TIME Saving & Spending

6 Ways Coupons Actually Cost You Money

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Michelle Pedone—Getty Images

Turns out, frugal living can have some pretty serious pitfalls

September is National Coupon Month and you’re ready. You have your mobile apps updated, your favorite sites bookmarked, your filing system ready to go — and you should really just stop. Put down the circular for a minute. Yes, coupons can save you money, but if you just assume they’ll always give you the best deal, think again.

Frugal-living bloggers know a thing or two about coupons, so we asked some to identify situations where a quote-unquote great deal can end up taking money out of your wallet. Here’s why and how they say even avid couponers can get tripped up.

You ignore generics. “If an item is available in the bulk section or as a generic store version, it’s usually less expensive than the coupon-discounted price on name brands,” says Sara Tetreault, who blogs at GoGingham.com. For example, she says she recently passed over a coupon for fluoride rinse because even with two bucks off, the price was still more than the house brand. The same holds true for dollar stores. Yes, there’s some stuff you probably don’t want to buy there, but some items will cost less there than at a grocery or big-box store, even with a coupon.

Your deals expire. “I once bought several duplicate coupons for deodorant, thinking I would stock up for several years,” says Julia Scott, founder of BargainBabe.com. She got them from a coupon website, planning to combine them with an in-store sale nearby — but by the time she got those coupons, the sale that would have made the purchase worthwhile had ended. (Scott points out that it’s technically illegal to sell coupons, so sites charge processing fees instead.)
You buy too much. “Another time I stocked up on so much shampoo but ended moving a few months later and it wasn’t worth it to drag the bottles, which cause a huge mess if they open, across the country,” Scott says. Likewise, if you’re buying coupons, some sites will make you buy a certain number to get the deal. “So you often end up buying extra coupons to make the minimum,” she says.
You do construction. “One thing that’s struck me when I’ve watched Extreme Couponing is that the people profiled always have shelf after shelf of products in their basements, and shelves aren’t free,” says Katy Wolk-Stanley, who blogs as The Non-Consumer Advocate. If you have so much stuff that you have to buy other stuff just to keep it corralled, you’re probably not netting the big savings you think you are.
You stockpile, then forget. “I have stocked up on items — plastic wrap, water pitcher filters — and stored them in our basement only to buy them again because I forgot we had them,” Tetreault says. That stockpile is only saving you money if you remember what’s in it — and could you find a better use for that space in your basement where you’re storing giant bricks of paper towels an an army of salad-dressing bottles? “After getting burned by this a few times by this, I stopped buying items that had to be stored outside of the kitchen or pantry and only purchase items we need,” Tetreault says.

You drive out of your way. This is Couponing 101, but it’s still something you can forget in the excitement of a huge sale: If you have to make a separate trip to score your bounty, you’re spending money on gas and wear and tear on your car.

TIME Saving & Spending

The Huge Mistake Most Parents Are Making Now

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Blend Images - Terry Vine—Getty Images/Brand X

Hey kids, hope you’re saving your pennies. They might not have gotten around to telling you yet, but there’s a good chance your parents expect you to fork over your own money to help pay for college. Even if they don’t, there’s a good chance you might have to dig into your own pockets anyway, because even though more parents are setting aside money for their kids’ college funds today, many are still way behind on their savings goals.

A new study from Fidelity Investment finds that just over a third of parents have asked their kids to set aside money to help pay for school, a jump of nearly 10 percentage points in only two years. Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college planning for Fidelity Investments, says there’s a serious disconnect between parents’ intentions and actions.

Even though 85% of parents think kids should kick in something towards their educational expenses, fewer than 60% of those with kids already in their teens have bothered to bring it up, and only 34% have actually come out and asked their kids to contribute.

“With the cost of college rising, it’s increasingly unrealistic for parents to cover the full cost of college,” Bernhardt says. “Families are still struggling. They are on track to save just 28% of their college goal.” Even though more families are saving, and the dollar amounts they are socking away are greater, that 28% is actually a drop compared to previous years.

In spite of these grim numbers, parents today are actually more optimistic about their goals. Respondents told Fidelity they expect to cover, on average, 64% of their kids’ college costs, up from 57% two years ago. What’s more, 44% think they’ll meet these goals, up from 36% in 2007, when Fidelity started conducting the survey.

