TagFees

How to Negotiate Your Medical Debt

Let’s face it: The worst thing about having to go to the hospital to receive medical treatment is being slammed with a huge bill afterwards. Sometimes, these medical bills are so expensive that you simply don’t have the means to pull it off right away, especially without health insurance. While we may find it easier in the short term to pretend that our unpaid medical bills don’t exist, avoiding the problem could only make it worse. Many medical providers are aware of this, which is why there are ways that you can negotiate your medical debt when you are unable to pay in full. In this article, we will discuss the different ways you can go about taking care of those medical expenses so that they don’t stack up later and wreak havoc on your credit.

Negotiate for insurance rates

Without health insurance, you’ll most likely be charged a much steeper price. If you want to negotiate your medical bills, one thing you can do is research what the fair market value is for whatever treatments you received. Usually, this is the price that insurance companies have to pay medical providers, and most of the time, it’s a lot cheaper.

Once you’ve found the dollar amount you’d like to ask for, you will need to get in touch with the billing department. If the person on the phone turns you down, ask to speak to their supervisor. It’s important to remain calm and polite while doing this but be persistent. Continue to ask to speak to a higher ranking individual until you reach someone who agrees to make a deal with you.

Pay it in cash

Cash payments are hard to turn down in most cases. if you want to negotiate a lower price on medical bills, you can offer to make a cash payment. Call your medical provider or the billing department and ask them if they would be willing to knock down the price of your bills if you were to pay in cash. Explain to them that if they can’t offer you any other sort of financial assistance, then this is another route you can take.

Not only will this save them money on credit card fees and hours worked by office employees, but it will also save time spent on processing paperwork. This is a smart offer to make, as instant cash payments as opposed to electronic payments are a lot harder to say no to for any business or institution.

Ask for a payment plan

There’s a good chance that even after you’ve asked for a lower price and offered to pay in cash, your medical provider will be unwilling to give you a deal. When this happens, there is still one more thing you can try. Before readily handing over your credit card, ask them if you can make payments on your bill. Most companies will allow you to do this and are used to working with people who are unable to pay their bills in full. Be honest about how much you are able to pay at a time.

It’s likely that they will try to negotiate a higher payment amount, but politely tell them that it’s not feasible for you. Most of the time, they will be understanding and take whatever payment they can get. If you’re struggling financially, making small payments on your medical bills is the best way to go to keep your credit score in tact. As long as you are making payments on your bills, the companies will not report you to the credit bureaus.

Take precautionary measures

A lot of medical providers and medical facilities have programs that offer financial assistance, but you are going to have to ask them for it. Be transparent at the time of or even before your medical treatment occurs. If the treatment you are seeking is not a medical emergency, ask ahead of time if there is a cheaper option or if you can get a discount. If you don’t have health insurance, this needs to be explained as early on as possible. Let your doctor know if you are living off of low income or if you are in the midst of some other type of financial hardship that is keeping you from being able to pay for service.

If you are successful in negotiating your medical bills, you might want to get it in writing so that you have proof. In some cases, you may even want to make your request in writing so that you have it on record in case anything goes wrong later. Once a deal has been agreed upon by both you and the medical provider or billing department, type up a summary of the conversation including key details of who you spoke to and the prices that were negotiated.

Other options for paying bills

There is no one-size-fits-all way of clearing your medical bills once and for all.  Some people have insurance, some can afford to pay in full, and some are going to have to negotiate a lower price. If you have already tried negotiating medical bills and were unsuccessful, there are other options to explore. Here are some other ways you can go about paying your medical bills:

  • Medical credit cards: There’s no guarantee that your medical provider will accept a payment plan. However, most of the time, they will accept payment with the use of a medical credit card. If you have no other choice, ask your doctor’s office about how you can apply for a medical credit card. Usually, you are able to apply at the office right then and there. Most medical credit cards offer zero interest for up to 12 months. If you can manage to pay off the medical debt within that timeframe, then perhaps a medical credit card is a good choice for you. Be wary of this if you already have poor credit.
  • Personal loan: If you’ve already been through all of your other options and were unable to make something work, it might be time to look at taking out a type of unsecured credit, such as a personal loan. If you have a significant amount of medical debt looming over your head, this might be a good idea as you can usually take out anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000. Once again, if you don’t have a good history with using credit, seriously consider the pros and cons of doing this.
  • Interest free credit card: If you don’t end up qualifying for a payment plan or a medical credit card, you can use a 0% interest credit card to pay the tab as long as you have good or outstanding credit.
  • Hire a medical bill advocate: If you feel overwhelmed by the task of reading through your medical bills and looking for errors, you can hire a professional to do it for you. Medical bill advocates are familiar with common procedures and the prices of treatments. If you have been wrongfully charged or overcharged, a medical bill advocate will be able to find this right away. Aside from pinpointing any errors, experts in medical bills will also do the negotiating for you.

