Term Life Insurance Presents Options for Family, Individual

Today’s economy has many people wondering about the future of their loved ones. Rightfully so; if they were to pass, not only would their family members have to deal with the emotional turmoil of their deaths, but they would also have to contend to funeral costs, financial debts, mortgage payments, and their own financial priorities.

Now there is even more reason to worry about their families; the recession continues to churn, and no one really knows if the worst has past or just begun. Unemployment has risen beyond 8.5 percent with no signs of decreasing in the near future. Many households are finding their incomes dwindle amidst rising costs. Compared to past years, more people are struggling to make ends meet. If the prime income holder was to pass away suddenly, and he or she had no life insurance, their loved ones could be financially devastated in the aftermath.

InsuranceAgents.com points out that now more than ever people should consider the benefits of life insurance. Term life insurance is a life insurance policy that insures almost anyone for a certain amount of time of your life. It is the less expensive option compared to other life insurance types, making it extremely easy to afford for anyone. There are some drawbacks to term life insurance, but its benefits at this time period outweigh the negatives.

InsuranceAgents.com suggests that anyone looking for life insurance quotes should search online. The sooner they get the best coverage and rate, the better off their families will be financially.

For more information, visit InsuranceAgents.com.

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LV= Reveals UK Adults Set To Spend £178 Million Less On Weddings This Year

Research by home and travel insurer LV= reveals that cash strapped wedding guests are planning to reduce their spending on weddings this year, adding up to a total of £178 million less than before the recession kicked in. On average, men plan to spend £62 on wedding gifts compared to women, who plan to spend £40.

LV= research reveals that 11.1 million (23%) UK adults will attend a wedding this year. However, the impact of the economic climate has resulted in 2.7 million (25%) of those attending saying they cannot afford to spend as much going to the wedding and buying gifts as they would have otherwise. A further 24% said the bride and groom are not expecting them to spend as much because of the recession, with the average reduction in spend per person being £37.

Of the Brits set to attend weddings this year, 61% said that the recession has affected their attitude towards going. Nearly a third (31%) said they would be less willing to attend a wedding abroad this year if asked while 19% would be less willing to travel long distances in the UK due to the cost implications. A further 19% said they would avoid attending a wedding unless they were close to the people involved.

The research also reveals that the trend for weddings abroad is becoming increasingly popular. 2.8 million adults have attended a wedding abroad over the last 18 months and 1.4 million plan to do so over the remainder of this year. One of the most common reasons cited for attending weddings abroad is that the bride and groom are trying to keep costs down in the current recession.

John O’Roarke, Managing Director of LV= home and travel insurance, commented: “Weddings are clearly an expensive affair, but not just for the bride and groom. Despite the recession this research shows that the average couple will spend over £300 per wedding they attend. People planning on attending or holding their own wedding, both in the UK or overseas, should have travel insurance in place so that if they do have to change their plans at the last minute they won’t be out of pocket.

“In addition, much of this spend will be on wedding gifts so anyone planning their own wedding should check their home insurance policy to ensure it includes an automatic increase in home contents insurance to cover wedding gifts. The LV= home contents insurance policy automatically increases the sum insured by 10%.

“Finally, gifts such as cash will not be covered on most home insurance policies, so the bride and groom should make arrangements for any large amount of cash to be deposited somewhere safe rather than left in the house whilst they are on honeymoon.”

  • Opinium Research carried out a survey of 2,141 people between 16 and 20 Jane 2009. All population figures based on ONS statistics: 48,315,000 UK adults.

About LV=
LV= offers home, car, pet, travel and home insurance direct to consumers online and from its offices in Bournemouth, Croydon and Bristol.

LV= employs more than 3,800 people, serves more than 3.5 million customers and members, and manages around £7bn on their behalf. We are also the UK’s largest friendly society (Association of Friendly Societies Yearbook 2006/2007, total net assets) and a leading mutual financial services provider.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and entered on the Financial Services Authority Register No. 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, AMI, AFS and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.

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Styles Checks Released The New “Grease” Product Suite

With hundreds of assorted designs for every collector, Styles Checks continues to expand and incorporate more designs to appeal to the many tastes of its consumers. With the addition of the new “Grease” design, Styles Checks gets a sassy addition to its current collection of check designs.

In June, 2009, Styles Checks released the new “Grease” product suite through its website, www.styleschecks.com. The personal checks offer four rotating scenes that feature some of the Pink Ladies individually and then one of them as a group. Against backgrounds of pink and yellow, each rotation features a quote typical of the Pink Ladies. “Eat your heart out” appears with Rizzo, “Beauty school drop-out” is written below a pink-haired Frenchie, “Too pure to be pink” is portrayed with Sandy, and the group shot features the words, “Love us or hate us.” The personal contact cards also feature the group picture of the Pink Ladies while the self-adhesive address labels feature six rotating scenes of the above quotes plus the Pink Ladies and Grease logos. Finally, the checkbook cover is black with pink accents that include the Grease car logo.

The addition of the new “Grease” design allows Styles Checks to appeal to the preferences and collections of even more customers. Styles Checks offers designs for checks and banking accessories that speak to the interests of every collector, hobbyist, or enthusiast.

About Styles Checks:
Whatever interest, hobby, or collection you may have, Styles Checks is sure to have something for you. Including checks that feature our favorite personalities, colorful designs, and famous brands, Styles Checks is certain to have something you can fall in love with! Visit our site to make your daily banking routine a little more interesting!

TM & © 2009 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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IVAs: Help Avoiding Repossession

Responding to the latest figures from the CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders), debt management company Gregory Pennington has stressed the role which debt solutions addressing unsecured debt can play in helping people avoid repossession.


