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How to freeze your credit to prevent fraud or identity theft

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:19pm  |  Clusterstock

A credit freeze prevents credit bureaus from sharing your credit report with any person or lender without your permission.

"If you've been the victim of a data breach or identity theft, a credit freeze is a good way to mitigate the risk of further damage to your finances and identity," says Greg Mahnken, credit industry analyst with Credit Card Insider. "If an identity thief or unauthorized person tries to apply for credit in your name, they will not be able to access your credit reports and the application will be denied."

A credit freeze doesn't damage your credit and you can lift it when you need a credit check, like when you're applying for a loan or opening a credit card. However, you do need to contact each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to place the freeze, and you must contact them again when you want to lift it, even temporarily.

Here are the steps you need to take to freeze your credit:

How to freeze your credit 1. Gather your information

You'll need to request the freeze from each of the major credit bureaus. It's important to note that they will not notify each other, so you'll need to freeze your credit from all three bureaus individually, says Mahnken.

For each of the bureaus, you'll need to provide personal information including your full legal name, Social Security number, date of birth, and home address.

2. Reach out all three credit bureaus

This can be accomplished online, by phone, or by mail. These three credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

How to do an Equifax credit freeze: You can easily freeze your credit with Equifax on its website, or via an automated phone line: 1-800-685-1111 (1-800-349-9960 for New York residents). If you'd rather talk to a human, its customer care number is 1-888-298-0045.

How to do an Experian credit freeze: To freeze your credit at Experian, you can visit its online Freeze Center. You can also call 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742).

How to do a TransUnion credit freeze: TransUnion allows you to place a credit freeze online. You can also add a freeze via the automated phone system (or opt to speak to a live agent) by calling 1-888-909-8872.

There is no cost for credit freezes by law as of September 2018.

"Freezing your credit is an effective, cost-free way to make it harder for thieves to open up credit cards or other financial accounts in your name," says Credit Karma's VP and financial advocate, Dana Marineau. "But keep in mind that it can be a hassle to remove a freeze from all three bureaus every time you need a credit check."

According to the Federal Trade Commission, after receiving your freeze request, each credit bureau will provide you with a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password private and in a safe place. It will be needed when and if you choose to lift the freeze.

3. Understand how to unfreeze it

A credit freeze can be lifted at any time online or by phone, and will remain in place until you ask the credit bureau to temporarily lift or remove it.

If you request a lift of the freeze, the credit bureau must lift it within one hour, according to the Federal Trade Commission. If you make your request by mail, the credit bureau must lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. There is no charge to lift the credit freeze.

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A titan of global investing just booted Facebook from its do-good index as a direct result of privacy concerns

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:13pm  |  Clusterstock

  • S&P Dow Jones Indices is removing Facebook from its S&P 500 ESG Index, which tracks companies that score well in its environmental, social, and corporate governance rankings.  
  • The index provider said it came to that decision after privacy concerns surrounding the company, "including a lack of transparency," led Facebook to fall short of its ESG standards.
  • The move underscores not only the pressure on Facebook amid a string of privacy scandals, but the rise of firms incorporating ESG metrics into their investment decisions. 
  • Track Facebook's stock price here in real-time.

S&P Dow Jones Indices is removing Facebook's stock from its S&P 500 ESG Index, which tracks companies that score well in its environmental, social, and corporate governance rankings, the global index provider said this week. 

The company said it dropped Facebook from the index amid a regular rebalancing on April 30, as privacy concerns had depressed its ESG score according to S&P DJI's standards. Other components including Wells Fargo, Oracle, and IBM were dropped, but Facebook was the largest name removed. 

"The specific issues resulting in these scores had to do with various privacy concerns, including a lack of transparency as to why Facebook collects and shares certain user information," Reid Steadman, S&P's global head of ESG, wrote in a release.

The social network has come under immense pressure for more than a year as various privacy issues have included access to more of users' personal data than it had disclosed, the misuse of personal information, and the hacking into millions of users' accounts.

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All of those issues created "uncertainty about Facebook's diligence regarding privacy protection, and the effectiveness of the company risk management processes and how the company enforces them," Steadman said, which led to the company's ESG performance lagging behind its peers. Facebook did not immediately respond to Markets Insider's request for comment.

S&P DJI's decision is symbolic of trends on Wall Street that extend beyond Facebook's idiosyncratic issues.

Read more: Facebook shares drop sharply after unearthed emails reportedly show Mark Zuckerberg is aware of 'problematic privacy practices'

The move highlights not only the mounting pressure on Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, particularly as regulatory scrutiny builds, but the rise of firms incorporating ESG metrics into their investment decisions. 

At the time of Facebook's removal, it scored a weak 21 out of 100 according to S&P DJI's ESG rating. Specifically, while its environmental score came in at a strong 82, its social and governance scores had fallen to 22 and 6, respectively.

For all of Facebook's scandals and the stock's volatility, Wall Street analysts are sanguine on the social network's future. Among those polled by Bloomberg, 45 carry "buy" ratings, six carry "hold" ratings, and two carry "sell" ratings. The average price target of $219.64 implies a rally of 24% from current levels. 

S&P DJI said that while the index's composition is rebalanced annually, so there is a chance the component could once again join, the company would have to push to fix various issues. 

"As Facebook's peers raise the bar in their ESG performance," Steadman wrote, "Facebook will need to do even more to rejoin the ranks of the S&P 500 ESG Index."

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

Trump and Xi are supposed to meet at the upcoming G20 summit. Here's why experts say the outcome will dictate the fate of the entire stock market.

Beware a 'Trump recession': JPMorgan unloads on the president's role in erasing a full year of market progress — and lays out a scenario that could save the day

Oil is surging after a suspected torpedo attack on 2 tankers in the Gulf of Oman

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Online tech publisher CNET is shutting down its print magazine after less than five years (CBS)

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:04pm  |  Clusterstock

The tech-news publisher CNET is shutting down its namesake magazine, Business Insider has learned.

The organization informed employees of the closure of CNET Magazine at a company meeting last month, current and former employees said.

CNET confirmed the closure in a statement emailed to Business Insider, saying it would no longer publish the magazine "on a regular basis." The last issue of the magazine was its summer issue, which CNET already sent out to subscribers.

"We are proud of all of the hard work that went into producing the publication for the last four years and thankful to everyone on the team for their contributions to the magazine and their ongoing contributions to CNET.com," the company said in the statement.

