Tag: Rewards

How Microlearning Can Level Up Your Knowledge

by Phillip Warren

If you’re looking to advance your career or pivot to a new industry, then you’re probably checking out ways you can beef up your resume. Maybe you’re considering an MBA, a bootcamp, or browsing upcoming conferences. Or perhaps you’re considering the DIY route and looking for podcast and book recommendations. 

While any of these options will help you learn and could boost your resume, the best way to level up your career prospects is to dedicate yourself to becoming a lifelong learner, which is where microlearning comes into play. 

Conferences and classes are bursting with information, but you may feel limited by the course schedule and teaching style. This works for some people, but it can be expensive and hard to fit into a budget or daily schedule. Microlearning can help you take charge of your education by providing bite-sized lessons. Over time, you can build up your learnings for a more thorough and robust understanding of the subject. 

The best part is you can apply your specific lessons to your life, career, and goals to build each of these out over time and see what really works and what doesn’t. Your consistent growth can improve job satisfaction and career opportunities, putting you in the spotlight for the next raise or promotion. Learn more below or jump to our infographic to get started.

What Is Microlearning?

Microlearning has become a popular workplace trend as a learning process that breaks topics into highly specific, concise lessons. This allows the learner to build understanding and confidence at their own pace.

Microlearning is great for tackling new information and closing knowledge gaps. If you already have a foundation of knowledge for a topic, then it can be frustrating to wade through the basics for the few new ideas you were looking for. Khan Academy and TED Talks are a great example of how you may fill in knowledge gaps. 

The Benefits of Microlearning

The most important part of any lesson plan is that it’s tailored to a learner’s needs, and that the learner is actually able to retain information. Microlearning’s flexibility for learners is one of its biggest benefits.

illustration highlighting the benefits of microlearning

Here are some other reasons to consider microlearning:

  • Maximize time by preparing lessons for on-the-go and fitting them in during breaks or commutes.
  • Go in-depth to build a solid learning foundation and improve retention with practice. 
  • Find what works by experimenting with videos, articles, or podcasts to find what format works best for you. 
  • Save money with free resources like TED Talks, YouTube, and expert podcast hosts who provide episodic insights and lessons for you to follow. 
  • Fill knowledge gaps with lessons targeting exactly what you need to know instead of wading through beginner resources. 

The Disadvantages of Microlearning

Microlearning is great for career development, employee training, and specific topics that you could use a refresher on. However, they’re not a total replacement for other learning systems, and you should keep these in mind when you get started:

  • It’s not immediate and microlearning is about regular commitments to learning.
  • It isn’t easier, but it may feel easier. This is actually a benefit unless you assume it will be easy. You still have to actively learn and practice your lessons. 
  • Some topics just don’t work, including complicated topics like global economics. It’s great for learning about things like mortgages, but you likely won’t become an expert on personal finance in just a few lessons. 
  • There’s work upfront to finding and compiling the resources that fit your needs and that you trust. This work pays off in the long-run, though, with easy-to-access lessons. 

5 Ways to Begin Microlearning

You may not realize it, but you’ve probably already prioritized microlearning in your day-to-day life. If you’ve watched a YouTube video to learn how to change your oil or customize a spreadsheet, then you know exactly how beneficial short, specific, and detailed lessons can be. 

89% of employees feel more productive when their work is gamified with rewards

Here are some ways you can get started using microlearning as part of your professional development:

1. Game Groups

Gamifying your learning helps make the topic fun and builds a positive relationship with studying. You can get started by setting goals and rewards, or inviting peers to join you with a competitive leaderboard or a trivia night. 

2. Video Clips

Videos are designed to be relatively short and engaging, and YouTube has made learning largely accessible from anywhere. While YouTube playlists are a great place to learn, make sure you’ve done your research on any channels or personalities you’re watching to ensure your lessons are accurate. 

3. Podcast Playlists

Like videos, podcasts are a great way to consume information on the go and from personalities you enjoy and trust. They’ve become hugely popular because they’re easy to listen to while driving, working, or exercising, but it’s important that you give your playlist your active attention if you hope to learn effectively. 

4. Quiz Collections

Considering a quiz may bring flashbacks of test anxiety and stressful finals weeks, but in this scenario, quizzing isn’t about checking a box that you learned something new. Instead, it’s a means to practice your memory recall and retention so you can count on it when you need it most. 

5. Team Talks

Having a team to study with is not only great for motivation, but it can also improve your lesson retention. Active learning is the process of working or chatting through a subject or problem, and studies show this is the best way to learn and practice your skills. 

Keeping up with your professional development is the best way to impress your employer and expand your job prospects. Whether you want to climb the career ladder or ease your daily workload, How Microlearning Can Level Up Your Knowledge appeared first on MintLife Blog.


Source: mint.intuit.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.

Go to Guide
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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

    Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

    by Phillip Warren

    When it comes to excuses consumers give for their poor credit scores, banks and lenders have heard it all. 

