Tag: rate

Gratitude in a Difficult Year

by Phillip Warren

This year took so many twists and turns we haven’t been able to keep count– often leaving us in complete overwhelm with a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Grief, anxiety, and sheer disappointment are just a handful that comes to mind when we reflect on the endless amount of curveballs life has thrown over the past year. Tragedy and loss plagued the entire world, leaving us speechless day after day. Despite the darkness that loomed for what seems like an eternity there has been an outpour of positives that we can’t forget to remember. As 2020 quickly comes to a close, let’s take the time to decompress and reflect on the happier moments we were lucky enough to live through and witness. Even though Thanksgiving may look less traditional than previous years, we still can readily name some things that shift our hearts to a place of gratitude.

Family first

Let’s face it – the hustle and bustle of life impact our family and friends more than we’d like to admit. Competing schedules, conflicts, and not making enough time for those that matter are often reasons why we are unable to nurture the people we hold near and dear. Because of restrictions on travel and other entertainment, we were forced to become more creative with our time indoors; in turn, helping us to restore the meaning of family and work-life balance. Quite frankly, it allowed us to hit the pause button on everything that probably was unintentionally too high on the priority list in the past. Our families served as the safety net it’s supposed to be when the weight of the world (and social media) became overbearing with less than desirable news. We utilized technology to a new degree when scheduling virtual happy hours, catch up sessions with our loved ones, and birthday celebrations in other geographic areas. It made us truly appreciate the very thing we took for granted; all the people that make up our family tribe.  

Curating and developing passions

2020 generated a newfound level of introspection, leaving our minds to really consider what it is that we really cherish the most. Whether it be career-related or new passion projects, this year made room for some much-needed self-reflection, making us reassess where our fulfillment really comes from. Leveraging books, social media outlets, and various streams of consuming knowledge-based information sent us on a path of rediscovery. Remember that ‘other’ to-do list that’s filled with the things you really don’t want to do around the house? It even made that list appear fun-filled! Home improvement projects and DIY tasks were done with enjoyment while being budget-friendly. Adulthood can be full of things that aren’t as exciting, but mustering up the courage to take ideas from ideation to execution served as a second wind. New business ventures and side hustles were birthed with unmatched creativity, a place many of us haven’t been in quite some time. Existing businesses were able to thrive despite the unprecedented events occurring nationally. Funding was also provided to various business owners which granted many small businesses to increase their visibility while positively generating profit. 

The importance of sustainment

There are a countless number of families that were impacted by job loss and/or unexpected expenses. It doesn’t matter if things started off rocky financially – what matters most is you’re still standing. Getting caught up on bills, eliminating some debt and saving are all things to be very proud of. Temporary hardships don’t have to turn into permanent problems. Creating a plan of action and sticking to it no matter what arises will always be rewarding. Celebrating the small wins should never be overlooked. We’ve all handled this year in different ways – but what’s most important is discovering what works for you. Rule of thumb for those that are battling with the ‘not enough’ emotions: don’t believe the hype. While there is a multitude of people accomplishing great things, there are also many imposters. Social media is a highlight reel, a virtual platform where people can share whatever information they choose, at their discretion. People are more likely to share their highs versus their lows, so be sure to keep in mind you may only be getting a small piece of the overall story. Don’t look at someone else’s life and fail to recognize what you’ve done on your own. Financial progress, no matter how insignificant you may think it is – is still progress. We all make financial missteps and life has a way of making things very difficult that hit us where it really hurts. Keeping your head above water, remaining afloat, maintaining your health, and providing for your family should never be considered a small feat. Grant yourself some grace and reflect on the dedication it took for you to get (and stay) where you currently are.

Back to the basics

This year forced us to really hone in on what matters and prioritize accordingly. This applies to our lives, but most importantly our finances. Pulling back the curtain to really take a look and evaluate where money was going served as a constant reminder that we should be doing this more than the occasional once or twice a year. It’s never too late (or too early) to create new money habits! Financial stability is essential – and maybe the cushion we imagined should be enough proved itself to be untrue. Our willingness to make changes at a faster rate to ensure the financial security of our families felt less painful and so much more intentional. The uncertainty of everything occurring allowed us to complain less while redefining comfort levels with our contingency plans.

No matter what has transpired this year, what are you most thankful for? As things come to mind be sure to jot them down. Reference them when your days seem laborious or when your feelings try to force you to reflect on things that aren’t as positive. It’s clear we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know (and have been reintroduced) to the moments, things, and people that continually keep us hopeful and thankful – no matter what lies ahead.

The post Gratitude in a Difficult Year appeared first on MintLife Blog.


Source: mint.intuit.com

How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

by Phillip Warren

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
  • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
  • How a person can find their first freelancing job
  • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

And much more!

He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

Check out the interview below for more information.

How to become a freelancer.

 

1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

I'm Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn't take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren't always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That's when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

 

2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

This seems like a basic question, but it's very worthwhile. There's a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

It's also worth noting you don't only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don't have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you're responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It's quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

 

3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who's in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

 

4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

Not having a boss!

The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I'm making plans with friends and family, and people say “I'll see if I can get the time off.”