Most of them won’t, which means today’s generation of kids could be equally unprepared when it comes time to paying for college. “It’s critical that families have open conversations and discuss together how they will approach funding their college education,” Bernhardt says.

Bernhardt calls a dedicated savings vehicle like a 529 plan “a great way for parents to keep their college savings separate from other savings goals.” Today, 35% of parents have a dedicated account for college savings, nearly 10 percentage points more than when the survey began in 2007. About half of the parents in Fidelity’s survey who said they have a plan for retirement savings have a 529 set up, versus only about 10 percent of those who don’t have a savings plan.

Having a strategy for accruing college savings makes a big difference. “Parents with a plan are in better shape with their college savings,” Bernhardt says.

These parents say they’ll cover an average of 71% of their kids’ college costs; those without a plan estimate that they’ll only be able to pay for a little more than half. On average, parents who have planned to save are already almost halfway towards their goal, while those without a plan have only scraped up about 10% of what they want to save. Parents with savings plans have an average of $53,900 socked away, versus the average $21,400 families without a savings plan have amassed.

TIME gratuity

And America’s Best Tippers Live In…

Dollars and cents
Finnbarr Webster / Alamy

Data from the mobile payments company Square reveal some huge regional differences in the generosity of customers

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Miguel Helft

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New Yorkers are stingy with their cabbies (though not quite as stingy as their neighbors in New Jersey). Indeed, New Yorkers are among the worst tippers in the country in a number of categories — but not when it comes to personal hygiene. For some reason, a visit to the barber or stylist inspires generosity in the Empire State. Folks in Seattle and Portland reserve that same kind of giving spirit, no surprise, for their baristas, and Floridians and Texas extend it to their bartenders.

The observations derive from tipping data collected for FORTUNE by Square, the San Francisco-based mobile payments company, whose smartphone and tablet credit card readers have become a feature of thousands of small businesses across the country.

Interestingly, some tipping trends are fairly uniform across the country. Beauty and personal care professionals tend to receive the biggest tips — on average closer to 20% than to 15%. Taxis and limousines skew lower, with average tips below 16% in many states. Tips at restaurant bars show the most variability, with New York fast-food joints receiving an average of 14.77% and bars and lounges in Texas getting 19.66%.

For the full list, please go to Fortune.com.

TIME Saving & Spending

This 1 Mistake Could Cost You Hundreds of Dollars

istock

Read the fine print—or pay

Everybody hates bank fees, but what’s even more worse is not knowing when or why you’re getting dinged with those charges.

In a new study, the website WalletHub.com finds the average checking account has 30 different fees that can ding you, and banks aren’t always transparent about the details. “Some banks disclose their fees only after a customer has opened an account,” the site warns. “Others disclose their fees in inconspicuous sections of their websites.”

In particular, those $35 overdraft fees that can be triggered by buying something as small as a cup of coffee can really pack a wallop, yet many of us don’t bother paying attention to the fine print that spells out the details of how financial institutions process transactions. We should, though — a new interactive tool from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows how seemingly insignificant differences in transaction-processing practices can make the difference between having enough money in your account to tide you over until your next payday or getting socked with more than $100 in fees.

Pew looks at three different variables: Letting people overdraw their balances when they make purchases or ATM withdrawals versus declining these attempts, processing transactions in the order they happen versus in order of highest-to-lowest dollar amount and offering a $5 “grace period” threshold before an overdraft fee kicks in versus no threshold.

In a trio of scenarios, Pew follows three hypothetical customers in a scenario many Americans are all too familiar with: navigating the demands of daily expenses with less than $200 until the next paycheck comes. In each case, everything is identical for the variable under scrutiny.

The differences are huge. For instance, a customer whose bank processes transactions in the order they happen winds up getting hit with a single $35 fee — while her alter ego who banks with an institution that practices high-to-low transaction ordering gets nailed for FOUR $35 fees when conducting the exact same transactions.

The other two examples show a similar disparity. For many of us, the difference between ending the month 10 bucks in the black versus more than $80 in the red is huge, especially if our spending habits are such that this happens frequently.

