Posts with «banking & budgeting» label

America's largest independent video store is taking its DVD-by-mail service nationwide

After September 29th, Netflix will no longer rent DVDs by mail and will be winding down that part of its business altogether. Most people might be surprised that the streaming giant is still even renting DVDs, but if you're one of its subscribers who'll be sad to see the service go, there's now another rent-by-mail option you can use anywhere you are in the US. Scarecrow, the largest independent video store in the US, has launched its own rent-by-mail service that will send DVDs and Blu-ray discs straight to your door. 

The store first piloted the service back in 2019 before it started working on making its library available to people across the country during the pandemic. As The Seattle Times reports, it launched a campaign in 2021 to raise funds for an overhaul of its aging website, making it more searchable and giving it a more modern look. Now, Scarecrow's rent-by-mail website is live, with step-by-step instructions on how to avail of the service and a searchable library divided by genres. 

To be able to rent from Scarecrow, you'll need to sign up for an account, which will have to be verified and approved by a staff member. After that, you can start adding DVDs to your cart. Titles are priced individually, but shipping will cost you $12 for up to six discs. That's discs, not titles, which means if one movie has six discs, you can't add more to the same shipment. The rental window is 14 days, including shipping, after that you can either renew by phone or pay late fees. 

Scarecrow has 140,000 titles in its collection — comparably, Netflix has around 5,000 titles in its US catalog, according to CordCutting — most of which you can rent by mail. There are exceptions, however, including rare and out of print videos that require a security deposit, newly released movies and adult titles. It also doesn't mail VHS tapes and laser discs, so you'll have to go elsewhere for those formats. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Android TV's new Shop tab lets you buy movies from different providers

Google is about to make it a lot easier for you to buy and rent movies across streamers — for better or worse for your wallet. The company has announced it's adding a Shop tab on Android TV, where you can browse, purchase and store movies.

Though it looks a bit similar, the Shop tab differs from the Android TV's Discover tab in a few ways. Both pages show content from a variety of streaming platforms, but the Discover tab displays recommendations based on your viewing habits, whether or not the titles cost anything to watch. On the other hand, the Shop tab only features content you can, well, shop. Instead of having to click through each app individually, you can see all the movies that are available to rent or buy across the streamers you subscribe to.

The Shop Tab also has a Library section that displays every title you've purchased with your Google account on Google TV devices and its mobile app, Android TV devices and YouTube. Speaking of the Google TV mobile app, you can log in to it on your phone or tablet to download content from your Library for offline access later on. The wait to access this new feature shouldn't be long, as Google reports that the Shop tab will roll out across the US and 23 other countries over the next few weeks.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Venmo rolls out Teen Accounts with no-fee debit card and ATM access

Good news for parents with teens: Venmo is rolling out what it calls Venmo Teen Accounts. This lets parents create accounts for minors aged 13 to 17. It comes with a Venmo Teen Debit Card, which gives parents or guardians an insight into spending, lets them send money and allows them to manage privacy settings.

According to Venmo, over 50 percent of parents are interested in using apps to help their children learn about money. The company also claims that over 45 percent of Gen Z want to have a conversation with an adult about managing personal finances. The Venmo Teen Account should hopefully bridge that gap for many parents or guardians out there.

Venmo says that the Venmo Teen Account has no monthly fees and that the debit card will have no-fee cash withdrawals at ATMs. Of course, the account will be able to send and receive money from family and friends. Parents and guardians will be able to see friends list, transaction history, account balance, and be able to manage the debit card’s PIN, lock and unlock it and block users from interacting with the account.

And since it’s separate from the parent or guardian’s account, teens will be able to independently track their own spending and learn financial responsibility. Venmo says that teen accounts will be eligible for direct deposit, which is great for those with part-time jobs.

Signing up for a teen account is pretty straightforward. Parents or guardians will need to sign into their personal Venmo account and tap Me > (Your Name) > Create a teen account. From there, you’ll need to add a name, address, and date of birth, and choose a debit card style from a selection of a few colors.