This makes me shudder, because it's SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I'll be at their sports day or nativity play.

When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it's rare to find people who've given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

So that's a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

 

5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

It's always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I've said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I'd advise people to think about any contacts who've already seen the kind of work they're capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife's best friend's brother” or something like that!

Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it's crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

 

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

This is a question I'm asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don't just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

It's a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I'm happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client's geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

But there's much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There's a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it's an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

 

7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they're capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

  1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
  2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
  4. Establish a personal brand. This isn't as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it's wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
  6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
  7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

 

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that's not to say it's free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you're switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

A good computer is a must, as it's often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn't covered by tax payments.

When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you're a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

 

9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

I'd say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we've covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn't immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you're doing. Let's say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you're going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

It's wonderful to have the choice.

 

10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

I have many!

The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

Another thing I'm like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you're boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn't supposed to be easy but it's almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

And let's face it, many people don't feel that way about their jobs.

 

11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I've touched on here, and many others. It's intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it's not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

To be brutally honest, I don't want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it's a more than viable option for those willing to do what's required.

The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

The next lessons cover finding clients, and there's a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she's cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she's been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

I've also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I've kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don't know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

I set out to create the course I wish I'd had! I've made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

 Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

The post How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

by Phillip Warren

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.


Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

by Phillip Warren

Credit card bills can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear, credit card debt wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers. 

One of the most confusing aspects is the minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to their credit score, and why it’s important to pay more than the minimum.

We’ll address all of those things and more in this guide, looking at how minimum credit card payments can impact your FICO score and your credit report.

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

The minimum payment is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of your total balance and includes fees and interest.  

If you fail to make this minimum payment, you may be hit with late fees and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the major credit bureaus and your credit score will take a hit.

When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on your credit report for up to 7 years. Making minimum payments will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect your credit score and we’ll discuss that a little later.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay a minimum amount and how you can avoid it.

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

Prior to 2004, monthly payments could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of your monthly payment is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back. 

Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle of credit card debt, one that could see them repaying thousands more than the balance and taking many years to repay in full.

These days, a minimum payment must be at least 1% of the balance plus all interest and fees that have accumulated during that month, ensuring the balance decreases by at least 1% if only the minimum payment is met.

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimum monthly payment to avoid derogatory marks. If you fail to do so and keep missing those payments, your account will eventually default and cause all kinds of issues.

However, you can avoid the minimum payment by clearing your balance in full.

Let’s assume that you have a brand-new credit card and you spend $2,000 in the first billing cycle. In the next cycle, you will be required to pay this balance in full. However, you will also be offered a minimum payment, which will likely be anywhere from $30 to $100. If this is all that you pay, the issuer will start charging you interest on your balance and your problems will begin.

If you spend $2,000 in the next billing cycle, you have just doubled your debt (minus whatever principal the minimum payment cleared) and your problems.

This is a cycle that many consumers get locked into. They do what they can to pay off their balance in full, but then they have a difficult month and that minimum payment begins to look very tempting. They convince themselves that one month won’t hurt and they’ll repay the balance in full next month, but by that point they’ve spent more, it has grown more, and they just don’t have the funds.

To avoid falling into this trap, try the following tips:

  • Only Spend What You Have: A credit card should be used to spend money you have now or will have in the future. Don’t spend in the hope you’ll somehow come into some money before the billing period ends and the credit card balance rolls over.
  • Get an Introductory Interest Rate: Many credit card issuers offer a 0% intro APR for a fixed period of time, allowing you to accumulate debt without interest. This can help if you need to make some essential purchases, but it’s important not to abuse this as you’ll still need to clear the full balance before the intro period ends.
  • Use a Balance Transfer: If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider a balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move your full balance from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
  • Pay the Minimum: If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. A missed payment or late payment can incur fees and may hurt your credit score. 

Why Pay More Than the Minimum?

You may have heard experts recommending that you pay more than the minimum every month, but why? If you’re locked into a cycle of credit card debt, it can seem counterproductive. After all, if you have a debt of $10,000 that’s costing you $400 a month, what’s the point of taking an extra $100 out of your budget?

Your interest and fees are covered by your minimum payment and account for a sizeable percentage of that minimum payment. By adding just 50% more, you could be doubling and even tripling the amount of the principal that you repay every month.

What’s more, your interest accumulates every single day and this interest compounds. Imagine, for instance, that you have a balance of $10,000 today and with interest, this grows to $10,040. The next day, the interest will be calculated based on that $10,040 figure, which means it could grow to $10,081, which will then become the new balance for the next day. 

This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater the amount will be due over the term. By paying more than your minimum payment when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

Paying the minimum amount every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting your credit history or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via your credit utilization ratio.

Your credit utilization ratio is a score that compares the credit limit of all available credit cards to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of your credit score and is, therefore, a very important aspect of the credit scoring process.

The more credit card debt you accumulate, the lower your credit utilization rate will be and the more your score will be impacted. If you only pay the minimum, this rate will become stagnant and may take years to improve. By increasing the payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve your credit score.

