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How to Fix the Big Things You Hate About Your Credit Cards

Credit cards may be in the wallets of most Americans, but not everyone is happy with their travel companion.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its monthly snapshot of consumer complaints in the financial services industry this week. The report, which regularly focuses on a different financial product to highlight consumer complaint trends, focused on credit cards and what irks consumers about their plastic friends (or foes, depending on how you view it).

Credit cards represent only about 10% of total complaints to the CFPB, a small amount considering how prevalent the cards are in Americans’ daily routine. That puts them in fourth for the most complained-about financial products, behind debt collection, credit reporting and mortgages.

Here are four of the major credit card complaints that surfaced in the bureau’s review.

1. Disputes Over Fraudulent Charges

Billing disputes were number one on the CFPB’s top credit card complaint list. Of the nearly 100,000 complaints the CFPB analyzed, 17% were over billing disputes. Credit cards often offer purchase protections and chargebacks — tools consumers can use to combat faulty merchandise or high prices — and these tools are rarely offered by debit cards and never offered by cash. But fraud seems to be the source of most complaints, as consumers finding fraudulent charges cite trouble removing or getting re-billed for them.

How to Avoid It: The best way to keep yourself from having to dispute fraudulent charges is to keep your credit card information as safe as possible from fraudsters. Never share your credit card with shady sites that don’t have a “lock” symbol or https:// when taking your data. And even though it’s convenient, avoid letting shopping websites “remember” your credit card info for next time. While some of those sites have excellent security, data breaches are becoming more and more common and credit card info is a literal gold mine for a hacker. (To keep an eye out for signs of identity theft, you can view your free credit report summary on Credit.com.)

2. Rewards Program Murkiness

If you’ve ever owned a rewards credit card, you know that to make the most of your card’s program, you need to read up on all the details (and those details do change). The CFPB found that confusion over how a credit card rewards program works was sometimes attributed to differences between what consumers encountered online and what they were told by customer service representatives over the phone.

How to Avoid It: The CARD Act of 2009 did a lot to make credit cards more consumer-friendly, but little regulation pertained to rewards programs specifically and business credit cards were not included at all in the act’s purview. That means you need to be a careful shopper, as you should be with all financial products — mortgages, business loans, you name it. Before you sign up for a rewards credit card, read the rewards terms carefully — they are often in a separate piece of paperwork from the APR and fee disclosures.

3. Being a Victim of Fraud/Identity Theft

Identity theft/fraud/embezzlement as a category came in third on the CFPB’s list at 10% of all credit card complaints. Many complaints pertained to account activity that the cardholder didn’t initiate, the report said. It points back to that top complaint of fraudulent charges as well — fraud is a problem for consumers as well as credit card issuers too.

How to Avoid It: In addition to keeping your credit card information safe (see tip #1), keep your identifying information safe. To open a new credit card in your name, a fraudster would need to have access to your Social Security number, name, address and other details. Protect that info and you limit your chance of getting got. And because “embezzlement” is included in this category as well, business owners should be sure to have a policy in place if they’re extending a company credit card to an employee. The rules should be clear so you don’t have to go through the painful process of disputing charges with your issuer.

4. Trouble Closing/Canceling an Account

Even though closing a credit card can do some credit score damage, it doesn’t stop consumers who want to avoid the temptation of spending too much or just have too many cards to manage. Roughly 7% of the CFPB’s credit card complaints pertained to consumers struggling to close accounts.

How to Avoid It: Call your issuer directly (you normally have a number on the back of your credit card) and ask to close the account. Be ready though — you’ll most likely be transferred to a department that is specifically going to try to keep you as a customer, perhaps offering a lower APR or a waived annual fee for that year. (Some consumers use this as a tactic to get a better credit card, in fact.) If you’re adamant on closing the card, just stick with your plan and make sure to monitor your email or mail for your last statement. You don’t want to miss the last payment on your card and put a black mark on your credit report just because you thought the card was closed. A credit card with a positive payment history, even though it’s closed, can still help your credit score. But missing a payment will definitely hurt it, and if you have a business credit card, it could impact not just your personal credit, but your business credit scores as well. You can find a full explainer on canceling credit cards right here.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

17 Ways to Save at Lowe's

Whether you’re finishing your basement, fixing a leaky bathroom faucet or trying your hand at built-in bookshelves for your family room, Lowe’s is your one-stop-shop for all things home improvement related. While it can be super-easy to spend a ton of cash there, it’s also just as easy to save. Here’s how.

