, but its been a motivating side-effect, which he continues to track.

If you asked me if I thought in a 150 days or however I would have smoked 2,500 cigarettes — it’s over that now — or saved $900 by now, I would have said you were crazy, Baier said. He calculated the figures using an app called QuitNow! (he bought the pro version), but he said he entered a conservative average of 16 cigarettes a day at $6.50 a pack. His actual savings may be greater, he said.

Baier said he didnt quit on purpose, though he had tried and failed at it a few times, since he started smoking at age 15. He got a cold in March and found himself physically unable to smoke, and by the time the cold cleared, he had already gone through withdrawal. He said he hasnt smoked since.

About three weeks after quitting, Baier wondered how much he was saving (Im an engineering student, so Im kind of a nerd about this stuff) by no longer buying cigarettes. He bought packs that cost $7 but usually had a $1 off coupon (Thats why I bought them), and he said he paid full price about half the time. Cigarette prices vary by state and city (Baier lives in Michigan), so each smokers potential savings could be quite different, when factoring in location and smoking frequency.

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As of Aug. 10, when I interviewed him, Baier said he had saved up to $889 and 10 days of time, assuming an average 6-minute break per cigarette. Baier said he has enjoyed following the progress of his savings, which he will continue to track.

Any time you cut a regular expense out of your spending, that money can easily go toward other occasional purchases, but Baier decided to save the money. He and his girlfriend had long wanted to get a nicer bed (they were sleeping on a futon), and that was the obvious choice when he was deciding what to do with the savings.

It turned into us just putting money away, Baier said. Once I hit $600, I went and bought a nice mattress and she went and bought a bed frame.

Saving money is certainly a nice perk and motivates him to stay away from smoking, but he doesnt think it would have been enough to trigger a decision to quit. That has a lot more to do with handling the social fallout, he said.

It’s kind of cool to visualize it (the QuitNow! data), but I feel like it’s kind of a separate thing, Baier said. In the end it’s more of like your will power. As for his advice to others who want to quit, he said: Remember you can’t even have one.

Whether its saving up for a new bed, putting together an emergency fund or buying a home, the goal of setting aside hundreds or thousands of dollars can be daunting. Oftentimes, theres something in your spending habits that you could cut out and put the savings toward that goal, and can perhaps even keep you from going into debt for that purchase. Or, you can throw that money at existing debt to help you pay it off faster. And paying down your debt can have a positive impact on your credit. (You can see how your debt is affecting your credit by getting your free credit report summary, updated monthly, on Credit.com.)

Thats not to say its easy, but tracking your spending and using that information to budget can help you come to terms with your priorities and how they align with your purchasing patterns. Like Baier experienced, there are a lot of free or inexpensive tools that can help you figure these savings out, making it easier to stay motivated in your savings goals.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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Image: iStock

Camden diocese selling 4 health care facilities

VINELAND – The Diocese of Camden disclosed on Thursday an agreement to sell four financially challenged health care facilities, including St. Mary’s Catholic Home and The Manor at St. Mary’s in Cherry Hill, to a private firm for $40 million.

Diocesan officials said the buyer is Center Management Group of Flushing, New York. The agreement does not guarantee all employees will be retained but promises severance packages to those who are not.

“We have reached this conclusion after long, careful and detailed consultations and discussion with a focus on the continued provision of quality care, the continued Catholic identity of the facilities, and Center Management’s reputation for providing superior care to the residents of its facilities,” Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan said.

St. Mary’s Catholic Home is a nursing home that opened in 1952, while The Manor is a residential health care facility that opened in 1991.

Bishop McCarthy Residence on East Chestnut Avenue in Vineland also is a nursing home, although it didn’t start out as a diocesan facility.

The diocese bought it in December 1974, when it was the Vineland Center. On Thursday, representatives of Center Management Group were on site.

The fourth facility in the agreement is Our Lady’s Residence in Pleasantville, which the diocese bought in 1966.

The parties still have to obtain regulatory approvals. The agreement already has approval from the Vatican.

One feature of the deal is that the facilities must operate for the next 50 years “in a Catholic-faith manner.” That means priests remain as chaplains and the Mass and sacraments will be available at the sites.

After settling debt obligations on the four facilities, the diocese expects to have money left over. Remaining monies would pay to expand the Parish Nurse Program and develop other health care initiatives, including aid to the families of autistic children.

Sullivan said the diocese will “refocus its attention to the care of the elderly and other vulnerable people … in a local community-based environment.”