A company representative declined to offer a specific reason for the shutdown. No layoffs are expected as a result of it.

CNET, which is owned by CBS, launched the magazine in 2014. CNET published it quarterly.

The magazine was an unusual and eyebrow-raising effort by a digital-media company to move into the print-media market, which has been battered by declining readership over the past decade but still carries a certain prestige. The magazine featured celebrities like rapper LL Cool J and actress Sophia Vergara on its covers and included multipage feature stories on tech culture, product reviews, and gift guides.

It's unclear how wide of a following it had. When it launched, CNET promised advertisers a circulation of 200,000. But the Alliance for Audited Media didn't list CNET Magazine among the 364 publications whose circulation it tracked at the end of last year. Meanwhile, Magazines.com is running a promotion that allows people to sign up for a year's subscription to the magazine for $5, which is 79% off the cover price.

Got a tip about the tech industry? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: Here's why the failed attempt to break up Microsoft will make or break the crackdown on Facebook, Amazon, and Google, according to 2 top lawyers in the Microsoft case

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Chase has announced the Freedom credit card's Q3 bonus categories — including 5% cash back at gas stations

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 3:31pm  |  Clusterstock

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network if you apply for a credit card, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • The Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back — or 5x points — in different categories each quarter.
  • The categories for Q3 — July through September 2019 — have just been announced.
  • You can combine your cash back with the points earned from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, making it even more valuable.

Summer is pretty much here, with July just around the corner. That means that it's time to start thinking about your credit card's rotating quarterly bonus categories.

Chase issues two strong cash-back cards — the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited. Although they're both marketed as cash-back, they actually earn points that you can redeem for cash — or, if you have a premium Chase card, you can combine points from the two cards.

While the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are slightly different, they're both great options and both earn points quickly — I personally have both cards.

What's unique about the regular Freedom is that while it generally earns 1% cash back — or 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent, if you combine that "cash back" with the points you'll earn from a card like the Sapphire Reserve — it earns 5% (or 5x points) in a different bonus category each quarter.

Chase has announced that this year's Q3 bonus categories are:

  • Select streaming services (including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and more)
  • Gas stations

Any purchases that fall into those three categories will be eligible to earn 5% throughout July, August, and September. The category list may be a short one, but it's potentially lucrative — especially for those who drive a lot.

The bonus is capped at $1,500 of spend each quarter. After that, you'll still earn the normal 1% back. Keep in mind that in order to get the bonus, you need to activate your account each quarter. To do so, just log into your account or visit this site.

Chase usually announces Q4's categories in early-to-mid-September; activation starts on September 15.

If you don't have the card, this is a good opportunity to sign up. In addition to points you earn from spending, you'll get a sign-up bonus of $150 (or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points) when you spend $500 in the first three months.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

SEE ALSO: The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

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An astounding number of bankruptcies are being driven by student loan debt

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 3:30pm  |  Clusterstock

The student loan debt crisis in America continues to get uglier.

According to a new LendEDU study, 32% of consumers filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy carry student loan debt. Of that group, student loan debt comprised 49% of their total debt on average.

As of 2019, student loan debt is at an all-time high with a national total of $1.5 trillion. According to Student Loan Hero, the average student-loan debt per graduating student in 2018 who took out loans was a whopping $29,800.

The LendEDU data illuminates the dire effects of the growing burden of student loan debt. Coupled with a high cost of living and the fallout of the recession, student loans make it harder for millennials to save and put them financially behind — to the point where they may need to declare bankruptcy to be able to pay them off.

Digging into the data

To determine these findings, LendEDU analyzed 1,083 individual bankruptcy cases from Upsolve, a non-profit that helps low-income consumers file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy — liquidation bankruptcy for people with limited incomes who can't pay back all or a portion of their debt. The goal of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to discharge the debt.

Note that this does not include data for consumers who file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which involves a restructuring of debt — the consumer makes payments for three or five years, with the goal of getting the debt discharged at the end.

However, student loan debts are generally non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, attorney Simon Goldenberg of The Law Office of Simon Goldenberg, PLLC, told Business Insider. Those seeking to discharge their credit cards and other unsecured debts would free up their budget to pay student loans, he said.

So if the 32% of student loan debt-carrying consumers filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy through Upsolve get their debts discharged, they still need to repay nearly half of their debt, since it's comprised of student loans. 

Read more: College is more expensive than it's ever been, and the 5 reasons why suggest it's only going to get worse

Student loan debt has reached record levels

Student loan debt is one aspect of The Great American Affordability Crisis plaguing millennials.

College tuition has more than doubled since the 1980s, Business Insider previously reported. Consequently, millennials have taken on at least 300% more student debt than their parents, according to Michael Hobbes of HuffPost. Baby boomers had to work only 306 hours at minimum wage to pay off four years of college, he found, while millennials would have to work 4,459 hours.

More than half of indebted millennial respondents in an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey said attending college wasn't worth the student loans.

And some borrowers are even fleeing the US to keep from paying off their student loans, Business Insider's Allana Akhtar reported, citing a CNBC report.

SEE ALSO: Nearly half of indebted millennials say college wasn't worth it, and the reason why is obvious

DON'T MISS: 2019 is the final class of millennial college graduates. Next stop: The Great American Affordability Crisis.

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Markets Live: Thursday, 13th June 2019

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 6:09am  |  FT Alphaville

Live markets commentary from FT.com

Continue reading: Markets Live: Thursday, 13th June 2019

Target is doubling down on same-day shipping as Walmart and Amazon spar over one-day delivery (TGT)

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:01am  |  Clusterstock

Target is going all in on same-day delivery.

The company is now offering same-day delivery through its own website, Target.com. This isn't Target's first foray into the same-day fray; the retailer acquired same-day delivery service Shipt for $550 million in 2017. In January, Target expanded its Shipt service to include all major product categories.

As part of its latest push, Target shoppers will be able to order 65,000 items for same-day delivery from Target.com. In a presentation provided to Business Insider, Target said that one out of five of its same-day orders were placed by customers who'd never put in a digital Target order before. The retailer is already reporting repeat rates of nearly 80% for the service in the first quarter.

Target said in a statement that certain products could be delivered "in as soon as an hour." Same-day delivery will be accessible in 47 states and involve 1,500 of Target's stores. The service won't immediately be added to Target's app, but it will be added some time before the 2019 holiday season.

