10-19-2019  10:47 pm   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Washington State to Vote on Affirmative Action Referendum

More than two decades after voters banned affirmative action, the question of whether one's minority status should be considered in state employment, contracting, colleges admissions is back on the ballot

Merkley Introduces Legislation that Protects Access to Health Care for Those Who Cannot Afford Bail

Under current law, individuals in custody who have not been convicted of a crime are denied Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits

New County Hire Aims to Build Trust, Transparency Between Community and Public Safety Officials

Leneice Rice will serve as a liaison focused on documenting and reporting feedback from a community whose faith in law enforcement has been tested

Hank Willis Thomas Exhibit Opens at Portland Art Museum

One of the most important conceptual artists of our time, his works examine the representation of race and the politics of visual culture

NEWS BRIEFS

GFO Offers African Americans Help in Solving Family Mysteries

The Genealogical Forum of Oregon is holding an African American Special Interest Group Saturday, Oct. 19 ...

Third Annual NAMC-WA Gala Features Leader on Minority Business Development

The topic of the Washington Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors' event was 'Community and Collaboration' ...

Building Bridges Event Aims to Strengthen Trust Between Communities

The 4th Annual Building Bridges of Understanding in Our Communities: Confronting Hate will be held in Tigard on...

The Black Man Project Kicks Off National Tour in Seattle

The first in a series of interactive conversations focused on Black men and vulnerability takes place in Seattle on October 25 ...

Protesters Rally in Ashland to Demand 'Impeach Trump Now'

Activists are rallying in Ashland Sunday Oct, 13 to demand impeachment proceedings ...

Video shows coach disarming, embracing Oregon student

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities have released a video that shows part of a former Oregon football star's successful effort to disarm a student who brought a shotgun to a Portland high school.The video released Friday by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office shows Keanon Lowe and...

Parents guilty of starving 5-year-old daughter to death

BEND, Ore. (AP) — A jury has convicted a Redmond couple of starving their 5-year-old adopted daughter to death.The Bulletin reports by unanimous jury verdicts Friday after a weekslong trial, Sacora Horn-Garcia and Estevan Garcia were found guilty of murder by abuse and criminal...

Vaughn scores twice, Vandy upsets No. 22 Missouri 21-14

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derek Mason wants it known he's the best coach for the Vanderbilt Commodores.Riley Neal came off the bench and threw a 21-yard touchdown to Cam Johnson with 8:57 left, and Vanderbilt upset No. 22 Missouri 21-14 on Saturday with a stifling defensive...

No. 22 Missouri heads to Vandy, 1st road trip since opener

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Missouri coach Barry Odom knows only too well the dangers of going on the road and how a few mistakes can prove very costly.While some of his players my not remember that stunning loss at Wyoming to open this season, Odom hasn't forgotten."We're going to treat it just...

OPINION

Atatiana Jefferson, Killed by Police Officer in Her Own Home

Atatiana Jefferson, a biology graduate who worked in the pharmaceutical industry and was contemplating becoming a doctor, lived a life of purpose that mattered ...

“Hell No!” That Is My Message to Those Who Would Divide Us 

Upon release from the South African jail, Nelson Mandela told UAW Local 600 members “It is you who have made the United States of America a superpower, a leader of the world" ...

Rep. Janelle Bynum Issues Response to the Latest Statement from Clackamas Town Center

State legislator questions official response after daughter questioned for ‘loitering’ in parking lot ...

Why Would HUD Gut Its Own Disparate Impact Rule?

"You can’t expand housing rights by limiting civil protections. The ’D’ in HUD doesn’t stand for ‘Discrimination’" ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

New Emmett Till marker dedicated to replace vandalized sign

GLENDORA, Miss. (AP) — A new bulletproof memorial to Emmett Till was dedicated Saturday in Mississippi after previous historical markers were repeatedly vandalized.The brutal slaying of the 14-year-old black teenager helped spur the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago.The...

Parents sue Virginia school district over racist 2017 video

HENRICO, Va. (AP) — The parents of a Virginia student who say their son was assaulted and bullied by his middle school football teammates in an incident captured on video two years ago are suing the school system.The video, which showed football players simulating sex acts on black students...

Team abandons FA Cup qualifier after racial abuse

LONDON (AP) — An FA Cup qualifier between Haringey Borough and Yeovil was abandoned Saturday when the home team walked off the field after one of its players was racially abused.Haringey, a London-based non-league club, walked off in the 64th minute after claims its Cameroonian goalkeeper...

ENTERTAINMENT

Adam Lambert: Happy to see more LGBTQ artists find success

NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Lambert, who rose on the music scene as the runner-up on "America Idol" in 2009, says he's happy to see more mainstream LGBTQ artists find major success."I think it's less taboo to be queer in the music industry now because there's so many cases you can point to like,...

Jane Fonda returns to civil disobedience for climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inspired by the climate activism of a Swedish teenager, Jane Fonda says she's returning to civil disobedience nearly a half-century after she was last arrested at a protest.Fonda, known for her opposition to the Vietnam War, was one of 17 climate protesters arrested Friday...

Naomi Wolf and publisher part ways amid delay of new book

NEW YORK (AP) — Naomi Wolf and her U.S. publisher have split up amid a dispute over her latest book, "Outrages."Wolf and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced separately Friday that they had "mutually and amicably agreed to part company" and that Houghton would not be releasing "Outrages."...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Altuve's HR in 9th sends Astros to World Series over Yankees

HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve, the 5-foot-6 driving force of Houston, delivered a swing that will play in...