Venmo Teen Accounts will be rolling out to select users in June of 2023 and will be available on a wider scale in the weeks following.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Get three months of Hulu for only $6 starting today

Hulu’s offering a steep discount in honor of the completely made-up holiday National Streaming Day. Until May 27th, new and returning subscribers can nab three months of the streamer’s ad-supported plan for $6, breaking down to $2 per month. These plans typically cost $8 each month, or $24 for three months, so this is nothing to sneeze at.

Normally these types of deals are just used to lure in new customers and are unavailable to returning subscribers, but this one breaks the mold so long as you canceled over a month ago. Of course, you have to be okay with watching a few ads every now and again, but this is a full subscription with access to the streamer’s entire library of content, including forthcoming seasons of The Bear and the recently-revived Futurama.

The ad-supported tier, however, doesn’t allow you to download content for offline viewing, so keep that in mind when planning a long summer trip. Also, just like a streaming Cinderella, that $2 carriage reverts to an $8 pumpkin after three months, so mark your calendar and cancel to avoid getting charged.

Hulu is generally considered to be one of the best streaming sites around, with tons of original programming like The Handmaid’s Tale and access to broadcast TV standouts like Abbott Elementary.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google will start purging inactive accounts later this year

If you have a Google account you haven’t used in a while but want to hang onto, you may want to log back in. The company announced today that it will begin deleting accounts that have been inactive for at least two years. Google frames it as a privacy-enhancing move, but it’s easy to also see it as a cost-cutting measure to free up storage on Google’s servers.

Starting later this year, anyone with an account that’s been inactive for two years will receive an email warning them that it will be deactivated if they don’t log in within 60 days. After deactivation, you’ll have another 60 days to sign in before the company permanently deletes it. So, in total, that’s about four months’ worth of notice to recover your account, which sounds reasonable enough. Google says the earliest it will begin deleting accounts is December 2023.

The company will send warning emails to both the account in danger of being deleted and any recovery emails you added. The deactivation and deletion will apply to everything you use that account for, including Gmail, Drive, Docs, YouTube, Google Photos, Meet and Calendar. It only applies to personal accounts, so work or school emails will be spared the culling.

Although the company’s stated privacy motive may be a convenient way to avoid saying, “We want to save money,” there is some substance to that framing. In addition to not having up-to-date passwords, abandoned accounts are ten times less likely to have two-factor authentication set up, making them more vulnerable to hijacking.

Google has a web tool to simplify avoiding account deletion. The company’s Inactive Account Manager can warn you more frequently about dormant accounts while letting you decide what happens to your data. There, you can choose trusted contacts to alert or even download your account data if it’s in danger of deactivation. And in case it ever does get axed, you can plan ahead by using Google’s age-old Takeout feature that lets you view and export all your data.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Pocket users can now create multiple collections of articles, videos and websites

Read-it-later service Pocket has unveiled some new features, including the option to create private lists of saved articles, videos and websites. Pocket Lists are only available in the US on the web for now, but the feature will be available globally starting next month and on mobile later this year.

You'll be able to create multiple lists with titles and descriptions. In the near future, you'll have the option to add several items to a list at once and attach notes to help you remember why an item is there. Later this year, Pocket will roll out the option to publish lists and share them with other users.

The Pocket team suggests that you might set up lists for things like recipes, trip planning or simply stuff that puts a smile on your face for whenever you need it. This is a handy update from Pocket, particularly for those who like to keep things organized. You might think of it as a bit like having bookmark folders in Pocket or a different place to save Pinterest-style collections.

Elsewhere, Pocket has built a new version of its iOS app with the aim of rolling out features more rapidly — the plan is to release updates every two weeks. You'll need to be on at least iOS 16 to use the latest app, which offers personalized recommendations and a more streamlined user interface, Pocket says. The My List tab is now called Saves, and it will offer access to features such as search, tagged items, favorites and a way to listen to audio versions of articles all in one place. One other handy update means that you'll be able to swiftly archive items with a swipe.

On Android, there's a very welcome update rolling out today. Pocket will now save log-in credentials for websites you've saved stuff from, so you'll no longer need to sign in every time you visit them. While in article view, you'll be able to move between saved items using Previous and Next buttons.