1. Wait for Things to Go on Sale

If you can, it pays to wait for the bigger items you need to go on sale at the home repair superstore … because they inevitably will. Beginning of the year sales, for example, included up to 40% on bathroom essentials like toilets and sink basins, as well as up to 40% off select custom kitchen cabinets when you spent $3,500 or more.

2. Apply for a Lowe’s Credit Card

If you’ll be shopping here enough and you can pay the credit card off on time (the APR is a variable 26.99%, so this strategy only really works if you can absolutely pay your bill on time), apply for the Lowe’s credit card. New cardholders can pick from between 5% off items every day or six months of special financing with a $299 minimum purchase. Just be sure your credit can handle an inquiry before you apply. You can see where you stand by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Like to shop around? We’ve got some picks for the best credit cards for shopping here.

3. Shop Their Exclusive One-Day Deals

Be sure to check the site for Lowe’s one-day only deals, which are good for that day only and while supplies last.

4. Peruse Their Shop Savings Section

Lowe’s adds new discounted items every week to their Savings section, and deals generally last for a couple days or, even, up to a few months.

5. Check Out Their Weekly Ad

Search through your local paper or check online for the Lowe’s Weekly Ad for savings on items that generally last through that week only.

6. Take a Look at Clearance Items

Use the clearance section of the site to find even more discounts on items like cleaning supplies, flooring, home décor and more. Some items are up to 75% off, but the deals generally expire, so check back frequently for what you need.

7. Submit for a Rebate

Many Lowe’s products come with rebate offers, especially if they’re energy-efficient products. The store makes it easy to find out which products will save you a little cash — just check out the current rebates section on the site and submit an online application if your product applies. You can check the status of your rebates there, too.

8. Sign Up for Their Email Newsletter

Submit your email for the Lowe’s newsletter to get the weekly ad, exclusive offers and promotions, sneak peaks of upcoming events and more, directly to your inbox.

9. Join Their Garden Club

Sign up for Lowe’s Garden Club and you’ll receive an email every week with special promotions and offers, as well as gardening plans, advice and more.

10. Never Miss a Sale When You Follow Lowe’s on Social Media

Catch all the current deals and promotions by following the brand on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

11. Get a Price Match

Lowe’s guarantees everyday competitive pricing. As such, if you find a competitor offering a lower price on an identical item, bring in the competitor’s current ad and Lowe’s will beat their price by 10%. If a competitor is offering a percent off discount, they’ll match the final net price the competitor is offering.

12. Use Online Price Protection

If you’re already in the store, be sure to check online to see if the item you want is cheaper there before heading to the checkout line. You can shop for your Lowe’s products online to receive the lower of the online store price or the price at your local Lowe’s store. Or, select “store pickup” to order your items online and pick them up in your local store later, thus avoiding the shipping fee —unless you have $49 or more in items, in which case shipping is free.

13. Ask for a Military Discount

If you currently serve in the armed services or are a retired veteran, you and your immediate family receive a 10% discount. Check here for the stipulations.

14. Load Up on Free Services

While it’s not an immediate way to save, taking advantage of all the workshops and personalized services offered at Lowe’s is a great way to ensure you do your project right, which will save you time and money in the long run. Check out a full list of in-store services, including workshops, clinics and other services, on Lowe’s website.

15. Buy Gift Cards at a Discount

Shop sites like Gift Card Granny to purchase Lowe’s gift cards at a discounted price.

16. Install a Coupon Aggregator on Your Computer

Never miss another online coupon or savings offer when you install a coupon aggregate collector, like Honey, on your computer. The search engine will automatically look for discounts at your time of online checkout and could score you even more in savings.

17. Ask When a Sidewalk Sale Is Happening

A couple times a year you’ll notice that Lowe’s has a ton of items out on the sidewalk. These items are often on sale big-time, and their sidewalk sale happens a couple times a year, so be sure you don’t miss it.

