MONEY Banking

5 Reasons Why You Should Totally Ignore Bank Sign-Up Bonuses

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Mike Kemp—Corbis

Thanks, but no thanks.

An offer of $25, $50 or even $200 to switch your accounts to a new bank can be very tempting. Who wouldn’t want the extra cash? But before you agree to move your money to a new institution, read the small print that comes with the offer, and consider other factors, such as account fees, restrictions and how happy you are with your current bank.

You may decide that a sign-up reward isn’t a good enough reason to switch. Here are five reasons why it may make sense to skip the bonus offer.

1. You could end up paying more in bank fees

Many banks that offer sign-up bonuses require you to keep a minimum balance, and that amount could be as high as $1,500. If your account dips below that level, you may have to pay monthly fees of $12 or more, which could eventually wipe out the bonus.

The account could also have overdraft fees, which are often around $25 per instance. You might be careful with your budget, but one overdrawn check could be costly. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, overdraft and non-sufficient-funds fees “represent 60% or more of consumer checking account fee income” for banks.

If you’re trying to cut expenses, a free or low-cost checking account at a bank that doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus but has lower fees could be a better deal.

2. The bonus may not be as big as it seems

Shantel Moses of Brooklyn, New York, says she received a sign-up bonus of $50 to join an online bank a few years ago.

“Everything was great until it came time to do my taxes,” Moses says. That’s because the bank sent her a form stating that the bonus should be counted as taxable income, she says. When you consider the tax bite, the size of any bonus may not be worth the hassle of switching accounts.

“After taxes, the 50 bucks was really more like 30 bucks,” Moses says.

3. There will probably be restrictions

Some banks require you to enroll in direct deposit before you can receive the bonus offer. If an automatic deposit isn’t received within a certain timeframe — say, 60 days — you might not get the benefit at all.

Another common requirement is to complete a certain number of debit-card transactions each month. If you sign up for a checking account to get a cash bonus, but then have to use your debit card to make eight purchases every 30 days, you might end up spending the bonus just to meet the terms of the account.

Banks may also require you to keep your account open for 90 days before you’re eligible for the reward. Even then, it could take an extra couple of weeks for the funds to arrive.

4. You could get hit with an account closing fee

If you choose to switch from one bank to another to get a sign-up bonus, but you opened your last account within the past year, your old bank may charge you money to close the account. Some financial institutions have fees of around $25 to close an account that was opened within the previous 180 days.

5. You could still get a bonus without switching

When Moses joined her online bank, she decided there was no need to switch again. After a while, she noticed the bank was offering rewards for referrals.

“I referred my niece, and got another bonus,” Moses says. She was able to get a reward without having to change banks.

If you receive a sign-up bonus offer from a bank, it’s smart to compare that offer with your other options. You may decide that it’s better to pass on the bonus in favor of another financial institution’s offerings that could give you more bang for your buck.

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MONEY Travel

5 Things American Travelers Should Know If They’re Visiting Greece

Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed closed bank branches and long lines snaked outside ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma.
Petros Karadjias—AP Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015.

Greece-bound tourists could be in for some hassles—or worse.

The crisis in Greece has caused the closure of local banks and brought about the worst day of the year in the U.S. stock market. Concerns are also being raised that the situation could ruin the vacations of tourists dreaming of exploring the culture, history, and warmth of Greece during the height of the summer season.

Here’s what travelers should keep in mind if they’re heading for Greece anytime soon.

Arrive with ample cash. Starting on Monday, banks in Greece were closed, and ATM withdrawals were being limited to €60 (around $67) for cards issued by Greek banks. Withdrawal restrictions don’t apply to foreign cards, but many ATMs have reportedly already been emptied and have no cash to dispense.

“Automated-teller machines are running dry and many businesses are no longer accepting credit cards,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The bottom line is that the situation is fairly chaotic and very much in flux. Greece-bound tourists from Germany, the UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere have officially been given some variation of the warning to arrive with “sufficient euros in cash to cover the duration of your stay, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, and any unexpected delays.” Ideally, bring cash in lots of smaller denominations, as it may be difficult for taxi drivers, restaurants, and other local businesses to provide change for big bills.

The advice of the U.S. Embassy in Greece is that Americans should have plenty of cash, and should certainly not rely on any single form of payment: “U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.”

