Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buying and Building Green Homes

If you are looking for a new home or if you are planning to have a new home built, you might be interested in purchasing a home that is LEED certified. A home that is LEED certified is one that has earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council. In order to receive this recognition, the home must meet certain “green” criteria.

Why Consider Green Construction?

There are many reasons to consider purchasing or building a home to meets LEED certification criteria. The most obvious reason is because of the positive effect it has on the environment. By selecting building materials according to their eco-friendly attributes and by installing appliances and other goods that are better for the environment, you will be playing your part in protecting the environment.

Another reason to think green, however, is more about finances. The reality is that an increasing number of people are looking for homes that are environmentally-friendly. In addition, more states and cities are passing legislation to require green construction or to provide incentives to those that meet certain criteria. Therefore, by purchasing or building a home that meets LEED certification criteria, you will be ahead of the game and your home will likely increase in value quickly.

Weighing the Costs

When it comes to green construction, the downside is the fact that it generally costs more to build than standard construction. At the same time, it is less expensive to implement a green design when building a home rather than trying to add green elements later. In addition, the money you will ultimately save with a home that is more energy-efficient will be greater than the initial investment. Nonetheless, coming up with the money to build an eco-friendly home can be difficult on some home buyers, particularly first time home buyers.

Making a Home “Green”

There are a number of things that can make a home “green,” ranging from the building materials to implementing methods for reducing energy waste and waste reduction. Some of the building materials that are implemented in green building include those materials made from:

• Plant material that is rapidly renewable, such as straw and bamboo
• Lumber derived from forests that have been certified for being managed in a sustainable manner
• Recycled products, including stone and metal
• Non-toxic materials

To be the most eco-friendly, the materials should also be extracted and manufactured locally as well.

To reduce energy use, the home should utilize high-efficiency insulation and windows. It may also have the windows and landscaping installed in such a manner that the trees provide shade to the home in the summer but allow heat through the windows in the winter, thereby helping to reduce the costs involved with climate control.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monitoring Credit Cards to Prevent Identity Theft

In order to keep your finances and your credit report protected, it is important to take certain steps to protect yourself against identity theft. Unfortunately, thousands of people become victims of identity theft every year and trying to clean up the mess can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Credit cards are among the most popular tools that thieves use to get their hands on information from unsuspecting victims. With these simple tips, however, you can reduce your risks significantly.

Tip #1: Don’t Carry Too Many Credit Cards

Many people carry all of their credit cards and debit cards with them everywhere they go. This leaves you open to having all of your accounts compromised if your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen. Instead, carry only one or two credit cards with you and your ATM card if necessary. It is also a good idea to leave debit cards at home, as they provide thieves with instant access to your checking account and they do not provide you with the same identity theft protection as credit cards.

Tip #2: Don’t Let Your Credit Card or Debit Card Out of Your Site

Many identity thieves steal your account information easily and quickly by simply swiping your card through a special device called a skimmer. This is generally most common with waiters and waitresses when they take your credit card from your table and to the register in order to pay your bill. With your credit card information successfully stolen, the thief can then have an online shopping spree or even make a counterfeit credit card using your account information.

Tip #3: Photocopy All of Your Credit Cards and Accounts

As soon as you get a new credit card, debit card, or account statement, make a photocopy and store them in a secure place other than your purse or wallet. Make certain to photocopy the account numbers, the customer service telephone number, and the expiration dates. This way, the information is easy to find if your cards become lost or stolen or if your accounts are used in a fraudulent manner.

Tip #4: Hang on to Credit Card Receipts

When paying for items with a credit card or debit card, never through the receipt in the trash. Part of your credit card information will be contained on the card and, in some cases, your entire account number may be printed on the receipt. Instead, put the receipt in your purse or wallet where it is safe and then make sure the receipts match up with your monthly statement when it arrives.

Tip #5: Don’t Give Out Information Over the Phone

Unless you initiated the phone call and you are talking to a trusted business, never give out your credit card information over the telephone. Many thieves call their victims directly and can tell very convincing stories – they may even already have some of your personal information – but you still should not give out information. If the caller claims to be from one of your credit card companies, hang up and call the customer service number on the back of your card to check on your account.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Friday, September 5, 2008

American Express Settles Lawsuit Against MasterCard

Anyone that carries an American Express or a Discover credit card is well aware that it can sometimes be difficult to find a merchant that will take the card. While some merchants choose not to accept these cards because they don’t wan to pay the interchange fees associated with them, some also choose to carry only MasterCard or Visa because there are simply more banks doing business with these credit card companies. This fact, however, may soon be changing.

American Express just recently settled with MasterCard over a case that came before the Supreme Court in 2004. According to the lawsuit, both MasterCard and Visa were in violation of antitrust laws because they took steps to prevent member banks from doing business with American Express and Discover card. The two credit card companies promptly filed suit and sued for the damages resulting from the loss of revenue they suffered.

On June 25 of this year, American Express finally settled with MasterCard – to the tune of $1.8 billion. The amount of the settlement made this one of the largest antitrust suits to ever take place in the United States. American Express had already settled its suit against Visa last year, at which time the company received a settlement of $2.25 billion.

American Express won’t be getting a windfall from MasterCard all at one time. Rather, the company will pay American Express a total of $150 million per quarter over the next 12 quarters. Visa, on the other hand, had to pay $1.5 billion of its settlement upfront. Despite the quarterly payment system, MasterCard plans to book a $1 billion charge to its current fiscal quarter because of the lawsuit.

The extra money comes just in time for American Express, which has been experiencing some financial troubles as borrowers continue to be delinquent on their payments while simultaneously borrowing less.

MasterCard and Visa have not been affected by the economy in quite the same way, however, because the two companies do not actually collect payments from credit card users. Rather, they simply collect a fee every time a credit card with their logo is used. American Express, on the other hand, collects similar fees from every transaction but also extends credit to its cardholders. As a result, MasterCard and Visa are still doing quite well with the current economic conditions because consumers are still using their credit cards to make purchases.

Despite the lawsuit settlement, MasterCard also saw a rise its shares on the same day the settlement was announced. The rise, which was equivalent to 3.4%, put the value of the shares at $289.79. American Express, on the other hand, so a decline in the value of its shares with the current value being $40.94.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

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