Final Thoughts

If you are feeling overwhelmed by a large medical bill, remember that you have several options for taking care of it. It might be tempting to ignore the bill altogether but doing this could really damage your credit. Being honest with your medical provider from the beginning can prevent you from having to deal with extra costs. However, sometimes medical bills are ineveitable and we have to pay them. Consider payment plans or a medical credit card, but whatever you do, don’t let your unpaid medical bills be a show stopper!

How to Negotiate Your Medical Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Here Are The Best Student Loans of 2021

The best student loans can help you earn a college degree that will lead to higher earnings later in life. They also come with low interest rates and reasonable fees (or no fees), which will make it easier to keep costs down while you’re in school and once you’re in repayment mode.

For most people, federal student loans are the best deal. With federal student loans, you can qualify for low fixed interest rates and federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans. To find out how much you can borrow with federal student loans, you should fill out a FAFSA form. Doing so can also help you determine if you qualify for any additional student aid, and if so, how much.

While federal student loans are usually the best deal for borrowers, many students need to turn to private student loans at some point during their college careers. This is often the case when federal student loan limits have been exhausted, or when federal student loans are no longer an option due to other circumstances. We’re providing the top 8 options, at least according to us, as well as a guide to help you get the best rate.

Most Important Factors When Applying for Student Loans

  • Start with a federal loan. Fill out a FAFSA form prior to applying for a private loan to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you can.
  • Compare loans across multiple lenders. Consider using a comparison company like Credible to do so.
  • Always read the fine print. Fees aren’t always boasted on the front of a lender’s website, so take time to learn about what you’re getting into.
  • Start paying as soon as you can to avoid getting crushed by compound interest.

Best Private Student Loans of 2021

Fortunately, there are many private student loan options that come with low interest rates and fair terms. The best student loans of 2021 come from the following private lenders and loan comparison companies:

  • Best for Flexibility
Get Started
  • Best Loan Comparison
Get Started
  • Best for Low Rates and Fees
Get Started
  • Best for No Fees
Get Started
  • Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Get Started
  • Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Get Started
  • Best for Fair Credit
Get Started
  • Best for Comprehensive Comparisons
Get Started

#1: College Ave — Best for Flexibility

College Ave offers private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students as well as parents who want to take out loans to help their kids get through college. Variable APRs as low as 3.70% are available for undergraduate students, but you can also opt for a fixed rate as low as 4.72% if you have excellent credit. College Ave offers some of the most flexible repayment options available today, letting you choose from interest-only payments, flat payments, and deferred payments depending on your needs. College Ave even lets you fill out your entire student loan application online, and they offer an array of helpful tools that can help you figure out how much you can afford to borrow, what your monthly payment will be, and more.

Qualify in Just 3 Minutes with College Ave

#2: Credible — Best Loan Comparison

Credible doesn’t offer its own student loans; instead, it serves as a loan aggregator and comparison site. This means that, when you check out student loans on Credible, you have the benefit of comparing multiple loan options in one place. Not only is this convenient, but comparing rates and terms is the best way to ensure you get a good deal. Credible even lets you get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and you can see loan offers from up to nine student lenders at a time. Fixed interest rates start as low as 4.40% for borrowers with excellent credit, and variable rates start at 3.17% APR with autopay.

Compare Dozens of Rates at Once with Credible

#3: Sallie Mae — Best for Low Rates and Fees

Sallie Mae offers its own selection of private student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students, and parents. Interest rates offered can be surprisingly low, starting at 2.87% APR for variable rate loans and 4.74% for fixed-rate loans. Sallie Mae student loans also come without an origination fee or prepayment fees, as well as rate reductions for students who set up autopay. You can choose to start repaying your student loans while you’re in school or wait until you graduate as well. Overall, Sallie Mae offers some of the best “deals” for private student loans, and you can even complete the entire loan process online.

