7 Ways Your Devices Are Spying on You

7 Ways Your Devices Are Spying on You

Microwave ovens aren’t spying on us (yet), but plenty of other products seem to be. From smart TVs to tech toys for kids, there are a slew of common household items collecting data about our location, habits, and preferences — and some are more sinister than others. Here are some of the ways your possessions could be tracking your every move.

1. Your TV might be bugged by the U.S. government

According to the latest dirt from WikiLeaks, the CIA has developed a covert hacking program that can transform your smart TV into a bug. Once your TV is hacked by the program, it has the ability to enter into a “fake-off mode” in which the TV appears to be off but is actually on and operating as a recording device. The program, known as “Weeping Angel,” uses the TV’s speakers and camera to record what it hears and sees. Then it transmits these private living room conversations to the CIA server.

2. Your child’s doll could be bait for a cyberattack

Cayla is a sweet-faced American-made doll with big, blue eyes and Bluetooth technology. Not only is Cayla adorable, she’s also interactive. Everything Cayla hears gets transmitted to a voice recognition company that helps the doll to hold human-like conversations, much like the iPhone’s Siri. Unfortunately, this technology also makes the doll a prime target for hackers. In Germany, where hidden microphones and cameras are illegal, the doll has been pulled from store shelves and government officials have ordered doll owners to confiscate the toy. In Norway, a consumer group has released a warning about the doll’s vulnerabilities. Consumer complaints about Cayla have been filed in the U.S., though the doll remains on shelves in America and in several European countries.

3. Your shoes could help retailers figure out your age or social status

The British retail analysis firm Hoxton Analytics is pointing its facial recognition software to the ground. Instead of faces, the firm’s technology records shoppers’ feet as they walk in and out of participating retail outlets. The data is then analyzed to reveal a surprising amount of information, including specifics about a shopper’s gender, age, and social class. It’s all based on the shoes a person is wearing. According to Hoxton executives, the retail analysis technology can determine a person’s gender based on his or her footwear with 80 percent accuracy. The company asserts that the marketing technology is much less invasive than scanning shoppers’ faces, but its use has raised concerns among consumer advocate groups.

4. Your cell phone could be surveilling your every move

Cell site simulators, or stingrays, are commonly used by law enforcement agencies to geolocate the cell phone calls or text messages of criminal suspects and other persons of interest. The New York Police Department, for example, has used the stingray technology more than 1,000 times since 2008 to determine a person’s location by monitoring their calls and texts. It’s not only New Yorkers who are susceptible to this sort of secret surveillance. Stingrays are used by local police agencies across the nation, as well as the FBI and CIA.

5. A hacker could infiltrate your baby monitor

If you use a baby monitor to keep a watchful eye over your child at night, know that a hacker could infiltrate the device in order to spy on your child. In a recent horror story, a stranger hacked a baby monitor in Washington state and used the device to communicate with a three-year-old child, as well as to track the movements of people in the room. The toddler’s parents reportedly entered their child’s room one night and heard a voice on the baby monitor saying, “Wake up little boy, daddy’s looking for you.” The child had reportedly told his parents that he did not like the monitor because of the voice that spoke to him on it during the night. But it wasn’t until the parents heard the voice for themselves that they understood what their child meant.

6. Your refrigerator could make you vulnerable to an email hack

Samsung’s latest voice-controlled refrigerator can play music, stream movies, and sync your Google calendar onto a display screen. Sounds cool, right? But beware: Earlier models of the smart fridge have allowed hackers to break into its owner’s email accounts. That’s because previous security shortcomings have allowed hackers to access the refrigerator technology in order to steal users’ Gmail login credentials. Here’s the silver lining: Samsung’s latest model hasn’t had any reported hacking fiascos — not yet, anyway.

7. Your webcam could be recording you

If your webcam isn’t password protected — or if the password is easy to hack — you could be under surveillance. Hackers around the globe are known to gain access to the webcams of strangers in order to peek into the private lives of their owners. There’s even a creepy search engine that matches voyeuristic hackers with unsecured webcams, making it that much easier for devious internet users to violate the privacy of strangers.

12 Garage Sale Items That Sell Like Hotcakes

12 Garage Sale Items That Sell Like Hotcakes

Spring cleaning is in full swing, which means it’s out with the old, and in with the new. So why not earn some extra cash by throwing a garage sale and ridding your home of your unwanted items? Here are 12 perennially popular items that are sure to sell like hot cakes.

