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Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci is a freelance journalist and branding consultant who loves to provide practical personal finance advice for regular people. When he’s not writing about frugal living, long-term investing, or consumer-friendly financial products, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine.

7 Common Types of Theft Abroad – How to Protect Your Money While Traveling

By Brian Martucci

passport and moneyThough we aren’t able to travel as often as we’d like, my wife and I love planning and taking trips, from outdoor adventure excursions and fitness vacations, to quick jaunts back home to reconnect with family. Regardless of the destination, we both take joy in escaping our daily routines and being part of something different for a little while – both during the planning process and throughout the trip itself.

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11 Best Free Checking Accounts at U.S. Banks

By Brian Martucci

checkingIt’s becoming increasingly difficult to find truly free checking accounts. At many banks, you’re now required to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the privilege of keeping your checking account open. Such fees can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the bank and other associated perks. To avoid these fees, you may need to maintain a high minimum daily balance, make regular deposits of a certain size or frequency, or execute a minimum number of transactions in a statement period.

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FNBO Direct Review – No Frills, Online High-Yield Checking Account

By Brian Martucci

fnbodirectFNBO Direct is the online banking arm of First National Bank of Omaha, itself a subsidiary of financial conglomerate First National of Nebraska. While First National Bank of Omaha’s physical branches and account holders are confined to several states in the middle of the country, FNBO Direct accounts are available to anyone with a U.S. address.

FNBO sets itself apart with a high-yield checking account that features no minimum daily balance, no recurring fees, and a nominal opening deposit of just $1. It also has a savings account and multiple CDs, all of which have decent but not spectacular yields, and all of which come with FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per account. Additional perks include person-to-person transfers via Popmoney, Apple Pay functionality, and a Visa-branded rewards credit card that’s exclusive to account holders (but is contingent on qualification).

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Prosper Review – Online Loan Marketplace for Peer-to-Peer Lending

By Brian Martucci

prosper logoProsper, a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) lending network that offers unsecured personal loans with terms of 36 or 60 months, has embraced the sharing economy with gusto. By matching individual borrowers with individual or institutional investors willing to lend funds at competitive interest rates, Prosper cuts out the middle man (traditional banks or credit unions). Relative to those institutions, Prosper has more relaxed approval standards and faster funding times for borrowers.

The platform earns money through origination and servicing fees. Its top competitors include other P2P lenders, such as Lending Club and Peerform, and low-cost personal credit providers such as Avant, which doesn’t use the P2P model and thus isn’t available to prospective lenders.

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Lending Club Review – Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Financial Lending

By Brian Martucci

lending club logoLending Club bills itself as the world’s most popular peer-to-peer (P2P) lending network. As a classic example of the emerging sharing economy, the platform connects thousands of individual and business borrowers with regular people willing to fund their loans. In doing so, it eliminates the need for borrowers to approach traditional banks and credit unions – whose lending standards may be much more stringent than Lending Club’s – to obtain financing.

For investors, Lending Club offers the opportunity to create diversified portfolios that aren’t directly tied to bond markets. Its investments offer better yields than CDs, money market accounts, and savings accounts, though it’s critical to note that the investments are not FDIC-insured.

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InboxDollars Review – Make Money Online With Paid Emails, Surveys & Games

By Brian Martucci

inboxdollars logoCould you use a few extra dollars every week? InboxDollars might be the perfect solution for you to pad your bank account with additional income.

With InboxDollars, you can create a small but real income stream by completing relatively simple tasks online. InboxDollars began back in 2000 as a service that provided nominal cash payments, typically a few cents per email, to members who opened and read sponsored emails (called PaidEmails) from companies that partnered with InboxDollars. If the partner companies allowed, users could earn additional payments, ranging from $0.10 to $25, for taking action requested in the email, such as clicking a link to the partner’s website and enrolling in a trial offer.

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Discover Bank Review – Online Banking for Savings, Money Markets & CDs

By Brian Martucci

discover logoYou’ve probably heard of Discover Financial Services, a publicly traded company (NYSE: DFS) that offers consumer-friendly credit cards like the Discover it Card. According to the Nilson Report, it’s among the United States’ 10 biggest credit card issuers.

What you may not know as much about is the online-only bank that Discover administers, Discover Bank. It offers a checking account, savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, and retirement products, all of which are FDIC insured. This segment of the company competes with online banking heavyweights such as Ally Bank and EverBank.

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Digit Review – A Great Tool to Automate Your Savings

By Brian Martucci

digit logoI’m in favor of anything that makes it easier to add to my savings account balance, and Digit definitely fits the bill. It’s a free-to-join, automatic savings tool that ties into your checking account, uses a sophisticated algorithm to analyze your income and spending habits, and then makes regular transfers to your FDIC-insured Digit savings account, typically every week or every few days.

