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This Week In Your Wallet: Savings With Strings Attached & Selfie Pay

“Would you like to open a store card and save 20% on your purchase today?” How many times have you been asked that question? In fact, can you count the number of times you’ve tried to pay in recent years without being asked that question?

As you make your way through your holiday shopping list this season, keep the following in mind: The average APR on retail credit cards continues to rise and now sits at 23.43% (up rom 23.23% in 2014), according to a new report from CreditCards.com. It’s a slight increase, but still makes the average APR for general-purpose credit cards at 15%, seem like a deal. Overall, the report reveals that two-thirds of retail-branded credit cards charge 19.99% or higher. So does signing up for one of these cards ever make sense? Maybe.

Start by asking yourself, “How much will I really save?” Any amount of savings can be alluring, but not when it comes with strings attached. Could the savings come from a coupon or code instead? (Did you look for coupons before heading to the store?) You can always ask the clerk to put your items on hold, check (and price compare while you’re at it) and then return with your savings. Sometimes you can get coupons delivered directly to your phone with a simple text message (again, ask the clerk for instructions).

Also, consider how often you shop at the store and your approach with credit cards. If you shop there on a regular basis, then perhaps it’s worth it for the rewards and coupons that cardholders receive. Once in a blue moon? Not so much. And as Reuters reports, store cards can work for you, that is, if you pay your balance off in full at the end of every month. Carry a balance and that one-time 20% discount quickly becomes a moot point. Bottom line: Try to assess whether this card will reward you for shopping at the store and regularly save you money? Or, will it cost you more than you think in fees? (In other words: Read the fine print!)

When To Go Debit

While on the topic of credit cards, this week Money magazine reports on five times it doesn’t make sense to use them (i.e. when you should reach for your debit card instead). You probably already know to opt for debit when tackling hefty credit card debt, or when you’d like to get cash back on a purchase. But did you know it’s cheaper to use it when paying your taxes online? There are several, government-approved payment processors for tax payments, and their payment preferences for you using debit or credit can vary. For example, when you use your debit card, you’re more likely to be charged a flat transaction fee of $2.79 (the average). With a credit card, however, the average fee runs from 1.87% to 2.35% of your total – and depending on how much you owe, that could be a lot more than a few bucks.

Social Media And Credit Score

That funny Facebook status about your crazy weekend or vacation might amass “Likes” in the triple digits, but Forbes is reporting it could impact a more important three-digit number: your credit score. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is adopting new strategies for gauging a consumer’s credit worthiness, like using information offered on social networking sites and smartphone records. For example, they can scan for how many times someone says ‘wasted’ in social media updates, and thishas value for predicting how likely you are to repay your debts. Don’t get it? Think about why insurance companies use your credit score to help price your homeowners and auto policies. Your score has become a measure of how responsible a person you likely are. Your social media records reveal something about that (and if they reveal too much, perhaps it’s time to clean them up a bit). Regardless of your credit score, cleaning up your accounts is a smart move for your job, too.

Pay With Your Face?

Forget strong passwords and CAPTCHA codes – is the next best way to verify a purchase a picture of your face? The selfie generation will be pleased to hear that paying with a selfie is now a thing. I’m not kidding. MasterCard is testing a new technology that allows you to authorize an online transaction with a real-time snapshot of your face. Here’s how it works: After downloading the app (which you can read more about here), you’ll receive a push notification on your phone for any product that requires your identity to be verified before purchasing it. You take the selfie, but – unlike your usual photo-taking – you have to blink. (The blink prevents criminals from just taking a picture of your picture.) Then, a facial recognition scan converts your features into a code of ones and zeros, which is then processed for the purchase. Will this catch on – or be thee payment form of the future? It’s too soon to say, but I bet Kim Kardashian will use it.

When Bundling Might Make Sense

A new report from insuranceQuotes.com shows consumers save an average of $295 (or 16%) per year when bundling their car and homeowner’s insurance with the same company. Consumers in certain states fare better than others. The three states that reward you most for bundling are Louisiana ($548), Oklahoma ($489) and Texas ($429); and three where the move pays off least are Idaho ($172), Vermont ($174) and Utah ($183). Before making any moves, it’s important to run the numbers and shop around. But in the meantime, you can see how your state stacks up here.

Have a great week,

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