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2016 Prepaid Cards Report: Which Card Is Right For You?

ch prepaidConsumers are increasingly turning away from traditional checking accounts in favor of alternative cash-management tools – perhaps most notably, prepaid cards. Both the number of prepaid cards in circulation and the amount of money loaded to them by consumers have skyrocketed in recent years, as new issuers have entered the market and the general public has grown acquainted with this relatively new financial instrument. As of 2012, roughly 12 million Americans used a prepaid card at least once a month and we collectively loaded $65 billion to our accounts – double the amount loaded just three years prior. Those figures rose to 23 million users loading $76.7 billion in 2014, according to Mercator Advisory Group, which projects $343 billion loaded to prepaid cards in 2018.

Prepaid cards can be a great tool for many different types of people, as they’re safer than cash and eliminate the threat of overdraft fees and bounced checks. They also offer guaranteed approval and provide the same functionality as a checking account-debit card combo, just without the physical checkbook. As such, there are four groups in particular that we feel should seriously entertain the idea of getting a prepaid card:

2016 Credit Card Landscape Report

Landscape 2016Not only do credit card offers regularly fluctuate in value, corresponding to changes in the economic climate and issuer strategy, but market-wide trends also reveal a great deal about the health of the U.S. consumer. Monitoring this information is therefore essential to finding the best deals and truly understanding the financial climate.

CardHub aims to provide the requisite insights by tracking interest rates, rewards and fees across credit segments and highlighting the most important trends in our quarterly landscape reports. Below you can check out our latest findings, including a breakdown of how rates are reacting to recent Federal Reserve activity.

Ask The Experts: What are the Pitfalls of Buying a Foreclosure?

Experts Discuss Pitfall Buying Foreclosure

House flipping is back in style. Before the housing market collapse of 2009 you could make some fast money by buying a house and turning around and quickly selling it. Sometimes you had to make some improvements but often you didn’t. That’s because average real estate prices were rising.

When the foreclosure wave hit, many investors waded into the market to snap up these distressed properties at bargain prices. At first they converted them to rental property, but as the housing market has recovered and prices have risen, many investors are “flipping” again – and many are finding the best bargains among homes in foreclosure.

2016’s Best Credit Cards with Travel Insurance

cc-travel-benefits-2016Leisure travel represents a significant investment for consumers in terms of both time and money, so it’s no surprise that folks are interested in protecting their precious resources. But given that travel insurance packages typically cost 4% to 8% of the price of a trip, most of us seem content rolling the dice.

Unfortunately, while illness and natural disasters interfere with the travel plans of 1 in 6 Americans, according to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, only 22% of those affected have travel insurance. The good news is that the solution might already be in your wallet. The travel-related benefits provided by credit cards extend well beyond points and miles, you see, and two of the most significant, yet under-acknowledged perks are auto rental insurance and general travel insurance.

Rental Car Insurance: 2016’s Best Credit Card Coverage

credit-card-rentalWhen most people think of credit-card perks, their minds turn to rewards, low interest rates and convenience. However, credit cards provide a number of other basic benefits that help protect cardholders from both monetary loss and unnecessary hassle. Rental-car insurance is one notable example, covering cardholders in the event of vehicle damage or theft with policies driven primarily by the card networks (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover).

Credit-card rental car insurance therefore has the potential to be quite valuable to travelers who not only recognize its presence, but also understand the specifics of their coverage. After all, roughly 20% of people always purchase supplemental insurance coverage when renting a car, according to Progressive Insurance, while another 20% do so on occasion. And they do so largely because they aren’t sure whether other forms of insurance extend to rental cars.

2016 Credit Card Debt Study: Trends & Insights

With the global economy in flux and debate raging over the timing of Federal Reserve rate hikes, data that speaks to the financial health of the average American household can be quite telling. Credit card debt statistics, in particular, reflect consumer sentiment and can foretell overleveraging bubbles that may trigger constriction across lending markets.

It is with that context that some might view the fact that U.S. households paid down roughly $26.8 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2016 as decidedly good news. But it’s not. Not only does this paydown come on the heels of a year in which we added an astounding $71 billion to our tab, but it’s also the smallest first-quarter debt reduction since 2008.

Currency Exchange Study: How To Save On International Spending

currency exchangeConverting U.S. dollars into foreign currency is necessary for most trips abroad, and you have two general options for doing so: 1) automatically with a credit card; and 2) converting hard currency at a bank or airport kiosk. But which offers the best deal?

This might seem like a trivial concern, but the difference between the best and worst options could amount to as much as $600 over the course of a weeklong European vacation for a family of four, for example.

2016’s Most Small-Business-Friendly Credit Card Companies

Small Business Study 2016Small business owners aren’t people. Well, at least that’s how the current regulatory environment portrays them. Congress left the small business community out in the cold by excluding credit cards branded for business use from coverage under the Credit CARD Act of 2009. That might not seem like too big of a deal at first, but consider all the CARD Act has done for consumers in recent years.