You can calculate your credit utilization score by adding together the total amount of credit limits and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

As with interest charges, credit card fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with many credit card companies (including Capital One) charging 3% with a $10 minimum charge. This means that every time you withdraw cash, you’re paying at least $10, even if you’re only withdrawing $10.

What many consumers don’t realize is that these fees are also charged every time you buy casino chips or pay for some other form of gambling, and every time you purchase money orders and other cash products. 

Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and your minimum payment, making it harder to make on time payments and thus increasing the risk of a late payment.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.


Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

by Phillip Warren

On the surface, reward cards are a great way to make a few extra dollars or grab some air miles without increasing your spending or your debt. If you spend a lot of money at a particular shop, store cards will seem like an equally beneficial prospect. But these cards exist for a reason—they’re there to make more money for the providers and the retailers, not you.

Sure, reward/store cards have other benefits if you use them properly, but there are a host of disadvantages and hidden terms that you need to be aware of before signing on the dotted line. 

What are Store Cards?

Store cards are tied to specific stores and offered by chains of retailers. These cards work just like traditional cards and are often branded by networks like Visa and MasterCard. The difference is that they can only be used in the issuing stores and their rewards are tied to those stores.

In essence, they are store loyalty cards that come with a lien of credit attached. 

What are Reward Cards?

Reward cards are also tied to credit card networks, including American Express and Discover, as well as Visa and MasterCard. They award points every time they’re used for qualifying purchases and these points can then be swapped for air travel and other benefits. 

Some reward schemes award a specific amount of cash back, often fixed to 1% or 2% of purchases made on specific items, such as groceries or utility bills.

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

If a provider offers you cash back every time you spend money on your credit card, someone has to foot the bill. Many consumers assume that the credit card network covers the cost, and to an extent, they do. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase, the retailer is charged a fee, often between 1% and 3% of the purchase. This is the network’s charge. With reward cards, this fee increases, and the extra money is used to fund the rewards program.

As a result, retailers are not exactly happy with these programs as they drive their costs up and reduce their profits. The only way around this, is to increase the cost of the product or, more likely, to reward customers who pay with cash/debit. Retailers are not allowed to add a surcharge for credit card use, but there’s nothing stopping them from choosing which cards they do and don’t accept.

Your local Mom & Pop enterprise isn’t being antiquated and old-fashioned by refusing credit cards. They just can’t cover the costs. 5% may not sound like a big deal, but for retailers with minimal buying power and the massive overheads of running a brick-and-mortar store, 5% can be a deal breaker.

Smaller retailers are fighting back against reward cards while bigger ones are embracing them by adopting their own store cards. With a store card, they have more say, more control, and they know that those small losses will be offset by the increased purchases.

Issues with Store Credit Cards

Store cards carry a big risk and have far few benefits than reward cards. The advantages of these cards are obvious: If you shop a lot in a particular place, you can save money via the cash back schemes. 

They can also help with emergency purchases, providing you clear the balance in full. But, while the benefits are obvious, the same can’t be said about the disadvantages.

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

The average credit card interest rate in the United States is around 16%. The average rate for store cards is over 20%. That 4% may not seem like much, but if you don’t repay your balance every month that interest will compound, grow, and cost you a small fortune. 

At 16% with a $10,000 balance and a 60-month repayment term, you’ll pay $243 a month and over $4,000 in total interest.

Increase that rate to 20% and your monthly payment grows by $20 while your total interest increases by nearly $1,500. The longer you leave it and the smaller your monthly payments are, the greater that difference will be.

For example, if you repay just $200 a month on that balance, the difference between 16% and 20% is 26 extra months and close to $5,000. Of course, store cards rarely offer such high limits, but this is just as example to show you how much of a difference even the slightest percentage increase can cause.

It’s worth keeping this in mind if you ever apply for a traditional rewards card. Getting rewards in return for a higher APR is great if you repay your balance in full every month and terrible if you don’t.

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

If you miss a payment on your store credit card you could be hit with a penalty APR as high as 29.99%, as well as a late payment fee of $39. The rates are high to begin with, but these penalty rates are astronomical and will make a bad situation worse.

That’s not all, as some providers are known to be very unforgiven when it comes to missed and late payments. In some cases, your account will default even if you underpay just once and just by a few dollars. 

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

Retailers are not lenders. They don’t have the time, funds or patience to chase debts and deal with collection agencies. As a result, they don’t offer high credit limits and generally you’ll get a fraction of what an unsecured credit card might provide you with.

This might not seem like much of an issue. After all, a smaller credit limit means you’re less likely to accumulate large amounts of debts. However, this has a massively negative impact on your credit score that few borrowers consider.

30% of your credit score is based on something known as a credit utilization ratio. This looks at the total available credit and compares it to the debt that you have accumulated. If you have several cards with a combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, then your ratio is 50%, which is considered to be quite high.

If a store card is your only account and you spend $450 on a $500 limit, then you have a credit utilization ratio of 90%, which will reduce your score. Your credit report is also negatively affected by maxed-out credit cards, a feat that’s much easier to achieve when you have a low credit limit.

