MONEY Streaming Music

Rdio Is Taking On Spotify and Apple with Discount Streaming Service

Man wearing headphones on city street
Alamy

Rdio Select will cost just $3.99 per month.

Spotify competitor Rdio has launched one of the cheapest music streaming options yet.

The new pricing tier, called Rdio Select, will cost $3.99 per month and offers listeners unlimited ad-free “stations”—streaming radio based on a song, genre, or a variety of other criteria—with unlimited skips, as well as the ability to download up to 25 songs for offline use.

Twenty-five songs “is more than most users download in a day, so we feel it’s enough,” said Rdio CEO Anthony Bay in an interview with BuzzFeed News. Bay also clarified that the small number of downloads is what allows Rdio to keep the price so low.

Rdio Select adds an interesting middle ground to industry that generally offers either free ad-supported music or a more expensive subscription option. Spotify, the streaming music market leader, lets its 60 million users choose between a free plan that includes ads between songs or a $9.99 plan that allows for unlimited downloads. Rdio two other plans, Rdio Free and Rdio Unlimited, offer similar features at the same price points.

The news comes as Apple gets ready to relaunch Beats, the streaming service it acquired last August for $3 billion. Re/Code reports Apple has been pushing labels to lower their prices, which would allow the iPhone-maker to offers its new service at a lower price, potentially as little as $5 per month. According to the Verge, Apple has also lobbied record companies to force Spotify and other services to eliminate their free services, giving Apple’s upcoming service an advantage.

MONEY mobile payments

Apple Pay Is Creaming Walmart in the Mobile Payment Wars

Hugo Roque of Glendale makes a purchase at a Disney Store in Glendale, CA using new Apple Pay technology.
Jordan Strauss—Invision for Disney Store

Walmart and a host of other retailers are trying to make inroads in the mobile payments marketplace. And they're failing.

One of the most interesting, least talked about wars in tech is turning into a rout. Ever since Apple launched Apple Pay last year, the iPhone maker has been waging battle against an unexpected competitor: Walmart. And America’s largest retailer is losing badly.

A quick recap on the story so far: Walmart has spent years fighting for lower “interchange fees,” the 1% to 3% charge that retailers pay to card-issuing banks on every credit-card transaction the retailers process. Those fees cost large stores billions of dollars each year, and in 2012, a host of major retailers including Walmart, Target, and CVS decided it was time to push back. They formed a coalition called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX for short) and vowed to create their own payment service that would compete with credit-card companies.

Unfortunately for Walmart, it wasn’t the only one trying to revolutionize how consumers pay for goods. When Apple blew the doors off the mobile payment world last October with the release of Apple Pay, MCX’s payment app, known as CurrentC, was still deep in the testing phase. Worst of all for Walmart and friends, Apple was partnering with the very credit-card payment networks they had hoped to destroy.

Now, seven months after Apple Pay debuted, the retailers are still struggling to hold the line. MCX member BestBuy recently announced it would start accepting Apple Pay, and Dekkers Davidson, the group’s chief executive, resigned one day later “to pursue other opportunities.” But the internal strife distracts from MCX’s biggest failure: The collective has thus far proved unable to get its app into the marketplace. CurrentC remains months away from reaching most consumers. A limited test in a “mid-sized market” is planned for sometime this summer, with a wider launch scheduled for later in the year.

“MCX has had another one of those really bad weeks,” says Jordan McKee, an analyst at the Yankee Group specializing in mobile payments. “If they don’t get something in the market soon, they’re going to get passed by, plain and simple.”

Experts say retailers face two major obstacles in their efforts to create their own alternative payments solution. First, it may simply be too difficult to corral enough competing merchants into a coherent, cooperative group—especially when one of those merchants, Walmart, poses an existential threat to the others.

“It’s hard enough to create something that every single one of [MCX’s] 90 merchant members—some of whom compete directly with each other—feel comfortable protects their flanks at the same time it delivers great benefits,” writes Karen Webster, CEO of Market Platform Dynamics. “But that task is made that much tougher when the founding/funding partner is bigger than everyone else combined and basically competes with everyone on some level.”

Others argue MCX has failed to show why the average person would want to use CurrentC over Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or other mobile payment competitors. “They’re still caught up on interchange, still about circumventing the card networks, and at the end of the day, that can’t be the end goal,” says McKee. “They need to give something to consumers.”