Get Access to Chegg Study FREE with Sallie Mae

#4: Discover — Best for No Fees

While Discover is well known for their excellent rewards credit cards and personal loan offerings, they also offer high-quality student loans with low rates and fees. Not only do Discover student loans come with low variable rates that start at 3.75%, but you won’t pay an application fee, an origination fee, or late fees. Discover student loans are available for undergraduate students, graduate students, professional students, and other lifelong learners. You can even earn rewards for having a 3.0 GPA or better when you apply for your loan, and Discover offers access to U.S. based student loan specialists who can answer all your questions before you apply.

Apply for a Loan with Discover

#5: Citizens Bank — Best Student Loans from a Major Bank

Citizens Bank offers their own flexible student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students, and parent borrowers. Students can borrow with or without a cosigner and multi-year approval is available. With multi-year approval you can apply for student funding one time and secure several years of college funding at once. This saves you from additional paperwork and subsequent hard inquiries on your credit report. Citizens Bank student loans come with variable rates as low as 2.83% APR for students with excellent credit, and you can make full payments or interest-only payments while you’re in school or wait until you graduate to begin repaying your loan. Also keep in mind that, like others on this list, Citizens Bank lets you apply for their student loans online and from the comfort of your home.

#6: Ascent — Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required

Ascent is another popular lender that offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. Variable interest rates start at 3.31% whether you have a cosigner or not, and there are no application fees required to apply for a student loan either way. Terms are available for 5 to 15 years, and Ascent even offers cash rewards for student borrowers who graduate and meet certain terms. Also note that Ascent lets you earn money for each friend you refer who takes out a new student loan or refinances an existing loan.

Get a Loan in Minutes with Ascent

#7: Earnest — Best for Fair Credit

Earnest is another online lender that offers reasonable student loans for undergraduate and graduate students who need to borrow money for school. They also offer a free application process, a 9-month grace period after graduation, no origination fees or prepayment fees, and a .25% rate discount when you set up autopay. Earnest even lets you skip a payment once per year without a penalty, and there are no late payment fees. Variable rates start as low as 3.35%, and you may be able to qualify for a loan from Earnest with only “fair” credit. For their student loan refinancing products, for example, you need a minimum credit score of 650 to apply.

Learn Your Rate in Minutes with Earnest

#8: LendKey — Best for Comprehensive Comparisons

LendKey is an online lending marketplace that lets you compare student loan options across a broad range of loan providers, including credit unions. LendKey loans come with no application fees and variable APRs as low as 4.05%. They also have excellent reviews on Trustpilot and an easy application process that makes applying for a student loan online a breeze. You can apply for a loan from LendKey as an individual, but it’s possible you’ll get better rates with a cosigner on board. Either way, LendKey lets you see and compare a wide range of loan offers in one place and with only one application submitted.

Pay Zero Application Fees with LendKey!

How to Get the Best Student Loans

The lenders above offer some of the best student loans available today, but there’s more to getting a good loan than just choosing the right student loan company. The following tips can ensure you save money on your education and escape college with the smallest student loan burden possible.

Consider Federal Student Loans First

Like we mentioned already, federal student loans are almost always the best deal for borrowers who can qualify. Not only do federal loans come with low fixed interest rates, but they come with borrower protections like deferment and forbearance. Federal student loans also let you qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income Based Repayment (IBR) as well as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

Compare Multiple Lenders

If you have exhausted federal student loans and need to take out a private student loan, the best step you can take is comparing loans across multiple lenders. Some may be able to offer you a lower interest rate based on your credit score or available cosigner, and some lenders may offer payment plans that meet your needs better. If you only want to fill out a loan application once, it can make sense to compare multiple loan offers with a service like Credible.

Improve Your Credit Score

Private student loans are notoriously difficult to qualify for when your credit score is less than stellar or you don’t have a cosigner. With that in mind, you may want to spend some time improving your credit score before you apply. Since your payment history and the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits are the two most important factors that make up your FICO score, make sure you’re paying all your bills early or on time and try to pay down debt to improve your credit utilization. Most experts say a utilization rate of 30% or less will help you achieve the highest credit score possible with other factors considered.

