SmartMoney Blogs

Real-Time Advice
Our real-time advice on how market shifts and news impact you and your money

Spending - All posts in category Spending

  • Oct 26, 2012
    12:21 PM ET

    Amazon email hints at anxiety over iPad mini

    Just hours before Amazon posted a quarterly loss Thursday, the online retail giant emailed a handful of customers a survey about its newest source of agita: the iPad mini.

    The highly technical questionnaire – similar to ones the company has sent on other topics in the past — asks customers to rate how Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD stacks up next to 7.9-inch tablet Apple unveiled Tuesday. “The new iPad Mini screen has a resolution of 1,024 by 768, corresponding to 163 pixels per inch,” the questionnaire says. “If another device offered a detail of 216 pixels per inch, how would you rate it compared to the iPad Mini?” The comparison is a reference to the Kindle Fire HD — which offers just that resolution — according to “The Unofficial Apple Weblog,” which published Amazon’s questionnaire.

  • Oct 24, 2012
    12:51 PM ET

    iPad Resales Surge Over 700%

    As soon as Apple unveiled the iPad mini Tuesday, the first thing many consumers did was sell their old iPads.

    Two major resale sites reported eye-popping surges in business in the run-up to the iPad Mini launch. Some 140,000 devices were put up for sale on Tuesday – a 700% spike from the day before, says Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer at the site. Half of that increase occurred in the hours just before the announcement, he says – and the most common model put up for sale was the “new iPad” released just six months ago. Another resale site,, reported that trade-ins for iPads rose over 1,000% on Tuesday. (Nextworth declined to release actual numbers.) Gazelle and Nextworth are two of the biggest reselling portals, but industry experts say they represent only a small percentage of total trade-in traffic.

  • Oct 22, 2012
    2:03 PM ET

    Should Stay-at-Home Spouses Get Their Own Credit Cards?

    An effort to loosen credit-card standards for stay-at-home spouses would seem to benefit millions of consumers, but critics say the change could actually push some families deeper into debt and derail their finances.

    Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed loosening regulations to make it easier for the nation’s more than 16 million stay-at-home spouses to qualify for credit cards, largely undoing more stringent requirements put into place in October 2011. Prior to then, consumers could sign up for a credit card by stating their household income, even if all of that income came from their spouse. But the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act required the Federal Reserve to amend several lending provisions for credit card issuers, including a new rule that issuers had to ask for individual income on a credit card application, and could no longer rely on household income.

  • Oct 16, 2012
    4:44 PM ET

    Will Softbank Cut Sprint’s Prices?

    Softbank has big plans for Sprint, the third biggest player in the U.S. wireless market. The Japanese telecom giant has already signaled its plans to help Sprint speed up the rollout of a faster network. But some analysts say consumers could also see snazzier marketing – and cheaper cell phone plans.

    Softbank Corp.’s $20 billion takeover of Sprint Nextel Corp., announced this week, gives the Japanese firm a 70% stake in the U.S. carrier. And Sprint could give Softbank a platform to do in the U.S. what it did when it bought Vodafone Group PLC’s Japanese operations in 2006: unleash a series of high-profile, bargain basement plans that undercut the bigger rivals. “Softbank has been a vigorous competitor in Japan,” says Craig Moffett, senior analyst at Bernstein Research. “It lowered rates and introduced the iPhone. I would expect the same thing here.”

  • Oct 10, 2012
    3:51 PM ET

    Don’t Expect Total Recall for Toyotas

    Toyota recalled 7.4 million vehicles around the world Wednesday citing faulty power window switches that may catch fire. But history suggests many of the affected Toyota owners will ignore the warning and continue to drive around with the dangerous part.

    On average, just 70% of drivers respond to a recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – although automakers say the rate is often higher than that. Toyota and General Motors both say they have a 75% response rate within 18 months of recalls, though both companies say they’ve had 80% completion in some cases. Experts say it’s not easy to reach everyone: Toyota’s most recent recalls included the 7.1 vehicles in January 2011 cited for gas pedals prone to being trapped by floor mats.

  • Oct 5, 2012
    4:03 PM ET

    Why Apple wants to shrink the iPad

    It’s been a year since Steve Jobs died, but one of his last legacies — the iPad mini — is reportedly working its way through development, and Apple watchers say it could be another game changer.

    The late Apple CEO at one time hated the idea of a shrunken-down version of the tablet. But Jobs reportedly warmed to the idea he once scoffed was “dead on arrival” — and Asian suppliers for Apple have started mass production of a new tablet smaller than the current iPad, according to a report this month in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, some analysts say a mini-iPad could eventually outsell the original iPad. “We expect Apple to maintain the iconic aesthetics of the current iPad and blow away what competitors are offering in this smaller form-factor tablet market,” says Brian White, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets.

  • Oct 5, 2012
    4:01 PM ET

    Is Your TV Too Big?

    With TV watchers immersed in college and professional football games, major league baseball playoffs, and season openers for hot shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Dexter,” it’s relatively easy for manufacturers and retailers to make the case for increasingly bigger big-screen TVs. Shoppers may not want to buy into the hype, though – a bigger set can often mean a worse viewing experience.

    Industry-wide, the screen-size of the average TV produced has grown by two inches over the past year, to 36.8 inches as of August, according to DisplaySearch, a division of research firm NPD Group. Sharp has the biggest average size of panels shipped, at 48.3 inches — and the biggest jump from last year, when that figure was 39.1 inches. Samsung screens are averaging 39.4 inches versus 37 inches last year, while LG-brand screens  have increased to 38.9 from 36.2 inches last year.

  • Oct 2, 2012
    4:12 PM ET

    Can Treasury Dept. Mint the Next Angry Birds?

    The federal government isn’t normally associated with technological innovation. So to create an app to help Americans make better financial decisions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury decided to ask for a little help.

    The agency held an app design contest, assembling a panel of judges, including representatives from Google and Facebook, to identify ideas with strong potential. The winning idea, an app called Centz, designed to help users manage their student loans, came from Nicole Kendrot of Hoboken, N.J. Among other features, the app would allow users to link information about all of their loans in one place and create a payoff plan that syncs with their budget, and it would suggest ways users can reduce their payment period and total interest by making extra payments. Kendrot was awarded $10,000 to help make her app a reality, the agency said Tuesday.

  • Sep 26, 2012
    2:59 PM ET

    Is the iPad Too Heavy?

    Barnes and Noble’s new Nook tablets may not be quite as powerful or versatile as the iPad, but they do beat Apple in one key measure: weight.

    Unveiled Tuesday, the 9-inch HD Nook is 20% lighter than the iPad, a difference that is instantly noticeable after lifting the two tablets, but feels even more pronounced when holding either device in one hand for prolonged periods. The iPad feels overweight by comparison, experts say. In fact, while the Nook and Kindle Fire tablets are getting lighter, the iPad is getting heavier: The third version of Apple’s tablet is 652 grams — more than 50 grams weightier than the iPad 2.

  • Sep 25, 2012
    4:16 PM ET

    How to Capitalize on Flight Delays

    As American Airlines’ labor dispute with its pilots causes a blizzard’s worth of delays and cancellations, passengers are understandably frustrated. But there are ways to make the best of a flight delay – besides waving a fist at the airport departures monitor.

    To quell the uproar, American has added extra staff, has canceled selected flights as early as possible and is letting customers fly standby at no extra charge, the company says. “American is endorsing tickets to other carriers, which it isn’t required to do under contract,” says Christopher Elliott, an airline-passenger advocate.

About Real-Time Advice

  • How breaking news — in the markets, Washington, and around the world — affects you and your money. Have a question about how current events may change your financial future? Email us at