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Identity Theft Protection, Reviews

Zander Insurance Group Identity Theft Protection Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Pickpocketing at the subway station

Over 16 million people were affected by identity theft in the United States in 2014, according to a recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 86% of victims had their credit card or bank account compromised, while 4% had their identity used to open a new account.

With identity theft on the rise, you might be wondering if it’s worth paying for help to protect your identity and finances. Before considering whether or not an identity protection service is right for you, keep in mind that no company can completely prevent identity theft.

One company that offers identity theft protection is Zander Insurance Group. It’s personally endorsed by Dave Ramsey, and the company has been in business for over 80 years. It’s an affordable solution should you want assistance in recovering after experiencing identity theft.

Overview of Zander’s Identity Theft Protection Plan

Zander offers the following services with its identity theft protection plan:

  • Personal information monitoring
  • Unlimited recovery services
  • Child information scan
  • 100% recovery success
  • $1 million reimbursement
  • Proactive measures and support
  • Electronic stolen funds coverage

This might sound like an impressive list, but the reality is, most of these services you can get elsewhere for free. What you’re really paying for is the recovery service, because filling out the paperwork to reverse the damage is the most painful process associated with having your identity stolen.

As our guide on identity theft protection explains, you can set up an alert from any of your accounts so you know when a charge is made, and you can sign up for free credit monitoring through services such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.

Additionally, you can receive your credit report from the three bureaus for free at www.annualcreditreport.com, and you can put a freeze on your credit at any time for about $10. This takes care of “proactive measures.”

It’s important to understand what the $1 million insurance policy covers. You can read the full policy benefits here, but to summarize the document, the insurance will cover:

  • Costs incurred as a result of identity theft, such as replacing documents, postage required to get documents replaced, and obtaining credit reports
  • Lost wages as a result of having to take time off of work to deal with restoring your identity
  • Legal fees and expenses incurred as a result of having to go to court to contest any accounts opened without your knowledge due to identity theft, or to hire a lawyer

As you can tell, this policy only reimburses you for costs directly incurred from having your identity stolen. The coverage is useful in extreme situations. For example, if you file for your tax return and find that someone has already filed for it, you’ll have to deal with the IRS on top of everything else. That process could take weeks, or months, to get through.

If you don’t have the time to deal with the hassle of paperwork and phone calls to recover your identity, it could be worth paying for the identity restoration service, and Zander has one of the most affordable options.

On top of that, membership with Zander grants you access to an “ID Self Defense Academy” so you can educate yourself on how to reduce the risk of having your identity stolen.

If you’d like a detailed overview of what Zander offers, it has its benefits summary and terms of service available here.

[Worth It or Not? Identity Theft Protection Reviewed]

How it Works

Zander offers a comprehensive “Personal Information Monitoring” program along with its recovery service. While you can monitor your accounts and credit for free, Zander takes this one step further by conducting daily searches for your information online. It will search thousands of websites to ensure your information isn’t being sold. If it finds anything suspicious, you will be alerted immediately via email.

This service is optional and included in the identity theft protection plan. If you’d like to take advantage of it, you need to opt-in after signing up for membership.

The star of Zander’s identity theft protection is its full-service recovery plan. In the event your identity is stolen, Zander will file all the necessary paperwork and make phone calls on your behalf so you don’t have to deal with the process. A representative will work with you to restore your credit to its pre-theft status. (Zander is not a credit repair agency, and will not advise you on how to improve your credit score;it works to fix the damage that was done from identity theft.)

When Zander finds something suspicious, you will receive an email telling you to log into your account where you can view the full report. Included are instructions on what actions you need to take next. If necessary, a representative will help you, but not all alerts will require you to take action.

Note that Zander doesn’t offer credit monitoring, and it doesn’t have to with other companies offering this service for free. It will send you a reminder once every four months to check your credit report so you can stay on top of it.

Zander also doesn’t have access to your bank and credit card accounts, and it recommends you set up separate alerts and check in on those daily to lessen the chances of identity theft occurring.

If you receive an alert after business hours, you can submit a form online and a representative will contact you the following business day.

What Does it Cost?

