MONEY

Gen Y’s Glaring Financial Oversight Could Cost Them Big

woman tying blindfold on herself
Jonathan Fernstrom—Getty Images

It's the simplest thing, really

New research finds that a huge number of millennials don’t bother looking at their bills, an oversight that could be costing them—and anybody else who’s in the habit of paying without perusing—in more ways that you’d expect.

In a survey of more than 2,000 adults under the age of 25 conducted on behalf of technology company Inlet, 32% of respondents said they don’t look over itemized bills before paying them.

One possible reason could be because so many young adults pay their bills electronically these days. “Millennials are digital natives and are accustomed to living their lives on mobile devices and social networks,” Inlet points out in a release accompanying the results. The survey finds that fewer than 25% use paper checks and snail mail to pay bills, while about 10% get email reminders and 5% get text reminders when their bills are due.

But this convenience can have a downside if it leads to carelessness. If you don’t check your bills, here are some potentially costly outcomes that can result.

You might be paying for a service you don’t use. Maybe you signed up for a premium cable channel you no longer watch, or for a data plan that far outstrips your mobile usage. Maybe you signed up for a subscription — anything from a gym membership to movie-streaming site access—that you don’t use anymore. If you don’t look at your bill, this could slip your mind and cost you money.

You could miss out on savings. Sometimes, companies will offer money-saving options on your monthly bill that you won’t know about if you just look at the the total and tap a few keys or write out a check. For instance, you might be able save a few dollars if you opt for paperless statements or electronic payments. Expenses like insurance premiums sometimes can be a few bucks lower if you pay your annual premium in a lump sum rather than spreading out your payments over the course of the year.

You might get ripped off. Maybe you signed up for a cable package at a promotional rate, or were promised a discount on a purchase. The only way to make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to is to check your bill. Glitches and mistakes do happen, and it’s up to you (not the company!) to be sure you’re not paying more than you should. In the case of credit or debit cards, you’ll also want to verify that you get the refund you’re owed if you return an item, and that you’re not overcharged at places like restaurants.

You could be a fraud victim. Hopefully you’d notice if someone went on a spending spree using your account information, but sometimes, small discrepancies can give you an early warning. When thieves steal a cache of credit or debit card information and sell it on the black market, the buyer will often make a small transaction—maybe a dollar or even less—to see if the stolen digits they just bought are still “live.” Catching an unfamiliar transaction that otherwise might go overlooked could save you a much bigger headache later.

Read next: Automate Your Finances With Our ‘Set It and Forget It’ Checklist

MONEY credit cards

5 Black Marks That Can Sink Your Credit Score

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Troy Plota—Getty Images

Derogatory information stays on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.

When you’re looking to apply for a loan, lenders place a major emphasis on your credit report. Your credit history includes your amount of debt and payment history, as well as other factors, and lenders look to your past credit behavior to see whether you’ll be a good credit risk going forward. There are some things on a credit report, however, that could discourage a lender from approving you. These “black marks” could make it difficult to get approved for a loan, and could even keep you from achieving certain financial goals. If you’re planning to apply for a loan but you’ve had credit challenges in the past, here’s what you need to know about credit report black marks.

What Is a Black Mark?

Any item that may be considered negative by creditors is often referred to as a “black mark” or “derogatory information.” These items indicate some sort of negative financial behavior, such as failing to pay debts on time, and they remain on your credit reports for an extended time, typically anywhere between seven to 10 years. Some of the most severe derogatory marks include:

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is essentially a legal process designed to reduce or eliminate a consumer or business’s debt — or make it easier to pay off. While it does provide some form of relief, bankruptcy is considered to be one of the most damaging marks to have on your credit report. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years while Chapter 13 bankruptcy will remain for seven years from the filing date.

Foreclosure

In the event that a borrower falls significantly behind on mortgage payments, the lender may opt to foreclose on the home. If the borrower fails to pay off the outstanding debt or cannot sell the home via short sale, the property then goes into foreclosure. A foreclosure will remain on your credit reports for seven years.