Consumer advocates criticize banks for their overdraft practices, pointing out that the customers who pay the bulk of these charges tend to be younger, minority customers who are poorer to begin with and often don’t have the financial education to know a raw deal when they see one. Fewer than 10 percent of bank customers are responsible for three-quarters of overdraft charges, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “[This] is especially pertinent as the CFPB continues to study overdraft and will release new rules based on these studies in 2015,” Pew says.

The CFPB says it’s still looking at how these fees impact bank customers. “We need to determine whether current overdraft practices are causing the kind of consumer harm that the federal consumer protection laws are designed to prevent,” CFPB director Richard Cordray said in a statement last month, saying the agency’s most recent research “compound[s] our concerns” about whether overdraft practices leave vulnerable customers at risk.

Until the CFPB acts, it’s buyer-beware out there, so don’t forget to read the fine print.

TIME Saving & Spending

One (More) Shocking Way Colleges Are Ripping Off Kids

Marking up movie theater popcorn is one thing, but jacking the price of a laptop by more than 100% is another, especially when the would-be buyers are college kids. As students get ready to head to campus, college stores are making laptop shopping a buyer-beware endeavor.

An investigation by DealNews.com found that college bookstores hike prices on the laptops and tablets they sell by an average of 35% over the regular sale prices of retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Staples. DealNews looked at prices for the cheapest tablets and laptops, plus the most expensive laptops, available at the online stores of five public and one private college, then compared those to back-to-school deals offered by other retailers on identical or very similar machines.

Not every single one is a rip-off, but more than two-thirds are, and some of the markups are pretty egregious.

DealNews finds that the University of Virginia sells a first-generation iPad mini for a staggering 135% more than the $199 sale price the site found on more than one occaision over the summer. The $469 price the campus store is charging is so high that even if you wanted to buy the newer model iPad mini, you could get it straight from Apple for $70 less.

As a matter of fact, if you’re a college kid (or the parent of one), you should probably just steer clear of the campus store entirely if you’re looking for electronics.

“Another example that stood out… were these headphones,” says DealNews’ Louis Ramirez. Although they cost $130 on Amazon, the University of Berkeley Student Store slaps a $49 markup on top of that.

We found other examples in just a cursory browsing of the sites supplied by DealNews, so it’s likely this just scratches the surface of a bigger issue in electronics markups.

One school site is selling a 32G Sandisk USB thumb drive for about $45. Wal-Mart sells the same model for less than $17. A wireless mouse sold by one school for just under $30 sells for half that amount at Office Depot. One Dell laptop “deal” on a school site was no cheaper than the price on Dell’s own website, and two schools’ “sale” prices on iPads are still $30 more than you’d pay at Wal-Mart.

College stores’ problems with electronics sales don’t end with the inflated prices, says Ramirez. While some schools sell up-to-date technology, the site’s investigation found that “others were selling older previous-generation tech at current-generation pricing,” he says. If you think you’re getting a deal, make sure to clarify the model — you could be paying top dollar for last year’s closeout.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that “student discount” translates to the best deal. Just like regular prices, you have to shop around because all student discounts aren’t created equal. “Campus stores aren’t the only retailers that offer student promos,” Ramirez says. As long as you have an active student account (one that ends in .edu), a number of other retailers offer discounts.

TIME Saving & Spending

5 Super Simple Secrets to Save Your on Car Insurance

5 Secrets to Save Your Teen Car Insurance
Jane Sob—Yellowdog Productions

Experts say many people aren’t taking advantage of steps to ease the costs of car insurance when their teens get behind the wheel

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

If you’re anything like me, you anticipated the birthday at which your teen was eligible for his (or her) road test with a combination of glee and dread. Glee because – finally – he could get himself to the tutor; she could pick up her little sister; your days as a chauffeur were coming to an end. Dread because you weren’t sure exactly how much adding this new driver to the family policy was going to cost, but you were sure it was going to be a lot.

I’ve been through the experience now twice. And I can tell you that you’re right on both counts. It is incredibly liberating to have another driver in the family. It is also tres expensive! Car insurance costs an average 79% more when a married couple adds a teenage driver to the family policy, according to a new report from InsureQuotes.com. Boys, as you’ve heard, boost costs more than girls – by 92% compared to 67%, respectively. And costs vary widely depending where you live. In New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island, premiums jump by more than 100%, while in New York and Michigan the increases are relatively reasonable at about 55%.

