Verizon’s New Custom TV

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New and existing customers of Verizon will have an opportunity to purchase FiOS Custom TV a bundled service available Sunday, April 19.  It will consist of 35 channels for $54.99 and two additional “packs” for $10/month/per pack.  The packs have up to 17 channels described as themes such as Sports Plus, Pop Culture, Entertainment, News & Info, etc.  Verizon customers can swap the two packs after every 30 days for different themes.  This is a way to give more flexibility to customers so they can turn TV channels on and off as they please.  Consumers want more choice with regard to the channels they purchase instead of paying for channels they don’t even watch.

A La Carte TV is described as a way for people to only pay for networks they want to watch.  Customers do not pay for any additional networks.  FiOS Custom TV is not A La Carte TV because Verizon’s bundles have networks grouped together with a theme.  For example, the entertainment channel pack will include USA network, TNT, and TBS.  Subscribers can’t remove TNT from the pack and replace it with another network.  Verizon’s TV bundles are only cost efficient if the individual watches a select number of TV channels.  It gets more expensive than cable if the person has a variety of tastes and want to watch many different TV networks.  Cable TV is suggested for a variety of networks because adding bundles from different streaming services together will end up costing more.

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Verizon FiOS has 5 million+ customers nationwide.  Their new custom TV plan targets consumers looking for something in between premium cable and satellite TV packages.  It is still unknown how much money is saved because it will depend on the customers interests.  On average, consumers only watch 10 percent of the channels they pay for.  There is a growing popularity of people who just want to pay for the networks they watch and nothing more.  Currently, there is no service available in the U.S. that allows this, but Verizon’s custom TV bundle is a step towards that direction.  The increased demand for paid streaming services is the reason why TV companies are offering more customized bundles.  Verizon customers will have the option to switch over to their new custom TV plan.  If the deal turns out to be more expensive they don’t need to switch.

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Eating Out vs Grocery Shopping

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Statistics show Americans spend more eating out at restaurants then they do shopping for groceries.  According to Commerce Department data the sales for restaurants finally overtook the sales from grocery stores for March 2015.  American eating habits are changing mainly because there are more people in the Millennials category than ever before.  The restaurants Millennials target is fast food, deli, and pizza more than traditional casual dining with table service.  Casual dining is generally more expensive and the food takes longer to cook.  For March grocery stores had close to $50 billion in sales and restaurants were estimated at $50.4 billion.

The statistics for March 2015 is not 100% accurate because Commerce Department data left out Costco, Target, and Walmart for grocery stores.   The three are highly profitable and where most consumers shop for groceries.  The Commerce Department has them recorded as “general merchandise retailers” category instead of the “grocery store” category.  20% of consumer spending for groceries alone is made at Walmart.  Adding the data for all three would likely change the statistics in favor of grocery stores for the month of March 2015.

Even with the flawed statistics, what’s apparent is more people are eating out at restaurants than ever before.  The data gathered by Commerce Department although not 100% accurate does show a gradual increase for restaurant spending.  The data should be analyzed most by restaurant owners and future restaurant owners.  Statistics provide the type of restaurants most popular and may offer a few strategies of what needs to change at current operating restaurants that are not profitable.  The restaurant business is highly competitive known to be cutthroat.  It has a high failure rate so understanding consumer trends can help keep more restaurants in business.  It’s undeniable what customization can do for restaurants because most consumers enjoy options for the food they eat.  They want to be the ones to decide what ingredients are added or removed from meals because not everyone has the same taste preferences.  The trend is for low cost meals with options because Millennials are more focused on what they eat.  They take about 14.5 billion visits to restaurants every year and spend close to $96 billion.

Competition for Overseas Money Transfer Market

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Sending money overseas is a hassle because it takes proper planning to find the best rates.  Hidden fees, delays, exchange rates, and commission fees are all concerns most consumers have and could be the reason(s) why people do not transfer funds abroad more often. Aside from receiving the best rates sending money overseas needs to be safe and reliable.  Below are the places most people go to for sending their funds abroad.

