From Strip to Chip: Everything You Need to Know About the New Generation of Payment Cards


See that little gold chip on the front of these cards? It’s going to make it tougher for thieves to steal your data.

By year-end 2015, Visa estimates that 63 percent of cards in American wallets will feature this new technology ( aimed at derailing counterfeit fraud. The new chip adds a unique, one-time code that changes every time you use your card to make an in-store payment. That automatic security code change makes your data nearly impossible to create a counterfeit card.

Counterfeit or “cloned” cards account for about two-thirds of in-store fraud to the tune of $3 billion, according to Boston-based research firm Aite Group. The transition to chip cards is expected to be nearly complete by year-end 2017.

You’ll see very slight differences in using these cards. First, you’ll need to insert a chip card into a new slot on built for chip cards and keep it there until your purchase is complete. You won’t have to swipe traditional magnetic strip on the back anymore. You will still be able to sign, enter a PIN or just pay-and-go for everyday transactions as before. Just remember to take your card with you when the transaction is complete.

However, if you are currently using an old but unexpired card or if the business where you’re doing a transaction doesn’t have the upgraded chip card equipment, don’t panic. The strip on the back of your card will continue to work with all card terminals for the foreseeable future.

For merchants – the collective name for the stores, restaurants and other businesses where you use credit and debit cards every day – the transition to chip cards is moving along as well. According to a recent survey by Visa, approximately 90 percent of business owners are aware of chip technology and about 70 percent have already upgraded their equipment or have plans to do so. Current estimates show that 47 percent of U.S. terminals will be able to read chip cards by the end of the year.

There’s one more incentive for all businesses to get on board with chip card technology: Starting October 1, liability for some counterfeit fraud may shift from the card-issuing financial institutions to retailers unless they are able to accept and process chip card transactions.

For merchants, processing chip transactions will likely involve a hardware or software upgrade somewhat similar to upgrading a cellphone contract. In many cases, the terminal will be included in the cost of the service. About a third of merchant terminals are already chip card-capable and just need a software update to fully function.

For the smallest businesses, some low-cost options for upgrading card acceptance terminals can cost $100 or less. Square, for example, recently announced a new $49 card reader that accepts chip cards as well as mobile payments and they’re giving away 250,000 of them to small business customers at no cost.

If you travel overseas regularly, you’ve probably already seen chip card technology in action. It’s based on a global standard called EMV and is already at work in countries moving to cashless options for private and public goods and services.

One final note. While you’re waiting for your new chip cards, you’ll still be able to use your current strip-based credit cards in new machines under their zero liability fraud protection rules. However, debit card security rules are different, so it is best to check with your bank on their guidelines so you know your funds are secure.

Bottom line: The move from strip to chip cards will create a more secure environment for credit and debit card users. However, consumers will still need to keep their cards safe and confirm the accuracy of all their spending data.


By Nathaniel Sillin

Income Infusion: Ideas for Generating Extra Cash

income-generationThe landscape of earning extra income has changed dramatically over the past decade. Not only are there many more ways to find added money, but a bevy of new ways to make that cash. To take advantage of these opportunities, it helps to start thinking about how the available techniques mesh with your skills and desires.

Start by making a list of your skills and expertise, taking a broad view to include anything that could potentially be useful to others. Many times people find that just by doing the things they enjoy, they inadvertently develop skills that can be turned in moneymakers. For example, if you are good at finding information on the internet, include that. Great at throwing parties? Put that on the list.

If you are struggling to come up with ideas, just make a list of everything you have done with your free time over the last month. Once you have your list completed, start thinking about how each of those things could get you paid. Try a few out and you just might find that you get to earn extra cash by doing something you would have been doing anyway!

To get your creative juices flowing in your quest for a “side gig,” here are some common ways that folks earn a little something extra:

  • Hire out your unique skills on a freelance basis
  • Get tutor jobs
  • House or pet-sit
  • Do some babysitting
  • Pick up seasonal/holiday work
  • Sell items on auction websites
  • Have a yard sale
  • Take on a renter
  • Sell gold jewelry or other gold items
  • Do marketing company surveys or participate in focus groups
  • Take part in research studies at hospitals or universities
  • Have your car wrapped in an advertisement
  • Become a mystery shopper
  • If you speak another language, sign up with a translation service
  • Deliver newspapers or phone books
  • Create a blog on a favorite topic and make money off advertising
  • Recycle scrap metal or take in bottles and cans for refunds
  • Start a dog-walking service
  • Start a business transferring old film, pictures or video in digital formats
  • Become a topic expert at About
  • Rent out parking, storage or “studio” space
  • Use photography skills to sell stock images or offer event or portrait services
  • Sell unused gift cards online
  • Go to Volition for a list of companies that will pay you to perform online tasks for them
  • Sell your crafts at Etsy
  • Inquire at a local temp agency about positions that fit your schedule
  • Make money recycling empty printer ink cartridges for others
  • Become a sales rep for a company that sells cosmetics, vitamins or other products
  • Perform surveys at online sites that pay people to do so
  • Offer a scrapbooking service
  • Perform car washing/maintenance services
  • Become a telephone interviewer for companies that conduct research surveys
  • Host foreign exchange students
  • Sell clothes to a consignment shop
  • Provide gardening services or sell fruits or vegetables from your own garden
  • Offer up your large truck or van as a rental for moving or hauling
  • Supply personal tech support for those learning modern technologies
  • Use the equipment or tools you already own to provide services like snow blowing, painting, power washing or garden tilling

