What Stands Behind Capital One Credit Cards and Savings Products?

In the times since the global financial crisis, it has increasingly become a concern as to what the backing of the financial institution that issues your credit card or holds your saving account is. There are a number of laws which regulate the financial system and try to ensure that customers can rely on banks to honour their obligations which can be a particular concern in relation to savings products. Title 12 of the United States Code in part 325 specifies a number of ‘capital adequacy requirements’ in relation to all banks. The aim of these requirements is to force banks to adequately provision of a crisis and ensure that they will remain solvent even if there is a large crisis. Banks must report periodically on their arrangements to show regulators that they are meeting the capital adequacy requirements.

Capital One at the moment is, when measured by asset pool, the 8th largest bank in the United States with balance sheet assets of approximately USD$286bn in 2012. Amongst other distinctions, the company is also one of the largest customers of the United States postal service. Its head office is in Fairfax County Virginia and the current chairman, CEO and President of the company is Richard Fairbank. It is one of the fastest growing banks in American history having been founded in 1988 by the current CEO. Like many banks in the American financial system, Capital One was the recipient of a bail out during the sub prime mortgage crisis of 2007 when it received $3.56bn from the United States Government in exchange for 3,555,199 shares in the company. By the end of 2009, the company had managed to buy the government out of the business.

As well as being involved in credit cards, Capital One has an Auto Finance Division which is a substantial part of the company. An entity known as Capital One 360 is also now in existence having formerly been known as ING Direct on the idea that a bank could perform retail services entirely on the basis of an online model. This division of the company has no branches and only maintains a physical presence in the form of call centres and online processing maintenance facilities. The online bank model seems to achieved some success given that the lower overheads from rent and staff result in lower costs to consumers and therefore a better outcome.

One of the notable characteristic of Capital One is that it appears to have retained an ability to ride out the periodic financial storms which emerge in the world of consumer credit. It has grown consistently throughout good and bad times in consumer finance and continues to grow based on the analysis of its most recent financial data. This history of growth and the ability to ride out financial storms appears to bode well for the credit and savings products of Capital One.

100 Financing Investment Property

100 financing of investment properties refers to 100% financing from outside for your investment in real estate. Funds that are brought from one’s own savings, on loan from friends or relatives are in a way not much different from capital whereas real debt or Investment property financing comes from financial institutions. These entities – banks, mortgage firms and lending organizations like credit unions — lend funds to the applicant on the trust of a collateral security or based on the income, credit-worthiness and repayment capacity of the individual. Even if these criteria are satisfactory, an investment property financing institution may ask to be shown the business plan of how the applicant means to generate income using the pieces of property he or she means to buy and consequently pay off the loan or conclude the mortgage. The lender has the right to know how the business is going to be conducted because the revenues of this business determine how fast the loan is going to be repaid. With the turn in the economy, 100% financing investment property has almost been done away with.

100 financing investment property

In the United States, there are three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, that maintain records of the lines of credit extended to each individual and how they are being handled. The credit reports formulated by these bureaus reflect how many credit card accounts a person has, how many times he or she has defaulted in payment or gone over the credit limit; other forms of financing availed by the individual such as home mortgage, auto finance or student loans, are also listed. Lenders and creditors have access to these credit reports and use them to check if an applicant is worth the risk of being given a loan. The exact features that point to an applicant as being risky can be found out after a professional analysis of one’s credit report. A high Debt to Income ratio and loan to value ratio are some of the red-flags. These areas have to be improved so as not be saddled with an exorbitant rate of interest and terms that are not favorable to the borrower. Some unfavorable terms are floating interest rates that send the finance charges through the roof upon a single defaulted payment. To prevent this eventuality, it is better to choose a deal with a fixed (flat) interest rate or a low ceiling rate on the interest rate slab.

Lending fees, high interest rates, discount points (another form of lending fees paid upfront to prevent the interest from racing up) can actually break the bank. In fact, there are many cases in which discount points have been deceptive and one ends up paying more for them, than the actual interest (finance charges) that would have been paid if the interest rates did go up. To prevent such goof ups, it is a good idea to take estimates from two or three lending organizations, compare their offerings and then choose the one that appeals most to one.