Making home improvements this year? We’ve also got some ways to save at Home Depot here.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This Is Not Your Father's 401K: The Retirement Product You Should Know About

Chances are you’re like most Americans and, regardless of your age, you aren’t saving enough for retirement, if you’re actually saving anything at all.

Nearly 40 million U.S. households (45%) have no retirement assets, according to a recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security, and half of those households are headed by someone aged between 45 and 65. In fact, savings rates are so bad that many Americans are dying with an average of $62,000 in debt.

Even if you are saving enough for retirement, you might still wonder if that money will last your entire lifetime. Defined contribution plans like 401Ks are great at helping employees save for retirement, but they provide no guarantee of income as pensions do. On top of that, most 401Ks are self-directed, meaning those who do a poor job handling their investments could end up with significantly less money than they need in retirement.

But what if you could guarantee yourself income for life, just like ubiquitous company pension plans used to provide (and government pension plans still do)?

Well, you can. Here’s how.

Back in 2014, the Treasury Department started an initiative focused on “putting the pension back” into 401K retirement savings. (Need to brush up on retirement lingo? Here’s a handy guide.) Through loosened restrictions and some tax-law changes, the Treasury made it easier to convert funds from retirement savings into plans known as longevity income annuities, or LIAs, that provide guaranteed lifetime income.

Income for Life

LIAs are deferred annuities and, while they’ve been for a while, they’ve only recently become a part of mainstream retirement planning. The Treasury initiative could even cause them to become an integral part of 401K target funds. Here’s how they work: Say you have $100,000 in retirement savings. At age 65, you use $10,000 of that money to purchase an LIA. “Even in the current low-interest-rate environment, a deferred single-life annuity purchased at age 65 for a male costing $10,000 can generate an annual benefit flow from age 85 onward of $4,830 ($3,866 for a female) per year for life,” a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper concluded.

It’s easy to see how helpful this kind of guaranteed income could be, particularly given larger investment amounts. Of course, it’s a hedge that you’ll live long enough to take advantage of those funds, but some programs provide for reimbursement should you die before accessing all of your money. More on that in a minute.

According to Olivia S. Mitchell, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of the working paper mentioned above, LIAs are available to investors but are not yet tied to defined-contribution plans.

“There has been discussion about including them in the target-date suite of funds, and some employers are actively looking for options,” she said in an email. “Relatively few insurers have them available as yet.”

“One reason annuities or lifetime income streams are not a standard feature of 401K plans is that many people don’t understand these products,” she wrote in an article for Forbes. “For instance, some older individuals tend to underestimate their chances of living a long time, so they don’t take proper precautions against outliving their assets. Others don’t understand financial concepts, and so they’re reluctant to take unfamiliar financial decisions. After all, retirement is usually a once-in-a-lifetime event!”

Just because they aren’t directly tied to defined-contribution plans just yet doesn’t mean LIAs aren’t easily accessed. AARP, for example, has been offering its Lifetime Income Program through New York Life since 2006. AARP’s plan has a cash refund feature so, as we mentioned earlier, if you die before your payments equal your annuity purchase price, your beneficiary will be paid the difference.

Is an LIA Right for Me?

As with most financial tools, some people will benefit from an LIA more than others. “People in poor health might not want to elect deferred annuities, particularly if they have a poor survival prognosis,” Mitchell said. “Some very wealthy people will not need the LIA as they can self-insure against outliving their assets. Retirees with a (well-funded) defined benefit pension probably don’t need additional annuitization. And people with a very small nest egg might not find it worthwhile to annuitize, say, $10,000. But much of the middle class could benefit.”

In considering LIA plans, Mitchell recommends asking how highly rated the insurer is who provides it. She also suggests knowing how well the state insurance guarantee fund is being run and the maximum amount you’d recover should the insurer go bankrupt. (As you’re planning your retirement, you should also make sure you have a full picture of your finances, including your credit. You can get a free snapshot of your credit report on Credit.com.)

So how much should you consider putting into an LIA? “Older individuals would optimally commit 8% to 15% of their plan balances at age 65 to a LIA, which begins payouts at age 85,” Mitchell, et al, wrote in their working paper.