Zander offers its services for individuals at $6.75 per month. If you sign up for a year of service, you’ll pay $75 (or $6.25 per month).

For a family plan, you’ll pay $12.90 per month, or $145 per year ($12.08 per month). The family plan covers your spouse and dependents up to age 26 who live with you.

Transparency Levels

Zander is upfront in stating that “no identity protection service can prevent identity theft from happening.” It places emphasis on its recovery services for that reason. We’re on the same page as Zander –we don’t believe you should be paying an arm and a leg for things you can do for free.

Zander’s customer service is also top-notch. The representatives are friendly and quick to respond.

Other Alternatives

Zander has a great identity theft protection plan for anyone not completely comfortable with technology, as it relies on email and its website for communication. If you prefer another solution, two we recommend are:

IDShield: Individual plans are $9.95 per month, and family plans are $10.95 per month. For that price, you get access to unlimited consultation, complete monitoring, and a $5 million service guarantee. Support agents are available “24/7/365 for emergency situations” as well. Its services are very similar to Zander’s.

Prosper Daily: (Formerly BillGuard) This is an app with three payment tiers. You can download it for free, but you can only connect one financial account. A “pro” account is $5 per month (or $35.88 for an annual membership) and allows you to connect four financial accounts. The “ultimate” account is $10 per month (or $83.88 for an annual membership), and you can connect an unlimited amount of accounts.

Prosper Daily offers a way to track your spending, credit score, and even the location of your purchases. It also alerts you whenever there’s fraud with your bank account, credit card, credit report, or if something is found on the black market. It will keep you up to date on data breaches as well. On top of all this, it offers identity restoration services and $1 million in identity theft insurance. It’s a good all-around solution if you’d rather handle your finances via mobile.

Paying for Peace of Mind

Zander is an affordable option for those that would like peace of mind when it comes to their credit. Identity theft can happen to anyone, and with hackers getting smarter and data breaches becoming more frequent, it pays to be on top of your financial accounts.

While you can do a majority of the monitoring yourself for free, restoring your credit may be difficult on your own. Check https://www.identitytheft.gov/ to get an idea of what the process looks like. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, consider outsourcing this to a company like Zander.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

Review of Bluebird Prepaid Debit Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

woman using ATM
Source: Getty Images

Bluebird card features

The Bluebird prepaid debit card functions as a prepaid debit card and a bank — well, if neither charged fees for holding your money. Bluebird sings a different tune, with no minimum balance requirement, no inactivity or inquiry fees, no monthly or annual fees and no overdraft fees, all of which can be common in the prepaid-card world.

Developed in partnership with Walmart, the Bluebird card is a financial product offering more benefits than a traditional prepaid debit card. Users can wield Bluebird like a credit card since it works at almost any location worldwide accepting American Express. Bluebirders also receive extra traditional cardholder benefits, such as fraud protection, roadside assistance and Amex Offers, which provides deals and discounts at a variety of restaurants, shops and other merchants.

The Bluebird prepaid debit card also lowers barriers to traditional bank checking account features that make life easier, such as bill pay, direct deposit and a variety of no- or low-cost ways to add funds. It’s a hybrid financial creature, offering the ease and low expenses of an online bank and the reassurance of physical plastic and paper when it’s needed.

Among the features:

  • Direct deposit. Bluebird account holders can set up direct deposit online or with the Bluebird app, but a form must be printed out for your employer, so access to a printer is necessary. Drawing on funds before payday is available if your employer deposits funds early. But, in general, direct deposit funds are available as soon as the money arrives in the account, which could be up to two days before payday. It can take up to two payday cycles for direct deposit to kick in. Direct deposit can also be set up for federal payments, such as Social Security, a Veterans Affairs pension, a tax refund or a paycheck for a federal government employee.
  • Adding money to your account. There are a variety of ways to add money to a Bluebird account. Users can add cash via direct deposit, linking an existing debit card or bank account, adding cash or cashing a check at a Walmart register (up to $1,999) or via mobile check capture.
  • Mobile check deposit. With the Bluebird mobile app’s mobile check capture, users can deposit checks in minutes using their phone’s camera. But you won’t get the cash you’ve deposited for up to 10 days while the check clears. You can, however, pay a fee to have the money instantly available: 1% on payroll or government checks, or 5% on other checks. There’s a $5 minimum fee for this service.
  • ATM access. Bluebird encourages users to use a Walmart ATM or the MoneyPass network of ATMs found in thousands of locations for fee-free withdrawals. The Bluebird app can help users locate a nearby MoneyPass ATM.
  • Bill pay. Users can pay rent or utility bills with just a click — on the website or in the app — to be delivered within two business days. (If electronically, it takes longer to send a check by mail). Although there’s no way to set up a recurring payment, you can schedule bill reminders. Bluebird offers a Bill Pay Guarantee as long as you pay your bill six business days in advance of the payment deadline.
  • Checks. Yes, Bluebird account holders can even get 40 personalized physical checks for $19.95, plus shipping. But using these checks involves an extra step that traditional banks don’t require: Users must log on to the Bluebird system and personally pre-authorize the check, which in effect, holds the money required to cash the check. On the upside, there is no possibility of overdraft fees.
  • SetAside Account feature. This allows cardholders to save money for a specific goal (a vacation or an anniversary gift, perhaps) by essentially creating another account. Unlike a traditional savings account or money market account, no interest is paid on money saved in SetAside.
  • Family accounts. Parents of teens may be intrigued by Bluebird’s family account option, which allows you to create up to four subaccounts (and cards) for other people — age 13 and older — and set permissions on those accounts. These subaccount users can pay with their Bluebird card at any merchant accepting American Express, withdraw cash (with permission) and request money from the primary Bluebird member. But they can’t pay bills, add funds or cash checks — or create their own accounts. So there won’t be any surprising, bank-breaking Fortnite purchases.
  • Money transfer. Skip the wire expenses. The Bluebird card allows users to send cash from their account to users for pickup at a Walmart store. As well, Bluebird offers user-to-user online send-and-request cash capabilities, but both must be Bluebird users.
  • Account management tools. Bluebird allows users to set up fee-free alerts for low balance, added money, bill pay and fraud, and also has a text-enabled system to get your current balance, last few transactions and SetAside balance. The app also makes it easy to check in on current funds.
  • Other benefits include 24-hour roadside assistance dispatch, purchase protection and the Global Assist Hotline for travelers needing urgent assistance.

Bluebird fees and fine print

There can be sticking points around pre-authorizations, or the amount a merchant pre-authorizes and holds for payment — even if you didn’t actually spend as much as you were pre-authorized for. This, in turn, can lead to extra funds being held hostage (although not maliciously). For this reason, Bluebird advises cardholders to pay gas station attendants inside, not at the pump, and discuss pre-authorizations with other merchants likely to charge a bit extra, such as hotels, cruise lines and rental car agencies.

A deposit limit of $100,000 a year is set for all Bluebird accounts — for linked family members as well. Only $10,000 a month can be added by mobile check deposit. The ceiling for spending, withdrawal and other expenses (including merchants, bills and online transactions) is $15,000 a month.

Wondering about whether your cash is FDIC insured, as with a traditional bank? Money added to registered Bluebird accounts is placed into a custodial account at a FDIC-insured bank. Funds should be insured by the FDIC (up to $250,000, which is more than the Bluebird deposit-per-year limit). But it does remind users that American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc. isn’t a bank, so there’s a risk of financial complications. As well, funds placed on temporary cards are not eligible for FDIC insurance.

Additionally, American Express isn’t accepted at merchants as widely as some other card issuers. And because Bluebird isn’t a traditional credit card (neither investigated by nor reported to credit bureaus), it will not help build credit.

