CREDIT CARDS that deliver rewards are getting more generous and more flexible, according to Consumer Reports Money Adviser, a new monthly newsletter from Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. MasterCard is allowing families to combine points for bigger rewards, while Discover Card is letting card holders claim their rewards in $20 increments throughout the year instead of waiting for an annual check. About 45 percent of bank credit cards now offer some kind of reward. The downside: interest rates are often higher on cards offering generous rewards so they are best for consumers who can pay their bills in full each month.
MORE THAN HALF of all Americans plan to watch today's Super Bowl, and a quarter of them say they will give closer scrutiny to the commercials than to the game, according to market research firm InsightExpress and media publisher MediaPost. Humor remains the most memorable trait of past commercials.
GROWING CELL phone usage is hitting hotels where it hurts. Last year, the average hotel made $532 on each room phone, 20 percent less than in 2002 and 51 percent less than in 2000, according to the Hospitality Research Group at PKF Consulting. In response, some hotels are cutting phone prices or offering discount packages. If you plan ahead at the Westin New York at Times Square, you can pay $16 a night for high-speed Internet and all domestic phone calls. At full-service Marriotts, "Wired for Business" offers the same deal for $10 a day. An even bigger bargain: Any member of the Wyndham Hotels "By Request" loyalty program (which costs nothing to join) gets free Internet access, local calls and domestic long-distance calls.
WESLEY CLARK may not be faring so well in the presidential primaries so far, but the former general has cleaned up on Wall Street, Fortune reports. The day after the Iowa caucuses, Clark made about $1.2-million in paper profits on his investment in Messer Griesheim. The private German maker of industrial gases agreed to sell most of its assets to rival Air Liquide in a $3.3-billion deal that went largely unnoticed in the United States. Clark resigned nearly all his directorships last fall after he became a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Fortune said he stayed on Messer's board until early January.
BARGAINS are scarce in the stock market these days, but there are still some reasonably priced stocks around, Barron's says. Among them are home builders, banks and insurance companies.
_ Compiled from Times wires and Web sites