As for timing, it doesn’t really make sense for someone who isn’t at or near retirement age to purchase an LIA. For one thing, you can’t access your retirement funds without penalty until age 60.

“It makes sense to decide how much to devote to the LIA in your mid-60s, since that gives 20 years over which the annuity value can build up,” so you can begin taking payments at age 85, Mitchell said.

Of course, there are a variety of annuity products to suit different personal needs, such as earlier payout options, so it’s a good idea to speak with a financial professional who can help you decide what product might be best for your financial situation.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Is a 50-Year Mortgage a Good Move?

Are you looking to afford a new mortgage? A 50-year mortgage may be an option, but here are some things to consider when looking at a long mortgage term.

These loans are not bought and sold by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They are smaller banks and portfolio lenders that offer unique financing and, as a result, will charge an additional premium. You can expect your interest rate and fees to be above market. By above market, we mean at least three quarters of a discount point higher in rate than the Freddie Mac mortgage market survey. This type of loan effectively is an interest-only mortgage that is similar to the interest on the loans that were available before the financial crisis.

The 50-year mortgage is pretty much what it sounds like — your loan is amortized over 50 years, similar to the way a 30-year, fixed mortgage is amortized over 30 years. At the end of the loan term, the loan is paid in full. A 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage typically translates to paying double the amount of money you originally borrowed. With a 50-year mortgage you will pay almost four times the amount of interest on the amount originally borrowed. Yes, such a loan term would be incredibly expensive — the cost of having a lower monthly mortgage payment.

Are You Biting Off More Than You Can Chew?

If you are comparing a 30-year mortgage to a 50-year mortgage, you might be trying to purchase more than you can handle — not a prudent move if you’re trying to take on something affordable. While the mortgage payment might be affordable, it would also be an incredibly expensive financing vehicle. For all intents and purposes, this is practically an interest-only mortgage

Interest-only loans can be beneficial for a consumer who has big liquidity in the bank, excellent credit and is otherwise sophisticated in mortgage finance, while looking for cash flow. (Don’t know where your credit stands? You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, right here on Credit.com.) For everyone else, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is substantially less expensive than its 50-year counterpart.

If you were thinking about this type of financing, you may want to reconsider and speak with a professional — someone who can guide you on what type of income may be needed to qualify for the purchase of a home.

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

How to Enjoy Your Vacation Without Getting Scammed

Spring has begun, which means open season on travelers who aren’t well-versed in the various scams waiting for them on the seamier side of paradise. While the scams abound, being forewarned is forearmed.

Here are some typical scams that can ruin your vacation, drawn from my book Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Filled with Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.

1. Asocial Media?

One seldom publicized use of social media (at least in crime circles) involves monitoring posted photographs for clues about where you live and what you have that’s worth stealing. In addition to providing a visual inventory, photographs can contain hidden information called geotags that allow a thief to pinpoint the location of your home. If you post pictures while you’re on vacation, you might as well display a flashing neon sign saying, “Rob me.” Rather than sharing your adventure in real time, it is far safer to relive the memories with everyone you know when you return. If you simply can’t resist the urge, at the very least tighten your privacy settings so that you strictly limit who can see these posts.

2. Ticket Scams

You receive a letter informing you that you have a chance to cash in on a big win: free airline tickets. There have been several attempts to contact you about the tickets (you won them through a sweepstakes you have never heard of, in which you were automatically enrolled), and you’re going to lose them if you don’t contact the travel agency or cruise line immediately. The letter provides a toll-free number to call. You call it and there are … well, certain requirements (like providing a credit card or Social Security number). Meeting those obligations will cost you far more than the alleged free tickets. (Fallen for this one? Be sure to check your credit for warning signs of identity theft. You can view two of your credit scores for free, with updates every two weeks, on Credit.com.)