    Maybe you lost your job and couldn’t pay your student loan payment for a few months. Or perhaps you thought you’d gotten a deferment but were too busy job hunting to find out for sure. 

    Maybe you thought you paid your credit card bill but it’s actually sitting on your kitchen counter waiting for the mail.

    Whatever the reason for your low credit score, one thing is for certain — lenders don’t care.

    In fact, banks and other lenders lean on your credit score and other factors to determine whether they should approve you for a credit card or a loan — and that’s about it. Your personal situation is never considered, nor should it be.

    It would be wonderful if credit card companies understood that “life happens” and made special exceptions to help people out, but that’s not the world we live in.  As most of us already know, that’s not typically how credit works. Credit cards are backed by banks, and banks have rules for a reason.

    Now, here’s the good news: Credit cards can help rebuild your credit, earn cash back for each dollar you spend, make travel easier, and serve as an emergency fund if you’re stuck paying a huge bill at the last minute. This is true even if you have poor credit, although the selection of credit cards you can qualify for may be somewhat limited. 

    Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards for bad credit, how they work, and how you can get approved.

    Best Cards for Bad Credit This Year

    Before you give up on building credit, you should check out all the credit cards that are available to consumers who need some help. Our list of the best credit cards for bad credit includes some of the top offers with the lowest fees and fair terms.

    • Total Visa®
    • Discover it® Secured
    • Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card
    • Secured Mastercard® from Capital One®
    • Milestone® Gold Mastercard®
    • Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

    #1: Total Visa®

    The Total Visa® is one of the easiest credit cards to get approved for in today’s market, and it’s easy to use all over the world since it’s a true Visa credit card. However, this card does come with high rates and fees since it’s available to consumers with poor credit or a limited credit history.

    Processing your application will cost $89, which is extremely high when you consider the fact that most credit cards don’t charge an application fee. You’ll also pay an initial annual fee of $75 and a $48 annual fee for each year thereafter.

    Once you sign up, you’ll be able to pick your preferred card design and your credit card payments will be reported to all three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This is the main benefit of this card since your on-time payments can easily help boost your credit score over time. 

    For the most part, the Total Visa® is best for consumers who don’t mind paying a few fees to access an unsecured line of credit. Since this card doesn’t dole out rewards, however, there are few cardholder perks to look forward to. 

    • APR: 35.99% APR
    • Fees: Application fee and annual fee
    • Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
    • Rewards: No

    #2: Discover it® Secured

    While secured cards don’t offer an unsecured line of credit like unsecured credit cards do, they are extremely easy to qualify for. The Discover it® Secured may not be ideal for everyone, but it does offer a simple online application process and the ability to get approved with little to no credit history.

    Keep in mind, however, that secured cards do work differently than traditional credit cards. With a secured credit card, you’re required to put down a cash deposit upfront as collateral. However, you will get your cash deposit back when you close your account in good standing.

    Amazingly, the Discover it® Secured lets you earn rewards with no annual fee. You’ll start by earning 2% back on up to $1,000 spent each quarter in dining and gas. You’ll also earn an unlimited 1% back on everything else you buy.

    The Discover it® Secured doesn’t charge an application fee or an annual fee, although you’ll need to come up with the cash for your initial deposit upfront. For the most part, this card is best for consumers who have little to no credit and want to build their credit history while earning rewards.

    • APR: 24.74%
    • Fees: No annual fee or monthly fees
    • Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
    • Rewards: Yes

    #3: Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

    The Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card is another credit card for bad credit that lets you earn rewards on your everyday spending. You’ll earn a flat 1% cash back for every dollar you spend with this credit card, and since it’s unsecured, you don’t have to put down a cash deposit to get started.

    Other benefits include the fact you can get pre-qualified for this card online without a hard inquiry on your credit report — and that you get a free copy of your Experian credit score on your online account management page.

    You may be required to pay an annual fee up to $95 for this card for the first year, but it depends on your creditworthiness. After that, your annual fee could be between $0 and $99.

    • APR: 19.99% to 25.99%
    • Fees: Annual fee up to $95 the first year depending on creditworthiness; after that $0 to $99
    • Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
    • Rewards: Yes

    #4: Secured Mastercard® from Capital One®

    The Secured Mastercard® from Capital One® is another secured credit card that extends a line of credit to consumers who can put down a cash deposit as collateral. This card is geared to people with bad credit or no credit history, so it’s easy to get approved for. One downside, however, is that your initial line of credit will likely be just $200 — and that doesn’t give you much to work with. 

    On the upside, this card doesn’t charge an annual fee or any application fees. That makes it a good option if you don’t want to pay any fees you won’t get back.

    You’ll also get access to 24/7 customer service, $0 fraud liability, and other cardholder perks.

    • APR: 26.49%
    • Fees: No ongoing fees
    • Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
    • Rewards: No

    #5: Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

    The Milestone® Gold Mastercard® is an unsecured credit card that lets you get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You won’t earn any rewards on your purchases, but you do get benefits like the ability to select your card’s design, chip and pin technology, and easy online account access.

