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8 Safe Investments for People Who Hate Risking Their Money

Think back to what the stock market looked like to you in March 2020, aka, the apocalypse. Did it look like:

A.) The biggest bargain sale you’ve ever seen in your lifetime? 

or

B.) A burning pit of money that was about to incinerate your life’s savings?

If you answered “B,” you probably have a low risk tolerance. You worry more about losing money than missing out on the opportunity to make more of it.

Being cautious about how you invest your money is a good thing. But if you’re so risk-averse that you avoid investing altogether, you’re putting your money at greater risk than you think.

Do Safe Investments Actually Exist?

When you think about the risks of investing, you probably think about losing principal, i.e., the original amount you invested. If you keep your money in a bank account, there’s virtually no chance of that happening because deposits of up to $250,000 are FDIC insured. 

But consider that the average savings account pays just 0.05% APY, while in 2019, inflation was about 2.3%.

So while you’re not at risk of losing principal, you still face purchasing power risk, which is the risk that your money loses value. Your money needs to earn enough to keep up with inflation to avoid losing purchasing power. If inflation continues at 2.3%, buying $100 worth of groceries will cost you $102.30 a year from now. If you’re saving over decades toward retirement, you’ll be able to buy a whole lot less groceries in your golden years.

There’s also the risk of missed opportunity. By playing it too safe, you’re unlikely to earn the returns you need to grow into a sufficient nest egg.

Though there’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, there are plenty of safe ways to invest your money.

8 Low-Risk Investments for People Who Hate Losing Money

Here are eight options that are good for conservative investors. (Spoiler: Gold, bitcoin and penny stocks did not make our list.

1. CDs

If you have cash you won’t need for a while, investing in a CD, or certificate of deposit, is a good way to earn more interest than you’d get with a regular bank account.

You get a fixed interest rate as long as you don’t withdraw your money before the maturity date. Typically, the longer the duration, the higher the interest rate. 

Since they’re FDIC insured, CDs are among the safest investments in existence. But low risk translates to low rewards. Those low interest rates for borrowers translate to lower APYs for money we save at a bank. Even for five-year CDs, the best APYs are just over 1%.

You also risk losing your interest and even some principal if you need to withdraw money early.

2. Money Market Funds

Not to be confused with money market accounts, money market funds are actually mutual funds that invest in low-risk, short-term debts, such as CDs and U.S. Treasurys. (More on those shortly.)

The returns are often on par with CD interest rates. One advantage: It’s a liquid investment, which means you can cash out at any time. But because they aren’t FDIC insured, they can technically lose principal, though they’re considered extraordinarily safe.

3. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)

The U.S. government finances its debt by issuing Treasurys. When you buy Treasurys, you’re investing in bonds backed by the “full faith and credit of the U.S. government.” Unless the federal government defaults on its debt for the first time in history, investors get paid.

The price of that safety: pathetically low yields that often don’t keep up with inflation.

TIPS offer built-in inflation protection — as the name “Treasury Inflation Protected Securities” implies. Available in five-, 10- and 30-year increments, their principal is adjusted based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. The twice-a-year interest payments are adjusted accordingly, as well.

If your principal is $1,000 and the CPI showed inflation of 3%, your new principal is $1,030, and your interest payment is based on the adjusted amount. 

On the flip side, if there’s deflation, your principal is adjusted downward.

4. Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds, or “munis,” are bonds issued by a state or local government. They’re popular with retirees because the income they generate is tax-free at the federal level. Sometimes when you buy muni bonds in your state, the state doesn’t tax them either.

There are two basic types of munis: General obligation bonds, which are issued for general public works projects, and revenue bonds, which are backed by specific projects, like a hospital or toll road.

General obligation bonds have the lowest risk because the issuing government pledges to raise taxes if necessary to make sure bondholders get paid. With revenue bonds, bondholders get paid from the income generated by the project, so there’s a higher risk of default.

5. Investment-Grade Bonds

Bonds issued by corporations are inherently riskier than bonds issued by governments, because even a stable corporation is at higher risk of defaulting on its debt. But you can mitigate the risks by choosing investment-grade bonds, which are issued by corporations with good to excellent credit ratings.

Because investment-grade bonds are low risk, the yields are low compared to higher-risk “junk bonds.” That’s because corporations with low credit ratings have to pay investors more to compensate them for the extra risk.

6. Target-Date Funds

When you compare bonds vs. stocks, bonds are generally safer, while stocks offer more growth. That’s why as a general rule, your retirement portfolio starts out mostly invested in stocks and then gradually allocates more to bonds.

Target-date funds make that reallocation automatic. They’re commonly found in 401(k)s, IRAs and 529 plans. You choose the date that’s closest to the year you plan to retire or send your child to college. Then the fund gradually shifts more toward safer investments, like bonds and money market funds as that date gets nearer.

7. Total Market ETFs

While having a small percentage of your money in super low-risk investments like CDs,

money market funds and Treasurys is OK, there really is no avoiding the stock market if

you want your money to grow.

If you’re playing day trader, the stock market is a risky place. But when you’re committed to investing in stocks for the long haul, you’re way less exposed to risk. While downturns can cause you to lose money in the short term, the stock market historically ticks upward over time.

A total stock market exchange-traded fund will invest you in hundreds or thousands of companies. Usually, they reflect the makeup of a major stock index, like the Wilshire 5000. If the stock market is up 5%, you’d expect your investment to be up by roughly the same amount. Same goes for if the market drops 5%.

By investing in a huge range of companies, you get an instantly diversified portfolio, which is far less risky than picking your own stocks.

8. Dividend Stocks

If you opt to invest in individual companies, sticking with dividend-paying stock is a smart move. When a company’s board of directors votes to approve a dividend, they’re redistributing part of the profit back to investors.

Dividends are commonly offered by companies that are stable and have a track record of earning a profit. Younger companies are less likely to offer a dividend because they need to reinvest their profits. They have more growth potential, but they’re also a higher risk because they’re less-established.

The best part: Many companies allow shareholders to automatically reinvest their dividends, which means even more compound returns.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

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My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do?

When most parents offer to fund their child’s tuition, it’s with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.

Unfortunately, what these plans don’t tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.

Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.

So if you’re a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.

Contact the University

Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parent’s income has decreased.

Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, you’re out of luck.

Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if you’ve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.

Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.

Try to Graduate Early

Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.

Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.

Fill out the FAFSA

If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.

Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it won’t show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.

Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools won’t even provide merit-based scholarships to students who haven’t filled out the FAFSA.

Get a Job

If you don’t already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.

Try to think outside the box. If you’re a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If you’re a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while you’re working.

Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if you’re in a different city.

It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.

Take Out Private Loans

If you still need more money after you’ve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.

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Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.

Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.

Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and there’s little recourse if you graduate and can’t find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.

Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School

Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.

If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.

Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so it’s better to be conservative.

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Source: mint.intuit.com

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A Debt Consolidation Loan Will Not Fix Your Bad Money Habits

This page may include affiliate links. Please see the disclosure page for more information.

