Weekly Wrap: Things Are Not as They Seem

Willy Staley

By Willy Staley
Updated on Mon Jul 21, 2014

This past weekend, on a stage in Indio, Ca., a holographic Tupac Shakur took the stage, and treated the screaming crowd to a couple hits from his 90’s oeuvre. Tupac has been dead for 16 years. Footage of the show reveals that, as one might assume, the display was equal parts captivating and unsettling. There are few conclusions one can draw from the spectacle, however, except perhaps, with technology dominating our lives, nothing seems to make sense anymore. This week’s personal finance and banking news was perhaps similar in this regard.

Barclaycard US started accepting applications for the Ring card this week. It’s their social credit card, and it has a head-scratchingly low cost structure. In fact, it’s so low it might be disruptive to the industry at large. The card has no annual fee or balance transfer fee, and just 8 percent APR on all debts — balance transfer, purchases and cash advances. What this means is that cardholders can use the Barclaycard as an auxiliary for all their credit purchases. Use your high interest rewards card to buy expensive plane tickets? Fine, just transfer that to the Barclaycard for free, and enjoy the low rates — and the rewards.

Similarly hard to make sense of is the news that Core Innovation Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in services for the underbanked, closed their first fund with millions of dollars invested from … banks. Banks are investing their money, seeking above-market private equity returns by investing in a fund that tries to solve a problem that they, one might argue, have created. It’s a bit baffling, but it’s good to see capital finding its way toward solutions for such a pressing issue in this country. Instead of, you know, causing them.

Sallie Mae launched a branded Visa credit card recently, which offers rewards for users in the form of paying down their student loans. It offers just 5 percent back on the first $500 spent on gas and groceries each month. So, $25 a month — but it all helps! The irony is obvious, however: unless you use the card perfectly by a.) both spending $500 a month on gas and groceries and b.) paying it back in full each month, you will end up in more debt, and you may be spending way more money than you ought to be.

Not that politics ought to make sense, anyway — we gave up on that long ago — it is still upsetting to have its sheer absurdity thrust in your face. We took a look at the net worth and donations of a few of the more notable captains of industry to back Republican candidates for president, and figured out how much a young person would need to donate to make a proportionally large donation. The results were disheartening. For mere pocket change, billionaires can keep blowhards like Newt Gingrich in an election he ought to have no part in.

And we’ll leave you this week on a high note: a letter to young people from someone who has been through what we’ve been through in this recession. It gets better, even if things might never seem right, ever again.


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