Barclaycard Freedom Celebrates First Birthday

Barclaycard Freedom, the loyalty scheme from Barclaycard, celebrates strong figures on its progress since launch one year ago. The scheme has encouraged Barclaycard Freedom cardholders to spend on average 14% more in launch partner stores than other credit card customers.

There are now one million active Barclaycard Freedom customers earning and redeeming Reward Money across over 20,000 coalition partners. Over the last 12 months, the average value redeemed has doubled. Joint promotions have driven much of this growth, with cardholders who have benefited from retailer special offers spending over two and a half times more than cardholders who have not taken advantage of the credit card benefits.

Over the last year, both large and small retailers have seen a rise in custom from Barclaycard holders as a result of available Reward Money, with the average amount of Reward Money being redeemed month-on-month almost doubling. Shell service stations have seen a 15% rise in linked sales from Barclaycard Freedom cardholders and, in smaller independent retailers over a quarter (27%) of Reward Money was earned and redeemed.

Sarah Alspach, marketing director of Barclaycard Freedom, said: “Since launch last year, economic conditions have been creating a pinch on shoppers’ wallets with resulting falls in high street spending. Barclaycard Freedom has been benefiting Barclaycard credit card holders and providing value for money for retailers, while delivering double digit growth in spending. We believe it is a programme that is good for shoppers as they earn pounds, not points and it is helping drive business for our coalition partners. Indeed, footfall, together with the insight we can provide, will be a crucial element in helping our partners navigate the next 12 months.”

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LV = Reveals One In Ten Homes Built On Brownfield Sites Have Problems

LV= has revealed that over the next decade around half a million homes will be built on redeveloped ex-industrial sites that could pose risks to homeowners and their homes.

A new report from home insurer LV= reveals that around 125 million square metres of redeveloped brownfield land, earmarked for the building of 500,000 homes, is potentially at risk of flooding or contamination, which could cost homeowners thousands of pounds to address.

Brownfield sites are defined as land which has potential for redevelopment after previously being occupied by another permanent building, such as a factory or industrial works. Redeveloping brownfield sites is a cornerstone of the current national housing policy, with 79% of all new builds being built on recycled land in recent years.

Yet according to the LV= research, over one in ten (11%) new homes built on brownfield land have suffered problems as a result of the land the property is built on, affecting a total of 74,000 homes in the last ten years. The most common problem is flooding, but there are also cases of contamination, poor drainage and sewage problems.

One of the drivers behind the current policy encouraging house builders to redevelop land is the creation of affordable homes for first-time buyers. The LV= research shows that few (17%) prospective buyers are actually specifically looking to buy new build housing, rather many feel that this is the only option available to them through local authority shared ownership schemes as many of these properties are new builds. Others say they are persuaded to buy new build homes because of incentives such as deposit cash back schemes from developers or free white goods.

Currently, over a third (34%) of prospective buyers are unaware of the problems associated with former industrial land and a quarter (24%) do not check the previous use of the land a house is built on. LV= is advising potential buyers to check the previous use of the land a house is built on before committing to a purchase, by speaking to neighbours, checking old maps or commissioning a full environmental report to ensure they do not experience problems once they’ve moved in.

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More Financial press releases Reveals Mothers’ Day Holiday Habits has revealed that many mums may get more than flower and chocolates this Mothers’ Day as more than half of Brits have taken their mum (or mother-in-law) on holiday with them.

The travel insurance provider and comparison site also revealed that the vast majority of Brits would do it again. However, almost one in ten sons admit this is because mum will pay for everything with another reason sons are keen to take mum on holiday being so that she can babysit the kids.

56% of people in the UK have either taken their mums or mother-in-laws or even both on holiday with them, with 85% of Brits who have done so saying they would either take one of both or their mothers/mother-in-laws on holiday again. In addition to this 53% of the people surveyed agreed that their mother (or mother-in-law) was great company on holiday with 50% agreeing that she deserves a treat.

45% of adults have never taken their mothers or mother-in-laws on holiday with them, but of those who have, only 14% would not repeat the experience. The top reason* for refusing take them on holiday again is ‘We like different things’ (33%), with ‘She’s so annoying’ being cited as the second most popular given reason (13.5%). Other reasons for not taking mum on holiday include 10%, who are embarrassed by her behaviour, 9% who think the she would cramp their style and 6% who suggest she flirts too much with the waiters on holiday.