Be extra vigilant. “The State Department recommends you maintain a high level of security awareness and avoid political rallies and demonstrations as instances of unrest can occur,” the U.S. Embassy states. “Exercise caution and common sense: Avoid the areas of demonstrations, and if you find yourself too close to a demonstration, move in the opposite direction and seek shelter.”

What’s more, pickpockets and thieves will surely be aware that tourists have been advised of the necessity of having plentiful cash on hand. So there will be extra reason for tourists to be targeted for theft. It goes without saying you shouldn’t stroll around casually with all of your cash in your purse or back pocket. Stash the bulk of it in the hotel safe, and divide walking-around cash among your party—ideally, safely kept in a money belt or neck wallet—perhaps with some emergency bills in the sole of your shoe. Don’t make it easy for pickpockets to rip you off.

Expect long lines and possible delays. There have already been huge lines at ATMs and supermarkets, with worried shoppers stocking up on essentials in the same way that Americans hoard milk and bread when a big snowstorm is in the forecast. There has also been plenty of speculation that strikes, demonstrations, and a squeeze on fuel could cause travel disruptions within Greece. So far, this has only amounted to speculation, and ferries, gas stations, and such have not been affected.

Tour operators are reporting (mostly) business as usual. “We were in touch with our hotel and our tour director earlier today, and both report that daily life is going on normally,” Tim Armstrong, a spokesman for the Tauck tour company, which had a group on a cruise just finishing up a three-night stay in Athens, said on Monday, according to the (Canada) Globe and Mail.

Likewise, Greek tourism officials maintain that the current events will have no impact on foreign visitors. “The tourists who are already here and those who are planning to come, will not be affected in any way by the events and will continue to enjoy their holiday in Greece with absolutely no problem,” said Elena Kountoura, Greece’s minister for tourism, according to the Independent. “It should be also noted that there is ample availability of both fuel and all products and services that ensure a smooth and fun stay for the visitors in every city, region and the islands.”

At least some of this seems like overstatement, considering that tourists and locals alike have already been affected by long lines. Credit and debit cards are still being accepted by most hotels and other businesses, but the fact that some are only accepting cash as payment is obviously another way that travelers are being affected.

Travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you cancel. If you’ve booked a vacation to Greece and purchased travel insurance for the trip, it may be time to look at the fine print. Most policies will reimburse a cancelled trip if there’s been a death in the immediate family, or if there’s been a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or large-scale civil unrest. But nothing that’s happening in Greece right now qualifies as a standard reimbursable situation.

“If you do cancel your trip it will be subject to the terms of the deal, and you stand to lose money,” one UK travel agent explained to the Guardian. Unless you’ve paid extra for a “cancel for any reason” upgrade to the insurance policy, in all likelihood your travel insurance would not cover you if you decide to cancel a trip to Greece right now.

Read next: What the Turmoil in Greece Means for Your Money

TIME Smartphones

Here’s How Many Americans Sleep With Their Smartphones

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Smartphone reliance is growing

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (71%) who own smartphones sleep with them — either by putting their phone on a nightstand, in their bed, or, for 3% of people, holding it in their hands.

A new mobile consumer report from Bank of America found that not only do Americans sleep with their smartphones, but the devices are also the first thing on people’s minds when they wake up: 35% of respondents said their first thought in the morning is about their smartphone; 10% said it was for their significant other.

The new report underscores an increasing trend of smartphone reliance among owners of the device, especially Millennials.

Throughout the day, more than half of Americans, about 57%, say they use their phone at least once an hour. In New York, that statistic jumps to 96%. In California, it’s 88%.

This constant interaction with smartphones means that Americans are increasingly using their phones for banking. More than half of the survey’s respondents said they use either an app, or a web browser as their primary form of banking. In California, 57% of residents are actively using a mobile banking app, mainly for banking notifications and alerts, checking balances, and mobile check deposits. By comparison, 53% of New Yorkers and Texans actively use banking apps.

Not crazy about smartphones? You might want to move to Denver. The city’s respondents are the most likely to survive without their smartphones: 49% said they would choose phone calls if they could only keep one feature of their phones (that’s 10% above the national average); and 27% of Denver respondents said they could refrain from using their phones indefinitely.