3. Hotel Front Desk Scam

Your plane gets in late, you can’t get a taxi and by the time you arrive at your hotel all you want to do is take a shower and go to bed. About an hour after checking in, the phone in your room rings. It’s the front desk calling to tell you that the credit card you gave them was declined. “Can you please read me your credit card number again? Or, if you would prefer, you can give me another credit card.” If this happens, in lieu of readily handing over your digits, take a trip to hotel lobby to confirm whether there is an actual issue.,

4. Hotel Pizza Scam

When you check into your hotel, you see flyers in the lobby or under your door for a pizza joint. It’s late and you’re starving, so you call the number on the flyer. Someone answers exactly the way you expect they will. You place your order. They ask for your credit card number, which you immediately provide because your mind is on the pie and not your personally identifiable information. Several hours later, you’re still waiting. And starving. Unfortunately, the only one getting fed is the thief — and your credit card is for dinner.

5. Vacation Rental Scam

A thief finds a rental property online and uses the details to create his own website and listing. They’ll even have bogus five-star reviews from fake renters, and it will be particularly affordable, possibly due to a one-day-only internet sale. You book the listing and pay either by credit card or wire transfer, and you get ready to pack your bags.

Here’s the problem: When the time comes and you show up for your vacation, that’s not your condo. It’s not just a matter of bait and switch, where the gorgeous property on the website doesn’t exactly live up to reality. In this case, the property is very real and even very beautiful … but you didn’t rent it. There may even be another family staying in it that week. You now find yourself on vacation with nowhere to sleep, and your scammer is nowhere to be found.

If the person can’t answer questions accurately — or takes too long to answer, which indicates that they’re also doing an online search —that could be a red flag. It is possible that the rental agent is located in another city, but someone in his or her offices should have at least laid eyes on the property and be able give you an idea of the answers.

Tip: Whenever you’re booking a rental property — for any reason, not just a beach getaway — there’s a sneaky little trick you can use to verify the authenticity of the listing and the property. Instead of emailing, call the person on the phone, but first do an online search for other businesses in the area surrounding the property, then ask the listing agent some specific questions that you’ve already figured out the answers to. How far is it to the nearest beach access? Where is the nearest restaurant with a kids’ menu? How far are we from an emergency room in case someone in our group gets hurt?

6. Skimmers

Keypad overlay devices, ATM skimmers (you can see one in action here) with a pinhole camera — there are many versions. Sometimes skimmers and the hardware associated with them can be spotted (if you know what you’re looking for and it’s one of the skimmers you can detect, for instance, by banging on the ATM machine or trying to shake the user-interface module), but often it’s impossible to detect a skimmer scam. When you’re out having fun, by definition you are distracted and understandably off guard. Try to remember that even in the midst of the time of your life there are bad guys out there intent on a major buzzkill. And monitor your bank statements carefully so you spot any fraud that may have occurred.

7. Wi-Fi Scams

Not all Wi-Fi is created equal, and it’s not all secure. If you’re not sure about a Wi-Fi connection, be careful about what you do online. Do your banking and bill paying on your secure home network, and let your time off truly be downtime so that you don’t end up having a downer of a vacation. You can go here to learn more tips for better internet safety.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Ask Brianna: Is Financial Therapy Right for Me?

“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.

This week’s question: “You’ve mentioned ‘financial therapy’ in past columns. What is it, and how do I know if it’s right for me?”

When you’re ready for professional money help, a smorgasbord of options will appear before you: financial planning; credit counseling; money coaching; burdening your nightstand with a teetering pile of self-help books.

Financial therapy is one of the newest additions to the field, emerging from a small forum for mental health and financial planning professionals in 2008. While certified financial planners help you develop and implement concrete financial strategies, and mental health professionals help you recognize and change thought patterns that aren’t serving you, financial therapists straddle both worlds. They focus on your relationship with money and how it affects your behavior so you can realize your financial goals.

“Money comes with a lot of emotional baggage, and there just aren’t many places to talk about it openly and constructively,” says Dr. Mary Gresham, a financial psychologist in Atlanta.

If you struggle with saving, budgeting, paying off debt, severe frugality or other money issues, financial therapy could help. Here’s how to assess whether it makes sense for you, and how to evaluate any professionals you may work with.