The law’s bans on bait-and-switch pricing, exorbitant fees and shady accounting practices have resulted in not only a more transparent marketplace, but also a $6 decrease in the average late fee, the near-elimination of over-limit fees and a two percentage-point reduction in the overall cost of credit between 2008 and 2012. That, of course, has saved consumers billions of dollars.

2016 Credit Card Rewards Report

2016 Credit Card Rewards

Picking a rewards credit card is a big deal, and the market can be difficult to decipher – with hundreds of offers available, numerous rewards currencies to choose from and various restrictions to watch out for. However, carefully comparing your options prior to submitting an application can be the difference between earning enough for a plane ticket versus a low-value gift card.

CardHub has therefore undertaken the task of reviewing the consumer credit-card rewards market for you. We analyzed every non-cobranded rewards credit card offered by the 15 largest issuers and devised a grading rubric to quantify issuers’ policies and provide a basis for consumer comparison. To check out our findings and get tips for choosing a rewards card, read on below.

Common Tax Scams & Tips for Avoiding Fraud

Tax Scams And Fraud Prevention

With Tax Day fast approaching, we’re all aware that our personal finances will be under the microscope for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, not everyone parsing our private information will have the requisite authority to do so, as the history of tax fraud is just as long as that of taxes.

In order to avoid the monetary loss, credit score damage, and inconvenience that are so often byproducts of tax malfeasance, consumers must understand not only what the most common types of tax fraud are, but also how to thwart them.

Valentine’s Day Credit Card Savings

Best Credit Cards Valentines

For many of us, the countdown to February 14 brings with it an increasing level of stress as we struggle to find a great present, make a reservation at the right restaurant and, most importantly, find a way to pay for it all.

In support of your plight, CardHub has identified a number of ways to ease the pain that love inflicts on your wallet.  From seasonal discounts for existing cardholders to new cards offering the kinds of low rates and lucrative initial rewards bonuses you need to cure Cupid’s hangover, we’ve got you covered!

2016’s Best Frequent Flyer Program

AIRLINE REWARDSAirline loyalty is a fickle phenomenon, with even the small percentage of travelers who choose flights based on brand loyalty saying they would jump jet if a competitor offered savings of at least $51. The airline industry is known for its cutthroat competition, after all, and this dynamic actually extends well beyond the realm of ticket prices. Rewards programs in particular loom large for both consumers and carriers alike. Roughly 7% of all miles flown are also paid for with miles by the 300-million-or-so members of domestic-airline frequent flyer programs, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Airline rewards programs also seem to make travelers happier. In fact, the higher you climb in a program’s hierarchy, the more satisfied you are likely to be, according to J.D. Power. With that in mind and considering that air-passenger complaints have been on the rise as of late, it’s fair to wonder which major airline’s loyalty-rewards program stands to put your wallet in the best mood.

Credit Card Return Extension Report: Who Offers the Best Deal?

CREDIT CARDS RETURN EXTENSION Returns are a fact of retail life, especially after major celebrations and holidays. In fact, 38% of U.S. adults returned some of their holiday gifts last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Complicating the matter is the issue of return fraud – such as returning a used or stolen item – which impacts roughly 5.5% of returns and has spurred the implementation of stricter return policies that can negatively impact innocent consumers.

So what is a consumer to do upon encountering difficulties when attempting to return an item? Potential pitfalls clearly abound, considering that nearly 10% of those polled by the NRF report that retailer return policies are unfair.

Best Hotel Rewards Program

Hotel RewardsHotel rewards programs are important, both to the travelers who join them and to the chains that run them. Roughly 18% of frequent travelers become loyal to a given hotel brand primarily because of its rewards program, according to Deloitte, and the average Millennial business traveler is actually willing to pay an extra $41 per night to stay at a hotel that belongs to his or her loyalty program. What’s more, hotel chains reap an average of 50% more revenue from customers who belong to their loyalty programs than those who do not, according to a study from the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University.

Questions nevertheless remain in the minds of many consumers. For instance, is it really worth pledging allegiance to a specific hotel chain when travel-comparison websites and disruptive lodging services could yield lower prices on a case-by-case basis? And, assuming that it’s feasible to commit to a given chain, how does one go about identifying the most-rewarding option?

2015’s Credit Cards With The Best Benefits

2015-STUDYCREDIT-CARD-BENEFITSCredit cards bring a lot more to the table than convenience, rewards and financing capabilities. They also provide a host of unheralded ancillary services that, in many cases, are touted as major selling points or actually sold separately to consumers by various merchants. This includes extended warranties, price matching, travel insurance and rental car insurance, just to name a handful of plastic-based perks. But despite the money-saving potential that these policies provide, far too few consumers either know about or understand these features well enough to truly take advantage of them.