Con 4: There Are Better Options

It’s better to have one good reward card than multiple store cards. The former will provide you with far better interest rates and terms, while the latter will hit your credit report with several hard inquiries and new accounts. 

A rewards card will still benefit you when shopping at those stores and will also provide you with a wealth of other benefits.

Con 5: You May Spend More

Store cards are not designed to make your life easier and give you a few freebies. Regardless of what the store tells you, they’re not made to reward loyalty, they’re made to encourage spending. 

This doesn’t always work, and research suggests that many individuals use reward cards just like they would normal cards. But for a small minority, the idea of acquiring points is enough to convince them to spend more than they usually would.

Some good can be good debt, such as when it’s used to acquire an asset or something that won’t depreciate. But very rarely do we use credit cards for this purpose and generally, if you’re spending more on a store card it means you’re wasting more money on things you don’t need.

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

A store card can only be used in that particular store. This renders it redundant as an emergency card and also means you’re encouraged to shop in that one place. You don’t have a chance to shop around and find the cheapest price; you may spend more just to use your card and get the benefits, with those benefits rarely covering the additional money you spend.

What About Reward Cards?

Some reward cards have very high rates as these rates are used to offset the rewards program. However, this isn’t always the case, because, as discussed above, networks often charge retailers more to offset these purchases and therefore don’t always need to cover the costs themselves.

Some credit cards, such as the Discover It, offer solid reward schemes and would also be included on any list of the best non-reward credit cards. It’s a solid all-rounder and it’s not alone. However, many reward cards charge high annual fees and penalty rates, just like you’ll find with a store card.

It’s important to study the small print and make sure the card is viable. If you’re going to clear the balance every month, a slightly higher interest rate won’t hurt, especially if it comes with some generous rewards. But if there is any doubt and even the slightest chance that you won’t clear the balance, it’s always best to focus on a low-interest rate first.

Even the most generous 5% cash back reward card will not offset the losses occurred by paying a few more percentage points of interest.

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

Credit cards trigger hard inquiries, which can reduce your credit score by up to 5 points. This is true for every credit card that you apply for. Rate shopping can combine multiple inquiries into one if they are for the same type of credit, but this doesn’t apply to credit cards.

A new account will also impact your score. This impact is often minimal and if you keep up with your repayments then it will vanish in time. However, if you miss a payment, max-out your card or increase your credit utilization score, it could have a detrimental effect on your score and your finances.

Keep store cards to a minimum and only sign up if you’re 100% sure you’re getting a good deal that will benefit you in the short-term and the long-term.

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.


Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Gemini Teases 3% Back Cryptocurrency Credit Card

by Phillip Warren

Cryptocurrency trading platform has released details of the ‘Gemini Credit Card‘. Currently this card is not available to sign up to, but you can join the waitlist. The card promises:

  • Up to 3% back in Bitcoin or other crypto on all purchases
  • No exchange fees on crypto rewards

We’ve seen time and time again that cards that earn 2%+ cash back are not sustainable. I can’t see how this card would be any different, although we don’t have the full details yet (it also says up to 3%, so probably only on specific categories and not interesting categories). For example there could be an annual fee or the exchange rate could be poor (they say no exchange fees, but if the rate is poor it’s effectively a fee as well). We’ve also seen a lot of products similar to this create a waitlist only for the product to never materialize or be dramatically different when it does go live.


Source: doctorofcredit.com

Using Credit Cards During COVID-19

by Phillip Warren

Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether you’re working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While you’re taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.

Wondering how you should use your credit card? We’ve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency. 

How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic

But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyone’s situation is different—so what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum

If you’re working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses. 

David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. “Try browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,” Lord suggests. “If you take a look at your cart the next day, you’ll most likely find that 90% of the time you won’t remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.”

If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something that’ll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, you’ll be too distracted to buy something else.

2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape

During a global emergency, it feels like everything’s up in the air. Because of that, it’s important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst. 

Let’s say you find yourself with a bill that you can’t pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, you’d probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, you’ll need a good credit score. 

If you’re in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Here’s some quick things you can do today:

  • Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
  • Pay your bills on time—at least the minimum payment
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%

But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you can’t keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio won’t impact your score as much as missing a payment. That’s because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score. 

3. Utilize Cashback Rewards

Do you have a great rewards credit card on your hands? Now’s a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases. 

4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you already have significant debt or if you’ve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.

These are great options if you’re faced with new debt. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check can’t cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so you’re not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.

Be Mindful of Your Situation

Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.

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If you’re looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you. 

The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.


Source: credit.com

Best credit cards for Airbnb

by Phillip Warren

Many of us are avoiding travel during the pandemic.

But if you have to shelter in place under quarantine once you get to your destination, wouldn’t you rather do it in an environment that at least seems more within your control?

If the choice is between a hotel where you must trust your experience to a faceless corporation or a local host you can talk to through homestay sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, the latter may be the better option for these times (provided you don’t violate their party guidelines).

Whatever option you choose, credit card issuers now reward homestays with points and cash back in the same way they’ve long doled out rewards for hotels and other travel expenses.

These are the best cards on the market for homestays like Airbnb.