Read more: Target just unrolled its highly anticipated Vineyard Vines collaboration, but shoppers are complaining that the clothing has already sold-out

Target will continue to use Shipt to fulfill same-day orders, but shoppers won't necessarily have to fork over an annual membership fee — $49 a year through Target — for the service.

According to a release from Target, customers can either pay a delivery fee of $9.99 or test Shipt out for a free four-week trial. Shoppers will now also be able to put their Target REDcards to use, meaning they could snag rewards and get 5% off their orders.

Target's announcement comes about as retail rivals like Walmart and Amazon spar over next-day delivery. The Minneapolis-based retailer is instead focusing on its stable of pick-up and delivery options, including free order pick-up and drive-up services and free two-day shipping and restocking for customers with a REDcard.

"With same-day delivery now available directly within the Target.com experience, we've made it even easier for our guests to shop at Target — while still getting the great value, curated product assortment and helpful guest service they've come to expect," Target's digital SVP Dawn Block said in a statement.

Are you a Target employee with a story to share? Contact this reporter at acain@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: Target just boosted its minimum hourly wage to $13 in the latest salvo in the war for retail talent

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SEE ALSO: 8 celebrities who love to shop at Target

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A Wall Street firm pinpointed 8 corners of the market most vulnerable to trade war-induced chaos

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 11:42pm  |  Clusterstock

  • US stock indices may be trading just below record highs, but they've taken a hit over the past year as a direct result of the trade war between the US and China.
  • Under the surface, each segment of the equity market — particularly trade-sensitive industries like agriculture and aerospace — has reacted to trade-war developments in different ways.
  • Deutsche Bank equity strategists have pinpointed exchange-traded funds most vulnerable to trade rhetoric, based on their analysis of flows data, in a new guide for investors.
  • Visit Markets Insider's homepage for more stories.

On the surface, the stock market seems to have shrugged off headwinds introduced by the US-China trade war. The major US indices are within striking distance of their all-time highs, and just posted their best weeks of 2019.

But a new industry-level analysis shows investors have fled corners of the market tossed and turned by the trade dispute even as the broader markets have recovered.

Exchange-traded funds associated with trade tensions saw increased activity in May, a particularly brutal month for equities, according to a Deutsche Bank analysis of exchange-traded fund (ETF) flows over the last two years.

The firm created a guide detailing some of the large ETFs that have seen notable flows on trade war "angst" — and are likely to see further volatility this month amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing. 

Strategists Chin Okoro and Hallie Martin narrowed in on the eight stock markets or sectors they deemed most sensitive to trade rhetoric: the Chinese market, semiconductors, Mexican equities, agriculture, metals and mining, electronics, aerospace, and retail. 

"DB economists expect trade tension to escalate further in June, highlighting retaliatory actions by China in response to US measures against Huawei," the firm wrote. "Furthermore, any signs of placating ongoing tensions would likely materialize post G20 summit."

Markets Insider selected one ETF from each of the trade-sensitive industries Deutsche Bank laid out, and broke them down below. The ETFs are ranked from worst performing to best performing:

VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF

Ticker: BJK

This fund tracks: Stocks in the gaming, sports betting, and gaming technology industries

1-year performance: -26% 



SPDR S&P Retail ETF

Ticker: XRT

This fund tracks: Stocks in the retail space, including apparel and department store names

1-year performance: -17%



iShares China Large-Cap ETF

Ticker: FXI

This fund tracks: Chinese equities

1-year performance: -15% 



iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF

Ticker: SOXX

This fund tracks: Semiconductor stocks

1-year performance: -1.5% 



VanEck Vectors Agribusiness ETF

Ticker: MOO

This fund tracks: Stocks in the agricultural industry like agri-chemicals, fertilizer, and seeds

1-year performance: -0.2% 



iShares MSCI Mexico ETF

Ticker: EWW

This fund tracks: Mexican equities 

1-year performance: +1% 



VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF

Ticker: GDX

This fund tracks: Gold miner stocks

1-year performance: +2.5% 



SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF

Ticker: XAR

This fund tracks: US-listed aerospace and defense stocks

1-year performance: +10%  



SEE ALSO:

Trump's tariffs are inflicting pain and uncertainty across the market. Comments from very different American companies show how.



THE DATA BREACHES REPORT: The strategies companies are using to protect their customers, and themselves, in the age of massive breaches

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 11:02pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

Over the past five years, the world has seen a seemingly unending series of high-profile data breaches, defined as incidents in which unauthorized parties access and retrieve sensitive, secure, or private data.

Major incidents, like the 2013 Yahoo breach, which impacted all 3 million of the tech giant’s customers, and the more recent Equifax breach, which exposed the information of at least 143 million US adults, has kept this risk, and these threats, at the forefront for both businesses and consumers. And businesses have good reason to be concerned — of organizations breached, 22% lost customers, 29% lost revenue, and 23% lost business opportunities.

This threat isn’t going anywhere. Each of the past five years has seen, on average, 1,704 security incidents, impacting nearly 2 billion records. And hackers could be getting more efficient, using new technological tools to extract more data in fewer breach attempts. That’s making the security threat an industry-agnostic for any business holding sensitive data — at this point, virtually all companies — and therefore a necessity for firms to address proactively and prepare to react to.

The majority of breaches come from the outside, when a malicious actor is usually seeking access to records for financial gain, and tend to leverage malware or other software and hardware-related tools to access records. But they can come internally, as well as from accidents perpetrated by employees, like lost or stolen records or devices.

That means that firms need to have a broad-ranging plan in place, focusing on preventing breaches, detecting them quickly, and resolving and responding to them in the best possible way. That involves understanding protectable assets, ensuring compliance, and training employees, but also protecting data, investing in software to understand what normal and abnormal performance looks like, training employees, and building a response plan to mitigate as much damage as possible when the inevitable does occur.

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a detailed report on the data breach threat, who and what companies need to protect themselves from, and how they can most effectively do so from a technological and organizational perspective.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • The breach threat isn’t going anywhere. The number of overall breaches isn’t consistent — it soared from 2013 to 2016, but ticked down slightly last year — but hackers might be becoming better at obtaining more records with less work, which magnifies risk.
  • The majority of breaches come from the outside, and leverage software and hardware attacks, like malware, web app attacks, point-of-service (POS) intrusion, and card skimmers.
  • Firms need to build a strong front door to prevent as many breaches as possible, but they also need to develop institutional knowledge to detect a breach quickly, and plan for how to resolve and respond to it in order to limit damage — both financial and subjective — as effectively as possible.