Ironically, MCX has tried to make CurrentC significantly more consumer friendly than Apple Pay. The app’s website promises features like automatic coupon redemption and loyalty rewards, two things Apple’s system notably lacks. A study from consulting firm Kurt Salmon, released in October, showed 61% of mobile wallet users cited rewards and loyalty programs as the primary reason they use their smartphone to make payments.

Nevertheless, Apple Pay has the edge in the one feature that matters most: it actually exists. And many expect the Cupertino-based firm will eventually add loyalty and merchant integration in future updates, potentially erasing CurrentC’s advantage. “I would be shocked if that wasn’t coming in Apple Pay 2.0 or 3.0,” says Matt Schultz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com.

The only good news for Walmart and the rest of its retail coalition is that mobile wallets of any kind have yet to gain significant traction, so there’s still time to grab market share. Even Apple Pay has struggled, with one March survey showing only 15% of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners have ever tried the service. In another survey from CreditCards.com, 64% of respondents said they would “never” or “hardly ever” use a cellphone to make purchases, a number that has actually gone up since Apple Pay’s launch.

Despite the recent setbacks, Walmart is unlikely to give up on CurrentC in the near future, says Schultz. “There’s enough money in it to make it worth their time.”

Read next: Apple Wants Us to Pay for Music All Over Again

MONEY Travel

The Best (and Worst) Cities for a Budget Vacation

Venetian hotel, Las Vegas
Schuetter—agefotostock Venetian hotel, Las Vegas

Thinking about doing some traveling this summer but don't want to break the bank? Then head to Las Vegas and steer clear of New York.

The Big Apple is the most expensive travel destination in the U.S., according to a new study by GOBankingRates. The least expensive? Las Vegas.

The site investigated 50 of America’s most popular vacation cities and ranked their affordability based on budgetary factors like hotel prices, airfare, the cost of food and drink, and transportation expenses.

Vegas turned up a winner, thanks to an abundance of discounts and deals and cheap round-trip flights. Jacksonville, Fla., and Orlando took second and third places, respectively. After New York City—which has an average hotel rate of $200, according to the study—the most expensive cities are both in California: Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Let’s acknowledge that some of the cheaper cities are probably cheaper for a reason: Jacksonville and Detroit, for example, aren’t generally thought of as major tourist destinations. Orlando, on the other hand, is—but, like Vegas, has a vast tourism infrastructure that keeps prices moderate. Denver and Albuquerque, meanwhile, both serve as gateways to magnificent Western landscapes, the raw material from which the quintessential American road trip is built, and yet both are among the 10 cheapest places to visit.

In other words, this list does include a bunch of cities that might be a surprise bargain to many travelers, and can be a good starting point for summer travel plans.

The 10 Cheapest Travel Destinations

1. Las Vegas, NV
2. Jacksonville, FL
3. Orlando, FL
4. Kansas City, MO
5. Detroit, MI
6. Albuquerque, NM
7. Grand Rapids, MI
8. Salt Lake City, UT
9. Memphis, TN
10. Denver, CO

The 10 Most Expensive Travel Destinations

1. New York, NY
2. Santa Barbara, CA.
3. San Francisco, CA.
4. Jersey City, NJ.
5. Honolulu, HI
6. Charleston, SC
7. Boston, MA
8. Los Angeles, CA
9. Miami, FL
10. Houston, TX

MONEY job search

6 Tips for Landing a Last-Minute Summer Internship

150504_CAR_SummerIntern
Eric Audras—Getty Images

Haven't started looking for an internship yet? These strategies will help you catch up in a hurry.

Summer is nearly here, and college students (along with some particularly ambitious high schoolers) who don’t already have plans are scrambling to snag a last-minute internship.

The reality is that by the time May comes around, many student-friendly jobs are already taken. “Organizations have been recruiting all year for internships,” says Philip D. Gardner, director of the College Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Still, Gardner says, students who haven’t yet secured a spot shouldn’t give up hope. The internship market may not be as robust as it was in February, he tells MONEY, “but with some diligence, students should find them.”

Diligence, that is, combined with some smart searching skills. Keep these five tips in mind while on the hunt for the perfect summer job:

1. Ask the right questions

Summer positions aren’t beneficial for their own sake. The point of an internship is to give students real work experience that will eventually lead to a job in their chosen field, or help them decide whether that field is really where they want to work after graduation. So even last-minute job seekers shouldn’t leap at the first offer.

