Should you put your vacation on a credit card?

Americans work hard, but we get less paid time off#160;than some of our counterparts in other industrialized countries. So when we do get some time off, we try to make the most of it by taking a well deserved, and often expensive vacation.

Some may choose to pay for their vacations using their credit cards, but is this really a good idea?

The benefits to charging your vacation

Credit cards are great methods of payment, especially when you travel. A good rewards credit card will offer travel benefits#160;such as lost and delayed luggage protection, airline perks and a rental car collision damage waiver. Furthermore, credit cards are invaluable when renting a car or checking into a hotel, two places where you need to make a deposit against the possibility of damages.

With a credit card, a hold is placed on your line of credit, while those without one must submit a cash deposit or have a hold placed on a debit card linked to their bank account, which can leave them without access to those funds temporarily.

Another reason to consider charging your vacation to a credit card is to earn travel rewards. Rewards cards typically offer additional points, miles or cash back for purchases from airlines, hotels or other travel providers. Also, there are now several credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases processed outside of the US

In contrast, most debit and prepaid cards will impose a 3 percent fee whenever you use it outside the United States.Finally, credit card issuers are quickly deploying cards with EMV smart chips, which are necessary for compatibility with the next generation of credit card readers already being deployed around the world. Unfortunately, this feature is almost non-existent with other types of payment cards.

The pitfalls to putting your vacation on plastic

The biggest reason not to charge your vacation to your credit card is when you do so as a means of financing your trip. Travelers who fail to pay their credit card bill in full will incur costly interest charges that will greatly increase the price of their vacation. In fact, any travel benefits and savings you realize from using a credit card will likely be overshadowed by the interest charges accrued as you pay off your purchases over time.

Credit card users can also get into trouble when they use their cards to overspend. When people take just one big trip a year, or once every few years, it can be tempting to get lost in the moment and spend too much on your vacation. Charging a lot to your credit cards can also have an impact on your credit scores — particularly if youre using a high percentage of your available credit. (You can see how your spending affects your credit usage, which is a major component of your credit scores, by using the free tools on Credit.com that allow you to monitor your credit scores#160;#160;and give you a breakdown of whats influencing them.)

Psychologically, it is much easier to control your spending when you have to present cash for each purchase.

How to find#160;a middle ground

While cardholders should avoid going into debt to pay for a vacation, they can try to enjoy the benefits of their credit cards by seeking a compromise. First, cardholders should set a realistic budget for their trip that comfortably falls within their savings. Next, vacationers need only use their credit cards when they offer the greatest benefits, such as when renting a car or staying in a hotel. Using cash for meals, souvenirs and other impromptu purchases can help credit card users to control unnecessary expenditures. Finally, it helps to keep a#160;smart chip-enabled credit card#160;handy when traveling overseas, just in case one is required. For example, chip-enabled cards are often required by unattended card readers in Europe — such as on gas pumps and subway ticket vending machines.

Credit cards are useful tools when traveling, but credit card users would be wise to avoid just charging their vacations and choosing to worry about paying for it when they return home.

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Core retail spending on credit, debit cards slips in June

New Zealand core retail spending on debit and credit cards fell in June for the first time in four months as declines in purchases of durables and apparel offset gains in hospitality.

The value of core retail spending, which excludes fuel and auto-related purchases, on electronic cards fell a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent, from a restated 1 percent gain in May and 0.2 rise in April, Statistics New Zealand said. Including auto-related purchase, retail spending was unchanged in the month following a 1.2 percent increase in May, while total spending, which counts non-retail industries and services, rose 0.5 percent in June, from a 1.8 percent gain in May.

The dip in spending comes as New Zealand business confidence dropped from a 20-year high in the second quarter, as economic growth moderates. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Researchs Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion said a net 33 percent of businesses were optimistic in the June quarter, seasonally adjusted, from a net 51 percent in the first quarter, consistent with growth moderating from strong levels.

