Archive for June 2011

Worried about jobs, college woman go ‘geek’ (Chrisitan Science Monitor)   Leave a comment

A year ago, Harvard University‘s student newspaper dubbed computer science the most “gender-skewed”  major on campus – meaning that many more men majored in computer science
than women. Then something happened. In a year, the number of women
majoring in computer science has nearly doubled on the Harvard campus.
“Computer science seems like a lot of fun, but it also proves to be a lifesaver,” says Katrina Wong, a Harvard literature major who is considering switching to computer  science. Since her father lost his job to the recession and she maxed  out her credit cards, she’s begun writing content for smart-phone apps  that her college friends are creating for clients. “It’s not a big
income, but it buys me necessities as well as opens doors to  profit-sharing opportunities.”

The financial turmoil of the last  few years has made it tougher for college graduates to find jobs. So  women at several elite schools are turning to computer science – a field
that they used to spurn – in hopes of landing secure employment
opportunities after graduation. Their numbers are still small, but the
influx of women into computer science programs may change the geeky
male-dominated major into something far more cool.

“Men still seem to occupy the technology space,” says Henry Chen, managing director of POM Partners, a New York-based digital-media advisory and consulting firm. But “compared with 10 years ago, we are slowly seeing more women enter the space.”

The change is evident at some – but not all – of the top computer science programs in the United States. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, down the street from Harvard here in Cambridge, the number of female computer science majors has jumped 28 percent in the past three years. At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the share of computer science majors who are women has moved from 1 in 5 in 2007 to 1 in 4 last year.

But the biggest change appears to be at Harvard. In the 2009-10 academic
year, 13 percent of computer science majors were women, prompting the
most “gender-skewed” moniker from the student-run Harvard Crimson. In the 2010-11 academic year, which just came to a close, 25 percent of computer science majors were women.

The big uptick is in sophomores who have mostly just taken our intro course,” says Harry Lewis, director of Harvard’s undergraduate computer science program. “The challenge will be whether we will hold onto them.”

Why the sudden interest in computer science at Harvard?

“That’s where the money is,” says Yiwei Zhao,
a Harvard junior with a minor in computer science. Many women are
hoping to find a job in finance or investment banking after graduation.

There’s
some logic to that. Demand for technology positions tends to stay
fairly consistent, even during recessions, according to career
consultant Laurence Shatkin in his 2009 book “150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs.”

Another important catalyst driving women into the field of computer science is
the concerted effort made by many schools to encourage women to do so.
At the University of California, Berkeley, the director of diversity in the department of electrical engineering  and computer science is spearheading a drive to get women into the
field. The University of Texas hosts a free one-week camp for 60 high school girls called First Bytes.

Despite these efforts, not all top computer science schools are reporting growth. The University of Washington in Seattle, for example, conducts outreach programs to encourage undergraduate
women to major in computer science. And the percentage of women majoring
in computer science is relatively high – about 23 percent, according to
Hank Levy, the chairman of the computer science and engineering department. But, he says, “we’ve been at this level for some time.”

Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., also reports no change in the number of women who have declared computer science as their major. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reports that the number of women pursuing computer science has been steadily decreasing.

As the pool of female computer science majors grows, one result may be
that they encourage others to sign up. That’s what’s happening with Ms.
Wong at Harvard. Two of her friends, both computer science majors, are
urging her to switch. “They just thrive on problem solving,” Wong says.

Given the state of the economy, it’s a message that a growing number of college women may tune in to.

Posted June 28, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized

Report on Balance Transfer Credit Cards (Forbes)   Leave a comment

For some, balance transfers on credit cards are a fabulous thing. A credit card balance transfer is the moving of credit card debt from one card to another. Many people use balance transfers to pay down the balance on a credit card without incurring interest charges. According to an article from www.smartbalancetransfers.com, June was a good month for these sorts of transactions.

In June, consumers enjoyed a 5% decrease in average balance transfer fees. Offers for 0% balance transfers increased slightly, the second increase in 2011. Still, even with these positive developments, the users of balance transfer options remain miniscule. The consumer marketplace for these offers is still weak and developing.