    You will have to pay a one-time fee of $25 to open your account, and there’s an annual fee of $50 the first year and $99 for each year after that.

    • APR: 24.90%
    • Fees: Account opening fee and annual fees
    • Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
    • Rewards: No

    #6: Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

    The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards lets you earn 1% back on every purchase you make with no limits or exclusions. There’s no annual fee or application fee either, which makes this card a winner for consumers who don’t want to get hit with a lot of out-of-pocket costs.

    As a cardholder, you’ll get free access to your Experian credit score, zero fraud liability, and access to a mobile app that makes tracking your purchases and rewards a breeze. You can also get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

    • APR: 25.99%
    • Fees: No annual fee or application fee
    • Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
    • Rewards: Yes

    The Downside of Credit Cards with Bad Credit

    While your odds of getting approved for one of the credit cards for bad credit listed above are high, you should be aware that there are plenty of pitfalls to be aware of. Here are the major downsides you’ll find with these credit cards for bad credit and others comparable cards:

    • Higher fees: While someone with excellent credit can shop around for credit cards without any fees, this isn’t the case of you have bad credit. If your credit score is poor or you have a thin credit profile, you should expect to pay higher fees and more of them.
    • Higher interest rates: While some credit cards come with 0% interest for a limited time or lower interest rates overall, consumers with poor credit typically have to pay the highest interest rates available today. Some credit cards for bad credit even come with APRs as high as 35%.
    • No perks: Looking for cardholder benefits like cash back on purchases or points toward airfare or movie tickets? You’ll need to wait until your credit score climbs back into “good” or “great” territory. Even if you can find a card for applicants with bad credit that offers cash back, your rewards may not make up for the higher fees.
    • No balance transfers: If you’re looking for relief from other out-of-control credit card balances, look elsewhere. Credit cards for bad credit typically don’t offer balance transfers. If they do, the terms make them cost-prohibitive.
    • Low credit limits: Credit cards for bad credit tend to offer initial credit limits in the $300 to $500 range with the possibility of increasing to $2,000 after a year of on-time monthly payments. If you need to borrow a lot more than that, you’ll have to consider other options.
    • Security deposit requirement: Secured credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit to secure your line of credit. While this shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker — and it may be required if you can’t get approved for an unsecured credit card — you’ll need to come up with a few hundred dollars before you apply.
    • Checking account requirement: Most new credit card accounts now require cardholders to pay bills online, which means you’ll need a checking account. If you’re mostly “unbanked,” you may need to open a traditional bank account before you apply.

    Benefits of Improving Your Credit Score

    People with bad credit often consider their personal finances a lost cause. The road to better credit can seem long and stressful, and it’s sometimes easier to give up then it is to try to fix credit mistakes you’ve made in the past.

    But, there are some real advantages that come with having at least “good” credit, which typically means any FICO score of 670 or above. Here are some of the real-life benefits better credit can mean for your life and your lifestyle:

    • Higher credit limits: The higher your credit score goes, the more money banks are typically willing to lend. With good credit, you’ll have a better chance at qualifying for a car loan, taking out a personal loan, or getting a credit card with a reasonable limit.
    • Lower interest rates: A higher credit score tells lenders you’re not as risky as a borrower —a sign that typically translates into lower interest rates. When you pay a lower APR each time you borrow, you can save huge amounts of money on interest over time.
    • Lower payments: Borrowing money with a lower interest rate typically means you can usually get lower payments all your loans, including a home loan or a car loan.
    • Ability to shop around: When you’re an ideal candidate for a loan, you can shop around to get the best deals on credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, and more.
    • Ability to help others: If your kid wants to buy a car but doesn’t have any credit history, better credit puts you in the position to help him or her out. If your credit is poor, you won’t be in the position to help anyone.
    • More options in life: Your credit score can also impact your ability to open a bank account or rent a new apartment. Since employers can request to see a modified version of your credit report before they hire you, excellent credit can also give you a leg up when it comes to beating out other candidates for a job. 

    In addition to the benefits listed above, most insurance companies now consider your credit score when you apply for coverage. For that reason, life, auto, and home insurance rates tend to be lower for people with higher credit scores.

    This may seem unfair, but you have to remember that research has shown people with high credit scores tend to file fewer insurance claims.

    How to Improve Your Credit: Slow and Steady

    When you have a low credit score, there are two ways to handle it. If you don’t mind the consequences of poor credit enough to do anything about it, you can wait a decade until the bad marks age off your credit report. Depending on when your creditors give up and write off your debt, you may not even need to wait that long.

    If you don’t like the idea of letting your credit decay while you wait it out, you can also try to fix your past credit mistakes. This typically means paying off debt — and especially delinquent debts — but it can also mean applying for new loan products that are geared to people who need to repair their credit.