When to go to a financial therapist

Financial therapy can help you understand why you’re stuck in the same patterns, such as overspending, even if you’ve tried to change. It also can help you explore the feelings that bubble up when you think about money. Gresham and Derek Lawson, a doctoral student in personal financial planning with a focus on financial therapy at Kansas State University, say financial therapy might be the right call if:

  • Your finances make you feel depressed or anxious
  • You’re consistently spending more than you earn or aren’t saving any money
  • You’ve tried to change those behaviors, with no luck
  • You want to understand the root of your money troubles

In some cases, other experts could better suit you. Try traditional financial planning if you want straight money advice you’re fairly certain you can implement on your own. If you’re dealing with a mountain of debt and urgently need an action plan, try credit counseling. Gresham says she refers her clients to these financial pros when necessary.

What financial therapy looks like

At your first few sessions, a financial therapist might ask you, “What are your best hopes for your financial future?” and “How would you know if these hopes were realized?”

“I might have a couple of meetings with clients before I analyze their financials,” says Lawson, who is also a financial planner at Priority Financial Partners in Durango, Colorado.

Lawson says he’ll ask clients who have trouble saving to focus on a time in the past when they did save and how they felt. That positive emotional memory may encourage clients to integrate saving into their lives more frequently.

How to find a financial therapist

Because there are few formal places to study financial therapy, practitioners today typically have either a mental health background and an understanding of financial issues, or a financial planning background and further training in mental health counseling. (Kansas State University and the University of Georgia offer financial therapy studies, and the Financial Therapy Association plans to develop a certification in three to five years, says president-elect Sarah Asebedo, who is also assistant professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University.)

You can use the Financial Therapy Association’s member directory or do a general online search to find financial therapists or financial psychologists near you. The XY Planning Network lists financial planners who work with clients in their 20s and 30s. It’s best to work with fee-only financial planners, who charge flat or hourly fees and won’t earn commissions on insurance or investment products, like mutual funds, that they might recommend you buy. This type of planner may be more affordable than one who charges based on a percentage of your assets he or she is managing.

Check each professional’s background and training: Ideally, they’ll have both the certified financial planner designation and licensure as a mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, social worker or psychologist.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bmcgurran@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

Video: Cutting College Costs During Your Student Years

MoneyTipsIf you think starting college stops your scholarship hunt, think again. Jocelyn Paonita, Founder of The Scholarship System, describes how to reduce your student debt while attending college in the video above. Find out quickly at what rate you can refinance your student loan.Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/video-cutting-college-costs-during-your-student-years5 Dos and Don'ts For Managing Student Loan DebtSome College Graduates Pay Their Parents' LoansShould We Stop Making Student Loans So Easily Available?

Video: Cutting College Costs During Your Student Years

MoneyTips

If you think starting college stops your scholarship hunt, think again. Jocelyn Paonita, Founder of The Scholarship System, describes how to reduce your student debt while attending college in the video above. Find out quickly at what rate you can refinance your student loan.

$110 Million Wells Fargo Payout Could Put Money in Your Pocket

If Wells Fargo charged you fees for accounts you never authorized, you’re set to get your money back.

Wells Fargo agreed Tuesday to a $110 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought after bank employees opened accounts without customers’ consent. The settlement would include repayment of fees as well as “millions of dollars of additional monetary relief,” according to a lawyer in the case.

Keller Rohrback, the law firm representing Wells Fargo customers, filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco last May. The court still has to approve the agreement, which Wells Fargo expects would encompass 11 other class-action lawsuits brought against the national bank.

The latest settlement is in addition to $185 million in penalties paid by the bank to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other government agencies.

Who gets money

The $110 million, after legal and administrative costs, would go directly to customers to reimburse “out-of-pocket losses, such as fees incurred due to unauthorized account openings,” according to Wells Fargo’s news release. Jim Seitz, a spokesman at the bank, confirmed that the settlement would cover more than out-of-pocket losses but said he couldn’t elaborate.

This includes anyone who’s had a Wells Fargo account opened without his or her consent from Jan. 1, 2009, to the date that the settlement gets signed by both the court and Wells Fargo.

If that means you, you don’t have to take action yet. Attorneys for Wells Fargo customers will seek preliminary approval of the settlement next month from a federal judge, and then information will be sent to affected customers about benefits of the settlement. Wells Fargo would also release information, including how to submit a claim.

