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Free Tax Filings, Terrible Tariffs & Home Prices Dip

Free Tax Filings

Free tax filings were not widely known among low-to-medium income taxpayers as some commercial tax preparation services did their level best to hide them until the IRS got pissed. Trump’s trade war has made every American a loser to some degree, small to big, but nonetheless, losers. Despite demand for housing and low rate mortgages, real estate prices are slowly ticking down, in some big markets lower than two decades ago.

Senior Analyst Robert McKinley notes the heat on payday lenders has led to some new product innovation, skirting regulations for 2020, and brand new surveys have surprisingly discovered millennials like to go stores to physically see and touch stuff before they buy it online.

McKinley of CardTrak, CardFlash and CardData also says there are still consumers spending time chasing 0% credit card balance transfer offers this year, while card issuers are beginning to revaluate the profitability of “rate chasers,” in the face of paying big commissions for short-term customers. RAM Research and PYRPTS notes attrition rates among some of the largest credit card issuers is well above 15%, in some cases near an unsustainable 20%.

Free Tax Filings

The IRS has made significant changes to its deal with the tax prep software industry. Now companies are barred from hiding their free products from search engines such as Google, and a years-old prohibition on the IRS creating its own online filing system has been scrapped. As a result commercial firms tricked customers into paying for tax prep they could have gotten for free, according to CardBuzz.

Credit Karma members who file their taxes with Credit Karma Tax can expect a smarter, more streamlined experience tailored specifically to their unique filing situation. This marks the company’s first major step toward fulfilling its long term vision of automating tax filing for Americans. Credit Karma members who file with Credit Karma Tax can also expect additional support during the upcoming tax season. During the season, Credit Karma Tax will roll out 24/7 chat support to members in the U.S.

Economy Remains Screwed-Up

A year and a half after President Donald Trump’s trade war with China began, the economic data is becoming irrefutable: American consumers and businesses have paid for the full cost of the tariffs, and then some. Plus those higher costs have significantly dampened U.S. export growth. For example, after an initial surge of optimism, the American steel industry seems to have not benefited much from the Trump administration’s protectionism. Major steel producers like U.S. Steel and Nucor have slowed production amid slackening demand, laid off some workers, and seen their stock prices tank during the past two years, according to CardBuzz.

Ten years ago, the U.S. was still in the throes of the Great Recession, in practice, if not in fact, and real estate suffered more than most industries. Nearly 9 million Americans lost their jobs, and at least 10 million people lost their homes to foreclosures or short sales. Within four years, nearly 50 million Americans were living in poverty. A year ago prices had started to stagnate or even fall in formerly hot markets, like parts of New York, Southern California and Dallas, while prices in Chicago, Las Vegas and other markets hard hit by the Great Recession were still where they were in 2006. Some homes in Chicago are now selling for less than the owners paid even 20 to 25 years ago.

WYSIWYG or WYSINWYG

Physical interactions with products still play a major role in purchasing decisions for 2020, as the overwhelming majority (82%) of consumers say that seeing, holding or demoing a product in-person makes them more inclined to actually purchase at the counter. Shopkick surveyed more than 16,000 consumers across the country to gain insights into 2020 shopping habits. The leading shopping rewards app looked at purchasing behavior, the use of mobile, brand loyalty and more. The results are eye-opening, according to Bankcenter.

Meanwhile, an image on the website showed a full-length coat of buttery sheepskin and plush gray fur, described as being made of fake sheepskin and fur, for just $69.99. The online photo used by the rip-off site was actually an image of a $2,495 handcrafted number by specialty retailer Overland Sheepskin. The victim says it was paper-thin, like it was made of felt. And the fur — if it even was fur — looked like something you’d find on roadkill or a rat.

Borrowing Games

A new twist to payday loans. Jonathan Raines needed money. An app promised to help. He searched online for an alternative to traditional payday lenders and came across Earnin, which offered him $100 on the spot, to be deducted from his bank account on payday. “There are no installments and no really high interest,” he told me, comparing the app favorably to a payday lender. “It’s better, in that sense.” Earnin didn’t charge Raines a fee, but asked that he “tip” a few dollars on each loan, with no penalty if he chose not to. It seemed simple. But nine months later, what was originally a stopgap measure has become a crutch.

Chasing 0% APRs?

New research reveals about 75% of credit cardholders have a fundamental misunderstanding about how introductory 0% balance transfer credit cards work, despite the fact that half of all surveyed cardholders have had a balance transfer card in the past. Additionally, only 54% of balance transfer cardholders paid off the entire transferred balance during the introductory reduced-interest rate period. A study on the terms and conditions of 167 credit cards that allow balance transfers showed 0% introductory offers are still easy to find, and while most of those cards charge a one-time fee on that transferred balance, you can find cards that don’t impose a fee if you shop around. CardTrak suggests checking with credit unions and community banks for 0% offers too.

Cheaper 2020 Investing

Wells Fargo Advisors is now offering $0 trades on the WellsTrade self-directed trading platform for stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs). WellsTrade enables investors to obtain real-time quotes, screen investments and review interactive charting and research from Wells Fargo Investment Institute, the company’s investment strategy and research arm, as they buy and sell stocks directly. Clients can trade stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and options. The new commission applies to trades placed online in stocks and ETFs, excluding penny stocks, according to Bankcenter.

Scams Never Die

Email scams have moved beyond penis enlargement and Nigerian princes. Scammers have learned that they can extract much bigger payouts from big businesses than lone victims. They’ve tallied billions of dollars in the last few years alone. In the 2020s, it’s only going to get worse. In these so-called business email compromise schemes, attackers either infiltrate a legitimate email account from a company or create a realistic spoof account. They use that position to broker seemingly legitimate wire transfers for “business transactions” like contract payment; the money instead goes into the criminal’s pockets. The scale is staggering; in September alone, Toyota lost $37 million in a BEC scam, and the Japanese media company Nikkei lost $29 million.

The operators of a scheme that conned consumers into paying non-existent debts will be permanently banned from the debt collection business and from misleading consumers about debt. The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Global Asset Financial Services Group, alleging that the operators of the company falsely claimed to be attorneys or affiliated with attorneys to pressure consumers into making payments on debts they did not owe, and threatened to take legal action against consumers if they did not pay.

Bad Reviews

Writing fraudulent reviews about businesses on services like Yelp can land you in big legal trouble. But suppose a financial services merchant hit back on your legitimate complaint or confusion by revealing all the juicy details shown in your personal credit report. A California-based mortgage broker will pay $120,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other laws by revealing personal information about consumers in response to negative reviews posted on the review website Yelp.

Red3 Media suggests business owners try to do all they can to resolve the issue before it gets to the point of legal action. Realizing the impact reviews can have on a business it’s no wonder sometimes legal action is an option. In the past there has been several cases where doctors were suing patients based on their reviews. Now it wasn’t the fact they were leaving negative reviews about the wait time, it was that the reviews contained false information notes Red3 Media.

Other Sources: CardData; RAM Research; CardTrak; CardFlash; PYRPTS; CardBuzz; Bankcenter; PYVNTS: Ruebud Media; Red3 Media