Collections

When accounts are reported as being sent or sold off to a debt collector, they are considered to be in “collections.” This usually occurs when a creditor is having difficulty collecting payments on a debt. A collections account will typically stay on your report for about seven and a half years from the date it first became late.

Tax Lien

Simply put, tax liens are when the government places a lien against some or all of an individual’s assets due to them neglecting or failing to pay a tax on time. Tax liens can remain on your credit report indefinitely, though credit reporting agencies often remove them after 10-15 years. Once you’ve paid off the debt’s balance in full it will take seven years from the date it’s paid for the mark to be removed. However, you may qualify to have the lien removed from your credit reports sooner, depending on the circumstances.

Civil Judgment

Although criminal records aren’t included upon your credit report, civil judgments (such as a civil lawsuit or child support case) are. A civil judgment is a ruling against you in a court of law that requires you to pay damages (typically in the event that you lose a case or neglect to respond to a lawsuit). A civil judgment stays on your credit report up to seven years.

What You Can Do About It

While derogatory marks can cause your credit score to take a major hit, they won’t keep you down the entire time they’re on your report. Maintaining good financial habits and keeping the rest of your credit in good health can help you build things back up. As negative information becomes older, it tends to have less of an impact on your credit scores, provided you have other current positive credit references. Paying down high credit card balances and keeping your debt usage ratio low, and making your payments on time are all things that can help you build your credit.

It’s also a good idea to get your free annual credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies to check for inaccuracies and to generally stay informed. Checking your credit scores regularly can also help you track your progress.

While it might be hard at first, it is possible to return to good financial standing with a black mark on your credit report. Provided you strive to maintain good credit behavior, you should start to see your credit score start to inch upwards and your chances of securing a loan increase. Not only that, but the habits you develop during this period can hopefully help you avoid another derogatory mark in the future.

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MONEY College

Why Bank Accounts Are Better Than Credit Cards for College Kids

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ShutterWorx—Getty Images

Teens with checking accounts are better prepared to handle their finances than ones with access to plastic.

If you want your college student to learn money management skills, get him or her a checkbook instead of a credit card.

In fact, a recent survey of 42,000 first-year college students found that the earlier teenagers had access to credit cards, the less prepared they felt for managing their own money in college.

Those who had checking accounts, by contrast, were “markedly more prepared” to handle their finances than those who were unbanked before college, according to the study conducted by education technology company EverFi and sponsored by financial services company Higher One.

The findings match up with the experience of Janet Bodnar. The editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and mother of three college graduates sees credit cards for college students as dangerous and unnecessary.

Young people need to have finite amounts of money to learn essential skills such as budgeting and monitoring their accounts, said Bodnar, author of the book “Raising Money Smart Kids.”

Ideally, students would start with a checking account in high school to manage income from their first jobs. Children who are not spending their own money often have a flexible definition of what constitutes a financial crisis, Bodnar said.

“An emergency is needing a dress for the sorority dance, or picking up the check for everyone at the pizza place because nobody has any money,” she said. “You think of plastic … as a convenience. Kids think of it as a direct line to your wallet.”

Check out the new MONEY College Planner

Plastic Cautions

Personal finance columnist Kathy Kristof, who also writes for Kiplinger’s and who has sent two children to college, is on the other side of the fence. She thinks a credit card can make sense for some families.

“For parents who know their kids and have taught them how to handle money, it can make your life easier,” Kristof said.

College students typically can qualify for their own credit cards, without a parent co-signing or any credit history, when they turn 21.

If parents want to help a child build a credit history before then, they can add him or her to one of their own credit cards as an “authorized user.” (Parents should call and ask the issuer if it will export their account history to the child’s credit report, since some will only do so for a spouse.)

Kristof gave cards to both children, one a college graduate and the other still a student, to book flights home and cover emergencies.

