Travel 
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How to Protect Your Money While Traveling

When I was 18, I traveled to Europe as an exchange student. I really didn’t know how to protect my money while traveling, and kept all most all of it in pocketbook, in a single form. I was lucky: The only danger my money faced was being spent. If I had been robbed, I would have been hard-pressed to get my money back (although, as part of a student exchange, I would have had help dealing with the aftermath).

True, I was at a disadvantage: I didn’t have a credit card, and I didn’t have a debit card. (This was a looong time ago.) Traveler’s cheques were the way to go when traveling overseas. However, some of the basics of protecting your money never change. It is especially important to be careful of your money if you know you will be traveling to a place in upheaval. Plus, you never know if the country you are in might suddenly become unpredictable, as what happened in Egypt recently.

Before you head out of the country, consider these tips for protecting your money:
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 Credit 
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Best Zero Percent Balance Transfers (February 2011)

The offers on this page are out dated, you can find the latest news on the best zero balance transfers here.

Once a month, every month, I’ll be providing an update on the “state of the balance transfer” on the first Thursday of the month. With the credit crisis abated and the economy recovering, a lot of credit card companies are resuming their credit card offers, including the once prominent 0% balance transfer. In these monthly posts, I’ll keep you apprised on how the landscape has changed in the last month along with a look at some of the more prominent cards in each category.

In the last month, we’ve seen the introduction of a lot of cards with longer 0% APR periods. We’ve even seen Discover bring in a card with no balance transfer fee, a staple during the housing boom but something that has fallen out of favor as of late.

Your typical trade-offs are still there – longer 0% period or lower balance transfer fee? Discover has a 5% fee but a 24 month 0% APR period but Citi has a lower fee but only an 18 month 0% APR period. The right card for you depends on your balance and how quickly you think you can pay it off.

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 Personal Finance 
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Consolidate Your Financial Accounts

Long time readers of Bargaineering will know that in the last year I’ve been aggressively consolidating our financial accounts in a quest to simplify my finances. It seems fitting that, for Spring Cleaning Week, our second post of the series should be one about how to consolidate all the financial accounts you’ve accumulated in the last few years.

In an ideal world, you really need one checking account, one savings account, one credit card (debatable), and one brokerage account. We, of course, don’t live in a utopia, we live here. :) It doesn’t take long for financial accounts to accumulate like knickknacks on your bookcase or mantle. A change in job adds a 401(k), a change of address adds a new bank, and before long you have a dozen financial accounts you don’t even use every month with a few bucks here and a few bucks there.

While most of the battle is in just consolidating, I think that a few tips I picked up may help you in your quest.

This post is part of the 2011 Spring Cleaning Week!



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 Credit 
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Citi’s Student 2010 Holiday Promotion

This offer has expired.

Citi is starting a limited time promotional offer of a $50 statement credit after $50 in purchases on three of their student credit cards – the Citi mtvU Platinum Select Card, the Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card, and the Citi Forward Card. This is a $50 statement credit on top of the features the cards already offer. I’m personally a fan of the Citi mtvU card because it gives me 5 reward points for ever $1 I spend at books (Amazon.com included) and restaurants. Before I had the Citi mtvU card I was using their Dividend Platinum Select (which is still in my drawer) because I was all about the cashback.

These offers expire 1/15/2011.

Here are some more offer details:
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 NEWS 
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Citi 2G Credit Cards

Back in September I wrote about Dynamics Inc’s Card 2.0 and their newest credit card technologies. It turns out that Citi will begin rolling out some of these cards in what they call Citi 2G credit cards. The cards will likely be using the MultiAccount technology, where you can have two credit cards on one physical card, and Citi will let users pick if they want to pay with reward points or credit at the point of sale.

The cards will be the same size as current cards and contain a battery with a four-year lifespan, a smart chip, and the fancy buttons to let you pick how you want to pay. According to the NY Times article, it took “nearly a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop.” A few select customers will be testing them and it’ll be launched more broadly in mid to late 2011. The 2G test cards will be available for the Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard and the Citi PremierPass Elite.


 Credit 
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Be Careful Who You Co-Sign With

Lots of Credit CardsWhen I first moved to Maryland for work, I rented an apartment with a friend of mine. He was a good roommate and a great friend, so much so that we even discussed buying a house together. We never got past the discussion phase because my parents recommended against it when I brought it up. His did as well. Since then we’ve looked back on that moment as a fantastic time to start taking our parents advice because buying a home with someone, regardless of who it is, can be a very tricky proposition.

That said, we are often put in situations of far lesser magnitude where we might be tempted to co-sign an agreement with someone. You might be asked apply for a joint credit card or co-sign a loan, I would be very careful about who you agree to do that with. In fact, I am pretty sure I will never co-sign a loan with anyone other than my wife.

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 Credit 
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Joint Cardholders Building Credit

Reader Carl recently asked me whether or not you build credit with a joint credit card:

I’m a nineteen year old guy, and opened my first credit card account at Best Buy, in order to buy a laptop for school, along with other “necessities.” Mind you, this was in 2009, and it was incredibly hard to find credit, so I had to co-sign with my dad.

Now I hold a total of three credit cards: Best Buy, Express Clothing (my first independent credit card), and my Bank of America Visa card. My BB card has a $2,300 limit, Express $250, and Boa $2,000. During a recent conversation with one of the bankers at BoA, they informed me that my BB card really doesn’t help my credit report, as it’s not necessarily my “own” credit card. Should I close the first account, and attempt to reopen one in only my name?


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 Debt 
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5 Smart Ways to Use Debt to Improve Your Life

Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving BackKimberly Palmer is the author of Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back, which was published by Ten Speed Press this week. The following post has been adapted from the book. She’s also the author of the Alpha Consumer blog at USNews.com, where she’ll be hosting book giveaways all week.

Shortly after meeting my husband, he tried to convince me that debt was a good thing. His student loans, after all, were not only funding his tuition but also many of our first dates. Using something called the “income smoothing theory,” he argued that it was better to borrow now, when we had little money, so we could live better than we otherwise would, and then pay it back later, when we (hopefully) had steady incomes. (Of course, to us at the time, living well meant being able to buy cheap Thai food and beer.)

While his theory falls apart if it’s taken to extremes, for the most part it makes sense. Debt can be a very good thing, as long as you use it wisely. Here are five ways you can use debt to improve your life.

For those of you expecting another installment of Scam Week, I thought we’d take a little break mid-week. I’ve been friends with Kim for a while and with her book coming out, I thought having a guest post by her would be a nice change of pace. I hope you enjoy it!



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