Western Union:  Many use Western Union to send funds overseas because the transfer is quick.  There is no limit on how much you can send at one time and it has over 400,000 locations worldwide.  Western Union does not deposit to any bank so the recipient needs to pick the money up.  The instant transfer payment comes at a price because the charge is sometimes over 10%.  The fees will vary depending on the amount of funds and the location of the transfer.  Other online money transfer companies will provide better exchange rates.  The transfer can be cancelled only if the recipient does not pick it up, and they do have an app for iPhone and Android users.  https://www.westernunion.com/us/en/home.html

Bank International Wire Transfer:  Using banks for international wire transfers are common among people with a bank account.  It is one of the safest methods around because identification of both parties is needed for the transfer to go through.  The specific amount, routing number, Swift code, addresses, etc. are all needed for an international wire transfer.  The fees charged are typically higher and the transfer takes several days or up to a week.  It’s considered the most reliable way to transfer funds because banks are detail oriented.

Chase – https://www.chase.com/business-banking/online-banking/wire-transfer

Bank of America – https://www.bankofamerica.com/foreign-exchange/wire-transfer.go

Citi Bank – https://online.citibank.com/US/JRS/pands/detail.do?ID=WireTransfers

Wells Fargo – https://www.wellsfargo.com/biz/international/payments

Money Gram:  If consumers want to send money overseas more frequently they prefer using MoneyGram over Western Union.  However, there are restrictions to how much money you can send at one time.  It teamed up with USForex to send funds over $2,999.  The transfer fee is $5 for anything under $5,000 and free if it’s over $5,000.  Money Gram provides 24/7 customer service and consumers have even used it to pay their bills for retailers and banks.  There are security concerns similar to Western Union because the funds are not traceable.  http://www.moneygram.com/us/en

TransferWise:  TransferWise is a peer-to-peer money transfer service.  It’s one of the most cost efficient ways to transfer funds overseas charging 1% per transaction to U.S. customers.  There are no hidden fees but can take a long time to transfer your funds overseas.  Most of the complaints are because of the long wait time that can take a few weeks based on where you are sending the funds.  It also does not support all countries.  The biggest draw is that users can save close to 90% by using TransferWise.  Customer service is available Monday to Friday 9am-5PM (EDT) with the option to email.    https://transferwise.com/landing/internationalLandingPages?internationalPageUrl=us

PayPal:  Money can be sent to more than 190 different countries and the transfer arrives within minutes.  The fees are high for sending funds internationally and the recipient will get charged a fee as well for receiving the funds abroad.  There are hidden fees and both the sender and recipient need PayPal accounts for the transfer to go through.  PayPal is most often used for small transfers.  There are other places to go for better exchange rates.  https://www.paypal.com/home

Xoom:  Started in 2001 and has more than a million active customers.  The recipient can receive the funds through a cash pickup, bank account, or door-to-door delivery.  The lowest fees are through a U.S. bank account, but the transaction can take up to four business days.  The transaction is faster using a credit or debit card but the fees are higher.  The fees for international money transfers are typically lower than Money Gram and Western Union.  Sending money to certain countries such as India, Mexico, and Philippines will have even lower fees.  The major complaints for Xoom are their procedures may be too safe, they ask many irrelevant questions, and some transfers to foreign countries can take a long time.  https://www.xoom.com/

Airline Quality Rating

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The airline quality rating is a study conducted by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aviation University to test the performance of major U.S. airlines.  The results for 2014 were based on 15 elements in four major areas of what airline travelers consider most important.   Hawaiian Airlines, Delta, and Southwest Airlines were the 3 of the total 12 airlines evaluated that improved from 2013.  Virgin America performed the best because of its superior operational performance.  The airline is known for its amenities and guest service with custom-designed seating.  It had the lowest rate of involuntary denied boarding and was the top performer for the baggage-handling rate.  Hawaiian Airlines received the best on-time performance.

Envoy airlines had the worst ratings along with Express Jet and SkyWest.  Frontier received the highest rate of customer complaints.  The study overall generated poor results because of increased late flights and lost bags.  76.2% of flights arrived on time a decrease of 2.2% from 2013.  For the lost bags category airlines on average lost 1 bag for every 275 passengers.  Customer complaints rose 22% and passengers not allowed to board because of overbooking was estimated at 3 percent.  Airlines primary focus to maximize capacity may have been the reason why all four areas tracked declined for 2014 after 2013 was considered one of the best in nearly 25 years.

