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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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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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Start-Up Business Loan Options

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

It can cost a lot of money to start a business, and most individuals don’t have all the capital they need up front, so they turn to a lender for help. Start-up business loans are offered by financial institutions to help business owners with a new business’s costs. While they’re a great concept, start-up business loans can be quite challenging to acquire.

These loans are risky for lenders, so the approval process can be laborious. Luckily, there are many options to consider.

How Can You Fund Your Start-Up?

When it comes to finding a start-up, business owners have several options available to them.

SBA Microloans

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has a microloan program that offers loans up to $50,000 for small businesses and not-for-profit childcare centers. The average microloan is $13,000.

The SBA provides funds to specially designated nonprofit community-based organizations that act as intermediary lenders. These intermediaries administer the microloan program for eligible business owners. Here’s a list of providers.

Each of these intermediary lenders has its own set of unique requirements for borrowers. Typically, the intermediary lender will require some collateral from the business owner for the loan. These microloans can be used for working capital, inventory, supplies, furniture or fixtures. Microloans can’t be used to pay existing debts or purchase real estate.

Business owners who apply for SBA microloan financing may be required to fulfill training or planning requirements before being considered for the loan. The microloan downside is the “micro” part: Funding may not be sufficient for all borrowers.

The repayment terms on the microloan will vary depending on factors such as the loan amount, the planned use of the funds and the small business owner’s needs. Generally, the interest rates range between eight and 13 percent. Additionally, the maximum repayment term allowed for an SBA microloan is six years.

Other Microlenders

There are nonprofit organizations that are microlenders for small business loans. These microlenders are generally considered an easier route than an SBA microloan, especially for individuals with questionable credit history. A nonprofit microlender usually focuses on offering loans to minority or traditionally disadvantaged small business owners. Additionally, they help out small businesses in communities that are struggling economically.

These microlenders offer good term rates and allow business owners to establish better credit. This can help the business owner get other types of financing later on.

Individuals may consider a nonprofit microlender for a variety of reasons:

  1. Because profit is not their objective, the loan terms are fair and don’t take advantage of people in difficult situations.
  2. In addition to financing, many microlenders offer free consulting and training, helping small business owners make the right decisions to build their credit.

Business Credit Cards

You have a credit card for your personal expenses, so why not for your business expenses? Business credit cards can be an alternative financing solution to start-up business loans. To qualify for a business credit card, the lender will typically look at your personal credit score and combined income (business and personal).

One of the main benefits of a business credit card is that it allows you to, right away, separate your business and personal finances. You will start establishing business credit, which will help you in the future with additional business financing. Additionally, many business credit cards have great sign-up bonuses or rewards, such as cash back.

Some owners may incorrectly assume that it’s a poor decision to rely on a credit card for business expenses. However, having and using a business credit card is much more common than you may realize. In a 2019 survey from the Federal Reserve Banks, it was revealed that 59 percent of small business applicants use credit cards to fund their business.

If your score or income is low, you may have to consider a secured business credit card. Secured credit cards often come with higher interest rates and higher fees, so whenever possible, you’ll want to opt for an unsecured credit card.

Even if you receive an unsecured credit card, a low credit score will mean your interest rates on the card are higher than average. That’s why it’s essential you try to improve your credit before applying for a business credit card.

Personal Funding

You can also consider personal funding options to start up your business. Some examples are personal loans, dipping into your savings or home equity or personal credit cards. However, you should understand the risk of using this type of financing for your business. You will want to do some realistic calculations and ensure the business will be able to stand on its own without relying on further personal funding down the road.

If you use a personal credit card for business expenses, make sure you make payments right away and watch your credit utilization ratio. You should be aware that mistakes can significantly destroy your personal credit score, which will have serious consequences.

If you have a good amount in your personal savings, using this money is smart because you won’t have to pay interest on it. However, you’re ultimately taking a high risk. If your business doesn’t do well for a while, you won’t have savings to tide you over. The same applies to borrowing against your home equity. It will likely be a cheap option, but it comes with a significant risk.

If you do choose to use personal funding to start your business, make sure you take steps to start establishing business credit as quickly as possible. This will allow you to leverage business credit to gain more financing in the future and make the transition from personal financing to business avenues.

Lastly, you may consider branching out and asking friends or family for money. Make sure not to apply too much pressure, and give them the option of declining. 

Grants

Both private foundations and government agencies offer small business grants. These can be quite difficult to get, but it’s worth trying, as it would essentially be free capital.

Grants are often offered for specific groups, such as grants for US veterans or female entrepreneurs.

Venture Capital Investments

If you believe your business idea has the potential for massive growth, you may consider pitching it to venture capitalists. A venture capital investment gives you money in exchange for an ownership share or active role in the company. These investors can be individuals or part of a venture capitalist firm

The benefit of a venture capital investment is that it’s not a loan, so you’re not acquiring debt. Instead, the third party offers capital in return for equity. However, this does mean a higher risk, as you may end up paying them out significantly more if your business yields high returns. You’re also often giving up some control of your company to the investor.

