The Daily Valet. - 2/20/24, Tuesday

Tuesday, February 20th Edition
Cory Ohlendorf  
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
Did you know that the average American has four credit cards with an average credit limit of $30,365?

Today’s Big Story

What’s In Your Wallet?


As two of the largest credit card companies merge, here’s the problem with consolidation


Banking news on a holiday when banks are closed? Capital One announced on Monday that it would acquire Discover Financial Services in an all-stock transaction valued at $35.3 billion. If the deal goes through, it would make Capital One the nation’s largest credit card issuer.

And it appears to be a somewhat big “if.” Consumer advocates pushed back on the possible deal, saying it posed antitrust concerns. “It is very difficult to imagine how federal regulators could allow Capital One to buy Discover given the requirement that mergers benefit the public as well as insiders,” Jesse Van Tol, the chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, told the New York Times.

And bank mergers must be approved by bank regulators and by shareholders of each company. So winning approval for the deal could take a year or more. And Nerd Wallet says that during the approval process, little is expected to change as the companies continue to operate independently. Even if the deal is approved, though, current customers may see little effect.

In the meantime, if the Department of Justice decides to challenge the acquisition on antitrust grounds, new research from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will surely play a prominent role in the complaint. You see, even though some 4,000 banks offer credit cards, the top 10 issuers, including both Discover and Capital One, account for more than 80% of all loans. That concentration seems to have given the biggest lenders the ability to jack up the interest rates they charge on outstanding credit card balances.

The new data found that consumers with poor credit who have a credit card from a small bank are paying a lower interest rate on their purchases (20.6%, on average) than consumers with excellent credit who carry a card from the likes of Discover, Capital One, or one of the other big banks. They're paying 23%, on average. Which means that the average American who runs an average balance of $5,000 will end up paying between $400 and $500 a year in excess interest payments if they go with one of the big banks. On top of that, a holder of a credit card issued by a big bank is three times more likely to be paying an annual fee than someone with a card from a small bank. So it seems like we need more choices in cards, from smaller institutions, instead of less. In this case, bigger definitely doesn’t mean better.

Federal regulators are probing whether Cash App leaves the door open to money launderers and terrorists.

U.S. Proposes a ‘Temporary Ceasefire’ in Gaza


Washington is urging Israel to drop plans for Rafah ground offensive

The United States has proposed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Gaza calling for a temporary ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas and warning against an Israeli ground incursion into Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have fled throughout the conflict, reports Reuters.

The White House is highly concerned that a possible Israeli military operation in Rafah will lead to mass casualties. Brett McGurk, President Biden's top Middle East adviser, is expected to visit Israel and Egypt this week, to continue negotiations while working to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, officials told Axios. They fear that such an operation could push tens of thousands of Palestinians across the Egyptian border into the Sinai Peninsula. Cairo has already warned the displacement of Palestinians to Egypt would lead to a rupture in its relations with Israel.

The U.S. draft comes after it had vowed to veto an Algerian draft proposal calling for an immediate ceasefire. The Council will vote on the Algerian draft today. According to the text of the U.S.-proposed draft, which CNN has seen, America is calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable,” which falls short of the wishes of most other Security Council members who want an immediate ceasefire. Israeli officials said they need to go forward with such an operation in order to dismantle four Hamas battalions in the city but stressed they won't do it without coordinating with the U.S. and Egypt.

A Grim Milestone:
More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, the Gaza Health Ministry says.

Putin’s Most Formidable Opponent Dies in Prison


Soon after, hundreds of people were detained in Russia while paying tribute to opposition leader

Over 400 people were detained in Russia while paying tribute to opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who mysteriously died at a remote Arctic penal colony over the weekend. His death removed the Russian opposition’s most well-known and inspiring politician less than a month before an election that will give President Vladimir Putin another six years in power.

The news reverberated across the globe, with many world leaders blaming the death on Putin and his government. In an exchange with reporters shortly after leaving a Saturday church service, President Joe Biden reiterated his stance that Putin was ultimately to blame for Navalny’s death. “The fact of the matter is, Putin is responsible. Whether he ordered it, he’s responsible for the circumstance,” Biden said. Things were made worse when prison employees told Navalny’s mother that they did not have her son’s body. That it had been taken to the nearby city of Salekhard, a little over an hour’s drive away, as part of a probe into his death.

On Monday, Navalny’s wife, Yulia, accused the Russian authorities of murdering her husband and hiding his body. “I will continue Alexei Navalny’s work,” she said. “I call on you to stand with me.” However, with no obvious prospect of a meaningful challenge to Putin in March elections or in the years ahead, the task for her—and for the rest of Russia’s fractured opposition—is formidable, reports The Guardian.

Dig Deeper:
The New York Times has an account of Aleksei Navalny’s final months, in his own words.

FDA Approves Medication for Severe Allergies


Injections over several months allowed people to tolerate larger doses of trigger foods

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a medication called Xolair to help lessen the severity of an accidental allergic reaction in people who are allergic to multiple foods. That’s really good news to anyone suffering from severe food allergies (or anyone who’s seen someone struggle with those alergic reactions). According to the USDA, more than 30,000 people visit the emergency room each year due to food allergies—with allergies killing 150 people annually as well.

But it’s not a miracle cure. The FDA specifically noted that Xolair is not designed to allow people to eat foods that they’re allergic to. Instead, the drug “[reduces] the risk of allergic reactions and is not approved for the immediate emergency treatment of allergic reactions.” If taking Xolair is the difference between mild discomfort and a trip to the hospital for someone with a food allergy, it’s not hard to see the appeal.

The cost of the medication ranges from $2,900 a month for children and $5,000 a month for adults, though the cost could be brought down with insurance, reports the Associated Press. As Ars Technica points out, trials of Xolair are continuing, including further research into whether or not the drug can be used in tandem with oral immunotherapy (which, works to desensitize the serverity of allergies).

About one in 16 adults in the U.S. have a food allergy and it impacts women and Black adults at higher rates.

We’re Giving Away Our Favorite TAG Heuer Watch


The Autavia Calibre 5 is a rugged timepiece with old school looks


It’s hard not to like TAG Heuer’s Autavia. That's because it's kind of the perfect watch: classically handsome with old school looks, a tough-as-nail build quality and a reliable self-winding movement. The Swiss-made timepiece gets its unusual name from a portmanteau of “automobile” and “aviation”—which was first used in reference to aircraft and automotive dashboard instrumentation.

First introduced in the early 1960s, this was the first new watch introduced under the leadership of the company's 29 year-old President, Jack Heuer. Racers, pilots and other adventurers enjoyed the legibility provided by the Autavia, the large size of the watch, and the waterproof case that ensured durability for the most demanding missions. The rotating bezel provided an additional tool for these adventurers. And honestly, it remains a practical tool watch that will never look out of place or let you down. Typically, it would run you around $2,700, but we've partnered with a few of our favorite brands to give one away to one lucky reader.



What We’re Buying


A vintage-inspired pair of jeans


You've got to respect this. Alex Mill is a brand that doesn't make a huge variety of various clothing—it's much more interested in making a select number of items really well. Which is why, while they've made denim items in the past, they didn't make any five-pocket jeans until they had all the details mastered. And these are worth the wait ($195). Designed with an emphasis on offering the best fit for anyone, it's a classic straight leg, made with regenerative cotton and finished in a range of authentic, worn-in washes. Seriously, these look and feel like the perfect pair of vintage jeans—and they'll only get better looking the more you wear them.

Want more?
The five stylish items you should be buying this week.

Morning Motto

More rest is never a bad idea.





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