Pocket, which Mozilla bought back in 2017, added that it has removed some features. The team plans to bring back some of those within a few months, such as the option to highlight articles. Other features are gone for good, however, including the ability to recommend items to other users, which has been removed in favor of lists. To that end, here's hoping Pocket rolls out the option to share lists fairly swiftly.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

iRobot's Roomba 694 drops back to $180, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

Two factors had an effect on the deals we saw this week: spring sales and early Mother's Day promotions. Even if you don't need a gift for a mom or it's still cold (or weirdly summery hot) where you are, you can snag a decent price on some of our recommended tech. Like our top budget robot vacuum, iRobot's Roomba 694, which dropped back down to $179. Apple's only sub-$1,000 laptop, the MacBook Air M1, is $200 off at Best Buy only. We also saw a few deals on gadgets we like for the kitchen, like our favorite air fryer and a Vitamix blender. Both the latest and previous generation standard iPad are on sale, as is the older, but still-great M1 MacBook Air. And our favorite ereader, Kobo's Clara 2E is seeing its first discount. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today. 

iRobot Roomba 694

If you want a good vac that will clean your floors without much fuss (or requiring much money) we suggest iRobot's Roomba 694. It's usually goes for $275 but right now you can get it for $180 at both Amazon and directly from iRobot's site. The bot has dropped to this price a number of times before, and is just $5 more than the all-time low. Our senior commerce editor, Valentina Palladino, named the 694 the best budget vacuum in our guide because it has an easy-to-use app and does a good job of keeping floors clean on a schedule. It doesn't have the advanced mapping and obstacle avoidance features of a more expensive model, and it doesn't self-empty, but for less than $200, it's a relatively affordable way to keep your carpets fresher.

iRobot Roomba S9+

The Roomba S9+ from iRobot is our pick for the most premium robot vacuum you can buy — and it comes with a premium price. Both Wellbots and Amazon are currently selling the $1,000 vac for $749 or $250 off, which could help if you've got your eye on a top-of-the-line floor cleaner. Valentina thinks its one of the best out there, admiring the attractive, copper-accented design and suction power that's rated to be 40 times more powerful than a standard Roomba. She noticed a deeper clean in her carpets, but noted that the machine was a little louder than others, though not to the point of irritation. It runs for about an hour before needing a recharge at its base and does a decent job of avoiding objects and furniture. That said, it's probably overkill for most people. 

For a few hundred dollars less, you can go for our favorite mid-range pick, Shark's AI Ultra Robot Vacuum, which is 25 percent off at Amazon. That's not an all-time low, but the discount brings it $450 instead of $600. The runner-up mid-range vac in the same guide, iRobot's Roomba j7 is seeing an even deeper 33 percent discount, making the $600 model $399 instead. Again, not the lowest price we've seen — it's about $50 more than it sold for during the Black Friday sales at the end of last year. 

MacBook Air M1

It's a few years old at this point, but Apple's MacBook Air with the M1 chip is still a capable and relatively budget-friendly laptop. Usually $999, Best Buy is selling the base model for nearly $200 off, or $800. It has fallen to this price numerous times in its two year history, and the deal matches the all-time low. Right now Best Buy seems to be the only major retailer offering the deal — it's just $100 off at Amazon and $130 off at B&H Photo

Our resident Apple laptop expert, Devindra Hardawar gave the MacBook Air M1 a 96 in his review, admiring the speediness of Apple's new in-house silicon and the overall lack of fan noise, since it uses passive cooling instead. This is the base model of the M1 Air, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, which is typically the only configuration of a MacBook that you can get for under a grand.  