© 2012 BALANCE

Baby, it’s Cold Outside: Reducing Fall Energy Costs

Energy-Saving-Tips-for-Fall1Fall is here and it’s getting cold outside. For many of us, this means high energy bills, but sitting in the dark or turning off the heat are not your only options. Here are some ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save money:

Cold air can get in around the sides of windows, doors, and vents. If you hold a piece of tissue near the frames inside on a windy day and it flutters, you need to seal the window. Stroll on down to your local hardware store and pick up some weatherstripping – talk to an employee there or do research online about the right product.

Insulating your attic can increase your home’s energy efficiency significantly, and it’s usually fairly easy. Consult with a professional or do some research at the Zip-Code Insulation Program, created by the Department of Energy, at

Heating and Cooling Systems
These account for about 56% of the energy in a typical U.S. home, so updating can save a lot. You can retrofit or replace your furnace or boiler, depending how long your system has to live and how much each option costs. New heating systems can achieve an efficiency of up to 97%.

Appliances and Electronics
Appliances account for 20% of energy use in a typical U.S. home. Old ones can be energy hogs. To find energy-efficient products, look for the Energy Star label – for more information, check

Water Heaters
Insulating or increasing the insulation on your water heater tank and pipes can decrease heat loss and lower your energy bills for a fraction of the price of replacing your water heater. On the other hand, if your water heater is nearing the end of its life, it is probably a good idea to replace it.

Solar Panels
Solar panels typically have high upfront costs, though they can provide clean, free energy for years to come. Use the Solar Calculator at to estimate the cost of installing panels and how long it will take for your investment to pay you back.

Many cities and states have programs to help pay for green renovations. Contact your state’s energy department to see what low-interest loans, rebates, or other benefits are available. You may also qualify for tax benefits; visit the IRS’s website at

*Energy usage and efficiency figures come from the Department of Energy. For more facts and tips, visit

© 2013 BALANCE

How Malicious Apps Takeover Online Accounts

smart house home automation device with app icons. Man uses his smartphone with smarthome security app to monitor and control his office

People often fail to realize the value of a simple email address to a cybercriminal. Sending spam to market products or phish for sensitive details surely is valuable, but combining a malicious app with users who forget passwords can be lucrative indeed.

As a criminal, any email addresses gained may open a door to even more information. Not only by phishing, but when you forget your password, websites such as PayPal, eBay, and Amazon allow you to enter your email address to get a link via email to reset it. A persistent criminal would use email addresses obtained to attempt to get access to accounts like those, where the payoff could be very big.

Jim Stickley of Stickley on Security wanted to prove this to a group of conference attendees. So, he wrote a malicious app. His app was designed to watch for those emails that went out to the users who forgot their passwords. When the messages arrived, the app that was installed on the mobile device would simply forward those emails to him. To cover any tracks, the app would delete the email from the user’s account so that no one ever knew what happened.

Armed with a copy of the email containing the link to reset the password, he simply clicked on the link, changed the password, and at the drop of hat, he had control of the account.

This is all from a simple app installed on a mobile device and is just one of many malicious apps that he has written and demonstrated over the years to hundreds of thousands of people. The idea is to show people just how dangerous apps on a mobile device can get.

Take steps to avoid becoming a victim:
•Download and install apps only from the official app store for your devices or if you are getting your banking app, go to your financial institution’s website directly.
•When going to websites where you will put in sensitive information, use a previously bookmarked or trusted link or manually type the URL into the browser address bar.
•Be aware of clicking on ads that appear on the sites you visit. Often they contain malware. Consider using an ad blocker software so the ads don’t show up at all.
•Always have anti-malware software installed on your devices and keep it updated.
•Create strong passwords for online accounts and don’t reuse them from account to account. If you have to write them down, consider using clues to trigger your memory before creating a list. Never leave passwords or clues in plain sight at work or at home.