Released on May 15th, the CML’s figures show that 12,800 repossessions were carried out by first-charge mortgage lenders in the first quarter of 2009. “Compared with many predictions, these figures are relatively low,” said a spokesperson for Gregory Pennington. “Indeed, the CML itself has used the word ‘pessimistic’ in reference to its own estimate of 75,000 repossessions throughout 2009, and has recently revised this figure downwards to 65,000.

“It’s good to see lenders and borrowers working together to keep the figure as low as possible, but it’s important not to become complacent. There were still around 23% more repossessions in Q1 2009 than in the previous quarter – and 50% more than we saw in Q1 last year.

“Looking ahead, the repossession figures for the rest of 2009 are by no means set in stone. They depend not just on the state of the economy and the forbearance shown by secured lenders, but on the attitude of borrowers and unsecured lenders alike.

“In this recession, many people are suffering multiple ‘shocks’ at the same time. With 2.2 million unemployed and many others dealing with reduced wages, homeowners are also facing the issue of falling equity. While there’s no direct link between low (or negative) equity and repossession, this is limiting many homeowners’ ability to access ways of dealing with their debt – from debt consolidation loans and remortgaging to downsizing to a smaller property.

“It all underlines the importance of finding a solution that addresses a borrower’s priority and non-priority commitments at the same time. A founder member of DEMSA (the Debt Managers Standards Association), Gregory Pennington has 15 years’ experience of dealing with lenders of all kinds.

“Secured and unsecured lenders alike clearly have a thorough understanding of the problems consumers face today. They understand the link between secured and unsecured debt problems.

“Secured lenders know that many of today’s borrowers are facing complex financial problems, trying to deal with unsecured debts as well as secured.

“Unsecured lenders, in general, appreciate that a homeowner’s secured debts must take priority – and that repossession is unlikely to improve the borrower’s chances of repaying their unsecured debt.

“This is one reason unsecured lenders will often agree to the terms of an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement).”

A solution that’s designed to address the concerns of everyone involved, an IVA can help unsecured lenders recover as much of their money as realistically possible, and can help borrowers avoid the need to focus on their mortgage / rent at the expense of their unsecured debts. Insolvency Practitioners (IPs) achieve this by calculating how much the individual can realistically afford to repay per month after they’ve taken their mortgage / rent payments and other essential expenses into account.

“Even so, we always emphasise that entering an IVA is a serious step, and is by no means suitable for everyone facing debt problems. Depending on their situation, different homeowners may be better advised to consider alternative solutions to their debt problems.”

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Debt Management Could Help With Unmanageable Credit Card Debt

Responding to a new report suggesting that there are more than 200,000 ‘secret credit cards’ in the UK – cards that are kept hidden from the holder’s partner – financial solutions company Think Money has advised consumers that while credit cards can be a useful means of funding purchases, borrowers should be careful to ensure that they can make their repayments in order to avoid debt problems in the future.


Research from Halifax Credit Cards showed that people in the UK hide an estimated 217,000 credit cards from their partners. Reasons for doing this included buying items the card holder did not want their partners to know about, hiding existing debt from partners, or simply having emergency funds available.

According to credit card trade association APACS, there are 30.2 million credit card holders in the UK. Total credit card spending in 2008 was £126.2 billion.

Melanie Taylor, Head of Corporate Relations for Think Money, said that while there is nothing specifically wrong with having a ‘secret’ credit card, card holders should ensure they are hiding it for the right reasons – and not in order to hide problem debts.

“It boils down to the same principle as having any credit card. Credit cards can be a very useful source of additional finances, as well as a ‘safety net’ against any unexpected costs. Used correctly, credit cards should not cause the consumer any problems.

“However, it’s when the borrower starts delaying their repayments – paying only the minimum – that the problems can start.

“The trouble with credit card debt is that the interest is a lot higher than on many other forms of credit. If the borrower does not repay the full credit card balance at the end of the month, then the interest that accumulates on the remaining balance may be a lot higher than a lower-interest alternative, such as an authorised overdraft.

“Over time, the interest can begin to ‘snowball’, and it can become increasingly difficult to repay the remaining balance. It may not be long before the debt becomes unmanageable – which is why it’s important to get debt advice at the first sign of difficulty.”

Mrs Taylor added that the relatively low minimum repayment on credit cards means that some people can take a long time to clear the debt.

“Unlike personal loans, which carry fixed regular repayment terms, credit cards only require a minimum repayment each month. This makes it very easy to delay repaying the full balance, which is how problems start for many borrowers.

“In general, we advise people to avoid making large purchases on credit cards unless they can be absolutely sure that they can afford to repay the debt in the near future.”

Mrs Taylor said that anyone who does find themselves struggling to repay their credit card debt should not hesitate to seek professional debt advice.

“Because the interest will only continue to grow, finding the right debt solution is vital for anyone who can no longer afford to repay their credit card debt.

“One such debt solution is a debt management plan, which is an informal arrangement with the lender that can allow the borrower to repay their debt at a more manageable pace. It is often also possible to negotiate a freeze or reduction in interest, which could be especially helpful for repaying credit card debt.

“However, borrowers should always consider all options available to them. A professional debt adviser can recommend the best debt solution for the borrower’s individual circumstances.”

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Prudential Reveals That Advisers Pin RDR Hopes Online

Prudential has released research demonstrating the need for providers to constantly adapt their services to help advisers in both the online and offline environment, with more than half of the advisers surveyed (58%) ranking better quality or more online information and service options as the most important element of the product provider/distributor relationship surrounding preparations for Retail Distribution Review (RDR).