Todays figures show spending on durables fell 0.7 percent in June, from a rise of 0.9 percent in May. Apparel fell 0.4 percent, from a 2.3 percent gain, while consumables declined 0.1 percent having gained 1.1 percent the previous month. Hospitality rose 0.5 percent in June, from a previous 1.5 percent lift in May.

The unadjusted value of spending on electronic cards rose 4.8 percent to $5.7 billion in June from a year earlier, with the average spend per transaction $51. About 56 percent of transactions were on debit cards with the remainder on credit cards.

(BusinessDesk)

Consumer Reports: Guard your credit from thieves

A freeze might be free, depending on your state and circumstances (for example, if youre an identity theft victim). Otherwise, expect to pay $2 to $12 to initiate or lift a freeze at each credit bureau: Equifax (equifax.com), Experian (experian.com) and TransUnion (transunion.com). To review your states law, go to defendyourdollars.org/document/guide-to-security-freeze-protection.

When to use it. Freeze your credit files if youre a victim of ID theft or if you think your Social Security number has been stolen. Consumer Reports also recommends that you place a freeze if you think you might become the victim of new account ID theft (say, because your wallet was lost or stolen) and you dont mind the hassle and cost.

– A fraud alert is easier to initiate than a freeze, but it offers less protection. While a fraud alert is in place, your credit file will be accessible, but creditors must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before granting credit. You need to request a fraud alert at only one credit bureau; it will then notify the other two. An alert lasts 90 days. If youre an ID theft victim, you can keep one in place for seven years.

When to use it. Request an alert if you think you might become a victim of ID theft but dont want to deal with freezes.

– Credit monitoring alerts you by email when theres activity in your credit file.

When to use it. Consider monitoring if a company offers it free after a data breach. Otherwise, Consumer Reports doesnt recommend paying for the service, which can cost about $170 to $360 per year. Instead, check your credit reports for errors and fraud yourself. Federal law allows you to get one free report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year by going to annualcreditreport.com. Get a report from one bureau every four months.

HOW TO RESPOND TO A DATA BREACH

If youre told your credit or debit card information has been stolen, Consumer Reports recommends that you ask your card issuer to change your account numbers; also monitor your billing and bank statements. Report any unauthorized activity immediately. Sign up for alerts that notify you about major purchases or withdrawals from your accounts.

Watch for anyone who might use your stolen data to trick you into revealing your Social Security number or other sensitive information, perhaps by impersonating someone from a company you regularly do business with. Check your credit reports for fraud regularly if you are or think you might become an ID theft victim.

Editors, Consumer Reports

Gaza and Ukraine: Don’t trade global crisis





Humanity had a bad day on Thursday. International tensions doesnt begin to describe the horrors of what happened in Ukraine and the Middle East. We are sinners in a fallen world capable of unspeakable crimes. That isnt new information but, wow, days like yesterday certainly bring home the point in a horrible way.

There are two impulses to avoid here. The first is to feign expertise on international relations. The second is to start spouting off on trade ideas that work when Israel invades Gaza or Putin takes his craziness out for a stroll. Yes, the knee jerk reaction is to sell stocks, buy gold and oil and hide under the mattress. Youre too late. The Vix (^VIX) spiked 32% yesterday. Id say the horse is out of the barn when it comes to buying insurance.

I started out managing money for outsiders and between that and investing for my family Ive been doing this professionally for nearly 20 years now. In that time Ive learned to respect the importance of not making investment decisions based on things I dont know. Im not an expert on international relations and chances are you arent either. But I do know my own portfolio so thats where Im going to focus.

Case in point: Google (GOOGL) reported last night after the bell. As regular viewers know Im long the stock and have been for a while. Revenues were strong but Google missed analyst estimates for the third straight quarter. During that time the stock is up by more than 25%. Google has transcended quarterly earnings and good for them for having done it. Because I know Google I also feel very comfortable saying their long-term fortunes arent reliant on peace in the Middle East or Ukraine. Google shares will certainly be impacted by a choppy market but their core business is strong. Because I did my homework I dont feel any urge to panic out of the stock, regardless of what happens to it today.

