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If your credit card information is stolen, you could rack up tons of debt before you even realize what has happened. Colley tells you what you need to do to minimize the damage. (Gene J. Puskar/AP/File)

What you need to do if your credit card is stolen

By Angela ColleyGuest blogger / 06.28.13

If the potential Rakuten credit card scam has you worried, your fears might not be totally unwarranted. In 2012, 12.6 million people were victims of identity theft, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

Being a victim of identity theft is no small matter. At best, someone gets a hold of your credit card information and uses it to buy some stuff online. At worst, a thief open accounts in your name, makes huge purchases, and racks up a ton of debt before you realize what's happened. The toll to your credit history can last for years, but there are things you can do to minimize the damage and protect yourself in the future.

Report Your Losses

If you notice strange activity on your credit or debit card, report the charges to your bank immediately using the toll free number on the back of the card or on your statement. The Federal Trade Commission says you aren't responsible for any charges made on a stolen account number after you report identity theft, so act quickly.

Enact a Fraud Alert

If you find suspicious activity on your accounts, ask one of the credit bureaus to place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Once you notify one credit bureau, that bureau will notify the others and alerts will appear on all your credit reports. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the alert will remain on your credit report for 90 days. During that time, creditors cannot open new accounts without verifying your information, making it harder for thieves to access your credit. You can file a fraud alert online through Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. ( Continue… )

A woman packs moving boxes as she prepares to clear out her home. If you are trying to get rid of old clothes, unwanted DVDs, or other items, websites and applications such as and Bondsy can help you exchange your items for new ones. (Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor/File)

Getting rid of stuff? 8 websites you need to visit.

By Elizabeth HarperGuest blogger / 06.27.13

Bartering for goods or services may seem like an old-fashioned concept, but with the power of the Internet, it's coming back in style. With a variety of sites and services to help you trade or swap goods of all types, now's as good a time as ever to go on that shopping spree — even if finances are tight. Sound too good to be true? We've collected eight stellar services that help you get rid of things you don't want in exchange for things you do.


The online classifieds section may not be what comes to mind when you think of bartering, but Craigslist does have a bartering section just for this purpose. (It's listed under "for sale.") In this forum you can post about things you want to get rid of or things you're looking for and see if anyone bites. However, the downside to Craigslist is that anyone can post anything and nothing on the service comes with any guarantee. Though you can find some great deals, be on the lookout for scams.


Bondsy is an interesting twist on the bartering concept in that it only allows you to trade with people you know or trust. Fire up Bondsy on your iPhone (sorry, other smartphone users) and write up the details on what you have and include a picture. With luck, one of your other iPhone-toting pals will have a use for it. Valet Service

Like its name suggests, lets members swap stuff, and it's simple to use. Just box up what you don't want and ship it to they'll sort it, photograph it, and list it on the site. You can swap your goods for those from other users listed on the site, or accept a cash payment.

While charges a fee for shipping, cataloging, and listing as well as storage fees for goods that don't sell, its guaranteed listings ensure that anything you buy on the site is exactly what it says it is. But just in case it isn't, the site also has a no-hassle return policy. ( Continue… )

The Samsung Galaxy S3, Nokia Lumia 820, and iPhone 4 smartphones are displayed. Apple, Samsung, and Nokia offer some of the best smartphones for photo enthusiasts, Narayanan says. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters/File)

The best smartphones for avid photographers

By Aparna NarayananGuest blogger / 06.26.13

Whether you're an Instagram obsessive, a "pro" mobile photographer, or simply enamored with kitty pics, smartphones have revolutionized the ways in which we take and share photos. In a little over a decade, these gadgets have nearly replaced the functions of point-and-shoot cameras and have come to reign as consumers' cameras of choice. The trend towards bigger and better megapixels partly explains why smartphone photography has surged in popularity, but constant web connectivity that allows for instant image sharing, as well as image-processing apps and third-party accessories, have helped to seal the deal.

Manufacturers realize that consumers consider a devices' picture-taking quality as much as its ability to make calls. Just take a look at this billboard promoting the newly launched Nokia Lumia 928. The marketing campaign highlights not the processor speed nor its screen size nor svelte design, but simply the low-light camera performance.

To get a better handle on which smartphones offer the best mobile photography features, we turned to the venerable Digital Photography Review for the top five smartphone cameras that offer the most bang for your buck. Or the most pop for your pixel. You know what we mean.

