Reuters Money

Will retailers give debit cards a new life?

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A sign for wine supplied by John Ulzheimer. REUTERS/handoutAs an expert on the credit industry, John Ulzheimer spends his days thinking about credit cards, debit cards and credit scores. So imagine his surprise when he picked up lunch at a restaurant near his house in Atlanta, then later went on a beer run, and was directly confronted with the consumer fallout from the hot-button issue of the day in his profession: new fees for debit card purchases imposed by government regulations.

“The liquor store has an entirely new pricing structure – the cash/debit card price was 5 percent less. And, at the restaurant, for the first time ever, they asked me if I was paying by cash or debit card or credit card, even before I ordered my meal,” he said, and sent along picture at right from the liquor store.

Since the start of October, the credit industry has been focused in on debit cards, as the Durbin Amendment kicked in federal limits on how much card issuers could charge merchants per transaction, and which last week translated into some major banks imposing monthly fees on users for using their debit cards for purchases. Bankrate.com also released a new study that showed reward offers for debit card usage declined 30 percent in the past year.

It seemed as if the industry was conspiring to turn those cards from a popular payment method back into a piece of plastic you only use to get cash from the ATM. And some said good riddance. “There’s absolutely no reason that consumers need to use a debit card. And I was in that camp before this legislation,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of credit card comparison site Cardhub.com, which just released its own study on how the new fee limits will affect consumers.

Online privacy leaks worsen; “Do not track” gains steam

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People use computers at an Internet cafe in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province June 20, 2007. REUTERS/StringerAre you being tracked right now? If you thought you were just browsing aimlessly, doing a little shopping or checking sports scores without identifying yourself, you could be mistaken about your level of privacy.

A new study from a Stanford University researcher has found that a lot of  the little bits and pieces of supposedly anonymous data being deposited by your web browser are actually being gathered and reassembled by dozens of companies and sold. And stopping that from happening takes more than a little bit of effort, helped by a growing movement for “do not track” legislation.

Want to put your kid on road to Millionaire Row by 21? Here’s how

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While some youngsters long to become rock stars or Hollywood heavyweights, others now gravitate towards another stripe of pop-cultural celebrity: the whiz kid who becomes a millionaire before age 21.

That’s not hard to fathom now, given the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and other tech hotshots. But for Susan Beacham — founder of Money Savvy Generation — steady strokes and ingrained habits set kids on the course to riches. And Beacham should know: She practices what she preaches with her two teenage daughters, Allison, 19, and Amanda, 17.

Spending less could make recession a “self-fulfilling prophecy”: Analysts

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Mark and Kathy Swezy of Englewood, Colorado embody what many Americans would call a rock-solid work ethic. Mark is a full-time purchasing manager at JoaQuin Manufacturing, while Kathy splits her time between her own graphic design business and a job at Nosh Nest, a high-end cookware and food shop in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Yet to hear Kathy Swezy tell it, the last two months have meant belt tightening on top of more belt tightening. “Over the last 60 days it’s been a little bit better, because I’m starting to get more graphic design work — but I really had to cut my rates, too,” she says. “So I’ve been buying school clothes at thrift stores, I’m using outdated software,and basically we don’t go out to dinner much at all.”

Passion or obsession? Collecting can add up to serious dollars

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You could say that Jay Pomerantz is a fan of the New York Jets.

You might suspect that from the room in his Long Island house, decorated wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with memorabilia from the NFL team – game-worn cleats, bloodied jerseys from the 1960s, old playbooks and even Super Bowl rings. Some of the items are so rare and valuable that the team itself displays some of Pomerantz’s collection in its front office.

He’s spent about $200,000 over 20 years as he’s amassed over 1,000 Jets-related items –

Back-to-school spending tests your wallet and your patience

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A child watches from a school bus in New York January 6, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton Remember when you could outfit a kid with roughly $20 in school supplies? Now there’s a lesson in ancient history, folks.

In present-day Chicago, the list of required items for two public school students can easily top $200. And the author of this article, a father of two, has a fresh receipt to prove it: The total at Office Depot last week to outfit a fourth-grade boy and a second-grade girl came to $196.13 before cashing in a $20 coupon.

Royal flush: 5 luxury bathroom items to boost your home value

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While $250,000 could land a vacation home in some markets, these days, you could also spend that amount on the most amazing bathroom money can buy. Think of the re-sale value that could add to a home!

It’s long been standard real estate advice that updating kitchens and bathrooms increases the value of a home.  G. Stacy Sirmans, a real estate professor and department chair at Florida State University who co-authored a report on “The Value of Housing Characteristics” for the National Association of Realtors in 2003, says this is still true today, but that what now constitutes and “upgrade” on an upscale house is like describing bathrooms on steroids.

In the world of high-priced purses, beware quality fakes

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Lan Tran, a systems analyst in Boston, wanted a Louis Vuitton purse which retails for about $1,500, but thought the price was a little too steep for her. So when she saw one listed on eBay for $300 from a top seller with only good feedback, she struck.

“With all those years shopping on eBay, I had my mind rest that it was truly a real deal,” Tran says.

Annual golf, spa getaways still thriving despite slow recovery

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Every year, 54-year-old William Palumbo, of Bronxville, New York, takes a week-long golf trip with three of his closest buddies. For the last several years, he’s gone all the way to Scotland to play at the “Home of Golf,”  St. Andrews, one of the oldest and most prestigious courses in the world (not to mention, a “favorite” of legendary golfers from Bobby Jones to Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods).

It’s an expensive trip – Palumbo estimates it costs them each about $8,000 (plus food and drinks) using one of the area’s top tour operators – but he simply makes it happen. “It’s something we plan for six months or a year out so we make that commitment early on. The thinking is: just save your pennies and go!”

Traveling abroad or taking a cruise? Avoid huge roaming charges

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If you’re about to take a trip overseas or going on a cruise and just can’t leave home without your trusty phone (smart or otherwise) or your laptop, there are a few things you should know to avoid bill shock went you get home.

Travelers face steep roaming charges when on ships or wending their way around the globe. When you add data usage to the mix, the costs can be staggering. Roaming charges can run well over $2 a minute and data charges can run $20 per megabyte. A relatively small attachment to an email can easily be 1 MB, so $20 can pile upon $20 very quickly.