See related: Strategies for planning 2021 travel

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best no-annual-fee, high rewards option
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best introductory bonus
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for bonus rewards
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flat-rate miles card
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for online shopping
  • Discover it® Miles: Best no-fee option
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best no-annual-fee, high rewards option

    The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card includes arguably one of the highest rates of return on points for some of the most popular redemption categories out there, including homestays like Airbnb and Vrbo.

    The greatest advantages of this card – besides earning 3 points per dollar spent on some popular spending categories – are that there’s no point limit or expiration, no annual fee and no rotating categories that you constantly have to remind yourself to activate. You get three times the points in the relevant categories all the time without restriction, with travel – including all homestays – and transit being one of those prominent categories.

    The card also charges no foreign currency conversion fee, so buying things abroad is less expensive. If that weren’t enough, here’s what you also get:

    • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and transit purchases
    • 3 points per dollar spent on eating out and ordering in
    • 3 points per dollar spent on gas and rideshares
    • 3 points per dollar spent on select streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Sirius XM and Spotify Premium
    • 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else
    • No annual fee
    • No points limit or expiration
    • Premium access to presale tickets, offers and protections from American Express
    • 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    ProudMoney.

    Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best introductory bonus

    Before the Wells Fargo Propel card debuted, Chase Sapphire Reserve was the go-to credit card option for Airbnb fans. It offers a 50,000-point introductory bonus when you spend $4,000 in your first three months of membership. Those points are worth up to $750 when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

    Though equipped with fewer spending categories offering 3X points and carrying a large annual fee of $550, the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are more specifically geared toward frequent travelers.

    At the same time, that large annual fee is offset by a $300 annual credit that will reimburse any travel expense – including Airbnb. And from June 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, gas station and grocery store purchases count toward the travel credit.

    Add to that a $100 credit covering the application to Global Entry/TSA Precheck every four years and the annual fee is almost completely offset in the first year.

    Meanwhile, there are even more travel benefits:

    • 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months (worth up to $750 in travel)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on travel (excluding purchases covered by the $300 travel credit)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on dining (including delivery and takeout) and travel; $1,000 in grocery purchases, including eligible pick-up and delivery services, from Nov. 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021
    • Complimentary airport lounge access through Priority Pass Select Membership
    • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
    • Primary car rental insurance
    • Lost luggage reimbursement

    Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for bonus rewards

    While the points per dollar offered by Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card on travel and Airbnb are fewer than the credit cards above, the sign-up bonus and up to $200 in annual statement credits make it a decent option, even with less flexibility on what qualifies as a credit than the credit cards above.

    This card should absolutely move to the top of your list if you are already a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client. That designation automatically increases your return even higher than what the other credit cards above offer on travel and dining – you can get a rewards bonus of up to 75%.

    Combine that with a generous sign-up bonus and the Bank of America Premium Rewards is one of the most potent rewards cards for Preferred Rewards clients.

    The card includes:

    • Introductory bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days (worth up to $500 in free travel)
    • 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel purchases, including Airbnb and Vrbo
    • 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything else
    • Get up to $200 in travel statement credit rewards, including $100 for incidental spending per year and $100 toward a TSA Precheck/Global Entry application every four years
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients earn up to 3.5 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 points per dollar on all other purchases
    • $95 annual fee
    Travel loyalty programs offer extended perks in pandemic

    Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flat-rate miles option

    The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is remarkably similar to Bank of America’s Premium Rewards card, right down to the $95 annual fee, but without the additional benefits afforded to Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients.

    However, Capital One Venture Rewards offers 2 points per dollar spent on every purchase, not just travel and dining.

    • Earn 60,000 travel miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months – equaling $600 in travel credit
    • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase, every day
    • Points can be redeemed for statement credit on travel purchases, including Airbnb
    • $95 annual fee
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for online shopping

    You may be wondering why the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card is on a list highlighting the best credit cards for AirBnb, Vrbo and other homestays.

    Shouldn’t this card be limited to the “best credit cards for online shopping” list? Not when Amazon offers Airbnb gift cards and the Amazon Prime Rewards card gives you 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases as long as you have a Prime membership, which essentially acts as the annual fee ($119).

    Just purchase an AirBnb gift card from Amazon with the card, and it’s as if you are getting 5% cash back for your AirBnb stay when you apply the gift card towards it. It’s the highest rate on this list, Amazon or not.

    You’ll receive the following additional benefits:

    • 5% cash back on Whole Foods and Amazon purchases (with Prime membership)
    • 2% cash back on purchases at drugstores, gas stations and restaurants
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • A $100 Amazon gift card upon credit card application approval
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • $500,000 travel accident insurance
    • $3,000 per passenger lost luggage reimbursement
    • Baggage delay insurance of up to $100 a day for three days
    • Extended warranty coverage for an additional year

    See related: How to pay off Amazon purchases over time

    Discover it® Miles: Best no-fee option

    Though the points per dollar on this card are lower than any other credit card on the list, Discover it Miles gives you much more freedom in how you can manage your points and account.

    You can redeem miles in any amount, your miles don’t expire even if you close your account and 1% of your miles can be converted directly into cash for your bank account.

