These days, if you turn on the television during late nights or early morning, you are likely to see home fitness programs being pitched as the new thing in getting in shape. You’ve heard it all before, P90X, Insanity, Hip-Hip Abs, 10 Minute Workout and Focus T25. What they all have in common is that they all promise you results you can achieve right in the comfort of your home. You pop in a DVD into your player, follow the fitness instructions and diet plan, stick with it – and you are guaranteed to get in the best shape of your life. Too good to be true? Well, that’s what we are also trying to find out.
The insanity workout program by Shaun T has achieved tremendous success by promising to get you in shape in 60 day, if you commit to working out every day for one hour for two months – and following a very strict diet plan. And if you want to measure the success of the program by the number of people proudly wearing their Insanity T Shirts, we think Shaun T’s Focus T25 workout, which is his latest workout program is guaranteed to be successful. Focus T25 is a 10 week program where you workout 5 days a week, 25 minutes each day. Just like insanity, there is also a strict diet regimen you have to follow. If you want more than just the base program, you can buy Focus T25 Gamma, which is a more rigorous program after you complete the Alpha and Beta Phases of the base kit.
If you currently do not have health insurance, you should look into signing up for affordable healthcare under Obamacare. On October 1, 2013, the healthcare marketplaces established as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) finally opened, allowing individuals, families and small businesses to sign up for health insurance. If you are an individual and currently have insurance you purchased on the open market, you may be able to switch to a more affordable plan through the health exchange. Enrollment for insurance under Obamacare will run from October 1, 2013 through March 2014. However, coverage for all the plans begin on January 1, 2014. You should consider applying because there is a good chance you will save money with Obamacare health insurance. Here is how:
You have to apply through your state’s Obamacare exchange. Some states run their own marketplace while the federal government is running the marketplace for states that have declined to do so themselves. In addition to finding affordable health insurance and having the ability to compare several plans side by side, it is now illegal for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition or charge you higher premiums because of that pre-existing condition. That is going help a lot of individuals that have pretty much been excluded from the health insurance market and have been unable to get proper care because of their pre-existing condition. For more on how to enroll, visit http://obamacarewire.com.
The video below from the Kaiser foundation provides a great summary on what Obamacare is all about. Check it out.
As you can tell, there are many benefits of Obamacare, even for people who already have insurance they are pleased with. There are increased patient protections under the law, and some very positive additions that have already been implemented, including allowing kids to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26, which has proved very popular with recent graduates. For these and other reasons, we doubt efforts to repeal the law will be successful.
You may not know it, but another prepaid wireless carrier just launched. The company is called AIO Wireless (and they are owned by wireless giant AT&T). They provide no contract prepaid wireless services and based on the reviews so far, they are going to be a force. They launched over the summer in select cities - Houston, Texas and Orlando, Florida and starting in Mid-September, they are going nationwide. Here is a sample of their plan offering:
As you can see, for $70 a month, you can get a very attractive smartphone plan from AIO Wireless, which includes unlimited talk, text and up to 7GB of data at high speed. They then start to throttle the data after you exceed the 7GB. But let’s face it, even for the heavy data users, 7GB is plenty. The average person should therefore have no problem getting through normal usage and still have plenty of data allocation left over. Another attractive feature about their service is that if you bring your own phone (BYOP), you can get a SIM Card for just $10, and with that, you are activated and ready to talk. All you need is to select your plan and you are on your way.
They claim that when it comes to customer service, they are going to do much, much better than the horror stories you hear about their competitors. We hope that promise is true. Here is the AIO Wireless Customer Service Phone Number (1-855-246-2461 toll free), which you can call to find out more about the service, and get your questions answered. If you are a new customer, it’s very difficult to get past the auto attendant when you call, so continue to press Zero until you get a live person to talk to. If you decide to give them a try, let us know about your experience.
We recently reviewed the American Express Bluebird and gave it a thumbs up. Today, we are reviewing another prepaid card we think is going to take the market by storm – and that is the Chase Liquid Prepaid Card. There are several things we like about this card. But first, the video below does a great job of explaining what the Liquid Card is about, the many features it comes with, and how you can sign up for one.
The first feature we like is that you can walk into any of the Chase bank branches around the country, and with $25 or more (to load onto the card), you can sign up for a Chase Liquid card, with no activation or sign up fees. Your funds are loaded on to the card right there at the bank and you can walk out with your temporary card, which is good for immediate shopping, purchases, and bill pay. Your permanent card arrives 5-7 business days later. This is a similar function we found with the Bluebird card, where you can pick up an activation kit at Walmart. But that will set you back $5.95. There is no fee to get a temporary Chase card.
The second thing we like about this card is the fee structure. You pay $4.95 a month and with that, you avoid most of the fees and charges that come with other prepaid cards, including no activation fee, no fee to reload cash (regardless of the reload option you choose), no ATM fees if you take money at a Chase ATM, and no customer service fee, which some prepaids have (after you exceed your allowed number each month). Finally, there is no fee to request a paper statement, which almost all the prepaid cards charge up to $15 for.
So, as you can see, there is a lot to love about the Chase Liquid Card. The only thing we don’t like is that you can only sign up at a Chase branch location, which limits the card to states and areas that have Chase branches. That makes the Bluebird Card a lot better when it comes to reach. Click here to sign up for the Chase Liquid Card.
