No Credit Card? Amazon Now Lets You Shop With Cash

As it continues to decimate brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon want to make it even easies for everyone to shop online, even for those without a debit and credit card. The online retailer announced Monday that it’s rolling out Amazon Cash, a new payment option that doesn’t require having a bank account.

With Amazon Cash, people print out an Amazon-generated barcode that can be scanned at local participating retail stores (i.e. CVS Pharmacy, Speedway and Kum & Go) to deposit cash directly into an Amazon account. The process seems like a chore, but it’s a better alternative to constantly buying gift cards in order to shop online.

People can deposit any amount between $15 and $500 — just like with gift cards — and can recharge their balance as many times as they want with the same barcode. However, the only inconvenience is that Amazon Cash transactions are not refundable.

It might seem crazy to think that there are people still living without debit cards and bank accounts, but it’s estimated that 7 percent of households in the United States are actually “unbanked,” according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s 2015 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households.

Amazon might be trying to appeal to the unbanked demographic in order to get them online shopping just like everybody else, but it might also be rolling out Amazon Cash to keep up with competitors like PayPal and Walmart.

PayPal already has a cash payment option that works just like Amazon Cash. People can go to CVS and deposit money directly to their online PayPal account so they can make online purchases. Walmart on the other hand, has been providing payment alternatives and checking accounts for the unbanked for the past couple years

Amazon Cash is already available in the U.S. and customers can retrieve their barcode by going on the Amazon website.

The USPS Can Now Email You Photos Of Your Mail Before It’s Delivered

The United States Post Office started testing a new service that scans your mail and emails you photos of it about a year ago, but now the service is rolling out in most major metropolitan areas.

The service, called Informed Delivery, scans your mail then emails you a black and white scan of that mail. The USPS has been scanning envelopes for a while because it’s how their sorting equipment works, and now they’re just making those scans available to its consumers.

When you sign up for the service, you’ll get a physical letter in the mail with a verification code you need to enter in before the service starts. You won’t actually know what’s inside any of this mail, but you will at least know it’s on its way. You can check to see if your address is applicable over on the Informed Delivery landing page. It covers a pretty wide area right now and is set to expand even further on April 14.

Nation Expected to Lose 30% of Jobs to Automation in 15 Years

Whether we like it or not, robots are making an impact in the job market. Experts predict that almost a million jobs will be replaced by robots in 2030, while companies like apple are justifying such predictions. This may also be a boon to governments that wish to cut costs, and almost 80 percent of administrative work will likely be automated in the course of the next 15 years.

We’re expected to see changes in sales, customer service, transportation, shipping and logistics, healthcare, and legal paraprofessionals. The consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) took a look at the future of one of the world’s super-powers — the U.K.

In a few years even a developed country like Britain might lose a significant portion of its work force — about 30 percent — to automation, leaving 10 million workers without a job. Breaking the numbers down in terms of the sexes, this means that 35 percent of jobs currently held by men are at risk. Women are expected to fare slightly better, with only 26 percent of jobs currently held by women expected to be replaced by robots.  While sectors such as wholesale and administrative work are most likely to get the replacement, the health care and social work industries might keep the automation at bay for now.

PWC’s chief economist, John Hawksworth, asserted in a PWC press release that this is because “manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable.” In light of this prediction, the PWC’s team does offer several solutions, including increasing education, spreading potential gains from automation, and considering a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

HOW A SOCIETY WITHOUT JOBS COULD WORK

A UBI is gaining traction around the world as potential solution to global automation. While certain entrepreneurs dislike the notion or feel that we aren’t ready for it yet, countries like Finland, Canada, and even cities in the U.S. are experimenting with the system.

A UBI guarantees every citizen a monthly income regardless of any additional salaries they may accrue. While some urge for a complete replacement of all social programs with UBI, others suggest just a partial consolidation. In order to pay for the program as a whole in the U.S., experts suggest possibly eliminating tax cuts that represent upwards of $540 billion for the wealthy or reducing the $853 billion budget on defense.

Will UBI provide as sustainable solution to living in an automated world? We might just have to wait 15 years to find out.

AmazonFresh Pickup Will Deliver Groceries To Your Car

After reports last year that Amazon had its sights set on expanding its grocery business to curbside delivery, the company has officially announced it’s testing a new service called AmazonFresh Pickup.

Only Amazon employees will be able to shop during the beta phase of Pickup at two locations in Seattle, but eventually it will be open to Amazon Prime Members.

Shoppers use an app to select their items and then schedule them for pickup starting from 15 minutes after they place the order. There’s no minimum order or fee for using the service, so it won’t matter if you just need one thing or a trunk full of items.

Once customers arrive at the dedicated pickup spot, Amazon employees will deliver the groceries directly to their vehicle.

