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There's no need to pay the higher prices that often accompany the most popular season for family vacations. Here's how you can hold the line.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 1:20 PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneySummer is nearly upon us, and you know what that means? It's vacation time! Well, at least for most of us. In fact, a survey last year by Orbitz revealed that nearly 80 percent of Americans planned to take a vacation during the summer months.


Unfortunately, some destinations are more popular than others and are almost guaranteed to come with high price tags on accommodations, not to mention large crowds.


The good news is that you can still take a decent summer vacation without breaking the bank. Here are our tips to help you cut costs on your upcoming trip.

 

The bug has blown a hole in Internet security, and vigilance is required to keep your data safe.

By Credit.com Mon 11:22 AM
This post comes from Adam Levin at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyThe Heartbleed bug has sent a shockwave through the Internet, as millions of users try to take stock of all of the accounts they’ve ever created and figure out how to change their passwords. Too bad their passwords are just the beginning of the problem.


Heartbleed logo Credit: Codenomicon
Given the reach of Heartbleed and how long the bug existed, it’s hard to even say how much data unscrupulous hackers could’ve gotten their hands on and, because of how it worked, we’ll probably never know. Most people are changing their passwords on affected sites, sitting back and thinking (or hoping) they’re safe. But now is when the work really begins for a large group of scammers. Since many websites ask you (or even require you) to use your email address as a username, that information is also vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug. Welcome to the beginning of phishing season.


Phishing (and the other "ishings," like vishing for phone scams and smishing for text scam) is a more time-consuming method of extracting the goods from you, but it is often more directly profitable.

 

If your insurer thinks you'll shop around for better rates, they'll do what they can to keep you -- and that often includes less expensive rates.

By Credit.com Fri 2:21 PM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyHave your auto or homeowner insurance rates been creeping up? If so, you may have been "POed" by your insurer. According to new information from the Consumer Federation of America, some insurance companies are secretly "price optimizing" customers; charging them a higher rate for no other reason than they think the customer won’t shop around for a better deal.


Insurance © NULL/Corbis"Price optimization is a data mining tool used by insurers to charge higher premiums to those consumers least likely to shop for a new policy in the face of a rate increase," says the CFA.


How do they know whether you are likely to shop around? For now at least, that information isn’t public. “I don’t know what’s in the black box,” says Bob Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance. But he notes that insurance companies typically can review credit report data, information provided on applications, and a host of other data available from third-party sources about current and prospective customers.


As an actuary, Hunter says he first heard of this practice when he participated in an industry webinar touting the benefits to insurers of pricing policies this way.

 

Being a financial perfectionist doesn't always pay -- it can be a lot of work for little reward.

By Credit.com Fri 1:14 PM
This post comes from Adam Levin at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyThere are some people in life for whom an A on a report card was never good enough, who idly wondered why they were never above the 99th percentile on standardized tests and relentlessly beat themselves up whenever they came in second.


In adulthood, some of those same people are relentlessly pursuing the highest possible FICO credit score -- an 850. I’m here to tell those people to stop.


Report card (© C Squared Studios/Getty Images)The idea of "gaming" your already-excellent credit score to drive it up is not going to benefit you in any substantive way -- there’s really no difference between the interest rates or credit terms offered to people with an 800 and those offered to people with the elusive 850. So gaming it doesn’t help anything but your ego.


Worse yet, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you’re as likely to hurt your credit score as to help. The models used by FICO (and other scoring agencies) are deliberately not totally transparent and many things that people think will raise their credit scores -- like getting rid of their credit cards or keeping zero debt -- can actually lower their scores.

 

Federal data show that a tiny sliver of medical providers accounts for a hefty share of Medicare costs. You can find out how much your doctor collects.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 12:56 PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News. 

 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneySome doctors are getting rich off of Medicare. And others look like they are, when they're actually sharing a billing code with other doctors or performing necessary but pricey medical procedures.


A new study shows that the top 1 percent of doctors and other medical providers accounted for 14 percent of the nearly $77 billion in Medicare billing recorded for 2012. Medicare is the government health insurance program for those 65 and older.


Medical doctor © John Arborgast, Photodisc Red, Getty ImagesOne Florida ophthalmologist reportedly billed Medicare for nearly $21 million in 2012, 64 times the average in the ophthalmology field. You can read more about him here.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made the Medicare billing information public this week for the first time. Some of the statistics were startling. For instance, "Some top earners were paid as much as 100 times the average for their respective fields," Bloomberg said


Is your doctor on the Medicare billing list? You can check by clicking on the CMS website here.


But don't be quick to assume that the top earners on the Medicare list are scamming the system. Sure, some probably are, but that's not always the case.

 

There are plenty of ways personal information about you can find its way onto a company's marketing spreadsheet.

By Credit.com Fri 12:52 PM

This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com on MSN MoneyEven some of the most financially savvy consumers find credit scoring confusing — the numbers change all the time, there are dozens of scoring models, and you never know which score a lender will use when reviewing your credit application.


Woman with a credit card © Alistair Berg, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesYet of all the consumer scores out there, credit scores are the most widely known and understood. Reassuring, isn't it?


Not to harp on depressing realities, but to most industries out there, you're not a name, you're a number. Unlike credit scores, a lot of these ratings systems are not accessible to you, and many aren't subject to regulation. That brings up a slew of questions about privacy and the legality of using these scores in decision-making situations, a topic explored by the World Privacy Forum in an 80-page report on consumer scores called "The Scoring of America: How Secret Consumer Scores Threaten Your Privacy and Your Future."

 

Tired of spending a fortune on restaurant meals? Check out 15 ways to make the experience more affordable.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 12:37 PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyYou don't have to keep wishing on a star that you'll one day be able to afford fine dining establishments.


It's usually one of the first expenses to take a hit when the spending plan comes into play, but the last thing that we actually want to part ways with. However, it is possible to enjoy the finer things in life, at least in the food category, without breaking the bank. Here's how.

 

Car-sharing is a convenient way for occasional drivers to save money. Some programs are national and some local. Here's the scoop.

By Cheapism.com Fri 12:10 PM
This post comes from Louis DeNicola at partner site Cheapism.com.

Cheapism.com on MSN MoneyCar-share programs offer the convenience of hopping into a car or truck, for a few hours or a few days, without owning whatever you're driving. Plus, you avoid the insurance and maintenance costs associated with ownership and you don't even pay for fuel.

A woman demonstrates a Zipcar in New York City
© Spencer Platt/Getty Images
But these are not carefree deals -- there is plenty of fine print. Here's what you need to know.

The benefits
For all their differences, car-share programs have much in common. Fleets of vehicles are parked in designated spots around a city or near a college campus. You reserve a vehicle online or with a mobile app and use a card or fob (handed over when you join the program) to unlock it; keys are stashed inside. You drive off for a designated amount of time and return the vehicle to the same spot. (One-way options are limited to a few programs.)
 

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