The Three Medalists credit

As of right now, Citi balance transfer promotions are the best and get the gold medal from us. The Citi Platinum Select, Citi Diamond Preferred and Citi Simplicity cards are crushing their competition, offering users 0% rates on balance transfers and purchases that last 21 months, the website says. These offers are three months longer than the next best transfer offer.

But Discover is catching up, coming in at a close second, earning a silver medal. Discover balance transfers give users an 18 month promotion. This month, they even reduced the balance transfer fees on their initial offer from 4% to 3%. If you’re looking to make both purchases and balance transfers, we recommend the flagship Discover More Card.  It has a 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months.

The Capital One card gets the bronze this month. It’s the only major company with an above-average balance transfer card. Their Platinum Prestige card currently offers a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for approximately 15 months, according to smartbalance.com

The Wall of Shame

Bank of America, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank are on our Wall of Shame this month. If you currently use any of these banks for balance transfers, you may be getting ripped off.

Bank of America has a 0% introductory rate for balance transfers on just one of its credit cards. The promotion features a 4% balance transfer fee and lasts either 9 or 12 months, based on an individual’s application. Wells Fargo should also be scolded. Of the three balance transfer credit cards they promote, each promotional rate lasts for a short six-month introductory period, while Citi and Discover are nearly a year in duration. U.S. Bank is even more horrible, charging nonsensical 4% transfer fees.

What’s Next?

Enjoy balance transfer rate now; it’s unlikely that they’ll get better than they are these days. A continued downward spiral for the economy could lead banks to change these offers, and lead to less flattering options. Expert advice? Go and get ‘em.

Posted June 26, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized

Nip Identity Theft In The Bud (Forbes)   Leave a comment

The recent surge of hacking incidents highlights how vulnerable we all are to identity theft. One way to nip identity theft in the bud is by constantly monitoring your credit report which will let you see if there has been unauthorized activity using your personal information. It is pretty easy to get a free copy of your credit report either online, over the phone or through the mail (usually takes about 15 days to receive).  Online reports are not only free, but they are accessible real time.

Free credit reports can be obtained from three major resources: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. These agencies provide the credit reports that monitor your financial history and issue credit scores. These services are helpful because if any bank rejects you for a credit related issue, you have the option and the right to request a free copy of the credit report. This allows you to identify and correct any errors, mistakes, or even fraud in your credit history. Free credit reports are helpful tools that can lead you one step closer to getting the loan or the mortgage you want.

Are you eligible?

Free credit reports are available to anyone who has been turned down for credit, anyone who is unemployed and plans to seek employment within 60 days, and anyone who receives public welfare. Additionally, all consumers qualify for a free annual credit report once a year from all three of the consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, nationwide credit bureaus are required to provide consumers with free credit reports upon their request once every 12 months. It is best to stagger your requests to each of the three agencies during the year so you are always receiving current reports. Checking your credit report regularly will help you keep track of your financial activities and can reveal if you are a victim of identity theft.

Why do credit scores matter?

Another benefit of receiving your free credit report is learning what your credit score is. Your credit score is a three digit summary and analysis of your financial behavior history. The FICO Score, the most-widely used score, was developed by Fair Issac Corporation – an analytics company in 1958. From this number, future lenders will be able to determine whether you are reliable and capable enough to take on more debt. Credit scores, in short, give banks and other financial institutions an idea of whether you are “credit worthy”. A higher credit score will give financial institutions more confidence in you, and can help you obtain loans more easily when it comes to financing for a home, car, or new credit card.

Difference between credit report and credit score?

A credit score is a quick way to evaluate a credit holder’s credit-worthiness. Credit reports, on the other hand, provide detailed history of the loans you have obtained and the credit cards that you have received along with outstanding balances. Every time you miss a payment, you obtain a loan or take out a mortgage; your activities are recorded in a credit report. When financial institutions want to find out more about your financial history, they go to your credit report to see how you have paid your bills and used your credit, and how much credit you have left.  In short, a credit score makes the first impression to credit lenders as it reflects your past behavior, and for the full story, credit lenders go ahead to examine the full details on your credit report.

How can you improve your credit report?