    If you decide to take actionable steps to build credit fast, the credit cards on this page can help. They’ll give you an opportunity to show the credit bureaus that you’ve changed your ways.

    Before you take steps to improve your credit score, however, keep in mind all the different factors used to determine your standing in the first place. The FICO scoring method considers the following factors when assigning your score:

    • On-time payments: Paying all your bills on time, including credit cards, makes up 35% of your FICO score. For that reason, paying all your bills early or on time is absolutely essential.
    • Outstanding debts: How much you owe matters, which is why paying off your credit cards each month or as often as possible helps your score. According to myFICO.com, the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits make up another 30% of your FICO score.
    • New credit: Apply for too many new cards or accounts at once can impact your score in a negative way. In fact, this determinant makes up another 10% of your FICO score.
    • Credit mix: Having a variety of open accounts impresses the credit bureau algorithm Gods. If all you have are personal loans right now, mixing in a credit card can help. If you already have four or five credit cards, it may be wise to back off a little.
    • Length of credit history: The length of your credit history also plays a role in your score. The longer your credit history, the better off you are.

    If you want to improve your credit score, consider all the factors above and how you can change your behavior to score higher in each category. It’s pretty easy to see how paying all your bills early or on time and paying off debt could make a big positive impact on your credit score when you consider that these two factors alone make up 65% of your FICO score.

    If you want a way to track your progress, also look into an app like Credit Karma, one of my favorite tools. This app lets you monitor your credit progress over time and even receive notifications when your score has changed. Best of all, it’s free.

    Should You Use a Credit Card to Rebuild Your Credit Score?

    If you’re on the fence about picking up a credit card for bad credit, your first step should be thinking over your goals. What exactly are you trying to accomplish?

    If you’re looking for spending power, the cards on this list probably won’t help. Some are secured cards, meaning you need a cash deposit to put down as collateral. Others offer low credit limits and high fees and interest rates, making them costly to use over the long-term.

    If you really want to start over from scratch and repair credit mistakes made in the past, on the other hand, one of these cards may be exactly what you need. If you’re determined to improve your score, they can speed things along.

    You may pay higher fees and interest rates along the way, but it’s important to remember that none of the cards on this list need to be your top card forever. Ideally, you’ll use a credit card for poor credit to rebuild your credit and boost your score. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can upgrade to a new card with better benefits and terms.

    The post Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.


    Source: goodfinancialcents.com

    Activate Chase Freedom cash back categories for Q1 2021 now

    by Phillip Warren

    Chase has announced the 5% cash back categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the retired Freedom card for the first quarter of 2021.

    From Jan. 1 through March. 31, 2021, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on select streaming services, internet, cable and phone services and wholesale club purchases (up to $1,500 in combined purchases) after activation.

    Besides that, the new Flex card offers 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% on everything else. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

    See related: Chase to launch new Freedom Flex card, add new categories to Freedom Unlimited

    Activation for first-quarter categories on both the Freedom and Freedom Flex launched on Dec. 15, 2020, and will be open until March 14, 2021.

    Here’s what you need to know at a glance:

    • Activation of first-quarter bonus categories begins on Dec. 15 for both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex.
    • Cardholders must activate by March 14 to earn the bonus rate.
    • From Jan. 1 to March 31, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on eligible streaming services, internet, cable and phone services and wholesale club purchases.
    • The 5% cash back bonus is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter.
    • As of Jan. 12, 2020, Chase Freedom cardholders earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

    Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

    Winter Spring Summer Holiday
    January – March

    (Activation closes on March 14)

    April – June

    (Activation closed)

    July – September

    (Activation closed)

    October – December

    (Activation closed)

    • Select streaming services
    • Phone, cable and internet services
    • Wholesale clubs

    TBA

    TBA

    TBA

    Chase only releases its quarterly bonus categories one quarter at a time, so we can’t yet predict what will be offered in the rest of the quarters in 2021. Here’s a quick look at some of the categories Chase has offered in the last year.

    Chase 5% cash back calendar 2020

    Winter Spring Summer Holiday
    January – March April – June July – September October – December
    • Select streaming services
    • Gas stations
    • Phone, cable and internet services
    • Gym memberships
    • Fitness clubs
    • Grocery stores
    • Select streaming services
    • Amazon
    • Whole Foods Market
    • Walmart
    • PayPal

    What is included and excluded in the ‘Select streaming services’ category?

    In this category, you can earn 5% cash back on select streaming services, including music and video streaming.  The eligible services include Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube TV.

    What is included and excluded in the ‘Phone, cable and internet services’ category?

    You can earn cash back on your monthly bills, such as your cable, internet and phone services. To earn 5% cash back in the category, make sure to pay these bills with your Freedom or Freedom Flex card.

    Equipment purchases don’t qualify in this category. You may also not receive the bonus cash back if you pay for your phone, cable or internet service at a merchant’s store that’s not classified in the applicable services category.

    What is included and excluded in the ‘Wholesale clubs’ category?