1. Gently used clothing, in good condition

Everyone needs clothes, and savvy shoppers know you don’t have to pay retail to look good. I once met a lumber “baroness” who confided in me that she bought all of her clothes at yard sales. Good quality holds up, and regular yard sale shoppers know that.

For women’s and men’s, hang clothes up on a rack, rather than folded on a table or in a box. It makes it much easier for people to go through it, as well as to examine it for stains or tears. For kids’ clothing, folding it is fine, but it’s nice if the sizes are noted and sorted. Many garage-sale shoppers are resellers, and they may take you up on a “$__ per bag” offer.

2. Tools

My husband is like a moth to a flame when it comes to a garage sale with tools. He not only likes power tools, but also older, vintage ones that are not only still useful, but fun to collect and display.

When selling your old tools, have a power strip nearby so power tools can be tested, or have them charged up if used with a battery.

3. Furniture

If you live in a college town, furniture is sure to go fast. Also, with DIY projects soaring in popularity, more people are looking for furniture that can be remade. Bookshelves will always sell — even old, beat up bookcases can be used for storage!

Make sure any furniture you sell is clean. Old leather furniture can be spiffed up using a mixture of vinegar, olive oil, and a little lemon juice. Vacuum upholstered furniture and treat any spots. Also, suggest a price, but be open to negotiation.

4. Vintage dishes, glassware, and casseroles

Any Pyrex collectors out there? How about milk glass, or Spode? You may have some items hidden away in your cupboards that are hot.

When you go to sell these items, advertise using the brand name (i.e., Pyrex, milk glass, Corningware, etc.); add photos to your ad, too. Collectors will flock to you.

5. Garden tools

Spring fever also means that home gardeners are eager to start tilling, trimming, planting, and digging.

Be prepared to start up that old lawn mower, or be honest about what isn’t working. Handy folks may be willing to take a chance that they can get a broken item running again. We just bought a garden tiller for $15. It wasn’t running, but my husband knew how to fix it. Sometimes, a shovel blade or rake may be fine, but the wooden handles are rotting. You can purchase new handles at Home Depot or Lowe’s. But price these items accordingly, if a replacement is going to be necessary.

6. Shoes and handbags

Think nobody would want to buy your old shoes? Guess again. Shoes, especially if in good condition and carrying a popular brand name, sell like hot cakes at garage sales. Kids grow out of shoes so fast that size doesn’t matter. If they’re too big now, they’ll probably grow into them later. Handbags are also enormously popular — especially if it’s a designer label.

When selling shoes or old purses, obviously, clean and odor-free are necessities. If you still have the original boxes, that’s a plus. The key factor with shoes and bags is showcasing any designer brands. Put the designers in your garage sale ad, and place them front and center during the sale. Then watch the flock of shoppers arrive.

7. Costume jewelry

If your jewelry box is overflowing with costume jewelry and statement pieces you know you’ll never wear, a garage sale is the perfect place to unload them.

Find a rack of some sort to hang necklaces on (a coat hanger will do, in a pinch). Bracelets can go on a dowel. Just make sure to keep costume jewelry close to your cashier area because sadly, some folks will try to pocket it.

8. Games, toys, and bicycles

Have too many toys and games cluttering up the house? Give them a new home by selling them at your garage sale. Vintage games being popular at the moment, you should be able to easily sell Monopoly or Life. Before you sell these, make sure you have all the game pieces. “Lil’ Tykes” plastic furniture is always popular, too. Pump up bike tires for bikes you’re looking to unload, and give them a wash.

9. Books

It doesn’t matter how fancy or state-of-the-art e-readers become — actual books will always be easy to sell. Make the ones you no longer want super cheap — $1–$3 each — and they’ll fly off your shelves.

10. Appliances

I know, you just had to have a Magic Bullet, or a bread-maker, or a hand blender. And now they’re sitting on your kitchen counter, collecting dust. I’m guilty of this, too. Luckily, people love appliances, and you can probably unload them.

When you sell them, it’s a good idea to have a power strip handy so folks can make sure they work. They should also be spotlessly clean. Check eBay to see what they’re going for before pricing.

11. Camping gear

Purchasing new camping gear gets a little pricey. However, used gear is usually still in decent condition, since it only usually gets used a few times each year. Yard and garage sales are the best places to get it, and smart shoppers will snap it up.

Make sure to mention the items in your ad and include pictures. Open up tents so people can see the size.

12. Exercise equipment

So, you bought that trendy elliptical machine when you were still clutching the remains of your fitness resolutions. If you didn’t use it, that’s OK! time to get it out of your garage and into someone else’s.