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Increased competition has been suggested to improve airline quality moving forward.  Alaska Airlines and Delta are examples of how competition can lead to better service.  Alaska Airlines has been the primary carrier for the Northwest region but Delta Airlines increased their presence by adding flights to the same region.  As a result, Alaska Airlines launched “Alaska Beyond” to keep their customers loyal.  Alaska Airlines upgraded seats, food, and on-board entertainment to all passenger 737 flights.  Passengers now have their own personal USB chargers and can enjoy food and wine from an award winning Seattle chef.  Competition is needed in the airline industry because it increases standards and can improve the airline quality rating for next year.  Here is the full report http://commons.erau.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=aqrr

Get The Most Out of Your Credit Card Rewards

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The biggest mistake consumers make with their rewards card is that most select the first one offered to them.  This is far from wise because some rewards cards are a poor fit for a particular individual.  If you don’t travel there isn’t much reason for you to select a card for airline miles or for hotel points.  To get the most out of your credit card rewards consumers need to select cards that fits their lifestyle.  Don’t select any credit card without shopping around because you will probably find a card better after adequate research.  Pay attention to the interest rate charged because any open balance with rewards will offer no benefits to the individual.  The points earned or cash back received evens out after the cardholder pays interest on the open balance.  Try to spend on one or two reward cards only because having more cards reduces your potential to increase your rewards points.  Using one or two rewards cards for all your spending is suggested because it will maximize the value of rewards points.

Every credit card with rewards has rules consumers need to pay attention to.  Studies indicate Americans do not redeem a third of their rewards every year mainly because they do not realize the expiration dates.  Close to one billion of reward points are unclaimed every year because of poor management.  Every rewards card will have expiration dates that are subject to change.  Most expire within 12 to 18 months of receiving points.  Read the fine print because some cards require minimum monthly spending requirements.  Others will penalize the consumer if they make late payments by taking back points earned for the month.  Shoppers need to understand how they spend because there are instances where some wait to redeem their points for the higher value of a gift card but end up failing to gain enough points when the expiration date rolls around.  Sometimes the lower value of a gift card is better because at least the consumer has something to show for their efforts.  Others chase points and spend more than they normally would to receive more free items but it’s counterproductive.

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Consumers may have the opportunity to double their rewards earning power usually at the end of quarters.  The quarterly cash-back specials go along with the season and by paying attention to your credit card rewards website should provide crucial details on what you need to do.  Always make large purchases with your rewards card instead of using cash because it will automatically increase your points significantly and some may even qualify for an extended warranty service.  The most common use for credit card rewards is to partly pay for planned future vacations.  Travel expenses add up and some use the rewards for perks such as free bag(s) check in, priority boarding, free night(s) for hotels and resorts, etc.  To determine the best rewards cards for 2015 The Simple Dollar provided a comprehensive overview of competitive rewards cards available with their benefits and flaws.  http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-rewards-credit-cards/

The Best Time to Purchase Tickets for Events

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To get the best price for sports, concerts, and theater tickets consumers need to purchase them immediately when they go on sale or wait until the last minute. For 100% confidence the tickets are valid with a competitive price its best to go to the box office. A direct purchase at the stadium or theater box office will eliminate any service charges common for secondary markets. More flexibility is also given for seating arrangements needed for big families and advice regarding which seats has the best view based on your budget. There is no worry for counterfeit tickets but you will pay full price for each ticket. The price for sports tickets will depend on how well your team plays and bad weather conditions will offer many opportunities for bargains. It’s best to purchase tickets close to game day or on game day because purchasing tickets two weeks to a month in advance can result in overpaying up to 40%. However, if your team plays well or popular among many the number of tickets available for last minute will be few and the price may not drop as much because of more demand. Waiting 30 minutes before the actual game starts is very risky but usually the best price for tickets because scalpers around the stadium want to get rid of the tickets they have. Something is always better than nothing. The biggest drawback to purchasing tickets from scalpers is they can be fake. There is countless number of stories from ordinary people getting burned by them. How legal it is to purchase from scalpers depends on where you live.

