More People Are Choosing Expensive Vehicles

People are paying more for vehicles these days, according to vehicle pricing guide Kelley Blue Book.
KBB said that estimated average transaction price (ATP) for light vehicles during June was $32,342, which is up from June 2013.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that vehicles are getting more expensive, only that people are spending more per given vehicle. For instance, automakers’ total sales include a higher percentage of upscale models. Also, people are choosing to include more optional equipment on a given model.
However, vehicle prices have risen as well: KBB said that new-car prices are up $454 (or 1.4%) versus June 2013. They rose $113 (0.4%) just since last month.
So, a combination of factors results in the higher average transaction prices.
Among automakers, General Motors posted a 5.4% year-over-year gain in average transaction price – largely due to increased sales of pricey trucks and SUVs. Meanwhile, Nissan saw a 1% decrease in its average transaction price, due to the Japanese company getting more of its mix of sales from its economy car lines.
KBB said this happened despite Nissan’s new vehicle sales numbers going up from 2013 to 2014.
Overall, this is shaping up to be a warm summer for auto sales, and prices are up. Things may slow down a bit later in the year, so if you’re in the market you may find the best deals after the summer heat is off.

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Credit Card Rates Inch Higher

For the first time in two months the average interest rates on new credit card offers moved higher last week. This according to online credit card marketplace CreditCards.com, who publish a weekly survey of rates offered to U.S. consumers.

The average rate for all credit card offers surveyed by CreditCards.com last week was 15.02%. This was up from 15.01% the week before but still down from the 15.06% measured six months ago.

Among the different types of cards on offer, only Airline cards (15.38%, up from 15.30% the week before) and Reward cards (14.98%, up from 14.97%) showed any real movement.

A range of card offers were unchanged from the previous week, including Low Interest (10.37%), Balance Transfer (12.64%), Business (12.80%), Student (13.27%), Cash Back (14.91%), Instant Approval (28%) and Bad Credit (22.73%) card offers.

CreditCards.com said its weekly credit card rate survey looks at 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country.

 

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After Two Months, CD Rates Move a Bit

The average rate paid on 5-year certificates of deposit (CD) rose a bit last week — after two months of stagnation – according to RateWatch. Is there hope for savers?

RateWatch said that its weekly survey discovered that the average APY paid on 5-year CDs across the country rose from 1.14% to 1.15%. However, rates on shorter-term CDs stayed the same.

The reason for the move on 5-year CDs – and not on 1-year or 6-month CDs – has to do with recent signals sent by the Federal Reserve. While the Fed has basically pledged to maintain its low-rate regime for the near term, it has signaled that it might raise its benchmark interest rate in the first half of 2015.

Anticipating this, financial institutions are trying to “lock in” more long-term funds from depositors.

As you can see, though, the move in rates is tiny, and the overall picture pretty much stays the same: savers who want secure, insured investments are stuck with sub-2% yields for the foreseeable future.

Until the Fed signals a more dramatic move on rates, things will continue in this fashion. Savers who want a good return on their money will opt for riskier investment options, such as stocks.

 

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Say Goodbye to the Cash Register

 

 

Would you like to bypass the checkout line, and just use your Smartphone to pay for your store purchases? So would a lot of other people – particularly young people.

 

European payment firm Yapital had a survey conducted to find out how people felt about paying by Smartphone. Not surprisingly, support for such unconventional transactions was highest among younger shoppers.

 

Yapital said that 83% of respondents aged 14 to 29 years expressed annoyance at having to stand in cash register lines. Even online checkout wasn’t considered ideal, since 44% of younger folk were bothered by the task of inputting data to complete those transactions.

 

Overall, 28% of consumers surveyed expressed positive support for mobile payments. They may not have long to wait.

 

Given that more than 85% of all transactions are now cashless, and given the growing sophistication of mobile payments systems, it’s only a matter of time before the retail environment is re-designed around fast, automated transactions via Smartphone.

 

Imagine walking into a supermarket and seeing only one or two cash register stations – or no registers? Technology could be used to determine the prices of the items in your cart or basket, and an app on your mobile device could make the payment instantly.

 

The future is coming fast, but you’d better bring a Smartphone.