“Some offices offer internships to people trying to get cheap labor,” Gardner says. Students who coasted into positions with family friends or took the first offer “got an internship to put on their resume, but it didn’t get them where they wanted to go.”

According to Gardner, the key to finding a really useful internship is asking the right questions:

  • “What professional outcomes am I going to be able to obtain from this internship?”
  • “Will this allow me to develop teamwork skills or apply learning to problem-solving in this area?”
  • “Will I be able to obtain a good overview of potential careers in your organization, or have a chance to experience some of the basic fundamental responsibilities in this organization?”

Each industry has its own nuances that demand a unique set of queries, so Gardner advises students to talk to their college’s career services center to learn what they should be asking when meeting with potential employers. Plus, showing hiring managers that you’ve done some homework and are eager to learn about their field can only help your chances, especially at this late date.

2. Know where to look

It’s not enough to use the basic set of job search sites, like CareerSearch and O*Net, when hunting for an internship. Many industries also have their own niche job boards where positions that don’t appear elsewhere are posted. Check with your college’s career office, which often has knowledge of industry-specific job listings and connections with a variety of employers. He also recommends talking with professors, who might have tips on internships in their areas of expertise.

3. Give your resume a quick makeover

Hiring managers depend on your resume and cover letter when deciding who to interview for open positions, so it’s important to make sure yours is as perfect as it can be before you start sending out queries. Since time is of the essence, the fastest way to get your resume into shape is to solicit professional help.

Gardner recommends making an immediate appointment with one of your school’s career counselors. They’re a one-stop-shop for general advice—like what fonts to use, how much space each item deserves—and industry specific guidance, such as which achievements to highlight and which to leave out.

4. Become an interview expert

While a writing a good resume is essential, it’s difficult for any undergraduate to get a job based on solely on their past accomplishments. Students in their late teens or early 20s understandably tend to lack extensive work histories, meaning employers are usually going to value attitude and temperament over experience.

“Young people are going to be hired more often on personality traits than on knowledge or skills,” says Carol Christen, co-author of What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, a career guide for young people. “Are you willing to show up on time? Are you willing to ask questions?”

According to Christen, interviews are the primary way to show employers you have the right personality for the position. Moreover, she says, it can take as many as nine interviews for students to get comfortable, making practice essential.

How does one get interview practice before actually interviewing for a job? Mock interviews with college career counselors are one option, but a more time-efficient idea, championed by Christen, is to ask people already employed in your field for an informational interview.

Reach out to people and request a brief chat about their day-to-day responsibilities, how they got their job, and other inside knowledge. These discussions won’t give you experience talking about your own accomplishments, but Christen says they should help build confidence, develop connections, and teach students how to hold a conversation entirely around work.

5. Design your own internship

If your applications go unanswered, don’t give up. Look into volunteering at a nonprofit organization or political campaign in an area that will give you some exposure to career skills. Another option is to design an independent project that could be useful to a business or nonprofit—such as doing market research or looking into various fundraising options—and then ask if anyone on staff will “sponsor” the program by acting as a supervisor or mentor.

6. Next time, get started sooner

It’s possible to get a summer job if you start searching in May, but waiting this long is far from ideal. In the future, Gardner recommends, start looking for an internship as soon as you get back from summer break. He says underclassmen should start particularly early since recruiters tend to hit campuses in the fall and early winter. Getting a head start on the process not only means a higher chance of landing an internship, it also means you’ll have more options to pick from when deciding which position fits you best.

Read next: How to convert a summer internship into a full-time job

MONEY stocks

How Microsoft Became a Market Darling, in Two Charts

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Jim Young—Reuters Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago, Illinois, May 4, 2015.

CEO Satya Nadella has turned an aging tech giant into one of the hottest stocks on the market.

On Tuesday, Salesforce.com saw its shares skyrocket as rumors spread of a possible Microsoft acquisition. While Bloomberg has said no deal is imminent, a Salesforce sale would make a lot of sense for a company that has staged an improbable comeback through a newfound focus on cloud services. (Our sister publication Fortune.com made just that case a few days ago.)

When Satya Nadella was named Microsoft’s CEO on February 4, 2014, he was taking over an aging tech giant long known for muddled priorities and a fear of any internal innovation that could challenge the dominance of its Windows operating system. Since then, Nadella has given his company a clear objective—even killing off established but musty brands like Internet Explorer. As the Economist noted in April:

Mr. Nadella’s biggest achievement so far is that he has given Microsoft a coherent purpose in life, as it enters its fifth decade. He sums it up in two mottos. One is “mobile first, cloud first”: since these are where the growth is going to come from, all new products need to be developed for them. The other is “platforms and productivity”.