    In this category, you can get 5% back when you’re shopping at wholesale clubs, including Sam’s and BJ’s. You can also use your Chase Freedom (no longer available for new applications) to earn bonus cash back at Costco. Since Costco only accepts Visa cards, the new Freedom Flex, which is a Mastercard, won’t be accepted. Mastercards are, however, accepted on Costco.com.

    See related: Best credit cards for Costco purchases

    earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter, upon enrollment, then 1%.

    Chase vs. Discover cash back categories 2021

    Chase Freedom Flex℠

    Discover it® Cash Back

    January – March Select streaming services, phone, cable and internet services, wholesale clubs Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
    April – June TBA Gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs
    July – September TBA Restaurants and PayPal
    October – December TBA Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

    Which card offers the best deal?

    The best card for you depends on where you plan to spend your money in the first quarter of 2021.

    Discover it® Cash Back offers bonus cash back at grocery stores at the beginning of the year. Since groceries are regular expenses that can get rather high, especially if you’re grocery shopping for a family, this category can be pretty lucrative.

    At the same time, if you have a wholesale club membership, it can be very easy for you to meet the spending cap in this category with your Chase card. This can make up for the other two underwhelming categories.

    For the rest of 2021, we can’t predict which card will be best for you, as while Discover has announced its categories for the next year, Chase only releases bonus categories one quarter at a time.


    Source: creditcards.com

    How to Build Credit Without Student Loans

    by Phillip Warren

    College graduates saddled with student loans may find this hard to believe, but there is one upside to having to pay back all that debt: It helps you build credit.

    That may seem like a small consolation — particularly if the balances you owe are even average — but credit can be hard to come by. Of course, all hope isn’t lost for those who don’t have student loans.

    Here are some ways to build credit without that kind of debt.

    1. Get a Secured Credit Card

    The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act prohibits lenders from giving credit cards to anyone under 21 who doesn’t have a willing co-signer or a demonstrated ability to repay, but if you’re over that age or you have a source of income, you can apply for some entry-level plastic.

    Secured credit cards — which require you to put down a deposit that serves as your credit line — are specifically designed to help people repair or build credit. These cards generally require a deposit to “secure” the limit of the credit card. (You can go here to learn more about the best secured credit cards in America.)

    There are also student credit cards geared to young borrowers that could be worth considering. The better ones have low credit limits that can keep new borrowers out of trouble and tout rewards or alerts designed to build smart-spending habits.

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    2. Become an Authorized User

    If you can’t qualify for a credit card, you may want to see if a parent, guardian or family friend is willing to add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. Authorized users aren’t responsible for paying off an account, but will get credit (pun intended) for any good activity associated with it. Just be sure to have the primary cardholder check if the issuer reports authorized users to the major credit bureaus, since not all of them do so.

    3. Take Out a Credit-Builder Loan

    An alternative to starter credit cards, credit-builder loans, offered by some credit unions and banks to help people improve their credit, allow you to borrow a nominal amount (often $1,000 or less) and make payments for 12 to 24 months. The payments are deposited in an interest-bearing CD or savings account. These loans typically have relatively low interest rates and can help people with a thin credit history develop a more solid credit profile as long as on-time payments are reported to the three major credit reporting agencies. (Again, you may want to check this ahead of time.)

    4. Apply for a Personal Loan

    You may be able to qualify for a personal loan. These installment loans do not require collateral and typically have slightly higher interest rates than secured loans. A bank or credit union that you have a relationship with may be willing to extend financing, though you may be asked to get a co-signer.

    5. Establish Good Habits

    Of course, you’ll only build good credit if you use any financing you are able to obtain wisely. You can establish a good credit score over the long term by making all your payments on time, keeping debt levels lower than 30% (ideally 10%) of your total available credit limit(s), and adding a mix of credit accounts (revolving lines, like credit cards, and installment loans, like an auto loan) as your score and wallet can handle them.

    You can track your progress by viewing your two free credit scores each month on Credit.com. If you make a misstep, you may be able to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit report, identifying your particular credit score killers and coming up with a game plan to address them.

    More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

    • The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
    • What’s a Good Credit Score?
    • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

    Image: LifesizeImages

    The post How to Build Credit Without Student Loans appeared first on Credit.com.


    Source: credit.com

    Airline, hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus

    by Phillip Warren

    While COVID-19 has affected all parts of daily life, the travel industry has certainly been put on hold as people have had to cancel plans and stay at home. Since most travelers plan many months in advance, this also leaves many holding tickets they can no longer use. Frequent flyers and hotel loyalty members are left wondering what recourse they have, if any, when it comes to their member status and points or miles.

    We researched the major players in the hotel and airline industry to find out how these companies plan to accommodate their valued members – by extending points, status levels and more – in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Coronavirus relief measures by loyalty or travel program

    • Hilton Honors
    • Marriott Bonvoy
    • IHG Rewards Club
    • World of Hyatt
    • Wyndham Rewards
    • Choice Privileges
    • United MileagePlus
    • Delta SkyMiles
    • American Airlines AAdvantage
    • JetBlue TrueBlue
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • British Airways
    • CLEAR
    • TSA Precheck
    • Global Entry

    Hilton Honors

    In addition to donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals, Hilton has promised to compensate its Hilton Honors loyalty program members in a number of ways.

