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Consumer Reports is renowned for its unbiased testing and product reviews. Each issue features reviews of cars, appliances, electronics, health, finance, product recalls and more. This magazine subscription will help you find the best products in the world, don’t buy another thing before consulting Consumer Reports. Start shopping smarter today!

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Choosing the Right EMV (Chip) Card for Your Lifestyle

by Matthew Goldman on April 1, 2015

EMV Credit Card

This coming October, American retailers will be required to accept EMV (chip) credit cards at their retail registers, or face increased fraud liability. On the credit card issuer side, this means that issuers are rushing to upgrade millions of credit cards to have an EMV chip. Chances are, if your card expired in the past six months, you’ve already received an EMV card. Since you have to get a new card anyway, now is the right time to evaluate: what is the right EMV card for you?

While the EMV chip will help your card to be more secure and resistant to hacking at point of sale, EMV cards are far from equal. When discussing EMV, many news articles focus on the fact that EMV has long been deployed in Europe and other foreign countries. (In fact, EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, Visa, which makes it pretty clear where this started.) Having an EMV doesn’t mean that your card will be easy to use abroad.

Many credit cards already carry a foreign transaction fee. This is a fee tacked on by the bank in addition to the currency conversion. Average foreign exchange fees are in the 2-3% range. An EMV doesn’t mean your card won’t still have this fee! In addition, while US merchants and banks are deploying EMV Chip-and-Signature (meaning you still just sign your receipt), most foreign countries require a PIN with your card (EMV Chip-and-PIN). While an EMV Chip-and-Signature card will have better acceptance abroad, if you are planning to travel a lot, you will want a full Chip-and-PIN Card.

So, what card should you get? While, once you’ve decided you want an EMV card, many of the same questions apply that always do. Are you planning to travel a lot? If the answer is yes, make sure to get a card with no foreign transaction fee. One great card for travelers is the Barclaycard Arrival Card, which has no foreign exchange fee and, with some extra work, can be configured to work as Chip-and-PIN. Based on reports, your success with this may vary, but at least it’s a possibility! Another popular travel EMV card with no foreign transaction fee is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, although you definitely won’t get a PIN to work with this card.

If you’re not a traveler, then you don’t need to worry about the foreign exchange fee issue; you can focus on APRs and rewards. Chase also issues the Slate Card, which has no rewards, but has great introductory purchase and balance transfer offers and a low APR. Your local bank or credit union may also be issuing EMV cards (be sure to ask!) and usually these cards have lower APRs. Many Americans are eligible for cards from Pentagon Federal Credit Union and USAA, both of which offer low APR EMV cards.

If you don’t carry a balance and are more focused on rewards, the most popular EMV rewards card is the aforementioned Chase Sapphire Preferred. It earns one Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar, plus an additional point (for a total of two) for every dollar spent on dining and travel. These popular points are very valuable and can be redeemed for cash or transferred to many hotel and airline programs.

The second most popular EMV-enabled rewards card is the Bank of America BankAmericard Cash Rewards Card. This card earns 3% cash back on gasoline, 2% on grocery stores and 1% everywhere else. Plus, with Bank of America Preferred Rewards, you can earn bonuses from 10% to 75% on your rewards earnings depending on the total size of your relationship with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.

Today, most major cards from the major issuers such as American Express, Chase, Citibank, Capital One, US Bank and others come equipped with EMV chips. It’s easy to find the card that’s right for you with this broad selection.

This article was written by Matthew Goldman, Founder and CEO of Wallaby Financial.

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Self-Employment Tips for European Startup Success

by Sean Bryant on March 30, 2015

Startup Success

There are a number of ways to make ends meet, from lending your services as an employee to striking out on your own as a self-employed earner. Each scenario has its own set of advantages, so your best approach isn’t always crystal clear. If you do decide to go self-employed, however, there are rules you must follow in order to remain legitimate.

Several important considerations arise when contemplating self-employment. Are you a self-starter, capable of keeping your output high – even without supervision and employer incentives? Do you possess financial savvy sufficient to meet the bookkeeping needs of your self-employed business? Does your area of expertise lend itself to self-employment? Or are you better-off promoting your goods and services with the help of a supporting organization?

Answering these and other questions helps illuminate your best approach to making a living. Once committed to an independent effort, your successful self-employed enterprise is subject to the following requirements:

Dedicated Banking

Although you have decided to go self-employed, your business life nonetheless stands apart from your personal life. As such, you must maintain separate accounts for financial transactions tied to your business dealings. Start by opening a dedicated business account, which are often found free of charges and fees. A cash deposit account might also be a good idea, to add some interest to your business cash holdings.

Accurate record keeping is also essential to successful business management. Your diligence is required for tax authorities, but there are plenty of additional reasons to keep your business finances in order. Your own accounting duties are much easier to accomplish when your business books are kept up to date, so personal tax reporting also flows smoothly.

Chose and Declare Your Approach

In order to account for your business income and tax liability, the government requires you to officially declare your status.