No one is perfect. Even the most responsible people can miss a payment or go over their credit limit once in a while. When those mistakes and miscalculations happen, it reflects on your credit score and credit report. You don’t need to strive for having a perfect credit score, but instead, it helps to know how to improve your credit score to a level where lenders will be interested in making the loans you want. For everyone who has a desire to improve their credit report, the first thing is to set a realistic goal. If you have a current credit score of 480, it will take more than paying your bills on time for two months to have your score bumped up to a 750.

With a realistic goal in mind, the next thing is to have a strategic plan. Start with small things such as budget your grocery bills, marking your calendars for payment days, and regularly monitoring your account balance. Credit management skills also need to be developed by setting regular payment routines and monitoring your spending so as not to get further into debt. Try to pay more than the minimum payment each month on your credit card bills – that’s a good way to build up a good credit score.

Posted June 26, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized

Free Credit Report: Fact or Fiction (Business Insider)   Leave a comment

You’ve likely seen the singing pirates talking about getting a free credit report to check out your credit score. When you read the fine print, however, you’ll find that even when it comes to credit reports, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most of the companies offering these “free credit reports” are not free at all. Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working even harder to ensure that consumers understand the difference between what is truly a free credit report and what may end up costing them in the end.

The Law

According to federal law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year. Although many websites such as free-credit-reports.com, offer free credit reports; Consumers can obtain a truly free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Expirian, and Trans Union – at annualcreditreport.com – the only service authorized for this purpose, according to its website. Consumers are also entitled to obtain a free copy of their credit report if they have been denied credit for any reason.

False Advertising

The FTC is starting to crack down on false and misleading advertising that leads consumers to believe that what they are getting is truly free access to their credit reports. Credit reporting bureaus are developing new policies to ensure customers are not getting duped. Credit card legislation requires marketing companies to add warning labels when they are offering any product that is being touted as “free.”

Bait and Switch

The programs advertised as free credit report options typically bring problems to consumers. Primarily, these programs involve registering for a credit monitoring program that comes with a monthly subscription fee. The Federal Trade Commission forewarns consumers that just because a site indicates that it is free, it doesn’t mean it is. Make sure to read the fine print of the terms and conditions before rushing into anything.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/free-credit-report-fact-or-fiction-2011-6#ixzz1QPByHmco

Posted June 26, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized

Credit Card Cash Bonus Offers Up 23 Percent in 2011   Leave a comment

 

According to a new study by Mintel Comperemedia, new cash bonus offers for credit cards are up 23% this year over the 1% cash incentives that were available in 2007. These types of rewards are becoming commonplace, as competition heats up in the industry. Credit Land study also shows that 40% of cash-back credit cards offer a 1% reward as part of their loyalty program and 44% of cards offer cash-back with the first dollar charged.

According to Andrew Davidson, senior vice president of Mintel Comperemedia, “An additional cash incentive offered while applying for credit cards and usually triggered upon first purchase or once a cardholder spends a specific amount on the card, has been popular in the competitive cash back card segment. However, we are now seeing cash used as an additional incentive for some mileage cards, as well as cards without rewards.”

Incentives range from card to card. During the first four-month period of 2011, about 59% of incentives offered by credit card issuers were an incentive to encourage the consumer to submit an application. These incentives helped to increase the number of applications since consumers seemed to be staying away from opening new credit accounts or taking on additional debt. This figure is up 29% over the 30% of incentives that were offered during the first four months in 2007. While cash incentives are a popular option with credit card applicants and cardholders, so are bonus miles and points. During the first four months of 2011, 25% of incentives focused on bonus miles and points.

Incentive Cutoffs

Some credit experts believe that it is the incentives causing consumers to apply for the credit cards in the first place. With these incentives, it also means there are no intentions in keeping or using the cards, beyond the terms and conditions required to earn the rewards. In the end, it may backfire on the credit card issuers because they’ll either lose the cardholders or have to keep offering incentives to make it interesting.

Posted June 26, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized

Kardashians Win Debit-Card Endorsement Case   Leave a comment

Just when you thought the Kardashian brand couldn’t get any bigger – they have another accomplishment to be proud of. The reality show stars, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, recently were victorio

us in a debit-card endorsement case in which they were being sued for $75 million.