    Lower status requirements

    Hilton has cut status qualification requirements by half.

    Elite status Previous status requirements New status requirements
    Silver status 4 stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points 2 stays, 5 nights or 12,500 base points
    Gold status 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points 10 stays, 30 nights or 37,500 base points
    Diamond status 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points 15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 base points

    Status extension

    For any Silver, Gold or Diamond members that were due to downgrade in 2020 or 2021, statuses will be extended through March 31, 2022.

    Cardholder benefits

    Weekend night rewards on eligible Hilton credit cards that were not expired by May 1, 2020, will now be valid through August 31, 2021, and certificates issued from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, are valid for 24 months from the date of issuance. All free weekend night certificates issued in 2021 can be used any night of the week and expiration is extended until Dec. 31, 2022.

    Additionally, bonus points will continue to count as base points on eligible purchases through Dec. 31, 2021, and toward elite status tier qualification, including Lifetime Diamond Status.

    Other rewards

    All 2020 elite qualifying nights will be rolled over to the 2021 status year. This applies to all nights members have already completed or will complete this calendar year.

    On top of that, Hilton has lowered the requirements to earn Milestone Bonuses for 2021. Previously, you could earn 10,000 bonus points every 10 nights after completing 40 nights in a calendar year. Starting in January, that requirement has been changed to 20 nights stayed to align with the new Gold qualification level. However, 60 nights will still earn you 30,000 points.

    Diamond members will be able to gift Gold status for staying 30 nights in 2021 instead of 60 nights which was the previous requirement. The requirement to gift Diamond status is lowered to 60 nights instead of 100.

    To ensure member safety, Hilton is providing flexible cancellations and full points refunds for all Hilton Honors experiences booked through May 31, 2021.

    You can follow further updates for Hilton Honors members on the loyalty program website.

    Marriott Bonvoy

    Marriott plans to compensate its Marriott Bonvoy members, although benefits may vary depending on members’ location.

    See related: Marriott data breach involves 5.2 million hotel guests

    Status extension

    Bonvoy members who earned elite status for 2020 can now enjoy their benefits through February 2022.

    Points extension

    Points set to expire by February 2021 will be paused, and no points will expire until after that time period. 

    Other rewards

    Active free night awards (as part of Marriott credit cards or packages) set to expire beginning March 1, 2020, will be extended through Aug. 1, 2021. Additionally, more recent certificates set to expire before July 31, 2021, will be extended through that date as well. Suite night awards set to expire by Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended another year through Dec. 31, 2021.

    Additionally, Marriott will deposit Elite Night Credits into Bonvoy elite members’ accounts in the amount of 50% of the nights required for the status they earned in 2019. This can make it easier for the members to reach the next tier.

    Elite Night Credits deposit breakdown

    Elite status Annual tier requirements Extra elite night credits
    Ambassador Elite 100 Qualifying Nights and $20,000 stay spend 50 Elite Night Credits
    Titanium Elite 75 Qualifying Nights 38 Elite Night Credits
    Platinum Elite 50 Qualifying Nights 25 Elite Night Credits
    Gold Elite 25 Qualifying Nights 13 Elite Night Credits
    Silver Elite 10 Qualifying Nights 5 Elite Night Credits

    Stay up to date on relief measures for Bonvoy members on the company’s COVID-19 page.

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    IHG Rewards Club

    Due to travel constraints and shortened travel periods, IHG has lowered its requirements for elite status membership by 25% or more, as well as extended statuses and points for all members (since elite members’ points never expire). 

    Lower status requirements

    Status Previous qualification requirements New qualification requirements
    Gold
    • 10,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
    • 10 qualifying nights in a calendar year
    • 7,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
    • 7 qualifying nights in a calendar year
    Platinum
    • 40,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
    • 40 qualifying nights in a calendar year
    • 30,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
    • 30 qualifying nights in a calendar year
    Spire
    • 75,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
    • 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year
    • 55,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
    • 55 qualifying nights in a calendar year

    See related: The benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status

    Status extension

    Program statuses will be extended through January 2022 for all members. Spire elite members will also retain their Choice benefit of 25,000 bonus points or gifting of Platinum Elite status to someone each year.

    Award certificates 

    Anniversary night certificates (U.S. and U.K. only) set to expire before March 1, 2020, will be extended through the end of the year. All 2020 certificates will be redeemable for 18 months, instead of the usual 12. Some members have also reported that free night certificates expiring before Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended until August 2021.

    Follow updates to IHG Rewards Club benefits on the program’s travel advisory page.

    World of Hyatt

    The World of Hyatt loyalty program will extend all statuses and rewards to compensate valued members.