While improving online servicing is seen as a must do by advisers, they also believe that solid account management relationships must go hand-in-hand with technology. This sentiment was highlighted by 40% of advisers citing more or better dialogue with an account manager as the next most important service element surrounding their preparations for RDR. With a combination of expert face-to-face and telephone account management teams readily available to guide advisers through obtaining and completing sales, this is a service Prudential is already supports.

Ian McKenna, Director of the Finance and Technology Research Centre (FTRC) said: “RDR will make it essential for advisers to focus on the cost of doing business in ways they have never needed to previously. It is not giving the advice that takes excessive time but the preparation. Collating information manually is hugely time consuming, electronic services can deliver in seconds what might otherwise take hours. Historically the cost of those hours has been subsidised by commission, when it is the client potentially paying for the time racking up hours in this way will no longer be acceptable. Automated delivery of information to advisers will be a hygiene factor in a Post RDR environment.”

57% of advisers claimed that their volume of client enquiries regarding retirement planning remains unchanged. This is encouraging news in the current economic climate, proving that it is vital for providers to arm advisers with all the necessary tools to deal with their continuous day-to-day business.

Jon Cross, Head of eBusiness at Prudential said: “Our research shows that advisers are becoming increasingly dependent on online services to help guide them through the changes that RDR will bring. Prudential works very closely with advisers to develop its online services, we constantly review our content and navigational functionality, and will of course continue to evolve our systems to help advisers as they change their business models ready for RDR. We are committed to providing a high level of service to advisers to ensure that they spend as little time on administration as possible. Taking their business online frees up time that would have traditionally been spent processing paperwork.”

The benefits of online servicing are clear for advisers, allowing easy access to brochures, illustrations and valuations outside normal office hours. Prudential’s adviser website houses a wealth of useful material including product guides, support literature, real-time valuations and market analysis from industry experts. Advisers can also find a variety of interactive tools covering pension planning, drawing an income and annuitisation. The ‘Support for you’ section provides advisers with updates and news regarding regulatory issues such as TCF and RDR. Also under this section advisers can hear what Prudential experts have to say as they explore various opportunities and considerations advisers face in helping their clients save for and provide an income in their retirement.

Prudential surveyed 123 independent financial advisers during April 2008.

About Prudential:
“Prudential” is a trading name of The Prudential Assurance Company Limited, which is registered in England and Wales. This name is also used by other companies within the Prudential Group, which between them provide a range of financial products including life assurance, annuity products – including retirement annuity, pensions, savings and investment products. Registered Office at Laurence Pountney Hill, London EC4R 0HH. Registered number 15454. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

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Battle Against Mortality Fraud Intensifies

In order to offer their customers increased protection against impersonation of the deceased (IOD) fraud, Tracesmart have considerably increased the coverage of mortality data they hold. The consumer data specialists have now incorporated the General Register Office (GRO) death indexes for England and Wales from 1980-1983 into their Tracesmart Corporate suite of services; this being only the beginning of their comprehensive death index digitisation project.

The GRO has collated registers of important civil events, such as births, deaths and marriages, since 1837, but it was not until 1984 that they began to digitise records. All registrations prior to 1984 are held on microfiche. In 2005 the GRO initiated the ‘Digitisation of Vital Events’ (DOVE) project to digitise the birth, death and marriage indexes, but unfortunately following major delays the project was put on hold, with only birth records up to 1934 and death records up to 1957 having been digitised; it is not known when the project will recommence.

Death index data is a pivotal tool in the fight against IOD fraud. With a lack of historical death data available electronically and having acquired microfiches holding all deaths registered in England and Wales covering 1960 – 1983, Tracesmart embarked on a comprehensive death index digitisation project. Utilising an offshore service provider, the company are ensuring 99.95% accuracy on all records digitised through a strict quality control procedure and, when completed in 2010, the project will yield approximately 14,500,000 death records in a digital format.

Tracesmart have completed the initial stage of this project and the 1980 – 1983 death indexes (some 2,500,000 records) have already been integrated into their mortality database. These additions make it both the most comprehensive and extensive commercially available mortality database in the UK.

Whilst the 1980 – 1983 death indexes will be essential for conducting comprehensive identity checks and data cleansing exercises, they will also play a significant role when financial institutions wish to trace people as part of an asset reunification program. From their considerable experience in tracing dormant account holders, Tracesmart know that many of the missing individuals will transpire to have died prior to 1984. Whereas to identify such events previously involved labour intensive research, it can now be done at the click of a button.

Commenting on how the new death records and their ongoing digitisation project will help their customers Mike Trezise, Managing Director of Tracesmart, noted,

“Following on from the integration of death registration information into our anti-fraud services last year, we are continuing to enhance our mortality database. From a service standpoint this data means we can improve and enhance much of our portfolio, especially our identity verification and mortality screening services. This, in turn, allows our clients to better defend against mortality related fraud, protecting both the company and consumer alike.”

About Tracesmart

Tracesmart Limited was formed in 1999 and supplies a diverse range of consumer data cleansing, identity check and people tracing tools to a wide variety of industries. The company’s client base ranges from SME to Blue Chip, who are all recipients of bespoke solutions, built around their specific needs.

Mike Trezise is the founder and Managing Director of Tracesmart. With over 25 years tracing and fraud analysis experience his unrivalled knowledge provides the company with a distinct competitive advantage.

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Barclaycard Retailer Rewards Scheme Takes A Step Forward

Barclaycard, a leading payment provider in the UK, has announced that it has taken a step forward with its plan to introduce a retailer rewards scheme by signing an agreement with Welcome Real-time to provide the scheme’s IT infrastructure.

Welcome Real-time will work with Barclaycard to develop the software that will enable Barclaycard customers to benefit from a retailer rewards scheme that is expected to encompass retailers ranging from sole traders to major high street names.