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Amazon’s new program echoes a service that Walmart has been offering in certain locations since 2014, allowing customers in a handful of markets to place grocery orders in advance and have them waiting for pickup later in the day. Walmart recently expanded that program to additional cities.

Credit Scores Are About to Rise for Millions of People

Credit is tricky. It seems to work against us more than it works in our favor, and in recent years, there’s been a push to improve the system. In this vein, the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) recently decided to make a change that will help 12 million consumers in the U.S.

According to the Consumer Data Industry Association, the three bureaus will change their standards for reporting tax lien and civil judgment data. If the data doesn’t include a complete list of the person’s name, address, social security number, or date of birth, it won’t be included, and, according to MarketWatch, most liens and judgments don’t include all of this info. The change will go into effect around July 1st. Paid tax liens stay on a person’s report for seven years.

Bankers argue this a bad move because they’ll have a harder time gauging creditworthiness for loans. The thing is, we don’t just use credit for debt. Credit affects everything from our monthly bills to your ability to get an apartment. Landlords and (some) employers check your credit, and bill providers are legally allowed to charge you a fee if you have bad credit. In other words, credit isn’t just about debt. Bad credit can make your life difficult in many other ways.

As a result of this change, 12 million U.S. consumers will probably see a boost in their score. How high? That depends on a lot of factors, including what their score looks like to begin with. While the move only affects about 6% of the U.S. population with credit scores, it’s a move in the right direction for the industry in general.

Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put out a call for public feedback on credit reporting. They want to research the possibility of using other information, like rent and bill payments, to gauge credit. The idea is: if your credit sucks but you have a history of on-time rent payments, that history should be included in your report, too, as it may help boost your score. If you have opinions on this, you have until May 18, 2017 (provided the CFPB as we know it is still around) to submit your feedback. They list a few ways to do this:

  • Electronic: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street, NW., Washington, DC 20552.
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1275 First Street, NE., Washington, DC 20002.

Beyond changing the way credit is calculated, the best thing consumers can do for their credit is to make sure they know what it looks like. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit every year from each of the three major bureaus, and you can get your copy at annualcreditreport.com.

Florida Real Estate Agents Targeted By Elaborate Fake Realtor Group

Realtors in the state of Florida are being targeted and threatened with the suspension of their license as part of an elaborate scam allegedly perpetrated by a fake Realtor group, the state’s actual Realtor group warned on Monday.

Florida Realtors, which boasts 165,000 members in 55 boards and associations, issued a warning to its members this week after Realtors in the state recently began receiving letters from the “Florida Board of Realtors” that claim the Realtors real estate license is in danger of suspension.

The issue? The “Florida Board of Realtors” doesn’t exist.

And according to Florida Realtors CEO Bill Martin, whoever is perpetrating the scheme went through a great deal of effort to make the group appear legitimate.

“It’s a scam,” Martin said. “And it’s not a simple scam. High-tech criminals put a great deal of work and planning into this.

According to Martin, Realtors in Florida called the legitimate Realtor group after receiving “final notice” letters from the “Florida Board of Realtors,” which threatened the Realtor with a license suspension unless the Realtor submitted a $225 renewal fee.

“Failure to respond with your 2017 Agent Board Listing may lead to closure of board listing,” the letter states. “Response required to be included in the Agency listing.”

According to Florida Realtors, Realtors sent in copies of the letter, which appears to be professionally done. The group also said that the letters include a “Make check payable to:” address that appears to be a post office in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Martin said that the scam came to light in the last few days after Realtors all over the state began receiving the fake letters.

But the scam isn’t limited to the letters.

According to Florida Realtors, the letter also directs recipients to floridaboardofrealtors.org, which presents itself as a legitimate, functioning website.

But clicking on any of the links listed on the site shows that the website does have much detail beyond a few high-level landing pages. Most links are dead-ends.

Florida Realtors General Counsel Margy Grant said the group is already in contact with various governmental agencies about the letters.

“For now, members should ignore these demand letters, and we ask brokers and agents to spread this message to everyone working in the Florida real estate industry,” Grant said.

“Florida Realtors is still investigating and in contact with Florida authorities. It’s now also in front of the Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Economic Crimes section in Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office,” Grant continued.

Grant also said that the group contacted both Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Real Estate Commission about the scam, and is considering legal action.

“Be vigilant. Be safe. And tell everyone you know,” Grant concluded. “Criminals created a truly impressive fake website, sent a complex fake letter and successfully alarmed Realtors across the state.”

Jimmy Buffett Is Opening ‘Margaritaville’ Retirement Communities In Florida For Aging Parrotheads

This was bound to happen eventually. Jimmy Buffett’s hospitality and food empire already includes Margaritaville (which encompasses restaurants, hotels, resorts, and casinos), a beer brand (LandShark, which is a better beach beer than it has any right to be), and all the beach-related merchandise that any ocean-adjacent person could possibly need in one lifetime. So naturally, as the tropically-obsessed singer/songwriter leans into his 70th year on this sandy, tequila-filled Earth, it’s only right that Buffett has decided to partner with development company Minto Communities to open a Margaritaville-themed retirement home community.