If you have a lot of debt or different types of debt, then a debt consolidation loan might sound like a good idea. However, if you have low credit, you may not have many options.

The good news is, you can still get a debt consolidation loan, even with bad credit. In this article, you will learn about the ins and outs of a debt consolidation loan, the pros and cons of getting one, and what your alternatives are if you aren’t ready to get a debt consolidation loan.

In This Article

What is a Debt Consolidation Loan?

A debt consolidation loan is a new loan that you take out to cover the balance of your other loans. A debt consolidation loan is a single, larger piece of debt, usually with better payoff terms than your original, smaller debts. When you receive a consolidation loan, your other loan balances are paid off. This allows you to make one monthly payment rather than multiple.

For example, if you had one student loan for each semester of your four-year college degree, then you’d have taken out eight loans. This can be cumbersome to manage, so you could take out a debt consolidation loan to pay off all your eight loans and only make one monthly payment instead.

Get A Debt Consolidation Loan with Bad or Average Credit

If you have poor or average credit, then it might be difficult for you to get approved for a consolidation loan or to get a loan with favorable terms. A bad or average credit score is typically anything under 670. You will need to take steps to get a debt consolidation loan for bad credit.

Step 1: Understand Your Credit Score

The first step toward getting a personal loan or a consolidation loan is to understand your financial standing. Your credit score is one of the main factors that a lender will evaluate when deciding to give you a debt consolidation loan. Therefore, take the time to look up your credit score and what events have caused your score. Sometimes, years of bad habits contribute to a low score.

Continue to monitor your score over time. You can learn what contributes to a good score as well as what causes your score to decline, and act accordingly.

Step 2: Shop Around for a Debt Consolidation Loan

If you have a poor credit score, you might be inclined to take the first loan offered to you. However, you may have multiple options for lenders to work with, so be sure to shop around for a good interest rate and term. You might want to investigate online lenders as well as brick and mortar lenders such as your local credit union.

Be sure to carefully review all the fees associated with taking out a personal loan. This might include an origination fee or a penalty for paying back your loan early. Understanding your fees can save you hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan.

Step 3: Consider a Secured Loan

Most personal loans used for debt consolidation are unsecured loans. This means that they do not require collateral. However, if you’re having a tough time getting approved for a loan, you might want to consider a secured loan.

Forms of collateral include a vehicle, home, or another asset. The collateral must be worth the amount of the loan if you default on the loan. Even if you can qualify for an unsecured loan, you may want to compare the interest rates of a secured loan to see if you can get a better rate.

Step 4: Improve Your Credit Score

Finally, if you can’t get a loan right away, you may want to take some time to evaluate your credit score and see where your areas of opportunity lie. If you have small glitches on your score that caused it to decrease significantly, then you might be able to raise your score quickly.

For example, one missed payment or forgotten bill can cause your score to plummet. If this is the case, you may be able to pay off that small bill and raise your credit score quickly.

How to Qualify for a Debt Consolidation Loan

To get a debt consolidation loan, you must be 18 years or older and a legal U.S. resident. You must also have a bank account and not be in bankruptcy or foreclosure. These are the basics of qualifying for a debt consolidation loan.

In addition to these basics, you’ll want to try to improve your financial standing as much as possible. Borrowers with good or excellent credit and a low debt-to-income ratio typically have no problem getting a debt consolidation loan. However, if you have bad credit, you will want to work to improve your credit score and decrease your debt-to-income ratio.

If you have bad credit and are considering a debt consolidation loan, you might already be in a financial rut. This can make it difficult to improve your financial standing. If this is the case, you can search for lenders that specialize in helping people with bad or average credit and be sure to shop around for the best rates and terms that you can get.

Personal Loans for Debt Consolidation

If you have poor credit and need a personal loan, you may want to check out these providers. They will offer high-interest loans to people with poor credit.

Fiona

Fiona is an online marketplace that connects potential borrowers with multiple lenders. Borrowers simply fill out a quick application, and they are matched with the lenders most likely to approve them. This saves time and money, as you can be matched with a lender without needing to visit a bunch of sites.

Fiona is ideal for borrowers with a 580 credit score or higher, and that doesn’t want to have to waste time filling out a bunch of applications. A nice feature of Fiona is their initial application requires just a soft credit check, so making a quick application won’t hurt your credit score.

Since Fiona is a marketplace and not a direct lender, the terms of offers and the number of offers borrowers receive may vary. Some borrowers report being bombarded with offers, which we feel is potentially a benefit as multiple offers help ensure you get the best deal.

LendingPoint

Lending Point will typically lend up to $25,000 with an interest rate of 15.89% to 35.99% APR and a 36-month term. You can check your rate for free on their website. If you qualify, you can receive your personal loan in as little as 24 hours. LendingPoint takes your credit score, job history, and income into consideration when you apply for a loan.

SoFi

SoFi will lend up to $100,000 with an interest rate of up to 17% on a 24-month term. There are no origination fees or early payment penalties and no overdraft fees. You can apply online for free and will typically receive your funds in a few days.

Upstart

Upstart will lend up to $50,000 with an interest rate of 7% to 35.99% on a 36 or 60-month term. Funds are provided as early as the day after approval, but they have a high origination fee of 8%.

OneMain Financial

OneMain will lend up to $20,000 with an interest rate of between 18% and 35.99% on a 24 to 60-month term. They do have small origination fees and late payment fees, but they typically range up to $30 per payment. You can apply for a loan online and have it funded as early as a day after you apply. The company also has almost 1,500 branches across the country for those who prefer to apply for a loan in-person.

Should I Get A Debt Consolidation Loan?

If you’re in a pinch and need to consolidate your loans to make them more manageable, then your best option may be to get a personal loan or a debt consolidation loan.

Pros

There are plenty of benefits of a debt consolidation loan. Some of them are:

  • Simplified finances. When you consolidate your debt, you will pay off multiple debts and only have one loan. This means you’ll make one monthly payment instead of multiple to keep track of.
  • Lower interest rates. If you have a bunch of credit cards or other high-interest debt, the interest rates might vary and be high. Personal loans typically have lower interest rates depending on your credit score, the loan amount, and term length.
  • Fixed repayment schedule. Instead of having multiple payments each month that vary by amount, interest rate, and term, you will have a fixed schedule each month.
  • Boost your credit. By eliminating the risk of forgetting to make payments or letting your loans get away from you, paying a set amount on a consolidated loan can help you to boost your credit score.

Cons

Debt consolidation isn’t for everyone. Be sure that you understand the risks you take on as well. Some of the things to watch out for include:

  • You need to change your behavior with money. A debt consolidation loan won’t fix your bad habits with money. Often taking out a consolidation loan leads to more debt, because many people don’t fix the underlying overspending behaviors, or start a cash saving for emergencies. Not fixing your money behaviors leads to that same old cycle and could cause you to take on more new debt.
  • Upfront costs. Some personal loans have upfront fees, including an origination fee, closing costs, or annual fees. If you pay a lot of fees over time, it might not be beneficial to consolidate your loans.
  • Higher interest rates. If you have poor credit, you will not get a favorable interest rate on your consolidated loan. Therefore, you may have a higher interest rate on your consolidated loan than on your existing loans. If this is the case, it likely will not make sense to consolidate.

