Tag: Travel

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

Does carrying a balance help your credit score? – The Points Guy

by Phillip Warren
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. We talk about travel credit cards quite a bit here at TPG. Applying for and utilizing these cards strategically can unlock incredible travel experiences like premium class flights or luxurious hotel rooms. However, there are a number of misconceptions out there when it comes to credit cards, so …

Source: thepointsguy.com

Here are all the ways you can earn bonus points with Chase right now – The Points Guy

by Phillip Warren
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available.        Editor’s note: This guide has been updated with the latest information.  As the pandemic rages on in early 2021, travel remains diminished across the U.S. and around the world. Regardless of whether you’re on the move or not, credit card companies are continuing …

Source: thepointsguy.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

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

    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

    How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months

    by Phillip Warren

    Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months!Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months! One of the best ways to save money is to finally get rid of those pesky loans that are hurting your financial situation.

    Learning how to pay off student loans can lead to many positives, such as:

    • You may finally feel less financial stress.
    • You may be able to use that money towards something more important, such as saving for retirement.
    • Getting rid of your student loans may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more or looking for a better job.

    I know these things are true because learning how to pay off my student loans is one of the best decisions that I've ever made.

    No, it wasn't easy to pay off my student loans that quickly, but it was definitely worth it. No longer having those monthly payments hanging over my head is a HUGE relief, and it allowed me to eventually leave my day job and travel full-time.

    Related posts on how to pay off student loans:

    • 6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs
    • How Blogging Paid Off My Student Loans
    • The Benefits Of Paying Off Student Loan Debt Early
    • 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month
    • 12 Work From Home Jobs That Can Earn You $1,000+ Each Month
    • How Do Student Loans Work?

    How to pay off student loans and create a great student loan repayment plan:

     

    Total how much student loan debt you have.

    The very first thing that I recommend you do if you want to learn how to pay off student loans is to add up the total amount of student loans that you have.

    When you total your student loans, do not just estimate how much student loan debt you have.

    You should actually pull up each student loan and tally everything, down to the penny. By doing so, you will have a much more realistic view of exactly how much you're dealing with.

    Plus, the average person has no idea how much student loan debt they have! Usually, they have far more than they originally thought.

     

    Understand your student loans better.

    There are many people who simply do not understand their student loans. There are many things to research so that you can create the best student loan repayment plan, and this will also help you understand your loans and interest rates.

    You should understand:

    • Your interest rate. Some student loans have fixed interest rates, whereas others might have variable rates. You'll want to figure out what the interest rate on your loans are because that may impact the student loan repayment plan you decide on. For example, you might choose to pay off your student loans that have the highest interest rates first so that you can pay less money over time.
    • What a monthly payment means. Many people believe that a monthly payment is all that you have to pay, are allowed to pay, or that by paying just the minimum monthly payment you won't owe any interest. These three things are so incorrect! Even if you pay the minimum monthly payment, you will most likely still owe interest charges (unless your interest rate is 0% – but that is very unlikely with student loans).
    • Student loan reimbursements. Some employers will give you money to put towards your student loans, but you should always do your research when it comes to this area. Some employers require that you work for them for a certain amount of time, you have great grades, good attendance, and they might have other requirements as well. There are many employers out there who will pay your student loans back (fully or partially), so definitely look into this option.
    • Auto-payment plans. For most student loans, you can probably auto-pay them and receive a discount. Always look into this as you may be able to lower your interest rate by 0.25% on each of your student loans.

    I recommend that you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, your cash flow, detailed graphs, and more. You can also connect accounts, such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more. Plus, it's FREE.

     

    Determine if refinancing your student loans is right for you.

    Student loan refinancing is when you apply for a new loan that is then used to pay off your other student loans. This may be a good option if your credit history or credit score is better than when you originally took out your student loans.

    By refinancing your student loans, you may qualify for better repayment terms, a lower interest rate, and more. This is great because it may help you pay off your student loans quicker.

    The positives of refinancing student loans include:

    • One monthly payment to simplify your finances.
    • Lower monthly payments.
    • Lower interest rates, and more.