    Status extension

    All active elite statuses, as of March 31, 2020, will be extended through Feb. 28, 2022. 

    Points extension

    Forfeiting points due to inactivity will be suspended through June 30, 2021. No points will expire until that date.

    Other rewards

    Any earned rewards, such as free nights or upgrades, set to expire between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

    Check the updates to Hyatt relief measures on the program’s COVID-19 page.

    online.

    Keep an eye on Wyndham’s COVID-19 statement page for updates.

    Choice Privileges

    It took Choice some time to follow suit and join other hotel chains in extending elite statuses and offering other promotions amid the outbreak. On May 21, 2020, the company announced a series of offers to expand the benefits of its Choice Privileges loyalty program.

    “Even during this crisis, our members found a number of ways to engage with us and make a difference,” said Jamie Russo, vice president, loyalty programs and customer engagement, Choice Hotels. “Some of them are essential and frontline workers who chose to stay in our small-business hotels, and others showed their generosity by donating their Choice Privileges points to aid recovery efforts. Our latest loyalty program changes tell our members that we appreciate their continued support and our hotels are here to welcome them whenever they feel safe traveling again.”

    Status extension

    All members’ current elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

    Lower status requirements

    Choice is also easing requirements to qualify for elite status in 2021.

    Elite status Previous status requirements 2021 status requirements
    Gold status 10 nights 7 nights
    Platinum status 20 nights 15 nights
    Diamond status 40 nights 25 nights

    Additionally, Choice is giving current elite members a limited-time upgrade to the next tier. Gold members will be upgraded to Platinum status and Platinum members will be upgraded to Diamond. Additionally, members who stayed at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020, will be able to keep their upgraded tier through 2021.

    United MileagePlus

    United has said it would compensate their MileagePlus members by extending all annual memberships, subscriptions and checked bag benefits for six months. United also plans to make status membership requirements easier and will release information later in 2020.

    Status extension

    All MileagePlus Premier members will get to retain their 2020 status through Jan. 31, 2022.

    Lower status requirements

    MileagePlus Premier membership now has easier requirements, reduced 50% for each status level.

    2021 status Premier qualifying flights and PQP … or PQP
    Silver 6 2,000 2,500
    Gold 12 4,000 5,000
    Platinum 18 6,000 7,500
    1K 26 9,000 12,000

    Other rewards

    All valid travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020, will be extended to be valid for two years for booking, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. All redeposit fees for flights booked through May 31, 2020, will be waived, as well as all fees for members who cancel within at least 30 days of departure.

    Follow more updates to United MileagePlus on the program’s travel notice page.

    Delta SkyMiles

    Delta has stepped up to say they will compensate their Medallion members by extending their Member status.

    Status extension

    2020 Medallion Member status will be extended through Jan. 31, 2022, and this change should be reflected on the member’s SkyMiles account by Feb. 1, 2021. Additionally, all 2020 Medallion Qualification Miles will roll over into 2021.

    Follow updates to the Delta SkyMiles program on the coronavirus travel update page.

    American Airlines AAdvantage

    As AAdvantage members experience reduced travel opportunities due to the coronavirus, American Airlines is offering elite status extension, lowering elite status requirements and allowing eligible cardholders to earn miles toward Million Miler status with credit card spend.

    Status extension

    Members whose elite status expires on Jan. 31, 2021, will automatically get an extension until Jan. 31, 2022.

    Lower status requirements

    Members will be able to qualify for a higher elite status in 2021 with lower requirements, including Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD), Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS).

    Gold oneworld Ruby Platinum oneworld Sapphire Platinum Pro oneworld Sapphire Executive Platinum oneworld Emerald
    • $2,000 EQDs and 20,000 EQMs or
    • $2,000 EQDs and 20 EQSs
    • $4,500 EQDs and 40,000 EQMs or
    • $4,500 EQDs and 45 EQSs
    • $7,000 EQDs and 60,000 EQMs or
    • $7,000 EQDs and 70 EQSs
    • $12,000 EQDs and 80,000 EQMs or
    • $12,000 EQDs and 95 EQSs

    Cardholder benefits

    The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® cardholders who hold a companion certificate expiring Dec. 31, 2020, will receive a six-month extension as well, bringing the expiration date to June 30, 2021.

    Learn more about AAdvantage program updates on aa.com.

    JetBlue TrueBlue

    JetBlue took a bit longer to join other airlines in taking measures to support loyal customers. On May 14, 2020, JetBlue announced it’s extending Mosaic elite statuses, as well as making it easier to earn one.

    Status extension

    All currently valid Mosaic elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

    Lower status requirements

    JetBlue is reducing the qualifying thresholds for Mosaic status by 50% for 2021. To earn the status this year, you’ll need to earn 7,500 qualifying TrueBlue base points or 6,000 qualifying TrueBlue base points and 15 flight segments.