The worst pitfall to guard against is when some lender tells you that you are eligible for 100% financing of investment property. Those idyllic days are over. In fact, they are past their sell by date because there were not so idyllic. There may be such plans available on subsidy from the government for the exclusive use of first time homeowners who belong to the low income group. But this does not include investment property dealers. Traditional methods of 100% financing are now called owner financing and are still available but they are not an attractive option. It is not surprising that requests for owner financing are viewed with suspicion of default by lenders and therefore, that avenue is best avoided.

Harassment of People in Debt by Creditors

Harassment

Harassment of people in debt by creditors or their agents is a criminal offence under the Administration of Justice Act 1970. It is often difficult to know what to do when you feel a creditor is not dealing with your account fairly. In order for you to identify what activities by your creditors may involve harassment and what can be done about the problem, this factsheet outlines:

The relevant section of the Administration of Justice Act
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Debt Collection Guidance on harassment
How to deal with harassment by your creditors.

SECTION 40 OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE ACT

S40 Punishment for unlawful harassment of debtors.

1. A person commits an offence if, with the object of coercing another person to pay money claimed from the other as a debt due under a contract he: harasses the other with demands for payment which, in respect of their frequency, or the manner or occasion of making any such demand, or of any threat or publicity by which any demand is accompanied, are calculated to subject him or members of his family or household to alarm, distress or humiliation; falsely represents, in relation to the money claimed, that criminal proceedings lie for failure to pay it; falsely represents himself to be authorised in some official capacity to claim or enforce payment; or
utters a document falsely represented by him to have some official character, or purporting to have some official character which he know it has not.

2. A person may be guilty of an offence by virtue of sub-section (1) (a) above if he concerts with others in the taking of such actions as is described in that paragraph, notwithstanding that his own course of conduct does not by itself amount to harassment.

OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING CODE OF GUIDANCE

Many activities could count as harassment. It is important to note that anything done by a person which is reasonable when trying to recover a debt, is not considered to be harassment. Both the Office of Fair Trading and Trade Associations (run by the credit industry) have produced guidance on what activities may be considered harassment and should therefore be avoided by creditors. The following list is taken from the new Debt Collection Guidance for holders of consumer credit licenses.

Creditors are warned by the Office of Fair Trading under the Debt Collection Guidance that the following practices are “considered unfair”:

IT IS UNFAIR TO COMMUNICATE, IN WHATEVER FORM, WITH CONSUMERS IN AN UNCLEAR, INACCURATE OR MISLEADING MANNER.

This includes:

Letters that look like court claims

Not making it clear who the company is or what their role is

Unhelpful legal language

Not giving balance statements about the debt when asked

Contacting you at unreasonable times even when asked not to

Asking you to contact them on premium rate phone numbers.

THOSE CONTACTING DEBTORS MUST NOT BE DECEITFUL BY MISREPRESENTING THEIR AUTHORITY AND/OR THE CORRECT LEGAL POSITION.

This includes:

Claiming to work for the court or be a bailiff

Implying action can be taken that is not legally possible such as implying they could take your property
using a business name or logo that implies they are a government body

Implying that court action has been taken against you when it hasn’t

Implying not paying your debt is a criminal offence

Threatening to take court action in England if you live in Scotland or the other way round.

PUTTING PRESSURE ON DEBTORS OR THIRD PARTIES IS CONSIDERED TO BE OPPRESSIVE.

This includes:

Contacting you too frequently

Pressurising you to sell property or take out more debt

Using more than one collection company at the same time or not telling you when your debt has been passed to another company

Pressurising you to pay in full or in large instalments you cannot afford

Making threatening gestures or statements

Ignoring disputes about whether you owe the money

Trying to embarrass you in public or threatening to tell a third party about your debts such as a neighbour or your family.

DEALINGS WITH DEBTORS ARE NOT TO BE DECEITFUL AND/OR UNFAIR.

Examples include:

Sending letters addressed to the occupier or discussing the debt with someone without knowing if they are you

Refusing to deal with an adviser acting on your behalf

Not accepting reasonable offers or passing on payments you make

Refusing to freeze action if you dispute the debt.