But even in Denver, the trend is inescapable: 63% of Denver residents sleep with their phones.

The Bank of America study surveyed 1,000 people who own smartphones and have banking relationships across the United States, plus 300 people in key markets such as New York, Denver, and California.

MONEY Banking

Think Twice Before Linking Your Bank Account to an App

Naver Corp.'s Line Mobile Apps As SoftBank Said to Seek Stake
Bloomberg/Getty Images

Consumer protections limit your liability in case of fraud -- but you need to act quickly.

Consumers routinely share their online banking passwords with third-party apps that help with everything from budgeting to tax preparation. Apparently banks would like this to stop. JPMorgan Chase posted this notice on its website in April:

“If you give out your chase.com User ID and Password, you are putting your money at risk,” says a page titled Guard Your ID and Password. “Some websites and software offer tools to help you with budgeting, managing accounts, investing, or even doing your taxes. But if you’re giving them your chase.com User ID and Password, you could be responsible for money you might lose as a result.”

That’s no small threat. In other words, if one of those third parties gets hacked and a criminal takes your money, you could lose it all.

The page goes on to advise consumers who’ve already shared their passwords to immediately change them — and of course, not give the new login information to the third party.

The warning is broad, but popular sites like Mint.com, which perform item-by-item analysis of consumers’ accounts, stand to lose the most if consumers heed the warning. So I asked Mint what it thought about Chase’s post.

Holly Perez, a Mint spokeswoman, said the warning was not really new. Several banks have language in their user agreements telling consumers not to share login information with third parties. She’s right. Here is language from Capital One’s agreement:

“Sharing your Capital One access credentials (with third parties) may represent a breach by you of applicable [agreement or terms and conditions),” it reads. “One of the reasons that Capital One prohibits this type of sharing is that we may not have any information regarding the use of or security environment around this sensitive information at any third party. If you choose to share account access information with a third party, Capital One is not liable for any resulting damages or losses.”

Chase’s new posting is probably the result of the recent increase in high-profile hacks, Perez speculated.

Trish Wexler, a senior vice president at Chase, agreed, and pointed out that similar language was present in the Chase user agreement long before the April post: “If you disclose your Card numbers, account numbers, PINs, User IDs, and/or Passwords to any person(s) or entity, you assume all risks and losses associated with such disclosure.”

Wexler said the post was not aimed at any particular third-party service, and she did not know of any incident which led to the post. It was published out of a desire to put that provision of the user agreement into plain language. She also said the post should not be interpreted as Chase telling consumers not to use any specific service, such as Mint.

“Our job is to make sure consumers can make their own choices based on all the available information,” she said. “Clearly customers want to be able to use services like this. They need to understand there are risks associated with giving out their user name and password, be it to a third-party service or a neighbor.”

What the Law Has to Say

Those risks aren’t completely clear, however. Federal banking regulations concerning unauthorized electronic funds transfers are very consumer-friendly. Consumer liability for losses is capped at $50 or $500, depending on how quickly a consumer reports fraud once it is discovered. Even negligence doesn’t increase the consumer’s liability, banking regulators have said. For example, even writing a PIN code on a debit card doesn’t increase the consumers’ liability if the card is stolen and used to make withdrawals.

“Negligence by the consumer cannot be used as the basis for imposing greater liability than is permissible,” the rules say. “Thus, consumer behavior that may constitute negligence under state law…does not affect the consumer’s liability for unauthorized transfers.”

The rules go on to say that banks cannot impose additional liability on consumers.

“The extent of the consumer’s liability is determined solely by the consumer’s promptness in reporting the loss or theft of an access device. Similarly, no agreement between the consumer and an institution may impose greater liability on the consumer for an unauthorized transfer than the limits provided in Regulation E.”

Chi Chi Wu, a banking regulation expert with the National Consumer Law Center, said consumers victimized by theft of credentials from a third-party site would enjoy the same protections as a consumer who divulged their passwords to a hacker.

“The same principles apply,” she said.

Of course writing a PIN code — or falling for a phishing email — is not a direct parallel to intentionally sharing login credentials with a third-party site. Until there is a high-profile test case, it’s hard to say what might happen. For any consumer hit by such a crime, there’s certain to be a big hassle, even if a bank ultimately refunds their money – out of a legal obligation, or free will.

