The worst thing about driving downtown Portland, OR (other than one-way streets, pedestrians, bike riders, and taxis) is having to find and pay for parking. I drive a midsize SUV and sometimes it can be difficult to find street parking and I always hate paying. But I recently learned about the numerous car-share programs in Portland that can eliminate some of my downtown worries.
ZipCar is a car-share program that has numerous cars throughout the city, parked at designated areas. They offer many different models of cars to choose from, including SUVs, hatchbacks, and coupes from makers like Ford, Audi, Honda, and Mercedes. The prices are charged per hour and are fair ($10 to $15), especially since the price includes all maintenance and 180 miles of gas. The downside to ZipCar is that there is an annual fee and they must be returned to their designated parking space in the city (which, on the upside, does eliminate the need to find parking).
Car2Go is another car-share option that allows you to pickup a car and go. These cars may be located anywhere throughout the city because they have no designated parking location. These vehicle have a “home area” that they can be parked and left, free of charge, to await the next needy driver. Anywhere outside of this area you can park, but you cannot “end your drive”, meaning you must continue to pay until you return it within its “home are”. Car2Go vehicles are easy to spot since they are all the same make, model, and color; Blue and white SmartCars. The prices are charged per minute and again are not bad ($0.38) and top out at $13.99 per hour. These also include all maintenance, gas for as long as you drive, and free parking in any non-restricted, public space in the city. And because the cars are so small it is usually very easy to find a spot.
Both of these services provide fun and affordable options for getting around the city. Another nice feature with these services is that they are located in a number of cities nationally and, in some cases, internationally. Which means you can use these rather than a rental if you do not need a car 100% of the time. Both services also offer apps that make it easy to locate and reserve vehicles wherever you may be. So if you are tired of driving your own car and paying for parking, or maybe you do not even own a car, these cars are ready “2Go” and “Zip” you and your friends around the city.
As the April 15th tax deadline is quickly approaching I am reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin,”…nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I am relieved to say that my taxes are finally done, with a big emphasis on finally. Many years ago I stopped preparing my own taxes. I determined that after countless hours of frustration, I finally decided the stress was not worth it to me. I have paid a few tax prepares over the years, but in the most recent years I have been utilizing the CASH Oregon sites, which partner with AARP and VITA to offer free tax preparation. To qualify for their service you must have a low to moderate income. You can find further information about CASH Oregon by clicking HERE. The volunteers have always been very helpful and efficient and I have always walked away with a refund.
Now, back to the emphasis on my earlier statement about my taxes finally being done. This year I ran into a bit of a problem, as I am guessing many other taxpayers did, or at least those who have mutual funds. As of 2012 you are now required to report your cost basis of your mutual funds to the IRS. The friendly volunteer prepared my taxes in about 15 minutes, but when he got to this part on my taxes he was unsure of how to proceed. He then called in the assistance of the site coordinator. The site coordinator then took a look at my 1099 B form and then stated he couldn’t complete my taxes without the original price paid for the funds. I told him I didn’t know that information, as I thought it would have been on the 1099 B form. He informed that I would have to contact my Financial Representative to get that information and return with it. I admit, I was pretty frustrated by this, as I planned on completing my taxes that day and not worrying about them for another year. I understood it was new rule, but I’ll be honest, I am still confused why this information was not provided on my 1099 B form. The site coordinator was very kind and stated that as soon I got the information I just had to return and they would quickly complete my taxes. That is exactly what I did, and now I simply wait my for my tax refund to be deposited into my checking account.
Identity theft, by way of credit card fraud, has long been a fear shared by many consumers. Credit cards can easily be used fraudulently if they are simply lost or stolen and now with technology, credit card data is even easier to steal. The use of phishing websites and skimmers has become increasingly common and credit cards offer little or no security to counter these devices.
What if I told you there was a more secure option for credit card payments? What if I told you it has been around for years?
Canada, China, and the majority of Europe have been using them since 2008. Many international travelers may have already experienced the disappointment of having their “standard” credit card rejected by a store or restaurant while abroad.
The new credit card option is called an EMV card, or Europay MasterCard Visa (named after the companies who developed it). These cards have an embedded microchip that add additional levels of security to every transaction. Transaction information is uniquely encoded every time, making it more difficult for skimmers to nab easily duplicated payment data from the cards.
These cards require different processing terminals to take payment information, which is why many people may have their cards rejected in foreign countries that have already adopted EMV cards. Many American companies have already started to offer EMV cards for people who frequently travel internationally but they are not yet offered to normal consumers. Visa and MasterCard are working hard to get the United States to switch and the change is coming, slowly but surely. MasterCard has been making a strong effort to persuade all U.S. ATM makers to upgrade their machines to accept EMV by April, 1st 2013. Most likely the United States will have converted completely to EMV cards and terminals by 2015. So be prepared to see new credit cards coming your way and make sure to take advantage of all the security features they offer.