Im not telling you to buy Google. I am suggesting that in times of global crisis your investing focus should be at home. Before you sell everything and hide, run though your portfolio position by position and asses your risk / reward. Control your emotions by sticking to what you know, not dwelling on what is unknowable even to experts. Thats how you control your emotions and to the extent possible in these horrible times your financial destiny.

More from Yahoo Finance:
Ukraine crash: Dont overreact to markets volatility spike

Equifax Reports Home Finance Write-Offs Decrease More Than 37% in One Year





ATLANTA, July 2, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — According to the latest Equifax (EFX) National Consumer Credit Trends Report, the total balance of home finance write-offs year-to-date in May is $43.5 billion, a seven-year low and a decrease of more than 37% from the same time period a year ago. Home finance includes first mortgage and home equity installment and revolving lines of credit.

Year-over-year changes in home financing total delinquencies (30 or more days past due), measured as a percentage of outstanding balances, include:

  • First mortgage: decreased 29% (from 6.4% to 4.6%);
  • Home equity installment: decreased 27% (from 5.2% to 3.9%); and
  • Home equity revolving: decreased 10% (from 2.7% to 2.4%).

Households continue to improve their financial situation, said Dennis Carlson, Deputy Chief Economist at Equifax. Delinquencies for nearly every credit sector are at the lowest point since prior to the Great Recession, with home finance leading the charge. Additionally, originations have increased as well, suggesting that consumers are ready to either rebuild or expand, depending on the circumstances they found themselves in when the dust cleared.

Other highlights from the most recent Equifax data include:

Home finance

  • The total balance of first mortgages 90 or more days past due or in foreclosure is less than $230 billion, a six year low and a decrease of 30% from same time a year ago;
  • The total credit limit of newly originated home equity revolving lines in Q1 2014 is $23.4 billion, a six-year high and an increase of 15.5% from same time a year ago;
  • Of total severely delinquent home equity revolving loan balances, nearly 70% are from loans originated from 2005-2007; and
  • The total balance of home equity installment loans increased 8.3% from April to May 2014, realizing its first month-over-month increase this year.

Bank-issued credit card

  • The total number of new cards issued year-to-date in Q1 2014 is 11.3 million, a six-year high and an increase of 17.2% from same time a year ago;
  • Similarly, the total new credit originated in that same time is $57.1 billion, also a six-year high and an increase of 24.4% from Q1 2013;
  • Accounts 60-or-more-days past due (excluding write-offs) as a percentage of total loans is 0.99%, a year-over-year decrease of 9.5% and the lowest since 2005.

Auto

  • The total number of new loans originated in Q1 of 2014 is 6 million, an eight-year high and a 5.6% increase from Q1 2013.
  • The total balance of new loans originated in the same time is $120 billion, also an eight-year high and an increase of 7.3% from Q1 2013; and
  • Write-offs represent 2.26% of total outstanding balances in May 2014, a decrease of 1% from same time a year ago.

About Equifax, Inc.

Equifax is a global leader in consumer, commercial and workforce information solutions that provide businesses of all sizes and consumers with insight and information they can trust. Equifax organizes and assimilates data on more than 600 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide. The companys significant investments in differentiated data, its expertise in advanced analytics to explore and develop new multi-source data solutions, and its leading-edge proprietary technology enable it to create and deliver unparalleled customized insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax operates or has investments in 19 countries and is a member of Standard Poors (SP) 500(R) Index. Its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol EFX. In 2013, Equifax was named a Bloomberg BusinessWeek Top 50 company, was #3 in Fortunes Most Admired list in its category, and was named to InfoWeek 500 as well as the FinTech 100. For more information, please visit www.equifax.com.

Why a $118.5 million apartment is an easier sell than an $11 million one





The super-rich are using a new tactic to unload their multi-million dollar properties. Rather than putting a penthouse on the market for a measly $11 million, they’re combining these already-pricey properties into even more extravagant, luxury homes and selling them at huge multiples of what just one apartment would cost.