Dan Salmons, Director of Payment Innovations at Barclaycard said: “Barclaycard is committed to making life easier for its customers, both consumers and retailers and this scheme will enable up to ten million of our card holders to be rewarded when using their Barclaycard to purchase goods and services with retailers participating in the scheme.”

“Barclaycard has close to 90,000 retailer relationships, many of which we expect to participate in the programme, and we believe this scheme will change the way people shop in the UK. That is why we are partnering with a world leading loyalty solutions provider to ensure that we develop a simple hassle free rewards scheme that will truly benefit our customers.”

Welcome Real-time is the global loyalty solutions provider for banks and retailers of all sizes and is headquartered in France.

Francois Dutray, CEO of Welcome Real-time, said of the announcement: “We are delighted to be working with Barclaycard in the UK to develop a rewards scheme that will make a huge impact on the British High Street. It is a great opportunity to develop a scheme with the potential for millions of customers and many retailers in the UK, whether large or small.”

Barclaycard will make further announcements about the development of the rewards scheme in the coming months.

About Barclaycard
Barclaycard, part of Barclays Global and Retail Commercial Banking division, is a leading global payment business which helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and accept payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit when needed. The company is one of the pioneers of new forms of payments and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless credit card and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting edge forms of payment for the future. It also issues business credit cards and charge cards to corporate customers and the UK Government. Barclaycard partners with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit. In addition to the UK, Barclaycard operates in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle and Far East.

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The More Ways You Protect Your Home, The More Willing Insurance Companies Are To Offer Discounts


Did you know that summer is the most popular time of the year for home burglaries in the US? During the summer months there is a burglary every 10 seconds since so many people are on vacation, away from their homes, and the weather is nice.

An alarm system is one of the best ways of making sure your home is properly protected. However, many people don’t realize that having a home alarm system means homeowners insurance savings.

According to a recent article published by InsuranceAgents.com, “For an insurance company, low risk is the name of the game. They like policyholders who have considered home safety and security and have taken necessary steps to thwart intruders …” This means investing in an alarm system and taking other precautions like installing dead-bolt locks and shatterproof windows can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in insurance premiums each year.

To many people the idea of installing an alarm system can sound too expensive, but when compared against the 5-20% savings per year on homeowners insurance quotes, the costs suddenly seem much more affordable. Even a simple alarm system can still save you 5% a year or more with most homeowners insurance companies. Also, adding a deadbolt to all entry doors in your home can qualify you for a discount of 5% at many companies.

The InsuranceAgents.com article explains that the more you can show the homeowners insurance company that you are protecting your house against break-ins the more they are willing to discount your policy. With the economy still struggling and people looking to save every penny they can, this is the perfect time to review your homeowners insurance policy and find out how you can start to save more money by taking advantage of available discounts.

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Free Customer Logo Checks With US Banking Security Backer Regulation Compliance

Carousel Checks, an online provider of personal, business, computer, laser and bank checks worldwide, announced today that it has released a line of free business customer check designs incorporating a company’s logo. The checks also include the Security Backer feature, which makes the checks nearly impossible to photocopy or otherwise reproduce for fraudulent purposes.

Carousel Checks, an online provider of personal, business, computer, laser and bank checks worldwide, announced today that it has released a line of free business customer check designs incorporating a company’s logo. The checks also include the Security Backer feature, which makes the checks nearly impossible to photocopy or otherwise reproduce for fraudulent purposes.

The checks are in full compliance with U.S. banking laws, said Carousel Checks president, Andy Crim.

“Corporate fraud is at an all time high,” Crim said. “Companies suffer from ID theft, too. These checks not only certify who wrote them with the use of a corporate logo, but they also provide extra security by being virtually impossible to reproduce or forge.”

Crim went on to say that Carousel Checks incorporates four security features on every check it prints. These features exceed industry guidelines as an extra assurance to customers that their security is assured.

The four features are:
1. Padlock Icon: This icon insures the issuer of the checks that security enhancements are being used in accordance with Financial Stationers Association guidelines.

2. MP Signature Line: The MP icon assures the issuer that micro-security print is being used in the design. Micro-security print is very small print that is designed to “break up” if photocopied. In other words, the print will be very broken and jagged on the fraudulent check.

3. Rear Panel: The reverse side of the check provides full descriptions of the security features.

4. Finally, Carousel Checks protects all online purchases of checks and other transactions with the highest levels of security.

“We realize that people and businesses can be a bit apprehensive about providing their financial information on line,” Crim said. “However, these days you have to do it if you’re going to be in business.” Carousel Checks has been awarded the highest level of security certification by GeoTrust and ControlScanTM, two leading providers of PCI compliance and security solutions.

Printing business checks that meet government and industry qualifications is nothing new for Crim. His parents founded Carousel Checks over 40 years ago as a check designer and printer for businesses and banks. Even then, security was a primary concern, even though the opportunity for fraud was much smaller.

As technology progressed, and the banking industry began to get more diverse, Carousel Checks moved into the personal – and personalized – check printing business. This included customizing business checks with company logos and other identifying marks.

Crim said that any assurance of security during an internet purchase can often turn a reluctant visitor to the site into a repeat customer.

“The trust badges we receive from different security companies serve a real purpose on our site,” Crim said. “They’re the visual affirmation of security certification. Customers know that they can order their online checks safely. They know that when they share the financial information needed for their checks that their information will not be stolen or otherwise compromised. We take great pride in that. “

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Vietnam Wall Commemorative Checks By Premier Online Check Company Carousel

Nearly 35 years after the final American helicopter flew out of Vietnam, the memory of more than 50,000 American men and women who lost their lives in the conflict is preserved forever in the black marble walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Since it was first unveiled in 1982, it has become as recognizable as any other monument in Washington, D.C. and a place of healing for countless veterans of the war and their families.