In full, the report:

  • Explains the scope of the breach threat, by industry and year, and identifies the top attacks.
  • Identifies leading perpetrators and causes of breaches.
  • Addresses strategies to cope with the threat in three key areas: prevention, detection, and resolution and response.
  • Issues recommendations from both a technological and organizational perspective in each of these categories so that companies can avoid the fallout that a data breach can bring.
Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

Purchase & download the full report from our research store

 

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International money transfers hit $613 billion this year — here's what young, tech savvy users value most about them

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 10:03pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Current subscribers can read the report here.

Remittances, or cross-border peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers, hit a record high of $613 billion globally in 2017, following a two-year decline.  And the remittance industry will continue to grow, driven largely by digital services.

Several factors will fuel digital growth globally, such as increased smartphone penetration, greater demand for digital transactions, and an overall need for faster cross-border transfers. And with the shift to digital comes an audience of younger, digital-savvy customers using remittances — a segment that companies are looking to target.

As a result, the global remittance industry is becoming increasingly competitive for firms to navigate, with incumbents like Western Union and MoneyGram competing for the same pool of customers as digital upstarts like WorldRemit and Remitly. And in order to win, companies across the board will need to prioritize the four areas consumers value most in remittances: cost, convenience, speed, and safety.  

In The Digital Remittances Report, Business Insider Intelligence will identify what young, digitally savvy users value in remittances. We will also detail the concrete steps that legacy and digital providers can take to effectively capture this opportunity and monetize digital offerings — the primary growth driver — to emerge at or maintain their presence at the forefront of the space. 

The companies mentioned in the report are: MoneyGram, Remitly, Ria, Western Union, WorldRemit, TransferWise, and Xoom, among others.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • The global remittance industry recovered from a two-year decline in 2017 to reach a record $613 billion in transfer volume. That growth will continue and will be fueled by digital remittances, which Business Insider Intelligence expects to grow at a 23% CAGR from $225 billion in 2018 to $387 billion in 2023.
  • There’s a new segment of customers that both legacy and digital firms are competing to grab share of. Young, digital-savvy consumers are the customer segment that all firms are vying to reach, which is creating a highly competitive dynamic. The needs of those consumers will precipitate transformational change in the industry.
  • We’ve identified several tangible steps firms can take to improve in four key areas — cost, convenience, speed, and security — to not only attract but also maintain this customer segment to align with their preferences and ultimately win in the space.

 In full, the report:

  • Outlines the global remittance landscape and sizes the opportunity that the industry presents. 
  • Identifies the new audience for remittances and future drivers of the remittance space going forward. 
  • Discusses four key areas that providers can focus on — cost, convenience, speed, and security — to improve offerings and ultimately capture that shifting audience. 
To get this report, subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 275 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

Or, purchase & download The Digital Remittances Report directly from our research store

SEE ALSO: These were the biggest developments in the global fintech ecosystem over the last 12 months

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Rewards-related offerings are the leading driver of consumers' credit card choices — but they can be pricey for issuers

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 9:05pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

The average US consumer holds about three nonretail credit cards with a balance over $6,000, according to Experian. As confidence rises, spending is hitting prerecession levels. For banks, that should be a good thing, since credit cards are profitable. But the push to attract a particularly interested and engaged customer base through sign-up bonuses and lucrative rewards offerings has led banks into a rat race, with surging expenses and rising delinquencies that are hurting returns.

To make credit cards as valuable as they could be, and to bring returns back up, issuers need to direct their efforts not just toward becoming one of consumers’ three cards, but also toward becoming their favorite card. Rewards are more important than ever — three of the top four primary card determinants cited by respondents to a Business Insider Intelligence survey were rewards-related — so abandoning them isn’t effective.

Instead, issuers need to be more resourceful with their rewards offerings, focusing on areas that encourage habit formation, promote high-volume spending, and help to offset some of the rewards costs while building engagement and loyalty.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence sizes the US consumer credit card market, explains why return on assets (ROA) is on the decline, highlights the importance of rewards in attracting customers, and lays out three next-generation rewards strategies that are popular among certain demographics, which issuers can implement to return their card business to profitability. To drive this analysis, we conducted a survey centered on users’ card preferences to over 700 US members of our proprietary panel in May 2018.

Here are some key takeaways from the report: 

  • Competition driven by consumer card appetite in the US is hurting issuer returns. Consumer confidence and regulatory policy that favors credit cards should be a boon to issuers. But the competition has surged expenses to unattainable levels and increased delinquencies, which are causing returns to trend down.
  • Consumers still value rewards above all when it comes to cards. Two-thirds of respondents to our survey cited rewards-related offerings as the leading driver of primary card status, but they can be pricey for issuers.
  • Using resources strategically and offering rewards types that encourage high-volume spending and drive engagement through habit formation, like flexible offerings, rewards for e-commerce, and local bonuses, could be the path to success in the future.

In full, the report:

  • Identifies the factors that are causing high credit appetite to hurt issuer returns.
  • Explains the value of top-of-wallet status, and evaluates the factors that drive it based on proprietary consumer data.
  • Defines three popular next-generation rewards options that issuers can use to drive up spending and engagement without breaking the bank.
  • Issues recommendations about how to offer these rewards and what demographic groups could be most receptive to them.
Get The Consumer Cards Report

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Epic Games, the maker of 'Fortnite', acquired teen chat app Houseparty in a surprise deal

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 7:11pm  |  Clusterstock

  • "Fortnite" creator Epic Games acquired group video-chat platform Houseparty on Wednesday.
  • "We kept hearing that people were using Houseparty to talk to their real life friends while gaming together and one game came up over and over again: Fortnite," Houseparty CEO Sima Sistani Tweeted.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

"Fortnite" creator Epic Games announced its acquisition of Houseparty, a social networking app for group video-chats, on Wednesday. 

The price of the acquisition was not announced, but the unexpected deal immediately sparked speculation about what the maker of the most popular video game might do with the teen-focused chat app.

Officials from Epic Games and Houseparty stressed the social interaction aspects of each respective product. Fortnite has become a worldwide gaming phenomenon, allowing up to 100 people anywhere in the world to connect online and play in the same round. 