Yahoo Finance spoke with real estate broker and host of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” Ryan Serhant, about this strategy and why a $118.5-million dollar specialized listing could be an easier sell than a standard penthouse in New York City.

Serhant says buyers at this level of high-end real estate want options. He currently has the exclusive listing for the most expensive penthouse in New York. It’s on the top two floors of the Ritz-Carlton in New York’s Battery Park neighborhood in lower Manhattan.

A mere $118.5 million will get you more than 15,000 square feet inside, plus another 2,200 square feet of private outdoor space. The listing combines not one, not two, but three penthouse apartments in the ultra-luxury building. The owners of one of the apartments, which would be listed at around $11 million on its own, bought a neighbor’s apartment and struck a deal with another neighbor to put all three on the market for more than $118.5 million.

If combined, the three separate penthouses could potentially create a space with 12 or more bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and at least three kitchens. But who needs to cook when you have the services of the global luxury brand, The Ritz-Carlton, just a couple of floors down at your beck and call.

So how is that eye-popping price tag more marketable than an individual apartment at a relatively cheaper price? The Nest Seekers International broker says, “You’re getting three homes which you can use separately… or you’re combining them into one massive home which might actually be one of the largest homes in NYC if created.”

Serhant says the clientele for such high-end properties like the idea of being able to customize their home into whatever suits their lifestyle. He says he’s seeing a lot of potential buyers already, from far-flung cities such as Moscow and Cape Town as well as closer to home in NYC and surrounding suburbs in Long Island and New Jersey.

Earlier this year, wealthy Egyptian businessman Nassef Sawiris, broke the record for the priciest co-op sale in New York City history when he paid $70 million for a penthouse on Fifth Avenue. Another record-breaking foreign purchase took place in 2011 – this one the highest price ever paid for a condo, when Russian magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev paid $88 million for former Citigroup Chairman Sandy Weill’s Central Park West apartment.

In his career, Serhant has seen his clients’ tastes run wild as wealthy people like to customize their homes and possessions. “I have people who have taken 747s and have spent two years to gut-renovate the interior of the airplane so it could be exactly the way they need it. Apartments are no different. You want to buy something that just doesn’t exist. So here’s the opportunity to create a bespoke home with views that are as far as Kansas and even South America.” Well, maybe not quite that far.

Watch Yahoo Finance this week for more from Serhant, including an insider’s look at the influx of foreign investors into the American real estate market. Some are using the apartments as homes, but others are using them as a place to park their cash.

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Credit Cards for Students and Younger Borrowers

For students and younger borrowers, choosing a credit card can seem like a daunting task. According to studies from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), most borrowers in this category will choose a credit card based on advertised incentives and little else. But this type of behavior can lead to negative outcomes that can put younger borrowers on a path to record an unfavorable credit history, right from the beginning. 

For these reasons, college students and new borrowers must learn to look past the advertised offers and focus instead on the details that will define the terms actually seen during the cardholding period. This might seem difficult to those with limited lending experience but this is critical if you expect to start building a strong credit history. Luckily, there are many reputable resources available that are designed to help new lenders understand the terms of your credit cards and to select the lending companies that are best suited to meet your needs. Resources like Bestcredit.net can be used to research the various options available, and even to learn strategies in re-building your credit score after experiencing financial troubles in the past.

Learn to Look Past the Initial Offers

The unfortunate reality is that the benefits seen in most credit card offers expire after a set period of time. Once this expiration occurs, the borrower might then be forced to accept an entirely new set of terms that are much less favorable. One classic example is the 0% interest rate credit card. Typically, these incentives (which do offer great value) will last for six months, and then revert to a much higher interest rate once the initial benefits expire. In many cases, this changing interest rate will be higher than what is offered by other credit card companies.