Carousel Checks, an online provider of personal, business, computer, laser and bank checks worldwide, recently announced the release of “The Wall,” a stirring photograph adorning the company’s newest addition to its American Pride line of commemorative checks.

The design on the checks respectfully depicts a portion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with a proud U.S. Marine saluting in the foreground. Names of many of the fallen can be clearly read in the design.

“The wall is such a stark reminder of the selflessness that our fighting men and women exemplify,” Andy Crim, president of Carousel Checks, said. “We received many requests from veterans and their families for a Vietnam-themed design. We chose this one because it is both heartening and solemn.”

The Vietnam Wall design joins a growing number of Americana-based check designs for the 40-year-old Carousel Checks Company. Other patriotic photos available in the American Pride line of custom checks include Mt. Rushmore, The Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, the POW-MIA logo and several attractive “Old Glory” patterns.

“American history and Americana in general is very popular on personal checks,” Crim said. “These checks have always among our most popular designs. “ Crim added that he had no doubt that the Vietnam Wall check design would become quite popular.

“Obviously, veterans of the Vietnam War identify with it,” Crim said. “But so do the families and survivors of the men and women whose names are on the wall.” Crim added that Carousel Checks has already received many “thank you’s” from people who have ordered the online checks at the company’s site, carouselchecks.com.

“They’re truly moved by the design,” Crim said. “People tell me that the checks instill a feeling of pride every time they open their check books.”

Carousel Checks was founded over 40 years ago by Crim’s parents as a regular check printing company for banks around the country. When the internet made custom printing of checks a reality for many consumers, Carousel was one of the first companies to pursue the consumer end of the checks business.

Currently, CarouselChecks offers scores of check designs in a variety of categories, from Americana and sports to religion, education, sports, wildlife and seasonal designs.

Crim said that the Wall check design is available in a variety of package sizes. Retail prices range for $10 to $80, based on the quantity of checks ordered. The entire CarouselChecks product line is available online at Carouselchecks.com.

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Carousel Checks Online Security Reaches Highest Level of Security in the Nation

Carousel Checks, an online provider of personal, business, computer, laser and bank checks worldwide, announced today that it had been awarded the nation’s highest online security certification by GeoTrust®, the world’s second largest digital certificate provider.

The certification confirms that all customers of Carousel Checks may perform worry-free, secure online transactions and conduct business over the internet in complete security and confidence.

Andy Crim, Carousel Checks president, said that the GeoTrust certification provides Carousel Checks customers with the highest security when placing or checking an order online.

“With check and computer fraud on the rise, you can’t be too careful with your financial information when you’re on line…,” Crim said. “The GeoTrust Certification will help to reassure any apprehensive customers that ordering checks online is safe, sensible and secure.”

Carousel Checks, founded over 40 years ago by Crim’s parents, started business as a check printing company for banks around the country. When the internet made custom printing of checks for consumers a reality, Carousel was one of the first companies to pursue the consumer end of the checks printing business.

Crim said that customers return to order more checks from CarouselChecks.com because the company provides three important elements: security, speed and cost. “When people order checks, they’re probably a day or two away from running out of them,” Crim said. “So we specialize in being able to turn around check orders quickly, affordably and with the utmost of security. That’s where the GeoTrust certification is a real benefit. When customers see the GeoTrust logo on our site, they can be reassured that their transactions are safe.”

Carousel Checks prints all of their check orders on laser printing machines. These machines provide fast, accurate printing, with minimal time lost on printing errors other common hazards of standard printing. The GeoTrust announcement comes at the same time that Carousel Checks announced that it had received “Verified Secure” certification from ControlScanTM, GeoTrust’s parent company, based in Atlanta.

Crim stressed the importance of his company being certified by both ControlScan and GeoTrust. “These double security certifications are vital necessities for secure sites,” Crim said. When people order checks from Carousel Checks, we want them to have a good time browsing through our designs and ordering in confidence. The last thing we want is for them to worry about their online security.”

Crim added that visual “trust badges” signifying secure certification on the Carousel Checks.com website actually encourages many reluctant customers to buy. “People who want to have that extra assurance are often swayed by the security badges on our site,” Crim said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have received these certifications.”

CarouselChecks.com offers scores of unique check designs for business, personal checks, and online checks. Designs range from nature paintings and national landmarks to artwork, Americana and wildlife. Carousel also provides a wide variety of business and payroll computer checks. Among the most popular checks are Photo Checks, which allow the account owner to put their own photo on their checks. “This virtually eliminates the possibility of anyone passing a bad check,” Crim said.

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Rate Tarts Are In A Jam As 2 Million Balance Transfer Applications Are Rejected

The latest credit card market analysis from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, reveals that almost 2 million consumers have been rejected for balance transfer deals in the last year. This represents 57% of all credit card rejections, forcing these consumers to fork out £535 million in interest payments in the next 12 months as they are unable to switch to a new provider. In total, £3.5 billion of credit card debt is now stuck on interest bearing credit cards as consumers cannot switch to their next 0% deal.

Across all types of credit card, more than one in ten consumers, totalling 3.32 million, has had an application declined in the past twelve months. This is a clear sign that providers are still acting on the air of caution and only lending to those with a squeaky clean credit record. This is a huge problem in the credit card market, particularly for rate tarts. In 2008, consumers carried out an average of 650,000 balance transfers every month. For many people, the 0% party really is over as they have reached a dead end.

Alongside a drop in acceptance levels, the number of balance transfer deals available is also a problem for consumers. There are now 178 balance transfer credit cards, representing 74% of all credit cards compared to 204 this time last year. The biggest casualty of this has been the 10 month deals which have fallen by 83% to just 1 deal.