Specify what you have, and put pictures in your ad. Basic exercise equipment, like weights, will usually go quickly, but older treadmills or exercise bikes may linger, depending on how you price them and how quickly you want to get rid of them.

Don’t Waste Money on This Pricey Baby Gear

Don’t Waste Money on This Pricey Baby Gear

It’s easy to get carried away with cute baby buys when you’re strolling through Babies ‘R’ Us. However, tons of tiny purchases can add up quickly and result in an empty bank account, as well as a lot of items wasting space in the nursery.

When the average cost of raising a child is approximately $12,980 per year, it’s important to save money whenever possible. Fortunately, you can start by avoiding unnecessary baby gear.

1. Extra bedding

The safest way for a baby to sleep is with a tight fitting crib sheet. Anything else could pose a suffocation hazard. One blanket is enough for car rides, stroller time, and cuddling, so there’s no need to spend much on multiple bedding sets, bumpers, or other bedding upgrades.

Crib bedding and diaper gear are commonly stained due to leaky diapers and spit up, so stick with functional and easy to clean material. Don’t worry about pillows or matching duvets. A newborn can’t use those anyway.

2. Fancy Diaper Bag

Your diaper bag is going to see a lot of wear and tear. Imagine spilled milk and dirty burp cloths staining the inside, and dust and dirt, stickers and crayon marks marring the outside. Plus, you wouldn’t want it to be a target for theft. Get something plain that is easy to carry and use.

3. Matching outfits

When you’re digging through the laundry basket (because there will barely be enough time to do the laundry, let alone fold and sort), you won’t care much about the matching pants as much as just getting your baby dressed. Even with messes, it’s hard to ever run out of onesies since they usually come in packs of five to ten (except the cute matching outfits, which come in packs of one). Don’t use your valuable energy on things like matching outfits for your newborn.

4. Shoes

Newborns don’t need shoes. And it’s not worth trying to wrestle them on a wriggling baby. Stick with socks or footies.

5. Wipe warmer

It’s true, babies don’t like being changed. They will cry and fuss, regardless of the temperature of their wipes. Also, the inconvenience of having to always go to the spot where your wipe warmer is defeats the purpose of being able to quickly get a baby changed. It’s okay — a little discomfort won’t be the end of the world.

6. Mobiles

It’s nice to imagine that the mobile is stimulating the baby’s brain cells and making her super smart. But a mobile isn’t more stimulating than a ceiling fan or the shadows and light coming from a window nearby.

7. Baby food processor

If you’re going to make your own baby food, a regular food processor or blender might seem bulky but will work just fine. Do you really want to add an extra kitchen gadget that will only get used for six months?

8. Bottle sanitizer

Bottles don’t need to be sanitized after every use. Sanitize them the first time in boiling water. After that, warm soap and water will clean them fine.

Best Money Tips: Unconventional Ways to Live Longer

Best Money Tips: Unconventional Ways to Live Longer

Welcome to Wise Bread’s Best Money Tips Roundup! Today we found articles on unconventional ways to live longer, financial questions soon-to-be parents should ask, and packing hacks every traveler should know.

Top 5 Articles

5 Unconventional Ways to Extend Your Life — Spending time in green space can improve creativity and reduce anxiety. If you don’t live somewhere with a lot of green, grow plants or trees at home. [Mark’s Daily Apple]

8 Financial Questions Soon-to-Be Parents Must Ask — What are your immediate needs? List the items, services, and appointments involved with having a new baby and begin to budget for them. [Parenting Squad]

34 Packing Hacks Every Traveler Should Know — When choosing items for your vacation wardrobe, rely on your current outfit go-tos — you know they work!  [PopSugar Smart Living]

10 Easy Tricks On How To Save More — Limit your ATM visits. Work on managing your budget so that you don’t have to make extra trips to get cash. [Dumb Little Man]

7 Fun Ways to Exercise as a Family — A great way to stay active as a family is to go for after-dinner walks together. [Shopper Strategy]

Other Essential Reading

7 Ways to Throw a Graduation Party on a Budget — Consider having a joint party for multiple graduates. Everyone will save on decorations and entertainment, and since they’ll likely have the same friends, you’ll save on food, too. [Everything Finance]

The 3 Keys to Balancing Safety and Risk in Raising Your Kids — You won’t always be there to protect your kids. Aim to prepare them to face and manage risks themselves. [The Art of Manliness]

