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

  • Sep 25, 2012
    2:47 PM ET

    Consumers’ Real Problem With Credit Scores

    Consumers who check their credit scores don’t always see the same number that lenders see when they apply for a loan, a new report shows.

    One out of five consumers who purchase their credit score will likely receive a “meaningfully different score” than a lender, according to a study released today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As a result, the CFPB says, they’re likely to end up with loan terms that are different from what they expected to get or they could waste time applying for a loan that they’re not qualified for. “This underscores what we’ve been talking about for years—there’s really no guarantee that the scores you can buy will be the same type of score the lender is looking at or that it’s even commercially available to the lender,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at, a credit monitoring site.

  • Sep 25, 2012
    9:46 AM ET

    The Devil in the House Price Data

    Home prices are rising, experts say, but not as much as some reports may suggest. And to maintain a realistic view of any real-estate recovery, it may be wise to err on the conservative side.

    Prices rose by 1.2% in July over the year-earlier period, and 1.6% over the previous month, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday. Housing analysts are generally greeting this as good news, but it looks pallid compared to the most recent National Association of Realtors survey, which came out last week. That report estimated that the median sales price of existing homes rose 9.5% in the 12 months to August 2012, strongest increase since January 2006. July’s NAR report showed a similarly large gain.

  • Sep 21, 2012
    4:29 PM ET

    In Apple’s Maps War vs. Google, Consumers Lose

    Cut-throat competition is supposed to be good for consumers, but the battle between Apple and Google over maps apps shows that’s not always the case.

    On the iPhone 5, which went on sale Friday, the popular Google Maps app was replaced with Apple’s own maps software. The change was widely panned by consumers, who  complain that Apple stuck them with inferior software in an effort to hurt one of its biggest competitors. Apple conceded Friday that the new map software is still a work in progress, and said it will get better with time.

  • Sep 19, 2012
    11:12 AM ET

    Canceled Contracts Dog Real-Estate Recovery

    A housing recovery may be underway, but there’s an obstacle that appears to be slowing down the rebound: the unusually high number of buyers who walk away from their contracts.

    An average of nearly 18% of signed contracts on existing home sales were canceled during the three months ending July, according to data released this month by Capital Economics, an independent research firm. That’s the highest all year and the most since May 2010, when that figure reached 23%; in the five years before the housing slump started, the average never went higher than 10%. Separately, 36% of realtors are reporting some kind of problem with a contract, including cancelations, delays and renegotiations of the sales terms, according to August data by the National Association of Realtors. That’s up from 30% earlier this year.

  • Sep 18, 2012
    2:00 PM ET

    Online Banks Boost Rates to Lure Savers

    Big online banks are bucking a trend and raising the rates they pay to savers. The question for consumers is whether it’s worth chasing higher yields from bank to bank.

    Last month, Sallie Mae Bank, a subsidiary of Sallie Mae Inc., increased the annual yield on its money market account to 1% — the second increase since July, when the yield was 0.85%. Ally Bank raised its savings and money market account yields twice over the same period, from 0.84% to 0.95%. In August, American Express Bank’s savings account yield rose to 0.90%; in May, it was 0.75%.

  • Sep 12, 2012
    2:31 PM ET

    iPhone 5 vs 4s: Which Is the Better Buy?

    The new iPhone 5 was the star of Apple’s announcement on Wednesday, but the now-outdated 4S may still be the better deal.

    Apple’s iPhone 5, available for preorder Sept. 14 and on sale Sept. 21, has a starting price of $199 for a 16GB model and a two-year contract via AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. As part of the launch, Apple dropped the price of the older iPhone 4S to $99 for a 16GB model and a new two-year contract with a carrier. (Retailers including Best Buy, Target and Radio Shack slashed as much as $75 off the then-$199 starting price on the 4S in August, and Sprint knocked it down to $50 online after a $100 mail-in rebate.) The iPhone 4 will be free with a two-year contract.

  • Sep 12, 2012
    9:31 AM ET

    Upgrade to New iPhone for Free — Really

    If you’re in the market for an iPhone 5, experts say it’s best to lock in a trade-in price for your iPhone before today’s announcement.

    Three out of four current iPhone 4 owners plan to buy the iPhone, according to a survey from deal site That’s a lot of old iPhones coming into the market. As we’ve previously reported, that kind of glut has made trade-in prices fall as much as 25% during previous releases.

  • Sep 10, 2012
    6:38 PM ET

    Hidden Good News on Credit Cards

    In a sign that consumers are getting back on their feet, new data released today shows that credit-card debts are shrinking. Dig deeper into the fine print and there’s better news: Fewer credit-card bills are going unpaid.

    Revolving debt, which mostly includes credit cards, hit $850.7 billion in July, down slightly from the prior month and falling at a 6.8% annual rate, according to new, seasonally adjusted data released by the Federal Reserve this afternoon. Total outstanding credit-card debt continues to drop from its peak of more than $1 trillion in 2008.

  • Sep 7, 2012
    1:29 PM ET

    What the Jobs Numbers Mean for Real Estate

    The most recent job numbers may be disappointing in more ways than one: Payroll numbers will need to more than double their current growth rate before a full housing recovery can occur, economists say.

    Recent weeks have seen some upbeat news about the housing market. According to data released this week by CoreLogic, for example, home prices increased 3.8% in July compared with a year prior — the biggest year-over-year increase since August 2006.

  • Sep 5, 2012
    4:58 PM ET

    Instant Price Changes on Aisle 4

    Shoppers can be reasonably confident that the price of a box of their favorite cereal will not budge in the time it takes to push a cart down a supermarket aisle. But that may change as stores begin to experiment with the kind of minute-by-minute price adjustments made online.

    More web retailers are using software that fluctuates prices throughout the day in order to draw shoppers’ attention and better manage inventory, according to The Wall Street Journal. By its count, changed the price of one General Electric microwave nine times in 24 hours, pricing it as high as $871.49 and as low as $744.46.

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