Apple iPad (2022)

Best Buy is also selling Apple's latest standard iPad with 64GB of storage for $399 or with 256GB for $549. That's a $50 discount on either model and matches the lowest prices the tablets have seen since their debut. Our deputy editor, Nathan Ingraham, gave the 10th generation iPad an 85 in his review, noting that it was an improvement over the previous generation in terms of the design, processing power and cameras. But it has some drawbacks too — like still using the first generation Apple Pencil, not supporting Stage Manager and adding a $120 price jump over its predecessor. Speaking of, that 9th generation iPad happens to be our current recommendation for a budget Apple tablet, and it's on sale for 15 percent off, or $279, at Amazon. That's about $30 more than its all-time low, but still a significant savings over the newer iteration. 

Kobo Clara 2E

Looking at an ereader is easier on your eyes than reading on your phone or tablet. Kobo's Clara 2E earned the top honor in our guide to these devices and is seeing a rare sale on Kobo's site. It's usually $140 but the $20 discount makes it $120. I found the Clara 2E easy to hold, read and navigate. It's got a textured back, a soft and warm front light and quick touch responses. It's more expensive than the base model Kindle, which is $99 for the ad-supported version. However, the budget Kindle doesn't have a warm reading light, isn't waterproof and costs $120 if you don't want ads. Kobo also offers seamless integration with OverDrive so you can borrow ebooks from your local library, and now has a new subscription service for a unlimited reading of selected ebooks for for $8 per month, which helps it compete with the Kindle Unlimited subscription.  

Fitbit Versa 4

Warmer weather might be inspiring you to get more active. If you want a fitness-focused smartwatch to help motivate you, take a look at Amazon's discount on Google's Fitbit Versa 4. The price is down to $160, which is a $40 savings over the list price. It went for $10 cheaper during the shopping holidays last year, but this is the lowest we've seen it since then. The Versa 4 not only offers plenty of health and fitness tracking, it can guide you on a run or bike ride with Google Maps support right on your wrist for Android users (those with iPhones will need to wait until later this spring for that integration). And unlike many smartwatches out there that only get a day or two on a charge, the Versa 4 claims a six-day battery life.  

Fitbit's Sense 2, which has more sensors to give you all-day stress tracking and ECG heart rate readings, is on sale for $50 off, bringing it down to $250. It's worth noting that neither smartwatch lets you run third party apps, though you can answer calls and texts. A $10-per-month Premium subscription is also required (after the six-month trial) for guided programs, personalized fitness feedback and sleep insights. Yet for just $160 it's an affordable way to get a fitness focused wearable that's a few steps above a simple tracker.  

Instant Vortex Plus

Air fryers can do a lot more than just fry — in fact they don't technically fry anything, instead they cook food using hot, circulating air. The results are both healthier and more energy-efficient than frying. The Instant Vortex Plus is made by the same brand who makes the perennially popular Instant Pot, and is the top pick in our guide to air fryers. Both Amazon and the Instant Brands storefront are selling the 6-quart size for $130, which is a 24 percent discount off its usual $170 and the lowest price we've seen outside of the shopping holidays last year. This one beat out the other models in our testing because it heats up impressively fast, has easy, intuitive controls and does a good job of keeping cooking smells at bay.  

Ember Mug 2

Ember's newest app-connected mug can keep your tea or coffee at your preferred temp for more than an hour on its own, or all day long when you set it on the included charging coaster. Given the price, however, this smart drinkware might be more suited to gifting. In a sale timed for Mother's Day, the 10-ounce and 14-ounce Ember Mug 2 are both $30 off at Ember when you use the code MOMDAY23 at checkout. That makes the smaller mug $100 and the larger one $120. The coupon only applies to the black or white mug — the metal-toned versions are still list price.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

The 40mm Galaxy Watch 5 is back down to $219 at Amazon, Best Buy and directly from Samsung. That's $60 off the list price and matches the all-time low we saw in January of this year. Engadget deputy editor Cherlynn Low gave the wearable an 85 in her review when it came out last August, citing the solid health and fitness tracking capabilities and the clean, minimalist design. It's our current favorite smartwatch for Android users as a capable companion for your smartphone, delivering alerts and notifications to keep you in the loop. If you'd like a larger display or have bigger wrists, you may prefer the 44mm size. It's also on sale for $60 off, bringing it to $249 instead of $310. Cherlynn gave the Pro model a slightly better review score of 86 and it's getting a 19 percent discount that makes it $363.   

Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender

We named Vitamix's E310 Explorian Blender one of the best kitchen gadgets in our 2023 guide. This week, it's seeing a $60 discount at Amazon, Target and at Vitamix, bringing the cost down to $290 instead of $350. The E310 offers a great balance of performance to value — more powerful than the base-model Vitamix One and more reasonably priced than the top-of-the-line Ascent series. Amazon and Vitamix are both billing the sale as an early Mother's Day promotion, but anyone who likes to cook will appreciate the versatility of a Vitamix, regardless of their parental status. 

Govee RGBIC LED strip lights

Smart lightbulbs come in more shapes than just the standard A-series. One non-standard variety comes from Govee, makers of our favorite strip lights, the Govee M1 RGBIC. Amazon is selling a trimmable, 16.4-foot length for a ten percent discount. If you apply the available $15 coupon, you'll save a total of $25, making them just $85. 

These lights can add ambience to a room or a little extra light in awkward places. Our senior commerce editor Valentina particularly appreciated the wide range of colors and the surprising level of brightness the diminutive bulbs were capable of producing. Her two complaints stemmed from the app, which is a little chaotic, and the price. But thanks to the sale, at least one of those factors is a little easier to put up with. 

Tile Tracker

When I tested Bluetooth trackers for Engadget's guide, I named the Tile Pro the best option for Android users and the Tile Slim as the best option for keeping tabs on a wallet. As part of a Mother's Day promotion, Tile is bundling two of each tracker and offering a 21 percent discount on the set. Tile's finding network isn't as massive as Apple's Find My, but I was impressed by how well it used the Tile "community" to locate lost items. Also, the trackers themselves ring much louder than Apple's AirTags. 

Other Tiles are on sale too, including a two-pack of the Tile Slims for 35 percent off and a two-pack of the Tile Mates for a 27 percent discount. It's worth noting that Chipolo's One tracker beat out the Tile Mate because the former is louder and has a replaceable battery. It's also quicker to send an alert when a tagged item is left behind — and it doesn't require a subscription to access that feature like Tile does. 

Samsung The Frame TV (65-inch)

If you want your television to look like a very large piece of art when you're not watching it, you may be interested in the discounts Samsung and B&H Photo are running on the 65-inch Frame 4K HDR Smart QLED TVs. A $300 discount brings the 65-inch model down to $1,698 and a $500 deal on the 75-inch model brings it down to $2,498. Unfortunately, the more moderately sized models, ranging between 32 and 55 inches, aren't seeing a discount this week. So this only applies to those who like their entertainment extra large. 

Xbox Wireless Headset

Unfortunately for Xbox players, not every wireless headset is compatible with Microsoft's console since it uses the company's own wireless protocol. But you can be sure the headset made the brand itself will work right out of the box, no dongle/adapter required. Right now the Xbox Wireless Headset is 15 percent off, bringing it down to $85. You can get a claimed 15 hours of use on a charge, and the cans support a few different spatial audio technologies, which lets you better detect where sounds are coming from within your game. 

It's worth pointing out that these didn't make the cut in our recent guide to gaming headsets and headphones. Our senior commerce writer, Jeff Dunn, recommends the Xbox-compatible, wireless SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro 7X instead. It's a bit more expensive than the Xbox headset, but is currently getting a $20 discount, bringing it to $160. The Arctis Nova Pro 7X also supports spatial audio and gets nearly 30 hours of play on a charge. 

If you don't need to connect to an Xbox, check out the PC- and PlayStation-compatible Logitech G535 headset, which are seeing a 23 percent discount bringing them to $100. Jeff says the G535s are light and comfortable and the best of the sub-$100 wireless pairs he tested. Of course, what he truly recommends is wired headphones — with an external USB mic if you need to chat with friends. Go that route and you'll typically get better sound at a better value. Our best overall pick for wired gaming headphones is the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X. They're holding firm at their list price of $259, but the detailed sound might be worth it for some gamers. 