20 Ways to Moisturize, Protect, Heal & Prevent Cracked Cuticles — Make your own cuticle salve from equal parts honey, aloe vera gel or juice, and olive oil. [Dealicious Blog]

10 Things Leaders Hate To Do (But Really Should Do Them Anyway) — It’s easy to coast through meetings, but if you want to be a leader, you need to pay attention and engage at every meeting. [Terry St. Marie]

5 Ways to Break Your Routine to Get Better Results — If you have trouble getting work done, try changing when you do it.

3 Ways Retirees Can Build Credit

3 Ways Retirees Can Build Credit

You might think that once you reach retirement, your credit score is just one of those things you get to stop worrying about. While it’s true that most retirees won’t be applying for mortgages, it’s not true that you don’t need to maintain a decent credit score. What if you want to apply for a car loan? What about credit cards? You certainly won’t get the lowest interest rates and best rewards programs possible without a good credit score to back you up.

A low credit score can also hurt you if you want to downsize to an apartment, or even move into a senior living facility. You might need a solid credit score to qualify.

Why it’s hard for retirees to build credit

According to FICO, to have a credit score, you must have at least one credit account that is at least six months old. You must also have at least one account that has been updated by a creditor or lender during the last six months.

If you aren’t paying a mortgage, paying off an auto loan, or using credit cards, you might not meet any of these requirements. This might lead to you becoming what FICO calls an “unscorable,” a consumer who has no credit score at all.

Fortunately, there are ways for retirees to continue building credit. They require the same good financial habits you’ve been practicing before retirement.

Use the credit cards you have

You might prefer paying for items in cash. Instead, make small purchases throughout the month with your credit card. If you pay off your entire card balance each month, you’ll continue to boost your credit score.

Make sure that you don’t charge more than you can pay off by the due date. If you do, you’ll be stuck paying interest.

Never pay late. If you pay your credit card 30 days or more late, your card provider will report your payment as late to the national credit bureaus of TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. This will cause your credit score to plummet.

Keep unused credit card accounts open

You might have a credit card that you never use, but don’t close it. Having open credit card accounts helps your credit score, thanks to something called a credit utilization ratio.

This ratio measures your credit card balances against your total available credit limits, and it accounts for 30 percent of your score. Using too much of your available credit will cause your score to drop, while using a modest amount will help it rise. It’s typically recommended that you not let debt tip this ratio beyond 30 percent. If you have a paid-off credit card that isn’t getting much use, closing it will lower your overall available credit limit and your utilization ratio will then increase.

So, keep those unused cards tucked in your wallet. Having that extra credit that you’re not using will provide a boost to your score.

Apply for a secured credit card

If you no longer have any credit cards, and you’ve become an unscorable, you can still build your credit. Your first step should be applying for a secured credit card.

You don’t need a credit score to qualify for one of these cards. Their line of credit is based on the amount of money you deposit into an account with the financial institution issuing the card.

If you deposit $1,000 into an account, you can then charge up to $1,000 on your secured credit card. Every time you use your secured card and pay off these charges on time, you’ll get a boost to your credit score. Do this long enough, and you can build a score that’s high enough to qualify for a traditional credit card.

Again, take the same precautions you’d take with a traditional credit card. Pay your bill on time each month, and never charge more than you can afford to pay in full by your due date.

How Single Parents Can Juggle Retirement Savings, Too

How Single Parents Can Juggle Retirement Savings, Too

Being a single parent is hard work. It’s also expensive, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reporting that the estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610. That comes out to nearly $14,000 a year.

If you’re a single parent with one income, paying for your children’s clothing, food, education, and activities might not only be consuming most of your money, but most of your time, too. At the end of another long day, you might think that it’s simply too difficult to plan or save for your own retirement.

Fortunately, this isn’t true. Yes, saving for retirement will be more challenging for single parents. But it can be done, and the steps to start saving and investing for retirement aren’t overly difficult.

Here are five moves single parents should make today to prepare for their future retirement.

1. Make a budget

Nothing is more important than creating a household budget, and making one is simpler than you think. Once you have a budget, you’ll be able to figure out how much money you can allocate to retirement savings each month.

First, write down how much money you bring into your household every month. Next, list how much you spend. Start with your fixed expenses, which includes everything from your monthly mortgage payment to your insurance costs. Then, calculate an average cost for expenses that fluctuate. These can include utility bills, transportation, clothing, groceries, and entertainment. Don’t forget to include intermittent expenses, such as haircuts and car maintenance bills, which you might think of in annual terms — find the average so you can estimate a monthly amount. Once you have these figures, you’ll know how much wiggle room is left each month to put toward your retirement.

