07-14-2020  9:16 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

OSU, UO Among 20 Universities Filing Federal Lawsuit in Oregon Over International Student Order

The lawsuit, filed today, seeks to protect the educational status of nearly 3,500 students attending OSU

Governor Kate Brown Announces New Requirements for Face Coverings, Limits on Social Get-Togethers

Effective Wednesday, July 15, face coverings to be required outdoors, social get-togethers indoors over 10 prohibited

Oregon Reports 332 New Coronavirus Cases, 2 Deaths

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, confirmed that Multnomah County is not ready to apply for Phase 2 of reopening

Study Finds Clothing-based Racist Stereotypes Persist Against Black Men

Researchers find some results of the study troubling

NEWS BRIEFS

NNPA Livestreams With Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Val Demings

The audience has an opportunity to be an interactive part of the interview ...

Black Women Often Ignored By Social Justice Movements

‘Intersectional invisibility’ may lead to Black women’s exclusion, study finds ...

Deadline is July 15 to Pay Portland's $35 Arts Tax

The tax, approved by voters in 2012, supports arts education and grants ...

Oregon National Guard Completes Wildland Firefighter Training

The training was conducted using funds that were allocated to the Department of Defense by Congress to enable the National Guard to...

OSU Science Pub Focuses on Influence of Black Lives Matter

The influence of the Black Lives Matter movement will be the focus of a virtual Oregon State University Science Pub on July 13 ...

Wedge wolf pack attacks 7 cattle in northeast Washington

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Wedge wolf pack in northeast Washington has attacked seven more cattle, bringing the number of depredations by the pack to nearly a dozen since May 11.The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated and confirmed the depredations on Saturday at a private...

Seattle mayor, City Council at odds over 50% police cut

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday blasted the City Council's plan to cut the police department's budget by 50% and instead proposed transferring a list of functions like the 911 call center and parking enforcement out of the agency's budget.“We need to invest in...

Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner hurt in jet ski accident

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner sustained serious injuries when he and a passenger on a jet ski collided with a boat on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.According to a police report, Koerner and Cole Coffin were hurt at about 6:30 p.m. Friday when their watercraft...

Missouri football program pushes again for racial justice

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Ryan Walters had just arrived at the University of Missouri to coach safeties for the football program when a series of protests related to racial injustice led to the resignations of the system president and the chancellor of its flagship campus.The student-led movement...

OPINION

COMMENTARY: Real Table Talk

Chaplain Debbie Walker provides helpful insight for self-preservation, and care tips for your family, your neighbors, and your community circles ...

Commissioner Hardesty Responds To Federal Troop Actions Towards Protesters

This protester is still fighting for their life and I want to be clear: this should never have happened. ...

Recent Protests Show Need For More Government Collective Bargaining Transparency

Since taxpayers are ultimately responsible for funding government union contract agreements, they should be allowed to monitor the negotiation process ...

The Language of Vote Suppression

A specific kind of narrative framing is used to justify voter suppression methods and to cover up the racism that motivates their use. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Video shows man vandalizing NYC 'Black Lives Matter' mural

NEW YORK (AP) — Surveillance photos and video of a man who was seen splashing red paint on the “Black Lives Matter” street mural in front of Trump Tower was released Tuesday by New York City police.The video shows a man in black shorts and a dark blue T-shirt pouring red paint...

Michael B. Jordan wants you to view a drive-in movie, on him

NEW YORK (AP) — For Michael B. Jordan, timing is everything. So when the SAG award winner marched in a Los Angeles Black Lives Matter protest last month demanding that Hollywood drastically increase its diversity in the executive ranks, it was a moment he felt prepared for.’I think...

Ethiopia enters 3rd week of internet shutdown after unrest

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ethiopia is entering its third week without internet service for almost everyone after days of deadly unrest, as the government in Africa’s diplomatic and aviation hub says it’s trying to prevent speech that could further inflame ethnic tensions.The internet...

ENTERTAINMENT

Sheriff: 'Glee’ star Naya Rivera saved son before drowning

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Glee” star Naya Rivera ’s 4-year-old son told investigators that his mother, whose body was found in a Southern California lake Monday, boosted him back on to the deck of their rented boat before he looked back and saw her disappearing under the...

Tom Bergeron, Erin Andrews exit 'Dancing With the Stars'

NEW YORK (AP) — The dance has ended for “Dancing With the Stars” hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews.ABC said in a statement that the show is looking to “embark on a new creative direction” and host Bergeron “departs the show with our sincerest thanks and...

Back to the '80s: Andrew McCarthy writing 'Brat Pack' book

NEW YORK (AP) — Actor-writer-director Andrew McCarthy, a 57-year-old father of three, keeps getting asked about his “Brat Pack” years in the 1980s. He is now ready to answer. Grand Central Publishing announced Tuesday that McCarthy's “Brat: An '80s Story” will...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Tom Bergeron, Erin Andrews exit 'Dancing With the Stars'

NEW YORK (AP) — The dance has ended for “Dancing With the Stars” hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin...

Biden proposes overhauling nation's energy sector by 2035

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden released a plan Tuesday aimed at combating climate change and spurring...

White House campaign to help jobless 'find something new'

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new White House-backed ad campaign aims to encourage people who are unemployed or...

Catalan leader demands investigation into Spain spying claim

MADRID (AP) — The speaker of the Catalan regional parliament demanded Tuesday that the Spanish government...

Armenia-Azerbaijan border fighting escalates, 16 killed

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia and Azerbaijan forces fought Tuesday with heavy artillery and drones,...

Russia seeks prison terms for 3 youth group members

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities on Tuesday demanded prison terms for three members of a youth group...

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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