For those holding a rolling balance, this can completely erase any savings that were seen during the introductory period of 0% interest rates. So, while the initial offer would catch anyones attention and can be used to avoid extra interest fees for those unable to pay off their credit card balances each month, it must be remembered that all of these benefits can be removed after a certain period of time. According to Credit.com , borrowers in the 18 to 24 age bracket spend nearly one-third of their income on debt payments. This is largely because of the added debt costs that are associated with the cost of college tuition. But it should be understood that this figure has nearly doubled since 1992, and this trend shows no signs of reversing any time soon.

Debt Difficulties for Students

College costs can make up one of the most significant investments in a persons life, and if our debt obligations are not managed properly, it quickly becomes easy to fall into a downward debt spiral that can last a lifetime. College students are often forced to pay a larger portion of their income to repay these debts than any other age demographic. This is unfortunate because this is also the time in our lives when we have the least experience in managing these repayment obligations. All of this means that it is important during these times  now more than ever  to truly understand what you are getting into when you sign off on a new credit card agreement. One of the easiest mistakes is to assume that all credit cards are relatively similar, and that any differences in the exact terms will be negligible.

Unfortunately, this is not even close to being the reality as some credit card companies are much more reputable that others. For those that do not hold a revolving balance, the potentially negative effects can be limited as there will be fewer obligations for you to meet. But since this characteristic does not match up with the majority of borrowers in this age group, additional research needs to be conducted before any agreements are signed or any real money is spent. For these reasons, all available resources should be utilized. Websites like BestCredit.net allow borrowers to compare credit cards based on a large number of benefits and demographic categories. Not all websites have access to information that is essential for college students, so it is important to make sure that the information you are reading is relevant for your individual situation. Ultimately, it is important to remember that choosing the right credit card is not as complicated as it seems as long as some necessary research is done early on.

Guard your credit from thieves

After Target and Neiman Marcus told tens of millions of shoppers that their credit and debit card information had been stolen, the retailers offered them a year of free credit monitoring, Consumer Reports notes. But that service does little more than give consumers a false sense of security because it does nothing to protect them from fraudulent charges on their credit and debit card accounts.

More than 85 percent of identity theft cases involve existing account fraud, according to the Department of Justice. Credit monitoring, security freezes and fraud alerts are designed to thwart much less common — but much more serious — new-account fraud.

In that type of identity theft, a crook uses your Social Security number and other personal information to open credit accounts in your name. If it happens to you, its worth considering credit monitoring, along with a security freeze or fraud alert. Consumer Reports explains what each does:

•A security freeze prevents most credit card issuers and lenders from reviewing your credit history. Without that, lenders probably wont issue new credit, so criminals cant set up fraudulent accounts in your name. But it also shuts out most of those people who have a legitimate need to access your file, such as lenders youve asked for credit, telecom companies and insurers. To give them access, you have to lift the freeze.

A freeze might be free, depending on your state and circumstances (for example, if youre an identity theft victim). Otherwise, expect to pay $2 to $12 to initiate or lift a freeze at each credit bureau: Equifax (equifax.com), Experian (experian.com) and TransUnion (transunion.com). To review your states law, go to defendyourdollars.org/document/guide-to-security-freeze-protection.

When to use it. Freeze your credit files if youre a victim of ID theft or if you think your Social Security number has been stolen. Consumer Reports also recommends that you place a freeze if you think you might become the victim of new account ID theft (say, because your wallet was lost or stolen) and you dont mind the hassle and cost.

• A fraud alert is easier to initiate than a freeze, but it offers less protection. While a fraud alert is in place, your credit file will be accessible, but creditors must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before granting credit. You need to request a fraud alert at only one credit bureau; it will then notify the other two. An alert lasts 90 days. If youre an ID theft victim, you can keep one in place for seven years.

When to use it. Request an alert if you think you might become a victim of ID theft but dont want to deal with freezes.

•Credit monitoring alerts you by email when theres activity in your credit file.

When to use it. Consider monitoring if a company offers it free after a data breach. Otherwise, Consumer Reports doesnt recommend paying for the service, which can cost about $170 to $360 per year. Instead, check your credit reports for errors and fraud yourself. Federal law allows you to get one free report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year by going to annualcreditreport.com. Get a report from one bureau every four months.