    Alternatively, you can get the elite status by spending $50,000 in annual net purchases on the JetBlue Plus card – this spending requirement hasn’t changed for 2020.

    Virgin Atlantic

    Virgin Atlantic has also made it easier for customers to earn and maintain elite status amid the pandemic.

    Status extension

    In March 2020, Virgin Atlantic extended status for Gold and Silver members, allowing them an additional six months to meet the requirements.

    On Aug. 20, 2020, the airline added another six months to the extension, making it one year in total.

    Other rewards

    Starting Sept. 1, 2020, the Flying Club program members will be able to earn tier points on award flights, meaning they’ll be able to earn elite-qualifying points on flights where they used Flying Club miles to redeem for travel.

    On top of that, Virgin Atlantic makes it easier for members to earn and redeem Companion Vouchers, Upgrade Vouchers and Clubhouse Vouchers.

    Members can now use Companion Vouchers with any ticket in any booking class, regardless of status. Gold and Silver members can book their companion into any cabin for zero miles, and Red members can book their companion into Economy and Premium for zero miles or upper class at a 50% discount.

    Upgrade Vouchers can also be used with any ticket in any booking class, excluding Economy Light, for a one-cabin upgrade on a return flight.

    Clubhouse Vouchers can be used for one entry to any clubhouse when booked on a Virgin flight or with Air France, Delta or KLM when flying internationally. Gold members will continue to receive two vouchers.

    Southwest Rapid Rewards

    On April 16, Southwest announced a status extension for A-List and A-List Preferred members and companion passes. The company is also giving a points “boost” to all Rapid Rewards members.

    “As we continue to navigate our way through this unprecedented time and deal with extraordinary challenges, we are committed to keeping you informed and updated on the steps we are taking to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Southwest said in a message to Rapid Rewards members.

    Status extension

    Companion Pass Members who received an extension of their earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021, will have their benefits extended for another six months. Members will be able to keep their status through Dec. 31, 2021.

    Other rewards

    Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, a “boost” of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status, as well as 15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 qualifying flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred.

    Southwest cardholders can also spend their way all the way to A-List status, with no cap on tier qualifying points (TQPs) earned through card spend. Previously, cardholders could only earn up to 15,000 TQPs per year via card spend.

    Additionally, travel funds created or expiring between March 1, 2020, and Sep. 7, 2020, will now expire on Sep. 7, 2022. Alternatively, Rapid Rewards members can convert those funds into Rapid Rewards points. According to Southwest, the conversion ratio is “the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.”

    British Airways

    On June 11, British Airways finally joined other airlines in extending the elite status for its members. Additionally, the carrier is reducing the number of tier points needed to reach a higher membership tier.

    Status extension

    British Airways is extending tier status by 12 months for members who have a tier point collection end date of July 2020, through to June 2021.

    Lower status requirements

    The carrier has also reduced the number of points needed to retain and upgrade a membership status by 25%.

    Here are the new tier qualification thresholds:

    Cardholder benefits

    Members who have earned heir Gold Upgrade Vouchers, Companion Vouchers and Travel Together Tickets with a British Airways credit card will get a 6-month expiration extension to any current vouchers.

    CLEAR

    CLEAR is a program that makes it quicker for travelers to get through airport security lanes by using biometrics for ID verification. Since many people are currently avoiding traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak, a CLEAR membership might not be useful at the moment.

    Originally, CLEAR offered customers to pause their membership for three months. Now CLEAR is allowing members to request a three-month extension to their membership, which can be done by contacting the company directly. With customer service channels such as phone lines overloaded by requests, the fastest way to do so is via CLEAR’s online chat. However, some users have reported experiencing difficulties finding the chat box on the website. Alternatively, you can reach CLEAR by text, email or phone.

    TSA Precheck

    TSA Precheck is a five-year membership that provides expedited security checks at select domestic airports in the U.S. At this time, TSA is planning to keep enrollment centers open while working to determine if any temporary closures are required. Some centers have been closed or changed hours.

    If you’re planning to visit an enrollment center, it’s recommended that you schedule an appointment – as walk-ins may be deferred.

    Visit TSA’s enrollment questions page for more information.

    Global Entry

    Global Entry, a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks when arriving in the U.S, has reopened its enrollment centers on Sept. 8, 2020. After a six-month hiatus, the program will finally allow conditionally approved Global Entry applicants to complete in-person interviews at most Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers in the U.S. The interviews must be scheduled in advance online, and their availability will vary by location.

    Since the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected processing times for Global Entry renewals, CPB has increased the renewal grace period to 18 months. This means that if you apply for your Global Entry renewal before its expiration date, you’ll be able to use Global Entry for another 18 months.

    As the coronavirus situation is unprecedented and changing rapidly every day, hotels and airlines continue to make updates to their travel policies, including their loyalty programs. Travelers should continue to check airline and hotel websites as the situation evolves. If they cannot find the information they need online, they should contact their hotel, airline or travel agency’s customer service number.


    Source: creditcards.com