Still, company officials were mum on specific plans to integrate the two products' features. 

Houseparty has been installed by 35 million users via App Store and Google Play, with 40 percent of those users outside of the US, according to mobile data analyst Sensor Tower. Users spend an average of one hour on the app everyday, Houseparty measures. 

The joint press release focused on the shared vision for Epic Games and Houseparty to facilitate meaningful human connections through virtual means. 

"Joining Epic is a great step forward in achieving our mission of bringing empathy to online communication," Houseparty CEO Sima Sistani said in the press release. "We have a common vision to make human interaction easier and more enjoyable, and always with respect for user privacy."

In a Tweet on the day of the announcement, Sistani predicted that the next decade of social media will be characterized not by sharing, but by participation.

If the last decade of social media was about sharing, the next decade will be about participating. Today we’re announcing that @houseparty is joining @epicgames and I couldn’t be more excited!! https://t.co/yxAquantmD

— sima sistani (@SimaSistani) June 12, 2019

"Houseparty brings people together, creating positive social interactions in real time," Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in the press release.

Houseparty will not be collapsed into Epic Games. Users with both Houseparty and Epic Games accounts will not be able to combine their accounts, and Houseparty will remain available as a standalone platform.

A spokesperson for Epic Games declined to comment on what an integration of Houseparty and Epic Games may look like in the future. However, a Tweet from Sistani highlights how users have already used the platforms together:

We kept hearing that people were using Houseparty to talk to their real life friends while gaming together and one game came up over and over again: Fortnite.

— Sima Sistani (@SimaSistani) June 12, 2019

While Fortnite does have an in-game voice chat function, many players opt to use independent group chat programs to communicate with fellow gamers. The group chat networks, like Houseparty and Discord, have the added benefit of existing outside of the game as social media platforms; players can talk regardless of whether they're gaming, unlike in-game voice chats. Could Epic Games' acquisition of Houseparty mean incorporation of Houseparty's social, video chat technology into video games like Fortnite? 

Houseparty is no stranger to online gaming internally. Houseparty moved into the gaming space in January, when it began offering games for users to play with friends in-app. Its first game was Ellen DeGeneres' mobile charades game Heads Up!. The Verge characterized this move as Houseparty's "first effort to generate revenue." In April, Houseparty launched a trivia game, and in May, it introduced word-association game, Chips and Guac. 

The acquisition of Houseparty could yield a larger female demographic of Fortnite players, according to the The Wall Street Journal.

Epic Games made nearly $2.5 billion through "Fortnite" in 2018, and in January it acquired video graphic design firm 3Lateral, which specializes in hyper-realistic human CGI. It had amassed a total of 250 million registered players by March.

SEE ALSO: The creators of 'Fortnite' just bought the studio behind one of the most popular games on the planet

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Now that Google and Nintendo offer digital video games, GameStop could have the same fate as Blockbuster

Nearly three-quarters of bills will be paid digitally by 2022 — this is how banks can stay ahead of the trillion-dollar opportunity

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 7:01pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

Between housing costs, utilities, taxes, insurance, loans, and more, US adults paid an estimated $3.9 trillion in bills last year.

That market is growing slowly, but it’s changing fast — more than ever before, customers are moving away from paying bills via check or cash and toward paying online, either through their banks, the billers themselves, or using a third-party app.

Thanks to rising customer familiarity with digital payments, an increase in purchasing power among younger consumers more interested in digital bill pay, and a rise in digital payment options, nearly three-quarters of bills will be paid digitally by 2022, representing a big opportunity for players across the space.

In theory, banks should be in a great position to capitalize on this shift. Nearly all banks offer bill payment functionality, and it’s a popular feature. Issuers also boast an existing engaged digital user base, and make these payments secure. But that isn’t what’s happening — even as digital bill pay becomes more commonplace, banks are losing ground to billers and third-party players. And that’s not poised to change unless banks do, since issuer bill pay is least popular among the youngest customers, who will be the most important in the coming year.

For banks, then, that makes innovation important. Taking steps to grow bill pay’s share can be a tough sell for digital strategists and executives leading money movement at banks, and done wrong, it can be costly, since it often requires robust technological investments. But, if banks do it right, bill pay marks a strong opportunity to add and engage customers, and in turn, grow overall lifetime value while shrinking attrition.

Business Insider Intelligence has put together a detailed report that explains the US bill pay market, identifies the major inflection points for change and what’s driving it, and provides concrete strategies and recommendations for banks looking to improve their digital bill pay offerings.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • The bill pay market in the US, worth $3.9 trillion, is growing slowly. But digital bill payment volume is rising at a rapid clip — half of all bills are now digital, and that share will likely expand to over 75% by 2022. 
  • Customers find it easiest to pay their bills at their billers directly, either through one-off or recurring payments. Bank-based offerings are commonplace, but barebones, which means they fail to appeal to key demographics.
  • Issuers should work to reclaim bill payment share, since bill pay is an effective engagement tool that can increase customer stickiness, grow lifetime status, and boost primary bank status.  
  • Banks need to make their offerings as secure and convenient as biller direct, market bill pay across channels, and build bill pay into digital money management functionality.

In full, the report:

  • Sizes the US bill pay market, and estimates where it’s poised to go next.
  • Evaluates the impact that digital will have on bill pay in the US and who is poised to capitalize on that shift.
  • Identifies three key areas in which issuers can improve their bill pay offerings to gain share and explains why issuers are losing ground in these categories.
  • Issues recommendations and defines concrete steps that banks can take as a means of gaining share back and reaping the benefits of digital bill pay engagement.
Get The Bill Pay Report

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The Ford Ranger is an excellent midsize pickup truck — here are its best features (F)

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 6:10pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The 2019 Ford Ranger is the Blue Oval's return to the midsize-pickup-truck market in the US.
  • The segment is quite large. Folks who enjoy what pickups can do, such as hauling around mountain bikes and going on Home Depot runs, but don't want an F-150 or a Silverado in the driveway.
  • The 2019 Lariat SuperCrew four-wheel-drive Ranger I recently tested was nicely equipped and cost almost $45,000. But it was loaded with great features.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At Business Insider, we avidly anticipated the new Ford Ranger, which is actually a built-in-America version of a global pickup that Ford has been selling outside the US. The Blue Oval is already super-strong in full-size trucks — can you say "F-150"? — and back in the day, the Ranger was a popular starter pickup.