The Bottom Line

Having poor credit does not mean that you can’t get a debt consolidation loan. However, it might be more difficult for you to get a loan right away or to get one at a favorable rate. If you decide to apply for a debt consolidation loan, be sure to shop around for the best rates and do your best to improve your credit.

This post originally appeared on Your Money Geek

   

Source: debtdiscipline.com

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How to Manage Your Debt Effectively

Love it or hate it, debt is an integral part of modern life in the United States. And, when you think about it, debt in itself really isn’t a bad thing. Neither are credit cards or loans.

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They only become a potentially negative thing when they’re misused or mismanaged. And once they get out of control, they can head down a long spiral and bring you down with them.

The wise use of debt — whether it’s revolving (like credit cards and lines of credit) or fixed (like a secured car loan or mortgage) — is like the skillful use of the right tool at the right time for the right purpose.

So, it’s important to realize that avoiding debt isn’t really the answer. In fact, trying to go through life without incurring any debt or using credit can be unnecessarily difficult and troublesome. It can even impact non-credit-related situations like renting an apartment. The skill Americans truly need to focus on developing is how to manage debt effectively.

Following are 7 tips to help you manage your debt more effectively:

1. Think Before You Sign

Banks, retailers, and many other organizations make credit very easy to obtain if you have a good credit score.

Nearly every department store or specialty shop has its own credit card that you can sign up for instantly while you’re making a purchase, and it often comes with the enticement of an immediate discount off your purchase.

Even if your credit score isn’t very good, there are many lenders who are willing to offer credit at high interest rates, from 25% APR credit cards to 33% payday loans.

The point to keep in mind is that lenders and retailers want you to spend money with them. They’re not concerned in the least with what more debt is going to do to your budget, your lifestyle, or your future.

So, the first tip is simple:

2. Avoid Applying for Credit Impulsively

Don’t sign up for additional credit as an impulse buy or based on desperation. It’s always going to be a bad idea under those circumstances.

However, if you frequent a certain store and routinely spend money there anyway, and you’re confident you can be responsible with a new credit line, it may be beneficial to sign up. The point is, that needs to be a conscious decision, not a second thought for the sake of a one-time 15% discount.

3. Educate Yourself About Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a 3-digit number calculated by credit reporting agencies based on a number of factors, many of which the average American couldn’t even name. While it may seem somewhat arbitrary, that doesn’t change the fact that that 3-digit number can determine:

  • Whether you qualify for a 0% introductory interest rate or have to settle for a rate that fluctuates at “prime plus 23%”.
  • Whether you’re considered financially trustworthy or not, and therefore whether a landlord will rent to you or certain employers will hire you.
  • Whether or not you can afford to buy your own house one day.
  • And much more…

There are numerous situations that are partially or fully out of your control that can result in damage to your credit score. However, much of the damage done could be avoided if consumers simply understood the basic factors that affect their credit score. Then, they could actively work to improve a bad score or maintain a good one.

So, our second tip is: Seek out reliable information about managing debt effectively and educate yourself, so you’re equipped to take strategic action.

4. Assess Your Current Debt Situation

As you learn more about managing debt and understanding your credit score, you’ll begin learning terms like credit utilization ratio and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. These simple calculations have a huge impact on your score, and on how willing lenders may be to offer you favorable terms or to offer any credit at all.

  • Credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your currently available credit that you’re already using. (A simple example: If you own one credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, and it has a current balance of $200, you have a credit utilization ratio of 20%.)
  • Debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly or annual income that goes toward paying off debt you’ve already incurred. (Another simple example: If you earn $6,000 per month and the combined total of your existing car loan, mortgage, and minimum credit card payments amount to $2,000, you have a debt-to-income ratio of 33%.)

There are other important factors as well, but these two figures form a significant part of the calculation when determining your credit score. If they’re going to offer you the best possible terms, lenders want to be relatively confident you’re able to easily afford to pay for the credit they’re offering you.

They can make that decision based, in part, on how much of your current reliable income is already going toward other debt you’ve incurred in the past, as well as how much of your available credit you’ve taken advantage of thus far.

5. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

If you already have four credit cards and they’re all maxed out, when you apply for a new credit card, it’s a pretty good bet you’re going to max that one out too. You already have a 100% credit utilization ratio.

This shows you’re probably not great at managing debt, and there’s a good chance you’ll eventually overdraw your ability to pay. So, the credit card company may decline your application, or they may offer a lower credit limit and/or a higher interest rate to help mitigate their risk.

Of course, if your income is such that, even with all those maxed-out cards, you’re having no trouble at all making the monthly payments, (your DTI ratio is still low,) they may not worry about your utilization at all. And that’s where debt tends to snowball quickly and dangerously.

To sum up, here’s the tip: To improve your credit score and make sure you’re managing your debt effectively, you should shoot to maintain a credit utilization ratio and a DTI ratio of no more than 30%. In other words, you’re taking advantage of available credit, but you’re coming nowhere near the maximum you can afford to spend on it.

6. Make and Keep a Budget

This one requires very little explanation. Everyone realizes that creating a budget is necessary if you’re going to manage your spending. The more formal your budget, the better.

If you’re currently in good shape, your credit score is high and your debt is low, A strategic budget can help keep it that way while improving important tools like emergency savings and investments.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, your credit score is low and/or your debt is getting out of control. A budget can be the lifeline you need to slowly but surely pull yourself out of that downward spiral one penny at a time.

The formula is very simple: Income > Expenses.

Of course, putting it into practice is a little more challenging. There are plenty of tools available, from a pile of envelopes with cash set aside for various expenses to smartphone apps, but the real value of budgeting depends on your own self-discipline and willingness to stick to the plan you create.

So, for this tip: Make a budget that consistently keeps your income above your expenses, and do everything you possibly can to stick to it.

7. Get Professional Help with Credit Repair If It’s Needed

While all of the above tips are self-serve actions you can take right now to make a difference in your debt management, many Americans are already in a situation where it may not be possible to turn it around completely on their own.

For instance, if the loss of a job, divorce, military deployment, or other major life events caused you to unexpectedly rely on credit cards for months, you may be in a desperate situation that isn’t really even your fault.

Likewise, if you’re like so many Americans who grew up, finished school, and left home without ever learning the basics of financial responsibility, you may have gotten in over your head in debt without even realizing that was possible.

No matter what the reason is for your current situation, you don’t have to go it alone.

Hire a Credit Repair Company

Get in touch with a reputable credit repair agency and discuss your situation with a professional who can help. For a small fee, they can take the reins on your situation by:

  • Investigating your credit report to confirm its accuracy and completeness
  • Working with creditors on your behalf to negotiate payment plans or better terms
  • Disputing errors and eliminating inconsistencies on your report
  • Setting up a realistic budget and debt reduction plan
  • Guiding you through the challenges that will inevitably rise as you resolve your situation

So, the final tip is this: If you need help getting out of snowballing debt and getting yourself to the point that you can effectively manage it going forward, don’t hesitate. Get the help you need.

