7 steps to keeping your banking information safe and secure
Online banking has created a fantastic convenient way to check your balance, transfer money, open new accounts and more. With a click or a tap, you can have instant access to your bank account at any time, anywhere. However, this access can also expose your financial information to threats and can put your balances in jeopardy. To avoid any kind of hacking or fraud on your account, here are a few precautions you can take.
1. Make sure your online banking sign in is sufficiently complex.
The most common advice to safeguard against hacking your account is creating a complex password. Most websites and banks will require a password of significant length that includes special characters. If you want it to be something you'll remember, try making a sentence out of the letters. Then, replace a few I's or O's with exclamation points and zeros respectively. Now you have a complex password. If you want to make sure your password is very secure, then sign up and use a password manager service like LastPass. This service creates incredibly complex passwords for you and automatically logs you in to all of your accounts. Your password vault is encrypted and is basically impossible for anyone to see, including the best hackers.
2. Change your banking password regularly.
You should change all of your important passwords at least once a year. For something like a bank account, it should be about every six months. You can change it even more often if you want. This will keep anyone who might already have your password out of your account. And if your bank or any site says they were hacked, you should definitely change your password — no matter if you had just changed it the day before. If you don't want to worry about changing your password, LastPass will even change it automatically for you based on a specific schedule.
3. If available, activate two-step verification.
Two-step verification requires that you type in a pin sent to your phone as well as your password to sign in. Unless someone happens to have your password and your phone, no one else will be able to log into your account. Many sites, especially banks, now offer this option. The set up is simple and it will leave you with some peace of mind every time you sign in.
4. Avoid logging in to your account on public wifi.
First of all, you should avoid connecting to public, unsecured networks as a general rule. These can be easily hijacked and used to access information on your phone or your computer. But if you must use public wifi, avoid logging into or accessing any sensitive information — especially your bank account. Just logging in while connected to one of these networks might be enough for someone to skim your password and access your account. (Trust me. This exact thing happened to me recently and it was not a fun time.)
5. Limit the amount of devices that will remember or recognize your login.
If you use your tablet, phone and multiple computers on a regular basis, it's tempting to let these devices remember your username or password. This eases your access to your bank, but also lets others access it too. If someone has access to a device where this sensitive information is stored and ready, they can easily authorize something on your account that you don't want. To avoid this, limit the amount of devices that can remember your login. Just stick to the one you use the most and log out on all the others.
6. Don't use your main email for your bank account.
Email can be compromised easily too. If your email is hacked, any account that has it set for password recovery is in jeopardy too. This is why you should also change your email password frequently. If you use one email regularly, you're exposing it to threats more often. To avoid someone getting into your bank account through your email, set up a new one that is strictly for your banking information. This will prevent most email hacks to access your bank account.
7. If you're really worried about it, don't use online banking at all.
Of course, the only sure fire away to avoid exposing your information with online banking is to avoid using it at all. The convenience of the service is a trade off for the security implications. If you still want to use it but you're concerned, limit when and where you access it. Only log in on secure networks and on one device at a time.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!
Every time I leave the house, I manage to spend more money than I expected.
I’ve tried leaving my credit cards at home, only to succumb to using Apple Pay to give myself a sweet little treat. I take a different route on my Hot Girl Walks to avoid Starbucks, then stumble upon a new neighborhood shop filled with snacks or trinkets. And even when I have to do horrid things like going to the dentist, I somehow just have to peek into Target (and leave with bags and bags of clothing), or I reward myself for that grueling session in the dreaded dental chair with lunch (mouth still numb …).
Summer is the most treacherous season of all because I’m constantly out-and-about. And while my spending habits in general have gotten better due to intense tracking — no more late-night Instagram-inspired, impromptu shopping sprees is a gigantic win — it’s the little purchases that all seem to add up.
To balance out those teeny treats, I plan on spending less when I intend to go out. Since I’m not willing to relinquish all my happy little spending moments, I compromise by skipping those huge splurges that don’t yield huge rewards. I’m talking nights out where I barely remember anything but those $20 cocktails.
This is my golden rule for smart savings: cut out the things you can live without and keep the things that matter.
My priorities are as follows: planning for future travel, keeping up my summer skincare, and not losing out on my daily dopamine spend. All else must fit into my budget. But that doesn’t necessarily those items have to be boring.
Summer is chock-full of thrilling adventures that suit any budget. There are activities for everyone with every interest every day of the week — you just have to be creative and know where to find them.