The bottom line for consumers: You don’t want to be that test case. Be extremely judicious when handing out your banking credentials. If you do, be vigilant about what happens inside your bank account. Roughly speaking, you only have two days from the time a fraud appears on your regular statement to report it and be protected by the $50 liability limit. Otherwise, the limit is $500. And if you wait 60 days, the limit is … unlimited. So your real worry should be spotting and reporting fraud promptly.

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MONEY Workplace

Goldman Sachs Bans Interns from Pulling All-Nighters at the Office

Bernard Van Berg / EyeEm / Getty Images

The investment bank is putting an end to overnight work in an effort to improve interns' well-being.

Goldman Sachs has a message for its most junior employees: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here all night.

The investment bank is demanding its new summer interns be out of the office between midnight and 7am, Reuters reports. The new policy comes as financial industry, notorious for its grueling hours, tries to make banking a less stressful endeavor.

The 2013 death of a Bank of America intern in London, which may have been partially induced by fatigue, raised awareness of the finance world’s difficult working conditions and sparked reform efforts. Following the incident, Bank of America modified its policies to be more work-life friendly, and recommended analysts and associates “take a minimum of four weekend days off per month.”

Goldman, Credit Suisse, Citi Group, and other banks have made similar reforms, telling its junior bankers to take off Saturdays or weekends, and in Goldman’s case, forming a task force for quality of life issues.

Part of this reduction in hours is due to health concerns, but as the New York Times noted last year, it’s also driven by new competition from other industries, particularly technology firms, that offer the chance of riches and a personal life. This has lead more potential bankers to demand a (slightly) more livable schedule.

“My students, men and women, talk much more openly about an expectation of work-life balance,” Sonia Marciano, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, told the Times. “It’s a shift that seems pretty real and substantial.”

MONEY privacy

1 in 4 Americans Would Share Their DNA With Their Bank

test tube with DNA sequence
Zmeel Photography—Getty Images

We'd do just about anything to keep fraudsters at bay.

For most Americans, the username-password security feature isn’t good enough anymore. A quarter of consumers said they’d share their DNA with their bank, if it meant greater security for their personal and financial information, according to a survey from Telstra, a telecommunications and information services company in Australia.

About two-thirds of Americans surveyed also said they would prefer their smartphones use biometrics (i.e. a fingerprint) as the gatekeeper of secure information.

The Telstra data is based on a survey of 318 financial services executives in Europe, the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region and 4,272 consumers in seven countries — it’s unclear what share of the responses came from the U.S. or what the margin of error is.

According to the data, more than half of U.S. consumers said security of their finances and personal information is their top priority when choosing a financial institution, over things like interest rates and ease of accessing funds, which are traditionally important considerations when choosing a bank. Given the increasing popularity of mobile banking — a recent report from Javelin Strategy & Research said only 17% of consumers prefer to visit a bank branch to access their checking accounts — it makes sense that consumers would want to know there’s more than a username and password between whoever is holding their phones and their financial information.

Biometric security includes things like voice, facial, fingerprint and iris recognition, ideally ensuring only you can access your bank account on the mobile device. Many of the newest smartphones are capable of biometric security, making the features seem within reach for financial institutions.

Even if your banking app isn’t yet asking for your fingerprints, there are a lot of things you can do to increase your security. First, it’s a good idea to password-protect your phone, because your personal information isn’t limited to your banking app, and you don’t want anyone accessing that without your permission. On top of that, it’s crucial you look at information security from multiple angles: Monitor your bank accounts and credit information for signs of unauthorized activity, because despite your best efforts, it’s likely a fraudster will access and abuse your personal information at some point. As soon as you identify suspicious activity — for example, you’re checking your credit score and it dropped dozens of points for no reason you can think of — immediately investigate the problem. The sooner you alert your financial service providers and the credit reporting agency to unauthorized activity, the faster you’re likely to recover from any damage the fraudster caused. You can monitor your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month.

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MONEY

Mobile Banking Addiction Is Now a Thing

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PhotoInc—Getty Images

In one poll, nearly half of people who bank by phone admitted to checking their balances in the bathroom.

It’s not just teenagers who’d rather look at their phones than talk to people. Bank account holders feel that way too, apparently. New research from Javelin Strategy & Research suggests that consumers now prefer mobile banking to in-person branch banking.

