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Choosing the right card depends on how the student is going to use it -- and always watch out for fees.

By Karen Datko Feb 12, 2010 10:15AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


Prepaid cards are gaining popularity among college students (and their parents) for several reasons.


First, with a prepaid card, you don't have the risk of going deep into debt or facing high interest payments or late fees. Second, if parents are involved in the finances, they can easily add money to the card online. And finally, under the new credit card law that goes into effect this month, students do not need parental consent to get a prepaid card as they might for a traditional credit card.

Prepaid cards, including prepaid credit and prepaid debit cards, act like a debit card but without the bank account. Prepaid cards are part of either the Visa or MasterCard network and are accepted just about anywhere. They can also be used at ATMs or to shop online.


But picking a prepaid card can seem overwhelming. There are literally dozens of cards to choose from, and the fees that these cards charge and the options they offer can be difficult to compare. To help you sort through those options, we've put together a checklist of things to consider and a few suggested cards that seem well-suited for college students.


Alert: Your credit card issuer wants you to sign up for this plan. But who really benefits?

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2010 8:31PM

Those long-awaited federal credit card rules take effect later this month, so look for credit card companies to have some new tricks up their sleeves. Among them: They’ll ask you to sign up for over-the-limit protection and make it sound like a sweet deal. A privilege. Something you know you deserve.

Here’s why: Starting Feb. 22, your card issuer can no longer charge an over-limit fee unless you agree to it first. (A similar rule will apply to checking accounts in July.)


Lender would accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure, let homeowners stay for six months and help pay for relocation.

By Teresa Mears Feb 11, 2010 4:51PM

CitiMortgage has come up with a new kinder, gentler foreclosure program for homeowners in states hard hit by the real estate bust.


The program doesn't actually call for foreclosure, but a deed in lieu of foreclosure, in which the lender agrees to take back the home and forgive the debt without going through the foreclosure process. Citi’s pilot program is aimed at borrowers who don’t want to keep their homes, such as those who might pursue a strategic default rather than keep a home with a mortgage that far exceeds the home’s value.


Getting caught by a camera for speeding or running a red light really irks some people. But why can't we just drive better?

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2010 3:38PM

When we first heard about photo radar years ago, we were perplexed about why it irritated drivers so much. The machine catches you driving 45 mph in a school zone, so pay the fine and slow down, we thought. What’s all the fuss about?


Recent events suggest the fuss is just warming up.


Heading for Vancouver? Getting a deal on tickets requires speed, cash -- and a tolerance for crowds.

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2010 11:28AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics start Feb. 12, and consumers hunting for tickets still have a shot at snagging gold-medal bargains -- but don’t buy tickets until you’re sure you can get a place to stay.

Last-minute demand has been very strong, says Mark Lewis, president of Jet Set Sports and, which sells corporate and public Olympic ticket packages. The good and bad news for travelers is, Vancouver is a more economical and accessible destination than the 2008 summer games in Beijing. That means hotels could be harder to come by and crowds might be bigger. “It’s practically in the backyard,” says Lewis. (With train, bus and car access, Americans on the West Coast can even manage the excursion into Canada as a quick day trip.)


Still, with more than 200 events spread out over 17 days, there should be opportunities for travelers to find a good deal, no matter what their budget. “You can pick a la carte to create the experience you want to have,” says Mike Janes, chief executive of ticket search engine Here’s what to look for:


Unlike investing in stocks, there's nothing glamorous about building savings for the unexpected.

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2010 10:31AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


Tim writes in:

We are working on our emergency fund. We put almost all of our extra income into the fund. The problem that I am wrestling with is that it is hard to watch opportunities go by while we work on this fund. It will take a year or two to fully fund our emergency fund .... Example, I really wanted to buy some Ford stock when it was at $4/share. I was pretty sure that over the next year it would do well, but it is a risk and at the time we were starting our fund. It has hit $12 per share in about a year. I know there will be other opportunities like this, but it is hard to watch a missed opportunity.
Do you think the emergency fund should be fully funded before buying opportunities?

We love our pets. And what says love like money?

By Janet Paskin Feb 11, 2010 10:19AM

Have you ever heard a dog cough? It's a dry, hacking, wheezing thing, like a 90-year-old man with a hairball. It. Is. Horrible. Which may be why, when our dog, Lucy, caught a cold this winter, we bought her antibiotics, yes, and also a $50 bottle of doggie echinacea.

While that's embarrassing and we'll never do it again (we swear!), we're not alone in indulging our furriest family member. Americans spend $43.2 billion a year on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association, enough to build an oil-and-gas pipeline, close the budget deficit in California twice over, or bail out a major multinational bank.


But a closer look at who's spending how much might surprise you.


Expect 5 trends as banks look for new ways to make money and attract new customers.

By Karen Datko Feb 10, 2010 4:14PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


Banks are adjusting to a new environment, one with stricter regulations, fewer opportunities for big risks and heavy public sentiment against them.


In that light, Mintel Comperemedia, a provider of direct-marketing intelligence, is forecasting five major changes for banks in 2010.

"Based on evidence from recent direct marketing, I see waves of change ready to wash through the banking industry," said Susan Wolfe, vice president of financial services at Mintel. "From the fall of free checking to the rise of comprehensive banking rewards programs, banks seem poised to make 2010 a year of innovations. The biggest challenge will be finding new opportunities for revenue."


The end of free checking.



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