Archive for November, 2011

Black Friday Scams to Beware of

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is the official start of the holiday shopping season. It is also one of the most popular shopping days of the year. Hundreds of companies sell items at a loss in order to encourage shoppers to visit their stores, enabling shoppers to buy highly sought-after merchandise at a low price. Many websites have even leaked Black Friday advertisements long before they’re available through traditional means. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding Black Friday has made it a prime target for scam artists.

Some scams are made by retailers themselves. For example, some retailers will list Black Friday “sales” for models that are of a lower retail price than other, more expensive models with similar specs. This way they’ll claim an item is being sold at a 50 percent discount, when in reality that specific model has always cost the advertised price. Retailers also often will mark up their prices in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, just so they can offer them at a “discount” later. In order to avoid this type of price manipulation, you should always research an item online to figure out its actual value.

Sometimes retailers will advertise a sale for extremely low-priced items, but only stock a tiny handful of the merchandise in question. When a shopper arrives at the store, the advertised item is sold out and shoppers are guided toward much more expensive merchandise instead. For example, last year Wal-Mart advertised a $500 40-inch LCD TV, but only stocked four of the item on the shelves; hundreds of shoppers arrived expecting a chance at the item, but their time was wasted by the dishonest marketing strategy.

In other cases, the Black Friday ads leaked on the internet are actually falsified. Many people may see an ad and plan to purchase a product, only to arrive at the store and realize the item is not on sale for that price. Before planning to buy an item on Black Friday, be sure to double-check the sales ad against the retailer’s website, or call the store to make sure that the item will be sold for the price you’ve seen it advertised at.

Some false advertisements have also circulated on Facebook or other social networking sites. These sites claim to provide discounts on merchandise or offer coupons that can be used for Black Friday, but once you actually investigate the link they are actually nothing more than endless surveys that may be used to obtain your personal information.

Many people are choosing to avoid the crowds by doing their holiday shopping from home. Black Friday shopping online presents its own set of dangers, however, especially if you’re shopping from a site other than a major retailer’s home page. Many of these sites are loaded with viruses or malware, or are designed to steal your personal information. In some cases, the product never arrives at your home at all, or else the product that arrives is very different from what you’d expected. If you choose to buy Black Friday merchandise online, be sure that the site is properly secured and is a legitimate retailer.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can both be an excellent way to save money and buy great products at low prices. They can also be a way for scam artists to steal your money or encourage you to buy products that you had no intention of buying. By doing your research in advance and sticking to your list, you can be sure to get the best possible value for your Black Friday shopping without falling victim to the cut-throat schemes of dubious advertisers or identity thieves.

Before you buy anything this Cyber Monday ask yourself “Do I really need this?” or “Can I afford this?”

No Fee Secured Credit Cards: A Lifeline for a Drowning Society

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Secured credit cards, also known as prepaid credit cards, can be used to rebuild poor credit histories because creditors report the consumers’ credit histories to the reporting agencies. The unique advantage of secured credit cards is that users do not create debt when they use these cards because they’re using the money that they’ve deposited on the card in advance of any purchases. Most of these cards can be used anywhere Visa and MasterCard are accepted and there are many secured cards that guarantee approval with no credit check.

Since debt is strangling the life out of most people these days, secured credit cards could prove to be the lifeline needed to help people rise above their financial troubles. There’s a double guarantee against incurring debt because not only are users spending money that they’ve already deposited on the card, but once that money is spent, the card will be useless to them until more money is deposited. This inspires users to exercise control over their spending habits forcing them to think before they act. The only requirements for obtaining a secured credit card is the applicant must be of legal age and they have to be able to load money onto the card. This means that practically every responsible consumer is eligible to receive a secured credit card regardless of their credit history or score.

However, many secured cards have a start-up fee and sometimes these fees can be substantial. While it’s possible to acquire cards with no annual or setup fees, there are still other fees involved like late payment, over the limit, and additional card fees. Some cards have no annual or interest fees but monthly fees are charged if the purchases made are under the required limits. In other words, there are variations on fees that are and are not charged so applicants will have to read the fine print to familiarize themselves with all the terms and conditions of each card.

The following are examples of secured credit cards that require no credit checks, along with a brief listing of their differing terms and conditions.

1) Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Credit Card: One of the favorite choices because there’s no annual fee, no setup fee, and the interest rate is a low fixed 9.99% APR which is considerably lower than most current card interest rates. Deposits made can be from $200 – $5,000. There are no interest penalties on late payments and this card is especially designed for people with low or poor credit histories.

2) Green Dot® Prepaid Master Card® and Green Dot® Gold Prepaid Visa® Card: No transaction fees on U.S. purchases, no overdraft or penalty fees, no interest fees, and no minimum balance required. However, there’s a monthly fee for any month when less than 30 purchases are made, and there are fees for replacing lost or stolen cards, and for additional cards.

3) Vision Premiere® Visa® Prepaid Card: No overdraft , annual or interest fees but there are activation, monthly, replacement card, and ATM balance and withdrawal fees.

4) Capital One® Reloadable Prepaid MasterCard®: No activation, interest or overdraft fees, and there are no monthly fees as long as $500 per transaction cycle is loaded.

5) Walmart Money Card? Visa® Prepaid Card and Walmart Money Card? MasterCard® Prepaid Card: No overdraft or interest fees, and fees for monthly maintenance, reload, additional card, and ATM cash transactions are minimal.

6) REACH Visa® Prepaid Card: There are activation, monthly and ATM fees but there are no overdraft, interest or any other hidden fees.

When considering today’s economy and the status of many people’s credit histories, it’s understandable why creditors are unable to issue cards that are completely free of charges and fees. However, creditors are attempting to extend their services to as many people as possible by being as lenient as they can be with their terms and conditions. It’s therefore up to consumers to review all relevant information carefully to make an informed decision when choosing the card that’s most suitable for their lifestyle.