A lot of people give gift cards as presents during the winter holidays. Starbucks, for example, sold almost 2.5 million gift cards in the U.S. and Canada on Christmas Eve in 2014. Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images The Wall Street Journal revealed on June 1 that Starbucks holds as much money for its customers as a bank — and not even a small bank. Starbucks gift cards and mobile debit accounts stored $1.2 billion in customer funds during the first quarter of 2016. According to Shane Ferro on the Huffington Post, "that amount of deposits would make it a respectable midsize institution." Industry numbers put it somewhere between The Bancorp ($2.68 billion) and Mercantile Bank ($680 million). Starbucks has pretty much mastered the prepaid realm. On Christmas Eve 2014, Starbucks sold almost 2.5 million gift cards in the U.S. and Canada alone. The company says one in seven Americans received a Starbucks card for the holidays that year. It's "Starbucks' secret sauce," writes … [Read more...] about The Secret Life of the Gift Card Industry
Is there anything you can do to secure credit card transactions made over a smartphone? Darren Robb/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images In March 2011, the CEO of VeriFone launched a bold assault -- some might call it a smear campaign -- against his company's competitor, Square. Both companies sell devices and services that allow individuals to take credit card payments from others through a smartphone. VeriFone's Douglas Bergeron claimed that the Square was not encrypting credit card information before transmitting it into a smartphone. In essence, claimed Bergeron, the Square device, which was being given away for free with the service, put credit card information into the hands of skimmers. All a hacker had to do was develop an application that would receive the unencrypted data, scan your card and then use the information to make fraudulent purchases. Whether this attack was legitimate is a matter of debate. Square claimed to have met the Payment Card Industry Data Security … [Read more...] about Are mobile credit card readers secure?
Before you consolidate, take a look at the interest terms on any offer you have to be sure you’ll actually save money. ©George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock How much do you owe on your credit cards? If you're keeping up with the Jonses, it's probably several thousand dollars across a few cards -- Americans carry, on average, about $5,000 in credit card debt, and have three active credit cards in their wallet [sources: CBS Money Watch, Cawad]. In 2012, there were more than 1 billion credit cards held by 160 million Americans, and in the same year, U.S. consumers collectively charged $870 billion to their plastic [source: Debt.org]. One of the most popular ways to consolidate all that credit card debt is to transfer balances from multiple existing accounts to one new credit card. It's an attractive solution because it's relatively quick to do and can have a positive and immediate impact on your debt. While your goal is to save yourself a little money every month, and maybe … [Read more...] about Should I consolidate my credit cards?
Social Security gives us assurance against certain social conditions that may occur, such as retirement or the sudden death of a bread winner. It's funded through dedicated payroll taxes known as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) [source: SSA]. Everyone must apply for a Social Security number, which becomes his identification number. You will need this number every time you apply for any official document, such as a driver's license, passport, etc. You will need it when you want to open a bank account. It will also become your personal Tax Identification Number for use by the Internal Revenue Service [source: IRS]. Should your Social Security card get lost or be stolen, you will need to replace it. The good news is that there's no charge for getting a replacement Social Security card. Here's how to get a copy of your Social Security card. Complete an SS-5 application for a Social Security card. You can obtain a copy of the application online at … [Read more...] about How to Get a Copy Of Your Social Security Card
Image Gallery: Money Scams Do your research before applying for a credit card. See pictures of money scams. Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock The American Dream: a nice house with a white picket fence, a big porch in the backyard and a flat-screen TV in the living room. In order to buy some of those things, most of us depend on credit. Long before you can get a mortgage for your dream home, however, you need to establish a good credit history. Applying for your first credit card is a good way to get started. But it's not always easy to get approved for your first credit card, especially when the economy is in a slump. You need to start out with a basic card before you apply for anything labeled "platinum." And we've all heard the horror stories of people trapped in credit card debt and having trouble even making the minimum payments. How can you get your credit started and keep on the right track? The best way to get on track and stay there is to be informed. Before you shop around … [Read more...] about How to Apply for Your First Credit Card