The fine print on frequent-flyer miles
Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
Worthless medical insurance
"Junk insurers" are rushing in to fill a loophole in the Affordable Care Act, said Zeke Faux at Bloomberg Businessweek. After failing to pass legislation to gut the ACA in 2017, the Trump administration widened the definition of "short-term" insurance plans that typically "serve as a stopgap for people between jobs," making them renewable for as long as three years. Unscrupulous brokers have taken advantage, "selling plans so skimpy that they offer no meaningful coverage." One woman, Marisia Diaz, bought a plan from a company called Health Insurance Innovations for $400 a month with a maximum $7,500 deductible. But the broker never informed her that the plan "capped hospital coverage at $1,000 a day" and allowed a maximum of $5,000 per surgery. After her husband's heart attack, she was billed for $244,447.91.
Frequent-flyer fine print
"What happens if you break the frequent-flier rules?" asked Josh Barro at New York Magazine. Well, one man was actually indicted recently after allegedly stealing 42 million frequent-flier points from Delta. That may be extreme. "Still, you might want to keep the possibility of punishment in mind before using customer 'tricks' that involve breaking the contract of carriage, fare rules, or loyalty-program rules." There are consequences that airlines can pursue short of criminal charges. All the major airlines have provisions that let them take away all your points if you violate program rules. Violations include selling points to other travelers or attempting to create a frequent-flier account for your pet — or, in the case of one musician, for the cello that accompanied him on trips.
CFPB keeps complaints database
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will keep its public database of consumer complaints, said David Lazarus at the Los Angeles Times — though it's adding a disclaimer telling consumers not to trust its data. The new disclaimer states that "complaints are not necessarily representative of all consumers' experiences." The database has been effective at getting companies to respond to complaints; the CFPB says that 97 percent "get timely responses." Now, though, the bureau is saying, "Move along, nothing to see here." It's still a win for consumer advocates, who feared the CFPB would shut down the database, which Trump's chief of staff Mick Mulvaney once derided as "a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government."