Say it with me: Ouch!

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

TIME Banking

How Big Banks Are Finally Getting It Right

It was known as the $39 cup of coffee: Swipe your debit card to pay for your latte and drop your bank account balance into the red, triggering an overdraft fee in the process. Now, that exercise in frustration might finally be getting a rest: New data shows that more Americans will be able to dodge that $35 bullet, especially if they have an account at a big bank.

Overdraft fees were the bane of customers’ existence, but are a revenue lifeline for banks and credit unions, especially after regulatory credit card crackdowns limited how much they could earn from those. They earned around $32 billion last year off our careless swiping — and that was three years after federal reforms that prohibited financial institutions from automatically subjecting people to the fees kicked in — so these fees seemed destined to stick around, no matter how much we hated them.

New research from financial research company Moebs $ervices finds that something interesting is happening, though: Overdraft fees are there, but increasingly, banks and credit unions are waiving them if the customer just drops into the red by a small amount — say a cup or two of coffee.

We seem to be at a tipping point: Just over half of financial institutions with more than $50 billion in assets waive overdraft fees for small-dollar transactions, with an average cutoff amount of a little over five bucks.

Across all financial institutions, Moebs finds that just over one in four have a small-dollar overdraft waiver in place, with an average cutoff amount of $7.40, although cutoffs range from a single dollar all the way up to $50.

Smaller banks and credit unions are least likely to extend these waivers for low-amount overdrafts: Only about 15% of institutions with $100 million or less in assets offer them, and just under 11% of credit unions.

CEO and economist of Moebs $ervices Mike Moebs says that although smaller institutions might not have these policies on paper, it’s likely that they might extend waivers when customers call and ask.

Aside from the threat of further regulation, Moebs says bank technology has improved so institutions can get more detailed with their parameters. He says consumers have been demanding more customer-friendly features (and regulators have been listening to their complaints).

The dearth of paper checks helps, too, he says. “[The] lack of float due to only about 10% of payment system is paper checks is another factor.” With money moving from one place to another pretty much in real time, it’s easier for banks to be a little more flexible.

There are some distinct regional differences in Moebs’ data. Kentucky and New Hampshire residents have better than a 50% shot of getting their small-dollar overdrafts waived, versus fewer than a 20% chance in Florida, Maryland, Nevada and Wisconsin. There’s a similar split among metro areas, ranging from zero in Denver to 44% in San Antonio. (The overall averages are higher because banks in rural areas are more likely to offer waivers than those in urban or suburban settings.)

Here, Moebs says local competition is a contributing factor. If one bank offers a waiver, especially one with a higher amount, its competitors will feel pressure to follow suit.

TIME laptops

This Is the Best Budget Laptop You Can Buy

Lenovo

Can you buy a great laptop for under $600? Yes, yes you can

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This post is in partnership with The Wire Cutter. Read the article below originally published at TheWireCutter.com.

After considering all the major laptops in its price range, I decided that if I had to buy a Windows laptop for $600 or less, I’d get the ~$580 version of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 2 14.

It’s not perfect—because all budget laptops have trade offs—but it’s the best of its kind. And for its price it succeeds in a lot of the most important areas: it’ll easily handle day-to-day tasks, it’s light enough to carry around, and it has enough battery to last you an entire work day.

Our pick

For $580 you get a dual-core Haswell Intel Core i5-4210U processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 500GB hybrid hard drive with 8GB of cache, which is to say that it is fast enough for most tasks that don’t involve gaming or heavy photo or video editing.

As we configured it, the Flex 2 14 also has a 14-inch multitouch panel with a decent 1366×768 resolution, 7.5 hours of battery life, a good enough keyboard and trackpad, and all the ports you’ll want: HDMI, Ethernet, USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 ports, a card reader, and an audio jack. The cache will make it feel a little speedier than a regular hard drive, but not as fast as an computer with a solid state drive (otherwise known as an SSD).

At 0.8 inches thick and 4.4 pounds, it’s lighter and slimmer than most 14-inch laptops in its price range. It’s possible (but not easy) to upgrade the hard drive and RAM (if you’re into that kind of thing) so you can squeeze more life out of the machine later.