With just one provider, Virgin, offering a 16 month 0% balance transfer deal, consumers are pushed towards the more popular six month balance transfer deals which represent a third of the market (33%). However, with the average balance transfer fee currently at 2.9% consumers will have to pay £54.09 on the average balance of £1,846. Unless consumers are planning to pay the credit card balance during the six month offer period, this could be a costly way to move money around.

Louise Bond, personal finance expert at uSwitch, comments: “We can’t ignore the fact that the country is in economic turmoil – a situation which has been catalysed by bad consumer credit. The knock on effect for credit card customers is that those with a less than perfect credit history could find themselves being turned down for the next best 0% deal, forcing them to pay interest. This is a huge problem for switchers as these people have accumulated debt based on the fact they do not have to pay interest on it.

“The knock on effect of rejected credit applications is that it will appear on your credit report and, in the long term, have a negative impact on your score. With this in mind, it’s important to check your report before applying for products to make sure you stand a good chance of being accepted – constantly reapplying to different suppliers will make the situation worse. If you can’t get another credit card, think about using a 0% overdraft, an unsecured personal loan or, if there are no other options and debt is getting out of control, speak to your provider or seek professional advice.”

Bond’s credit card tips:

• Check your credit report before making any applications for credit.

• If you are rejected for your next credit card, do not any further applications until you have checked your credit record. Failed applications for credit will have a negative impact on your credit score.

• You must also close down any credit card accounts you are not using. The available balance on these accounts will be taken into consideration when you are applying for a new card.

• Missed credit card payments also impact your credit score, the best way to avoid this is to set up a monthly direct debit for the minimum payment.

• If you are not planning to pay the balance off in full during the 0% balance transfer period you should consider life of balance cards. This will provide one low rate of interest for the entire time the balance is on the card.

• Depending on which issuer your balance transfer card is managed by, you may not be allowed to switch your balance to another card within the same group. By using uSwitch.com’s balance transfer tool, you will only be allowed to apply for cards that are available at you.

About uSwitch:
uSwitch.com is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas, electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products and car insurance.

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Business Checks With New Symbols And Custom Logos By Check Crafters

Check Crafters has always provided a wide selection of products for business owners. Among Check Crafters’ offerings are laser checks, manual checks, deposit products, mailing labels, and even various accessory products including customizable logo teddy bears. To further enhance consumers’ abilities to promote their businesses, Check Crafters is providing the opportunity to personalize business checks for individual careers and companies. The company has expanded its selection of stock symbols for checks to over 200 profession-specific selections. Now, Check Crafters enables business owners to order checks with their custom company logo printed on them.

Recently, Check Crafters began offering an increased number of stock symbols. The symbol list has grown to include categories like automotive, education, professions, sports, and much more. While Check Crafters has always given customers the option of a symbol, this new custom logo option adds an extra personal touch to business checks for any company. According to personal preference, the logos can be printed in black and white or up to three colors. This new option can be added to all available draft checks and most laser or ink-jet check formats. To place a business check order that includes a custom logo, consumers can call a Check Crafters customer service agent to place the order and then e-mail their desired logos. Once a sample has been created, the consumer is contacted for final approval.

The addition of these new options to the Check Crafters site increases the personalization abilities for business checks. Check Crafters knows that a logo or symbol is memorable to consumers and wants to benefit all vendors by allowing them to personalize their business checks. For more information and price quotes f r o m Check Crafters visit www.checkcrafters.com today!

About Check Crafters:
Since its creation in 1995, Check Crafters has grown to include standard and exclusive professions and photo upload business checks and accessories for businesses and organizations. Check Crafters understands the importance of professionalism and uniqueness when it comes to running a business. With this concept in mind, Check Crafters is committed to bringing the most modern and useful checks, accessories, and promotional products to business owners everywhere at our low, direct to the consumer prices. Visit the site today to find something for your everyday business needs!

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The Children’s Mutual Reveals Dads Are Kid’s Number One Heroes

Leading Child Trust Fund (CTF) provider, The Children’s Mutual, has revealed that Dads are their children’s number one heroes, fighting off stiff competition from super heroes, fairy tale princesses, alien fighters, cartoon explorers and world footballer of the year, Ronaldo. This new research from The Children’s Mutual has been released to mark Father’s Day.

The company spoke to 1,000 of its customers to find out who their children most admired and see how aspirations change over time. For five and six-year-olds, Dad topped the poll for both girls and boys. Mums also fared well, being runner up in the hero stakes for girls and finishing fifth for boys – well ahead of Superman and Batman.

Both Grandma and Granddad also feature in the children’s top 10 hero list, with Grandma finishing 10th for girls and Granddad securing ninth spot for the boys, demonstrating the importance of the extended family for today’s young children.

Tony Anderson, Marketing Director at The Children’s Mutual, said: “Being a great dad can feel like a superhuman challenge and it’s wonderful that today’s five and six-year-olds can see past the special effects and costumes frequently found in children’s popular fiction to appreciate their own home grown hero – Dad”.

“Every dad wants to do the best they can for their children and one small part of this is planning for their futures – particularly if they are not going to automatically come into a Bruce Wayne sized inheritance. This is where we hope we can help. By saving money regularly into a Child Trust Fund, families can give their children a financial head start in life – by saving £24 a month into their CTF account from birth, the fund could be worth £9,700 by the time they turn 18. This increases to a potential £37,000 if the maximum £100 a month is invested – an enormous help towards covering university fees or paying for the deposit on a first home.”

For further information visit The Children’s Mutual.

The findings come from The Children’s Mutual’s annual ‘What I want to Be When I Grow Up’ research. Parents of 1,000 children aged five and six were interviewed in 2006 and 2007 to track how their aspirations change over time.