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple Card holders can now sign up for a high-yield savings account

Apple is launching its high-yield savings account for Card owners in the US after a months-long wait. Sign up for the 4.15 percent annual percentage yield offering and you can either transfer money (from your Apple Cash balance or a linked bank account) or automatically deposit your Daily Cash from purchases. There are no fees, balance requirements or minimum deposit amounts, and you can withdraw money at any time.

Like with Apple Card itself, Goldman Sachs provides the savings account. The concept is somewhat similar to Goldman's "Marcus" account, which offers a 2.15 percent yield with comparable flexibility. Both Marcus and Apple's account are built for mobile users who aren't keen on setting foot inside a bank. The difference, of course, is that Apple's is tied to the iPhone's Wallet app.

The savings account requires at least iOS 16.4. There are also a few limitations. You can't have more than $250,000 in the account, and transfers to or from Apple Cash have to range between $1 and $10,000. You also can't transfer more than $20,000 per week.

The debut comes just weeks after the company introduced Apple Pay Later to help American users split online purchases into interest-free payments. As with that service, the Apple Card savings account is believed to be part of a larger strategy that brings more financial services in-house. These not only let Apple control more of its customer experience, but help it keep users in the ecosystem. You may stick to iPhones knowing you can easily build funds.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Instagram shuts down live shopping on March 16th

Meta isn't done pulling back some of its shopping features. Instagram has warned users that live shopping will shut down on March 16th. From that day on, shops can't tag products during livestreams — you'll have to wait until afterward (or rely on less-than-elegant links) to buy must-have items. The social network explained the move as a way to "help [it] focus" on core features.

The move comes right as Instagram is removing the shopping tab from the home screen, and months after Facebook wound down Live Shopping and pointed stores toward Reels. Shopping is still part of these social media apps in posts, Reels and Stories, but Meta has increasingly taken a back-to-basics approach. Live shopping first reached Instagram in 2020, right as many people were forced to shop online during the pandemic.

The decision isn't surprising. Meta is looking for ways to cut costs as a tough economy and an expensive metaverse pivot affect its bottom line, and it's particularly eager to slash initiatives that perform poorly. As Gizmodoexplains, that might include Instagram's live shopping. Social-based shopping was only expected to represent five percent of US e-commerce in 2022, according to Insider Intelligence. If that's true, Meta isn't earning much from purchases during live broadcasts.

Meta isn't alone in struggling with shopping features. TikTok was set to bring live shopping to North America late last year, but only using outsourced technology. The Financial Timessources claimed last summer that TikTok was scaling back its plans between a poor UK uptake and a mass exodus of employees. Simply speaking, there may not be as much of an audience for social shopping as tech giants expect.

Adobe accepts AI-generated stock art, with limits

Adobe is the latest stock image provider to take a stance on AI-generated art. The company has updated its guidelines to allow generative AI artwork on its stock photo service as long as it meets certain criteria. Contributors will have to label any AI-made content, and they'll require permission for any reference images or text prompt used to produce the art. Creators will likewise need releases for any material depicting recognizable people.

The new policy also warns producers against misusing AI by submitting multiple images based on the same prompt. They can't use misleading, repetitive or vague descriptions, and must submit their works as illustrations (not pictures) even if they're photorealistic. As with regular images, Adobe promises indemnification in the event there's an intellectual property dispute. You shouldn't be in deep trouble if you unwittingly use items that infringe someone else's rights.

Adobe is effectively trying to strike a balance between embracing new technology and avoiding copyright issues. Other stock photo providers have taken wildly varying approaches. Getty Images banned AI-generated imagery over rights concerns, while Shutterstock has teamed with DALL-E creator OpenAI to sell algorithm-based images. In some cases, tool developers have avoided wading into the debate — Google won't offer Imagen to the public until it believes there's a "responsible" way to do so. 

This move might not lead to a flood of AI-made images to use for your next presentation or website. However, it could be helpful if you're eager to use unconventional content without worrying about the risks of unexpected lawsuits or royalty payments. If nothing else, Adobe's move could increase acceptance of AI stock art by making it available to a wider audience.