You don’t have to direct or schedule these transfers in any way. In fact, you don’t even know in advance how much Digit will transfer. With its automated, hands-off saving algorithm, pretty much all you have to do is sit back and watch your savings account balance grow over time. Though if you’re unsatisfied with the pace of Digit’s automatic withdrawals, you can tell it to save more or less with each withdrawal.

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What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Eligibility & Rules

By Brian Martucci

medical leaveIn a fast-paced, rapidly changing economy that rewards innovative, adaptable workers and penalizes those who don’t keep up with the times, the idea of an equitable work-life balance seems out of date. Many employers, particularly those operating in competitive industries or requiring lots of unspecialized or low-skill labor, expect their employees to be flexible and work as hard as possible. Though employers can’t afford to treat highly skilled or specialized workers as expendable, it’s a different story when there are 10 such workers with equivalent skills eagerly lined up at the door.

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6 Unique & Nontraditional Business Models – Examples & Ideas

By Brian Martucci

ben & jerrysI have many fond memories of my high school business class. This is mostly because the teacher was knowledgeable and engaging – and pretty much a walking caricature of a high school business teacher, right down to the bow tie. But the curriculum was useful too, a mix of commonsense personal budgeting strategies and basic lessons in macro- and microeconomics.

We couldn’t cover everything in a single semester though. I graduated from high school believing that every business was run according to the same basic model: Earning a profit by directly selling a product or service for more than it cost to produce or provide.

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What Is Bike Sharing? – 10 Best Bike Share Programs in North America

By Brian Martucci

bike sharingNot everyone can be a regular bike commuter. Some folks live too far from work, some have erratic schedules, some would have to traverse dangerous roads or brave adverse weather conditions, and others – including yours truly – work out of a home office.

But even if you don’t bike to work, you can still bike regularly. In fact, it can be a singular source of pleasure – few things in life beat whooshing down a hill with the wind in your hair. Biking is also part of a healthy, happy lifestyle – according to the state government of Victoria, Australia, the benefits of regular biking include stronger bones, more flexible joints, lower stress and anxiety levels, lower body fat levels, and better cardiovascular fitness in general.

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What’s the Best Online Tax Preparation Software? TaxACT vs TurboTax vs H&R Block

By Brian Martucci

filing taxes onlineEven if you’re expecting a sizable refund or have a simple tax situation that doesn’t require you to fill out a ton of forms, you probably don’t love filling out your taxes. There are plenty of more enjoyable ways to spend your time: playing with your kids, going on a hike, even shopping online in anticipation of your tax refund.

This year, it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to complete my tax return. But, to be fair, that’s because I sampled several different online tax preparation options and evaluated each on its merits. My tax prep marathon covered three of the most popular programs: TurboTax, TaxACT, and H&R Block. Here’s how my experience went with each.

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FreeTaxUSA Review – Free Tax Filing & Online Return Preparation

By Brian Martucci

freetaxusa logoNearly every online tax preparation software program advertises a free federal plan that allows users to prepare their federal tax return at no cost. But as legions of frustrated filers can attest, some programs’ supposedly free plans come with severe limitations (such as unsupported forms and schedules) that force users with more complex tax situations to upgrade to a paid plan.

FreeTaxUSA is not one of those programs. Its Free Edition supports the vast majority of IRS forms and schedules, making it usable for filers with tax situations of any complexity. That includes the self-employed, small business owners, landlords, and investors who must report capital gains or losses. There’s no cost to prepare your federal return with the Free Edition, and each state return costs just $12.95.

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H&R Block Review – Online Tax Filing & Preparation

By Brian Martucci

h&r block logoH&R Block has one of the most recognizable brands of any American business. Its distinctive green square beckons from TV screens, strip malls, and corner storefronts. Even many small towns have a standalone H&R Block office, and you certainly don’t have to go far to find one in a bigger city. For many Americans, H&R Block is synonymous with in-person tax preparation.

But H&R Block also makes one of the most popular online tax preparation programs: H&R Block at Home, often shortened simply to “H&R Block.” It’s ideal for a wide range of tax situations, though people with very complicated taxes may feel more comfortable walking into a physical H&R Block office and shouldering the additional cost.

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TaxACT Review – Free Online Tax Software

By Brian Martucci

taxact logoAs someone who mixes and matches freelance work, contract jobs, and side income opportunities to earn a living, I have a pretty complicated tax situation. Millions of Americans are in the same boat – independent contractors, small business owners, and folks who earn passive income through investing.

While money may be no object to some, the costs of tax filing definitely matter to me and many taxpayers like me. It’s frustrating, but understandable, that business owners and independents have to pay more to file their taxes with brand-name services like TurboTax and H&R Block.

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