Deacon Gerard Jablonski, director of Home and Parish-based Services for the diocese, said the facilities’ current financial problems were not likely to improve given the trends in “government’s managed-care program.”

“Both ongoing and anticipated financial difficulties, along with future projected deficits, cannot be sustained by the diocese,” Jablonski said.

Center Care Management is a health care management company that owns and operates nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

Charles Edouard Gros, chief executive officer for Center Management, promised a “seamless continuation” of services.

The company last year acquired facilities from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Before that, it bought two nursing homes from Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in New York.

“The experience we bring in delivering premier health care to our residents, coupled with our commitment to act as stewards of the Catholic traditions and practices currently in place, will allow the facilities to flourish,” Gros said.

Joseph P. Smith; (856) 563-5252; jsmith@gannettnj.com

7 Times an Issuer Could Freeze Your Credit Card

Why would your account be frozen? It turns out that there are a few pretty good reasons why a credit card issuer would suspend your purchasing power, sometimes for reasons within your control, and other times not.

Here are seven times your credit card account could be frozen, and what you can do about it.

1. Fraud Alerts

Credit card issuers attempt to detect fraudulent transactions through pattern recognition and behavior detection formulas. In most cases, these systems work well at preventing unauthorized purchases, and your account will be frozen when a potentially fraudulent transaction is detected. According to Ashley Dodd, communications manager for Chase Card Services, There are many variables that can impact account activity. We look at a number of factors — such as concerns about fraud — when evaluating a customer’s credit situation and determining if any action needs to be taken. To prevent false fraud alerts, contact your card issuer before making any unusually large purchases, and before using your card outside of the US

2. Defaults

If you stop paying your credit card bills, then its only a matter of time until your account is frozen. How long will that take? While it depends on both the card issuer and the specific customer, its unlikely that your account will be frozen immediately after missing a single payment, but its a pretty safe bet that your card will stop working after missing two. If you ever miss a payment for any reason, contact your card issuer as soon as possible to explain the situation, and to arrange to make up the payment as quickly as you can. Once your account is in good standing, you should be able to use your card again. Keep in mind that missing payments on your credit cards not only risks a freeze, it also damages your credit. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see whether a late payment is impacting you.

3. If You Cancel the Primary Cardholders Account

If the primary account holder closes his or her account, all of the authorized cardholders will have their cards frozen as well. Nevertheless, most card issuers will still display the account in the users online profile for several months, if only so that customers can track the status of their remaining balance and payments.

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4. If an Authorized Users Account Is Canceled 

If you are an authorized user on another persons account, he or she could contact the card issuer to and cancel your cardholder privileges. So if you have a credit card with the account of a family member or an employer, you might want to check with them if it stops working one day.

5. If You Exceed Your Credit Limit

Making purchases beyond your credit limit may result in your account being frozen. Some card issuers offer products with no-preset spending limits, while others will allow cardholders to exceed their limit upon request. Otherwise, expect your card to be declined if you attempt to make a purchase that exceeds your available credit limit. But by making a payment to your card issuer, you can quickly free up your credit limit again. However, going close to your limit can damage your credit score, which depends partly on how much you charge relative to your credit limit. Experts recommend using no more than 30% of your available credit for credit scoring purposes.

6. If You Freeze Your Own Card 

Discover offers a novel feature called Freeze it that allows customers to suspend their own accounts, kind of like an on/off switch you can use if you misplace your card or if its stolen. Freezing an account prevents its use for most new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers, while still allowing recurring bill payments, returns, credits, dispute adjustments and payments. (You can read our review of the Discover it card here.)

According to Laks Vasudevan, vice president of products and innovation with Discover, One of the main reasons we developed the Freeze it function was to give our cardmembers better control over their account. This function is extremely beneficial for the times cardmembers either leave their card at an establishment, or maybe misplaced their card in their car or home. Having the ability to temporarily freeze an account during these instances gives cardmembers piece of mind that purchases wont be made on their card. And if there is a declined transaction made while the account is frozen, the cardmember is immediately alerted.

7. If the Issuer Is Performing a Financial Review 

A credit card issuer may suspend your account while it performs a financial review. In particular, American Express is known to do this. To pass the review, customers must authorize American Express to verify their income by viewing their tax statements. Once customers have passed this review process, their accounts will be reactivated.

Note: Its important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

At publishing time, Discover cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

More on Credit Cards:

  • Credit.com’s Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
  • How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
  • How to Get a Credit Card with Good Credit

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