LowCards.com Weekly Credit Card Update–November 1, 2013

November 1, 2013, Written By Lynn Oldshue

Slithering Theater Thief Gets 16 Years in Connecticut
A Philadelphia man who authorities say crawled along movie theater floors to steal credit cards from women’s purses has been sentenced in federal court in Connecticut to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors say the 50-year-old Anthony Johnson stole credit cards from moviegoers at theaters in Greenwich, Fairfield and Colchester between 2008 and 2010. Authorities say he and female accomplices would then use sophisticated computer equipment to make fake driver’s licenses with the victim’s name and an accomplice’s photo. They then used the stolen credit cards to buy tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of clothing, jewelry and electronics, and for gambling. Story by the Associated Press.

New Guidelines Aim to Help Financial Caregivers
Many people don’t have experience acting in as a financial caregiver, so the CFPB published a series of guidelines to help agents and others make sure they’re following the rules, so that the elderly people counting on them are properly protected. The “Managing Someone Else’s Money” guides–four in all, depending on the legal situation that results in you having responsibility for someone else’s finances–are available free online. They will also be distributed to banks, social service agencies and Area Agencies on Aging. In addition to guides for power of attorney agents and representative payees, there are guides for those who have been appointed guardians by a court and for those named as trustees under “revocable living trusts.” In that situation, a person’s money or property has been transferred to a trust, and a person named as trustee has authority to make decisions about those assets. Story by Ann Carrns for The New York Times.

Homeless Accept Cards As Cash No Longer King
Stockholm’s homeless magazine vendors no longer need to ask if you can spare any krona. They take cards. In the most cashless society on the planet, the sellers of Situation Stockholm, a culture magazine sold by homeless people, were last month equipped with card readers to accept donations from fellow Swedes. The move marks a world first, according to their employer. A stable financial system and a tech-savvy population have encouraged Swedes to favor devices over cash in a country that printed Europe’s first banknotes in 1661. Bills and coins represented just 2.7 percent of the Swedish economy in 2012, compared with an average of 9.8 percent in the euro area and 7.2 percent in the United States. Many Swedes think that figure is still too high. Story by Katarina Gustafsson and Niklas Magnusson for Bloomberg.

New York Judge Rules Against Credit Card Surcharge Law
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled in favor of a group of retailers last week who challenged New York’s surcharge law. The law subjects retailers to criminal penalties if they assess surcharges to customers who pay by credit card instead of cash. Many retailers in New York assess a surcharge to offset the costs incurred with credit card processing fees. Most store owners have to pay approximately 3% of a transaction to their processing company. Retailers either raise their prices, create surcharges to offset these costs or take less of a profit. The state of New York has been trying to stop these surcharges for some time, but Judge Rakoff of Manhattan has sided with the retailers. Story by Natalie Rutledge for LowCards.com.

The Most Rewarding Retailer Loyalty Programs
Who wouldn’t want to sign up for a store loyalty program? They reward you for shopping. Not surprisingly, a recent survey found that Americans average about 22 loyalty program memberships per household. We reviewed programs from nine national retailers to figure out which are best for what benefits–plus the fine print you need to know. Story by Consumer Reports.

Visa Profit Slides on Year-Ago Tax Benefit
Visa said its profit slid 28% in its fiscal fourth quarter as a jump in the number of electronic payments processed was overshadowed by a prior-year gain related to tax reserves. The processor of credit card and debit card transactions also said that U.S. spending growth has showed some signs of slowing in the weeks since the quarter ended on Sept. 30. Spending trends are typically a barometer of the broader economy. While consumer borrowing has remained tepid, spending on credit and debit cards has stayed fairly strong as more consumers ditch cash and checks for electronic payments. Story by John Kell for The Wall Street Journal

Microcredit for Americans
Microcredit–the smallest of small loans, with no collateral and few questions asked–was pioneered by Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and has long aimed to ease poverty in the world’s developing countries, where rural villagers use it to buy livestock, repair motorcycles or otherwise increase their income. Since the financial crisis, microcredit has taken off in the United States, attracting thousands of clients who do not qualify for credit cards or traditional bank loans. The purpose of the loans is to help countless millions of poor people unlock their inner entrepreneur, to use money to make money. But its newfound popularity may say more about the increasingly unstable nature of American poverty, in which credit is hard to come by and sustenance is cobbled together from part-time jobs and threatened by unpredictable expenses. Story by Shaila Dewan for The New York Times.

Medical Credit Card Abuse on the Rise
Medical credit cards give patients a chance to undergo the procedures their insurance may not pay for, as well as giving the doctor the opportunity to get their money right away. While this may seem like a great setup, most patients are pressured into getting medical credit cards without knowing the excessive costs sometimes associated with them. They can fall into a debt trap very quickly. The abuse of the medical credit card system is growing by the day because many doctors are making these cards appear like an in-house payment program. Story by Natalie Rutledge for LowCards.com.

Lessons Learned Using Credit Cards Abroad
This year, “More for Your Money” has concentrated on credit cards that can be used abroad. It can be tricky because U.S. cards, which have a magnetic stripe, aren’t always accepted abroad. Much of the rest of the world uses credit cards with a smart chip that require a PIN to complete a transaction. A recent trip to London and a short trip to France gave me a chance to try out some of the alternatives.  After all my wailing and gnashing of teeth, I had consistent success with the United Mileage Plus card. No chip, no PIN, just an old-fashioned (although new to me) card. The other tools in my financial tool chest proved problematic. Note that I never used any of these cards in an automated kiosk, which is where the magnetic stripe sometimes can be problematic. Story by Catharine Hamm for the Los Angeles Times.

LowCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report
Based on the 1,000+ cards in the LowCards.com Complete Credit Card Index, the average advertised APR for credit cards is 14.46 percent, slightly higher than last week’s 14.44 percent. Six months ago, the average was 14.24 percent. One year ago, the average was 14.27 percent.



The information contained within this article was accurate as of November 1, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.