If you have accounts that you are not using, consider de-activating them. This will potentially keep your email address from being used by cybercriminals or prevent your accounts from being accessed, especially if you haven’t logged in for a while.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Financial Tips for Recently Married Couples

newlywed-advice-4Being a newlywed is an amazing feeling. With all the hard work of the big day behind you, it’s finally time to relax, take in all the love, and most importantly, begin the rest of your lives together. Unfortunately, one of life’s most common problems can quickly spoil the post wedding bliss, especially with related credit card balances, housing needs, and honeymoon costs hitting the books- Debt. Hopefully, your wedding gifts will help set you on the proper financial path towards building a substantial nest egg for either a home or family, but sadly that isn’t always the case.

If newlyweds don’t start their marriage off with a clear cut plan of both how they see their financial future together and who will handle which duties regarding bills, they are setting themselves up for failure. It is in this light that we offer these three helpful tips to our recently married friends in hopes that they will start things off on the right foot, while enjoying a lifetime full of health, happiness, and…..prosperity!


  1. Choose How Many and Which Kinds of Bank Accounts You Need

Depending on your living situation prior to marriage, this may have already been decided, but you and your partner should immediately discuss which type of bank account structure will work best for you moving forward. Do you want to just have one larger joint account together, or do you want to have a combination of personal accounts and one joint account for family purchases. The biggest cause of fights in most relationships is money and for some couples, it may be a good idea to allot each other some flexibility with a small personal account. If you opt for this route, however, make sure you both agree upon a percentage of your paychecks that will go into your joint account for emergencies and bigger purchases. Being fair and keeping things equal will go a long way in not only stabilizing your bank account, but your marriage too.

  1. Get a Schedule Made and Assign Roles Early

One of life’s inevitable facts of marriage is that living together, having a family and raising kids, all brings along a ton of bills. Map out the due dates of each of your payments and create an easily accessible calendar that highlights your plan of action for each month. Next, assign roles in not only paying the bills, but managing the incoming pertinent mail and keeping filed records on each vendor too. Some couples work best splitting the duties up, while others will ultimately decide to choose one person to fully handle the responsibility. The important thing is to help each other and at the very least understand your obligations/payment methods, regardless of your involvement.

  1. Sit Down and Come to a Mutual Agreement on Spending

Let’s face it, you’re not going to always be together every step along the way during your lives, so you should come together as a couple and define what spending means to each of you. Make sure you both talk about important subjects like weekly allowances, what percentage of each check should go to savings, and of course, lending friends and family money. Additionally, set a finite cost that requires your partner to contact you to discuss the purchase before it is completed; this one alone is guaranteed to save a few fights. If you begin to view and buy life’s necessities in the same manner as each other, it will only lead to a more predictable spending habit that enables an easier created budget overall.

Splurging on a Budget

splurgeIn this rough economy, most of us are looking for ways to tighten our belts. Budgeting is a smart thing to do, especially when funds are limited. Taking a $5,000 vacation when you are worried about your job and your mortgage? Not a good idea! However, in the quest to remain on top of one’s finances, it is possible to become too frugal, which can ultimately undermine budgeting efforts.

Let’s say that you are on a diet and decide to eat only the healthiest food. No chocolate. No pasta. No fast food. Ever. How likely is it that the diet will be successful? Not very. For most people, high-fat food tastes better, and if they try to stick to a diet of whole wheat and carrots, they will just wind up getting frustrated and quitting. Sticking to a diet is easier if you allow yourself to have a slice of chocolate cake once in a while.

It works the same way with budgeting. You want to pay all of your bills on time, save money, and avoid debt and tell yourself that you are only going to spend money on bare necessities. No dining out. No cable. No vacations. No movies. No books or magazines. No hobbies. This budget may be doable for a couple of months but probably not much longer.

Instead of cutting out pleasures completely, look for ways to do them for a reasonable price. Do you like eating out? Go to restaurants that cost $15 a meal instead of $50. Or if you really want to go to that $50 restaurant, eat out once a month instead of once a week. Like traveling? Take day trips near your home (you won’t have to worry about paying for airfare and a hotel) or forgo vacations for a few years so you can splurge on a two-week trip to Europe. Love reading books? Check out the used-book store. Or better yet, go to the library – they still exist!

Even if you are looking for ways to lower costs, you may not have enough money to buy or do everything you want. Forgoing some luxuries makes it easier to splurge in other areas. Think about what is most important to you and what doesn’t matter as much. If you love going to the opera, you don’t have to automatically give it up because you are on a budget. Free up cash by buying generic brands at the supermarket. Bring your lunch to work instead of eating out. Get your hair cut once every three months instead of once a month. On the other hand, if you’re a foodie, you may want to sacrifice going to the opera and other entertainment activities so that you can eat lunch out and get $15 cheese at the supermarket.

Being financially responsible does not mean that you have to live the life of a monk. It will be easier to control your spending and save if you leave some room in your budget for fun.


© 2013 BALANCE