“I’m happy to have the kids as authorized users because I can see what they’re doing and rip the card out of their hot little hands if they abuse it,” Kristof said.

So far, her daughter has always checked in before using the card. Her son, however, will sometimes use it without asking but will tell Kristof and pay her back before the bill arrives.

Kristof said she would not let her progeny get a credit card if she could not see the bills. Even a responsible college student can get distracted and forget to check the balance or make an on-time payment.

Just one skipped payment can devastate credit scores.

“What you don’t want to do,” Kristof said, “is put your kid in a situation where they could get credit dings before life really has gotten started.”

Bodnar cautioned that students who run through all their money should have to make a case to their parents about why they need more, not an excuse for what they already spent using a credit card.

“If they really need money, there are plenty of ways to get it to them fast,” Bodnar said, such as bank transfers or a system like PayPal or Venmo.
Check out MONEY’s 2015-16 Best Colleges rankings

MONEY Credit

This City Has the Highest Debt Burden

Market Square in San Antonio, Texas
Jim West—Alamy Market Square in San Antonio, Texas

A new survey identifies the spots where credit card debt causes the most (and least) pain.

Locals like to brag that everything’s bigger in Texas. But they might not be boasting about a new ranking that places three Lone Star metro areas among the U.S. cities with the highest credit card debt burden.

San Antonio residents face the greatest credit card debt pain in the nation, according to a new analysis by CreditCards.com; Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston take the No. 2 and 5 spots, respectively. (Atlanta and Miami rounded out the top five spots.)

Using data from credit bureau Experian, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve, the study compared the average credit card debt total in the 25 largest U.S. metro areas with each area’s median income. It assumed that 15% of that median income would go toward credit card debt repayment each month, then calculated how long it would take an average resident to pay off his cards — and how much interest they’d pay while doing so — with a 13% APR, which the company says is the average rate for people who carry a balance.

That meant that high-income cities had an edge. The affluent San Francisco Bay Area had the lowest debt burden, with residents needing only nine months to pay off the average credit card debt. San Antonio residents, by contrast, would need 16 months to do the same, and would end up paying $214 more in interest.

Below are the top five metro areas with both the highest and lowest debt burdens:

Highest Credit Card Debt Burdens

1. San Antonio (16 months, $448 interest)

2. Dallas/Fort Worth (14 months, $382 interest)

3. Atlanta (14 months, $376 interest)

4. Miami/Fort Lauderdale (14 months, $351 interest)

5. Houston (13 months, $363 interest)

Lowest Credit Card Debt Burdens

25. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (9 months, $234 interest)

24. Boston (10 months, $267 interest)

23. Washington, D.C. (10 months, $286 interest)

22. Minneapolis/St. Paul (11 months, $266 interest)

21. New York City (11 months, $293 interest)

For help managing your own debt, see our credit guide.

MONEY Debt

How Etsy Helped Me Pay Off $20,000 in Debt

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Hero Images—Getty Images

Nancy Nemeth used half the money she made on Etsy to fund her sewing business. The other half went to pay down her debt.

Their marriage had a less-than-ideal start. She had $20,000 in debt. He was about to lose his home, and the bank wouldn’t negotiate. He also had a student loan, a car loan and some credit card debt. When she moved to Cleveland to be with him, she’d be unemployed. He’d have to work overtime as a truck driver just to put a few hundred dollars toward paying down the debt.

But Nancy and Dan Nemeth — both 49 years old — took the plunge anyway, getting hitched in a $300 budget wedding in April 2012. Thanks to a short sale, Dan was able to get out from under his mortgage and when they moved into a rental, they had a fresh start but a $30,000 mountain to climb — not including their car loan.

“His take home pay was only $2,000 a month, so Dan did all the overtime he could to bump it to $2,600,” Nancy said. “We paid just over minimum payments at first.”

Then, her love of birds, bags, and sewing changed everything.

