Credit card companies are increasingly using powerful data collection and analysis techniques to spot fraud, but the first line of defense still involves customers themselves. Unexpected charges on your credit card statement or unfamiliar information on a credit report are among the first warning signs that fraud or identity theft has taken place. That's why you should always look over your monthly statements and get your free credit report every year through annualcreditreport.com.
If you enjoy wearing fancy clothes but don't want to pay for them, two new fashion trends can help you out: Trading and renting high-end clothes online. The website Tradesy makes it easy to buy and sell gently-used fashion items (including designer dresses, suits, bags and accessories) online. A handful of increasingly popular websites, including Bag Borrow or Steal and Lending Luxury, make it easy to rent dresses and accessories for a big night out. You end up spending far less than you would if you had to purchase the items, and you still get to feel like a million dollars.
Most Americans don't have an adequate emergency savings fund, according to bankrate.com, but part of the problem seems to be that banking policies don't make it especially easy to promote savings. A study from the Consumer Federation of America found that many banking customers face hidden fees, restrictions on dormant accounts and very low interest rates. Fortunately, consumers have many options when it comes to bank accounts, and it can pay off to compare different accounts before choosing the one for your money.
Celebrities aren't the only ones using Kickstarter to fund creative products. Not-so-famous entrepreneurs are, too, as evidenced by the more than 100,000 projects launched on the site. (About 44 percent have reached their funding goals as of Dec. 9, 2013.) Site users recommend promoting your project to friends and on social media, making a strong video and, above all, promoting an appealing product, such as cake pops or bookmarks for libraries.
Gift cards might sound a tad impersonal, but they actually make the ideal gift in many ways. Most people say they like receiving gift cards, and retail-specific cards generally come without fees and penalties for delayed use. Just watch out for the general-purpose cards from credit card companies, which usually come with purchase fees ranging from $4 to $6.95, according to a survey from bankrate.com. Registering the card also offers additional protections if the card is lost or stolen.
Websites like Craigslist offer an easy way to buy and sell items, but you want to make sure to avoid the fraudsters that also lurk on the sites. To stay safe, always meet in person to exchange goods for cash – never wire money in advance, which is how much of the fraud takes place. And of course, meet in a public place and bring a friend along for added protection.
Worrying about money can eat up a lot of time. One survey of more than 1,000 people by the McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union found that 36 percent of respondents said they spend at least two hours a day either worrying about their finances or handling them. Companies might want to take note, and consider offering employees free resources to help alleviate some of that strain – and help get people back to work.
Finances can cause huge rifts in romantic relationships, but they don't have to, especially if the couple commits to addressing tension as soon it comes up. Financial experts recommend always being honest with the other person, making money dates to review finances and talk through big decisions and reflect on how each person's upbringing affects their financial mindset. Then, you can work together on setting, and reaching, big money goals – from buying a home to traveling.