Crowdfunding

Platforms like KickStarter have made crowdfunding an easily accessible and valid option for individuals wanting to start a business. You typically share your business plan and objectives with a public forum and hope people make donations or backings to fund the project.

These campaigns take lots of marketing effort but can get significant funding if they’re successful.

Which Option Is Best for You?

It can be difficult to know which of these options is the right approach for your business. However, we’ve broken down how you can better identify which solution works for you:

  1. First, determine how much funding you’ll need to start. This number will automatically rule out some of the options.
  2. Next, determine your credit score—both your personal score and business score (if applicable). Once again, this may rule out some funding options if your credit score is too low. For your personal consumer credit scoring, consider credit repair services to work on your credit score so you have more funding options available to you in the future.
  3. Understand that some of the business funding options will require collateral. Complete an analysis of your assets and identify if you have any collateral to offer up.
  4. When you apply for most types of financing, you’ll be required to share certain documents. You can have these documents prepared ahead of time. Some of the most common documents needed are a business plan, a business forecast, a business credit report, a personal credit report, tax returns, applicable licenses and registrations and legal contracts, to name a few.
  5. It’s essential that you only borrow an amount you can repay. Sometimes, you’ll be approved for much more than you think you need. Avoid taking it just because it’s offered to you.

More than anything, applying for start-up business loans starts with your credit. You should know your credit score, identify whether it’s low and consider credit repair services if needed. Ultimately, the higher your credit score, the better rates and financing options you’ll receive. Lexington Law can help with all your credit needs, so get started today.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

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Last chance: How to make sure you’ve used your Amex airline fee credit before the year ends

Use Amex airline fee credit before year-end – The Points Guy


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

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Credit Card Balance Transfers

  • Credit Card Debt

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

October 29, 2020 &• 5 min read by Constance Brinkley-Badgett Comments 0 Comments

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According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

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Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Credit Cards

I‘ve always been a proponent of using credit cards sparingly on this site. I believe when you depend on credit too much, it can quickly become a crutch and an excuse for poor planning.

With that said, I do believe there is a place for the responsible use of credit cards, especially if you’re paying them off with cash on hand every month.

If you do your research, make a plan for your credit card spending and play the game responsibly, credit cards can be a useful tool.

So what are some things that you can do in order to get the most of out of your credit cards?

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credit cards to sign up for, it pays to take the time to first sit down and think about how you’ll primarily be using the card.

Is the card going to be mainly used for everyday expenses like groceries and gas?  Is it a business card to be used for business expenses?  Do you plan on doing a lot of travel?

Think about how you’re going to be spending, and what type of a card – and card benefits – will be the best for you.

tips for getting the most out of your credit card

tips for getting the most out of your credit cardIf you’re going to be doing a lot of travel, you may want to consider signing up for a travel rewards card with mileage signup bonuses or other travel perks.

If you just want to get cash back, do your best to find the card with the best cash back percentage.

Don’t Just Dismiss Cards With An Annual Fee

When shopping for cash back cards some experts will often tell you to eschew signing up for credit cards with an annual fee. But according to David Rubenstein of CreditShout.com, that may be short sighted.

On a recent episode of the Money Mastermind Show (above) he gave a good example, of when this might be the case.

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday card is a good card for those looking to save money on their groceries.  You can get 3% cash back at grocery stores.  The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card, however, gives 6% cash back at grocery stores, but carries with it a $75 annual fee. At first glance many people would avoid the Preferred card because of the annual fee, but if you spend just $2500 at the grocery store in the year (versus 3% cash back version), you’ll make back the annual fee and be in the black after that. Most people, even singles, would likely reach that threshold.  Add to that the cash back you would earn in other categories and it seems the annual fee may be worth it if you spend enough at grocery stores.

Try Negotiating Out Of An Annual Fee

If you want the benefits of a card with an annual fee, but don’t want to pay the fees, there is another option that some have suggested. Negotiate your way out of the fee.

Many cards will waive the annual fee in the first year, but in the second year you’ll have to pay unless you do something about it.   Here are some ideas for how to get the fee waived:

  • Call customer service: Just call and ask nicely for the fee to be waived.  Be firm, but polite, and be willing to cancel the card if they won’t credit the fee. Sometimes the first or second customer service rep may not be able to waive it, you may need to talk with the cancellation department.  Sometimes if the fee can’t be waived, they can offer extra points or rewards which will offset the fee. Sometimes they will offer to downgrade you to a lesser card without a fee.  If you can’t get the fee waived this way, try the next tip.
  • Reach out on social media: If calling doesn’t work, another trick to try is to try talking with the company on social media. Often their social media teams are able to help give customer service and positive PR on social channels. Follow the company’s social media accounts first, and then tweet to them mentioning how disappointed you are in the fee. Often they’ll offer to help you out with the fee that year, or even suppress it moving forward as one colleague told me they did for her.  I’ve found that the more followers you have, the more receptive they are to helping you out.
  • Use un-redeemed rewards to pay the fee: If you have more rewards than you’re using, some cards will allow you to redeem those points to offset the cost of the annual fee.