“I love to craft. So one day, a friend was watching me sew at home and mentioned she wanted a couple things made for a friend’s birthday,” Nancy said. “So I sewed a few items for her. Then that turned into another item for another friend. Then (a different) friend said, ‘Hey, put your stuff on Etsy.’ I didn’t know what it was at the time. Within a couple months… I made enough for a new sewing machine.”

 

Nancy started making handbags and clutches, often with designs inspired by her pet birds. She made a vow that half the money she made on Etsy would go back into the business, but the other half would be used to pay down her debt. She was making a “couple of hundred” a month for a while, but eventually saved enough to upgrade her machine, which soon was running 10 hours a day, 6 days a week.

“I spent every day sewing and making my little shop bigger and better,” she said. “Studying how to expand and do social media to get my little shop out there. It has blossomed so much.”

And while the business blossomed, the Nemeths’ debt shrank fast. She averages about $2,500 in sales a month, which means she puts more than $1,000 a month toward paying down her debt. They’re not finished yet, but the $30,000 mountain is now more of a $10,000 molehill…plus about $8,000 remains on the car loan.

Paying down debts can also have a positive effect on credit scores – making payments on time and keeping revolving debts on credit cards low relative to credit limits have a big impact over time. This calculator can show you how long it’ll take you to pay off your credit cards.

“We will be completely debt free in ONE year. Can hardly wait,” she said. “Then all the extra will go into savings and a portion to our dream trip to Europe.”

Etsy wasn’t the only step the Nemeths took to attack their debt problem. They also cut out almost all extras. When they go food shopping, they bring the budgeted amount in cash, and never overspend. They plan date nights well in advance so they have something to look forward to, and make choices to keep those costs down, like eating before going to the theater to avoid paying for expensive candy and popcorn.

But finding a way to supplement their income has been the most important step towards climbing out of the hole they were in.

“I have always said do what you love, and if you can find a way, make some of that dream happen,” she said.

Her husband has gotten into the act, too. He recently went back to his old hobby performing comedy. He puts half his comedy income into paying down debt, too. Laughing together is helping their relationship, too.

While their marriage didn’t have an ideal financial beginning, Nancy actually thinks that might have made them closer.

“I think it’s just that we are proud of (our) really tough beginnings being together, but overcoming so much at the same time,” she said. “Go figure. You’re supposed to meet and get married when things are great and all that. But our (story) is opposite. Maybe that was a good thing. Maybe seeing the worst times at the beginning gives a healthy dose of realism and something to really bind a future together. It was a struggle… but nothing we could blame each other for. Just a desire to get out of this life that we ‘think’ we should have according to the white picket fence syndrome.”

And the couple might be able to get out of debt even sooner than expected. After Credit.com began chatting with Nancy about her debt, Etsy featured her store, Birds and Bagz, in an email. Orders spiked for a day, and she earned around $3,500 in July.

“Paying off another credit card tomorrow,” she said. “Feels great.”

What did the couple do to celebrate?

“We are treating ourselves to sushi dinner tonight…which of course we go at happy hour, which is half off,” she said. “Never pay full price.”

More From Credit.com:

MONEY credit cards

Should You Get the Amazon Prime Store Card?

Amazon Prime website
Alamy

The answer depends on what kind of shopper you are.

Everyone is buzzing about the new Amazon Prime Store Card, which offers 5% cash back on all Amazon.com purchases for Prime members. It was actually released without much fanfare back in March, but is getting attention now because of the marketing push around Amazon Prime Day, the company’s attempt to create a Black Friday-style retail frenzy in the run-up to back-to-school season.

The reasons that Amazon is pushing the card are clear: For one thing, by adding new Prime membership perks, it hopes to gain more Prime members, at $99 a year each. Perhaps less obviously, Amazon pays lower interchange fees to transaction processing companies for purchases made using the Prime Store Card than it does on those made using a traditional Visa, MasterCard, or AmEx.

But is the card good for consumers? The answer to that really depends on their relationship to Amazon and their credit.