Sometimes waiting in line at the box office will end up worthless because the seats can be sold out or they are not where you want them. Most will then purchase tickets from secondary markets because consumers can purchase “hard to find seats” if they are willing to spend. The good seats are sold above face value and costs will add up even further after accounting for service fees during checkout. Research from countless number of surveys shows procrastinating helps with getting the most discounts. Sellers typically lower their prices as the event nears but there is always a level of uncertainty. The most popular secondary market resellers are StubHub (http://www.stubhub.com/), TicketLiquidator (http://www.ticketliquidator.com/default.aspx), TicketNetwork (http://www.ticketnetwork.com/default.aspx), and VividSeats (http://www.vividseats.com/).

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Any sold out sporting event, concert, or show will have many counterfeit tickets available especially on Craigslist. Fake tickets always go up when there is more demand. Stick to something trusted in the secondary market like StubHub or TicketLiquidator. It’s best to purchase from authorized dealers well known and calling Ticketmaster directly is a way to confirm if tickets are real. Read the description from secondary websites to make sure you are not purchasing “spec” tickets because those are advertisements of tickets dealers do not have. Any event not yet sold to the general public but are available on secondary markets is a sign they are “spec” tickets. Be cautious of any pictures of tickets that are blurry, missing seat or section numbers, have same barcode or serial number on more than one ticket, and typos. Each ticket has a unique event code, hologram, and bar code. Always demand a receipt because if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Review of Peer-To-Peer Lending

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Peer-To-Peer lending is an alternative method of investing and borrowing.  The average investor is willing to lend on P2P platforms because the yields are attractive and there is potential for high returns.  Borrowers that want a loan provide their personal information to receive offers on the rate and loan term.  A background check takes place with a rating scale of the borrowers default risk.  The higher the interest rate the higher the borrowers risk. The average lending interest rate is close to 14%.  If investor(s) accept the loan they receive a portion of the borrower’s fixed monthly payments.  The approval process for a loan can take as little as 3 days and loans are given to borrowers with a credit score under 680.  The minimum credit score required is around 630.  Borrowers that use P2P lending need the extra money for debt consolidation loans, credit card payoffs, to start a business, or for home improvement.

Peer-to-peer lending’s biggest strength the quick application process is also considered a great weakness.  Any loan application process that takes 3 days or less means there is less security and scrutiny the strengths of traditional banks.  There are lower levels of personal guarantees which can lead to a higher chance of borrowers defaulting on their loans.  Investor’s funds may not get matched quickly because loans depend on borrowers needs at the particular time.  Several days can pass by with your funds not earning any interest.  P2P lending is also relatively new which means P2P sites can get shut down without much warning. If you are a potential borrower the application process will decrease your credit score in the short term.  Not all states allow P2P lending.

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Returns offered by P2P websites are higher than savings accounts and CDs.  Since April 1, 2014 it has been regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).  Diversification is the most important strategy for any investor when lending funds.  P2P sites provide risk investment tools to help meet your personal needs.  Provision funds are now more apparent incase borrowers default, lenders will get compensated.  The funds are managed by third parties to eliminate any conflict of interest.  The highest rated P2P lending sites are LendingClub (https://www.lendingclub.com/), Prosper (https://www.prosper.com/), Funding Circle (https://www.fundingcircle.com/us/), and Upstart (https://www.upstart.com/).

The Amazon Dash Button

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Amazon Dash is a tab consumers can attach to their walls or appliances to ensure they never run out of daily household items. Its convenience shopping that’s efficient. Amazon Dash will have the brand name with a button to press anytime a particular product is running low. When pressed it connects to Amazon via Bluetooth to order a new supply shipped to your house within a couple of days. Amazon Prime Members will get the benefit of free shipping and the dash button has a magnet strip for the shopper to place on their fridge, washing machine, or other appliances around the house. The button is real and Amazon is working with many different companies on developing devices that can restock themselves. For example, water purifiers will have the technology to reorder their own filters and washer and dryers will soon be able to sense when supplies are running low to order more detergent without you doing anything.

Is greater convenience for households always better? Automated systems have started to appear in hospitals for dispensing medication. It helps with accuracy and farmers are monitoring crops in real time because it aids with delivering precise water to reduce waste. However, is improved technology for common household supplies too convenient? Privacy concerns have already been raised because marketers will have more data to analyze allowing them to better understand consumer’s decision-making process. For the dash button to work Wi-Fi connection is needed and typically laundry rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms are the areas where the connection has the most problems. There are also questions regarding the battery life of Amazon Dash where it’s more than likely the consumer will one day press the button and keep pressing it because there is no confirmation.