More women than men have taken their mothers on holiday with them than men (women 39% versus men 24%), but some men have ulterior motives for doing so: 9% of adult men saying they take mum on holiday because she pays for everything, whereas only 4% of women admit money is their motivation or taking mum on hols. 11% of men compared to 6% of women take mum on holiday because of her babysitting services.

Londoners are most likely to take mum on holiday (38%), with Northern Ireland (17%) the least likely to do so, according to the survey by

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Business Monitor International Launches Special Report On MENA Crisis

Business Monitor International has revealed a special report recently launched on its website that looks at the key risks to global recovery and stability following the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa.

The report states that the wave of popular protests that have swept across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since January 2011 constitutes the biggest shake-up to the region for at least a generation, and its impact will be felt for many years to come. The unrest also poses the biggest risk to the global economic recovery this year, not least because of its effects on the oil and gas industry with the price of oil continuing to increase.

Although rising inflation has fuelled discontent, the protests are being driven by more fundamental issues, such as a lack of democracy, high unemployment and poor opportunities for social advancement.

Business Monitor International deemed Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen to be most at risk of further unrest, although the company emphasises that virtually no state will be completely immune to public protests.

Egypt will remain in a delicate transition to democracy, and if the people’s hopes are dashed, further protests could erupt. In Bahrain, the growing demands of the Shi’a majority could transform the polity, with major implications for Saudi Arabia, which fears unrest among its own Shi’a minority in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

Libya’s descent into civil war represents the most immediate risk to the region and Europe. The country’s oil supplies are of key significance to the EU, but southern European countries also fear a massive influx of refugees from the country. In addition, chaos and lawlessness in Libya could allow Islamist extremists to establish a greater presence in the country.

More broadly, the crisis in MENA has served notice to authoritarian regimes around the world that they are not immune from popular uprisings. Governments in Venezuela, Belarus, several African countries, Central Asia, North Korea, Myanmar, and even China will become ever more vigilant to the possibility of public unrest.

As far as global financial markets are concerned, the combination of supply-side risks to oil and massive political uncertainty in a strategically important region is bad news for risk trades. Business Monitor International’s global macro team has modelled a ‘worst-case scenario’ in which oil prices spike to US$200/bbl. The company’s special report also reveals that Asia’s economic growth is particularly vulnerable to high oil prices, because most countries in the region import more than 90% of their oil needs.

European economies are also likely to be hit by high oil prices the company reveals, and policymakers in the continent will also be wary of the security risks of Libya’s descent into chaos. However, one relative beneficiary is likely to be Russia. Although there are several Russian oil firms with stakes in the Libyan oil market, high oil prices are generally positive for the Russian economy, provided that any price surge does not tip the global economy back into recession.

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Vebnet and Standard Life Launch Box of Benefits

Vebnet and Standard Life announce the launch of their Box of Benefits (BOB). BOB is an off-the-shelf employee benefits solution designed specifically for UK-based SME companies.

This new proposition has been built using technology from Vebnet, a market-leading provider of technology and services for reward and benefit strategies, and is based on insight from employers looking for a packaged solution.

The business of selecting and managing benefits can take a lot of time, administration and money, however BOB makes it easier for employers to offer their employees great staff benefits packages including a pension, because it is simple to manage and affordable. This is achieved through a single online portal that helps with employee benefits management, the administration of the benefits and reporting requirements.

BOB can be personalised for every company and implemented quickly. Employees receive access to BOB’s user-friendly online technology, with the option to choose from a range of employee benefits, including childcare vouchers, money off bicycles, dental insurance, private medical insurance, pension and travel insurance.

Gerry O’Neill, managing director of corporate solutions said: “Most employers now realise the value of a good benefits package. But for some there is still the concern that it is going to be too costly, or that the administration will take up too much time. Box of Benefits can solve these problems through a boxed up solution that makes flex cost-effective.”

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Think Money Welcomes Fall In Repossessions

Financial solutions company Think Money has welcomed news that repossessions fell sharply in 2010, compared with a year earlier, commenting that it suggests the financial circumstances of homeowners may have improved despite difficult economic conditions.

But the company warned that there are still difficult times ahead for many homeowners, especially when interest rates rise.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said there was a 24% drop in the number of repossessions in 2010, compared with 2009, down to 36,300. Meanwhile, the number of households with mortgage arrears amounting to more than 2.5% of the outstanding balance fell by 13%, down to 169,600.

An expert at Think Money commented:

“Any drop in repossessions and arrears is a good sign. Although the economy is still in a difficult position, it’s likely that a lot of homeowners have taken steps to improve their finances, whether that’s through keeping to a tight budget or entering into a debt solution such as a debt management plan before repossession becomes a possibility.