Here are the summer activities I’ve added to my calendar that save money without sacrificing on fun:
Picnics and Potlucks
I’ve already had a fair share of picnics this summer, and I anticipate plenty more. Picnics are the ideal summertime entertainment. The potluck aspect inspires me to cook for my friends (or repurpose my leftovers). It’s a completely low-stress opportunity to see my friends in one fell swoop without springing for a costly dinner. Simply text your chums, lay out a blanket, and drop a pin — magic!
A city isn’t a legit city without free summer concerts. Usually held in public parks, they’re a fantastic nighttime outdoor activity. Find out where these hidden gems are, plan ahead, and be sure to nab fabulous seats for a free show!
Art! Get some culture!
Warning: Museums can be pricey. But luckily, most museums host a few free nights a month. Check the summer calendar and enjoy the art. There are also wonderful events when you can meet others who are intrigued with arts and culture.
Another way to get in some free art is to do a gallery-opening crawl. There’s generally wine and snacks gratis, plus bustling crowds of lovely people.
Get your steps in
My solo Hot Girl Walks are some of my favorite activities, but taking a stroll or a hike with my friends has become a treasured hobby. Whether we’re just strolling aimlessly around the city, or hiking a local trail, it’s a marvelous way to chat with your friends without shouting over a club’s super loud sound system.
We’ve all heard it before. Takeaway is way more tempting than cooking at home night after night after night. But although ordering-in might save you precious time, at the end of the day I’ll bet your wallet takes the hit.
Everyone on the planet resorts to takeout after a long day's work — and I’m no exception. After a day slouched at my desk tapping on laptop, hopping on and off Zoom calls, I deserve a big fat burrito — extra guac and cheese, please. But it’s never worth the price, and with taxes, app payout, delivery fees & tip, it all adds up.
Plus, I often wonder d how much delivery drivers actually get out of my bill? Do the extra $$ that I pay for delivery actually reach the drivers alone?The Washington Post recently conducted an experiment to discover what percentage of the total tab goes to drivers. The Post looked at a variety of food delivery apps vs. restaurant pickup to see how they compare. The exact same order was placed — here are a few of their findings:
Screenshot from The Washington Post article
Disclaimer: “As tips can vary customer-to-customer — from the size of the tip to giving a percentage versus a flat dollar amount — The Post initially removed them to compare the cost of the transactions better. When added in later, they significantly impact driver pay.” — The Washington Post
Driver payout is very close to the estimated app payout, which is a bit unexpected. I imagined that the drivers would receive at least 5-10% of the total and earn a livable wage. But I now see that isn’t it at all…
“Is this money going to the restaurant? Is this money going to the driver? Is this money going to the firm? It’s all so opaque…Customers have been really frustrated when they look at their receipts.” said Veena Dubal, an employment law professor at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco.
Then suddenly, restaurant owners decided that their prices would vary depending on which platform a customer came through. What-why? Because the apps charge sooo much in commission?
I’m super annoyed that the price of my favorite burger and fries keeps rising. And rising. And rising. People blamed inflation, then it was the fact that people should earn a minimum wage — clearly the drivers weren’t — and now it’s the app commission?
“If the delivery companies didn’t exist, customers would go back to ordering straight from me over the phone or from my website, and I would actually be able to make money on the orders again,” said Artesano owner Douglas Mathieux, 54.
We keep talking about how much restaurants lose, but what about the drivers? They’re the ones who spend hours driving through terrible weather — who would leave their house in the rain, am I right?
Based on The Washington Post study, drivers' pay is usually calculated based on time and mileage. I highly doubt that this includes the time drivers waste waiting for the bag ‘o grub to be ready. Most apps handle only one order at a time, that way drivers know precisely how much they make. But some apps batch orders together, making it tough to grasp exactly what they earn.
But things are changing… New York was the first city to pass a new bill establishing a minimum wage for anyone who drives or bikes food orders throughout the five boroughs. The law goes into effect on July 12th. Wages will increase to $17.96 per hour (plus tips) with a further boost to $19.96 an hour by April 1, 2025.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams explained on the Gothamist site. “The ones that bring you pizza in the snow and Thai food you like in the rain. This new minimum pay rate will guarantee that these workers and their families can earn a living. They should not be delivering food to your household if they can’t put food on the plate in their household.”
Eric Adams added, “When the rate takes full effect, workers will make three times (my emphasis) as much as they do now. I am proud that our city has fulfilled its promise to provide more stability and protections for 60,000 workers and get them a dignified pay rate.”
Once the New York establish this legendary pay hike, hopefully, this can spread to other cities. And that way restaurants can still receive orders from the app, drivers earn a fair wage, and I get my big fat ooey-gooey burrito. Restaurant owners are happy. The drivers are happy. And I’m thrilled. Boom!