In 2019, the entire pickup-truck market is driving US sales, and the midsize offerings are much improved over the little pickups that used to cover this segment. They're really more like shrunken-down full-sizers, and where Chevy (as well as GMC, with the Canyon) and Ford are concerned, the idea is to offer a solid hauler that's simply more compact than a big boy.

We've sampled pretty much everything the market has to offer on this front, so a key question was, "What does Ford bring to the party with the new Ranger?"

The answer is a great truck, with some great features.

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In May, I checked out the impressive 2019 Lariat SuperCrew four-wheel-drive Ranger, nicely equipped and stickering at almost $45,000. The base-price pickup is a little more than $24,000. I couldn't find much to complain about. And I found lots to like.

Read the review »



1. The Ranger's design. The styling of this midsize truck isn't wild or radical. But it is solid, and my tester looked sharp in "Lightning Blue."

2. The "Ranger" call-out across the liftgate. This is a cool thing, as well as a throwback to day when pickups proudly announced themselves to whomever might be in the rearview mirror.

3. The versatile, lined short-box and bed. The SuperCrew configuration that I tested sported a 5-foot bed, but the Ranger can be had with a two-door cab and a 6-foot bed. I used the Ranger for both a run to Costco and to transport some furniture about 120 miles.

4. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is a turbocharged power plant that cranks out 275 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is 7,500 pounds — enough to tow just about anything owners of the Ranger would want to.

5. Superb ground clearance. With hefty off-road tires, the Ranger is prepared to leave the pavement.

6. Serious four-wheel-drive. The Ranger boasts a solid 4x4 system — FX4 — with a locking differential. The package adds another grand or so to the price.

7. A no-nonsense, easy-to-care for interior. The Ranger's cabin is comfortable and well-appointed, but far from fussy.

8. The smooth-shifting 10-speed transmission. Combined with the turbocharged engine, this powertrain yields 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 combined.

9. Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system. In the Ranger, it runs on an 8-inch touchscreen. Sync 3 is one of the best in the industry. It provides superb navigation, easy Bluetooth connectivity, and AUX and USB device-connection options.

Sync 3 also offers a suite of apps and has both CarPlay and Android Auto available. And the 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system in my test truck is a terrific extra. It sounds too good for a truck this small!



10. The old-school parking brake!

What a truck!

In my review, I wrote that "Ranger is a winner."

I added, "It's going to compare favorably with the Chevy Colorado and provide a much nicer package than the Toyota Tacoma (although the Tacoma is noted for its toughness, so the new Ranger should require some time to distinguish itself on that front)."

The Ranger has been available outside the US for a while, but with its return to our shores, Ford made sure to outfit the pickup with a nice range of appealing features.



This is how insurance is changing for gig workers and freelancers

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 6:02pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

The gig economy is becoming a core element of the labor market, pushed to the fore by platforms like Uber and Airbnb. Gig economy workers are freelancers, such as journalists who don’t work for one publication directly, freelance developers, drivers on platforms like Uber and Grab, and consumers who rent out their apartments via Airbnb or other home-sharing sites.

Gig economy workers are not employed by these platforms, and therefore typically don't receive conventional employee perks, such as insurance or retirement options. This has created a lucrative opportunity to provide tailored insurance policies for the gig economy. 

A number of insurtech startups — including UK-based Dinghy, which focuses on liability insurance, and US-based Slice, which provides on-demand insurance for a range of areas — have moved to capitalize on this new segment of the labor market. These companies have been busy finding new ways to personalize insurance products by incorporating emerging technologies, including AI and chatbots, to target the gig economy.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence examines how insurtechs have begun addressing the gig economy, the kinds of policies they are offering, and how incumbents can tap the market themselves. We have opted to focus on three areas of insurance particularly relevant to the gig economy: vehicle insurance, home insurance, and equipment and liability insurance.

While every consumer needs health insurance, there are already a number of insurtechs and incumbent insurers that offer policies for individuals. However, when it comes to insuring work equipment or other utilities for freelancers, it's much more difficult to find suitable coverage. As such, this is the gap in the market where we see the most opportunity to deploy new products.

The companies mentioned in this report are: Airbnb, Deliveroo, Dinghy, Grab, Progressive, Slice, Uber, Urban Jungle, and Zego.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • By 2027, the majority of the US workforce will work as freelancers, per Upwork and Freelancer Union, though not all of these workers will take part in the gig economy full time.
  • By personalizing policies for gig economy workers, insurtechs have been able to tap this opportunity early. 
  • A number of other insurtechs, including Slice and UK-based Zego, offer temporary vehicle insurance, which users can switch on and off, depending on when they are working.
  • Slice has also developed a new insurance model that combines traditional home insurance with business coverage for temporary use.
  • Other freelancers like photojournalists need insurance for their camera, for example, a coverage area that Dinghy has tackled.
  • Incumbent insurers have a huge opportunity to leverage their reach and well-known brands to pull in the gig economy and secure a share of this growing segment — and partnering with startups might be the best approach.

 In full, the report:

  • Details what the gig economy landscape looks like in different markets.
  • Explains how different insurtechs are tackling the gig economy with new personalized policies.
  • Highlights possible pain points for incumbents when trying to enter this market.
  • Discusses how incumbents can get a piece of the pie by partnering with startups.
Get the insurtech and the gig economy

 

SEE ALSO: These were the biggest developments in the global fintech ecosystem over the last 12 months

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Merrill Lynch's 'thundering herd' of advisers are winning over troves of new millionaires, and the growth is coming from a surprising place

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 5:44pm  |  Clusterstock

      • Bank of America Merrill Lynch's wealth management group has seen explosive client growth in the last year and a half. 
      • Such growth had been tough to come by in recent years as the industry reckoned with a generational shift to passive investing. 
      • Surprisingly, Merrill veterans with more than 30 years of experience were responsible for a significant share of the growth, matching the output of younger advisers who are far less established.
      • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

The wealth management division at Bank of America Merrill Lynch had an explosive year in 2018, and 2019 is off to a torrid pace as well, adding thousands of new millionaire clients. And it's getting help from a surprising group among their "thundering herd" of nearly 18,000 financial advisers. 

At a financial conference Wednesday, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management president Andy Sieg said his division's net new households grew by more than four-fold in 2018, a pace that has further accelerated in 2019.

