5 ways to keep your financial information safer from hackers

Hey, do you mind if I try to guess one of your passwords? No? Okay, how about "123456" or "password"? Maybe "Max123" or "Bella2011"?

Although I hope no Get Rich Slowly readers are using any of these passwords currently, "123456" and "password" are among the most common passwords chosen. And "Max" and "Bella"? Those are some of the most popular pet names; and since pet names are commonly used too -- Well …

I am no hacker, and I spend very little time thinking about hackers. I wouldn't hack into someone else's information, so why would anyone think about hacking into my information? Continue reading...

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How to dispute credit card charges

According to a 2013 Nilson report, credit and debit card fraud were the cause of over $11.2 billion in losses in 2012. And if you think that sounds bad, just wait; it's expected to get much worse.

As USA Today reported last year, hackers and scammers have turned stealing credit card numbers into an art form. By focusing on major retailers such as P.F. Chang's, Target, and Home Depot, they can score thousands of credit card numbers in one fell swoop -- numbers that are then packaged and resold for a profit.

And stolen credit card numbers aren't as cheap as one might think; they often pull in big profits. According to Neal O'Farrell, founder of the non-profit Identity Theft Council, stolen numbers are often sold for $120.

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More about...Banking, Credit

Wedding savings accounts: How I saved for my wedding

When my husband proposed to me on July 10th, 2005, I was ecstatic. In fact, I'm pretty sure I screeched "Yeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssssssssssss" before he could even pull the ring out of his pocket.

Our plan was to move into the little apartment above his work -- it was part of his compensation package -- then get married the following summer. Unfortunately (fortunately?), a few of the older ladies in the company didn't like the idea of an unmarried couple living together, and they ended up changing the terms so we couldn't both live there until we were married.

I was crushed ... until, of course, my mom suggested something novel. "Get married this winter," she said. "Why not?"

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30 days to better finances

coin jar

Learning to manage your finances isn't something most people would put at the very top of their "most fun thing to do" list, but we all know that we ignore money and budgets at our peril. Having a strong handle on what money is going in and what money is going out is an essential first step. But you don't have to be overwhelmed. By setting aside between five and 30 minutes each day, you can transform your finances dramatically in 30 days. Here's one such plan:

Day 1: Compile all your expenses and income. Bucket them by categories such as Savings (retirement accounts, emergency fund), Mortgage/Rent, Household Expenses (food, utilities, heating oil, etc.), Commuting (tolls, commuter rail cards), Debt Repayment (student loans), Entertainment. It doesn't have to be perfect, just complete. Use a service like Mint, software like Excel or even just good old pen and paper -- whatever you are comfortable with. Yearly budgets are more accurate because you will see irregular expenses like property taxes or gifts.

Related >> Building a budget on variable income

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More about...Planning, Banking, Budgeting, Debt, Insurance, Investing

Best CD rates | Certificate of Deposit rates

Certificates of deposit (often simply called CDs), by definition are time deposits. You give your money to the bank and then promise not to touch it for a specific length of time. In general, the longer you agree to let the bank keep your money via a CD investment, the higher the interest rate you will receive.

If certificates of deposit offer higher returns than a savings account, then why doesn't everybody use them? The primary reason is that a CD investment is less liquid than a savings account in that you can't just move money in and out without penalty as you can in a savings account. You can take your money out of a CD before it “matures,” but you are docked interest when you do. In fact, it is typical for a bank to penalize the interest amount even if it hasn't been earned (meaning you could lose part of your principal if you close your CD early).

Anatomy of a CD

I was fortunate to win a $1,000 6-month certificate of deposit from ING Direct recently. (I never win anything!) Looking at it might be instructive:

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Credit unions vs. banks: Things to consider

Mother depositing check on smartphone

One of my money resolutions is to switch banks. I've been a long-time customer of a big bank that, in recent years, has stood out among headlines that reveal sneaky and unethical business practices. That's not the only reason I'm switching, but it does help me want to change. So, it has got me thinking bank vs. credit union?

Some people think credit unions aren't terribly convenient -- maybe they don't have online banking, or maybe it's hard to find an ATM when you're traveling. But I've found that, despite the potential inconveniences, there are advantages to consider when it comes to a credit union. Here are a few things I'm keeping in mind as I make my decision.

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Drawing the line with poor customer service

Last year, I wrote a breakup letter to Chase Bank. It was pretty ugly. I'll save you the heartbreaking details, but trust me, they had it coming.

Closing the account was another nightmare. They wouldn't let me break up with them! They told me I couldn't close the account because my signature on the request form did not match the signature they had on file. An understandable concern, but I'd been signing my name as either a squiggly line or "The Hawk," for the past few years, so I don't really understand why my signature had suddenly become so important.

It took months. But my account was finally closed, and I've been recovering nicely since the breakup. I'm in a new relationship with a financial institution that I can trust, depend on and, most importantly, I rarely have to call for anything.

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Free money from banks! (but watch the fine print)

I earned $200 in less than an hour the other day, without removing any of my clothes. A bank gave me the money (or will, a few months from now) in exchange for opening a business checking account.

Why would a bank or a credit union give away that kind of money? To get people through the doors.

Once you're there, bank officials hope you'll take advantage of their other services, making you a loyal and profitable customer. Not to make that $200 sound like a gateway drug, but once a bank has you chances are you'll be hooked. (Not always, though. More on that later.)

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Checking Accounts: New Rules, Old Rules, Your Rules

Did anyone ever give you a user's manual for your checking account?

Probably not. There are best practices in managing a checking account, but even if you learned the rules from your parents or through your own hard-won experience (or if you never did), it may be time for a little checking account check-up.

Why? Because some of the rules for checking accounts no longer apply. Financial regulation, market conditions and technological developments have all changed some of the ways you should think about managing your checking account.

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High interest: How to choose between checking, savings, and CDs

In a rocky economy, high interest rates are the holy grail of conservative investors, especially those who don't want to invest in bonds. But in this rocky economy, "high interest" hasn't really meant much: High-interest savings accounts are returning below two percent!

Get Rich Slowly readers are just like everybody else. A couple of times a week, I get e-mail from somebody looking for higher interest rates, but puzzled about where to find them. So, inspired by a recent article in Consumer Reports Money Adviser, I'm going to run down the top choices for finding high interest rates.

First, I want to remind you all of one thing: Interest rates aren't likely to rise until the economy improves. Capital One 360 doesn't hate you. Ally Bank isn't trying to rip you off. We're just not in a high-interest-rate environment right now. The government is keeping rates low because they don't want you to save — they want you to pump your money into the stock market or the general economy. Until things turn around, we won't be seeing the high interest rates that were around back in 2006. Continue reading...

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