Check Your Credit Score for Free with Experian

Get a Quality Cosigner

If your credit score isn’t at least “very good,” or 740 or higher, you may want to see about getting a cosigner for your private student loan. A parent, family member, or close family friend who has excellent credit can help you qualify for a student loan with the best rates and terms available today. Just remember that your cosigner will be liable for your loan just as you are, meaning they will have to repay your loan if you default. With that in mind, you should only lean on a cosigner’s help if you plan to repay your loan amount in full.

Consider Variable and Fixed Interest Rates

While private student loans offer insanely low rates for borrowers with good credit, their variable rates tend to be lower. This is why you should always take the time to compare variable and fixed rates across multiple lenders to find the best deal. If you believe you can pay your student loans off in a few short years, a variable interest rate may help you save money. If you need a decade or longer to pay your student loans off, on the other hand, a low fixed interest rate may provide you with more peace of mind.

Check for Discounts

As you compare student loan providers, make sure to check for discounts that might apply to your situation. Many private student loan companies offer discounts if you set your loan up on automatic payments, for example. Some also offer discounts or rewards for good grades or for referring friends. It’s possible you could qualify for other discounts as well depending on the provider, but you’ll never know unless you check.

Beware of Fees

While the interest rate on your student loan plays a huge role in your long-term loan costs, don’t forget to check for additional fees. Some student loan companies charge application fees or prepayment penalties if you pay your loan off early, for example. Others charge origination fees that tack on a few additional percentage points to your loan amount right off the bat. If you can find a student loan with a low interest rate and no additional fees, you’ll be much better off. Since loan fees may not be prominently advertised on student loan provider websites, however, keep in mind that you may need to dig into their fine print to find them.

Make Payments While You’re in School

Finally, no matter which loan you end up with, it makes a lot of sense to make payments while you’re still in school if you’re earning any kind of income. Even if you make interest-only payments while you attend college part-time or full-time, you can save yourself from paying thousands of dollars in additional interest payments later in life. Remember that compound interest can be a blessing or a curse. If you can keep interest at bay by making payments while you’re in school, you can squash compound interest and keep your loan balances from growing. If you let compound interest run its course, on the other hand, you may wind up owing more than you borrowed in the first place by the time you graduate school and start repayment.

What to Watch Out For

A private student loan may be exactly what you need in order to finish your degree and move up to the working world, but there are plenty of “gotchas” to be aware of. Consider all these factors as you apply for a new private student loan or refinance existing loans you have with a private lender.

  • Interest that accrues while you’re in school: Remember that subsidized loans may not accrue interest until you graduate from college and enter repayment mode, but that unsubsidized loans typically start accruing interest right away. Since private student loans are unsubsidized, you’ll need to be especially careful about ballooning interest and long-term loan costs.
  • Getting a cosigner: Make sure you only apply for a private student loan with a cosigner if you’re entirely sure you can repay your loan over the long haul. If you fail to keep up with your end of the bargain, you could destroy trust with that person and their credit score in one fell swoop.
  • You’ll lose out on some protections: Also remember that private student loans come with fewer protections than federal student loans. You won’t have the option for income-driven repayment plans with private loans, nor will you be able to qualify for federal deferment or forbearance. For this reason, private student loans are best for students who are confident in their ability to repay their loans on their chosen timeline.

In Summary: The Best Student Loans

Company Best Of…
College Ave Best for Flexibility
Credible Best for Loan Comparison
Sallie Mae Best for Low Rates and Fees
Discover Best for No Fees
Citizens Bank Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Ascent Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Earnest Best for Fair Credit
LendKey Best for Comprehensive Comparisons

The post Here Are The Best Student Loans of 2021 appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

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

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

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

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

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

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

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

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

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

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

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

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

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Pay More Than the Minimum?

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

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

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

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

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

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

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

What are Store Cards?

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

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

What are Reward Cards?

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

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

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

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

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

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

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

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

Issues with Store Credit Cards

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

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

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

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

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

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

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

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

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

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

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

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

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

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

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

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

Con 4: There Are Better Options

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

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

Con 5: You May Spend More

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

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

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

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

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

What About Reward Cards?

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

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

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

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

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Which United Airlines credit card should you choose?

If you regularly fly with United Airlines or you live in or near Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark or San Francisco – the airline’s hubs – picking up an United Airlines credit card could make a ton of sense.

