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May 5, 2006



Hybrids don't all get great mileage

Despite their green label, the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra 4WD hybrid pickups get only 18 miles per gallon, city and highway combined, says the Consumer Federation of America. That's 211 percent less than the 56 mpg boasted by the Honda Insight. But it's not just the hybrids that vary in fuel efficiency: Within all vehicle classes, the difference between the best and the worst differs by up to 273 percent. (For a list of the most fuel-efficient vehicles for 2006, see "Focus on Finance" in our Feb. 3 issue.)

Fixed-rate plastic now a better choice

Variable-rate credit cards—which make up about 80 percent of all cards—charge more in interest than fixed-rate cards, says CardWeb.com, an online publisher of payment card information. The average rate for variable-rate cards was 15.25 percent in February, compared to 14.11 percent for fixed-rate cards. A year earlier, variable-rate cards charged 12.84 percent; fixed-rate cards, 13.25 percent.

Are your finances ready for disaster?

The FDIC has a new guide to help you prepare financially for calamities such as fire, hurricanes, or earthquakes at www.fdic.gov/consumers. Click on "FDIC Consumer News," then "Winter 2005/2006" to find a list of what you should keep close at hand in case of emergency.

The happiest bank customers

Commerce Bank gets the highest customer satisfaction marks of the nation's largest banks open to the general public, says J.D. Power and Associates. Downey Savings, located in California and Arizona, and ING Bank come in second and third, respectively. Coming in last of 34 banks was Astoria Federal Savings in New York. The study examined such factors as ease of transactions, accuracy and clarity of account statements, convenience, and fees.