In many parts of Mexico, government ceded battle to cartels

EL AGUAJE, Mexico (AP) — The Mexican city of Culiacan lived under drug cartel terror for 12 hours as gang...

Impeachment inquiry puts spotlight on Perry, who shunned it

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long after more flamboyant colleagues flamed out of President Donald Trump's favor amid...

The Latest: Syria Kurds say they will withdraw from border

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Turkey's invasion of northern Syria (all times local):11:15 p.m.A senior Syrian...

South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar returned to the country Saturday to meet...

Ethiopia's Nobel-winning leader launches million-copy book

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia's Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister is launching a book of his...

McMenamins
Candice Choi of the Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The nickel-and-diming never stopped.

The fees were constant: $28 to cash a paycheck. $1.50 for a money order. A dollar or more every time I swiped the prepaid cash card I bought at the drug store.

In all, I racked up $93 in fees in a monthlong experiment of living without a bank and making a go of it on the economic fringe. That works out to $1,100 a year just to spend my own money.

It may be hard to fathom why anyone would live this way, but a federal study last year found that about one in four U.S. households skirts banks and relies on services such as check-cashing and payday loans. Many of these households bring in less than $30,000 a year.

Some do it because they believe they don't have enough money to open a bank account or were burned by fees in the past. But it's not always a matter of choice: Many can't open an account because of a history of bad checks or damaged credit.

There are other reasons too. Language barriers intimidate some would-be customers, or they simply feel banks aren't welcoming. For others, literally handling their own money offers a sense of control at a time of financial anxiety.

Federal and local governments want to bring this group into the traditional banking world. The fear is that the chronic use of high-fee services keeps the country's poorest from moving up.

Yet there are signs that the slow economic recovery is leading more people to rely on certain alternative services. And it's not just the poor.

Americans are expected to load $37 billion this year on to prepaid cards, which function like bankless debit cards and are available at drug stores and discounters. That's twice as much as last year and four times the amount in 2008.

The tradeoff is often a tangle of fees. Some cards charge a dollar a minute to call customer service and $5 just to add money to the card. The still nascent prepaid card industry will come under new federal oversight as part of this year's financial overhaul.

To find out what it's like to survive on these services I decided to put away my credit and debit cards for one month. I suspended my direct deposit in favor of paper paychecks.

In that time, I got by using only cash and services such as money orders.

It turns out fees were only part of the problem.



The Costs

I don't recall the last time I had to cash a check, so I had no idea how expensive it could be. I forked over $56 to cash two paychecks at grimy check-cashing stores. This accounted for more than half my total fees.

And I was lucky. The check-cashing fee in New York is capped at 1.83 percent. In Florida and Maine, where the cap is 5 percent, check cashing could have cost almost three times as much. About half of states set no limits.

Most of my remaining costs, about $34, went to fees on prepaid cards.

These charges were the most frustrating because they were so unpredictable. The two cards I used each cost $4.95 — on top of the money I was putting on the card — but came with wildly different terms. Some cards cost as much as $29.95 upfront.

The first card I bought, a NexisCard, was the only option at the check-cashing place I pass everyday in my neighborhood on Manhattan's West Side. I had to pay a $1 fee for each purchase. If I used the PIN code to authorize a purchase, it was $1.50. And if I wanted cash back at the register, it was $1.95. The card could also be used at bank ATMs for a fee. That's on top of the fee the bank charges for out-of-network cards. I did this just once for a total cost of $5.

The second card I bought was issued by Green Dot Corp., one of the bigger players in the prepaid market. This one had better terms but still charged $4.95 each time I wanted to reload it.

Paying rent was also a process. I couldn't mail a wad of cash to my landlord, so I went to a nearby Western Union to buy money orders with cash from one of my paychecks. Each money order is limited to $1,000, so I needed two for my $1,300 rent.

This cost a total of $3.50.



The Hassles

When you don't have a bank, you spend a lot more time managing your money.

So many of my finances are automated — direct deposit, automatic bill pay — that it was jarring to spend so much time waiting in Soviet-style lines to cash checks and pay rent.

At the check-cashing place, I squirmed when the clerk counted out my money by snapping each $100 bill high in the air. In my mind, the line of customers behind me was counting along in unison.

I also felt self-conscious when using my temporary prepaid card, which looked cheap, even fake. It didn't have my name on it and the account number wasn't raised as on most credit cards. A permanent card wouldn't arrive for six weeks.

If a cashier's eyes lingered too long, I wanted to pull out my Bank of America rewards credit card, which has "Platinum" in italics across the top.

Then there was the time a hotel charged my NexisCard $400 in case I incurred any incidentals. I was told the charge would be refunded at checkout. But it took multiple calls over three weeks to get my money back. NexisCard refused to lift the hold until the hotel faxed them an official release form.

The appearance of mystery transactions made me paranoid too.

When I was checking the NexisCard account online, I spotted a $3 entry for a "retail reload." This confused me because I never reloaded the card. I filed a dispute and was told I'd get a call back within three days. The call never came.

A few days later, another $3 entry appeared. The customer service representative was as stumped as I was.

It turns out both "retail reloads" were credits for my prior complaints about incorrect fee charges. I learned this only after talking with the CEO of the company, Andrew Siden, weeks later as part of the reporting process.

We determined that one credit was an error that worked in my favor.

He agreed that the transactions can be confusing and that mistakes happen. Siden noted that the company operates on thin margins and does its best to fix mistakes when they're pointed out.

But I only caught the mistakes on my account because it was part of my job. Would I keep chasing down a few dollars here and there for much longer?

I'm glad I don't have to find out.

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