Not only can a United credit card help you earn MileagePlus miles faster, but you might also get a few handy perks, including free checked bags.

At the moment, United Airlines offers a handful of co-branded United credit cards for individuals or small business owners. But, how do you know which United Airlines credit cards are best?

Our guide aims to help you compare options so you wind up with the right airline credit card for your needs and your travel goals.

See related: United MileagePlus Dining Guide

Here’s the roundup:
United Gateway Card

  • Best card for big United spenders: Chase United Club Infinite Card
  • Best card for frequent flyers: Chase United Explorer Card
  • Best card for small business owners: United Business Card
  • Best card for frequent business travelers: United Club Business Card
  • Guide to United Airlines credit cards

    Compare fees, rewards, perks and extras:  

    United Explorer Card

    Annual fee
    • $95, waived the first year
    Sign-up bonus
    • 70,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines, hotel and restaurant purchases, including delivery services like Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub and Seamless
    • 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, for you and a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • 2 United Club one-time passes
    • Tickets bought using miles eligible for free upgrades
    • Trip delay, baggage and auto rental insurance
    • Concierge service
    • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi and meal/spa credits
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • Yes, up to $100 every four years
    Card network
    • Visa

    Chase United Club Infinite Card

    Anual fee
    • $525, waived first year
    Sign-up bonus
    • None
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on dining
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel (including other airlines)
    • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, 2 bags for you and 2 for a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • United Club and Star Alliance lounge membership
    • Priority check-in and screening
    • Waived fees on last-minute tickets bought with miles
    • Miles tickets eligible for free upgrades
    • Trip delay, baggage and auto rental insurance
    • Concierge service
    • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including free breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi and meal/spa credits
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • Yes, up to $100 every four years
    Card network
    • Visa

    Chase United Business Card

    Annual fee
    • $99, waived the first year
    Sign-up bonus
    • 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines, restaurant, gas and office supplies purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on transit and commute purchases, including taxis, tolls and rideshares
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, for you and a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • 2 United Club one-time passes
    • 5,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary if you have both a United Business Card and personal United card
    • $100 annual United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more
    • Trip, baggage and car rental insurance
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • No
    Card network
    • Visa

    Chase United Club Business Card

    Annual fee
    • $450
    Sign-up bonus
    • 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases
    • 1.5 miles per dollar spent on everything else
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, 2 bags for you and 2 for a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • United Club and Star Alliance membership
    • Priority check-in and screening
    • Concierge service
    • Trip, baggage and car rental insurance
    • Discoverist status in World of Hyatt loyalty program
    • President’s Circle Elite status in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program
    • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, dining/spa credits and upgrades
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • No
    Card network
    • Visa

    Lifetime Globalist

    How to qualify
    • 1,000,000 base points over the course of your membership
    Base-point rate
    • 6.5 points/$1
    Benefits
    • Receive Globalist benefits indefinitely, with no requirement to qualify for status each year

     

    Best United Airlines credit card with no annual fee: United Gateway Card

    If you’re looking for a United rewards card with no annual fee, the United Gateway Card is the best (and only) option to consider. This card starts you off with 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You also earn:

    • 2 miles per $1 on United flights, purchases made at gas stations and on transit and commuting
    • 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases

    As an added bonus, you’ll even rack up 3 miles per $1 on up to $1,500 in grocery store spending per month through Sept. 30, 2021. Aside from not charging an annual fee, other United Airlines credit card benefits include 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. That means this card is rather limited in terms of perks, but that’s par for the course when it comes to credit cards with no annual fee.

    Best United Airlines credit card for frequent flyers: United Explorer Card

    Frequent flyers would be better off with a United credit card with more benefits, which they’ll find with the United Explorer Card. First off, you can earn 70,000 bonus miles – 60,000 when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open and another 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $6,000 in total purchases in the first six months of account opening. In terms of daily spending, you can rack up:

    • 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, dining including delivery and takeout and hotels booked directly
    • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases

    United Airlines credit card benefits you’ll receive include two United Club passes, a first free checked bag, a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, priority boarding, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. Not only are these perks ideal for frequent United flyers who want a convenient travel experience, but they can help cardholders save money, too. This card does charge a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.

