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That online article you just read might actually be paid advertising. The Federal Trade Commission is taking a hard look at 'sponsored content.'

By Donna_Freedman Sep 24, 2013 9:13AM
Logo: Man with laptop (Comstock Images/Jupiterimages)Looking for guidance on personal finance, or travel, or strength training? You might find useful information on a personal website.

Then again, you might not. As more and more bloggers turn to "sponsored content" -- articles they're paid to publish -- consumers run the risk of getting advertorials instead of advice.

Although the Federal Trade Commission requires that such articles be identified as paid ads, not all bloggers comply. As a result, their readers may construe an undisclosed ad to be personal testimony and/or professional authority.

"Consumers easily recognize a regular print, broadcast, or Internet ad for what it is -- and know to be appropriately skeptical," says Jeff Blyskal of Consumer Reports.
 

You're trading lower premiums for potentially huge out-of-pocket costs when you opt for a high-deductible plan. Here are 10 ways to work it to your best advantage.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 23, 2013 5:26PM

This post comes from Karen Datko at partner site Money Talks News. 


MSN Money PartnerAs employers cut their costs for providing health insurance to their workers, they're offering more high-deductible health plans. The premiums are lower, but you'll pay $1,000 or more out-of-pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in -- sometimes a lot more.


Not only are these plans gaining ground in the workplace, high-deductible health plans will be one of the options available to those who buy insurance on their own when the state online marketplaces open for business on Oct. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

 

Sure it's a little pricier than a conventional car, but think of the perks: tax credits, rebates, and discounts. And the eco-street cred? Priceless.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 23, 2013 4:29PM

This post comes from Susan Ladika at partner site Money Talks News. 


MSN Money PartnerBy buying a green vehicle you can save far more than a fistful of dollars at the gas pump. Instead, you can fuel up your bank account with thousands of dollars in savings.


Image: Road (© Frank Whitney/Brand X/Corbis)Green vehicle sales have been in the fast lane so far this year, surpassing 450,000, according to AutoblogGreen. That's up 26% from the first eight months of 2012. And August sales are charged up even more, reaching more than 72,000 units. That's up nearly 50% from the year before.


The Toyota Prius continues to lead the pack when it comes to sales of green vehicles, accounting for more than 35% of sales of hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles in August alone.


The surge in green vehicle sales comes at a time when auto sales in general continue to climb. Overall, more than 1.5 million vehicles were purchased in August, up 17% from the year before. While the growth in overall auto sales figures is impressive, it pales in comparison with those of green vehicles.


While hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles generally cost more than their gasoline-powered counterparts, there are a number of unexpected ways to add a stack of green to your bank account by buying a green vehicle.

 

There's a lot of confusion around what's going to happen under Obamacare. Where can you go for accurate (and non-partisan) information? Start here.

By Smart Spending Editor Sep 23, 2013 4:01PM
This post is by Philip Moeller of partner post U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Money PartnerSince the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Tracy Watts has become a walking encyclopedia of the incredibly complex provisions of the law.


Image: Spy (© Corbis)Yet even after three years of immersing herself in the world of Obamacare, Watts uses cheat sheets to make sure her explanations of the law are accurate. "It's way too complicated for me to remember everything," says Watts, the national health care spokeswoman for Mercer, a consulting firm that advises mostly large employers on their employee benefit needs.


If you do not have a Tracy Watts or her cheat sheets handy, there are still ways to become informed about Obamacare. Many insurance companies and health websites provide information on the law. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which does not sell health insurance or receive compensation for its recommendations, is widely recognized as having the best set of Obamacare tools. Even federal government experts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend Kaiser tools. Another reliable source for Obamacare information is the government itself.


Here is a look at some of the most helpful online health care reform resources that consumers should have in their toolboxes:

 

Despite varying policies and service charges the 4 major US carriers, a single carrier came out ahead. Here's how they stacked up.

By Cheapism.com Sep 23, 2013 12:16PM
This post comes from Louis DeNicola at partner site Cheapism.com.

Cheapism logoEver sign up for a phone plan expecting to pay one thing, only to get a bill that's much higher? Or had the unfortunate experience of going over your plan's voice, text, or data limit and being hit with overage fees?

Unfortunately, a number of fees that up the cost of cellphone plans simply can't be avoided. These include taxes and surcharges that the government collects from phone companies, which then pass them on to customers.

In some localities, charges such as a federal Universal Service Fund contribution (up to 15.6%) and additional taxes from state and local governments add more than 20% to wireless bills.

Fortunately there are ways to alleviate other extra fees -- whether it's $36 to activate a new line of service, $15 for going over a data cap, or $1.99 for 411 -- without packing up and moving to another state.
 

Despite warnings that friends' financial problems might tarnish your credit scores, you don't need to worry about it -- here's why.

By Credit.com Sep 23, 2013 10:50AM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com logoDespite all the recent warnings in the news media that your Facebook friends’ or Twitter followers' financial problems might hurt your credit scores, you can relax. You don’t need to cut ties with your friends with bad credit just yet.

Woman with laptop (© Mike Watson Images/Corbis)If you take a closer look at the companies featured in stories about this phenomena, such as Lenddo and Kreditech, you’ll notice they aren’t working with lenders in the U.S. And one that is currently using social data -- Kabbage -- focuses on small-business lending, which isn’t regulated the same way personal lending is in the U.S.

“In places like the Philippines (using social media for lending) makes sense,” says Eric King, CEO of Sociogramics, a firm that provides identity verification and scoring solutions for online consumer lending. In countries like that, there is little in the way of a credit-reporting system.

But here in the U.S., we have a robust credit reporting industry, and longstanding federal laws that regulate it.
 

Confusion over food labeling results in the waste of $165 billion worth of food every year. A new study calls for uniform federal standards.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 23, 2013 9:00AM
Logo: Grocery shopping (Randy Faris/Corbis)Pop quiz: What happens when the milk in your fridge has passed the date on the carton? Do you:

(a) Throw it out -- it could be poison!

(b) Use it if it smells OK.


The correct answer is generally (b) -- but those of you who answered (a) are in the majority. Misunderstandings over what are commonly (and incorrectly) known as "expiration dates" result in the waste of $165 billion worth of food every year, according to a new study from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Center and the National Resources Defense Council.


Consumers and businesses "needlessly trash billions of pounds of food every year as a result of America's dizzying array of (labeling) practices, which need to be standardized and clarified," study authors say.

 

Dinged for deceptive advertising about its cold and flu immune booster, Walgreens cuts $219,000 in checks to consumers. That's nothing to sneeze at.

By Mitch Lipka Sep 20, 2013 5:16PM

Woman sneezing (© Eric Audras/ONOKY/Getty Images)Walgreens shoppers who bought the store's Wal-Born -- boosted by claims that the supplements could prevent the common cold, help users fend off germs and boost the immune system -- will be instead coming down with a little money.


The Federal Trade Commission announced today that nearly 8,000 checks, averaging more than $27, are being mailed to consumers who filed claims after it was found that the advertising campaign for these products was deceptive.


Walgreens is one of several retailers that have had to compensate consumers who bought into the idea that they were going to get some special protection that didn't exist. Walgreens and the others -- including CVS and Rite Aid -- produced and marketed their own versions of the supplement Airborne. Airborne settled charges with the FTC in 2008, agreeing to pay $30 million.

 

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