Javelin’s survey found that 23% of consumers choose to use their smartphones as a primary access point for their checking accounts, compared to 17% who prefer to visit the branch.

Online banking still trumps all, with 39% telling Javelin they primarily access their checking accounts that way.

But making mobile phones the primary access point for one-quarter of consumers, rather than a mere add-on, represents a significant change in consumer behavior.

The rise of mobile banking is well chronicled, with the ability to remotely deposit checks a ragingly popular feature. The Federal Reserve said earlier this year that 51% of mobile bankers used “remote deposit capture” last year, up from 38% in 2013. In all, cellphone owners who’ve used mobile banking jumped from 22% in 2011 to 39% last year, the Fed says.

Perhaps that’s because consumers really do like the idea that they can bank anywhere. And I mean anywhere. Feedzai, a security firm, said its recent poll found nearly half of mobile bankers are “doing it in the bedroom.” It also found 30% banked in the bathroom, and 13% even confessed to banking while driving (don’t do that). Another 18% banked while standing in line – presumably not at the bank.

And those who do bank online are “addicted,” argues Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, which found in its survey that 55% of those who access mobile banking do so at least two to three times a week.

Javelin says heavy online bankers are more likely to be younger, female and have children in the household — in other words, they are busy — than online-first or branch-first customers.

In case you’re curious, online banking first became the most preferred banking method in 2009, according to the American Bankers Association. Previously, visiting a branch was the most popular method, followed by visiting ATMs.

Mobile banking is far from perfect, Javelin warns, which is one reason online banking remains so popular.

“Currently, mobile bankers are not able finish transactions on mobile devices and are purposefully shifted to online or branch channels for completion, causing frustration,” said Mary Monahan, Executive Vice President and Research Director at Javelin Strategy & Research. “Financial institutions should aim to create a unified view of the customer and offer a more seamless, easily navigated banking experience, to appeal to the broader user community.”

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TIME elizabeth warren

The Elizabeth Warren Vs Jamie Dimon Feud Is Heating Up

Elizabeth Warren Campaigns With Bruce Braley For His Senate Campaign Bid
Steve Pope—Getty Images Elizabeth Warren

The banker and the senator exchange a war of words

There are few words in the English language that strike fear in the hearts of Wall Street bankers like “Elizabeth Warren.”

The senior senator from Massachusetts has led the fight for tougher regulations on Wall Street, and she has an uncanny knack for marshaling public support for such an esoteric project.

Jamie Dimon, perhaps America’s most famous banker, has a way with words himself. Earlier this week, the JPMorgan [fortune-stock symbol=”JPM”] CEO disparaged the leadership in Washington, singling out Warren in particular, saying: “I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system,” according to a Bloomberg News report.

On Friday, Warren fired back, saying on a Huffington Post podcast that:

“The problem is not that I don’t understand the global banking system. The problem for these guys is that I fully understand the system and I understand how they make their money. And that’s what they don’t like about me.”

This is not the first time that the two have sparred. Warren’s 2014 book A Fighting Chance describes several run ins with the JPMorgan CEO, in which they disagreed over banking regulations.

MONEY Banking

How to Get Bank Alerts on Your Phone

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Peathegee Inc—Getty Images/Blend Images RM

They're the best way to stop fraudsters.

If you haven’t already signed up to get alerts on your mobile phone from your credit card issuer, what are you waiting for?

Mobile alerts can tell you within minutes if your card is used in another country or if your payment is overdue. They can save you the embarrassment of being blocked at the cash register if a transaction seems suspicious by asking you via two-way text if the purchase is legitimate. And as I recently learned firsthand, they can help you catch fraud almost instantly.

I had just started receiving mobile notifications of every transaction on my American Express card when a transaction I didn’t recognize for $748 popped up. I immediately got on the phone. Sure enough, it was fraud. And even though AmEx hadn’t flagged it as a suspicious transaction, I was able to shut it down right away because I saw it.

That’s the beauty of mobile alerts and notifications, said Mark Schwanhausser, director of omnichannel financial services at Javelin Strategy & Research: “It’s a way to involve the customer and deputize them, because they often know better than the banks if something is legitimate or not.”