CHARGES SHOULD NOT BE LEVIED UNFAIRLY.

Examples include:

Claiming collection costs when the original credit agreement didn’t allow this to happen and making you think you are legally liable for the costs

Not putting the specific amounts that can be added for collection costs in the original credit agreement

Adding unreasonable charges.

THOSE VISITING DEBTORS MUST NOT ACT IN AN UNCLEAR OR THREATENING MANNER.

Collectors should explain the reason for any visit and give you notice of the time and date they will call

They shouldn’t visit if they know you are ill or vulnerable and if they find you are unwell or distressed they should leave

They should not come in if you do not want them to and should leave when you ask them to

They shouldn’t visit you at work or somewhere like a hospital.

HOW TO DEAL WITH HARASSMENT BY YOUR CREDITORS

The first step is to write to a creditor and outline your concerns about the company’s behaviour. Inform them that you are familiar with the terms of Section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act and ask that the creditor takes steps to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

Tell your creditors how you would prefer to be contacted and ask that they confirm their agreement to this. A letter at this stage may avoid the need to take further action against the company.

Tell them you are aware of the OFT Debt Collection Guidance and that you will consider making a complaint about their behaviour under the guidance.

It is usually difficult to persuade the police to prosecute in cases of harassment unless a more serious offence such as violence, fraud or blackmail is also involved. Normally complaints should be made to the trading standards/consumer protection department at your local council.

They should investigate whether an offence has been committed and whether prosecution is appropriate. The penalty is a fine of up to £5,000 in the Magistrates Court. Also a conviction is likely to provide evidence that the creditor is no longer a fit and proper person to hold a consumer credit licence.

If Trading Standards will not act it may be worth contacting the Office of Fair Trading directly. The address is at the end of the factsheet. The OFT does not usually take up individual complaints but their Debt Collection Enforcement Team collects information that can be used to take action against creditors who can lose their consumer credit licence.

The creditor may be a member of a trade association with a code of practice. You could find out if your creditor is a member of a trade association and write to them with your complaint. A code of practice is not legally enforceable but the association may take some action against their members. Details of the main trade associations are at the end of the factsheet under “Useful Addresses”.

OTHER OPTIONS

Another alternative is for you to pursue your own prosecution in the Magistrates Court. This could involve considerable cost so you need to obtain proper legal advice first.

BT have a new service called “Choose to Refuse” which might help if you are getting a lot of calls from an unpleasant creditor. You have to key in a pin number after a call. The caller will then get an automated message if you don’t wish to take their call when they ring. The cost of the service is £8.00 per quarter.

If you receive a telephone service from another provider, contact them and ask if they have a similar service.

You could refer to the Malicious Communications Act 1988. This deals with the sending of letters or articles for the purpose of causing “distress or anxiety”. A person found guilty can be fined in the Magistrates Court.

To prosecute successfully, the letter or article sent would have to convey:-

A message which is indecent or grossly offensive

A threat; or information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender.

The Criminal Justice Act & Public Order Act 1994 Section 4a makes it a criminal offence to cause
Harassment, alarm or distress with intent by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.

This can only be an offence if it happens in a public place not in your own home. The police would need to be contacted and prosecute for this offence.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 makes it a criminal offence to harass people and put people in fear of violence. The harassment must happen on at least 2 separate occasions. The police would have to agree to prosecute for this offence.

Top Budget and Personal Finance Apps

Let’s face it, there are some extreme couponers, thrifters, and smart consumers out there always trying to save money and get the best deals. With budgets that much more tight in these tough economic times, it’s okay to get a little help from none other than our smartphone apps. I mean, why not, right? We have our smartphones with us nearly every minute of the day, so this kind of smart budgeting is accessible to anyone. Keep track of your monthly spending, set limits on each category of goodies you purchase, save money, and look up investment ideas and accounts has never been easier. Read on to see how you can always control and be on top of your personal finances. We’ll reveal the top budgeting and smart spending apps for you thrifty shoppers out there!