Bluebird Fees
Activation fee$0 if signing up online;otherwise, $5 to purchase a starter kit at Walmart, which offers a temporary card.
Reload fee$0
Check deposit feeNo charge if you’re willing to wait 10 days;
1% or 5% of a check for “Money in Minutes”
ATM feesWithdrawal at MoneyPass ATMs, $0;
withdrawal at non-MoneyPass ATMs, $2.50
Card replacement fee$0
Money transfer to Walmart store in U.S. or Puerto RicoUp to $50: $4
$50.01-$1,000: $8
$1,000.01-$2,500: $16

Using the Bluebird mobile app

Source: iTunes

The app is available for iPhone and Android devices, and offers some of banking’s most popular features, including the ability to view your balance and detailed information about individual transactions. Users can cash checks, pay bills, add money from other debit cards, send money to family account holders (e.g., your teens) and locate MoneyPass ATMs, which don’t charge fees. Users can also transfer money to their SetAside (savings-adjacent) account.

The app has a 3.2-out-of-5 rating on iTunes and a 4.2-out-of-5 rating on Google Play. Some users complain about iPhone X compatibility. The app also lacks budgeting and savings-pattern features that select banking apps are now offering. To find the Amex Offers that come with a Bluebird card, you’ll also need to download the Amex app.

Opening a Bluebird account

Applicants can sign up for Bluebird in a number of ways. Users can go to Bluebird.com to register for an account, or download and use the Bluebird app (available for iPhone and Android from the App Store and Google Play, respectively). If a registrant needs instant access to a card, they can visit a Walmart store to purchase a Bluebird account setup kit for $5, which includes a temporary card, then register on Bluebird.com for a personalized Bluebird card imprinted with the user’s name.

Users would want to upgrade to the permanent or personalized card as the temporary card has a serious limit: You can only add up to $500. After registering and verifying your email address, Bluebird sends a personalized Bluebird card with your name on it seven to 10 days later. This card should be activated immediately upon receipt, according to Bluebird.

To be eligible for a Bluebird card, you need to have a valid Social Security number, be at least 18 years old and reside in the U.S. No credit reviews are required.

Who could benefit from the Bluebird card?

If you do not qualify for a traditional bank account due to poor credit or disinterest, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a solid, reliable alternative to check-cashing companies. The card is also an option for those pursuing debt-free living, offering the ease of plastic payment without the monthly bill.

The Bluebird card is also convenient for others:

  • Regular Walmart shoppers who want to deposit and withdraw money
  • Those who do not plan on depositing more than $100,000 a year
  • Those who are interested in helpful financial management tools, such as low balance alerts and preventive measures against check-bouncing.

This prepaid debit card may also work well for tech-savvy parents who want to offer teen kids some plastic for trips and travels — with limits.

Overall review of Bluebird

For those with simple accounting requirements, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a good alternative to a traditional bank account or prepaid debit card, providing a new, low-cost option to cost-conscious or credit-damaged consumers who still want to manage their money using features, such as bill pay, paper checks and instant online access.

While lacking some of the benefits of a traditional bank — such as interest-bearing savings accounts and brick-and-mortar service — the card offers many card benefits to those who might not otherwise qualify.

As well, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a great pick for parents of teens, with the option to reload, monitor and reduce funds available to kids.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lora Shinn |

Lora Shinn is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lora here

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Investing, Reviews

Fidelity Review 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

With a whopping $6.9 trillion in assets under management, Fidelity is one of the country’s largest broker-dealers. That kind of size and power may seem like a detriment to some, but Fidelity’s focus on investor value, long-term planning, and fair and transparent pricing makes the Boston-based giant one of the industry’s more likable brands.

Fidelity offers an extensive array of investment products, including hundreds of proprietary mutual funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and access to thousands of competitor fund investments. Its brokerage platform lets you trade international stocks, stock options and shares of initial public offerings. The firm also offers margin accounts and short selling capabilities for sophisticated investors. There is investing guidance available when you need it as well as 24-hour support. The best part? Lately, Fidelity has been on a mission to reduce the fees and expenses associated with being an investor.

Fidelity
Visit FidelitySecuredon Fidelity’s secure site
The bottom line: It’s not an overstatement to say Fidelity has something for every investor, with trading costs and account minimums that can’t be beat.

  • Full-service broker with a strong brand reputation
  • Extensive options for all investor types
  • Low or no fees and commissions on most products

Who should consider Fidelity

With much to offer, Fidelity is a great fit for many investor types. Beginner investors will appreciate the amount of guidance Fidelity offers to help you set a goal, create an investment strategy, and understand the benefits and risks of different asset classes. Once you’re ready to invest, Fidelity offers mutual funds with no minimum investment and no fees as well as no-fee brokerage accounts.