With just a push of the button consumers can order Amazon products without going to their website or app. Whirlpool, Gatorade, Bounty, Tide, and Brita are the big names participating in the program starting this fall. After pressing the button users will receive a confirmation through the smartphone to continue with the order or cancel. Amazon Prime Members will receive email invitations to experiment with the Dash Button and have a limit of three devices per household. The buttons will automatically link to your Amazon account product specific with the amount you want delivered per click. The Dash button works well for consumers that purchase items in a set amount. Purchasing the same amount every time and having it delivered a couple of days later can lead to better efficiency. However, if this becomes a popular trend new brands that are better will lose sales. Customers may not be aware of them because they keep ordering their old favorites with their Amazon Dash.

New Credit Score System 2015

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A new program will take place in a couple of months to help millions of Americans with no credit. About 53 million people do not have FICO scores that are needed for lending decisions. In the past many banks and credit card companies overlooked millions of Americans because they require a minimum score of 620 to qualify for personal loans, vehicle loans, mortgage loans, and credit cards. The new credit score system will change all this because paying on time for utility bills, cable bills, and cellphone bills will now count on an individual’s credit report. Their credit history will increase and potential lenders will consider them as less risky. Lenders will now account for paying bills on time as a sign for good future payments. The new credit score will help about 15 million of the 53 million who do not have any credit history to be considered for loans and to qualify for a Visa and MasterCard as well.

There are some however who disagree with the new credit score system mainly because it relies heavily on utility companies to report correct information most likely leading to errors. Others suggest consumers that struggle to make ends meet will have more credit options that can further put them into debt. Issuing more credit cards and loans to millions of Americans without much history will hurt more in the long run because they may not fully comprehend what they are getting themselves into. It can lead to more defaults for financially strapped consumers. Also, a limited or no credit history means Americans may receive credit cards with high interest rates hurting them at the end of the month if they do not pay the full balance.

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The supporters suggest the new credit score system will help make more loans and credit cards possible to people that normally would not get considered. It’s their choice to apply and will give them more opportunities to prove themselves and to other people they are responsible. The new system will create a separate payment history profile for no or bad credit individuals to calculate an alternative credit score. If they get approved based on the alternative credit score, a line of credit will be established. If the card holder maintains a low balance for six months they will receive a regular FICO score which will then give him/her more creditworthiness to apply for car and mortgage loans.

The Social Media Company You Probably Don’t Know but Should

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Have you ever wondered what is happening around the world at a specific time? Banjo is a social media company that monitors big name platforms foreign and domestic to understand what “normal” looks like at a given location. Damien Patton is the founder and CEO of Banjo who was able to raise close to $21 million from investors to grow his start up real-time news and events platform. Banjo has innovative analytics engine technology capable of providing the latest relevant news and events for users to understand what is happening anywhere in the world instantly. Consumers have the option of viewing their content on the web or download the free mobile app version for Android and Apple iPhone users.

Close to 30 companies pay for their enterprise service because marketers have a better idea of where their products and logos are appearing in specific locations. The enterprise service provides detailed information to marketers with a visual understanding in real time of how consumers share their brands story to other people. This is important because marketing companies can then go to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to pay top dollar for advertising based on how their targeted audience reacted.

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Banjo is an event detection engine that instantly organizes the world’s publicly available social and local information to provide users with photos and scenes of what’s relevant. Consumers can benefit from using Banjo because they can see and read information that will be breaking news by mainstream media before mainstream outlets actually report it. There are also hidden gems by using Banjo. If you are on vacation to let’s say San Diego, California but are unfamiliar with your surroundings, using Banjo can help reveal local people’s insights. You can easily find restaurants with the best reviews and local sales for stores to go shopping. Consumers can make good informed decisions even in areas they do not know to social events from one mile to 3,000 miles away. Both consumers and media companies benefit by using Banjo although for different purposes. Banjo is all about sharing real-time events as they unfold. http://ban.jo/