Will that be Debit or Credit?

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Most financial writers would recommend purchasing items using a bank debit card or cash instead of a credit card to control impulse buying. A debit card transaction will allow the vendor to take money right out of your bank account. It is so quick, you can see the transactions appear on your online bank statement minutes after your card has been swiped. This is good advice because spending money that you don’t have can lead to accumulating a lot of unnecessary debt.

However, my only problem with using a debit card or cash is security. Lose your wallet or purse and kiss the cash good-bye. If thieves get a hold of your debit card, the bank will not cover your loss. I am fortunate that the credit card companies in Canada have all adopted chip technology with a 4-diget Pin number for added security. Plus most retail stores even have a tap option for purchases under $100.00, so tap and go is quick and easy.

My decision to always use credit over debt, just saved me $1,470.67 because my wife’s credit card was recently compromised. The thief was very smart, only one big transaction which the credit card company didn’t red flag as an unusual purchase. I always check my monthly statements and recognized the bogus charge immediately. This is the third time in less than ten years that I have had to get a new credit card due to fraud.

The previous two times, the credit card company called me after they noticed some unusual activity. Although, it was a little embarrassing to have my credit card purchase declined but it is better than losing money. My experience with credit card fraud has made me into a frantic when it comes to making sure that I don’t lose any credit card receipts. I always cross-reference the receipt with my monthly statement. We even record each on-line purchase on a separate piece of paper and file it with the rest of our receipts.

Thieves have become very bold! I received a phone call at 6:00 a.m. from someone pretending to be from my credit card company. He stated that my credit card may have been compromised and requested that I should turn on my computer to check my debit card transactions. He wanted to get access to my banking information. Warning bells went off in my sleepy head. What the thief didn’t know was that credit card and debit card were with two different banks.

Protect yourself from fraud

  • Use a credit card for all your on-line purchases for added protection
  • Keep your receipts and check your monthly credit card statements
  • Hang up on questionable phone calls and call your financial institution
  • Use a pin number that doesn’t have any personal dates, like your birthday
  • Change your pin number from time to time
  • Share with family and friends information on current scams in your area

What is your answer to the question? Will that be debit or credit?

 

Moms rule and Dads drool: Happy Father’s Day

Sorry dads, but more money is spent on Mother’s Day than Father’s Day. The National Retail Federation expects Father’s Day spending to reach $12.7 billion. That sounds like a lot of money, but it doesn’t stack up to what was spent on Mother’s Day: $21.2 billion. There are a number of factors that contribute to making Father’s Day a lesser commercial holiday when compared to Mother’s Day.

Let’s face it, the majority of Moms prepare the family meals, so it is easy for restaurants to promote giving Mom a break from cooking by offering a Sunday brunch special. I asked the food & beverage manager at my golf club why they did not offer a Sunday brunch for Father’s Day. Her answer; “We tried it but had to cancelled due to lack of interest”. By the way, the mother’s day brunch is sold out every year.

Father’s day spending is now competing with Memorial Day, graduation and of course, June is prevalent for weddings. It is easy for children to justify spending less on dad who is laid back enough to be okay with receiving a smaller gift. Plus buying for Dad is tricky: Mom is probably going to appreciate flowers and chocolate more than Dad is going to dig his Daffy Duck novelty tie.

The most popular Father’s Day gift: quality time, it costs nothing.

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But Dads do matter: they really have an important role to play

Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know. It is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves and how they develop.

Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are capable caretakers and disciplinarians. Children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat protected against alcohol and drug abuse.

Studies show that if your child’s father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.

How fathers influence our relationships.

Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad. If father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they’ve gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.

Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father’s approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.

As a father of two, a boy and a girl, I have accepted the fact that Moms will get a lot more attention than Dads. It doesn’t mean that your children love you less. Your reward comes from knowing that your sons or daughters will be successful academically, become well-adjusted members of society, be in loving relationships and have good careers. Hopefully, they will eventually become good parents.

This post is dedicated to my Dad who was done too soon and to my son who has begun his journey as a great Dad.