The inconsistency of credit card issuer policies is one important reason for that. Not only do benefit terms vary by financial institution, but issuers typically apply each benefit only to certain offers in their card portfolios. When you further consider the loopholes and fine print typical of many such policies and factor in lingering consumer distrust which dates back to pre-CARD Act chicanery, it’s perhaps even more understandable why ancillary credit card benefits aren’t as popular as they could be.

2015’s Most Popular Gift Cards & 8 Gift Card Tips

Most Popular Gift Cards

There are a few things we can count on every year during the holidays: time off from school; an overweight, bearded out-of-towner breaking into homes via chimney; tone-deaf neighbors singing at your doorstep; embarrassing antics at office holiday parties; eating a bit too much; and, of course, gift cards.

Gift cards are the most sought after type of present for the ninth straight holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, with nearly 59% of consumers hoping to receive one this year. But not all gift cards are created equal, and it’s important to understand which ones are the most popular as well as what industry trends you can take advantage of in order to please the people on your gift giving list and save some money during this expensive time of year. After all, holiday shoppers are expected to shell out an average of $805 this year, with the average gift card buyer projected to spend more than $173 on plastic alone. We could all stand to lower those tabs.

Price Protection Report: Credit Cards Shielding You From Price Drops

PRICE PROTECTIONThe combination of recession-reduced budgets, intense competition in the retail space, and tried-and-true consumer price sensitivity has fostered an environment in which price-match guarantees are something of a staple. Most of the largest brick-and-mortar retailers – think Walmart, Best Buy and Toys”R”Us – use price matching to avoid serving as showrooms for Internet giants like It’s also a direct reflection of consumer preferences, as 21% of shoppers request a price match when they encounter prices in a store that they feel are too high, according to Cognizant’s Shopper Experience Study, while 19% leave and look for a lower price online. Furthermore, 29% of people said that price matching by store associates is their top priority for store improvement.

As much as people love price matching at the point of sale, the ability to make a purchase knowing that you’re guaranteed to get the best price that comes available in the next 60-90 days would have to be pretty mind-blowing. That power may already lie in our wallets, believe it or not. Much like they provide rental car insurance, extended product warranties and purchase protection, many credit cards also provide price matching programs. While these programs vary by card, they generally enable consumers to receive a refund when they purchase an item and soon after submit proof of a lower price available elsewhere. Such an option is extremely important in the contemporary retail environment, considering how frequently merchants seem to hold sales.

Purchase Protection Report: Which Credit Cards Insure The Items You Buy?

PURCHASE PROTECTIONThere were more than 15 million cases of property crime in 2014, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That includes burglary, motor vehicle theft and just plain old theft. Fire departments across the country also responded to roughly 1.3 million fires, according to National Fire Protection Association, which resulted in an estimated $11.6 billion in direct property loss. It is with that context that consumers may want to reconsider how they plan to pay for big-ticket items bought over the holidays and beyond.

Many credit cards will supplement users’ existing insurance policies in the event that an item bought with the card is damaged or stolen in the months following its purchase. If you have the right card and follow the proper protocol, your misfortune could be reversed with a full refund or either a repaired or replaced item. However, not all credit cards offer so-called purchase protection, and those that do often feature very different policies. In order to help consumers understand who truly has their plastic’s back, we compared the purchase protection policies offered by the 10 largest credit card companies.

2015 Secured Credit Cards Report

SECURED CREDIT CARDSRoughly one out of every three people has a below-average credit score. Not only do one’s monthly expenses rise as their credit score falls, but access to credit declines dramatically as well. This represents something of a Catch-22 for newcomers and those working to rebuild their standing, since a monthly influx of positive information from a responsibly managed loan or line of credit is the only way to either build a solid score from scratch or devalue negative credit report listings.

That’s why a secured card can be such an important tool. No matter how slim approval rates get for unsecured credit cards, or how much issuer competition exists, you can pretty much be assured of getting a secured card as long as you have at least $200 for the refundable security deposit. And since this deposit doubles as your spending limit, thereby preventing overspending and minimizing risk, issuers don’t need to charge much in the way of fees.

2015 Credit Card Application Study

CREDIT CARD APPLICATIONHow easy is it to find the right credit card online? While comparison tools and customer reviews simplify the selection process in many respects, marketing obfuscation and inconsistency on the part of issuers makes it difficult for consumers to accurately discern each offer’s net value proposition, and thus which card will best suit their needs.

In order to gauge the extent of the problem, and highlight specific areas of concern for consumers, we evaluated online credit card listings from the websites of 10 large national banks as well as 10 of the most popular credit unions. We then scored each website based on the manner in which they characterize the following types of account information:

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