The alerts can also help you manage your personal finances by alerting you before a payment is due, if your balance goes over a specific amount or if you’re close to your credit limit. About four in every 10 consumers today have received some kind of alert from a financial institution, according to a Javelin report published in April. The company predicts that number will rise to more than half of U.S. consumers by 2019.

However, the report said most banks aren’t doing enough to promote their alerts, that it’s confusing and difficult for customers to enroll, and the alerts are “remarkably difficult” to turn on. “Finding alerts settings is akin to a Where’s Waldo’ search,” the authors wrote.

Since the issuers may not make it easy, here’s what you need to know to sign up:

How do you want to get your alerts?
You can get alerts through email, text message or “push notifications” that pop up in the status bar or notification tray of your cellphone. Email alerts are still the most common, according to Javelin, with 36 percent of consumers receiving them, compared to 22 percent for texts and 14 percent for notifications. Here are the pros and cons of the different types:

  • Email: Every bank surveyed by Javelin offers email alerts, and this type has been around the longest. The problem, of course, is that some folks don’t have email on their phones. Even if you do, you may not check it regularly. “Fraudulent transactions happen fast,” said Julie Conroy, research director at Aite Group. “A thief will do a little testing and then go to town, so it’s important to catch fraud as quickly as possible.”
  • Text message: About 95 percent of banks allow their customers to receive at least some financial alerts via text. Because we’re conditioned to give texts our immediate attention, this type of alert is a good choice for news you consider urgent. “Since you use texts to communicate with people, it might be annoying to get a text for every transaction,” Conroy said. “Also make sure you consider whether you’re going to incur charges for texts.” Some banks offer two-way texts that pop up instantly on your phone if you try to make a transaction that looks suspicious. If you respond that the purchase is legitimate, your card will go through instead of being blocked at the point of sale.
  • Push notification: This is the type of notification that I received from American Express. They pop up on your phone’s lock screen, in the banner at the top of your phone or in your “notification tray” even when you’re not using your card’s mobile app. They are more likely to get your attention than an email, but they’re less obtrusive than a text. Fewer than half of banks offer these, but Javelin predicts they will surpass text notifications as the No. 2 form of alert by 2019. Fueling that prediction: 45 percent of consumers surveyed said they think push notifications from their bank would be valuable, even though only 14 percent receive them.

When do you want to get an alert?
Signing up for at least some mobile alerts should be “a no-brainer choice for the customer,” said Brian Riley, principal executive adviser at CEB TowerGroup. “You don’t necessarily need an alert for every transaction. But everyone should want some type of notification,” he said.

Most issuers allow you to customize the type of notifications you receive and how you get them, so you can make sure you don’t get too many. “Typically there’s a control panel that says, ‘Text me or email me based on these specific conditions,'” Riley said. You can also turn them on or off anytime.

Some alerts are designed to enhance security; others help you stay on top of your personal finances. Here are some options you may see:

Security alerts:

  • Suspicious transaction: When issuers suspect fraud, they automatically try to contact you. But federal law requires them to get permission before they can notify you via text instead of calling you or sending an email.
  • Card-not-present transaction: This notifies you anytime a purchase is made without a swipe, so it’s mostly Internet transactions. “These transactions are much more vulnerable to fraud because all they need is your account number, not your actual card,” Riley said, “so this option should be first on your list.”
  • Gasoline transaction: Gas stations are another hot spot for thieves; you’ll be notified anytime a purchase is made at one.
  • International transaction: Because a lot of fraud originates overseas, this can be a good way to catch fraud if you rarely travel abroad; you can turn it off when you leave the country.
  • Transactions over a preset amount: You can choose to be notified of every transaction over a specific dollar amount. If you choose $0, you’ll be alerted to every transaction; set a higher dollar amount to minimize the number of alerts.

Personal finance alerts:

  • Available credit: Sent when your credit falls below a specified amount you set.
  • Balance: Sent anytime your credit card balance exceeds an amount you set. This can be particularly useful if you have multiple people using your card or if you’re trying to stay within a budget.
  • Low balance: An alert if the balance in an account linked to your debit card falls below a specified amount.
  • Payment due: Notifies you a specified number of days before a payment is due.
  • Missed payment: Sent if no payment was received by the due date.