 

 

 

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Why Your July 4th Barbeque Is Getting Expensive

If you’re finding that the cost of a traditional 4th of July barbeque is higher than it’s ever been, you can blame certain commodity prices.

According to the inaugural 2014 Rabobank BBQ Index, the price of a typical 10-person barbeque has risen from $51.90 in 2004 to $66.82 in 2014.

The Netherlands-based financial institution — which serves the global food, beverage and agribusiness industry — said that the increase in barbeque price comes from some rather dramatic rises in the prices paid for certain “BBQ-related” commodities.

For instance, beef prices have taken off like a 4th of July rocket, rising by 71% over the past five years. Rabobank points out that U.S. cattle herds are the smallest they’ve been in 63 years, while U.S. beef exports have grown substantially.

Using chicken as a substitute meat can bring some relief, but meat alone does not make a barbeque.

Cheese and ice cream prices are up by around 15%, on rising exports. Produce costs have also risen.

Which brings us to beverages.

According to Rabobank, beer accounts for 28% of the total cost of a typical U.S. barbecue, and beer prices are up. The Index tracked pricing on 20 different beers, and found their pricing up by around 10%, on average, over the past five years.

So, if you are doing some last-minute 4th of July barbeque shopping, consider using chicken as a meat choice, and looking for a good deal on beer. (Of course, you can always forego the beer entirely, and choose bottled water instead. Yea, we thought not.)

Or, you could just swallow the extra cost along with all that delicious barbeque. Have a great 4th!

 

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Used Car Luxury Values

These days, you can buy a lot of late-model luxury car for under $30,000, according to car valuation firm Kelley Blue Book.

KBB has put together its list of the 10 Best Certified Pre-Owned Luxury Cars Under $30,000, showing that consumers can often “step up” in vehicle luxury for the cost of an run-of-the-mill new car.

While many of these cars on the list can be had for less money, the valuations quoted here are for “certified” used cars. These are cars that have been put through a lengthy inspection, and have been determined to be in tip-top shape.

Certified used cars are often backed by good warranties, and for many consumers represent the “safest” way to buy a used vehicle. Particularly a used luxury model.

Here, then, are KBBs top 10 picks:

The #1 pick is the 2011 BMW 3 Series, which carries a Kelley Blue Book CPO Price of $25,464. Next is the 2011 Lexus ES ($27,751), followed by the 2011 Acura TL ($23,943), the 2011 Audi A6 ($29,525) and the 2011 Cadillac CTS ($23,208).

Picks 5-10 are the 2011 Infiniti G ($20,717), the 2011Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class ($28,383), the 2011 Cadillac DTS, ($28,227), the 2011 Volvo XC60 ($24,297) and the 2011 Audi A4 ($22,627).

Keep in mind that new cars lose 35% to 40% of their original value due to depreciation in just the first three years. With a certified 2011 model, you get a depreciated vehicle that has been fully inspected for safety — backed by a guarantee from the auto maker.

Before you pull the trigger on a new vehicle purchase, take a look at how much luxury you can get for your money.

 

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Card Fraud Hits 25% of Consumers

A troubling new report finds that one in four consumers around the world have been the victims of card fraud. While Americans are especially hard-hit compared to consumers in most other countries, we are not getting the worst of it.

Payments company ACI Worldwide and Aite Group surveyed more than 6,100 consumers across 20 countries, and found that the highest levels of card fraud occurred in the United Arab Emirates, followed closely by China, India and the U.S.

According to ACI, “card fraud” is comprised of unauthorized activity on debit, credit and prepaid cards. When it happens, consumers who become victims have their trust in financial institutions shaken.

In fact, of the survey respondents who have been victims of fraud, 63% say they are more likely to use their cards less, and 23% changed financial institutions after experiencing fraud.

This is perhaps understandable, but consumers must realize that financial institutions are but one link in the card security chain. (Remember those data breaches at U.S. retailers last year?) Above all, they must realize that they are a link in the chain as well.

Taking simple precautions – such as protecting your PIN from prying eyes while at an ATM or gas pump, and verifying that a retailer is legit before handing over card data – can go a long way toward making sure that you’re not the next victim of fraud.

Financial institutions, retailers, payment systems and you (the cardholder) are all links in the card security chain. Thieves will always find the weakest ones, and exploit them. So, it’s best that all parties work together on card security.