    Discover it Miles offers:

    • 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on every purchase (matched at the end of the first year)
    • Points can be redeemed for statement credit on travel expenses, including Airbnb, gas stations and restaurants.
    • Miles can be converted into cash at rate of 1 cent per mile and transferred directly into your bank account
    • Redeem miles in any amount
    • Miles never expire and you don’t lose them even when you close your account
    • No late payment fee or penalty APR on your first late payment, up to $40 thereafter
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • No annual fee
    • 0% APR on purchases for 14 months (11.99% to 22.99% variable APR after that)
    creditcards.com

    How Does Cash Back Work?

    by Phillip Warren

    How Does Cash Back Work?

    Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

    Credit card companies typically offer a plethora of rewards options for their cardholders to take advantage of. But cash back has long been a favorite of many, as it gives you the chance to earn cold, hard money for making everyday purchases. If you’re confused about how cash back works, read on for a full explanation.

    How Cash Back Works

    At its core, cash back refers to a predetermined percentage of a purchase you make being returned to you as cash rewards. Cash back rates typically range between 1% and 5%, though there are some outliers to be mindful of. Credit card issuers will usually clearly label what types of purchases earn what level of cash back. But like anything in the credit card industry, you must read the fine print.

    This is mainly because all purchases and cash back rewards are governed by merchant category codes, or MCCs. Credit card companies ultimately determine these designations, with Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover calling the shots. Some common codes are “restaurant,” “department store,” “airline” and “entertainment,” among others. So if you earn 5% bonus cash back at restaurants and you go to Burger King — which has a restaurant MCC — you’ll get that 5% back.

    But what these limiting MCCs sometimes don’t take into account are businesses that could fit into more than one category. Included in this group are hotels, superstores like Walmart, tourist attractions like museums and other multi-faceted establishments. In turn, you could lose out on cash back if you’re confused about which category a purchase you made falls into.

    As an example, let’s say your family orders room service while on vacation in The Bahamas. You pay with your credit card thinking you’ll get the advertised 3% cash back on dining. When your credit card statement comes in the mail, however, you’ve only received the base 1% earnings. This is because the MCC of your hotel is just that, a hotel, which leaves your credit card issuer blind to what you really bought.

    Unfortunately situations like these often offer very little recourse, as your card’s issuer has no ability to change these codes. In fact, only the major credit companies can change their own code selections.

    New cardholders will often receive cash back promotions and bonuses. These offers can either be recurring — monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. — or simply for just one period of time, usually at the beginning of your account’s life. Hypothetically, a recurring bonus might look like this: “Earn 3% cash back at supermarkets and wholesale clubs, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.” On the other hand, a one-time promotion might allow for 5% cash back on airfare purchases made during the first three months you’re a cardholder.

    Depending on your card, cash back may be capped or it could expire after a period of time. While some cards feature both an earnings limit and expiration dates, others may have no restrictions. All cash back cards have their own, unique system surrounding them. So it’s important to refer to your documentation whenever you have a particular question.

    Using Your Cash Back Earnings

    How Does Cash Back Work?

    The vast majority of cash back credit cards offer variations of the same choices for redeeming rewards. Most often, you’ll see statement credits, checks, bank account deposits, gift cards and charitable donations available to you.

    • Statement credit – Instead of receiving your cash back in-hand, you can apply it to your upcoming monthly bill, saving you money in the process.
    • Check – As one of the more direct ways of redeeming cash back, checks allow you to basically do whatever you want with its value.
    • Bank deposits – Eligible accounts usually include checking accounts, savings accounts or investment accounts.
    • Gift cards – With this option, you can convert cash back into retail credit at a store or website at which you want to shop.
    • Donations – Many card issuers have open relations with charities. These partnerships open the door for you to aid your favorite causes with real money.

    It’s by far the easiest to redeem cash back through your card issuer’s website that it provides. Here you’ll not only see your rewards status, you will also know every possible redemption you could make. If you’d rather talk to a real person, most companies still have rewards phone lines you can call, as well.

    Those who’d rather not have to worry about where their rewards currently stand will find that a redemption threshold might be helpful. Not all cards offer this feature. But if yours does, set a threshold at which your cash back is automatically redeemed in any manner you desire. Additionally, some cards require you to attain a certain amount of cash back before redeeming is possible.

    Cash Back With Each Major Credit Card Company

    what is cash back

    There are tons of different cash back cards, depending on your credit score you may be eligible for some but not others. While it’s impossible to give universal specifics for each credit card company, below we’ve provided overviews of some of the most popular cash back cards.

    Citi Double Cash Card (Mastercard)

    Cash Back Rate: 1% at the time of purchase, 1% when you pay them off

    Limit or Expiration: No limit; Expires if no eligible purchases are made for 12 months

    Redemption Options: As a check, statement credit or gift card

    The “double cash” nature of the Citi Double Cash Card means you effectively earn cash back twice: first when you make the initial purchase and again when you pay your credit card bill. The 12-month expiration is fairly standard and the lack of limits on how much cash back you can earn is generous. Statement credits, checks and gift cards are three of the most common redemption choices, so it’s no surprise to see them offered here.