 

 

 

Some money saving tips for cruises

My wife and I just returned from a 10 day Caribbean cruise. It was only our third cruise but it was the first time that we booked an inside cabin. Not only did we save money but the darken cabin made our sleep time more restful. We didn’t miss having a baloney as there were plenty of places on the ship to sit and enjoy the view. (Pack a night-light for your night-time bathroom visits)

Avoid specialty restaurants

Most cruise lines have expensive cover charges for fine dining at their Italian, seafood and steakhouses. It doesn’t make economic sense to book a package but look for deals on embarkation nights. You may get a 2 for 1 deal or a free bottle of wine if the restaurants are not busy.

Don’t automatically buy a beverage package

Most people won’t keep up the drinking pace needed to break even on these packages. These packages range in price from $8.00 per day for sodas to $55 per day for alcohol. Read the fine print, there could be some surprising restrictions such as per-meal or per-day caps and most are not transferable.

It’s often cheaper to buy a bottle of wine than a few glasses but what do you do if you don’t finish the bottle? Cruise ship waiters can mark the bottle with your room number and save it for another night or you can bring it back to cabin.

Go on your own on shore

Many people save money by booking independent shore excursions and sightseeing tours. It is important to have cell service at the port of call in case of problems like traffic jams or vehicle breakdowns which could cause you to miss the ship’s departure time. The main advantage to booking the cruise line’s own tours is that, ideally, the ship will stand behind its quality, and if the tour runs late, the ship will wait.

Seek spa deals by choosing your time wisely

Most of the time prices for onboard spa treatments rival what you would pay at luxury resorts on land. There are exceptional deals that could save you as much as 30% by booking your treatment on embarkation and port days. Plus sometimes, the spa will offer a discount near the end of your cruise.

Steer clear of photo galleries

Many ships employ their own onboard photographers. You can purchase official pictures of your family embarking, eating, dancing and all dressed up for formal night for $20 to $30 per 8-by-10 inch image. Ask your fellow passengers to take some pictures for you using your own camera or cell phone.

Avoid onboard internet

Internet access and Wi-Fi are the more expensive amenities at sea and prices range from 55 to 75 cents per minute. Satellite internet onboard is very slow and it could cost you as much as $7.00 just to read and respond to one email. Can’t live without internet, many ships will offer extra-minute specials if you sign up on day one. (Our cruise line offered 40 free minutes)

Laundry, pressing & dry cleaning

Cruise lines will gladly do laundry for you with prices starting at around $2.50 per item. Instead use the self-service laundry facilities which will only cost you around $5.00 per load. They usually feature an iron and ironing board in addition to washer and dryer. You could also pack a steamer to get rid of wrinkles or hang them in the bathroom when you have a shower.

Tips to enhance your dining experience

We always pick opening seating for our main dining room. It allows us the flexibility to spend more time in port, catch an onboard show or activity. We usually go for shared seating which allows for more interesting dinner conversations and the opportunity to make new friends.

In addition, you are not limited to one appetizer, entrée and desert in the main dining room. You can order two entrees or three desserts if you choose. You can also order appetizer-sized portions of entrees as starters or order a few appetizers for your main meal. It’s a great way to try new foods you’re not sure you’ll like (escargot, anyone?).

Don’t miss the last formal night which offers some specialty dishes like Lobster or Beef Wellington. You don’t need a tuxedo or fancy evening gown to enjoy formal night. However, men do need to pack a jacket & tie and for women a skirt & blouse or cocktail dress will do just fine.

Travel bargains for Americans, thanks to a stronger U.S. dollar

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Most of the travel world is on sale for Americans right now since the U.S. dollar is enjoying one of its strongest periods in forty years. Central banks have been printing money to devalue their currencies. The U.S. Fed keeps talking about raising interest rates which could further strength the U.S. dollar. There is a 74% chance that the Fed will raise rates at their Dec 16 meeting.