For one, there are so many budget tracking apps out there, but a really useful one would come with a budget tracker tool that will allow you to view your yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily purchases. You can further categorize them and see visually and through charts and notifications how much you spend exactly in each category. There is also a rollover option for you to transfer leftover funds from previous months or weeks to roll over and won’t mess up your budgeting. Of course, you can always opt out of this option and have a set number of expenses every month.

Another useful app gives you control to add new transactions over your allotted sum of money and spending finances. Pre-setting an overall budget for the entire month, and thereby deducing every time you make a purchase gives you instant updates on the money you have and the money you are losing. These transactions are totally customizable. Currency converters may also be useful if you plan on spending your money in a foreign country. We all get carried away when we travel, but this app makes it easy to stay focused on the budget, even when you’re not familiar with the currency exchange.

Another great app gives you total control over importing your finances onto your phone from an external memory device – your laptop, desktop, or anything with wireless. You can also set a password to manage your personal finances with utmost privacy. Charts and graphs give you short and easy to read summaries of your account activity. You can share these things in the form of PDF, Excel spreadsheet, or import to Google Documents in order to share with your family, business collegiate, execs, or co-workers.

If you are comfortable, some apps may even connect directly to your bank account and give you automatic categorized notifications of your spending. It will constantly update your spending profile and read instant in depth overviews. Any suspicious activity will be announced. Budget tracking is that easy!

In fact, budget tracking has made it easier to keep track of your credit scores, and credit score reports. Why not try to improve your credit score while you are managing your personal finances? If you use the right app, your personal finances will be in a much better place.

Grand Canyon Helicopters – South Rim Tours

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is home to the official National Park. It’s there that most of the images we associate with the canyon were taken. Understand, however, that it’s no small feat to see the best the park has to offer if you see it from the ground. That’s why helicopter tours are so popular. If you haven’t considered adding a flight to your itinerary, please reconsider, as it will redefine the way you come to know America’s greatest natural wonder.

The South Rim is located in northern Arizona near the Utah border. The majority of its visitors originate from such cities like Sedona, Flagstaff, Scottsdale and Phoenix. It’s also popular with Las Vegas travelers, who reach it by bus or airplane, the later of which is most preferred because the direct flight is just 45 minutes (versus 5.5 hours by motor coach).

There are a variety of helicopter tours available. The most popular are the ones that last 30 and 50 minutes. The shorter trip goes from the South Rim to the North Rim and back via the Dragoon Corridor, which is the deepest and most magnificent section of the gorge. The longer tour includes the same points of interest that the shorter one does as well as:

1. Imperial Point (the highest point in the National Park)
2. The Colorado Confluence
3. Desert Watchtower
4. Zuni Corridor
5. Painted Desert

Personally, I recommend taking the deluxe 50-minute tour. The canyon, which comprises a whopping 1 million acres of wilderness, is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and frankly I think you’re selling yourself short by opting for the shorter flight.

South Rim helicopter tours depart from Grand Canyon National Airport, which is the hub for all air tours in this region. Flights leave daily every day of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Regardless of when you go, I strongly recommend booking these tours at least a week in advance. This ensures you get the time and type of flight you want at a great price. By contrast, if you plan to purchase same-day seats or at the destination expect several things:

1. Pay more (usually retail)
2. Not get a prime-time flight (mornings)
3. Have your group separated
4. Fly on whatever aircraft is available

Another tip is to go with flights that use the EcoStar 130. This is the most sophisticated and modern helicopter flying the South Rim today. These “birds” feature up to twenty-five percent more cabin space, which allows the installation of stadium-style seating so everyone has a great view of the incredible scenery unfolding below. In addition, these helicopters have great A/C, a panorama windshield and an aerodynamic body that let’s them cut through the air like a knife.

New to the scene are a couple of landing tours. These trips include a 30-minute, rim-to-rim flight with either a sunset Jeep tour to the edge or a Harley Davidson motorcycle ride inside the Park. Naturally, these trips cost more and availability is limited but are well worth the extra effort and expense.

Speaking of finances, you should always shop the Internet for the best deals. My best tip is to purchase direct from the tour operator. It’s on their websites where you’ll find the best range of cheap prices. In my experience, I’ve been able to secure premium trips that have been discounted 35 percent! You can, too, but just remember to conclude your transaction on the Web so you get the special online price.