Dunkin’ Donuts: Merging Balances between DD Perks Cards

If you’ve used Starbucks cards, you probably know that Starbucks cards let you transfer balances from one card to another allowing you to quickly and easily consolidate all your funds onto a single card account.

Now head over to Dunkin’ Donuts and their DD Perks cards and you’ll quickly notice that there’s no option to consolidate balances onto a single card. Unlike Starbucks, if you have balances on a bunch of DD Perks cards, you have to spend the balances by using each of those cards.

Well, that has finally changed (sort of). With the latest release of the Dunkin’ Donuts app, Dunkin’ Donuts has added a new “Merge Balance” option which allows you to transfer balances between your DD Perks cards. After launching the app, go to “My Card” then scroll down and you will see the new “Merge Balance” option. Within “Merge Balance”, select the card you want to merge from and the card you want to merge to then press “Done”.

Keep in mind that DD Perks cards can only store up to $125 (previously $100) and once the card value is merged, the empty card will be removed. The “Merge Balance” option is only available via the Dunkin’ Donuts app. The feature is not currently available if you manage your account via the Dunkin’ Donuts website.

Are embossed credit/debit cards still necessary?

While unembossed credit/debit cards aren’t new, they may eventually become more mainstream. Embossed credit/debit cards go back to a time before cards were swiped or dipped into point-of-sale (POS) systems or entered into online payment systems.

Embossed cards used a simple method for merchant processing. Consumers would pay merchants with their cards and merchants would have a device to place the embossed card onto. The sales order or receipt, which comprised of several duplicate sheets sandwiched between carbon paper was placed on top of the card. The merchant would pull up & down on a slider and the embossed information would be imprinted onto the sales order or receipt. The carbon paper would ensure duplicate copies. The sales order or receipt would be separated, carbon paper discarded, leaving copies of the sales order or receipt each with imprints of the card information. One copy would go to the consumer; one copy would go to the merchant and one or more copies would be used for merchant processing. As embossing equipment was expensive, embossed cards also served as protection against fraud.

As technology has advanced, embossed cards for the purposes of merchant processing today serve merely as an old-fashioned back-up system in the event modern processing techniques (ex: swiping the magnetic strip or dipping the chip) are unavailable. However, with online credit and debit card processing, the need for swiping or dipping a credit/debit card becomes a non-issue. In addition, there have been advancements in anti-fraud technologies to further boost security and protections on cards for both consumers and merchants.

With all the advancements, it’s not unreasonable to see why card issuers would do away with embossed credit and debit cards in favor of unembossed cards. Card information (ex: card number, cardholder name, etc.) is still printed on the cards either on the front or back. However, utilizing unembossed cards reduces production costs and makes it easier for card issuers like banks to issue new or replacement cards on the spot rather than having to have the embossed cards printed through a third-party vendor and then mailed to the cardholder. This adds convenience and quick turnaround time for the consumer.

Realistically, embossed cards are not likely to completely go away as they do add a certain elegant and aesthetically pleasing characteristic; however, it won’t be too surprising to see more card issuers eventually make the switch from embossed to unembossed cards at least for some of their cards.

2017 New York International Auto Show is coming . . .

The 2017 New York International Auto Show returns to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in NYC April 14th thru April 23rd. The auto show will encompass four floors with around 1,000 vehicles on display ranging from the latest vehicle models to future concept cars from a variety of manufacturers.

Product specialists will be on-hand giving presentations as well as standing by to answer questions. The show will also include onsite activities like the Jeep Ride Along and Toyota Driving Experience and no auto show is complete without getting up close and personal with vehicles on display in the exhibit halls.

From coupes to sedans, SUVs to trucks, hybrids, luxury vehicles, classic & vintage cars, attendees will certainly find and have their favorites.

For more information about the 2017 New York International Auto Show, check out the official site at the link below:

http://www.autoshowny.com

A Look at Apple’s MacBook 12-inch (2016)

Last year, Apple gave its MacBook 12-inch model a nice refresh. While the outside remained the same, the refresh did provide improvements to the CPU/processor, RAM, flash storage and battery life.

While the MacBook 12-inch model may not meet the needs of power users, it will meet the needs of those looking for a lightweight (around 2 lbs.), small form factor laptop with a Retina Display and decent performance for e-mail, Internet access, productivity applications (ex: MS Office), social media, streaming music & video.

MacBook

Testing a MacBook 12-inch (2016) base model with a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.2GHz), 8GB RAM and 256GB PCIe-based flash storage, the MacBook performed well throughout the initial setup, installation of applications, web surfing, streaming music & videos and file transfers. The general performance was quite impressive and counter to what I thought I might experience (ex: spinning beach balls). While I wouldn’t recommend using the MacBook 12-inch model for Adobe Creative Cloud, audio/video editing and exports (even if you upgrade to the Intel Core m5 or m7 processors . . . though feel free to experiment at your own discretion); for most day-to-day computing needs, the MacBook should work well.