It’s a great basic machine that we settled on after a lot of consideration and testing.

What you don’t get with a cheaper laptop

Before you buy this machine, realize that a cheaper laptop always comes with more compromises than a more expensive one. The $580 Flex 2 14 has an i5-4210U processor, 1366×768 screen, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive and weighs 4.4 pounds.

For example, for around $1,000, you could get something like a slim 3 pound Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro with the same processor and wireless card, but a better-looking 3800×1800 screen, twice the RAM at 8GB for better multitasking of many windows at once, and a 256GB solid-state drive. That means you can get a computer that’s faster and all-around better for only a few hundred dollars more, which is a good idea if you can afford it. On the other hand, that’s almost 2x the price.

What happens if you spend even less money than our pick costs? There are smaller laptops with better screens and a little bit of solid-state storage for under $500, like the very popular Asus Transformer T100. But they compromise in other areas, often having less storage space and RAM, slower processors, or cramped keyboards. If this is your only computer, I think you should go for something better.

Who should(n’t) buy this?

If I were to get a budget laptop, I’d get the Lenovo Flex 2. But before I’d buy one, I’d consider whether I needed a full-sized Windows laptop at all. If you have a full Windows or Mac computer already and are looking for a secondary machine for web browsing, email, and basic document editing, we’d actually advise you to consider a $300 Chromebook, which runs Google’s Chrome operating system (but cannot run Windows or Mac software) instead.

Or, if you don’t need to do much writing on your machine, a tablet, like an iPad, is perfect for casual email and browsing. But for an everyday Windows computer, something like the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 2 14 will be just fine.

How we decided on this laptop

After surveying the field, we made a list of the laptops in this price range with the best reviews from the most trusted editorial sources, and tested them side by side. The finalists we tested hands-on are the Lenovo Flex 2 14, the $580 Acer Aspire E1, and the $650 Dell Inspiron 14R.

What to get if you can spend a little bit more and want a faster, sleeker laptop

If you can afford to spend a bit more and want a sleeker laptop with smoother multitasking between many windows and a higher-resolution LCD for fitting more on the screen, you should get the Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch from Best Buy, currently $700. It has the same Core i5-4210U and 500GB hard drive as the $580 Flex 2 14, but it’s lighter (by a touch), slimmer, and has twice as much RAM and a better, higher-resolution screen (1600×900 instead of 1366×768). It has a touchscreen and good battery life, like our top pick, but better build quality overall, too.

The runner up that also costs a bit less

If you don’t have more money to spend, or the Flex 2 14 is sold out or unavailable, the $465 Acer Aspire E1-572-6780 isn’t bad. It’s about the same speed as our pick, but it’s bulkier than the Flex 2 14, and you won’t get the Flex’s hybrid drive, touchscreen, or all-day battery, so we think spending more on the Flex is worth it.

In closing

A great budget laptop is actually a misnomer—there’s really no such thing when you’re forced to make compromises—but the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 2 14 hits the right marks in many areas, and that’s as close to great as you can get in this price range. If you want one Windows laptop for basic windows computing needs, this is the one most people should get.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to The Wirecutter.com

TIME Saving & Spending

Credit Card Companies Really Hope You Don’t Notice This

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Steven Puetzer—Getty Images

If you have decent credit and you actually read your junk mail, you’ll notice that credit card companies will do almost anything to turn you into a customer. The points or miles value of initial sign-up bonuses has climbed steadily and is at its highest ever with an average of 13,265, according to new data from CardHub.com. And on the cash back side, we’ve seen issuers roll out sign-up bonuses as high as $400 this year.

Sounds great, but the catch — you knew there’d be a catch, right? — is that once they’ve “wined and dined” you and you fill out that application, the honeymoon’s over. CardHub finds that the average earning rate for cash back rewards has fallen to an all-time low since it began tracking this data four years ago.

On the points and miles side, things look rosier. The base earning rate is still on an upward trajectory, although it’s lost a bit of steam over the past couple of quarters. There’s another variable here, though, which makes the idea that you’re getting more rewards for your spending a little misleading: Several of the major frequent-flier programs these cards are affiliated with have cut how much their points are worth by requiring a bigger cache of points to earn a free ticket.

