The best credit cards for holiday shopping

As the competition among credit card issuers heats up this holiday season, what you are paying with may be as important as what you are buying. To that end, WalletHub analyzed more than 1,000 credit card offers to find the best ones based on rewards, cash back and zero-transfer offers. The millennial favorite Chase Sapphire Preferred ranked the highest for best bonuses, according to the personal finance site. The card comes with a 50,000-point rewards bonus if you spend at least $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account and there is no annual fee for the first year. A close second was the Citi Double, which offers 1 percent cash back on purchases and another 1 percent cash back when you pay your bill, with no annual fee. Other top contenders included Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Citi Diamond Preferred, which offers a zero-percent introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for those who may need a little longer to pay off those holiday purchases. But in general, rewards cards, which dole out points when you make purchases at airlines, gas stations and restaurants, have higher-than-average interest rates to compensate issuers for the additional perks. So the benefits of using a fancy card are quickly negated if you carry a monthly balance. It's already shaping up to be a happy holiday — particularly for retailers — thanks to low unemployment and strong consumer sentiment driving purchases. Holiday shopping sales are expected to grow nearly 4 percent this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. This is also the Continue Reading

With low transfer fees and 0% introductory rates, here are the best credit cards for helping you pay off debt

Contrary to  what most people may think, credit cards are actually conducive to helping you pay off debt — and not just your card balance. Eight of the largest credit card issuers enable you to transfer an auto loan balance to a credit card, for example, and seven of them also allow transfers from pretty much any other major type of consumer debt. Considering you can get a 0% introductory rate for as long as 18 months, it’s clear that the right card could save you a whole lot of time and money. But what is the right card for you? The particular balance transfer card you should focus on depends on what type of debt you’re trying to unload. Chase’s Slate Card offers the best terms — 0% for 15 months with no annual or balance transfer fees — but Chase only accepts debt from other issuers’ credit card accounts. So if your credit card balance is around the average of $6,700, you’ve found your answer in a card that could save you as much as $1,000 in fees and finance charges during the course of your debt pay-down. If, however, you want to lower the cost of an auto loan, a medical loan or other noncredit card debt obligation, there are three top options: -- Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Card: The 0% term on this card is 18 months; the transfer fee is 3% of the balance (maximum $250). The regular annual percentage rate, or APR, is 9.99%. -- Discover It Card: The 0% term is 18 months, with a transfer fee of 3% of the balance. The regular APR ranges from 10.99% to 20.99%. -- Citi Diamond Preferred Card: This also comes with a 0% term of 18 months and transfer fee of 3% of the balance. The regular APR is slightly higher than the Discover It Card’s — 11.99% to 21.99%. For a 0% balance transfer to be truly worth it, though, you’ll need both above-average credit (in order to get the best terms) and debt that you can comfortably pay off within about two years Continue Reading

Credit cards are offering lower interest rates and higher cash back bonuses to those with good credit

Things are looking up for credit card holders — especially for those with sterling credit. An improving economy and stiffer competition among card issuers for best-in-class cardholders is yielding lower interest rates and more robust sign-up bonuses, according to a new report from The average interest rate for those at the top of the food chain was 12.79% in the first three months of the year, down 1.69% from the fourth quarter of last year. "The banks and credit card issuers are all competing for the cream of the crop," CardHub senior analyst John Kiernan told the Daily News. "The recent economic turmoil has made it more apparent that they need to bring these consumers into the fold." On the flip side, rates for cardholders with the weakest credit have gone up. Those classified as having "fair credit" saw their rates rise by 3% to 20.17%. For those with strong credit, lower interest rates are just one in a list of improving perks. The average length of a 0% intro rate for balance transfers increased in the first quarter of the year, reaching 10.29 months, 2.39% longer than in the fourth quarter of last year. Other incentives are getting juicier too: The average cash-back initial bonus was $76.81 in the quarter, up 15.4% from the previous three months. "Delinquency and unemployment rates stabilized sooner than we anticipated," Kiernan said. "That allowed issuers to pass along their savings to their best customers." It all adds up to the potential to save hundreds of dollars - if you have good credit. That might require changing your habits while keeping in mind the payoff down the road. "People should look at this as an incentive to maximize their credit scores," Kiernan said. "The best way to do that is with on-time payments. Foreign transaction fees fell 5.88% in the quarter, compared with last year. But while terms are improving for some, certain types of consumer complaints about credit cards are Continue Reading