The lawsuit was dismissed by a Fresno Superior Court Judge and the Kardashians were awarded $6,825 for their le

gal fees, according to the Associated Press.

Judge Jeff Hamilton made the official announcement on June 7th indicating that the Revenue Resource Group, which was suing the Kardashian sisters, had not shown that it could win the breach of contract case. The sisters, who were endorsing a debit card issued by the Revenue Reso

urce Card, withdrew their endorsement just three weeks after it was launched.

Revenue Resource Group stated that subsequent to the Kardashians canceling the contract, the company ran into financial troubles. In addition, the company argued that the Kardashians’ negative comments to the media ruined their reputation. However, Judge Hamilton claimed that the overall negative media associated with the card’s fees caused the problems. The sisters could not be sued for critic

izing the debit card’s high fees as that would violate First Amendment rights, he added.

The reality TV stars made the decision to end the relationship with the card issuer shortly after the Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal warned that the card fees were “predatory”.   Specifically, the start- up fees were $99.95 for a year to receive the card with the Kardashian sisters faces on it. Canceling a card was $6 and there was a $1.50 charge just for talking to a customer service operator. The family felt they should not advocate a product that might be considered “unlawful”.

Consumer advocacy groups were quick to criticize this card when it was launched and this well-publicized case should help remind the industry that exorbitant fees will not be tolerated.
 
The prepaid debit card industry is changing. More and more Americans are purchasing prepaid debit cards over traditional cards. According to a survey by Firstsource Solutions, a business

outsourcing company, the growth in usage has been dramatic, climbing to $37 billion in loadings last year, versus $18 billion in 2009 and $9 billion in 2008. The amount loaded onto prepaid cards has quadrupled in two years. Even American Express, which traditionally serves the higher-income market, recently announced that it too wants to participate in this growing space by launching its own prepaid card.

Prepaid cards are pretty much a no-risk business for the card issuers since consumers load a card with funds and then are limited to spend only that specific amount of money. There are no delinquencies and no defaults to deal with. It is less risky for consumers as well as they cannot spend more than they can afford.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/kardashians-win-debit-card-endorsement-case-2011-6#ixzz1QP9OM9nw

Posted June 26, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized

Who Knew A “Square” Could Be So Much Fun?   Leave a comment

As if Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja games weren’t great enough mobile applications, a popular new iPhone app is allowing customers to square away their payments without a complicated credit card machine.

Square Up, a free application that lets users accept credit cards on their smart phones, is receiving a lot of positive attention. The transaction itself is simple to perform.  A tiny white square, roughly one inch in length, is plugged into the headphone jack of your mobile device. Users then swipe their credit card through the Square reader and type in the amount they wish to charge. Seconds later, the payment is complete.

According to http://www.squareup.com, users are charged a processing fee of 2.75% per transaction if the card reader is used, and 3.5% plus 15 cents if the card information is typed in manually. There are no monthly fees or contracts. The Square also makes paper receipts a thing of the past; customers simply receive a text or email receipt detailing their purchase.

A recent review on Montreal Gazette online finds the application easy to use. Features on the application allow you, as the seller, to post the actual items that you want to put up for sale. During the transaction, you can select the items being purchased by clicking on their little picture on a visual menu. To sign for the card, customers simply scribble their names on the screen using only their fingers. Customers can add tips if they want also, and they are offered in 5% increments. Money is deposited into the merchant’s account the next day, minus the processing fee.

Customers are enjoying this new technology. Kelin Crane, a recent graduate from Oakley, Calif., spoke to Brigham Young University about his Square. He told them that he uses the Square credit card reader while working at Mobile Auto Care.

“Nobody else does a free account with one flat fee,” Crane said. “It’s just so simple. You get it, plug it in and go. It solves the problem of receiving payment in a digital world without adding new ones. As a mobile repair company, we need the capacity to charge people where we serve them,” Crane said.  

Square says that users have made one million purchases, an average of just two per reader. This accounts for more than $1 billion in gross payments. Square

Posted June 26, 2011 by ilanamelissagreene in Uncategorized