Money Minute: Fairer Rules for Online Airfare Purchases

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Here's a novel idea: getting an apples to apples comparison when trying to make airline reservations.

The Transportation Department is proposing new rules that would allow us to see the total cost, including all fees and taxes, before we click the "buy ticket" button. This would apply to airline websites as well as third-party travel sites, such as Orbitz (OWW) and Kayak. Add-on fees for things that used to be free are one of the leading complaints of fliers. The airlines industry is opposed to the proposal, saying it will add to their costs.

Computer users are constantly advised to change and secure passwords. The latest warning comes from eBay (EBAY) after a cyberattack on its servers. But a new report says many popular websites don't take security password protection as seriously as we do. Dashlane checked 80 leading sites and gave more than half failing grades. The worst on the list were, Hulu and (OSTK). Apple (AAPL) had the highest score.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Where there's smoke, there's fire. The tobacco company Lorillard is reportedly near an agreement to sell itself to Reynolds American (RAI). Lorillard (LO) owns Newport, the top-selling menthol brand, as well as blu, the leader in the fast-growing market for battery-powered e-cigarettes.

Here on Wall Street on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rallied 158 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 15, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 34 points.

A $2 billion bill for your dinner. That's how much European consumer products company Unilever (UN) received for selling the rights to the Ragu and Bertolli brands in North America to a Japanese firm. Ragu is the best-selling pasta sauce in the U.S. Last year, Unilever sold two other well-known brands: Skippy peanut butter and Wishbone salad dressing.

Finally, yogurt and other healthier options have been steadily eating away at the dominance of cold cereals for breakfast. So Kellogg (K) is jumping aboard the trend. It's teaming up with Dannon's YoCrunch brand to offer yogurt varieties with Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops mixed in. What's interesting about this deal is that Dannon is owned by Kellogg's chief rival, General Mills (GIS).

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

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Money Minute: Fairer Rules for Online Airfare Purchases
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.
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