    Some companies, like Credible, allow you to refinance your federal student loans as well as your private student loans into one. On average, refinancing can save you thousands of dollars on your loan, which is amazing!

    However, before refinancing a federal student loan, you will want to think about different federal benefits that you may be giving up. You may give up income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness for those who have certain public service jobs (such as jobs at public schools, the military, Peace Corps, and more). By refinancing federal student loans, you are giving up any future option to these.

    Read further at: Consolidating And Refinancing Student Loans – What You Should Know.

    Related tip on how to pay off student loans: I highly recommend Credible for student loan refinancing. They are the top student loan refinancing company and have great customer service! You can significantly lower the interest rate on your student loans which may help you shave thousands off your student loan bill over time. Through Credible, you may be able to refinance your student loans at a rate as low as 2.14%! Plus, it's free to apply and Credible is giving Making Sense of Cents readers a $100 bonus when they refinance.

     

    Reduce your interest rate for your student loan repayment plan.

    As I stated earlier, if you automatically pay your student loans each month or consolidate them, then sometimes you can get an interest rate reduction.

    With Sallie Mae, I believe the reduction is 0.25%.

    That may not seem significant, but it is something! Remember, every little bit counts when it comes to having a good student loan repayment plan.

     

    Create the best budget.

    If you don't have one already, then you should create a budget immediately. This will help you learn how to pay off student loans as you'll learn how to manage your money better.

    Budgets are great, because they keep you mindful of your income and expenses. With a budget, you will know exactly how much you can spend in a category each month, how much you have to work with, what spending areas need to be evaluated, among other things.

    Learn more at How To Create a Budget That Works.

     

    Look for more ways to earn money.

    Making extra money can allow you to pay off your students loans quickly because there is no limit to how much money you can make.

    Finding ways to make extra money is how I was able to pay off my student loans so quickly!

    And trust me, you probably do have time in your day to make extra money.

    Just think about it: The average person watches 35 hours of TV a week and spends around 15 hours a week on social media. If you could use that time better and make more money with those extra hours, you'll be able to pay off your student loans in no time!

    Here are some ways to make more money so that you can learn how to pay off student loans:

    • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I earn around $100,000 a month through blogging. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.95 per month, plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
    • Start a business. There are many business ideas that you could start in order to make extra money.
    • Sell your stuff. There are many things you can do to make money by selling items. We all have extra things laying around that can be sold, or you can even search for items that can be bought and resold for a profit.
    • Rent an extra room in your home. If you have extra space in your house, then you may want to rent it out. Read A Complete Guide To Renting A Room For Extra Money.
    • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, Pinecone Research, Opinion Outpost, Prize Rebel, and Harris Poll Online. They're free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It's best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
    • Become an Uber or Lyft driver. Driving others around in your spare time can be a great money maker. Read more about this in my post – How To Become An Uber Or Lyft Driver. Click here to join Uber and start making money ASAP.
    • Find a part-time job. There are many part-time jobs that you may be able to find. You can find a job on sites such as Snagajob, Craigslist (yes, I've found a legitimate job through there before), Monster, and so on.

    Related articles that will help you learn how to pay off student loans:

    • 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
    • 8 Things To Sell To Make Money
    • 10 Ways To Make Money Online From The Comfort of Your Home
    • 10 Things I've Done To Make Extra Money
    • Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month

     

    How to pay off your student loans – Find ways to reduce your expenses.

    The next step is to cut your budget so that you can have a faster student loan repayment plan. Even though you may have a budget, you should go through it line by line and see what you really do not need to be spending money on.

    There's probably something that you're wasting your money on.

    Until you write it down in your budget, you may not realize how much money you are wasting on things you don't need. And, remember, it's never too late to start trimming your budget and to put your money towards important things like paying off student loans!

    Even if all you can cut is $100 each month, that is better than nothing. That's $1,200 a year right there!

