Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express: What are they really?

Many years ago, before I came to America, I was studying for the IELTS test. The IELTS is a test of English language skills that students coming from countries where English is not the official language have to go through if they want to study in an English-speaking country. For the listening portion of the test, exam-takers listen to an English conversation to answer questions related to the conversation. The conversation topics are sometimes specific to the country that administers the exam: either the UK or Australia.

One of the questions from the listening portion left me really confused at the time, so confused that I still remember it today. Actually the question was easy to answer; it was the content of the question that was not understandable to me. The conversation occurs in a store where the guest is asking whether the store accepts Discover or American Express, to which the waitress responds that they only accept Visa or Mastercard. I had never heard of these names before, and would not until years later when I actually set foot on a country where credit card use is the norm. My reaction at the time was something like: What? What’s American Express? A newspaper? OK, Mastercard is probably a card, but what about Visa? Is it the same sort of thing as a tourist visa?  Continue reading Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express: What are they really?

AT&T “family” plan: an economical choice

As of today, I have been on an AT&T family plan for 4-and-a-half years. And just to be clear, none of my family members is on my plan. My plan consists of myself and 4 friends, who are not the same friends with whom I started my plan in the fall of 2008. To date, I have been extremely pleased with my family plan, and have saved my friends as well as myself thousands of dollars through maintaining it. When we started the plan back in 2008, we were college students, so the extra savings really helped. Continue reading AT&T “family” plan: an economical choice

Why bonds may not be safe

If you have been following financial news, you may realize what the most prominent story on bonds has been since the financial crisis of 2008: historically low interest long-term Treasury bond yields. You may also know that this was caused by investors unwilling to take risk with stock investments and feeling more comfortable putting their money in bonds, which are a lot safer. Common knowledge states that bonds are basically a guaranteed returns investment vehicle. Continue reading Why bonds may not be safe

Secured credit card graduation

One and a half year after I graduated from Colgate University following a commencement where I sang the school’s traditional song with 3 friends in front of 7,000 people, I had yet another milestone graduation. For those of you that start your credit journey with a secured credit card, when your credit card gets converted to a non-secured card, your card is said to graduate. That’s what happened to my card. Continue reading Secured credit card graduation