Government programs are a prime target for online scams and fraud. The food stamp program is no exception. What is true is that food stamps application in Florida has increased. But recently, there is an alarming trend developing in the state of Florida, where the food assistance program has become a major target of online fraud. There are two way this is happening. The first is through Phishing emails. This is one of the most common form of online fraud that is targeted at financial products like credit and prepaid debit cards (including the EBT Card).
And there is how it works. Usually, a Florida Food Stamps recipients will receive an email telling them that their EBT card has been suspended due to suspicious transactions. Included in the email are instructions on how to restore the suspended account. Usually, there is a URL included in the email, which is supposed to direct the card holder to the EBT card website – so that the account information can be verified. But unbeknownst to the cardholder, the email is fraudulent and the URL included will take them to a fake website. Once they get to the fake website and provide their confidential account information, the thieves will then use that information to login to the card account, get the Florida EBT Balance by accessing the EBT Account and drain the entire account of the funds.
The video above shows efforts by the government to deal with a different kind of EBT fraud – which is illegal purchase/sale of EBT cards. Whether they are able to make a real impact remains to be seen. But it is refreshing to see that the little guy is getting help.
You may not know this but the United States government, at the federal and state level do issue prepaid debit cards. They are mainly used to make benefit payments to eligible beneficiaries, like Social Security, VA Benefits, Food Stamps, Cash Payment, Child Support and Unemployment Benefits among others. The government does not directly print the cards, but contract the entire process to third party vendors, including issuing of the cards, management of the program and customer service. There is usually a government or state agency that is then assigned the responsibility to oversee the prepaid cards program. There are two prepaid cards that we would like to highlight as problematic.
The first is the EPPICard.com program. Eppicards are issued by 23 states to pay unemployment benefits and child support payments to eligible beneficiaries. The contract for this program has been outsourced and performed on behalf of the states by Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), a division of Xerox Business Services. Customer complaints include fees being charged on the prepaid cards, like charges for calling customer service, getting a statement mailed to you and requesting a replacement card. In addition, it is close to impossible to get Eppicard customer service on the phone to answer any question. The other card we would like to highlight is the direct express debit card. This card is used to pay Social Security and VA benefits. While this card is much much better run than the EPPICard program, there are still fees associated with using the card. We are not necessarily against debit card fees, but when the government is using/requiring electronic payment for fixed income benefits like Social Security, all efforts should be made to eliminate usage fees, since those who receive these benefits really need every dollar they are eligible for – and we do not think it is right to consume some of that money in card usage fees. Otherwise, they are better off getting paper checks in the mail.
This is a Walmart Bluebird Review. The Bluebird Card is a reloadable prepaid card issued by American Express in partnership with Walmart. There are two ways to get the Walmart Bluebird Card. The first is to pick up an activation kit from a Walmart store. This will cost you $5. Then you need to activate and register the card. Once that is done, you can load up to $500 on the temporary card at any Walmart store and start using the card immediately – at any place American Express Cards are accepted, including online and in-store locations. This is a unique feature, when compared to say reloadable visa cards, where you have to wait for the card to come through the mail in order to use it.
You can register your temporary card online with Bluebird. You can also track the balance of the temporary card online, assuming you have registered it online. Once you activate your temporary card and complete the registration process, your permanent Walmart Bluebird Card will be mailed to you – to the address you provided at registration. The other way to get the card is to go to the Bluebird website and sign up for a permanent card, which will be mailed to you. There is no fee to sign up for the card online but you will obviously not have the temporary card that comes with the activation kit that is sold at Walmart.
There are several things we like about the Bluebird Card. The first is that when you compare it with other reloadable cards, the fees are very low. First, there is no activation fee when you sign up for the card online. Second, unlike other cards on the market, there are no annual fees, monthly fees, overdraft fees, card replacement fees, or foreign exchange fees. This makes the experience of using the card very pleasant. Second, you can use the card to pay bills, do online shopping just like a regular credit or debit card without hassle. Third, you can create sub account and add your kids or parents to the card – and each sub account holder gets a card with their name on it – but you have online control over their accounts, including setting spending limits, receiving email alerts and say turning on or off ATM access.
With all these benefits, we rate the American Express Bluebird Card at the top of our list for reloadable prepaid debit cards. Check out the video above for a complete list of benefits and features of this card.
One of the many cool things this website will do is review the best prepaid cards out there. As you may be aware, banks are now getting serious about prepaid cards, including innovative solutions like the American Express Bluebird card, which is going to be the first card we will review in our next post. There are several reasons why the banks are interested in prepaid cards. The first is that as a result of the CARD ACT and other bank regulations, especially those issued by the Federal reserve regarding Credit Cards fees, banks have seen their fee income from traditional credit card business shrink considerably.
They therefore are looking for new ways to make up the lost fee income. As a result, most now sell gift cards that can be reloaded and used as debit cards. Since reloadable prepaid gift cards are not as regulated, the banks see an opportunity to expand their consumer base and also make money. American Express has teamed up with Walmart on the Bluebird Card and expect more of these partnerships as more and more banks see the potential in expanding their prepaid offerings.
But from a consumer perspective, not all prepaid cards are made equal, so we are going to review a few of the top ones we consider as worth the money – so that you have all the information you need to pick the perfect prepaid debit card for you.