While the company is spending billions upgrading technology and crafting customer friendly features, Sieg attributed much of the growth to a change within the thundering herd itself.

Surprisingly, veteran Merrill advisers were responsible for a significant share of the growth, matching the output of scrappy millennial advisers who are far less established.

"Interestingly, in 2018, the biggest increases we saw in terms of new client acquisition were financial advisers who have been with Merrill 30 years or more," Sieg said. "They are now acquiring clients at the same pace as financial advisers who have been with us 5 years or 10 years in the business."

Merrill added 29,000 net new households last year, up from 7,000 added in 2017. It's on pace for 47,000 this year.

The growth is primarily coming among the sought-after millionaire client set. The average new Merrill Lynch household has $1.4 million in assets, and the firm holds a 20% market share among clients with more than $10 million in assets — tops among competitors for ultra-high-net-worth clients, according to Sieg. 

"The core of this organic growth strategy has really been to try to get the Merrill thundering herd on the move again in terms of driving client acquisition. And we've had some remarkable success from that perspective," Sieg said.

Client growth helped boost profits in the bank's global money management group to $4 billion in 2018, up 33% from 2018, on revenues of $19.5 billion.

Outside of poaching star brokers from rivals, such growth had been tough to come by in recent years as the industry reckoned with a generational shift to passive investing. 

Aside from industry pressures, Sieg acknowledged his firm had "grown bureaucratized in many ways" and had erected internal barriers that stymied growth. 

In part, the bank is crediting the successful turnaround to technology, as banks are increasingly doing

Bank of America spends $10 billion on tech annually, $3 billion of which is earmarked for developing new products.

Sieg said his division is a major beneficiary of that tech budget, and that's helped streamline the lives of financial advisers handling all those new clients. For instance, quarterly client wealth reviews have been trimmed to less than 10 minutes from 40 minutes thanks to automation tools, and faxes and other paper documents are disappearing in favor of digital files. 

"In ways big and small, we're using technology to make the day of our financial adviser" more efficient, Sieg said. 

But Sieg said Merrill's financial advisers deserved much of the credit.

The strategy that helped kick advisers into recruiting overdrive — even old-school advisers — isn't too complicated: money. 

For 2018, Merrill Lynch changed its compensation plan to incentivize growth, rewarding advisers for adding wealthy clients and new assets and penalizing advisers who didn't. 

Financial advisers are paid primarily via percentage of the commissions and fees they produce on a sliding scale from roughly 35% to 50% — the more revenue you generate for the firm the larger the cut of the profits. Brokers that exceeded client and asset growth targets could collect an additional 2% of their production, while those that failed hit minimum hurdles could lose 2%. 

Sieg said the change was controversial, but he felt it was a necessity to jump-start moribund client growth in an industry watching trillions in wealth flood into index- and exchange-traded funds provided by giants like Vanguard and BlackRock as well as upstart robo-advisers like Betterment. 

"If you're an individual financial adviser and you're looking at your own practice and business, projecting it forward 5 or 10 years, there is steady pricing compression that's happening in the marketplace, obviously," Sieg said. "We were reminding financial advisers, if you're not setting out to double your asset base over a 5- or 6- or 7-year period of time, you're not going to like what your business looks like personally in the medium and longer term."

The results have been stark: A few years back, the average financial adviser was adding less than one net new household per year, and this year they're averaging more than four, Sieg said. 

There's plenty of room for more growth, too. Among the so-called "mass affluent" households with $250,000 to $1 million in assets, there are 6.6 million that do business with Bank of America but don't invest with Merrill.

"So that is an ideal target for us in terms of driving next legs of growth for the business," Sieg said. 

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: WATCH: The legendary economist who predicted the housing crisis says the US will win the trade war

Amazon just got hit with a lawsuit that claims it's putting children's privacy at risk by recording what they say to Alexa

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 5:40pm  |  Clusterstock

Amazon's Alexa smart home devices have sparked a new lawsuit that alleges the company recorded audio from millions of children without first getting proper consent from their parents. According to the Seattle Times, a new lawsuit filed in the city's federal court accuses Amazon of violating privacy laws in eight different states that require all parties to consent to a voice recording, regardless of age.

Alexa-powered devices regularly record audio when activated with a wake word, which is "Alexa" by default. Earlier this year Bloomberg found that Amazon employees listen to these recordings and occasionally annotate an "extremely small sample" of them for training purposes. Bloomberg reported that members of the Amazon team that listens to these recordings can listen to as many as 1,000 clips during a nine-hour shift.

The lawsuit claims that Alexa records people regardless of whether they purchased the device or signed up to use the Alexa app, and doesn't warn unregistered users that they're being recorded. The suit goes on to allege that Amazon is violating laws in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington by not obtaining explicit consent.

Read more: There's a simple way to make sure Amazon workers can't listen to what you say to Alexa — here's how to do it

While consent is required regardless of age in these states, the lawsuit is specifically concerned with protecting minors. The lawsuit claims that Amazon is using the data to glean the habits and personal information of children and "has strong commercial incentives to collect as many Alexa recordings as possible."

If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the lawsuit wants Amazon to delete all recordings of underage users and prevent future recordings unless the user grants consent. Additional damages would be considered by the court during the trial. 

Alexa owners can manage how Amazon reviews their data via the Alexa app, but you need to opt-out of the "help develop new features" option. Following the Bloomberg report, Amazon introduced a new feature to have Alexa delete all of your voice recordings, but you have to opt in to activate the deletion command and it will only delete your recordings from the current calendar day. The company also launched a new Alexa privacy hub to make it easier to delete your past recordings and manage your smart device settings.

SEE ALSO: There's a simple way to make sure Amazon workers can't listen to what you say to Alexa — here's how to do it

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NOW WATCH: We tried a fermentation-tracking device and highly recommend it to find out which foods are making you bloated

Lululemon's profits and sales top Wall Street's expectations — again (LULU)

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 4:44pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Lululemon shares jumped late Wednesday after the retailer reported better-than-expected first-quarter results.
  • Profits and revenue topped analysts' expectations, though guidance came in lower than expected.
  • Shares have risen 40% this year, handily outperforming the broader market.
  • Watch Lululemon trade live.

Lululemon reported a second-straight quarter that impressed investors, sending shares higher by 3% late Wednesday.