In modern America, completely avoiding debt is not only difficult, it’s potentially harmful. However, incurring debt without managing it effectively can be even worse. Follow the tips above, and you’re sure to get a solid handle on debt and use it skillfully.

Source: crediful.com

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14 Best Bank Promotions of January 2021 (Get Up to $700 Cash)

So, you’re looking for a new bank account.

You’ve got several factors to consider — ATM access, interest rates, monthly fees, minimum balances, mobile app reviews, and more.

Another factor to consider: bank promotions. These are cash bonuses you can earn when opening a new checking or savings account with a bank or credit union during the promotion window, meeting any specific criteria and keeping the account open at least long enough to earn the extra cash.

While a savings or checking bonus shouldn’t be your top reason to choose a bank, don’t rule it out entirely. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to fund your shiny new account with some extra cash?

Many banks offer such sign-up bonuses, but often, these bonuses aren’t advertised, meaning finding the best bank account bonuses can be tricky. That’s why we did some digging for you and found some hefty cash offers.

Best Bank Promotions of January 2021

We’ve researched the best cash bonuses available this month so you don’t have to. Below, you’ll find our favorite checking and savings account bonuses.

Keep an eye on what it takes to qualify, as well as any limitations. Direct deposit and minimum balances are commonly factors in securing these bonuses. Also pay attention to any monthly fees the account might carry; over time, these could weigh out the actual cash bonus. Otherwise, happy bank bonus shopping!

1. Aspiration Account: $100

Bonus amount: $100

How to get the bonus: To earn your $100, here’s all you need to do: Open your Aspiration account and deposit at least $10. Aspiration will send you a debit card associated with the account. Use the Aspiration debit card to make at least $1,000 of cumulative transactions within the first 60 days of opening your account. There’s no need to spend extra money — just use your card to buy groceries and pay your utilities.

Where to sign up: Enter your email address here, and link your bank account.

When you’ll get the bonus: Allow up to 120 calendar days from account opening to receive the bonus; you must have completed the requirements within the first 60 days.

The fine print: With Aspiration, your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. The account offers up to 1.00% APY on savings and allows fee-free withdrawals at more than 55,000 ATMs. There are no hidden fees with Aspiration (monthly fees are on a “Pay What is Fair” policy, and that can be zero every month!), and you’ll earn cash back when you spend at socially conscious businesses.

No offer expiration.

2. TD Bank Beyond Checking Account: $300

Bonus amount: $300

How to get the bonus: Open a new TD Beyond Checking account. You must receive a total of $2,500 or more via direct deposit within 60 days of opening your new account.

Where to sign up: Visit this TD Checking page. Click the orange “open account” button, and follow the instructions to open a TD Beyond Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The $300 bonus will be deposited into your account within 140 days of opening.

The fine print: While this bonus offer sounds too good to be true, it is definitely attainable. However, only open the account if you regularly get sizable monthly deposits or can maintain a healthy minimum balance. That’s because the account charges a monthly maintenance fee, but TD will waive the fee if you receive monthly direct deposits of $5,000, keep a minimum daily balance of $2,500 or maintain a combined balance of $25,000 across all your TD bank accounts.

TD fees — and the bank’s capacity for waiving them — extend to ATMs. You won’t face fees for making withdrawals at TD’s own ATMs, and it’ll reimburse all fees for withdrawing at non-TD ATMs as long as you keep your daily balance at $2,500 or more.

No offer expiration.

3. TD Bank Convenience Checking Account: $150

Bonus amount: $150

How to get the bonus: Open a new TD Convenience Checking account. You must receive a total of $500 or more via direct deposit within 60 days of opening your new account.

Where to sign up: Visit this TD Checking page. Click the orange “open account” button, and follow the instructions to open a TD Beyond Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The $150 bonus will be deposited into your account within 140 days of opening.

The fine print: While this bonus offer sounds too good to be true, it is definitely attainable. Unlike the TD Bank Beyond Checking account, this checking account option is easier for financial beginners to manage. You only need to maintain a minimum balance of $100 to have the monthly maintenance fee waived. And if you’re between the age of 17 and 23, there are no minimum balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fee.

However, the Convenience Checking account does not earn interest; the Beyond Checking account does.

No offer expiration.

4. Bank of America Advantage Banking Account: $100

Bonus amount: $100

How to get the bonus: Open a new Bank of American Advantage Banking account online using the offer code DOC100CIS. You must then set up and receive two qualifying direct deposits, each totaling $250 or more, within 90 days of opening the new account. This offer is only available to new Bank of America personal checking account customers.

Where to sign up: Visit the offer page and use the offer code DOC100CIS when opening the account.

When you’ll get the bonus: Bank of America promises to “attempt” to deposit the bonus into the account within 60 days of satisfying all requirements. However, while the “attempt” language may seem suspect, we could not find traces of reviews citing unpaid bonuses.

The fine print: A qualifying direct deposit means the direct deposit must be regular monthly income, whether through salary, pension or Social Security benefits. Deposits through wire transfer, apps like Venmo or ATM transfers will not qualify.

Advantage Banking accounts come in three varieties: SafeBalance, Plus and Relationship. All three carry monthly maintenance fees that can be waived:

  • To waive the SafeBalance monthly maintenance fee of $4.95, enroll in Preferred Rewards.
  • To waive the Plus monthly maintenance fee of $12, receive a qualifying minimum direct deposit, maintain minimum daily balance requirements or enroll in Preferred Rewards.
  • To waive the Relationship monthly maintenance fee of $25, maintain the minimum combined balance in all linked accounts or enroll in Preferred Rewards.

Offer expires June 30, 2021.

A woman submits a mobile check into her checking account.
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5. Associated Bank Access Checking Account: Up to $500

Bonus amount: Up to $500

How to get the bonus: Open a new Associated Access Checking account with a minimum deposit of $25 and receive direct deposits totaling at least $500 within 90 days of opening your account. Bonus values will vary based on the sum of the average daily balance of all Associated Bank deposit accounts from days 61 to 90:

  • Average daily balances of $1,000 to $4,999.99 will earn a $200 bonus.
  • Average daily balances of $5,000 to $9,999.999 will earn a $300 bonus.
  • Average daily balances of $10,000 or more will earn a $500 bonus.

Where to sign up: Visit this Associated Bank account sign-up page and select the appropriate account.

When you’ll get the bonus: You will receive the bonus as a deposit to your account within 120 days of account opening.

The fine print: Must be a new Associated Access Checking customer. If easy access to a physical branch is important to you, note that the bank has locations in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but members have free access to MoneyPass ATMs nationwide. Account must remain open for a minimum of 12 months; if you close it early, Associated Bank reserves the right to deduct the paid out bonus before account closure.