Of course, the starting price of $1299, the single USB-C port and the need for a variety of USB-C adapters to work with existing peripherals and devices may influence your decision on whether to go with the MacBook 12-inch model. Keep in mind that the new 2016 MacBook Pro models also utilize the USB-C ports (either 2-ports or 4-ports) so adapters will still be necessary should you opt for the new MacBook Pro. Apple is still offering as an option the previous generation MacBook Pro in both 13-inch and 15-inch models with the traditional ports as well as the MacBook Air.

MacBook Accessories

If you do opt for a MacBook 12-inch model, there are accessories you may want to consider. While there are certainly plenty of accessories available, here are just a few to consider.

Mosiso Polyester Fabric Sleeve for MacBook 12-inch (Color: Black & Hot Blue)

Mosiso

The Mosiso sleeve is a nice, well-padded sleeve for the MacBook. The material feels both soft and durable. The black & hot blue color is very nice. There is an external zippered pocket to store accessories like the 29W USB-C power cable & adapter and USB-C adapters. The sleeve is available on Amazon for $12.99 – http://amzn.to/2okjsIm.

Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-port Hub Adapter with Type-C Charging Port, 4K HDMI Video Output (30 Hz) and two USB 3.0 Ports

The Satechi USB-C hub adapter is a portable, easy-to-use, plug-n-play accessory. Connect it to the single USB-C port on your MacBook and it will give you a USB-C passthrough port for charging, two USB 3.0 ports for your USB devices and a HDMI port (30 Hz) for video output. The Satechi USB-C hub adapter comes in four colors (silver, space gray, gold, rose gold) which correspond to the four color options of the MacBook. While this hub adapter will not solve all your USB-C adapter needs, it’s a nice place to start. The Satechi USB-C hub adapter is available on Amazon for $59.99 – http://amzn.to/2nCurQl.

Apple has a series of USB-C adapters available at discounted prices for a limited time. Note: The discounts apply to USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 accessories for a limited time. For $49.00, you can get the USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter (which includes a USB-C port, HDMI port and USB port) or the USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter (which includes a USB-C port, VGA port and USB port) to name a few. For a complete list of USB-C adapters, visit Apple’s website at http://www.apple.com.

Experimenting with GarageBand: One Year Later

It’s been over a year since I started experimenting with Apple’s GarageBand, initially playing around with smart instruments using the auto-play control and eventually building up to creating, editing, arranging & producing full tracks in GarageBand using only smart instruments on auto-play and royalty-free Apple loops (both included with GarageBand).

While I don’t expect to win any awards for any of these tracks nor do I intend to be an award-winning composer by any degree, I will say that this has been a truly fun, rewarding & educational experience. I am extremely pleased with all the tracks that have been created & produced over the past year.

Jam Sessions Collection

The Jam Sessions collection is a “preview” of the kinds of tracks that can be created using GarageBand’s smart instruments on auto-play. When using the auto-play control in conjunction with smart instruments, you can access a series of preset chord progressions. The chord progressions will vary depending on your key/chord selections and the smart instruments you choose. How you edit, arrange, and utilize these smart instrument chord progressions in your own tracks is completely up to you and is only limited by your own creativity.

The Jam Sessions collection is not only a collection of “preview” tracks; it also serves as the building block for the forthcoming On The Road collection. Many of the chord progressions previewed in the Jam Sessions collection are incorporated into the On The Road collection.

Check out the Jam Sessions collection below:

Countdown, Discovery & Countdown Revisited

GarageBand also includes a library of royalty-free Apple loops which you can similarly use to create your own unique arrangement or get more sophisticated and throw in some smart instruments on auto-play.

Countdown & Discovery were the first two tracks I created, edited, arranged and produced in GarageBand using royalty-free Apple loops and smart instruments on auto-play. Countdown became one of my favorite tracks that I ended up revisiting the track and arranging a new version, Countdown Revisited.

Check out Countdown, Discovery & Countdown Revisited below:

A Cozy solution . . . for your adapters

Micro USB to Lightning adapter, MagSafe to MagSafe2 converter, Lightning adapter . . . all these Apple adapters have one important thing in common . . . they are all small and very easy to lose.

While you could always replace the Micro USB to Lightning adapter for $19.00 and the MagSafe to MagSafe2 converter for $9.99, the Lightning adapter that is included with the Apple Pencil is not sold separately. Likewise, the cap for the Apple Pencil that covers the lightning connector is also not sold separately.

A company called Cozy Industries (http://cozy-industries.com) has created a nice solution to help secure a variety of adapters to prevent loss. While these Cozy products are not entirely inexpensive (approx. $7 to $10 depending on the product), they are certainly worth consideration.