Future projected values quoted based on investing £24 or £100 a month (plus £250 government vouchers at birth and age 7) for 18 years in a stakeholder CTF account. Assumed investment return of 7% a year, with charges of 1.5% of the CTF account value each year. Projected values cannot be guaranteed as shares can go up or down. Final payout could be more or less than this.

About The Children’s Mutual – Home of the Child Trust Fund
The Children’s Mutual’s mission is to help family and friends fulfil their hopes for today’s children. The Children’s Mutual is now the choice of 1 in 4 parents for their child’s Child Trust Fund, looking after more than 650,000 CTF accounts. The Children’s Mutual made a significant contribution to the Government’s Child Trust Fund consultation process and has won the The Moneyfacts Award for Best Child Trust Fund Provider every year since its 2006 launch.

The Children’s Mutual is widely recognised by the business community and press as the industry expert, with financial institutions and family-focused high street retailers including ASDA, Boots, The Co operative, Lloyds TSB, Mothercare and regional bank and building societies across the UK choosing The Children’s Mutual’s as their CTF partner.

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90% of Consumers Choosing Fixed Rate Mortgages

A number of factors have contributed to this. Firstly, it’s widely recognised that we are at or near the bottom of the interest rate cycle. Base rate could only fall by another 0.5% at most and in the May meeting of the Bank of England, base rate was held for the second month in a row. Consumers are looking to secure a fixed rate deal whilst rates are at their lowest. Best Buy Mortgages are available under 3% fixed for 2 years and under 5% fixed for 5 years. These fixed rate mortgage deals compare favourably with historical rates linked to lenders’ standard variable rates (SVR).

Secondly there is widespread concern that when rates start to rise, they will rise sharply and so monthly repayments on mortgages linked to Bank of England Base Rate or a lender’s SVR will increase significantly over a short period of time. Securing a good fixed rate deal now will mitigate that risk.

Thirdly there is limited availability of mortgages for those with relatively small deposits (15% of house value or less) and so consumers in this situation are grabbing fixed rate mortgages whilst they still can.

Finally, as house prices have fallen, consumers have found that the value of their mortgage relative to the value of their home has increased. As the best fixed rate mortgage deals are available below 75% loan to value (ltv) it is sensible for consumers to fix their mortgage rate in case their property value falls further and the best mortgage deals are no longer available to them.

Potential borrowers wanting to secure a fixed rate mortgage deal can see the range of leading deals currently available at www.lcplc.co.uk/bestbuys .For more information and no-fee advice, borrowers can call free on 0800 373300 or request a call back.

London and Country Mortgages Ltd is the country’s leading whole of market no-fee mortgage broker and submitted over £4bn of mortgages to over 70 lenders in 2008. For more information visit our website London & Country Mortgages

L&C is a Climate Neutral company and for the last seven years has invested in climate friendly projects and tree-planting to help offset its emissions and those of its customers.

L&C has won numerous awards including:

Best Mortgage IFA/Adviser of the Year – Money Marketing, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008
Best Technology Adviser – Money Marketing 2007
Best Mortgage Broker outside London – Mortgage Strategy, 2004 and 2005
Best National Broker – Mortgage Introducer 2005, 2006 and 2007
Best Overall Broker – Mortgage Introducer 2005
Overall broker of the year – Pink Home Loans, 2006 and 2007
Top 100 company in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 for 2004 and 2005
Business of the Year – The Bath Business Awards 2005
Growth Strategy of the Year – National Business Awards (Wales and West) 2008
Business Leader (Broker) – British Mortgage Awards – 2008
Online Mortgage IFA of the Year – Financial Adviser – 2008

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Campaign Raises Thousands Of Dollars For Wounded Service Members

MidCountry Financial Corp. created the ‘Answer the Call Now’ program to raise money for wounded service members, honor military service during National Military Appreciation Month, and even help the environment by diverting hazardous materials from landfills. The program was a success, as the company collected nearly 1,600 old cell phones during the month of May.

“Teamwork was really what made the campaign successful,” said Karen Von Der Bruegge, chief marketing office for Pioneer Services, a division of MidCountry Bank. “Associates and customers alike stepped up to help our wounded warriors. Some offices were so into it they had contests to see who could collect the most, with one collecting 143 phones in a single day!”

The phones will be sent to Recellular, which pays anywhere from 50¢ to $150 per phone, depending on type and condition. The money received from Recellular will then go to USA Cares, a non-profit that assists service members and their families. In this case, all of the funds raised will benefit their Combat Injured Program, which assists those suffering Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“It was fantastic to see so many people dedicated to the campaign,” added Von Der Bruegge, “and speaks volumes to the respect we all have for military families and what they do for our nation. To help them cope during these difficult times is something we’re honored to do.”

MidCountry Financial Corp. is a financial services holding company with subsidiaries that deliver high-quality and diversified financial services to targeted markets. These subsidiaries include MidCountry Bank, Pioneer Financial Services, Heights Finance Corp., OFC Capital, MidCountry Investments, and Insurance Planners. Since 2002, its associates have been dedicated to building a high quality financial services organization respected by its constituencies, and characterized by a commitment to the values of integrity, fairness, honesty, excellence, and compassion. For more information, visit www.MidCountryFinancial.com.

MidCountry Financial associates collected nearly 1,600 cell phones during the “Answer the Call Now” campaign. The phones will be recycled for cash, and proceeds will benefit USA Cares’ Combat Injured Program

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Barclaycard Contactless Payment Revolution Continues

Barclaycard, the leading payment provider in the UK, has announced that it is increasing its roll out of contactless enabled cards to Barclaycard Gold and Classic cardholders. Customers who receive a new, reissued or replacement Gold or Classic Barclaycard will now receive one of the new innovative cards.