The account requires a minimum deposit of $25, charges $4 a month if you require paper statements and does not earn interest.

Offer expires May 31, 2021.

6. Associated Bank Balanced Checking Account: Up to $500

Bonus amount: Up to $500

How to get the bonus: Open a new Associated Balanced Checking account with a minimum deposit of $25 and receive direct deposits totaling at least $500 within 90 days of opening your account. Bonus values will vary based on the sum of the average daily balance of all Associated Bank deposit accounts from days 61 to 90:

  • Average daily balances of $1,000 to $4,999.99 will earn a $200 bonus.
  • Average daily balances of $5,000 to $9,999.999 will earn a $300 bonus.
  • Average daily balances of $10,000 or more will earn a $500 bonus.

Where to sign up: Visit this Associated Bank account sign-up page and select the appropriate account.

When you’ll get the bonus: You will receive the bonus as a deposit to your account within 120 days of account opening.

The fine print: Must be a new Associated Balanced Checking customer. If easy access to a physical branch is important to you, note that the bank has locations in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but members have free access to MoneyPass ATMs nationwide. Account must remain open for a minimum of 12 months; if you close it early, Associated Bank reserves the right to deduct the paid out bonus before account closure.

The account requires a minimum deposit of $100 and does not earn interest.

Offer expires May 31, 2021.

7. Associated Bank Choice Checking Account: Up to $500

Bonus amount: Up to $500

How to get the bonus: Open a new Associated Choice Checking account with a minimum deposit of $25 and receive direct deposits totaling at least $500 within 90 days of opening your account. Bonus values will vary based on the sum of the average daily balance of all Associated Bank deposit accounts from days 61 to 90:

  • Average daily balances of $1,000 to $4,999.99 will earn a $200 bonus.
  • Average daily balances of $5,000 to $9,999.999 will earn a $300 bonus.
  • Average daily balances of $10,000 or more will earn a $500 bonus.

Where to sign up: Visit this Associated Bank account sign-up page and select the appropriate account.

When you’ll get the bonus: You will receive the bonus as a deposit to your account within 120 days of account opening.

The fine print: Must be a new Associated Choice Checking customer. If easy access to a physical branch is important to you, note that the bank has locations in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but members have free access to MoneyPass ATMs nationwide. Account must remain open for a minimum of 12 months; if you close it early, Associated Bank reserves the right to deduct the paid out bonus before account closure.

The account requires a minimum deposit of $100. This account is the only Associated option that earns interest and offers complimentary checks.

Offer expires May 31, 2021.

8. Chase Total Checking Account: $200

Bonus amount: $200

How to get the bonus: Open a new Chase Total Checking account as a new Chase customer. Within 90 days of opening the account, have a qualifying direct deposit made into the account from your employer or the government.

Where to sign up: Visit this page on Chase’s website to sign up for the account and receive the $200 bonus. You can also open the account at a Chase location near you.

When you’ll get the bonus: Chase will deposit the $200 bonus into your account within 10 business days after you meet the criteria. This is the fastest turnaround of any banking bonus included on this list.

The fine print: Direct deposits from person-to-person payments do not qualify for the sake of this bonus. The Total Checking account carries a $12 monthly service fee, but you can have it waived if you receive direct deposits each month totaling $500 or more, keep a minimum balance in the account at the start of each day of at least $1,500, or keep a minimum balance across all your Chase accounts at the start of each day of at least $5,000.

If you close the account within six months of opening, Chase will deduct the bonus amount at closing.

Offer expires April 14, 2021.

9. Chase Savings Account: $150

Bonus amount: $150

How to get the bonus: Open a new Chase Savings account as a new Chase customer. Within 20 days of opening the account, deposit at least $10,000 in new money and then maintain a balance of at least $10,000 for 90 days.

Where to sign up: Visit this page on Chase’s website to sign up for the account and receive the $150 bonus. You can also open the account at a Chase location near you.

When you’ll get the bonus: Chase will deposit the $150 bonus into your account within 10 business days after you meet the criteria. This is the fastest turnaround of any banking bonus included on this list.

The fine print: The new money deposited into the account cannot be $10,000 that you already hold in another Chase account. The Chase Savings account carries a $5 monthly service fee, but you can have it waived if you keep a daily balance of at least $300 at the start of each day, have $25 or more in Autosave, have an associated Chase College Checking account for Overdraft Protection, have an account owner who is 18 or younger or link one of several Chase checking accounts.

If you close the account within six months of opening, Chase will deduct the bonus amount at closing.

Offer expires April 14, 2021.

A mother works on a laptop with her two daughters next to her.

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10. Citibank Basic Banking Package: $200

Bonus amount: $200

How to get the bonus: Open a new checking account in the Basic Banking Package. Within 30 days, deposit $5,000 in funds that are new to Citibank. Maintain a minimum balance of $5,000 for 60 days in a row.

Where to sign up: Click “apply now” for the Basic Banking Package on this page to have the bonus applied.

When you’ll get the bonus: Citibank pays out the cash bonus into your account within 90 days of meeting the criteria.

The fine print: The deposited funds must be new to Citibank, meaning they can’t come from another Citibank account. Citibank charges a $12 monthly service fee, but you can have it waived in one of two ways:

  • Make a qualifying direct deposit and a qualifying bill payment during the statement period.
  • Maintained a combined average monthly balance of $1,500 in all linked accounts.

Citibank also waives the fee if you are 62 or older. Sometimes, it pays to be living in those golden years.

Rates and promotions may vary by location; verify your promotion details by entering your ZIP code on the site.

Offer expires January 5, 2021.

11. Citibank Account Package: $400

Bonus amount: $400

How to get the bonus: Open a new checking account in the Account Package. Within 30 days, deposit $15,000 in funds that are new to Citibank. Maintain a minimum balance of $15,000 for 60 days in a row.

Where to sign up: Click “apply now” for the Account Package on this page to have the bonus applied.

When you’ll get the bonus: Citibank pays out the cash bonus into your account within 90 days of meeting the criteria.

The fine print: The deposited funds must be new to Citibank, meaning they can’t come from another Citibank account. A savings account is required with this package. Citibank charges a $25 monthly service fee, but you can have it waived if you maintain a combined monthly average of $10,000 or more in all linked accounts.

Rates and promotions may vary by location; verify your promotion details by entering your ZIP code on the site.

Offer expires January 5, 2021.

12. Citibank Priority Account Package: $700

Bonus amount: $700

How to get the bonus: Open a new checking account in the Priority Account Package. Within 30 days, deposit $50,000 in funds that are new to Citibank. Maintain a minimum balance of $50,000 for 60 days in a row.

Where to sign up: Click “apply now” for the Account Package on this page to have the bonus applied.

When you’ll get the bonus: Citibank pays out the cash bonus into your account within 90 days of meeting the criteria.

The fine print: The deposited funds must be new to Citibank, meaning they can’t come from another Citibank account. A savings account is required with this package. Citibank charges a $30 monthly service fee, but you can have it waived if you maintain a combined monthly average of $50,000 or more in all linked accounts.