The athleisure retailer's first-quarter profits and sales topped analysts' expectations, while its full-year earnings-per-share guidance came in lighter than was forecast. The strong headline numbers followed last quarter's blowout results that sent the stock soaring back in March. 

"Lululemon continues to see strong momentum across the entire business," Calvin McDonald, the company's chief executive officer, said in the statement. 

The quarterly results highlight Lululemon shares' breakneck rally in recent years as the market has bet on investors embracing athletic apparel, as well as the company's push beyond its core women's athleisure offerings. The stock has soared 230% over the past two years, handily outperforming the broader market's 19% gain during that time.

Here's what Lululemon reported ,compared with what analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting: 

  • Revenue: $782.3 million ($756 million expected)
  • Adjusted earnings per share: $0.74 ($0.70 expected) 
  • Full-year EPS guidance: $4.51 to $4.58 (the company originally expected $4.48 to $4.55)

Wall Street expects profits and sales to rise over the next three quarters, according to Bloomberg estimates, with analysts broadly positive on the retailer. Of those polled by Bloomberg, 21 recommend "buy," 13 recommend "hold," and one says "sell." The average analyst's price target of $184.77 implies a rally of 8% from current levels.

While investors are likely to focus on near-term trends, Lululemon is well-positioned for the long-term, Credit Suisse analysts wrote Wednesday. The firm is encouraged by Lululemon's efforts in menswear, its international expansion, and the loyalty program it debuted late last year.

John Morris, an analyst at D.A. Davidson, lifted his earnings-per-share estimates last month as a result of his positive outlook for Lulu's merchandising margins. He holds a "neutral" rating on the stock. 

"Given the strength of average pricing remaining higher on both total average price and markdown average price, expecting gross margin to exceed consensus, although this is likely factored into the stock," Morris wrote.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

No one on Wall Street is saying to buy Beyond Meat

Tesla is slumping after Elon Musk addressed the problem Wall Street is obsessing over

A full-blown recession and double-digit stock losses: Morgan Stanley just unveiled its revised bear case for the trade war — and it's not pretty

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: WATCH: The legendary economist who predicted the housing crisis says the US will win the trade war

4 credit cards that get you free or discounted access to Delta Sky Club airport lounges

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 4:36pm  |  Clusterstock

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network if you apply for a credit card, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

One of the benefits of Delta's two mainstream credit cards — the Gold Delta SkyMiles and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles cards from American Express — is the ability to purchase discounted access to Delta's Sky Club airport lounges.

Until recently, anyone could purchase one-time access to Sky Clubs for $59 at any lounge's front desk. However, these day passes were eliminated in mid-November 2018.

Fortunately, single-visit passes are still available for Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles cardholders. If you have one of those cards, you can buy access to the Sky Club for just $29 — about half the price of what used to be available to anyone flying Delta.

Those discounted lounge passes are great for travelers who occasionally fly Delta, or would only use the lounge access a few times each year — for instance, in case of delays, long connections, or a tendency to arrive for flights a bit early.

If you can see yourself using the Sky Club more often, you should instead consider Delta's premium card — the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express — which gives the cardholder complimentary access to Sky Clubs whenever they're flying Delta. That helps offset the card's $450 annual fee.

The Delta Reserve card comes with a few other perks, including a domestic first class companion pass, and higher upgrade priority for Delta Medallion members.

An alternative, if you're looking for the widest lounge access you can get from a credit card, the best option is the (not Delta-branded) Platinum Card® from American Express. In addition to Sky Club access whenever flying Delta, that card offers access to Priority Pass lounges, AmEx's own Centurion and International Lounges, and more. That's a network of over 1,200 lounges around the world.

The AmEx Platinum has a high $550 annual fee, but it's easy to get more value than that — in my first year with the card, I got over $2,000 in value. Right now, the card offers 60,000 AmEx Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Click here to learn more about the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from Business Insider's partner: The Points Guy. Click here to learn more about the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card from Business Insider's partner: The Points Guy. Click here to learn more about the Delta Reserve card from Business Insider's partner: The Points Guy. Click here to learn more about the AmEx Platinum card from Business Insider's partner: The Points Guy.

SEE ALSO: 9 lucrative credit-card deals new cardholders can get this month — including up to 75,000 Delta SkyMiles

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AmEx has announced its latest Centurion Lounge, making the Platinum Card even more useful for cardholders

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 4:30pm  |  Clusterstock

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network if you apply for a credit card, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

American Express Platinum cardholders have another new airport lounge to look forward to.

AmEx has announced its newest Centurion Lounge will be opening at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the sixth new location announced in the past two years.

Currently scheduled to open in 2020, the Phoenix Centurion Lounge joins lounges currently under construction in New York's JFK airport, Los Angeles, Denver, Charlotte, and London Heathrow.

The Phoenix lounge will be located in Terminal 4, which serves major airlines including American Airlines and Southwest.

In addition, AmEx is working with MAG USA, an airport experience company, to open a third-party Escape Lounge.

While Centurion Lounges are exclusive to AmEx Platinum cardholders, customers with the small-business version of the card (the Business Platinum® Card from American Express), and the invite-only Centurion Card members, the Escape Lounges can also be accessed by anyone who purchases a day pass for $45 (or $40 in advance).

According to American Express, both lounges will offer complimentary food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, seating areas, Wi-Fi, showers, and more. Since cardholders have access to both, they can choose either space, depending on which has more space.

The Phoenix location is the first new Centurion Lounge to be announced in 2019, and represents a continued push to offer demonstrable value as competition among rewards credit cards remains high.

Including Phoenix, six new locations are slated to open between this year and 2020 — the others are in New York-JFKDenver International AirportLos Angeles International Airport, Charlotte Douglas Airport, and London Heathrow. AmEx currently operates eight Centurion Lounges in US airports, and one in Hong Kong.

In addition to the Centurion Lounges, American Express operates 11 "International American Express Lounges" at foreign airports, including in Mumbai, Delhi, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sydney, and, most recently announced, Melbourne. International lounges tend to to vary depending on the market, while Centurion Lounges are designed to offer a relatively consistent experience, according to a representative for AmEx.

Aside from the American Express-branded lounges, AmEx Platinum cardholders can access Delta Sky Club lounges at 33 airports when flying with Delta, and more than 1,200 additional lounges through the Priority Pass network.

Click here to learn about the AmEx Platinum Card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy

SEE ALSO: The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

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