Card Benefits

The rewards structure is pretty simple: 5% cash back on all purchases if you’re a Prime member. While the card doesn’t technically have an annual fee, you have to pony up nearly $100 bucks a year for the two-day shipping and media streaming service.

There’s currently a limited time offer of a $40 gift card if you sign up for the card. And Amazon won’t take long to make a decision on your creditworthiness: You’ll receive a response within a quarter of a minute.

The card also comes with a tiered financing option that’s meant to help consumers buy large purchases over time without interest. On items larger than $149, for instance, you have the option to pay off the full expense over six months without interest. But there’s a catch on this: If the purchase isn’t paid off at the end of that period, you’ll be “assessed on the promotional balance from the date of the purchase,” according to the card’s terms and conditions. If you carry a balance on non-financed purchases, you’ll pay a variable interest rate that’s currently at 26%.

Also, don’t expect a normal-looking piece of plastic if you’re approved. “The card itself is made out of paper, like an auto insurance card,” says NerdWallet’s Sean McQuay.

Pros …

So is it worth it? McQuay, who says he has used the card himself, notes that “5% is a great rewards rate and is generally only seen on rotating categories. To get 5% back on all purchases at a store as varied as Amazon is a great deal.”

Other cards do allow you to save money on Amazon purchases, but with more restrictions. The Discover it, for instance, offers 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, but only from July to September and only for up to $1,500. (And the Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card from Chase offers 3% back on Amazon purchases; 2% at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores; and 1% everywhere else.)

There’s also the simplicity: “The cash back appears on each statement balance automatically — no minimums, no opt-ins, no reminders,” McQuay adds.

And if you’re a heavy user who spends $200 a month at Amazon, using the card will earn you enough to cover the cost of Prime with some cash left over.

… and Cons

But the new card also has some serious downsides. For one thing, because the APR is very high, anyone who carries a balance should stay away. “A variable APR of 25.99% is horrible,” says CreditSesame.com’s John Ulzheimer. “If you carry a balance on the card then you’re funding your own rewards — and the rewards being enjoyed by others who are not carrying a balance.” By way of comparison, the Discover it’s APR ranges from 11% to 23%.

Another “benefit” could also get you in trouble, if you’re not disciplined enough. While the ability to pay for a big purchase without interest for at least half a year sounds appealing, you’ll end up with a much larger bill than you bargained for if you don’t pay off your new television on time.

Moreover, the credit limit might be much lower than you’re accustomed to. Matthew Goldman, the chief executive of credit card rewards site Wallaby Financial, received a credit limit that was a fraction of what he was offered on his other cards.

Even for the most creditworthy borrowers, a lower credit limit caps what you can earn in cash back. Moreover, using up a large portion of the available credit on an individual card can harm your overall credit score, says Goldman, making it more expensive to borrow in the future.

Finally, note that Amazon’s new product — unlike, say, the Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card — can only be used at Amazon.

The Verdict

Only apply for this card if you are already a Prime member who shops at Amazon frequently, doesn’t carry a balance and can hold yourself to spending about 20% to 30% of your available credit each month.

And realize that this is a difficult task when buying that shiny new toy is only a click away.

If that doesn’t sound like you, find a card that will first do no harm.

Read next: Amazon Prime Membership Should Come With a Warning

MONEY credit cards

Help! I’m Getting Divorced. How Do We Split Our Credit?

credit card cut in half
Sergei Aleshin—Shutterstock

Both partners are equally responsible for debt accrued while married.

Q. I’m getting divorced and I want to make sure to separate my credit from my wife’s. How can I do that?

A. You’re wise to want to protect your credit, and your question is a biggie.

We turned to Kenneth White, a divorce attorney for Share and White in Edison, N.J., to tackle this one. He said without all the details of your situation, he can’t provide the most comprehensive advice, but he had plenty of items for you to consider.

Short of filing for divorce, there is no efficient way to isolate yourself from your wife, White said.

“Specifically, while you are married to your wife you are part of a partnership,” he said. “Think of it like a business enterprise within which you are each potentially entitled to 50% of the benefits as well as being 50% responsible for the liabilities.”