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (Mastercard)

    Cash Back Rate: 3% in the category of your choice, 2% on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% on other purchases

    Limit or Expiration: Cash back on choice category, grocery stores and wholesale club purchases is limited on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; No expiration dates

    Redemption Options: Once you have $25 or more, you can redeem as a statement credit, a check or a deposit to an eligible Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® account

    Take note of the combined $2,500 quarterly limit on 3% and 2% cash back in category of choice and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, respectively. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card also requires cardholders to have a minimum of $25 in earned cash back before they can redeem.

    Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card (American Express)

    Cash Back Rate: 3% on U.S. supermarket purchases, 2% on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store purchases, 1% on other purchases

    Limit or Expiration: 3% rate at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 a year in purchases then drops to 1%; No expiration dates

    Redemption Options: After earning at least $25, redeem as a statement credit in $25 increments; Gift cards and merchandise redemptions from time to time

    Amex offers some of the strongest rewards cards around, and the Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card is no exception. It does come with some limits; namely the 3% cash back rate on U.S. grocery store purchases is capped at $6,000 in purchases a year. At that time, cardholders earn 1% in cash back on groceries.

    Discover it® Card (Discover)

    Cash Back Rate: 5% in rotating categories like gas station, supermarket, restaurant, Amazon.com and wholesale club purchases, 1% on other purchases; Full cash back match at the end of your first year

    Limit or Expiration: $1,500 cap on purchases that earn the 5% rate each quarter; No expiration dates

    Redemption Options: Statement credits, deposits to a bank account, gift cards and eCertificates, pay with cash back at select merchants and charitable donations

    Discover cards offer great first-year cash back matches and distinctive cash back categories. These traits are on full display with the Discover it® Card. This includes 5% cash back on purchases ranging from dining to Amazon.com. However, there are limits for this rate and you have to opt in to categories each quarter to qualify. This card also offers five redemption options — the most on this list.

    Tips to Maximize Cash Back Potential and Minimize Credit Risk
    • Cash back is one of the most prolific perks that the modern credit card market has to offer. But it’s important that you don’t overspend outside of your means just for the sake of rewards. Because many cash back cards come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs), this could force you into large, unsustainable interest payments.
    • Whenever possible, swipe your card for purchases in bonus categories. Not all cards have these to offer, but most do. So make sure you know which cards in your wallet offer bonuses at places like gas stations and supermarkets.
    • Know what types of redemptions — statement credits, bank account deposits, gift cards etc. — work best for you. This will drastically narrow down your card options, making the decision process much simpler.

    Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/4×6, Â©iStock.com/Pgiam, Â©iStock.com/Ridofranz

    Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

    Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

    The post How Does Cash Back Work? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.


    Source: smartasset.com

    How Late Can You Be on a Car Payment, Mortgage or Other Bill?

    by Phillip Warren

    A man sits on a chair, looking concerned.

    It’s always frustrating to come across a bill and realize it was due yesterday—or last week. If you’re late on a payment or if you miss it completely, you could end up paying late fees and taking a hit on your credit score. It can be especially difficult if you want to apply for a loan or credit and are about to make a big purchase like a house or a vehicle.

    If you’re a reliable customer and have only missed this one payment, it likely shouldn’t be a big problem, and you can probably avoid a late fee. But if you wait too long, it might not be possible.

    Either way, we’re going to help answer some of your biggest questions:

    • How late can you be on a car payment before it affects your credit?
    • Is there a late car payment grace period?
    • What about for rent?
    • What happens if you miss a payment completely?
    • Who should you notify?
    • How will it impact your credit score?

    Read on to learn how late a credit card or car payment can be before it affects your credit score and what to do if it does.

    How Late Can a Credit Card Payment Be?

    People often wonder how late a payment has to be before their creditors report it to the credit bureaus. A credit card payment is considered late if it’s received after the cutoff time in your credit card agreement or if the payment submitted is less than the minimum amount due.

    Missed credit card payments are generally added to your credit report when the payment is more than 30 days late. This same entry is updated if your payment is 60 days late, and then 90 days. It is important to know what your specific credit card issuer’s policies are, so you can know what to expect.

    Keep in mind that one late payment among years of on-time payments is far less serious than a late payment and limited credit history.

    When Is a Credit Card Payment Considered Late?

    As far as credit card companies are concerned, the payment is considered late if it’s submitted after the cutoff period, which varies depending on the lender. Sometimes it’s 5 p.m. on a business day while for others it’s 8 p.m. or 11:59 p.m. Also be aware of when a late fee will be charged. Generally speaking, a late fee is issued if payment is received after the credit card issuer’s cutoff time.

    30 Days Past Due

    Late credit card payments usually aren’t reported to the credit bureau until after 30 days. In other words, if you make a payment after the due date but within this initial 30-day period, it won’t show up on your credit report, but you may have to pay a late fee.

    60 Days Past Due

    If your payment is more than 60 days late, the 30-day entry on your credit report is updated and your card’s interest rate could increase. If it increases and by how much depends on your card’s terms.

    How Late Can You Be on a Car Payment?