Self-employed persons are known as “sole proprietors”. The designation doesn’t necessarily mean you are required to work alone all the time. It is simply a declaration of autonomy, which determines how your income and taxes are handled. As a sole proprietor, you are entitled to all the profits you generate, but you must pay taxes on your earnings. To comply as a self-employed sole proprietor, you must file a Self Assessment tax return each year, but you are also required to pay taxes on any profits earned by your business. In addition, you must buy National Insurance for your business. There are two types of National Insurance, based upon earnings, so you must measure your profits to determine which one is appropriate for your business.

Register for VAT

Certain self-employed persons must take the additional step of registering for VAT. Businesses with taxable turnover greater than £81,000 annually are required to register. The process is conducted through HM Revenue and Customs. Once you’ve received your VAT number, you must meet these standards:

  • Charge Appropriate VAT
  • Pay VAT to HMRC
  • Submit VAT Returns
  • Maintain VAT Records and Accounting

Reasons to Consider Going Self-Employed

Becoming a sole trader is part of a comprehensive financial strategy, like those outlined on It carries advantages for some individuals, who find it to be a better alternative than some of the other available business structures. Establishing yourself as a sole trader makes sense because:

  • It can be the easiest way to get up and running. Trouble free set-up means you’ll be doing business sooner than by using other structures.
  • Compared to other arrangements, establishing yourself as sole trader can be accomplished with limited investment.
  • Changing to another mode of operation is not excluded by sole proprietor. You can easily adjust your approach down the road, if appropriate.

Self-employment has a number of advantages, when compared to other ways of doing business. However, it isn’t for everyone. Before you commit to a particular business structure, answer important questions, to ensure sole trader is your best alternative.


Easy Ways to Boost Your Savings Account

by Sean Bryant on March 24, 2015

Boost Your Savings Account

Being disciplined and making regular contributions to your savings account can be a challenge at the best of times. But, without a dedicated approach, you can pretty much assure that you’ll spend exactly what you earn and end up living paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, saving money isn’t rocket science, and there are a number of proven strategies both singles and couples can take to boost their savings account and improve their financial position. If becoming more financially secure is a priority for 2015, read on for some easy ways to boost your savings.

Create a Detailed Budget

If you haven’t already done so, it’s essential to create a budget that accounts for all your monthly income and expenses. Only when you can clearly see where all your money is going can you determine where expenses can be cut and other ways savings can be made. Often, these include monthly bills or subscriptions that may not be necessary or where a better deal could be available. A budget is also useful as it will give you a clearer picture of your spending habits and provide insights on financial behaviors that may need to be changed.

Investigate Additional Revenue Streams

If the idea of reining in your spending seems impossible, the only other solution is to increase your income. It might sound daunting, but there are many ways to achieve this. A second job or working longer hours is the most obvious way to bring in more bacon. Many people, however, are turning their hobbies into sources of revenue. For example, if you are crafty, making jewelry, knitwear, or woodwork can allow you to sell these at a market stall or online. For keen writers, a blog with a loyal following can bring in revenue from online advertising. And for those with an interest in investing, it’s possible to earn money by trading on the foreign exchange market after undertaking a course through a reputable provider such as Learn To Trade. These are all examples of real life ways where people with passions have converted their interests into income.

Set up Direct Deposit and a Term Deposit Account

It’s worth allocating a portion of each pay you receive to be directly deposited into a separate savings account that is not linked to your main account. This will make the money more difficult to access and make you, as the account holder, think twice before making a withdrawal. It is also a good idea to set up a term deposit account that rewards you for making no withdrawals within a set period and also offers more generous interest rates.

Plan Your Meals

Food is one of the biggest areas where people spend more than they need to. Between takeaway breakfasts, takeaway coffee five times a week, work lunches, and dining out with friends, people tend to spend a lot of cash on eating. Many people also waste the food they purchase from the supermarket by not eating it before it expires. Try bringing your own lunch to work and take advantage of your workplace’s free coffee. A weekly meal plan and writing a shopping list will help you buy only what you need and minimize wastage.

While saving can be hard, the good news is that, ultimately, we do have significant control over how much we spend. There are many creative ways to reduce spending, boost revenue, and increase the amount you can contribute to your savings account, so why not try some of the strategies mentioned above? If you have other easy ways to boost your savings account, please leave your tips in a comment below.

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Business with Big Dreams and a Small Budget

March 16, 2015
Business With Big Dreams and a small budget

One of the most difficult parts of being an entrepreneur is the never-ending need for cash. You have your idea locked in place, a solid team put together and the sky seems to be the limit – if only you had the means to pay for it all. You may chose to bootstrap your business, […]

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Target REDcard – Save 5% Off Your Target Purchase

March 13, 2015
Target REDcard

My wife and I love to shop at Target.  The prices are great and the quality is even better.  We are always looking for a way to save even more money and that is where the Target REDcard comes into play. We use the debit card version which works just like a check by drawing […]

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