Contactless credit card technology, pioneered by Barclaycard in the UK, makes life easier for customers as it saves time when paying for items that people typically pay for in a rush such as the morning coffee, lunchtime sandwich or newspaper and magazine. Contactless credit cards allow secure payment for goods and services costing £10 and under without the need to enter a PIN or signature.

Contactless enabled credit cards can be used at a growing number of outlets throughout the UK including Prêt a Manger, Coffee Republic, Eat, Yo Sushi and a whole host of other independent retailers.

Recent research from Barclaycard showed that 98 per cent of contactless cardholders believe that contactless payments are easy to use and 88 per cent claimed that it enabled them to cut down the amount of time they would usually take to buy items such as a coffee.

Amer Sajed, Managing Director UK Cards, Barclaycard said: “Barclaycard is leading the UK’s contactless payment revolution. In three years we will have an additional four million customers who will be able to make payments using their contactless card.

“We are dedicated to making our customers’ lives easier and are seeing increasing demand for contactless by our customers, who can now make contactless payments at thousands of retailers across the UK.”

Barclaycard currently has almost two million cards in circulation that can be used to make contactless payments. This includes Barclaycard OnePulse, Barclaycard Platinum and Barclaycard Goldfish credit cards.

About Barclaycard
Barclaycard, part of Barclays Global and Retail Commercial Banking division, is a leading global payment business which helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and accept payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit when needed.

The company is one of the pioneers of new forms of payments and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting edge forms of payment for the future. It also issues credit and charge cards to corporate customers and the UK Government. Barclaycard partners with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit.

In addition to the UK, Barclaycard operates in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle and Far East.

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Lloyds TSB Has Announced That It Has Increased The Rate On Its Popular Monthly Saver Account To 5 Per Cent

Lloyds TSB Monthly Saver account holders can enjoy this competitive fixed rate for twelve months on regular monthly deposits between £25 and £250. If customers find they have additional funds to save, they can increase the amount on their monthly standing order at any time during the 12 month period, up to the maximum monthly deposit of £250.

Colin Walsh, managing director of Savings and Investment at Lloyds TSB said, “Given the uncertainty around us, getting into a savings habit has never been more important. This is why we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to build a nest egg and provide the added incentive of a competitive savings rate.”

Should the need arise customers can also benefit from instant access to their savings, without incurring any withdrawal penalty.

Colin Walsh continued: “We know some savers want the reassurance of being able to access if they need to, so this product allows customers to dip into their funds without penalties.”

Lloyds TSB Current Account holders can open a Monthly Saver account either in branch or through telephone banking.

To help savers make the most of their money Lloyds TSB has a dedicated savings hub at Savvy Saver, full of advice, information and useful planning tools. Users can also submit and share their own savings tips, to help other savers maximise their cash.

– Funds withdrawn from the account cannot be replaced
– Standing Order on the account can be changed at any point during the twelve month period.
– This product is subject to availability

About Lloyds TSB:
Lloyds TSB offers customers a wide range of current accounts, savings accounts, insurance, personal loans and credit cards, investment and cash ISA accounts designed to meet different customers’ needs. Lloyds TSB Bank plc and Lloyds TSB Scotland plc are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and signatories to the Banking Codes. Lloyds TSB Bank plc Registered Office: 25 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HN. Registered in England and Wales no. 2065.

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Historic Losses For 401K Plan Participants

Retirement savings have dwindled significantly over the past 18 months. The median rate of return on 401k balances was negative 28.3% in 2008 according to a study by human-resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates. The average 401k balance dropped from $79,600 at year-end 2007 to $57,200 at the close of 2008.


In the 12 months following the stock market’s peak in October 2007, more that $1 trillion worth of stock value held in 401ks and other “defined-contribution” plans was wiped out, according to the Boston College research center.

Alan Weir, who turns 60 this month, showed 60 Minutes his latest 401(k) statement, which he hadn’t had the courage to open up. “I’m afraid,” he told correspondent Steve Kroft. There’s good reason for his trepidation: nearly half of his life savings have vanished in a matter of months. “It went down again,” Weir told Kroft after opening the statement. Overall, he said he was down about $140,000.

Another woman in a similar situation told Kroft her 401(k) was worth less now than it was in 2005. “And another one went down almost $40,000. One was 80 – 88,000. And then, and then it went down to 50(k),” she told Kroft, crying. The saddest part of this story is that it is being repeated all over the country.

In eastern Pennsylvania, 59-year-old Iris Hontz lost her accounting job and half of her 401(k) investments.

“Unlike Wall Street executives, American families don’t have a golden parachute to fall back on,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

www.401kinvesthelp.com is a site designed to assist the Individual in their noble attempt to save for retirement. How does it guide investors? The number one problem investors have while saving for retirement is the potential of suffering devastating losses of 30% or more in stock mutual funds. The ideology of just “buy and hold,” “invest for the long term” only work a small percentage of the time. In addition to the latter problem, 80%-90% of the mutual funds offered within these retirement vehicles are more risky than the benchmark or index they follow. It’s about time someone stepped in to assist Americans with their retirement accounts rather than leaving them helpless and alone. The indicators used within the site are designed to give individuals a sneak peek into the economy and the financial markets. Is it safe to be invested fully? Should I take some off the table and be only partially invested? These are questions everyone has and generally know the answers to, but need someone to help reinforce that decision. The indicators are updated every 1st business day of each week and an email is sent to each subscriber alerting them of any changes, as well as a brief commentary on the financial markets. Investing smart bodes well for those who understand, “It’s just best to sit on the sidelines and watch the fireworks at times.”

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Leonard M. Rhoades, please call Andrea Rhoades at 616-581-5696 or email support@401kinvesthelp.com.

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