    Typically, the grace period on auto loans is 10 days, but this depends on the lender. The grace period your lender allows should be listed under the terms and conditions of your loan. This is where you’ll also find the details of the loan, including your loan balance, your interest rate, the term of the loan and the fees associated with a late or missed payment.

    If you can afford to pay but simply forgot, you’ll want to pay it as soon as possible. But if you feel you can’t afford the car payment, you should get in touch with your lender and see if they would be willing to renegotiate the terms of the loan.

    Deferring Car Payments

    You can also look into deferring your car payment if you don’t have the funds now but you expect to later. A deferment essentially means you’re changing your due date by postponing the date of your next payment. Deferments usually don’t negatively affect your credit score.

    What If I’m Late on Paying My Rent or Mortgage?

    If you’re a few days late paying your rent, usually you shouldn’t have to worry about this affecting your credit score. If you know your landlord, chances are they’ll say something if you continue to submit late payments. If you’re paying a property management company, they likely won’t be as lenient on late payments. Our best advice is to pay your rent within the week it’s due.

    Mortgage lenders typically report late payments to credit bureaus and usually have different grace periods. Paying within seven days should help you avoid decreasing credit scores.

    One of the best ways to stay on top of your mortgage or rent payment is to set up a monthly reminder for a few days before the first of the month or, if possible, set up an automatic payment. Because your rent or mortgage payment is the same each month, it should be easy to calculate it into your personal finances.

    Can a Late Credit Card Payment Made Under 30 Days Still Affect My Score?

    If you make a credit card payment within the 30-day period, it generally should not be reported negatively or have any effect on your credit score. Beyond that time, however, there is a possibility your credit score could be affected. Make sure you know the terms of your credit card however, terms can vary and you don’t want any surprises.

    If it turns out your late payment has been reported, know that its impact on your score generally diminishes with time, especially if it’s an isolated event. Other on-time payments can help counter the negative effects of late payments. And, as with almost any other mistake, the sooner you realize you’ve made it and try to fix it, the less likely it is to turn into a big problem.

    Late Fees vs. Overdue Payments

    Late fees are essentially fees charged by lenders to borrowers if a payment is received after its due date. So, if your payment is sent late—or is not the minimum payment or above—you could be charged a late fee.

    Most credit card payments are due within a minimum of 21 days after the billing cycle ends, but remember, the grace period is usually only 30 days, so you’ll want to pay them off as soon as possible. Credit card late fees vary depending on your lender and requirements under the CFPB, but the late fee amount can’t be more than the minimum payment. For example, if your minimum payment is $35, your late fee won’t be higher than that.

    An overdue payment, however, is a payment that was not paid by the due date. If you miss a due date, you will see the minimum balance plus the overdue payment on your next billing cycle. The overdue payment may be the full amount or a partial amount, such as if you paid part of your minimum but not all of it.

    Removing Late Payments From Your Credit History

    If there’s an error on your credit history, such as if a car payment is marked late but it actually wasn’t and you have proof, you can challenge it with the lender. The process involves explaining exactly what happened and asking that the error be fixed. Technically, the lender or servicer has 30 business days to respond to the error. If you don’t hear from them within about 45 days, follow up with them.

    If a late payment ding on your credit report is accurate, you can still contact the lender and dispute it, especially if you’ve been diligent about paying your bills on time. The lender can provide what’s called a goodwill adjustment, which is when the lender essentially forgives your late fee.

    As part of this process, you may be asked to explain the circumstances surrounding the reasons for your payment being submitted late. For example, maybe you went on vacation and forgot or you had to pay a large unexpected cost, such as medical fees, and you couldn’t afford the payment that month.

    The lender may offer you a chance to enroll in automatic payments to lessen the chances of a late payment happening again.

    How Long Does It Take for a Missed Payment to Come Off My Credit Report?

    Unfortunately, if there’s a missed payment or a negative item on your credit history and you’re not able to have it removed, it can stay on there for seven years.

    Keep in mind that if the incident occurred five years ago and you’re applying for a loan, it will have less effect than if it occurred last week. The more time that passes after the missed payment occurs, the better. Why? Because credit scores are based on recent financial behavior, so if you only miss one payment and not multiples, eventually your credit score takes your frequent on-time payments into account.

    How to Prevent Late Payments in the Future

    It’s hard to keep track of everything—grocery lists, kids’ schedules, work to-do lists and, of course, bill due dates—but there are ways to manage your personal finances better to ensure you never miss a payment.

    • Go paperless. Going paperless may increase the likelihood you notice when a bill comes through each month instead of being lost in piles of other mail.
    • Set up reminders. Banks sometimes offer text and email reminders that tell you when a bill, such as a car payment or credit card payment, is coming up. You can also set these up yourself to recur each month on your personal digital calendar.
    • Enroll in automatic payments. Automatic payments ensure your car payment or other loan payment is made on time. Just make sure the funds are available in your account on the day it’s due to be withdrawn to avoid potential overdraw fees.

    Keep an eye on your credit report and past late payments when you sign up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. It gives you a letter grade in each of the five key factors of your credit.

    The post How Late Can You Be on a Car Payment, Mortgage or Other Bill? appeared first on Credit.com.


    Source: credit.com