The Checkout

Archive: June 2008

A Temporary Pullback in Credit Card Debt

Here's some interesting, and somewhat positive, data I recently came across. According to TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, average credit card debt has declined for the first time since early 2007. Nationwide, the average debt per credit card borrower dropped 1.25 percent to $1,673 in the first quarter of this year from $1,694 in the previous quarter. In the District, the average borrower had $1,884.79 in credit card debt in the first quarter, down from $1,971.25 in the last quarter of 2007. The same trend held true for some Virginia and Maryland suburbs. In Fairfax, for...

By Nancy Trejos | June 30, 2008; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (5)

Too Young to Handle Credit?

Congress should consider legislation that would regulate credit card issuers' marketing tactics on college campuses, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chairman of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee, said during a meeting she convened on the topic Thursday. "Students want and often need credit, but may not realize all the consequences of applying for or getting a credit card," she said. A number of witnesses, including a college student and a representative from New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office, testified for and against legislation to control how credit card issuers market to college students. Benjamin Lawsky, deputy...

By Nancy Trejos | June 27, 2008; 12:16 PM ET | Comments (2)

Blogging the Product Safety Bill Conference

I should probably call this entry retrospective blogging on the product safety bill conference since it took place at 4ish Wednesday and will continue after Congress returns from the July 4 recess. Not much news came out of the event, where members from the House and Senate were supposed to resolve differences between each chamber's version of product safety reform legislation. They didn't finish Wednesday and will meet again in July. Despite keeping us in suspense for who knows how much longer, the lawmakers were at least kind enough to have the meeting in a room big enough for the...

By Annys Shin | June 27, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The CPSC Channels Gallagher

So I was watching the Today Show this morning with the babe and the hub (the hub was watching it to catch a glimpse of a Redskins player who was a groomsman in a Today Show-sponsored wedding) and I was pleasantly surprised to catch a segment starring Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese and an exploding watermelon. The soon-to-be-exploded watermelon. (Annys Shin) With July Fourth around the corner, the CPSC is out with its annual "fireworks can blow your fingers off" message. And what better way to get the attention of the target teen audience, or rather their parents...

By Annys Shin | June 25, 2008; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (1)

On a Fixed Income and Paying for Overdraft Protection?

Here's an interesting twist to a topic I wrote about on this blog not too long ago. It's about overdraft protection. When you overdraw your account, many banking institutions will cover that payment -- for a fee. Often it happens without your permission. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, Americans 55 and older pay $4.5 billion in fees annually for overdraft loans they haven't asked for and typically don't want. Nearly $1 billion of that amount is taken from people who are heavily dependent on Social Security income. Typically, the fee is $1.65 for every $1 advanced. Unauthorized overdrafts...

By Nancy Trejos | June 23, 2008; 2:20 PM ET | Comments (2)

Chatting It Up with Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart held its first online chat with shoppers Thursday on its new Web site, www.makeyourdollarstretch.com. The guest chatter was Ellie Kay, who dug herself out of $40,000 in debt and now writes books about saving money. The chat was the latest example of Wal-Mart's attempts to refresh its image under the new slogan, "Save Money. Live Better." (The old motto was "Always low prices. Always." Just in case you missed it.) For two hours, Kay fielded questions on everything from how to start a budget to paying for college tuition to filing bankruptcy -- though not in such a depressing...

By Ylan Mui | June 20, 2008; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

What's That Smell?

What do rubber duckies, shower curtains, and air fresheners have in common? If you said phthalates, you'd be right! The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Healthy Homes is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying it should require manufacturers to test household air fresheners for safety and to disclose their chemical ingredients. The lawsuit is based on a 2007 NRDC analysis of more than a dozen common household air fresheners, which found that most contained phthalates, chemicals that may affect hormones and reproductive development in children and infants. The back story is this: The...

By Annys Shin | June 20, 2008; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is It Curtains for Your Shower Curtain?