Cozy Industries makes a LightningCozy for the Micro USB to Lightning adapter, a MagCozy for the MagSafe to MagSafe2 converter, and a PencilCozy & PencilCozy Combo for the Apple Pencil, just to name a few. The PencilCozy Combo is comprised of two Cozy products – one that secures the cap of the Apple Pencil and the other that secures the Lightning adapter (the PencilCozy only includes the Cozy product to secure the cap of the Apple Pencil).

In brief, the Cozy product is a rubber strap that holds the adapter securely on one end and then serves as a strap to secure the Cozy product onto the cable or accessory that you would normally attach the adapter to. For instance, the LightningCozy would hold the Micro USB to Lightning adapter securely on one end and then the rubber strap would be secured onto a Micro USB cable. Likewise, the MagSafe to MagSafe2 converter would be secured onto the MagCozy on one end and then secured onto a MagSafe cable. In the case of the Apple Pencil, the PencilCozy product for the cap would hold the cap of the Apple Pencil securely on one end and then be secured to the Apple Pencil; the Cozy product for the Lightning adapter would be secured onto a compatible lightning cable.

Cozy products are a simple and easy way to keep your adapters and related accessories together, minimizing the odds of the adapters getting lost, while maintaining the convenient functionality of your accessories with or without the adapter (ex: For the LightningCozy, conveniently remove the Micro USB to Lightning adapter if you need a micro USB cable without worrying about losing the adapter. Quickly and easily reattach the adapter if you need a lightning cable.)

To learn more about these Cozy products and to see a full line of Cozy products, check out http://cozy-industries.com.

Donating To Charitable Organizations

The holidays and year-end tend to be the time where people make donations to charitable organizations. One of the reasons for this is to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with making donations to legitimately registered 501(c)(3) charitable organizations by December 31st of the current tax year. Qualified donations may be taken as an itemized tax deduction on your tax returns, in accordance with IRS guidelines, for the applicable tax year. Tip: Consult with a certified tax professional for your individual tax situation.

Of course, another reason (and quite an important reason) to make donations is to help those less fortunate and those in need. This may include donating to an organization like the American Red Cross which provides disaster relief and vital services in times of need, the Make-A-Wish Foundation which helps to provide/fulfill wishes of children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions, educational institutions (like your Alma Mater) to help provide scholarships to future students and/or fund crucial programs and many other legitimate charitable organizations working for and supporting important causes.

However, before donating, be sure to do your due diligence especially when donating to charitable organizations for which you are unfamiliar or less familiar with. First, learn more about the charitable organization and what exactly they do. Make sure this organization is one you can associate and connect with. There are many legitimate charitable organizations out there; unfortunately, it’s not possible to donate to every single one so choose those charitable organizations that you have a strong bond with and whose cause/mission you deeply support.

Furthermore, you want to find out how the donations are spent and allocated. If the charitable organization states the donations are used for disaster relief, ask how much of it goes towards actual disaster relief vs administrative and other incidental costs. Also, ask what specific disaster relief programs are the funds used for, how and where exactly are those funds used. Think of this process of due diligence like a major investment (ex: buying a car or a home) and ask for specific, detailed information. If the charitable organization truly wants and needs your help and your donation, they will be forthcoming with the information and/or provide a means of getting you that information. You should also check to see if the charitable organization is registered as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. You can obtain this information through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Once you’ve performed your due diligence and have determined that this is an organization that you want to donate to, donate what you can and not necessarily what the organization is asking for. An organization may ask for $100 but if you can only donate $25 then that’s what you donate. Donate within your means. A donation is not supposed to create an undue burden or hardship on yourself. If you cannot donate, make it clear right away that you simply cannot donate to the organization. While you may feel pressured to donate, this is a voluntary choice and you should not feel otherwise. A charitable organization working to support those in need should understand that if you cannot donate, you should not be forced or pressured to do so.

With some donations, you can specify where or what the donations should go towards (ex: where it’s needed most vs. a specific program) so feel free to specify how your donation should be spent. Throughout the year, some organizations may hold campaigns where there may be a matching gift program dollar for dollar. These are times where donating may have a greater impact (ex: if you donate $100 on a matching gift program, your donation will be doubled) so you don’t need to wait until the holidays or year-end to donate. Donate when you can and within your means. Also, donate in a manner that makes you feel most comfortable. Most charitable organizations take donations by phone, online, by mail and even in person so donate your way!

Once you make your donation, be sure to keep a record and retain the receipt provided by the charitable organization if you plan on taking the tax deduction. Your tax professional will need it when preparing your tax returns or if you prepare your own returns, you’ll need it for reference. This receipt should be kept with a copy of your tax return and other vital documents related to the tax return should you need to provide it to the IRS or a tax professional later.