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      Consumers set spending record for the holidays

      Purchases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 rose 4.9 percent

      MasterCard SpendingPulse reports consumer spending during the holiday shopping period rose 4.9 percent over last year’s numbers, posting the largest increase since 2011.

      “Overall, this year was a big win for retail," said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of Market Insights at Mastercard. "The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”

      Spending on electronics and appliances led the way, growing 7.5 percent. Furniture, furnishings and home improvement products also showed strong growth.

      Amazon reports this holiday season was its best ever. In just one week, it says more than four million consumers signed up for a Prime trial membership, taking advantage of free faster shipping.

      Big year for Alexa

      Riding the season’s wave of popularity, Amazon electronic devices did particularly well, with Alexa-enabled items selling in the tens of millions. The company says the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

      “Thank you to the millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of Amazon employees all around the world who made this holiday better than ever before," Jeff Wilke, Amazon's CEO Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement.

      The MasterCard SpendingPulse survey shows brick and mortar retailers had a solid season, but their gains were moderate compared to online giants like Amazon. 

      Shopping was strong all across the season, from November 1 through December 24. December 23 was the second-largest day for total spending, after Black Friday.

      The survey measured spending across all payment types–not just credit card–but it's safe to assume that the bulk of U.S. consumers’ purchases went on plastic, where they will either be paid off in January or added to mounting credit card balances.

      Dealing with a credit card hangover

      Adding any credit card debt that you won't be able to pay in full during your credit card's grace period can get expensive fast," John Ganotis, founder of CreditCardInsider.com told ConsumerAffairs.

      That's because the average credit card interest rate is now over 16 percent APR, with many cards coming in with even higher rates.

      "If you have balances you can't pay in full, a balance transfer could reduce your interest costs," Ganotis said. "But don't make the mistake of transferring a balance then accumulating more debt on the card you transferred away from."

      Ganotis says the Chase Slate is a good balance transfer card because it doesn't have balance transfer fees on balance transfers made in the first 60 days of opening the card.

      MasterCard SpendingPulse reports consumer spending during the holiday shopping period rose 4.9 percent over last year’s numbers, posting the largest increa...
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      Model year 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport vehicles

      The side curtain airbags may not deploy properly

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 1,201 model year 2018 Santa Fe Sport vehicles.

      The side curtain airbags on these vehicles have a component that may detach during deployment of the inflatable curtain air bag.

      If the component detaches during deployment, the curtain air bag may not inflate properly during a crash, increasing the risk of injury. Additionally, if the detached component were to enter the vehicle occupant compartment, there could be an increased risk of occupant injury.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver and passenger side curtain air bags, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin February 9, 2018.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-671-3059. Hyundai's number for this recall is 171.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 1,201 model year 2018 Santa Fe Sport vehicles.The side curtain airbags on these vehicles have a component that may d...
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      More consumers prepare for 2018 with New Year's resolutions

      One expert reveals tips for how to achieve your goals

      A recent poll revealed that more than a quarter of Americans (29 percent) plan to make New Year’s resolutions for the year ahead -- a slight increase from 2016.

      Researchers from Saint Leo University found that traditional New Year’s resolutions held steady, with top responses being: lose weight (55 percent), save more money (56 percent), travel more (29 percent); and spend more time with family (26 percent).

      A small number of respondents (4.4 percent) said they want to spend less time with family in 2018 -- up from last year’s response of 0.4 percent. Vacationing more and finding a new job also ranked in the top five resolutions with 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

      “On the whole, the top resolutions found on the poll all reflect a desire toward self/life improvement with saving money and more time with family also being big winners,” Dr. Christopher Wolfe, associate professor of psychology at Saint Leo University, told ConsumerAffairs.

      Age differences

      The poll also revealed a few demographic differences when it came to New Year’s resolutions. Millennials were more likely to make resolutions that would help them improve their life and health in the coming year compared to Gen Xers.

      Almost half of millennial respondents (49 percent) plan to make resolutions, while only 31 percent of those in the 36 to 55 age group will do so; just 16 percent of those in the 56+ age demographic said they will make New Year’s resolutions.

      Positive change

      While younger consumers may be more likely than their older counterparts to make resolutions, the reason for creating New Year’s resolutions tends to be the same across all age groups.

      People make resolutions in an effort to create positive change in their life, Wolfe says. Resolutions “can act as a sign post, a benchmark, or even a line in the sand; from a static point, this change can begin,” he said.

      “We are often so wrapped up in our day-to-day routine that the thought of change can be daunting,” he added. “But as one year gives way to the next, we take the opportunity to set out a goal and try to embrace a desired change in ourselves.”

      Tips for keeping resolutions

      To improve your likelihood of sticking to resolutions, it’s important to try to see them as a beginning point -- “not an ultimatum or a race,” says Wolfe.

      Setting small goals and embracing the fact that you may occasionally fail at keeping them can make sticking to resolutions seem less daunting.

      “As our bad habits took time to set in, these new patterns of change will also take time to take hold and for real results be seen,” Wolfe said. Embracing this mindset towards resolutions can help ensure you don’t abandon your goals at the first sign of a setback.

      Wolfe recommends focusing on small victories that support your resolution to help you stay motivated. It can also be helpful to take note of obstacles that you experience along the way..

      “Look for triggers that may distract you from keeping your resolution and consider writing them down. Keep a small notebook of these triggers and add to it as you experience them,” he said. “The acts of writing them down and carrying the reminder may help to curb these triggers over time.”

      A recent poll revealed that more than a quarter of Americans (29 percent) plan to make New Year’s resolutions for the year ahead -- a slight increase from...
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