“Leniency from lenders may have also helped, but equally the troubles of the last couple of years will have prompted many homeowners to be more cautious with their money.

“However, it must be noted that there are a lot of people who are only coping with their mortgage repayments because of low interest rates. When interest rates rise – which could happen this year – we may well see many more homeowners in trouble.

“Anyone already struggling or worried about their ability to meet their payments when interest rates rise should not hesitate to get help from an expert. It’s not usually worth waiting for a change to happen – getting help early could greatly reduce the chances of facing repossession.”

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Trade-in offered to all exposed RSA’s SecureID Customers

Each SecureID customer can switch their SecureID devices to IDentiWall while using their SecureID’s past investments as credit against the IDentiWall license fee.

Such trade-in is guaranteed to be financially compelling and technically superior.

The innovative trade-in plan makes sure that switching customers enjoy:

  • Better, newest security technology that protects its users against all latest attacks even if their computer is contaminated with malwares or even if their ID is exposed.
  • Wider security coverage, which includes not only two-factor authentication, but also combines transaction verification, anti-phishing, anti-farming, as well as breach attempt notification.
  • All platform coverage including Desktops, Tablets, Smartphone
  • VPN and SSL-VPN user authentication
  • E-Banking, m-Banking, e-Health, e-Government web application protection with special ‘application agnostic’ mode by which, not even one line of code needs to be changed.
  • Polite implementation including co-existence with SecureID for the transition period and built-in implementation risk elimination measures.
  • No physical devices to be distributed and yet out-of-the-box support for such token devices and smart-cards does exist.
  • Lowest TCO. This trade-in plan was designed to ensure cost savings for the whole duration of the IDentiWall usage.
  • Cloud or on-site implementation options are supported.

SecureID users, who learned about RSA’s failure to secure its own network, wonder if they can continue keeping their eggs in RSA’s basket, or as one user put it, “working with questioned security provider, is similar to consciously getting an HIV-tainted blood infusion”.

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Millions Of Americans Count On Their Tax Refunds Each Year To Pay Down Debts

Millions of Americans count on their tax refunds each year to pay down debts, get caught up on bills, or simply to make ends meet. With an estimated 1.5 million personal bankruptcies to be filed in 2011, bankruptcy lawyers around the country are being asked the same question: “What will happen to my tax refund if I declare bankruptcy?”

Income tax refunds are basically interest-free loans to the government, and are therefore considered assets of debtors who declare bankruptcy. The trustee assigned to your case may be able to seize your income tax refund, depending upon two main factors: first, what type of bankruptcy you file, and second, whether your refund is fully  exempted.

The two main types of personal bankruptcy cases are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. In a Chapter 7 case, debtors are essentially allowed to walk away from their debts.

In a Chapter 13 case, debtors must repay their unsecured debts over 3 to 5 years.

Most Chapter 7 cases are considered “no asset” cases, and for those assets that the debtor does possess, there are federal and state exemption laws, which prevent the bankruptcy trustee from seizing and selling the debtor’s property.

Just like the debtor’s household goods, clothing and automobile, in most Chapter 7 cases the debtor’s tax refund can be fully exempted, which means the bankruptcy trustee cannot even consider seizing the refund. However it is very important to use the full and correct exemptions to protect the refund.

Chapter 13 cases can be a bit more complicated. If you have a confirmed Chapter 13 Plan that requires repayment of only a percentage of your debt, your trustee will likely seize your refund every year over the course of your bankruptcy, using the proceeds to increase the payout to unsecured creditors.  Income tax refunds in Chapter 13 are considered “property of the estate,” so your trustee will want to apply this money toward payment of your Plan.

In 100% repayment cases, however, the trustee has no interest in seizing your tax refund.  If your income is demonstrably sufficient to satisfy your confirmed Plan, the trustee will allow you to keep your tax refund.  You may want to adjust your withholdings before filing a Chapter 13 appropriate.

The bankruptcy trustee will in most cases require the debtor to file a tax return to determine whether the debtor’s refund can be seized and used to repay creditors. Unlike a home or car with equity, which must first be auctioned to produce distributable funds, tax refunds are a quick cash windfall to the creditors.

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Northern Rock Plc Launches New Savings Website

Northern Rock plc has launched a new interactive savings website to make it easier for customers to find a Northern Rock savings product from the competitive range available.

The new savings website follows the introduction of Northern Rock’s award-winning Mortgages website, which was launched in April 2010.