On the cloud side, Microsoft’s business has been flourishing. Profits from the cloud—that is, software and services available via the Internet—more than doubled in the past quarter, and revenue has increased to $6.3 billion.

Investors are liking the new clarity too. Microsoft’s stock price has surged under its new CEO. Since Nadella took the reins, Microsoft shares are up over 30%, 10 points ahead of the S&P. In comparison, Microsoft’s stock dropped nearly 12% during Ballmer’s tenure and underperformed the market.

Here’s Microsoft’s stock performance under Ballmer:

ycharts_chart
Microsoft’s share price growth compared to the S&P 500 while Steve Ballmer was CEO.

And here’s its performance since Nadella started:

ycharts_chart (1)

This magical-seeming recovery is still a short-run thing—we’re talking a bit more than year. But Wall Street seems to have Nadella’s back for now. Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal‘s “Heard on the Street” column praised the company’s cloud efforts and called its stock one of the cheapest ways to gain exposure to cloud business. Just a few hours later, as though to confirm the endorsement, Salesforce.com shares jumped on merger news.

MONEY home prices

15 Insanely Expensive Homes on the Market This Spring

It's finally beginning to feel like spring, and that marks the start of home shopping season. We've teamed up with real estate website Zillow for a peek into the most expensive listings in 15 U.S. cities.

MONEY charitable giving

3 Ways to Make Sure Your Nepal Donations Really Help the Victims

Volunteers give out packages of instant noodles to residents living in an evacuation area set up by the authorities in Tundhikel park on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving over 3000 dead and many more trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Omar Havana—Getty Images Volunteers give out packages of instant noodles to residents living in an evacuation area in Tundhikel park on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Before you open your wallet, take a minute to do a little homework.

As Nepal reels from an earthquake that left over 3,000 dead and more than 6,500 injured, people around the world are scrambling to determine how they can best contribute to the relief effort.

Unfortunately, when it comes to natural disasters, making a difference can be more difficult than it might seem. Some forms of giving are more helpful to victims than others, and some charities are better at making sure your donations have a real impact.

Here are three tips for making sure your contributions are used effectively.

1. Donate to Organizations That Make Your Money Go Further

The best relief organizations keep administrative costs low to ensure that the maximum amount of donated funds go directly those in need. Sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar keep track of which organizations are the most efficient with their money. (Top charities generally keep overhead under 20%, although that number can be higher or lower depending on the kind of work the charity does.) Charity Navigator already has a list of seven top-rated charities planning to assist relief efforts.

Other useful tools for evaluating charities include MyPhilanthropedia.com, which provides expert reviews of charities involved in 35 different causes; and GreatNonprofits.org, a Yelp-like service for crowd-sourced charity reviews from volunteers, donors, and those they help.

2. Don’t Donate Physical Goods

It might seem like a good idea to send blankets, clothes, or food to an area hit by a disaster, but that’s actually not a particularly effective way to help those in need. Postal and delivery services may not be able to access disaster areas, and even when they can, there isn’t necessarily anyone on the other end who is able to distribute the goods. Charities that do have the resources and boots on the ground to effectively hand out material aid generally already have relationships with companies that provide bottled water and other necessities. Charity Navigator suggests selling old clothes instead of donating them, then contributing the sale’s proceeds instead.

3. Be Careful Whom You Trust

In the wake of a major tragedy, people are often inundated with pleas for aid via phone, social media, and email. Most of these requests are likely made in good faith, but it’s important to make sure your donations aren’t going to scammers or organizations that won’t spend your money wisely.

Be wary of telemarketers asking for donations. Instead of giving over the phone line, ask the caller for written details on their organization; if you decide to support it, donate via its website or by sending a check through the mail.

Charity Navigator also urges caution when dealing with email solicitations. Emails from strangers claiming to be victims are often part of a scam, and solicitations with attachments are likely to contain viruses.

And as always, be careful about donating to groups or websites you see advertised on social media. If a particular post resonates, do your research first (using the tools mentioned above) to make sure the organization it’s supporting is actually deserving of your money.

For more tips on how best to help those in disaster zones, see this guide from Charity Navigator.

Read next: Six Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

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