For index fund investors, Fidelity has four funds with 0% expense ratios and a roster of offerings that beat even low-fee giant Vanguard on price. Trading stocks or ETFs on the regular? Fidelity has low-cost trades, access to tons of research and a great platform for active traders. One company study found that even Fidelity’s bond prices are more competitive, saving investors an average of $14.55 per bond.

Fidelity fees and features

Current promotions

Get up to 500 free trades for two years when you fund an eligible account. The number of free trades is determined by the size of your deposit.

Stock trading fees
  • $4.95 per trade
Account minimum
  • $0
Tradable securities
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Options
  • Futures / commodities
  • Forex
  • Crypto-currency
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Commission-free ETFs offered
Mutual funds (no transaction fee) offered
Offers automated portfolio/robo-advisor
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • 529 Plan
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Custodial IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • Solo 401k (for small businesses)
  • SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
  • Trust
  • Guardianship or Conservatorship
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android, Fire OS
Customer supportPhone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email, 190 branch locations
Research resources
  • SEC filings
  • Mutual fund reports
  • Earnings press releases

Strengths of Fidelity

  • Low-cost trading. Considering its size and infrastructure, you might not expect Fidelity to offer a competitive commission rate of $4.95 per trade as well as no-commission trades on select ETFs. E-Trade and TD Ameritrade will cost you $6.95 per trade. Charles Schwab also offers $4.95 trades, but Fidelity edges ahead with lower margin rates for traders with large debt balances.
  • No-fee investing. The company made a bold move in 2018 by offering a handful of index funds with 0% expense ratios, no fees and no minimums.
  • Mutual funds. Fidelity offers more than 200 proprietary mutual funds, representing a diversity of asset classes and investment strategies. More than 100 of the firm’s funds currently have four- or five-star ratings (out of five) by Morningstar based on risk-adjusted returns. You also can access more than 10,000 competitor mutual funds, along with tools to help you screen funds according to features, ratings, returns, expenses and more.
  • Research and planning. When it comes to research, Fidelity hits the mark in multiple ways. As an asset manager, Fidelity’s global research is extensive. More than 400 analysts around the globe cover over 2,600 companies and generate tons of research. For the average investor, Fidelity offers information to help make stock trading decisions, build a fund portfolio and learn about IPOs. There are lots of tools and calculators for everyday financial planning as well.

Drawbacks of Fidelity

  • High minimums for new investor promotions. Fidelity offers between 300 and 500 free trades for two years when you open a new account with a minimum of $50,000 to $100,000. To be fair, these minimums are lower than those required for similar promotions from competitors such as Charles Schwab, E-Trade and TD Ameritrade, but it’s a hurdle for the average new investor.
  • Slow customer service. Overall, Fidelity gets fairly high marks for customer service, with its focus on investment guidance and education. But with a company this size, there are bound to be a few negative reviews. Fidelity’s tend to focus on the customer service and speed. Service representatives can be slow to respond to complaints, money transfers can take weeks, and many customer communications are sent through the mail, according to some customers’ comments.

Is Fidelity safe?

Fidelity uses sophisticated technology to safeguard client accounts and transactions. Accounts at Fidelity are encrypted with two-factor identification, requiring an extra step of replying to a text message when it comes to sensitive transactions. Voice recognition technology is used to authenticate your identity over the phone. Fidelity’s systems are under 24/7 surveillance, from security at local branches to monitoring transactions for identity theft and protecting Fidelity’s website with the industry’s strongest firewalls.

Fidelity accounts also are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000 and SIPC-insured for up to $500,000 per account.

Final thoughts

To be a successful investor, it helps to have the right tools. It also helps to understand exactly what you’re paying for so you don’t lose too much of your investment earnings to commissions and fees. Fidelity provides both to investors, which is meaningful for a company that’s been around for more than 70 years.

Open a Fidelity accountSecured
on Fidelity’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Melissa Phipps
Melissa Phipps |

Melissa Phipps is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melissa here

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