The new site offers helpful advice and practical information, as well as full details on Northern Rock’s savings products.

For those customers thinking about investing their savings, at-a-glance guides are available to help them choose which savings product, such as savings accounts or anISA; best suits their needs; whether they’re new to Northern Rock or an existing Northern Rock customer. For those customers who are not sure which savings product they wish to use there is an in depth learning section explaining what Northern Rock’s products are all about, and offering helpful advice and practical information. Customers will also be able to make use of a budget planner to help them plan their finances.

For those looking more closely into applying for a savings product, such as a Cash ISA, the new website contains information about Northern Rock’s entire suite of savings accounts and a selector tool to help narrow down and filter their selection as well as a range of tools which help customers cut through the jargon. Customers will also have the option of being able to use a product calculator for each of Northern Rock’s products to help work out their estimated return on investment.

Northern Rock has also made it easier for its existing customers to find their existing accounts and any supporting information they might need to manage them.

Customers can now select a suitable savings product, which they can save and come back to at a later date, or begin their application online. Or if they feel they need further information, customers can call the dedicated Northern Rock savings team at their UK based contact centre to find out more.

Andy Tate, customer and commercial director at Northern Rock said: “The new website is a fantastic tool, developed for our customers, with the aim of improving the whole process of evaluating and applying for a savings product.

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More Financial press releases Launches Pair Options, the First Trading Product to Enable Direct Trading Based on the Relative Performance of Stocks

Stockpair ( ) has announced the launch of the first ever Pair Options trading platform. Pair Options are a new category of market-neutral online trading products that are based on the relative performance of stocks. Pair Options trading is based on picking the best performing stock within a given stock pair (such as Apple/Google, Vodafone/BT etc.) therefore limiting the exposure to general market direction. Stockpair has taken elements from the professional Pair Trading strategy and turned it into a compelling, intuitive and trader-friendly product.

“What’s extremely valuable is that since you trade on the relative performance of two stocks, you’re essentially using a market neutral instrument,” commented Yoel Mann, Stockpair’s VP of Marketing. “What really matters is how one stock has performed against another, and not necessarily how it performs in absolute terms, so even if the market goes down, there is no affect on profits.”

The platform services the global community of traders, professionals and beginners. Within the fairly conservative financial industry, stockpair’s launch is a rare occasion on which a completely new product is to be introduced to the market, not to mention a product that simplifies a proven trading technique and makes a new effective trading paradigm accessible to traders of all levels of experience.

Stockpair is built upon a patent-pending pricing engine and an innovative visual interface which offers a unique, interactive trading experience. The platform offers Pair Options on more than 70 stocks from exchanges around the world, based on real time market data. The system enables taking decisions and making trades within seconds, allowing traders to quickly capture market opportunities.

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LV= Asset Management named Best Small Bond Group at Lipper Awards 2011

LV= Asset Management, the fund management arm of mutual insurance, investment and retirement group LV=, has received recognition for the strong performance of its UK fixed interest team by winning the best small bond group category at the Lipper Fund Awards 2011.

LV= Asset Management qualified for this award by delivering strong risk-adjusted performance relative to its peer group across its range of bond funds over the three year period up to 31st December 2010. These funds include the LV= UK Corporate Bond fund, the LV= UK Fixed Interest fund and the LV= UK Index linked fund.

The award acknowledges LVAM’s industry leading fixed interest capability and highlights the team’s expertise across a range of different products.

Michael Wright, Head of Fixed Interest at LVAM commented: “We aim to deliver consistently good performance for our clients across the range of bond funds. We are extremely pleased to have won this award as it acknowledges our team approach to managing funds and recognises the superior returns we have achieved over the three years to 31st December 2010.

“The last few years have been an extraordinary time for money managers but the breadth of experience on the team has allowed us to draw on lessons from the past and make timely, well informed decision on behalf of our clients. Going forward we are confident that we can maintain this high level of performance by continuing to follow a pragmatic approach to stock selection.”

Ann Roughead, Managing Director at LVAM added: “LVAM has set out its stall as a low-cost active manager that does what it says on the tin – delivering attractive added value year in, year out. The LV= bond funds are great examples of what we are trying to achieve and this award will serve to reinforce our commitment to providing impressive and consistent returns for our investors.”

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LV = Reveals Drivers Lost £58.5 Million From ‘Unfair’ Parking Tickets

LV=, the car insurer, has revealed that drivers lost £58.5m last year by failing to appeal against parking tickets issued in ‘unfair’ circumstances.