Simple tips to save more and cut credit-card debt

The economy seems to have perked up, with a bit more hiring, gradually rising wages and consumer confidence at a 16-year high. Will it translate into increased savings, less personal debt and other signs of financial stability? Hard to say, but some lesser-known tips and observations can make those goals more achievable.Plenty of consumers pay only the minimum balance on credit cards — a behavior that tends to keep borrowers in debt longer, while accumulating more interest expenses. Most people who do this likely lack the money to make larger payments. But some might be confused by an appropriate payment amount based on how they interpret their monthly statements, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the University of Illinois.Their study focused on the psychological concept of "anchoring," which describes situations where people focus on irrelevant or unimportant factors. Stock-market investors, for example, might base buy or sell decisions on a company's 52-week high or low prices, when such prices often have nothing to do with the shares' current values. MORE: Avoid paying credit-card interest with this information Similarly, anchoring could come into play on credit cards if borrowers focus on the minimum payment as listed on card statements — the lowest dollar amount needed to keep an account from becoming delinquent, according to formulas devised by card companies. Paying the minimum often has no bearing on what a borrower could afford and isn't sound financial practice. For example, it would take more than a decade for someone with just $2,000 in card debt to retire it, if paying only the monthly minimum, according to the researchers.Between 9 and 20 percent of cardholders could afford to pay more but focus, perhaps irrationally, on the minimum-payment amounts listed on their statements, the Continue Reading

Apple WWDC: 10 best, worst & ‘we’ll see’ features

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple spent two hours at its Worldwide Developers Conference updating us on enhancements for mobile devices, computers, the Apple TV set-top box and the Apple Watch.The new software enhancements will be available in the fall. Here are the top ten takeaways:-- Photos. Apple's Photo app has hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken by us and locating them is a chore. So in a nod to rival Google Photos, Apple is going to use machine learning to use facial recognition to organize faces and identify places. It will also create automatic videos from your collection, with edited highlights, and add background music. Google's Photo app also creates mini videos from your work and collages but doesn't do as good as job as Apple did in its demo of organizing them into themes. Let's hope one of these giants pulls it off. It's one of the best new features Apple displayed.--Messaging: The iMessage feature on iPhones and iPads in IOS10, the new version of the mobile operating software, will get a major update. Texts can be written in "invisible ink," a la Snapchat, or scribbled by hand.But the biggest deal is Apple opening up iMessages to outside developers, who will be able to put features of their apps into text messages. At WWDC, Apple showed an example: animated funny faces from JibJab within the text, as an alternative to emojis. JibJab CEO Gregg Spiridellis says this is a huge deal that expands upon what Asian messaging apps like WeChat and Line do. "Messaging apps are the hub of all kinds of expressions," he said. Before, users would have to leave the text app, go somewhere else, make something, copy it and return to the text app to paste it. "This is much more frictionless," Spiridellis says. Consider this "in the best of" category.--Upgraded Siri: Apple says the personal digital assistant, available since 2011, will be smarter and more responsive. Siri will also be available on Mac computers to find files, and Continue Reading

Brooklyn District Attorney says credit card and identity theft financed house-flipping operation

It was credit card fraud on steroids.A Brooklyn-based crime ring is charged with stealing people's identities and going on shopping sprees that financed a shady house-flipping operation. More than a dozen suspects were charged Wednesday in three indictments that laid bare a breathtakingly sophisticated international theft scheme. "I wouldn't understand how to do this stuff," Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said as he and the feds announced the bust. Officials said the ring tapped into a Russian Web site that listed stolen credit card numbers filched by rogue U.S. bank employees. At a safehouse dubbed the "lab," they made dummy cards and identification they gave to underlings for shopping excursions at stores like Game Stop, Best Buy and Zales. The stuff - as much as $10,000 worth of merchandise a day - was resold, and the money was used to buy luxury cars and for down payments on rundown houses in Philadelphia. The suspects allegedly used the credit cards at Home Depot to renovate the homes, which they resold with the help of unsavory mortgage brokers. Four accused ringleaders face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top charge of enterprise corruption. Prosecutors have not been able to crack the Russian Web site, but hope to nail the corrupt bankers who sold them the numbers, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Blank said. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Suspects in 10G stolen credit card shopping spree

This wasn't what the doctor ordered. Two thieves stole a handful of credit cards from a Ronkonkoma physician's purse and used the plastic to go on a $10,000 shopping spree, police said. The men - possibly patients of the victim - brazenly offered the doctor's credit cards at Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and CVS stores across Long Island on Dec. 5, buying up gift cards, computers and other electronics. Suffolk police investigators, having exhausted the rest of their investigative leads, now hope that security surveillance images taken of the two men at various stores will lead to their arrest. "We've hit a dead end with our leads. So now we're hoping for someone in the public to recognize these two particular subjects," Detective Sgt. Richard Matero said yesterday. "We have some good surveillance images." The husky-looking men took the cards from the doctor's office at the Long Island Medical Group on Hawkins Ave. in Ronkonkoma. Police did not release the physician's name. In just a few hours, the thieves crisscrossed Suffolk and Nassau counties, making stops at Target stores in Valley Stream, Copiague and Farmingdale; a Wal-Mart in Farmingdale, a Best Buy in Valley Stream and a CVS in Seaford, cops said. Six different cards belonging to the doctor were used by the men, police said. Detectives asked that anyone who recognizes the men from the surveillance images to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 220-TIPS. The calls will be kept confidential, and each caller will be eligible for a $5,000 cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Careful – ditching those old credit cards may hurt score