While you remain married, White said, there are no “my assets” and “her assets,” such as your 401(k), her bank account, etc. Regardless of whose name may be associated with the asset, there is a presumption that all assets amassed during the course of a marriage are “marital,” or another way to view it: “ours.”

Similarly, White said, all debts and liabilities amassed during the marriage are potentially divisible equally between the parties to a marriage regardless of who specifically amassed such debts or liabilities.

White offers this example to drive the point home:

“If you win the lottery the day before a complaint for divorce is filed, your wife will have a claim for 50% of the lottery proceeds,” he said. “Win the lottery the day after a complaint for divorce is filed and she has no claim to such proceeds.”

It works the same for any debt that’s amassed prior to a complaint for divorce is filed, he said, and any debt amassed by one party to a marriage in his or her independent name after a complaint for divorce is filed will likely belong to that individual party.

Accordingly, the only way to begin to isolate yourself from your spouse, potentially protecting new assets and to be protected from new debts, is to file.

White recommends you meet with an experienced family law attorney who can review the specifics of your situation.

Going through a divorce is also a crucial time to monitor your credit. You can get a free annual credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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TIME Cuba

Doing Business In Cuba Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

A man drives his taxi past a Cultural Center with the word "Cuba" on it, in Havana, Cuba,, April 14, 2015
Desmond Boylan—AP A man drives his taxi past a Cultural Center in Havana on April 14, 2015

A Florida bank established the first connection with a Cuban counterpart since President Obama’s December decision to open up relations between the two nations.

Stonegate Bank and Banco Internacional de Comercio S.A. (BICSA) signed a deal on Tuesday in Havana that would establish a correspondent account for the Florida-based bank on the island, making it easier for U.S. companies doing business in Cuba to process transactions directly, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Correspondent accounts allow banks to send money back and forth across international borders. Some U.S. business transactions in Cuba use U.S. treasury licenses, but all commercial deals end up going through banks in third countries, adding another step to the process.

These kinds of accounts have come under close scrutiny by federal regulators due to their historical ties to money laundering and other criminal activities, and banks have been hesitant to work with counterparts in other nations that don’t have strong oversight of their banking systems. Cuba has been labeled “high-risk” by the Financial Action Task Force, an organization that supports policies to prevent money laundering.

“We did an extensive risk-management approach to this,” Stonegate Bank CEO Dave Seleski, told the Wall Street Journal. “We feel very comfortable that we did something that is very low risk.”

The move could be the first step toward closer financial ties between the two nations, including the eventual approval of the use of credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit cards don’t currently work on the island, though the companies have said they would start processing transactions this year.

MONEY credit cards

These Credit Cards Have the Best Perks

credit card with door cut out and red carpet
Yasu+Junko

Take advantage of lesser-known credit cards, and you'll feel like a VIP.

The full value of a credit card in your pocket can go far beyond the usual cash back and reward points. Rental-car insurance, free credit scores, and other freebies are there for the taking—as long as you know where to look.

Not everyone does, however. Jim Miller, J.D. Power’s senior director of banking, estimates that one-third of credit card users don’t know the benefits that come with their cards.

To make sure you’re not overlooking extras perhaps worth hundreds in all, read the disclosures on your issuer’s website to see what you’re due. Although you might not want to switch cards just for the perks, if you are in the market for a new card with better terms, why not pick one that gives you a little more? Here are some standouts.

CREDIT

THE PERK: Free credit information. The standard price to see your FICO credit score is $20 for a peek that’s bundled with a credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus. But issuers such as Citibank and Barclaycard will pass along your FICO score from one of the big three for free. “The giveaways are great,” says John Ulzheimer of CreditSesame.com.

