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Alerted to the problem, Gov. Schwarzenegger said he'll put a stop to it.

By Karen Datko Jun 24, 2010 5:54PM

Intrepid newspaper reporting in California -- the state with the $19 billion budget gap -- has found that state-issued welfare debit cards can withdraw cash from ATMs in half the casinos in the state.

State officials, who were clueless, are scrambling to block the cards' use on gaming floors. They're also trying to calculate how much cash was withdrawn from casino ATMs by welfare recipients. Likely not very much, but you know that, if it can be done, some people will do it.

 

The Los Angeles Times, which brought this to light, reported:

 

At 25% interest, a store card doesn't compute if you don't pay it off every month. A check card might be a better choice.

By Teresa Mears Jun 24, 2010 4:02PM

Target plans to give customers a 5% discount on all purchases starting this fall if they use a Target credit card or check card.

 

Call us underwhelmed. We like Target, but we'd have to get more than 5% back to apply for a store credit card. We'd look more seriously at the debit card if we shopped often at Target.

 

As store credit cards go, the Target card sounds better than many. You'll get your discount immediately, rather than be rewarded with coupons that require you to come in later and buy something else. But if you don't pay your bill on time every month, the card could cost you more in fees and interest than you save.

 

The flight is exempt from paying the new fine for excessive flight delays.

By Karen Datko Jun 24, 2010 1:05PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Passengers aboard a Virgin Atlantic flight from London sat on the tarmac for more than four hours Tuesday in sweltering heat after the plane was diverted from Newark, N.J., to a Connecticut airport.

A new federal law requires airlines to deplane passengers within three hours of landing or face a fine of $27,000 per passenger. But Virgin Atlantic will not pay the $8.1 million fine for its 300 passengers because the law applies only to domestic flights, not international ones.

 

But economic uncertainty is keeping many Americans from taking advantage of the best loan rates in their lifetimes.

By Teresa Mears Jun 24, 2010 12:07PM

Mortgage rates hit their lowest point in more than 54 years this week, with the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.69%.

 

The rate is the lowest since Freddie Mac started keeping records in 1971. The previous low in the agency's weekly mortgage market survey was 4.71% in December 2009.

For most Americans, 4.69% is the lowest rate they've seen in their lifetimes. To have purchased a house at a lower interest rate with a conventional 30-year mortgage, you'd have to be at least 75 years old.

 

The last time we saw lower rates was March 1956, according to National Bureau of Economic Research statistics, when rates were 4.68%. The bureau's earliest statistics are from 1949, when the rate was 4.35%.

 

Dish Network, DirecTV drop prices. What to consider before quitting cable.

By Karen Datko Jun 24, 2010 11:51AM

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

 

Consumers looking to cut cable bills have an added incentive to cut the cable altogether.

 

Earlier this month, satellite providers Dish Network and DirecTV eliminated their fees for HD service, lowering prices by roughly $10. New Dish subscribers, for example, can get service for as little as $25 per month for the first year -- rising to about $40 a month for the second year -- including access to the company's more than 200 HD channels. (To get the deal, they must also agree to automatic bill pay and e-mailed statements.)

 

The aim behind the new promotions is simple: entice more customers away from cable competitors. "Satellite has always had a relatively good price point," says Schwark Satyavolu, co-founder and chief executive of comparison site BillShrink.com. The new price points sweeten the deal for consumers looking for HD content to watch on their screens.

 

While the price change may be enough to lure new subscribers, those debating cable versus satellite should consider five things before making the switch:

 

It's a great time to get out of gift exchanges you don't want to participate in. It's also a good time to put your bargain hunting on auto pilot.

By Karen Datko Jun 24, 2010 10:53AM

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

 

It's June, so there's no better time to write about Christmas. Right? Right.

 

The truth of the matter is that just a little bit of forethought right now can save you a ton of time, effort, cost, and heartache this December. While it might feel really out of place to think about Christmas on a warm June day, right now is the perfect time to give these five things a quick thought.

 

Losing your home to foreclosure is one thing. But walking away just because it's financially convenient could hurt down the road.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 24, 2010 7:35AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.

 

With millions of Americans owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, many are opting for a "strategic default" -- allowing a house to go back to the bank, even though the borrower may be capable of making the payments.

 

In some states, those who choose a strategic default face lawsuits from lenders anxious to collect what they're owed. Now, the quasi-governmental agency Fannie Mae has announced it's upping the stakes by barring those who walk away from getting an FHA-insured loan for seven years.

 

A California woman is turning flea market finds into cute dresses, jackets and tops -- one a day for an entire year. Her daily budget is a buck.

By Karen Datko Jun 23, 2010 7:21PM

You've no doubt seen the young woman who created 365 very different looks based on one simple black dress and recycled or donated accessories. Sheena Matheiken's Uniform Project is a testament to creativity, style and resourcefulness.

 

Now we've come upon her even more frugal equivalent, who is very handy with a sewing machine. Marisa Lynch of West Hollywood is determined to turn outdated flea market and garage sale finds into attractive outfits -- one each day for an entire year -- with a $365 budget. Total. Plus, she's given up new-clothes shopping.

 

She often starts with tired, shapeless old things -- garments that are the fashion equivalent of a blue leisure suit or a comb-over hairstyle. The results?

 

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