Rates and promotions may vary by location; verify your promotion details by entering your ZIP code on the site.

Offer expires January 5, 2021.

13. HSBC Premier Checking Account: Up to $600

Bonus amount: 3% cash bonus up to $600

How to get the bonus: Open a new HSBC Premier Checking account, then set up qualifying direct deposits into the account once per calendar month for six consecutive months. You will then receive a 3% cash bonus based on the amount of your qualifying direct deposits, with a max of $100 a month for six months.

Where to sign up: Use this offer page to sign up for the offer. Click “apply now” on the HSBC Premier Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: You will receive your 3% cash bonus in your account approximately eight weeks after completing each month’s qualifying activities.

The fine print: To get the bonus, you cannot have had an HSBC account from September 30, 2017 through September 30, 2020. You must also have been a U.S. resident for at least two years and must be 18 or older.

HSBC applies a monthly maintenance fee of $50 unless you maintain a balance of $75,000 across your accounts, receive monthly recurring deposits of $5,000 or more or have an HSBC US residential loan with an original loan amount of at least $500,000.

Offer expires January 7, 2021.

14. HSBC Advance Checking Account: Up to $240

Bonus amount: 3% cash bonus up to $240

How to get the bonus: Open a new HSBC Advance Checking account, then set up qualifying direct deposits into the account once per calendar months for six consecutive months. You will then receive a 3% cash bonus based on the amount of your qualifying direct deposits, with a max of $40 a month for six months.

Where to sign up: Use this offer page to sign up for the offer. Click “apply now” on the HSBC Advance Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: You will receive your 3% cash bonus in your account approximately eight weeks after completing each month’s qualifying activities.

The fine print: To get the bonus, you cannot have had an HSBC account from September 30, 2017 through September 30, 2020. You must also have been a U.S. resident for at least two years and must be 18 or older.

HSBC applies a monthly maintenance fee of $50 unless you maintain a balance of $75,000 across your accounts, receive monthly recurring deposits of $5,000 or more or have an HSBC US residential loan with an original loan amount of at least $500,000.

Offer expires January 7, 2021.

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How to Search for the Best Bank Offers and Promotions on Your Own

In the spirit of not listing approximately 193 bank promotions, we kept this list short and sweet — only highlighting the best bank promotions for checking and savings accounts.

But maybe you’re interested in banking with your local credit union, opening up a small business checking account or finding the perfect investment account? There are often bonus offers attached to these account openings, too.

The banks don’t always make finding these promotions easy, so here are a few tips to help you get your hands on that cash bonus.

  • Check the bank’s website first. Sometimes it’ll advertise its promotions right there. This is rare, but it’s worth a quick check — it could save you a ton of time.
  • If you don’t have any luck, reach out to the bank’s customer service team through phone, email or chat. Let them know you’re shopping for a new account, and you’d like to know if it’s running any promotions. More often than not, the nice representative will send you a special link.
  • If this doesn’t work, turn to your trusty friend Google. Look for the best bank promotions. Because you’ll likely dig up some offers from third-party sites, you’ll want to take a few minutes to make sure the offer:
    • Hasn’t expired.
    • Is legitimate. Make sure the bank is FDIC-insured and has a positive Better Business Bureau rating. You can even read some online reviews.
    • Doesn’t require outrageous qualifying activities. For example, it might not be realistic for you to maintain an average daily balance of $50,000 and carry out 60 qualifying debit card purchases before the end of your first 30-day statement cycle.
  • You can also reach out to your family, friends and social network to crowdsource bank recommendations. Sometimes banks have impressive referral programs, so both you and your friend could benefit from you signing up.

Overall, be smart. Don’t let that promise of an account bonus blind you. Also, read the fine print so you don’t get stuck paying high monthly fees, interest rates or closing penalties.

Will Opening a Bank Account Hurt Your Credit Score?

If you’re worried that opening a new bank account or closing an old one will hurt your credit score, don’t be. Your bank accounts are not included in your credit report and therefore have no effect on your score, unless you have an outstanding negative balance that the bank turns over to a collection agency.

Sometimes when you go to open a new bank account, banks will do a soft credit check. However, that won’t affect your score.

Now, go enjoy your fresh new bank account and that nice cash bonus you’re about to pocket. Add it to your savings account, put it toward student loan payments or, heck, treat yourself!

Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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How to Build Credit with Fingerhut

  • Raise Credit Score

If you’ve been wanting to make a big purchase, but your credit is less than spectacular, you might have looked into Fingerhut as an option. 

Fingerhut is an online catalog and retailer that showcases a multitude of products. On this website, customers can shop for anything from electronics to home décor to auto parts. Fingerhut offers financing through their own line of credit, making it appealing to shoppers with poor credit or a nonexistent credit history. Many consumers have a better chance of getting approved by Fingerhut, than they might have of getting approved through most other credit card companies. It’s an option worth looking into if you want to improve your credit score through credit utilization.  

The major difference between Fingerhut and credit cards that cater to low credit scores is that Fingerhut credit is exclusively available for use with its own company’s products and authorized partners. You’ll also find that the company’s products are pricier than they would be through most other retailers, while also bearing the weight of higher interest rates. While it might seem like a good idea if you don’t have good credit, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company beforehand so that you know what you’re signing up for. 

How Fingerhut credit works

When you apply for a Fingerhut credit account, you can get approved by one of two accounts:

  • WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account.
  • Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank.

As it happens, by submitting your application, you are applying for both credit accounts. Applicants will be considered for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank as a direct result of being denied for the WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account. In other words, you won’t have a way of knowing which one you will be approved for prior to applying. Both credit accounts are issued by WebBank and are set up so that customers can purchase merchandise by paying for them on an installment plan with a 29.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). These are the only things that the different Fingerhut credit accounts have in common.

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account works very much like an unsecured credit card, except that it’s an account that you can only use it to shop on Fingerhut or through its authorized partners. 

This credit account features:

  •  No annual fee.
  • A 29.99% interest rate.
  • A $38 fee on late or returned payments.
  • A possible down payment; it may or may not be required. You won’t know prior to applying. 

If you get denied for this line of credit, your application will automatically be reviewed for the Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Account issued by WebBank, which is both structured and conditioned differently.

Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank

If you get approved for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan, you must follow these three steps to activate it:

  • Make a one-time purchase of no less than $50.
  • Put a minimum payment of $30 down on your purchase, and your order will be shipped to you upon receipt of your payment. You may not use a credit card to make down payments, but you can use a debit card, check, or a money order. 
  • Make monthly payments on your balance within a span of six to eight months.

You can become eligible to upgrade to the Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account so long as you are able to pay off your balance during that time frame or sooner without having made any late payments. Keep in mind that paying for the entire balance in full at the time you make your down payment will result in you not qualifying for the loan as well as being ineligible for upgrade. 

How a Fingerhut credit account helps raise your credit score

The fact that it can help you improve your credit is one of the biggest advantages of using a Fingerhut credit account. 