Compiling a budget can also help you make positive changes to your overall spending habits. Maybe you’ll find that you’re spending more money than you’re bringing in. You might then make a few small adjustments — such as eating out less, cutting the cable cord, or dropping a gym membership — that will free up money each month.

2. Start small and build an emergency fund

After making a budget, set aside at least some of your leftover money in the month to build an emergency fund. You’ll use this fund to pay for any unexpected financial emergencies (such as a broken water heater) with cash instead of charging repairs to a credit card. The key to saving for retirement as a single parent is to avoid building debt, and nothing can derail your savings goals faster than high interest credit card debt. By having that emergency fund, you’ll be far less likely to add big bills to your credit cards.

You might not have much money to devote to an emergency fund. That’s OK. Even if you can only save $50 a month, do it. By the end of a year, you’ll have $600. That may not be a huge amount, but it’s a start. Your ultimate goal should be to build an emergency fund that can cover daily living expenses for three to six months.

3. Save in tax-advantaged investment vehicles

As a single parent, it’s important to keep as many of your dollars in your household as possible. Tax-advantaged savings vehicles can help you do this.

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, take advantage of it. Contributions to your 401(k) are made with pretax dollars from each paycheck. This means that when you file your taxes for the year, the IRS will treat your income as smaller than it actually was. This will help lower your tax burden each year while simultaneously growing your retirement.

You can also invest in a traditional IRA if you don’t have access to a 401(k). Contributions to a traditional IRA are also made with pretax dollars, which again, will lower your taxable income.

4. Prioritize retirement over college savings

Like most parents, you probably want to give your child as much financial help as you can to get them into a good college. But too many parents save for their children’s education while skimping on building their own retirement fund. This is a mistake.

Remember, your kids have options when it comes to their education. They can attend a community college or less-expensive university, seek financial aid, or work their way through school. They might not be able to attend their dream school, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a solid college education.

You won’t have as many options when it’s time to leave the working world. You certainly don’t want a retirement in which you’re struggling to pay your bills, so you need to avoid the impulse to prioritize your child’s college fund over your own retirement savings.

5. Resist the temptation to overspend

As a single parent, it can be tempting to overspend on gifts and expensive vacations in an effort to make up for whatever challenges you and your children face. The problem is, this kind of emotional overspending can wreck your monthly budget. And when money gets tight, it’s your retirement savings that often suffers.

It’s OK to treat your children, of course. But make sure these little rewards don’t come at the expense of building a retirement fund.

6 Important Credit Card Lessons Your Parents Didn’t Teach You

6 Important Credit Card Lessons Your Parents Didn’t Teach You

Our parents taught us many of life’s important lessons, but did they adequately prepare us for smart credit card use? Maybe not. Here are six credit card lessons your parents might not have taught you.

1. Credit cards offer more fraud protection than debit cards

Credit cards offer a much greater level of protection against fraud than debit cards. Many credit companies come with $0 fraud liability, meaning you aren’t responsible for any reported fraudulent spending. In most of these cases, the creditor will credit your account immediately. However, with debit card purchases, it can take the bank up to two weeks to refund your money, and even then you might still be held responsible for a certain percentage of the charges.

2. You must be proactive to build your credit

A common myth is that an open credit card account is all you need to build your credit. Credit scores reflect an individual’s relationship with debt management. Lenders and creditors want to see how you interact with finances, especially if you are going to take on more debt. This doesn’t mean you need to be in debt to have a good credit score. Instead, a credit score is established through paying your bills on time, whether that be your credit card bill or your mortgage.

One of the biggest factors in determining your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. Lenders want to see how much debt you have versus how much credit you have access to.

Build your credit by using and paying off your credit card, making payments on time, and asking for credit line increases.

3. Keep your credit utilization ratio as low as possible

Generally, it is important to have a credit utilization ratio of 30 percent or less. For example, someone with $500 of debt on a $1,000 total credit line will look worse to creditors than someone who has $5,000 debt with a total credit line of $30,000.

Calculate your credit utilization ratio by dividing your debt total by your credit line total. For example, $500 of debt divided by a $1,000 credit line would equal a 50 percent credit utilization ratio, whereas $5,000 of debt divided by a $30,000 credit line is just over 16 percent. Remember, your credit line total is the combination of all lines of credit you have open.

