Felix Salmon

Suze Orman goes prepaid

I’m a big fan of Suze Orman, and I’m generally very mistrustful of prepaid debt cards. So what happens when Suze Orman launches her own prepaid card?

Why low-interest payday loans could scale

Megan McArdle responds to my post about consumer lending in Missouri by expressing skepticism that it’s possible to lend to people with bad credit unless you do so at extremely high interest rates. She gives a number of reasons why this might be the case, all of which are entirely plausible.

Counterparties

There’s very little good news forecast for the European economy — WSJ (paywall)

Golden ticket economics, part 2: Damien Hirst

Yes, the Damien Hirst Complete Spot Challenge is a thing:

Visit all eleven Gagosian Gallery locations during the exhibition The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011 and receive a signed spot print by Damien Hirst, dedicated personally to you.

Golden ticket economics, part 1: Next restaurant

Economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson have a problem with Grant Achatz’s pricing strategy at Next, where tickets are sold at a fixed price and are then free to be resold at an enormous markup on the secondary market. The restaurant is very clear why it won’t auction off tickets instead:

How to rent a bike without a credit card, DC edition

Good news over at the Capital Bikeshare website, which has now been updated to make it perfectly clear that you can, after all, use your debit card to pay for a Bikeshare membership. The FAQ,which used to say that memberships require a credit card, now says “credit or debit card”; the signup page, which used to ask for your credit card details, now says “credit/debit card” at the top of that section. All of which means that although it was always technically possible to sign up for a membership with a debit card, now many more people are likely to actually do so.

Unmitigated good news on jobs

File this one under “unmitigated good news”: America’s employment situation turns out to have been rosier, at the end of 2011, than anyone had dared hope. There were 200,000 more people in work last month than there were in November, and the unemployment rate — by far the single most politically-important macroeconomic statistic — fell to 8.5%, the lowest rate in three years. All data series are noisy, of course, and we’ll surely see volatility in this one over the course of 2012. But it really does seem that there’s a bit of fire in the American belly right now, and that things are going to continue to get better over the course of this year unless and until some new crisis comes along.

Counterparties

Hot Wall Street analysts are once again bringing in IPO clients for banks — WSJ (paywall)

Bank charge of the day, mortgage-payment edition

It makes sense, for lots of reasons, to make your mortgage payment on the day you get paid. Most salaried Americans, however, get paid every two weeks. Which means, to all intents and purposes, that you need to be able to make one mortgage payments out of every two paychecks. And that in turn raises an intriguing possibility: if you take half of your mortgage payment out of every paycheck, you’re going to end up making 13 mortgage payments a year. Which will pay down your mortgage faster, and could save you thousands of dollars.