LowCards Update May 26
BIG BANKS JOIN BATTLE FOR ONLINE PAYMENTS
Three of the nation’s largest banks are racing into the growing battle over how consumers move money and make payments, launching a service Wednesday that lets people use their checking accounts to send each other money with an email address or cellphone number. Banks are looking to hold onto their influence over consumers, who are increasingly shunning checks and cash, turning instead to new nonbank technologies to spend their money. The new service from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase takes aim at the popular PayPal offering. At stake are billions of dollars in credit-card, overdraft and checking fees each year. The banks’ new service, which other financial institutions will be able to join later, carries some financial risk for them. Although it is being aimed at person-to-person payments, owners of small or medium-size businesses could potentially ask customers to pay for goods and services by sending money directly from their online accounts. That could let merchants skirt the fees they now pay banks for processing debit and credit cards.
Story by Robin Sidel and and Amir Efrati for the Wall Street Journal
BYE BYE BLIPPY: TWITTER FOR CREDIT CARDS SHUTS DOWN SERVICE
How would you like to share each of your purchases on Twitter? As it turns out, most users wouldn’t. Deemed the “Twitter for credit cards,” Blippy, a startup backed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, offered users a way to broadcast each credit card swipe on Twitter as a way of making shopping more social. The company was worth an estimated $46.2 million in April 2010, but TechCrunch reports that Blippy’s shopping sharing service, which never really caught on, is being shut down.
Story by Bianca Boser for the Huffington Post
CHECK OUT THE FUTURE OF SHOPPING
A device that looks like a smartphone is making supermarket shoppers–and stores–happier. Perched on the handle of the shopping cart, it scans grocery items as the customer adds them to the cart. Shoppers like it because it helps avoid an interminable wait at the cashier. Retailers like it because the device encourages shoppers to buy more. With the system called Scan It–in use at about half of Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets in the Northeast–shoppers scan and bag their own groceries as they navigate the aisles, while a screen keeps a running total of their purchases. About a dozen times per shopping trip, the device lets out a “Ka-ching” as an electronic coupon appears on the screen. Retail experts predict that before long, most of these mobile shopping gadgets will be supplanted by customers’ own smartphones. Stores are testing a way for customers to download Scan It software directly into their own iPhones and are exploring ways for customers to use smartphones to pay. Starbucks is already taking steps toward a digital-wallet model.
Story by Ann Zimmerman for the Wall Street Journal
FILING A CREDIT CARD COMPLAINT
When you have a problem with your credit card issuer, it is hard to find someone who can help, or sometimes, even listen. It is frustrating at best, and unresolved issues can magnify your personal financial crisis. On July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will begin accepting complaints about deceptive or abusive financial products and services. The bureau is already receiving complaints but is directing them to other government agencies. The Dodd-Frank regulations require the CFPB to create a way for banking customers to report their problems with financial
products and services, and send them to the appropriate state or federal agency. It can accept complaints by phone, letter, email or on its website. The bureau must also make sure the financial firms respond to consumers. The CFPB will have the power to set and enforce rules on credit cards as well as mortgages and other consumer loans. The CFPB can also impose fines of as much as $1 million a day on companies that break consumer protection laws.
PREPAID CARDS ATTRACT MONEY LAUNDERERS
Forget bulk cash. Heavy and hard to hide, it’s simply not the most
convenient cross-border conveyance for a 21st-century money launderer.
A safer and increasingly attractive alternative for today’s criminal is
electronic cash, loaded on what are called stored-value or prepaid cards.
Getting them doesn’t require a bank account, and many types can be used
anonymously. U.S. crimefighters consider the cards a burgeoning threat that
regulators haven’t adequately addressed. No one knows how big a role the
cards play in moving the more than $20 billion in drug earnings that U.S.
authorities estimate crosses from the U.S. to Mexico annually. Yet while
anyone crossing that border with $10,000 or more in cash must declare it,
prepaid cards are legally exempt.
Story by Frank Bajak for the Associated Press
SMARTPHONES STEP UP MOBILE PAYMENTS PUSH
We’re getting closer to the point when the wallet will become optional.
Three of the nation’s biggest banks are launching a service that will let
people make person-to-person payments electronically, using their checking
accounts to send money with an email address or cell phone number. And
Google is expected to announce details soon about a service that will allow
consumers to make store purchases and redeem coupons by waving smartphones
at checkout counters.
Story by Betsy Yerak for Chicago Tribune
FOR FREQUENT FLIERS, A RANKING OF THE STINGIEST AIRLINES
Travelers may find it just a teeny-tiny bit easier to redeem miles this year
compared with last year, according to a new study of 24 different
frequent-flier programs world-wide. Best among U.S. carriers: Southwest
Airlines, which had award seats available for 99.3% of the queries made,
and jetBlue Airways, which offered seats 79.3% of the time. Southwest and
jetBlue both use points instead of miles, and IdeaWorks Co., the consulting
firm that conducted the study, searched for award seats available at 25,000
points, the equivalent to standard awards at other airlines. Worst among
U.S. carriers: US Airways Group and Delta Air Lines, which didn’t have
seats available in about three out of every four requests. Still, both carriers
showed large improvement over the past year, more than doubling their
Story by Scott McCartney for the Wall Street Journal
COMMUNITY BANKS LOBBY TO LIMIT NEW REGULATIONS
Network television ads appearing in the Washington area feature an anxious
woman who cautions that “community banks and credit unions will be squeezed”
by “bad” regulation. The message is clear: lawmakers and regulators should
tread lightly on small banks. In recent months, the community banking
industry has started an aggressive grassroots campaign, taking aim at
regulation enacted in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Small banks
fear new rules under the Dodd-Frank law, especially certain consumer
protection provisions and debit card fee restrictions, could hurt their
bottom line and even cause a few banks to fail. The Independent Community
Bankers of America, an industry trade group, spent roughly $1.2 million
lobbying regulators and lawmakers in the first quarter of 2011, according to
the Center for Responsive Politics.
Story by Ben Protess for the New York Times
LOWCARDS.COM WEEKLY CREDIT CARD RATE REPORT
Based on the 1000+ cards in the LowCards.com Complete Credit Card Index,
the average advertised APR for credit cards is 14.01%, slightly above last week’s
average of 13.98%. Six months ago, the average was 13.84%. One year ago, the
average was 13.63%.