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This Week in Your Wallet: October 4, 2011

It’s all anyone seems to be talking about these days, so I’m sure you’ve heard:

Last week, Bank of America announced it will start charging a $5 monthly fee to basic checking consumers who use debit cards.  The fees will begin early next year.  They’re not the only one.  SunTrust began charging a $5 debit fee earlier this summer. Chase and Wells Fargo are testing $3 fees.

And debit card fees are just the tip of the iceberg.  According to Bankrate.com’s annual checking account survey, the average fee for using an ATM at a bank other than your own is $2.40.  The average fee for bouncing a check is now $30.83.  And the average monthly fee for checking accounts is on the rise as well.

Why is this happening?  First, the CARD act put a crimp in the $35 billion banks were earning annually from overdraft fees.  And then on October 1, another piece of legislation went into effect.  It limits the amount banks can charge retailers who swipe your debit card (called an interchange fee) in half.  That’s estimated to cost the banks another $6 billion.  They’re looking for ways to make that revenue up.

In the face of this news, it’s easy to feel nickel-and-dimed — I know I do! But there are a few things you can do to limit the effect on your wallet:

Spotting the Spam in Online Reviews

How many of you, when booking a restaurant on OpenTable or a hotel through TripAdvisor, read the user reviews in order to determine if the product is actually worth your money? I do — all the time. Which is why this article in Bloomberg Businessweek caught my attention: As many as 30% of online user reviews are fakes.

Companies will pay spammers to inundate review sites like Yelp, Google Places and CitySearch with good reviews and “buzz words” that will help place the company higher up on Google search results. Luckily, these sites are catching on and hiring researchers to study the semantics and spot the cues that indicate a fake post. Among their findings: Truthful reviews talk about the actual product, using specific nouns and adjectives. Spammers, having not been to the hotel or restaurant, talk about themselves, and use vague pronouns (“it” instead of “the queen-sized room”) or flowery adverbs.

Do you think you know how to spot the spam in reviews? You can test yourself here — Businessweek provides three real reviews and three fake reviews, and you have to determine which is which.  Answers are at the bottom of that page.

Have a great week!


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