Ann Hersh has several credit cards she doesn't use. Ryan Maeker is a recent college grad with four years of debt on two credit cards. But he has almost paid the balance on a third credit card.Both New Yorkers want to know the smartest thing to do with credit cards they no longer need. "Is it advisable to keep them open or close the accounts?" Hersh asked."Which action will have the best effect on my credit score?" Maeker continued. Credit scores generally range from about 300 to 850 or more. Higher scores are better. Each company that calculates credit scores has its own proprietary system.However, in general, credit scores reflect factors such as paying your bills on time, the amount of money you owe, the length of your credit history and the ratio of your debt to available credit. In short, any step you take or avoid with your credit could affect your score - for better or worse.While it's tempting to consider closing credit cards you no longer need, there are good reasons to keep the accounts open. Part of your score is based on the length of time certain lines of credit have been open. So when you close an account, you may reduce the average age of your credit cards - especially if it is an account you have had a long time.In addition, when you close a card, you reduce your available credit. Say you owe a total of $5,000 on three cards with a combined available credit limit of $15,000. That means your debt to available credit ratio is a reasonable 33%. But if you close one of those cards, and reduce your available credit to $10,000, your debt to available credit jumps to 50%. That would likely cause a drop in your credit score.If you can't control using credit, then it may be wise to close unneeded accounts. There's more of a risk in overspending than reducing the age of your credit cards or increasing your debt ratio. But if you can pay off an account and forget - and there's no annual fee on the card - just keep it open.Asa Aarons is a consumer reporter who Continue Reading

10 best underground, speakeasy bars in Phoenix

While many cities across the country are touting their outdoor patios at bars and restaurants, Valley residents are finding excuses to stay inside.One way is to visit a dark, cool bar that will quickly make you forget about the blasting sun and scorching heat. A few bars are even underground, so you can pretend you're in a city with crisp temperatures. That is, until you go back outside.These are our picks for top 10 dark bars across metro Phoenix.Head straight to the side door of this well-known central Phoenix restaurant, and you'll walk down the stairs to the cozy, cave-like lounge with stone walls, copper bar and mood lighting. Stop by for happy hour and enjoy a variety of discounted small plates, including carne adovada sliders and bacon-wrapped shrimp; $5 glasses of wine, margaritas and well drinks; and $2 off draft beers.Details: 6335 N. 16th St., Phoenix. 602-287-8900, 'Bar Rescue': Tempe's Brick and Barley episode airs Sunday | See top Phoenix bartenders compete in Bar Brawl in Paradise Valley | Top 10 patio bars around Phoenix | 22 wine bars around metro PhoenixThis swanky Camelback Corridor cocktail bar is located in the Esplanade, and features dark-wood paneling and soft leather seats, illuminated with soft yellow lighting and candles. The bar is a great place to meet with friends, with a lively atmosphere and bartenders shaking up cocktails like the Sophia Loren, Purple Rain and Last Call. Light noshes include a cheese and charcuterie board, and stuffed Peppadew peppers.Details: 2525 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 602-508-9449, The entrance to this downtown Phoenix music venue is in the back alley, marked by a small glowing red sign. Head downstairs and enjoy a drink in the Rose Room, an underground lounge with kitschy thrift store paintings on the walls Continue Reading

The 10 best cases for your new iPhone X

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY’s newsroom and any business incentives.After several weeks of waiting and an extreme amount of hype, the iPhone X and all its high-tech abilities are finally here. If you’re one of the first lucky people to scoop up the latest iPhone, you’ll definitely want to protect your $1,000 investment from scratches, scrapes, drops, and other potential damage.As soon as you pick up your snazzy new iPhone X, you should pop that bad boy into a case to keep it pristine. Whether you want a personality-packed case to show off your style or a minimalistic case that highlights the phone’s sleek design, you’re sure to find something you love on this list of 12 amazing iPhone X cases.For a simple, sleek case that’s compatible with QNMP magnetic mounts, you need the Spigen Thin Fit iPhone X Case. This case, from one of the most trusted brands, comes in several colors, including gold, rose gold, white, black, red and silver, and its thin design ensures your new device will still fit in your pocket. Even better, the case has a designated space for a Spigen QNMP magnet, so you can mount it in your car. Get the Spigen Thin Fit iPhone X Case on Amazon for $12.99 If you want a minimalistic case that shows off your new iPhone X, check out the Maxboost iPhoneX Case. This case comes in three colors—black, mint and pink—and it’s made up of a shock-absorbing bumper and a clear, scratch-resistant back. Plus, it works with the iPhone X’s wireless charging feature. Get the Maxboost iPhone X Case on Amazon for $12.95 This chic velvet wristlet will keep your new gadget safe and sound—and look stylish while doing so! The Sonix Embellished Velvet iPhone X Wristlet is a trendy light pink, Continue Reading