MONEY PICK: Discover it. Like other Discover cards, this one—which MONEY named the best online-shopping card last year for its discounts—reports your FICO score from TransUnion. The card’s new Freeze It feature also lets you temporarily block one-time charges. So if your card is missing and you’re pretty sure it hasn’t been stolen, your Netflix autopay will go through, but no one will be able to use your plastic at Best Buy.

SHOPPING

THE PERK: Price protection. Say you buy something only to see its price drop within a few weeks. Some credit cards will return the difference. Electronics are most likely to qualify, says Ben Woolsey of CreditCardForum.com. Cars, event tickets, and jewelry usually aren’t covered.

MONEY PICK: Citi DoubleCash. A MONEY pick for best flat-rate rewards card, DoubleCash, like other Citi cards, features Price Rewind, a program that refunds up to $300 per purchase and $1,200 per year. Citi, unlike other issuers, doesn’t make you find the falling prices. Instead, Citi does the price checks for purchases you register. The average refund is now $35.

THE PERK: Free fast shipping. American Express cardholders get free use of Shop Runner, a $79-a-year service offering two-day shipping from over 100 online retailers. Stores include Lord & Taylor, Toys “R” Us, AutoZone, and drugstore.com (but not Amazon.com).

MONEY PICK: American Express Blue Cash Preferred MONEY’s top card for cash back on essential purchases returns 6% of your annual grocery spending, up to $6,000, and 3% at the pump. A $150 sign-up bonus for spending $1,000 within three months makes up for the $75 yearly fee.

TRAVEL

THE PERK: Primary rental-car insurance. While your card may offer insurance on rental cars, chances are it’s secondary to your own insurance: If your rental is totaled, your policy takes the hit. Some cards, though, don’t make you go through your regular insurer first, thus protecting your rates, says NerdWallet.com’s Kevin Yuann.

MONEY PICK: Chase Sapphire Preferred Pay for your rental with this card (MONEY’s best card for mileage hounds) and decline the rental company’s collision (or loss) damage waiver. You’ll be eligible for reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the car in case of a collision or theft. A caveat: Some exotic cars aren’t covered.

THE PERK: Less-stress travel. From planning your trip to keeping track of your flights, travel is a recipe for high blood pressure. Cards that enrich your trip and protect you from some of flying’s hassles (see chart below) can be the cure.

MONEY PICK: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Master-Card This card gives you free use of the travel organization app TripIt Pro ($49 annually), which automatically creates your itinerary, sends real-time flight alerts, and can locate alternate flights. You also get access to a no-fee personal travel planner and discounts on hotels and events. The downside: an $89 annual fee, waived the first year.

Money

See all of MONEY’s Best Credit Cards

MONEY credit cards

Citibank Must Pay $700 Million to Consumers for Illegal Credit Card Practices

cfpb-citibank-consumer-credit-card-illegal
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you have a Citi card, you might be owed some cash.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered Citibank Tuesday to reimburse about 9 million consumers for deceptive marketing and incorrect charges associated with credit card add-on services.

These holders of Citi cards—or those of a Citi subsidiary that issues store-brand cards for Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s—were victims of misleading sales tactics, the CFPB alleges. In many cases, confusing text on credit card applications got consumers to sign up for extra debt-protection services they didn’t necessarily want to pay for.

In some cases, says the CFPB, Citi charged customers for benefits, like credit monitoring, that they weren’t actually receiving. The company also implied to many customers that they were protected from fraud and identity theft, when, in fact, they were not, says the Bureau.

If you signed up for a Citi card between 2003 and 2012, there’s a chance you are eligible for money back.

“We continue to uncover illegal credit card add-on practices that are costing unknowing consumers millions of dollars,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement Tuesday.

Any affected customers will automatically receive a statement credit or check, according to Citibank. And if you used to have a Citi card but no longer do, you still might be eligible for reimbursement; Citi says it will mail you a check in that case.

“Citi cooperated fully with the CFPB … and has taken extensive steps to address each issue that affected customers,” Citibank said in a press release.

In addition to $700 million in refunds to customers, the CFPB is demanding Citi pay a $35 million fee to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

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