    Best United Airlines credit card for big United spenders: United Club Infinite Card

    If you’re a big United spender and you fly with the airline all the time, you’ll probably want a card that lets you rack up a ton of miles while also affording you a comfortable travel experience. The United Club Infinite Card is perfect in either case. This card replaced an older version of the United Club Card, but it offers even better rewards and perks designed with luxury travelers in mind.

    As a cardholder, you’ll earn:

    • 4 miles per $1 spent with United Airlines
    • 2 miles per $1 spent on dining (including takeout and delivery) and travel
    • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

    In terms of perks, you won’t be disappointed. Not only does this card give you membership in the airline’s United Club lounges ($650 value), but if you travel internationally, you will be able to access lounges for any airlines that are part of the Star Alliance, including Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa. Meanwhile, you also get two free checked bags for yourself and a traveling companion on the same reservation, as well as priority check in, priority boarding, priority securing screening, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership.

    There is one major downside to this card: It comes with a $525 annual fee and there is no sign-up bonus. On the bright side, the annual fee is waived for your first year.

    See related: When is a credit card annual fee worth it?

    Best United Airlines credit card for small business

    If you’re a small business owner, you may also want to apply for one of the two United Airlines credit cards for business. The United Business Card is a good option for small business owners who travel for work or for leisure a few times per month, and this is due to its cardholder benefits and low annual fee.

    You’ll start off by earning 60,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also earn:

    • 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, dining including takeout and delivery, gas stations, office supply stores, local transit and commuting
    • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases

    Like all good United Airlines credit card offers, the United Business Card also comes with a handful of perks which include 5,000 miles on your cardholder anniversary each year when you carry a business credit card and a personal credit card from United Airlines. You’ll also receive two one-time United Club passes, a first checked bag free, priority boarding, a $100 United travel credit when you make at least seven purchases of $100 or more with United each year, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. A $99 annual fee applies, but it’s waived the first year.

    Best United Airlines credit card for business travelers

    Finally, United Airlines offers a business credit card that is perfect for frequent business travelers who want to earn a ton of miles and score lounge access when they fly. The United Club Business Credit Card starts you off with 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also rack up:

    • 2 miles per $1 spent United purchases
    • 1.5 miles on everything else

    While this card does have a $450 annual fee, you’ll get plenty of value when it comes to the perks you receive. Not only will you get a United Club membership valued at $650, but you’ll get a first and second free checked bag, priority check-in, security screening and baggage handling, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

    Who should get a United Airlines credit card?

    The best United Airlines credit card offers make it easy to rack up miles for each dollar you spend, and most offer a generous bonus when you meet a minimum spending requirement. With that being said, United Airlines credit cards are really best for people who are loyal to the airline, or those who live in a United hub and wind up flying with the airline often by default.

    If you aren’t loyal to United Airlines or you want more options when it comes to cashing in your points, you may also want to consider a Chase travel credit card that lets you transfer your points to United at a 1:1 ratio, or redeem for other types of travel.

    As an example, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card* let you earn points you can transfer to United, as well as other airline and hotel partners like Southwest, British Airways, Emirates, World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy and more. Chase credit cards also let you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which gives you even more flexibility.

    See related: How to earn and use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

    How much are United miles worth?

    Based on our internal comparisons, United miles are worth approximately 1.5 cents each. This means that, generally speaking, 60,000 miles are worth approximately $900. However, keep in mind that you may get more value if you redeem miles for premium flights or international flights.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get significant value out of your United miles, whether you want to travel the world or enjoy a relaxing trip closer to home.

    *All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

    Source: creditcards.com

    Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

    Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

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

    If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, you’ll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.

    Find Out Your Credit Score

    Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.

    Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICO® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – also give out free annual credit reports. If that’s not enough, websites like Credit Karma™ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.

    It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.

    Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards

    Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.

    These offers aren’t totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee that’s usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.

    If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:

    Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericard® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan

    Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

    The thought of taking out another loan probably doesn’t sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.

    The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.

    Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders don’t do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.

    These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:

    Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan

    If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, you’ll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isn’t great, it’s likely much better than any offer you’d receive from a card issuer.

    Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loan’s collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.

    Create a Budget

    Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

    To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Don’t forget to take into account taxes when you’re doing this.

    You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where you’re overspending, whether it’s on food, entertainment or travel. Once you’ve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.