4. Interest payments can make debt hard to pay off

A few thousand dollars of debt can feel like an impossible hurdle if you try to pay it off in minimum payments only. You will feel like you are making zero progress on your debt when you have to pay interest. Interest makes anything you purchased with a credit card more expensive. Did you really mean to pay double for that clearance shirt?

5. Differences in interest rates do matter

Perhaps your parents didn’t make a big deal about the difference between an A and A-, but when it comes to interest rates, the difference is noticeable. Even a half of a percent can make a big difference when it comes to your monthly payments on a loan. Getting a $20,000 car loan for three years at 4 percent doesn’t seem much different from the same car loan at 3.25 percent, but it is. The difference is $6 a month, or $216 in the lifetime of the loan. Wouldn’t you rather that money go to something necessary or fun instead of an interest payment? The same is true of paying interest on a credit card.

6. Rewards don’t negate debt

We know your mom always told you to look at the bright side of things, but credit card rewards are not the bright side. If you are constantly running up credit card debt to benefit from rewards points, then you will be sorely disappointed by their rate of return. There is no credit card on the market with a reward program that makes going into debt worth it.

Pay off your monthly credit card bill to ensure you benefit from the rewards, but aren’t being burned by the interest rate.

How a Credit Card Cash Advance Costs You More Than a Purchase

How a Credit Card Cash Advance Costs You More Than a Purchase

Credit cards are all about convenience. With one swipe, anything we want or need is right at our fingertips; and that includes cash. That convenience comes at a steep price, however — quite literally.

Credit cards call it a “cash advance” when you use them to take cash out at an ATM, or use one of their convenience checks to pay for purchases (for example, when the vendor doesn’t take credit cards, but will take a check).

Here is what you need to know before even considering a cash advance, and some alternative solutions for when you need funds fast.

What is a credit card cash advance?

Taking a cash advance is done much the same way as making a withdrawal with your debit card. Instead of taking your own money out of your bank account, however, you borrow directly from your credit card. You may also receive checks in the mail from your card issuer that allow you to make credit card purchases via check payments. Again, this is not your money — the checks will pull funds from your credit card account.

What happens when you take a cash advance

Most credit card issuers impose entirely different terms on cash advance transactions. First, you will be charged a transaction fee, which will either be a flat rate or a percentage of the cash advance you’re withdrawing (typically between 2 percent and 5 percent). Additional ATM fees and foreign transaction fees if you’re out of the country may apply as well.

In addition to fees, you’ll likely be hit with a much higher interest rate. In some cases, the APR can be double the percentage for regular purchases. This catches many people off guard, since they’re unaware different terms apply for cash advances. The longer it takes you to pay off this amount, the more that hefty interest will pile up.

There is no grace period for cash advances, either. Typically, you have a month or so to pay off a credit card purchase in full before accruing any interest charges. This doesn’t happen with a cash advance — you pay interest starting the day you make the transaction.

Credit card companies also typically impose a separate limit on the amount of money you can take in a cash advance. This will often be much lower than your actual credit card limit.

How much will this actually cost you?

Let’s say you are going out for dinner with friends, and you need to get a quick $40 from an ATM using your credit card. First, you will be hit with the cash advance fee. Next, you will start incurring interest on that withdrawal immediately (possibly around 30%). Furthermore, the operator of the ATM may also impose its own fees, which can be anywhere between $3–$5 per transaction. You could be looking at anywhere from $10–$15 in fees for taking out $40 (and that’s assuming you pay it off by the next billing cycle). As you can see, that $40 dinner could wind up costing you $15 extra. Now imagine if you were borrowing $1,000 or more!

Alternatives to credit card cash advances

Simply put, you should always use a debit card to access cash instead of a credit card. Most major banks offer debit cards that can be used at in-network ATMs for no additional fees. In addition, many banks and credit unions are part of a larger ATM network that allows transactions for no additional fees.

If the issue is that you’re simply short on money, or stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck, a cash advance is not the solution. Instead, consider ways you can bring in extra income. Perhaps you can take up a part-time or side gig, sell a few items on eBay, or throw a big garage sale.

When is it Ok to take a cash advance?

A cash advance isn’t the best option, but if it’s your only option in an emergency, take it. Be sure to understand that there will be fees involved and that you need to repay the money you borrowed as soon as possible.

Cash advances should never be used for everyday expenses, “fun” money (shopping or gambling, for example), or even to make ends meet until your next paycheck. It can be all too easy to fall into a cycle of cash advances, which will ultimately lead to credit card debt.