Apple iPhone 5 Smartphone

Specs: 4" 1136x640 Retina display, Apple A6 processor, 1GB RAM, 8-megapixel iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, 1080p video capture, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0

Some photo enthusiasts may carp about the iPhone 5's grainy or soft images, but look no further than Flickr for proof that the iPhone 5 is the most beloved smartphone camera. As such, Digital Photography Review praised the iPhone 5 off the bat for its camera's marked improvement over that of the iPhone 4S. Although the 8MP capacity remained unchanged, the iPhone 5's redesigned camera optics, combined with a faster A6 chip, and larger screen (4" vs. 3.5") lead to improved picture quality. And though the iPhone doesn't have the best camera, it offers "satisfying image quality, some neat functions like auto panorama and HDR mode, and – crucially – it is supremely easy to use." ( Continue… )

With the heat creeping up, it's the perfect time to complete a few tasks inside the house. Nichol-Caddy lists five items that you need to have — plus where to get the best deals for them. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File)

Tackle the honey-do list with 5 must-have tools

By Joshua Nichol-CaddyGuest blogger / 06.25.13

By Joshua Nichol-Caddy, dealnews contributor

Surely mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges is out of the question in heat like this. But the weather shouldn't keep you from putting to good use these tool and hardware deals that will help tackle those stragglers on the home improvement to-do list.

1. HDX 65-Piece Screwdriver Set
 Store: Home Depot
 Price: $9.88 with in-store pickup
 Lowest By: $25

Is It Worth It?: Owning this Editors' Choice set of 65 screwdrivers may finally mean you can tighten the loose screw on the kitchen cabinet. Featuring a variety of sizes and heads for nearly any job, this set specifically includes a 15-piece screwdriver, 4-piece precision screwdriver, 1-piece ratcheting screwdriver, 1-piece 2" extension bar, and 9-piece 1/4" drive socket. What's more, the ergonomic, soft-grip handle on every piece of the set will also help avoid blisters.

2. Craftsman Limited Edition 26" 4-Drawer Top Chest

Store: Sears
 Price: $244.99
 Lowest By: $105
 Expires: July 6

Is It Worth It?: The screwdrivers detailed above will fit perfectly in one of the four drawers of this limited edition top chest. Fortunately you won't need to use any of them to put together this steel chest as it comes fully assembled. It features a keyed internal locking system as well as drawers of various sizes with liners and accessories to protect the tools inside. While there are side handles for portability, this 50-lb. chest is really for claiming a spot in the garage because it can hold up to 600 lbs. And keep a dry-erase marker handy, as perhaps the coolest feature of this chest is its finish.

This chest is available through a larger sale that cuts up to $255 off a rather wide selection of Craftsman tool chests. And though it's a little late for Father's Day, this is the best sale we've seen on these items since November.

3. Craftsman Universal Max Axess MTS 85-Piece Set
 Store: Sears
 Price: $113.99 with free shipping
 Lowest By: $6

Is It Worth It?: Go nuts on some bolts! With all that room in the tool chest, this 85-piece set will fit in perfectly. It includes a variety of 1/4" and 3/8" drive Max Axess sockets, extension bars, ratchets, and drives. Even better, the entire set can pack up into its durable and portable molded case.

4. Icon Modus 2 Flashlight

Store: PayDeals
 Price: $9 with free shipping
 Lowest By: $19
 Expires: June 25

Is It Worth It?: This little lightweight flashlight is Editors' Choice deal. It boasts a lens that turns and a dual-output LED, which can run for up to 72 hours on two AA batteries (included). Weatherproof, this handheld flashlight is great in case of emergency.

5. DuroMax 3,300-watt Portable Gas-Powered Generator

Store: Factory Authorized Outlet via Rakuten Shopping
 Price: $259.99 via coupon code "SUMMER10" with free shipping
 Lowest By: $107

Is It Worth It?: Speaking of emergencies, this gas-powered generator can produce a 4,000-watt surge and 3,300-watt continuous power, running for up to eight hours at a 50% load. It also boasts an electric start, idle control, and wheel kit.

Joshua Nichol-Caddy is a contributor at, where this article first appeared. Original article:

Used models of the HTC First phone, which was released in mid-April, sold for just 99 cents by the first week of May. Other Android smartphones have sold for free (with new two-year contracts). (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File)

Top 13 things you should never pay for

By Aaron CroweGuest blogger / 06.24.13

There are few things more thrilling for a deal shopper than getting something for free. In fact, freebie deals are often the most popular offers on our site. From smartphones to restaurant food, there are certain categories that are regularly flush with gratis promotions. So next time your whip out your wallet, consider first if that purchase could come at no cost to you.

Android Smartphones

If you're a fan of phones with Google's operating system, then you're in luck; so many new Android smartphones are released these days that the market has become saturated — and as a result, most models quickly fall to $0 (with new 2-year contracts) after a few months. For example, the HTC First (the "Facebook Phone") was released in mid-April this year, and by the first week of May, we saw a deal that knocked it to just 99 cents. Even trendy models with lots of media hype do eventually follow the same deal path; last year, it took the Samsung Galaxy S III just four months to become free with contract. For more details on how long to wait until phones become free, read our smartphone price guide.