How to respond to a data breach

If youre told your credit or debit card information has been stolen, Consumer Reports recommends that you ask your card issuer to change your account numbers; also monitor your billing and bank statements. Report any unauthorized activity immediately. Sign up for alerts that notify you about major purchases or withdrawals from your accounts.

Watch for anyone who might use your stolen data to trick you into revealing your Social Security number or other sensitive information, perhaps by impersonating someone from a company you regularly do business with. Check your credit reports for fraud regularly if you are or think you might become an ID theft victim.

Spending on credit and debit cards slips

New Zealand core retail spending on debit and credit cards fell in June for the first time in four months as declines in purchases of durables and apparel offset gains in hospitality.

The value of core retail spending, which excludes fuel and auto-related purchases, on electronic cards fell a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent, from a restated 1 percent gain in May and 0.2 rise in April, Statistics New Zealand said. Including auto-related purchase, retail spending was unchanged in the month following a 1.2 percent increase in May, while total spending, which counts non-retail industries and services, rose 0.5 percent in June, from a 1.8 percent gain in May.

The dip in spending comes as New Zealand business confidence dropped from a 20-year high in the second quarter, as economic growth moderates. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Researchs Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion said a net 33 percent of businesses were optimistic in the June quarter, seasonally adjusted, from a net 51 percent in the first quarter, consistent with growth moderating from strong levels.

This is What Happens If You Never Check Your Credit Report

There’s no good reason to make your life more difficult, but that’s exactly what can happen if you never look at your credit report.

Pulling your credit report may not be the most exciting thing on your to-do list, but its easy and its free. Not to mention that if you never take the time to review it, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of annoying, time-consuming hiccups when trying to make financial decisions in the future.

Lets look at what you could encounter if you never check your credit report:

You’ll Be Unprepared

Read as much as you want about credit — though that seems unlikely if youre not checking your own credit — but experience is the best way to understand how credit works.

If you never look at your credit report, you may have a harder time grasping exactly what affects your credit standing and how you can make changes to improve it. Trying to gauge progress on something you dont measure is an unnecessarily challenging way to manage your finances, and on top of that, you likely wont know if certain areas of your credit profile need attention.

When you apply for credit, you want to know what a potential lender will see on your credit report and be prepared to explain anything negative, like collections accounts or a history of missed payments. If there are errors on your credit report, you will want to correct those ahead of time, otherwise you may be denied a loan as a result of the inaccurate information.

You Could Get Robbed

You know who loves people who dont check their credit? Identity thieves.

If someone has stolen your Social Security number, they can (read: will) open fraudulent accounts, perhaps racking up massive amounts of debt and trashing your credit along the way. Of course, if youre not checking it, youre probably unaware of all the damage being done. While your credit scores tank, someone else is getting a free ride in your name. Heres an explainer on how credit monitoring helps you avoid identity theft and why thats a very good thing.

You’ll Miss Out

Say you want to buy a home. You start shopping around, and you find the perfect place, but when you start doing the paperwork, you realize there are some issues with your credit that will likely prevent you from getting approved. Whether its errors or negative items on your report, you may not have enough time to address the issues to get the loan when you want it. This can affect anyone, not just people who are applying for large loans.

If youre renting, landlords check your credit, and because the rental market turns over extremely quickly, youll likely to miss out on the place you want if your credit isnt in good shape. Depending on the state of your credit report, you may need several months or longer to make necessary improvements before applying for loans. It takes time — make sure you know the truth about credit repair before seeking help — and the only way to have enough time to improve your credit is to plan ahead.

Everyone is entitled to free annual credit reports from the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), and there are other circumstances under which you can get them more often. You can check your free credit scores more often — you get updates every 30 days through Credit.com — which allows you to see how your behavior impacts your scores from month to month. Fluctuations are normal, but if you want to make big strides toward better credit, you need to be able to track your progress.

Read More from Credit.com

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