First of all, don’t rule out Canada as a vacation spot. It is home to many U.S. hotel chains, retailers and fast food outlets. You can drive, fly or even take a train ride across the border. The current exchange rate gives U.S. travelers a 33% discount and could be as high as 40% by this summer. Being Canadian, I have gone whale watching and salmon fishing off Vancouver island. I have also gone horseback riding in Banff, canoeing on Lake Louise, white water rafting on Kicking Horse river and walked on a glazier in August!

 

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Canada offers Americans a wide range of vacation activities at a big discount and we even speak the same language.  (excluding same cities in Quebec where French dominates) I dare you to come to Toronto and walk on the edge!

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Two other countries that offer deep discounts and speak the same language are Australia and New Zealand. Their currencies offer a 35% to 45% discount for American travelers. Plus their time zone is opposite to North America, our winter is their summer. I am a” Lord of the Rings” fan so visiting New Zealand is on my bucket list. Plus it is one of the few places that gives our Canadian dollar a 11% travel discount.

A few other destinations to consider but safety could be an issue:

Calling all Russian Vodka fans. Moscow is a can’t miss for cold-weather travelers right now. Russia’s ruble has been tanking as its economy gets hurt by western sanctions and plunging oil prices. One dollar would get you 68 roubles, a 32% savings. I wouldn’t recommend walking around with any items containing American symbols.

South America is a bargain, especial Brazil. Pack your bikini or speedo, it’s the right time to go to Rio De Janiero or anywhere else in Brazil. Brazil’s currency, the Real, has lost almost 33% of its value against the dollar from a year ago. That means places like Rio and Sao Paulo are much cheaper to visit now. By the way, you want to go now before prices possibly soar again for the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Have you been dreaming of going to Europe? The Euro is now nearly equal with the U.S. dollar. One euro costs $1.08, compare that to two years ago when one euro was about $1.37 which works out to a 21% savings!

There are plenty of destinations to choose from, so grab the kids and go abroad.

 

 

 

 

Beware of deferred interest credit cards & deferred financing plans

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The holiday shopping season officially begins with Black Friday. Retailers are not only ready with sparkly merchandise and door buster deals but also with a certain kind of credit card offer. These offers, promising no interest payments for months or even years, can be enticing, especially for shoppers making big-ticket purchases for the holidays and retailers are busily rolling them out.

Deferred interest programs are a popular choice for consumers who need to purchase expensive items like refrigerators and dishwashers but don’t have the money or savings. They allow them to make the purchase when they need to and spread the payments over time without having to pay any interest. The overwhelming majority repay within the deferred interest period and benefit from a free loan.

But as with many promising deals, there is a catch. A single late payment or a failure to pay a balance by a certain deadline can trigger sizable financial penalties. If a balance remains, consumers will owe full interest from the purchase date on the original purchase amount.

“These offers are traps for the unwary,” said Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. The terms are “confusing to the point of, we think, being a trap.”

“Consumers may believe when they take out these cards that they will pay off their balance in the time allotted, but that is not always the case, said Wu. Retailers issuing deferred interest cards “prey on this tendency in human beings to be optimistic about these things,” she said, but “life happens.”

Amazon, for example, offers six months of interest deferral on some purchases with fairly similar terms. Users will pay no interest if the balance is paid within six months, but those who do not pay the balance in full will owe interest from the purchase date. In addition, the annual average percentage rate (APR) is 25.99 percent.

Dell charges even higher rates. It has a 12-month deferred interest financing plan on certain products where interest, as high as 29.99 percent, is charged from the purchase date if a balance remains at the end of the deferral period.

According to rules and regulations enacted since the financial crisis, “any retailer offering deferred interest plans has to say the interest will be assessed from the purchase date. They have to have the APR in there,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub. “But there is no stipulation on where or how that is told to the consumer.”

Shoppers standing in a long line on Black Friday may feel pressure to sign up for a deferred interest deal without reading the fine print. Many retailers’ standard cards offer a so-called first purchase discount. Some discounts can be as high as 20% on purchases made the day a card is approved and the following day.

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Deferred interest cards and deferred financing plans may look like a great way to keep down the final tally. Remember, there is no such thing as free interest! Some shoppers who are not careful will end up paying interest for everyone else. Make sure that it isn’t YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

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