Phone Calls

Skype, Google Voice, and other services let you make calls for free over the Internet, though be careful if they try to get you to upgrade to a paid plan. You can drop your landline and your cell phone plans for a few months and see if these services meet your calling needs.

MP3 Downloads

Getting a full album for free can be difficult, but with the number of music credit freebies we see bundled with Amazon deals, you should be able to amass a stockpile of credits to purchase a number of MP3 downloads that tempt you. Moreover, Amazon currently has more than 50,000 free songs available for download. Not enough of a selection? Leave the DJing to Starbucks, which gives out a free downloadable song each week. ( Continue… )

A clerk straightens out her display at a shoe store in Salem, N.H. Browse these post-holiday shoe sales and a new pair of sneakers could be heading your way. (Elise Amendola/AP/FIle)

Ballet flats, topsiders, and more: the best deals on women's shoes

By Lou CarlozoContributor / 06.23.13

Why Imelda Marcos has approximately 3,000 pairs of shoes, we don't know. What we do know is that this week's best shoe deals include five pairs of must-have ladies footwear, including flats from Tory Burch, boat shoes from Sperry Top-Sider, and more.

Tory Burch Women's Stitched Logo Chelsea Ballet Flats

 Store: Tory Burch
Price: $121.50 with free shipping when you sign up for the Tory Burch newsletter
Lowest By: $49 Is It Worth It?: These Tory Burch ballet flats are so chic, and can be yours at a discount simply by signing up for the Tory Burch newsletter. Choose from five luscious colors including Daisy, Iced Coffee, New Fire Orange, Ocean Breeze, and Rose Petal; they're available in sizes 6 to 11, though not in all size/color combinations. 
Scroll to the bottom of the page, and enter your email address in the bottom right corner; you'll be emailed a code within 24 hours of signing up with a new email address, although most arrive within an hour. 

Route 66 Women's Ornamented T-Thong Sandals

Store: Kmart
Price: $11.99 via coupon code "SANDALS20" with free shipping
Lowest By: $2
Expires: June 22 Is It Worth It?: These thong sandals feature a metal embellishment, buckle closure, and are a great pair of summer shoes. They're also a part of the best sale we've seen on sandals from Kmart in recent months, which cuts up to 40% off men's, women's, and kids' sandals. Plus coupon code "SANDALS20" takes an extra 20% off! 
To extend your savings, make sure to sign up for a 90-day trial on Shop Your Way Max to net free shipping.  ( Continue… )

A man pulls out his credit card to make a purchase at a shop in Colombo, Sri Lanka, earlier this month. Choosing the right credit card for travel can save you loads of money. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters/File)

Choose the best credit card for summer travel

By John UlzheimerContributor / 06.22.13

Your bags are packed, the tank is full, and hotel room reserved. Have you chosen the right credit card to take along?

Simply grabbing any credit card just won't do. If you are strategic with your choice of credit cards, not only can you rack up on rewards but you may also be able to save yourself a bundle of money and avoid embarrassing situations.

First and foremost, whatever credit card you take with you has to be open and usable. That might seem obvious, but credit card issuers have a habit of shutting down credit cards because of long-term inactivity. If the card is closed for a reason other than something negative on your credit reports, no notice of the closure is required. So, before picking a card you haven't used for a while, call the bank to confirm it’s still open.

While you’re on the phone, confirm the card's credit limit and interest rate. ( Continue… )

People check out laptop computers at the Apple Store (AAPL) in Grand Central Terminal in New York, New York. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File)

The best discounts for college students

By Tucker CummingsGuest blogger / 06.20.13

It seems like summer just started, but students will be headed back to school in just a couple of months. While many adults say that their 20-something years were some of the best in their lives, being a student is rarely the best time in someone's financial life. Between tuition costs and living expenses, there are plenty of students who are surviving on Ramen noodles while they try to pinch pennies.

In fact, a recent study of college student finances found that 58% of incoming freshman in the U.S. took out some form of student loan, and of students who attended public universities, each took out an average loan of $6,400. What's more, a recent survey conducted by the College Savings Foundation found that only 49% of high school students have started saving for college. While most savers had at least $1,000, that's barely enough to cover the cost of textbooks in a student's first year.

Despite these discouraging financial figures, it is possible for college students to enjoy this time in their lives on a budget. Thanks to numerous student discount programs from top retailers, students can get amazing savings on groceries, travel, and computers. Here's a look at some of the best student discounts and perks we've found, from retailers to restaurants, and everything in between.