Credit card issuers often spend hundreds of dollars to acquire new customer, and it’s usually in their best interest to keep you around if they can.  If all else fails, be willing to cancel the card, and sign up for another one that won’t charge a fee (at least in that first year).

Make Sure To Make The Most Of Your Rewards

When signing up for your card, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your rewards.

Experts at Consumer reports found that cash back cards tend to offer better rewards in general.  They also found that with cards that give points, often end up not using the points. In most instances, getting a cash back card will help you to optimize your returns.

Here are some other tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your credit cards:

  • Find the best bonuses: Take your time to research which cards have the best bonuses.
  • Find the best fit: Sign up for cards with bonuses that fit your needs.
  • Find extra bonuses: Add authorized user if it will give additional bonus.
  • Find your card’s shopping portal: Shop at credit card reward portals to get extra savings.
  • Find bonus rewards: Take advantage of bonus rewards deals that will give you extra cash back during certain months or rewards periods. For example, 5% bonus cash back categories at chase freedom.
  • Find cards and programs that work together: A strategy some folks will use is to couple up credit cards with one issuer, or with compatible cards to maximize their rewards. For example, if you have the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, you can use the 5% bonus categories and the Chase Ultimate Rewards site for redeeming the rewards to maximize your points. You could use your Chase Freedom to get 5% cash back rewards and then transfer those points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred card through which you could redeem at a rate of 1.25 cents per point for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. Or if you’re a travel hacker, transfer those points to a frequent flier program to get better deals.

Maximizing Your Spending To Reach Bonus Spending Goals

Often when you sign up for a credit card with an attractive bonus, you have to reach a spending goal within a certain time frame, like $3000 in the first 90 days, or something along those lines. Sometimes that can be tough unless you get creative.  One way to reach those goals is to use credit card rewards to pay for things you’re buying now anyway.

  • Pay medical bills: This is one I hadn’t thought of before because we use our HSA card to pay medical bills. Instead, use the credit card for rewards, then ask for a HSA reimbursement later via your HSA online account.
  • Buy groceries & gas: Most people are paying for groceries and gas anyway, why not put it on the credit card and then pay it off?
  • Pay for recurring bills: Use your credit card to pay Netflix subscriptions, cell phone bills, life insurance payments and any other recurring bill if you can.
  • Part of a car purchase: In buying a car recently I found that you can put a portion of a car purchase on your credit card.  Most dealerships will not allow you to put the whole purchase price on the card because of transaction fees they have to pay, cutting into their margins, but in many cases they’ll allow you to put $2000-5000 or so on a credit card. Just make sure you have the cash to pay it off!
  • Buy gift cards:  One creative trick some people will use to get around spending goals is to buy high dollar gift cards to reach their spending goal – that they can use later on.  To double up they’ll often buy those gift cards at places like grocery stores where they get extra cash back since sometimes those purchases will show up as “grocery” spending.

Don’t Forget To Take Advantage of Perks

Most credit cards these days have some pretty awesome perks that you can take advantage of. So what are a few?

  • Price protection: Many credit cards now have some sort of price protection built in that allows you to submit a request for a refund if an item you buy with the card drops in price, during a certain time-frame.
  • $0 liability for fraudulent purchases: Having experienced credit card fraud recently I don’t take this one for granted anymore. Having that fraud backstop there is a lifesaver.
  • Extended warranties: Many cards will offer an extended warranty on items that you buy, usually doubling the original warranty of an item.
  • Trip cancellation insurance coverage: If you booked a trip using your card, you can often be reimbursed if your trip has to be cancelled for some reason.
  • Lost luggage coverage: One of my cards gives $3,000 in lost luggage coverage for me and my dependents when the fare was charged to my card.
  • Roadside assistance: Broken down on the side of the road. Many cards offer roadside assistance at no charge, which means you can leave that coverage off your insurance.
  • Car rental insurance: Decline the car rental company’s collision, loss/damage waiver insurance if your card already has this type of coverage.  Why double up?

These are just a few of the benefits that some cards will have. Just make sure you check what perks your card has – and don’t forget to take advantage of them!

A Credit Card Should Fit Your Needs

When it comes down to it, credit cards are a tool. As long as you’re finding the right card for your situation, taking advantage of the rewards and not allowing yourself to carry a balance month to month, using a credit card can be a great benefit.

If, however, you find that you’re becoming lost and unorganized in a maze of points, restrictions, spending goals and so forth, it may not be the right thing for you.

Make sure that the credit cards you sign up for are working for you, and not against  you.

Have any of your own tips for making the most of your credit cards? Tell us in the comments!

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

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