 

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Many People Have Nothing Set Aside for Emergencies

We’re all told to have six months of expenses in our savings accounts, and yet more than one in four Americans have nothing at all set aside for emergencies, according to a new report from Bankrate.

Bankrate said it had 1,004 adults surveyed, and found that 26% had no emergency savings. A full 67% saved less than the recommended six months’ worth of expenses. Half of those surveyed said they had saved less than three months’ expenses.

A strange phenomenon is revealed when the data is broken down by demographics: survey respondents who were aged 18-30 were much more likely to have five months’ expenses saved than those aged 30-49. In fact, the 30-49 group were the most likely to have nothing saved.

Bankrate explains this discrepancy as a factor of living expenses: since many of the younger respondents live with roommates (or their parents), they typically have lower expenses than older adults – many of whom must use their incomes to pay mortgages and feed families.

However, the survey also revealed a lack of emergency savings among those who really should be able to save more: fewer than half (46%) of those with incomes of $75,000 or more reported having the recommended six-month savings cushion.

Certainly, there are too many Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck – and not having money left over for savings. But a depleted (or non-existent) emergency fund will only increase financial anxiety, and a feeling of vulnerability. Tough as it may be, we all need to save a bit with every paycheck.

 

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Healthcare Inflation Set to Rise

An improving economy is a good thing, but it can lead to inflation. This seems to be the case with healthcare, which had seen modest employer spending growth in recent years.

Professional services firm PwC’s Health Research Institute reports that medical inflation is projected to rise to 6.8% in 2015 – as consumers act on their “pent up demand” for healthcare, and use more on it.

According to the HRI, this growth in spending comes not only from consumers feeling freer with their spending, but by an increase of new consumers in the healthcare market, as millions of newly-insured patients seek out healthcare.

New drugs and therapies are also pushing up the cost of healthcare. One example of this would be expensive new Hepatitis C therapies, which HRI said are alone expected to be responsible for a 0.2% increase in spending growth.

Healthcare providers are also spending big on IT integration due to a spate of mergers and acquisitions in the sector. Some of these deals are also resulting in higher payments paid to physician practices, especially ones that are being acquired by hospitals and health systems.

However, some of this inflation will result in lower health care costs down the line. For instance, patients who utilize healthcare more stand a better chance of managing their health better. Also, patients who receive expensive new cures today can be healthier later on.

IT investments being made along with mergers can result in more modern, efficient systems being deployed. This can cut down on such healthcare spending wastes as antiquated and redundant record-keeping.

HRI also points out that, while 6.8% medical inflation is up from recent years, it is still way below the double-digit increases seen in the years before this recent round of recession and healthcare reform took off.

So, there’s no need to panic yet that healthcare costs will soar as they did in the nineties and 2000s, the firm said. Some forces are driving them up, and some are working to moderate these costs in the longer term.

 

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Small Businesses Turn to Non-Bank Lenders

One quarter of small businesses and middle-market companies recently surveyed had obtained their recent credit from non-bank lenders, according to business advisory firm Greenwich Associates. Such is the difficulty – five years after the financial crisis — still being had by some SBEs in obtaining credit. But that’s not all of the story.

Greenwich Associates surveyed approximately 125 companies, and found that, of the companies that obtained credit over the past 18 months, one-quarter reported securing funds from non-bank providers.

Of those, 90% said they would use non-bank providers again, and 60% told Greenwich that non-bank providers made the process of obtaining credit easier than banks did.

These results tell us that banks now risk losing business in this important customer segment. It also tells us that some small businesses really are having a difficult time obtaining credit on good terms – even as large corporations report having an easier time of it than before the crisis.

Greenwich said that about a third of its SBE/middle market responders said they turned to non-bank lenders at least in part because their traditional banks refused to lend.

However, the rest of them said they chose non-banks based on these lenders offering favorable terms, conditions, rates and pricing versus traditional banks.

It’s clear that the non-bank lenders stepped into a void created when traditional banks shut off the lending taps to small businesses following the financial crisis. Since then, many of these lenders have improved their offerings, and are now beating out the banks on rates and terms.

Hopefully, there will be more competition for small business lending as the economy improves. After all, small business’ access to credit is a key component of growing the economy.

 

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