How to sign up
Banks are cautious about automatic enrollment, Schwanhausser said, because “they don’t want their customers to feel like they’re being spammed or overwhelmed.” Most send automatic security alerts via email (or through a call to your home phone) anytime your personal information or settings are changed or if they notice suspicious activity.

To start getting text messages or push notifications to your cellphone, you have to proactively sign up. Though it can be difficult to enroll, it’s worth doing simply so your bank can reach you quickly on your cell if it detects suspicious activity. “It’s also a lot more convenient for you to hit reply to a text and say, ‘Yes, this was my transaction,’ or ‘No, it wasn’t,’ than to get an email about something and have to take the time to call in,” Conroy noted.

Every card has a slightly different process, but here are the basic steps to start getting text message alerts:

  • Log in to your card’s website.
  • Look for something in the menu that says “manage alerts” or “go to alerts.” If you don’t see the word ‘alerts,’ you may have to click on “Profile” or “Settings.”
  • Look for an option that will allow you to put in your mobile number, change your contact information or add text messages.
  • Because federal law requires you to opt in to receive text, you’ll have to activate the service by entering a code that the bank will send as a text.
  • Most issuers then list the types of alerts you can receive and how you want to receive them (email or text). Make your choices and then hit save.

To start getting push notifications, follow these steps:

  • First, find out if your card issuer offers the service. Javelin’s report in April said the following financial institutions were using push notifications, but more banks are adding them every day: American Express, Bank of America, M&T, BBVA compass, Regions, Chase, USAA, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Fifth Third.
  • Download the institution’s mobile app.
  • In most cases, you can add push notifications through an app menu option that says something like “Manage alerts.” If you don’t see it as an option in the mobile app, you may have to add push notifications through the card’s website. Call the phone number on the back of your card if you’re having trouble.
  • Once enrolled, you may still have to change the settings on your phone to “allow notifications” from your bank’s mobile app. On most phones, you can go to settings and look for “notifications.” Some, including iPhones, let you decide whether to turn on sounds and badges with the notifications.

After my own experience with fraud, I took the time to turn on mobile alerts for all of my active credit cards and bank accounts (it did take some time and a few phone calls). To keep my messages box from filling up, I elected to receive texts only for news I considered urgent: suspicious activity, a low balance or a payment missed. But I’m receiving push notifications on my phone for most other transactions, and so far, I haven’t minded the extra communication. In fact, I take comfort in knowing that if fraud happens, I’ll catch it quickly.

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MONEY credit cards

Sex Pistols Credit Cards Are Here and Punk Rock Dies a Little

The Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, performs at the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria September 5, 2008.
Vincent West—Reuters The Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, performs at the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria September 5, 2008.

When anarchist punk rock and 18.9% APR credit cards collide.

“Don’t know what I want / But I know how to get it.” That’s what Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols “sang” (to use the term loosely) in the angry, seminal song for the ages “Anarchy in the U.K.”

The lyrics probably aren’t referring to getting anything with the assistance of a credit card—banking and capitalism are hardly punk rock, after all. But in a surprising move that calls to mind another passage from “Anarchy in the U.K.” (“Your future dream is a shopping scheme”), a new line of Sex Pistols-themed credit cards has just been launched in the U.K.

150609_EM_SexPistolsVirginCardThe cards come courtesy of Virgin Money, the U.K. banking group formed under the leadership of serial entrepreneur Richard Branson—who also just so happened to sign the Sex Pistols to his Virgin Records label nearly four decades ago. “In 1977 Virgin Records signed one of their most iconic bands, The Sex Pistols,” the Virgin Money site states. “They challenged convention and the established way of thinking—just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.”

“To bring a bit of rebellion to your wallet,” Virgin Money has introduced three different Sex Pistols-themed cards featuring the names and imagery of the band, including an “Anarchy in the U.K.” card and two cards with the controversial title of the album “Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols.”

If you don’t know why the title is controversial, you’re probably not from the U.K. In America, the word “bollocks” has mostly come to be understood as meaning “nonsense” or perhaps “bull****” and has been used in a highly touted ad campaign for New Castle Brown Ale. In the U.K., however, while the term can also mean “rubbish,” it is often used as vulgar slang for “testicles.”

And now that word is on a credit card with variable 18.9% APR for those with good credit histories.

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