Before you even waste a second thinking about the obvious: yes. The first location of Buffett’s retirement home will be based in Daytona, Florida.

The first location will include approximately 7,000 available homes and be dubbed “Latitude Margaritaville” with prices in the reasonable range of $200-350,000 for residents 55 or over. According to Senior Vice President of Minto, Bill Bullock, the company aims to have things completely up and running by 2018. There are already 10,000 registrants on the list for a spot so if your parents want a prime location in the Daytona community they better sign up fast and hope people ahead of them on the list…drop off somehow. To put it nicely.

Now, this idea might be easy to make fun of, but for anybody who has actually experienced and embraced the world of Jimmy Buffet and his “Parrothead” fans, it makes sense why this type of retirement opportunity is appealing. Although I hate to admit it, I’m one of those people and it’s largely (read: entirely) because my dad is a legitimate Parrothead (complete with a parrot tattoo that he got in Key West decades ago). So it only makes sense to me, having been to 10 concerts and counting with this community’s target audience, why this could be appealing enough to buy into. Each 2 or 3-bedroom home comes with personal beach access, spa and fitness facility access, and live entertainment for residents.

For a not-small section of a generation, Buffett concerts are a yearly escape where 12 hours or more of tailgating and making friends in the parking lot has turned into a kind of beach-based religion where frozen drinks at 11am and turning your car into a pirate ship is the norm, not strange. So it’s no surprise that 10,000 people and counting have decided that some approximation of this environment is where they would like to live out their days. A daily concert of Buffett’s pre-1996 discography sounds like the perfect way to break up the normal retirement home monotony. Any album after ’96 is, of course, strictly ignored for everyone’s mental well being.

Jimmy is heading into his 42nd straight summer of touring this year so who knows? He may make a surprise appearance every now and then once his retirement kicks in fully. Until then, Parrotheads finally have a place to enjoy retirement where they can try to reason with hurricane season every day, until they go up to that big cheeseburger paradise in the sky.

‘Forbes’ Names the World’s Most Reputable Companies in 2017

Forbes has recently announced its annual list of the World’s Most Reputable Companies for 2017. Complied with the help of The Reputation Institute, the list highlights the top 100 companies based on feedback collected from over 170,000 respondents familiar with the brands. The Reputation Institute also tracks the company’s perception in seven categories, products & services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and performance, scoring them under the RepTrak Pulse measurement system.

For the second time in a row, Swiss timepiece aficionados Rolex tops the list with a RepTrak Pulse score of 80.38. Following in second is the LEGO Group with 79.19; The Walt Disney Company with 79.19; Canon with 78.28; and Google with 78.22. This latest ranking is based on surveys collected in Q1. Take a look at the top 10 below, and head over to Forbes for the full 100.

The World’s Most Reputable Companies in 2017 – RepTrak Pulse Score
1. Rolex (80.38)
2. LEGO Group (79.46)
3. The Walt Disney Company (79.19)
4. Canon (78.28)
5. Google (78.22)
6. Bosch (78.13)
7=. Sony (77.74)
7=. Intel (77.74)
9. Rolls-Royce Aerospace (77.66)
10. adidas (77.27)

Make $12,000 Traveling the US and Drinking Beer

World of Beer is back with another Drink It Internship that will give you the opportunity to make $12,000 traveling the US and drinking beer. If you’ve never visited a World of Beer location, the selection of craft beers, food, and the staff’s expansive knowledge show why the name works. It really is a world of beer. And what better company to fund three interns travel and beer experiences than the company that’s all about sharing the global story behind the beer? Hit up the Drink It Intern section of the World of Beer site below to submit your entry, and then cross your fingers you get chosen to explore, share, photograph, blog and try new things while still getting paid $12,000 for something that shouldn’t be considered work. Applications are due by March 26th, so you have around three weeks to create your magnum opus and get it to World of Beer.

Bitcoin Is Now More Valuable Than Gold

Could Bitcoin become the new gold standard for currencies? It would seem within the realm of possibility as the popular cryptocurrency is now more valuable than gold for the very first time. Following a crash in 2015 that resulted in a low of just $200 USD, a single unit of Bitcoin is now worth $1,238.11 USD, thus surpassing gold’s value of $1,237.73 per ounce. As Engadget points out, gold has long been considered to be one of the most secure bets in the investment world since it’s less volatile than the likes of real estate, so it’s plausible that Bitcoin could ultimately supplant gold as the go-to currency backer.

Bitcoin would ultimately need to sustain its value over a longer period of time to truly be considered an alternative to gold — the potential of another drastic decline in valuation still makes it exponentially more volatile than gold — but its price is undoubtedly a sign of hope for cryptocurrency believers.