In 2010, one in twenty (5%) motorists in the UK received a parking ticket where they had grounds to appeal. Despite this, only one in five (22%) drivers bother to contest a ticket once issued; but of those who do, nearly nine in ten (88%) claimants are successful.

When questioned, over half of UK drivers (53%) who do pay when issued with a ticket in unfair circumstances do so because they assume they will not win an appeal. Many drivers say they are confused about the procedure for appeals, with one in twelve (8%) not knowing how to initiate a claim.

The majority of ‘unfair’ parking fines are issued in areas where parking signage is unclear. Other reasons include misleading road markings, being issued with a fine while walking to a machine to buy a parking ticket and being fined when the car was broken down. A small but significant number of drivers report parking attendants actually fabricating evidence to support issuing the ticket (2%).

Most (49%) of tickets issued unfairly are given out on public roads but surprisingly one in ten (10%) are received in car parks of public buildings managed by local authorities, such as libraries, hospitals and GP surgeries. A similar number (9%) are given out in commercially operated car parks.

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Saxo Bank Video Looks at Post-quake Japanese Investment Opportunities

Saxo Bank has released a new Equity Focus video featuring the company’s Equity Strategist Peter Garnry. The video looks at what the possible implications for investors interested in the Japanese stock market are in the short and long-term, with the total impact and cost of the massive earthquake in Japan, related tsunamis and nuclear crisis still unclear. The Bank of Japan has introduced a series of policy easing measures but there is still doubt that this will be enough to create market stability in the Japanese stock market.

Comparing Japan’s current situation to the state of the country’s market following the huge earthquake which occurred in the city of Kobe in 1995, Peter Garnry commented that the stock market remained steady in the days following that disaster but people underestimated its effects and within four months the market had fallen by 25%. When asked whether this was due to the Kobe earthquake hitting a large industrial area of Japan rather than the coastal areas devastated by the recent quake (although some car manufacturing and electronics plants were forced to stop production) Garnry replied that the effect on the market will only be known in the coming months. He also stated that the aftermath of the earthquake could be a great opportunity for many investors to be exposed to Japanese stocks and subsequently invest in them.

With the current disaster coming on top of an already exorbitant national debt status there are increased concerns that the Japanese economy could be pushed back into recession. Meanwhile, major Japanese exporters are being hurt by forced shutdowns due to power shortages, while the yen, at least for now, is supported by the Bank of Japan’s massive liquidity injection into the banking system. As it’s still early days there’s a chance that just a few months down the road the impact on Japan’s economy and currency might be somewhat different and this could result in some interesting investment opportunities in large Japanese export driven stocks.

About Saxo Bank:
Saxo Bank is an online trading and investment specialist, enabling clients to trade Forex, CFDs, Stocks, Futures, Options and other derivatives, as well as providing portfolio management via SaxoWebTrader and SaxoTrader, the leading online forex trading platforms. The three specialised and fully integrated trading platforms; the browser-based SaxoWebTrader, the downloadable SaxoTrader and the SaxoMobileTrader application are available in over 20 languages. The Saxo Bank website features a wealth of investment advice, trading products, market news and analysis, including forex videos.

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More Financial press releases provides Free Online vehicle insurance quotes is a new insurance website. The new website is established to help millions of insurance consumers. At this hard time that many motorists are finding it so difficult to survive, many are losing their insurance policies due to increasing costs. So, people are looking for ways to tremendously reduce their insurance costs, but are struggling to find a solution.

Mr. Solomon, owner of website had a goal to provide an answer to this chaos. Solomon is quoted as saying, “There are many people who are finding it so difficult to afford automotive insurance and are looking for ways to cut down on their insurance bills. Most insurance companies keep raising customers’ premiums every six months for no obvious reason. Moreover, calling multiple insurance companies to obtain a quote can be time consuming. We wanted to create a platform where prospective insurance buyers could find the best auto insurance quotes. I think our company mission, which is to save people money and time, fills a very real need of most customers. We provide free, no-obligation, online insurance quote tools that people can use to achieve this”.

As one customer said, “The greatest benefit that you would get from this website is that you would be able to get the vehicle insurance quotes free of cost. You just have to submit a form to get the free quotes from the company”.

The layout of the website is very simple. You can easily use the free quote form to get the best auto insurance price you deserve from virtually anywhere on this informative site. There is also a form you can use to get a quote from a specific insurance company. And there is an additional form that allows a shopper the ability to single out the best price from all of compared quotes from several insurance companies. It is up to the user to choose whichever one is appropriate for his need.

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