When you make your payments to Fingerhut in full and on-time, the company will report that activity to the three major credit bureaus. This means that your good credit utilization won’t go unnoticed nor unrewarded. If you use Fingerhut to improve your credit score, you will eventually be able to apply for a credit card through a traditional credit card company—one where you can make purchases anywhere, not just at Fingerhut. 

Additional benefits of a Fingerhut credit account

Besides using it as a tool to repair your bad credit, there are a few other benefits to using a WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account such as:

  • No annual fee.
  • Fingerhut has partnerships with a handful of other retailers, which means you can use your Fingerhut credit line to make purchases through a variety of companies. Fingerhut is partnered with companies that specialize in everything from floral arrangements to insurance plans.
  • There are no penalties on the WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account when you pay off your balance early.

How to build credit with Fingerhut

Fingerhut credit works the same way as the loans from credit card companies work: in the form of a revolving loan. 

A revolving loan is when you are designated a maximum credit limit by your lender, in which you are allowed to spend. Whatever you spend, you are expected to pay back in full and on-time through a series of monthly payments. This act of borrowing money and paying off bills using your Fingerhut account causes your balances to revolve and fluctuate, hence, its name. 

Your credit activity, good or bad, gets reported to the three major credit bureaus and in turn, will have an effect on your credit report. Revolving loans play a large role in your credit score, affecting approximately 30% of your score through your credit utilization ratio. If your credit utilization ratio, the amount of available revolving credit divided by your amount owed, is too high then your credit score will plummet. 

When using a Fingerhut account, the goal is to try to keep your amounts owed as low as you possibly can so that you can maintain a low utilization ratio, and as a result, have a higher credit score.

Alternatives to Fingerhut

If you’ve done all your research and decided that Fingerhut isn’t the right choice for you, there are other options that might serve you better, even if you have bad credit. There are a variety of secured credit cards that you can apply for such as:

  • The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You will need a $200 security deposit to qualify for this secured credit card, but you can most likely get approved without a credit check or even a bank account. It can also be used to improve your credit, as this card does report to the three major credit bureaus. While this card does come with an annual $35 fee, you can use it to shop anywhere that will accept a Visa. 
  • Discover it Secured:  For all those opposed to paying an annual fee of any sort, this card might just be the one for you. With a $0 annual fee and the ability to earn rewards through purchases, there’s not much to frown about with this secured credit card. One of the best perks, is that it allows you the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card after only eight months. 
  • Deserve Pro Mastercard: This card is a desirable option for those with a short credit history. There is no annual fee and no security deposit required and, if your credit history isn’t very long-winded, that’s okay. The issuers for this card may use their own process to decide whether or not you qualify for credit, by evaluating other factors such as income and employment. This card is especially nifty because you can get cash-back rewards such as 3% back on every dollar that you spend on travel and entertainment, 2% back on every dollar spent at restaurants, and 1% cash back on every dollar spent on anything else. 

Final Thoughts 

Fingerhut is an option worth looking into for those with bad credit or a short credit history. If you want to use a Fingerhunt credit account to improve your credit score, be sure to use it wisely and make all of your payments on time, just as you would with any other credit card.

Even though it might be easy to get approved, the prices and interest rates on items sold through Fingerhut are set higher than they would be at most other retailers, so it’s important to consider this before applying. 

There are a ton of options available, regardless of what your credit report looks like, if you are trying to improve your credit. If the prices of Fingerhut’s merchandise are enough to scare you away, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. 

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

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If a Mortgage Lender Reaches Out to You, Reach Out to Other Lenders

Posted on November 9th, 2020

A lot of homeowners are looking to refinance their mortgages at the moment. That’s abundantly clear based on the record volume of refis expected this year, per the MBA.

And while mortgage rates are in record low territory, thus making the decision to refinance an easy one for most, it still pays to shop around.

I think we all have a tendency to care less about prices when something is on sale, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t strive for even better, regardless of how cheap something is.

Look Beyond Your Current Mortgage Lender

  • New technology is making it easier for lenders to improve borrower retention rates
  • This means using the same lender for life even if their interest rates aren’t the lowest
  • But like most things loyalty often doesn’t pay when it comes to a home loan
  • So take the time to shop around and negotiate like you would anything else

Thanks to emerging technology, it has become easier for mortgage lenders, mortgage brokers, and loan officers to improve their customer retention.

This means if and when a past customer looks to refinance their home loan or purchase a new home, they might be notified if they pay for such services.

There are companies that can keep an eye on your data over time to see if you’ve applied for a home loan elsewhere, if your home equity has increased, or if your debt load has gone up.

The same goes for your credit score, which if it’s improved enough, may prompt a call or email from a lender or broker you worked with in the past.

While this in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing (sure, data collection is getting a little aggressive), it’s how you react to the sales pitch if and when it comes your way.

Ultimately, if you receive an inbound call or email regarding a mortgage refinance, HELOC inquiry, or even a referral from a friend or family member, don’t stop there.

They are just one of the many individuals/companies you should contact and consider before finalizing your home loan decision.

What If You Receive a Mortgage Mailer?

  • Consider an inbound solicitation a starting point if you’re considering a refinance
  • Don’t simply call the individual/company back and call it a day because they can offer a low rate
  • There are hundreds of mortgage companies out there and competition is fierce
  • Your mortgage will be paid for decades so every little bit matters if you care about saving money

I get mortgage solicitations all the time – and they’re often from a broker, lender, or loan servicer I worked with in the past.

They’re certainly appealing, don’t me wrong. Who doesn’t want to save potentially hundreds a month for simply redoing their home loan, especially if it’s from a trusted source?

But why stop at that mailer? Why not use that as a stepping stone to reach out to other lenders and get additional pricing and offers, then make your decision?

When we’re talking about something as important as a mortgage, which you pay each month for decades, the price you pay matters.

And even a small difference of say an eighth of a percent can equate to thousands of dollars over the life of the loan term.

As noted, companies are getting smarter every day when it comes to customer retention. Unfortunately, a customer retained is likely to miss out on even bigger savings elsewhere.

Don’t simply take the path of least resistance. Put in the time and you should save money.

This is even more critical for low-credit score borrowers, as a wider range of mortgage rates are quoted for those with lower scores.

But all homeowners can benefit from multiple mortgage quotes, as pointed out in a survey from Freddie Mac.

Those who gather just one additional mortgage quote can save between $966 and $2,086 over the life of the home loan, while those who take the time to get 5+ can save nearly $3,000.

So while your old company may make it easy for you to refi, you might be better served looking someplace else.

Read more: Mortgage Rate Shopping: 10 Tips to Get a Better Deal

Don't let today's rates get away.
About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

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Budgeting for Beginners: These 5 Steps Will Help You Get Started

Setting up a budget is challenging. Doing it forces you to face your spending habits and then work to change them.

But when you decide to make a budget, it means you’re serious about your money. Maybe you even have some financial goals in mind.