    Some expenses you may be able to cut include:

    • Lower your cell phone bill. Instead of paying the $150 or more that you currently spend on your cell phone bill, there are companies out there like Republic Wireless that offer cell phone service starting at $15. YES, I SAID $15! If you use my Republic Wireless affiliate link, you can change your life and start saving thousands of dollars a year on your cell phone service. If you are interested in hearing more, I created a full review on Republic Wireless. I've been using them for over a year and they are great.
    • ATM fees. You don't need to pay ATM fees, but for some reason so many people do!
    • Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for spending how you normally would online. The service is free too! Plus, when you sign up through my link, you also receive a free $10 cash back!
    • Pay bills on time. This way you can avoid late fees.
    • Shop around for insurance. This includes health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, home insurance, and so on. Insurance pricing can vary significantly from one company to the next. The last time we were shopping for car insurance, we found that our old company wanted something like $205 to insure one car for one month, whereas the company we have now charges $50 a month for the same exact coverage. INSANE!
    • Save money on food. I recently joined $5 Meal Plan in order to help me eat at home more and cut my food spending. It's only $5 a month (the first four weeks are free) and they send meal plans straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 or less per person. This allows you to save time because you won't have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well!
    • Fuel savings. Combine your car trips, drive more efficiently, get a fuel efficient car, etc.
    • Trade in your car for a cheaper one. For us, we are car people. Cars are one of our splurges. However, if you only have a nice car to keep up with the Joneses, then you might want to get rid of it and get something that makes more sense.
    • Live in a cheaper home. I'm not saying that you need to live in a box, but if you live in a McMansion, then you may want to think about a smaller home. This way you can save money on utility bills and your mortgage payment.
    • Learn to have more frugal fun. We don't spend anywhere near the same amount of money on entertainment as we used to. There are plenty of ways to have frugal fun.
    • Look for coupon codes. I search for coupon codes for everything. Today, I have two for you. I have a $20 Airbnb coupon code and a free taxi ride with Uber. Both are great services that I have personally used.

     

    See if your employer will reimburse your student loan debt.

    Some companies will pay your student loans quickly if you work for them. I even know of someone who receives a $2 bonus for each hour that she works to put towards her student loans.

    $2 may not seem like a lot, but if you work full-time, then that's over $300 a month. $300 a month for student loans is a good amount! And, because it's free money, it can all be put towards paying off your student loans quickly.

     

    Create a plan to pay off your student loans.

    After you have completed the steps above, you'll want to put it all together and create a plan.

    Without a plan, you would just be all over the place, making it difficult to reach your goal of learning how to pay off student loans.

    You should create a plan that details the steps you need in order to pay off your student loans, what will happen as you reach each step, when and how you will track your progress, and more.

    Being detailed with your plan will help you reach your goal and become successful.

     

    Stay motivated with your student loan repayment plan.

    Finding motivation can be a hard task for anyone. Motivation is important because it can help you keep your eye on the goal even when you want to quit. Motivation will help you continue to work hard towards your goal, even when it seems impossible. Motivation is what keeps you going so that you do not quit.

    Yes, student loan repayment can seem very stressful when you think about it. Many people owe thousands and thousands in student loans.

    And, no matter how young or old you are, learning how to pay off student loans can seem difficult or even near impossible. However, think about your goal and how good life will be once all of your student loan debt is gone.

    Please try to not let your student loans get you down. Think positively and attack that debt so that you can pay off your student loans fast!

    Trust me, once you finally pay off those pesky student loans, you'll be happier than ever!

    Related post on how to pay off student loans: 8 Ways To Get Motivated And Reach Your Goals

     

    Pay more than the minimum if you want to learn how to pay off student loans!

    The point of what I've written above is to help you pay off your student loans. However, you can always go a little bit further and pay off your student loans more quickly.

    The key to speeding up your student loan repayment process is that you will need to pay more than the minimum each month.

    It may sound hard, but it really doesn't have to be. Whatever extra you can afford, you should think about putting it towards your student loans. You may be able to shave years off your student loans!

    What other ways can a person learn how to pay off student loans? What's your student loan repayment plan?

    The post How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


    Source: makingsenseofcents.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