It’s a change that has business travelers fuming, but the impact could be hitting your wallet, too. Even though it might look like you’re able to earn those points or miles faster, “It most likely might be making them less valuable overall,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub’s founder and CEO. The trend towards less-valuable rewards that’s on display with cash back cards gives you a glimpse of card companies’ true intentions, Papadimitriou says. “Those offers have been deteriorating in value rather than appreciating,” he says.

On one hand, issuers are wooing people with fat sign-up rewards, while they cut the value of the regular rewards with the other. “It’s really so hard for them to get someone with excellent credit to change their credit card, so the initial bonuses are geared towards that,” Papadimitriou says.

The card companies count on the fact that we’re basically lazy and probably won’t go through the hassle of switching any automatic payments, finding a new card and canceling the one we have once we realize the regular rewards aren’t so hot. For cardholders who revolve a balance, this is a double-whammy, since reward cards almost always have higher APRs than cards that don’t offer rewards.

Once America finally wakes up and catches on to what’s happening, they’re not going to be happy, Papadimitriou predicts. Thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, people today have a new venue to take their gripes about credit cards. CardHub’s research indicates that many are already doing so, finding that the volume of complaints about rewards skyrocketed by 45% in the second quarter of the year.

“Credit card companies really need to be careful with the devaluation game they’re playing. This strategy is going to backfire,” he says. “The last time they played that game, they got the CARD Act.”

TIME Saving & Spending

Do Not Leave Home Without These Credit Cards

Although credit card perks vary widely, the overwhelming majority of rewards credit cards give the user travel insurance coverage. Among rewards cards from major issuers, nearly all offer travel accident insurance and almost 80% offer luggage insurance, according to the website CardHub.com, and all of the major networks — Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover — provide coverage for rental cars, with Visa, AmEx and Discover offering at least some form of coverage on all their cards.

Insurance is a good perk, but coverage isn’t equal from issuer to issuer or card to card. There also are other caveats, like high APRs or annual fees, that can detract from the benefits.

And watch the fine print, says Credit.com credit card expert Jason Steele. “For example, American Express cards offer good coverage as a standard benefit, but exclude many luxury vehicles and pickup trucks,” he points out.

You should also consider how you’re going to use the card and your travel habits. “If you never fly anywhere, you probably don’t need to worry about having baggage insurance,” says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

Here are some cards CardHub.com, CreditCards.com and other credit card experts like for travelers this summer.

The Chase Sapphire and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards were the top two, respectively, on CardHub’s list for travel accident and luggage insurance. The Sapphire clocked in a perfect score for the breadth of its coverage.

Other experts like the Sapphire, too. “Even the no-annual-fee version offers great insurance benefits,” Schulz says. “You can get reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip for travel expenses such as airfares and hotels if you have to cancel your trip or cut it short due to sickness, severe weather and various other situations,” he says.

Schulz and CardHub also like the Discover It card, which comes in third on CardHub’s ranking and tops the list for lost and delayed baggage coverage. It also gets high rankings for its eligibility and extra coverage offerings. Discover also came in second (behind American Express) in last year’s JD Powers card satisfaction survey, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at CreditSesame.com.

“The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express card has been listed over the years as being one of the best in the country,” says Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com. It offers coverage to help get an unescorted child home or a close relative to visit the injured traveler at an overseas hospital in the event of an accident. It also has no annual fee.

Ulzheimer suggests two no-annual-fee cards, the USAA American Express and USAA World MasterCard, because the issuer is tops in customer service, he says. “USAA ranks first in customer satisfaction for insurance and has for at least three years in a row. They’re always at or near the top.” American Express has also topped the JD Powers satisfaction survey for seven years running, he notes.

Schulz calls the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard “noteworthy” because it includes coverage for accidents, trip cancellations, lost and delayed baggage — plus one huge perk for cardholders who travel to Europe. “[It] is one of the few chip-and-PIN cards widely available to U.S. consumers,” Schulz says.

Some card issuers in the U.S. are moving towards chip cards in the wake of the Target data breach fiasco, but they’re still not on board with chip-and-PIN cards that are the norm in many countries overseas. Since payment devices like unmanned ticket kiosks in Europe often require the use of a card secured with both a chip and a PIN, “Having a PIN card will likely save you some headaches,” Schulz says.

 

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