Student Discounts on Apple and Tech

While tuition and living expenses make up the bulk of college costs, many students also need to make hefty tech purchases to get ready for school. The main requirement? Not an iPad, but a laptop.

Dell offers students a $200 gift card with the purchase of select laptops over $699.99 (expires September 26; select the "Student & Member" tab to find this promo), which knocks several models to all-time low prices. And while the Dell team suggests using the gift card to buy an Xbox 360 4GB console (which comes with a free 1-month Xbox LIVE Gold Membership), students can also put the gift card towards the purchase of a wireless printer, an external hard drive, or other peripherals. ( Continue… )

Jose Cirado and Louis Rocano grill hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken during a Memorial Day Barbeque in Queens, NY, in 2006. With summer inviting families to dine outdoors, Carlozo offers readers eight tips for buying the gas grill that makes the most sense for them. (Ashley Twiggs/The Christian Science Monitor)

So much at steak: 8 tips for buying a grill

By Lou CarlozoGuest blogger / 06.19.13

Summer kicks off the grilling season in many parts of North America, and while a gas grill is a home appliance of sorts, it's nowhere as easy to purchase as a toaster or a blender. On the one hand, you could spend as little as $68 for this two-burner gas grill at Walmart (with in-store pickup, a low by $107). Or, you could opt for the mighty Kalamazoo K750HT Hybrid Fire Freestanding Grill, which packs 75,000 BTUs of burger-searing firepower and boasts a 33" x 22" primary grilling surface. Its base sticker price? A cool $14,795: enough to buy a Walmart grill for you and 200 of your closest pals, and still have change for a brat run to the supermarket.

Before you get burned, seared, or otherwise broiled on your gas grill search, here's a handy buying guide to landing the grill of your dreams: this checklist will help you separate necessities from the frills.

Pick Your Fuel Source

Using propane tanks is convenient and always having a spare tank around eliminates having to leave the BBQ to make a propane run. But natural gas is another fuel option; it'll cost you less in the long run, but you'll have to run a dedicated line from your home to the grill, and cheaper grills (under $300) aren't usually built to accommodate this option. You can outfit your propane grill for $100 or less with a natural gas conversion kit, but keep in mind that the grill you choose will otherwise take one fuel source and not the other.

How Will You Use Your Grill?

OK, we wise guy: We know you're going to cook food on this thing. But have you stopped to consider how much food and of what type? A good rule of thumb is that your grill should hold enough food to prepare a meal for as many people as you regularly cook for. If that's two, a small grilling surface will do. But if you love to entertain, then surface size matters — and the bigger the better. What's more, not all grills are equipped with the capability to, say, cook via rotisserie. ( Continue… )

Nate Labadie of Commerce Township, Mich., mows with a riding lawnmower in May as volunteers mow the grass at O’Shea Playground. Maintaining your own garden is hard work, but with the right power tools — and the right prices — you can trim, plant, and cultivate to your heart's content. (Lauren Abdel-Razzaq/Detroit News/AP/File)

Five power tools you need for your garden

By Tom BarlowGuest blogger / 06.18.13

Who doesn't love a beautiful garden full of lush flowers and vegetables, or a lawn with perfectly uniform grass immaculately manicured? These outdoor landscapes involve hard work, planting, cultivating, weeding, pruning, and harvesting. Fortunately, we live in an age where power tools can alleviate some of the hard work that is necessary to bring about a handsome garden and lawn. We've already discussed the specifics to finding the best lawn mower deal, and now here are five power tools in particular that should find a home in the shed of those of us who aspire to orderly greenery.

String Trimmer

Weeds are the number one nemesis of the home gardener, but the string trimmer allows gardeners to regain the upper hand. This tool uses a rotating monofilament string to cut weeds off at their feet. The string trimmer is also the best solution for edging around sidewalks and driveways, and trimming close to tree trunks where the lawnmower doesn't reach.

What to Look for
 String trimmers come with straight and curved shafts. The curved type are good for trimming up close, while the straight shaft models are better for cutting when you need to reach further away from the body, such as up a hillside. The straight shafts are usually heavier and more expensive.

Trimmers vary in the diameter of the circle they will trim; a 12" cutting path is a good size for home lawn care use. Look also for bump feeding, in which tapping the bottom of the trimmer on the ground allows a new section of string to advance into the cutting zone.

String trimmers, like each of the power tools discussed here, come in three forms: gas-powered, corded-electric, and battery electric. Unlike older models, the modern gas-powered trimmer is not particularly polluting, but it still requires fueling, tug starting, and the occasional tune-up. ( Continue… )

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