“The $110 million settlement, if approved, will require Wells Fargo to repay the fees charged to class members by Wells Fargo for unauthorized accounts and provide millions of dollars of additional monetary relief to the class,” attorney Derek Loeser said in a statement. Loeser, a partner at the law firm Keller Rohrback, helped negotiate the deal.

Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo’s president and CEO, said in a statement, “We want to ensure that each customer impacted by our sales practices issue has every opportunity for remediation, and this agreement presents an additional option.”

Over $3 million to customers so far

Since September, Wells Fargo has refunded $3.26 million to customers for fees charged from unauthorized bank accounts and lines of credit, according to Seitz. This is part of the $5 million set aside for customers in the $185 million settlement with government agencies. The refunds have gone to about 130,000 accounts.

The average refund from the bank’s December review of bank accounts and credit cards as far back as May 2011 is $32.41 per customer.

The exact number of people who could receive money under this new settlement couldn’t be confirmed. “We’ve entered into an agreement in principle,” Seitz says. “It would be premature to speculate on the size of the class.”

Wells Fargo’s previous settlement

The $185 million in penalties that Wells Fargo agreed to pay last September to government agencies, including the CFPB, was in response to bank employees opening around 1.5 million bank accounts and roughly half a million credit card accounts for customers without their consent.

The CFPB’s investigation looked at accounts from 2011 to 2015. The bank did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the September settlement.

Wells Fargo also plans to review accounts from 2009 to 2010 that might have been affected.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.

Better Check Your Balance: Crooks Targeting ATMs

Consumers have a new reason to check their bank accounts for fraudulent charges. On Wednesday, FICO reported the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs and merchant devices in this country rose 70% in 2016 over the previous year. And compromised cards can lead to money being drained from your account.

The number of hacked ATMs and merchant card readers also rose, by 30%, over 2015, according to the analytics and credit scoring company. Criminals often attach skimming devices to such machines to read card numbers, says Michael Betron, senior director of product management at FICO. Then the fraudsters attempt to make illegal copies of the cards.

In 2015, the agency recorded a 546% year-over-year leap in the number of hacked ATMs, particularly nonbank ATMs like those found at some convenience stores. The San Jose, California, company analyzes card transactions in the United States and releases its fraud report each year.

Card companies have taken steps to reduce fraud, including issuing cards with EMV chip technology. The chips use Europay, MasterCard and Visa technology standards to create a unique code for each transaction, making the card practically impossible to copy.

But not every merchant has a card reader that can take advantage of the EMV chip. Some ATMs, gas pumps and many restaurants still use the magnetic stripe for purchases, Betron says. In fact, 60% of the compromised ATMs weren’t located in banks but in locations such as convenience stores and retailers.

Reasons for the increase in hacked machines and compromised debit cards are unclear, but some industry observers have theorized that the rise of EMV technology has caused hackers to focus more attention on vulnerable card readers such as some ATMs and gas pumps.

How to guard against hackers

Here are ways you can protect yourself:

Check the location. When using an ATM, select one that gets a lot of foot traffic or is in a brightly lighted area. Follow the same rule for debit card purchases. If you fill up your car, know that the pumps farthest from the store entrance may be more attractive to criminals.

Check the card reader.  Be on the lookout for anything odd about your ATM or point-of-sale machine. If your card doesn’t enter an ATM smoothly, for example, a fraudster could have a skimmer attached to the opening.  “You may want to look somewhere else to get cash,” Betron says.

Check your account. Review your checking account regularly for unauthorized transactions. If your card is compromised, you’ll have to act fast to avoid losing money. If you report a loss within two days, the most you could lose is $50, according to federal law. But you risk losing up to $500 from your account if you wait up to 60 days — or the entire amount in your account if you wait longer.

Check with your bank.  Ask your bank for a new card if you believe your card has been compromised, even if there’s not yet evidence of fraud. That way, your financial institution can take steps to secure the machine, Betron says. “You can help the bank protect you and their other customers, too.”

ATM fraud is an increasing problem. By taking steps to protect yourself, you can keep your card number and your money out of a criminal’s hands.

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette.

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