The end result will bring you peace of mind. But if you’re creating a budget for the first time, remember that budgets will vary by individual and family. It’s important to set up a budget that’s a fit for YOU.

Budgeting for Beginners in 5 Painless Steps

Follow these basic steps and tailor them to your needs to create a monthly budget that will set you up for financial success.

Step 1: Set a Financial Goal

First thing’s first: Why do you want a budget?

Your reason will be your anchor and incentive as you create a budget, and it will help you stick to it.

Set a short-term or long-term goal. It can be to pay off debts like student loans, credit cards or a mortgage, or to save for retirement, an emergency fund, a new car, a home down payment or a vacation.

For example, creating a budget is a must for many people trying to buy their first home. But it shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve bought a home, keep sticking to a budget in order to pay off debt and give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Once one goal is complete, you can move on to another and personalize your budget to fit whatever your needs are.

Step 2: Log Your Income, Expenses and Savings

You’ll want to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or another budget template to track all of your monthly expenses and spending. List out each expense line by line. This list is the foundation for your monthly budget.

Tally Your Monthly Income

Review your pay stubs and determine how much money you and anyone else in your household take home every month. Include any passive income, rental income, child support payments or side gigs.

If your income varies, estimate as best as you can, or use the average of your income for the past three months.

Make a List of Your Mandatory Monthly Expenses

Start with:

  1. Rent or mortgage payment.

  2. Living expenses like utilities (electric, gas and water bills), internet and phone.

  3. Car payment and transportation costs.

  4. Insurance (car, life, health).

  5. Child care.

  6. Groceries.

  7. Debt repayments for things like credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc.

Anything that will result in a late fee for not paying goes in this category.

List Non-Essential Monthly and Irregular Expenses

Non-essential expenses include entertainment, coffee, subscription and streaming services, memberships, cable TV, gifts, dining out and miscellaneous items.

Don’t forget to account for expenses you don’t incur every month, such as annual fees, taxes, car registration, oil changes and one-time charges. Add them to the month in which they usually occur OR tally up all of your irregular expenses for the year and divide by 12 so you can work them into your monthly budget.

Pro Tip

Review all of your bank account statements for the past 12 months to make sure you don’t miss periodic expenses like quarterly insurance premiums.

A woman with a dog reviews financial docements spread out on the floor.
Getty Images

Don’t Forget Your Savings

Be sure to include a line item for savings in your monthly budget. Use it for those short- or long-term savings goals, building up an emergency fund or investments.

Figure out how much you can afford — no matter how big or small. If you get direct deposit, saving can be simplified with an automated paycheck deduction. Something as little as $10 a week adds up to over $500 in a year.

Step 3: Adjust Your Expenses to Match Your Income

Now, what does your monthly budget look like so far?

Are you living within your income, or spending more money than you make? Either way, it’s time to make some adjustments to meet your goals.

How to Cut Your Expenses

If you are overspending each month, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to evaluate areas to save money now that you have itemized your spending. Truthfully, this is the exact reason you created a budget!

Here are some ways you can save money each month:

Cut optional outings like happy hours and eating out. Even cutting a $4 daily purchase on weekdays will add up to over $1,000 a year.

Consider pulling the plug on cable TV or a subscription service. The average cost of cable is $1,284 a year, so if you cut the cord and switch to a streaming service, you could save at least $50 a month.

Fine-tune your grocery bill and practice meal prepping. You’ll save money by planning and prepping recipes for the week that use many of the same ingredients. Use the circulars to see what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those sales.

Make homemade gifts for family and friends. Special occasions and holidays happen constantly and can get expensive. Honing in on thoughtful and homemade gifts like framed pictures, magnets and ornaments costs more time and less money.

Consolidate credit cards or transfer high-interest balances. You can consolidate multiple credit card payments into one and lower the amount of interest you’re paying every month by applying for a debt consolidation loan or by taking advantage of a 0% balance-transfer credit card offer. The sooner you pay off that principal balance, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.

Refinance loans. Refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan can lower your interest rates and cut your monthly payments. You could save significantly if you’ve improved your credit since you got the original loan.

Get a new quote for car insurance to lower monthly payments. Use a free online service to shop around for new quotes based on your needs. A $20 savings every month is $20 that can go toward savings or debt repayments.

Start small and see how big of a wave it makes.

Oh, and don’t forget to remind yourself of your financial goal when you’re craving Starbucks at 3 p.m. But remember that it’s OK to treat yourself — occasionally.

A couple organize tax-related paperwork.
Lindsey Cox and Jonathan Tuttle dig into income- and expense-related paperwork as they prepare to file their taxes at their home in Temple Terrace, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

What to Do With Your Extra Cash

If you have money left over after paying for your monthly expenses, prioritize building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

Having an emergency fund is often what makes it possible to stick to a budget. Because when an unexpected expense crops up, like a broken appliance or a big car repair, you won’t have to borrow money to cover it.

When you do dip into that emergency fund, immediately start building it up again.

Otherwise, you can use any extra money outside your expenses to reach your financial goals.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund..

Step 4: Choose a Budgeting Method

You have your income, expenses and spending spelled out in a monthly budget, but how do you act on it? Trying out a budgeting method helps manage your money and accommodates your lifestyle.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or splurges, and fortunately many budgeting methods account for those things. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Envelope System is a cash-based budgeting system that works well for overspenders. It curbs excess spending on debit and credit cards because you’re forced to withdraw cash and place it into pre-labeled envelopes for your variable expenses (like groceries and clothing) instead of pulling out that plastic. 
  • The 50/20/30 Method is for those with more financial flexibility and who can pay all their bills with 50% of their income. You apply 50% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 30% to personal spending (vacations, coffee, entertainment). This way, you can have fun and save at the same time. Because your basic needs can only account for 50% of your income, it’s typically not a good fit for those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • The 60/20/20 Budget uses the same concept as the 50/20/30, except you apply 60% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 20% to personal spending. It’s a good fit for fans of the 50/20/30 Method who need to devote more of their incomes to living costs.
  • The Zero-Based Budget makes you account for all of your income. You budget for your expenses and bills, and then assign any extra money toward your goals. The strict system is good for people trying to pay off debt as fast as possible. It’s also beneficial for those living to paycheck to paycheck.
A hand writes financial-related labels on envelopes.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Budgeting Apps

Another money management option is to use a budgeting app. Apps can help you organize and access your personal finances on the go and can alert you of finance charges, late fees and bill payment due dates. Many also offer free credit score monitoring.

Step 5: Follow Through

Budgeting becomes super easy once you get in the groove, but you can’t set it and forget it. You should review your budget monthly to monitor your expenses and spending and adjust accordingly. Review checking and savings account statements for any irregularities even if you set bills to autopay.

Even if your income increases, try to prioritize saving the extra money. That will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases as your income rises.

The thrill of being debt-free or finally having enough money to travel might even inspire you to seek out other financial opportunities or advice. For example, if you’re looking for professional help, set up a consultation with a certified financial planner who can assist you with long-term goals like retirement and savings plans.

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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