I'm back from the City of Brotherly Love for my sister-in-law's wedding. And in my inbox this morning, I see the Great Plastic Safety Debate raged on in my absence. The subject this time is shower curtains. The opening salvo came from the Falls Church-based Center for Health and Environmental Justice, which put out a report saying that that new shower curtain smell is not so good for you. CHEJ hired an independent lab to test several shower curtains purchased at big box stores for various chemicals and heavy metals. The lab found the shower curtains contained phthalates, a chemical...

By Annys Shin | June 18, 2008; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fuel Surcharge Frenzy

The air conditioning in my condo died over the weekend. It sounded fine at first, humming away even as the temperature crept up to 75, 76, 77 degrees. Then it fell silent, and I began to sweat. I called a maintenance company to repair the machine. An agent quoted me a price over the phone, and I was surprised when he mentioned a $10 fuel surcharge for driving the repair van to my house. Ten dollars! It's not surprising to find fuel surcharges added to the price of your airline ticket or car rental. But I had never considered that...

By Ylan Mui | June 17, 2008; 1:42 PM ET | Comments (0)

You Say Tomato, I Say Salmonella

Hi. Your food safety nerd here checking in. (Aren't you so glad Nancy and Ylan are writing now too so you don't have to read about bugs in your food all the time?) I've been keeping an eye on this salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes and after a few updates, it looks like it's finally hit the big time. The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued a broad warning, telling consumers not to eat raw Roma, red plum or red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from the following places:...

By Annys Shin | June 9, 2008; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (86)

Uncovering those Hidden Fees

There are yet more steps being taken on Capitol Hill to change the credit card industry as we know it. Last week Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that would allow businesses to negotiate directly with credit card issuers interchange fees that are charged on every transaction. The card companies currently set non-negotiable fees for covering the cost of a transaction. Consumers end up incurring the cost because retailers include them in their prices. Durbin's office estimates that interchange fees cost Americans about $42 billion last year. About $2 of every $100 spent on credit cards goes towards interchange fees....

By Nancy Trejos | June 9, 2008; 9:41 AM ET | Comments (2)

Did Boomers Enjoy the Boom a Little Too Much?

By 2010, households headed by people over the age of 50 will have control of more than half of U.S. spending. So wouldn't it be nice to know that this generation, the Baby Boomers, has its financial act together? A new study released today by McKinsey Global Institute, an economics research firm, has found that that is not necessarily the case. In fact, more than two-thirds of early Baby Boomer households, meaning those between the ages of 50 and 63, are financially unprepared for retirement. There are a number of factors contributing to that, the study found. Among them: Inadequate...

By Nancy Trejos | June 5, 2008; 12:09 PM ET | Comments (10)

Is Ignorance Bliss?

Here's an interesting study I came across that examines how our attitudes can affect our finances. Published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs this summer, the study suggests that many of us tend to overestimate our creditworthiness and that when we do, we take less care of our finances. Author Vanessa Gail Perry, assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Business, examined the Freddie Mac Consumer Credit Survey of about 23,000 people. She found that 32 percent of respondents overestimated their credit ratings, or credit scores, which lenders use to determine how risky a consumer is. Only 4...

By Nancy Trejos | June 5, 2008; 7:08 AM ET | Comments (3)

USDA Rescinds "Raised without Antibiotics" Label from Tyson Chicken

I bring you an update on the Tyson Foods "raised without antibiotics" labeling case. The back story, briefly, is that Tyson was selling chicken under the label "raised without antibiotics." The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry, signed off on the use of the label. Tyson's competitors, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms, cried foul (excuse my word choice) and challenged Tyson's use of the label in court and with the USDA. A federal judge in Baltimore ruled last month that Tyson had to stop using the claim in its advertising. That brings us to this week. Tyson...

By Annys Shin | June 4, 2008; 7:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Check Those Pool Drains

The opening of our neighborhood public pool this past week got me thinking about the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety Act, which I wrote about a few months back. The bill requires operators of public pools and spas to install drain covers to prevent the suction of the drain from pinning children underwater, among other provisions. It was named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker who died in 2002 after she became entrapped by a spa drain. The bill came close to becoming a casualty of one Senator's crusade against irresponsible spending by Congress, but...

By Annys Shin | June 3, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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