    It shouldn’t matter if you’re dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, it’s also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.

    Professional Debt Counseling

    Perhaps since you’ve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is available for just that reason. The NFCC® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.

    These counselors won’t only address your current financial issues and debt. They’ll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.

    Agencies that are accredited by the NFCC® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If you’re not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator that’ll help you find a counselor nearby.

    Borrow From Your Retirement

    Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isn’t ideal. That’s means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that it’s affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.

    Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, you’re typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.

    Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt

    • If you take the time to come up with a budget, don’t let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if you’re trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
    • Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isn’t an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCC® debt counselor’s plan.
    • There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that there’s virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesn’t matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICO® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.

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

    Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Liderina, ©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl

    The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

    Source: smartasset.com

    How to Protect Your Credit Score During COVID-19

    A young Black woman sits outside on her laptop, drinking a coffee and looking up how to protect her credit score from COVID.

    The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone all around the world. Extended isolation and sudden job losses have everyone thinking about their futures. Lots of people are concerned about losing a reliable income source during this time of crisis. Some have even been forced to shut their businesses. The global pandemic has turned many people’s financial lives upside down.

    As you work on keeping your bills in good standing and your finances going strong, you should also pay attention to your credit score. Even if you’re delaying some major purchases like buying a car or a home or going on a trip, you still need to maintain good credit. You’ll eventually start spending again, and you’ll need a good credit score.

    But how can you protect your credit score during COVID-19? Keep in mind that your credit scores and reports play a crucial role in your future financial opportunities. The following steps will be your handy guide in managing and protecting your credit score during this global pandemic.

    Stay on Top of Your Credit
    Reports

    Even on good days, make sure you regularly review your credit reports from the three credit bureaus. You can get free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Through April 2021, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are allowing consumers to access their credit reports for free weekly. Take advantage of this offer to make sure that any accommodations you request from lenders are appropriately reported and that your identity is safe and secure.

    You can also sign up for the free Credit Report Card from Credit.com. With our report card, you’ll see your VantageScore 3.0 from Experian, as well as personalized information on what is affecting your credit score and how you can improve. If you want to dive deeper, sign up for ExtraCredit to see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus.

    Get ExtraCredit

    Keep Up with Your Payments

    Late payments can affect your credit history and credit reports for up to seven years. Prioritize paying your bills on time when you can, even during financially difficult times. You can do this by setting up reminders to alert you of payment deadlines. Also, you should make it a habit to make at least the minimum payment each month. Doing so will help you in keeping a good payment history record and prevents you from paying late fees.

    Contact your lender whenever you can’t
    make payments on time. Lots of lenders have announced proactive measures to aid
    their borrowers affected by the global pandemic. Some are willing to provide
    loan extensions, interest rates reduction, forbearance, or repayment
    flexibilities. The best thing to do is to get in touch with your lender and
    explain your current situation. Don’t forget to ask for written confirmation if
    any agreements were made. 

    Be Aware of Your Protections

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has protections to help your credit score remain unaffected during the pandemic. This Act puts special requirements on some agencies and companies reporting your payment information to the credit reporting companies. The requirements are applicable if you’re affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and specifically covered by the Act.

    If you request an accommodation under the CARES Act, your creditors will report your account to the credit reporting agencies based on the current standing of your credit when the agreement is made. The requirements set by the CARES Act are only applicable to agreements made between 31st of January 2020 and 120 days after the COVID-19 national emergency officially ends.

    Get to Know What Impacts Your
    Score

    If you’re currently unemployed and wondering if it will affect your credit score, the answer is no. Unemployment itself will not impact your score. Making late payments and missing payments are the things that most significantly affect your credit score. This is why we recommend getting in touch with your lender as soon as you suspect you may not be able to make a payment in full on time. Inform them of your current situation. This can also help you cope with your anxiety.

    Hard inquiries, account mix, and credit age also impact your credit score, but to a lesser degree. Your major concern should be keeping your credit utilization low and paying bills on time.

    Keep Yourself and Your
    identity Protected

    Securing your personal information and identity is also crucial in protecting your credit score. Identity theft and scams are rampant during this coronavirus pandemic. Your personal information can unlock different financial resources. Hackers and cybercriminals can utilize all your personal information to impersonate you and open credit card accounts, make purchases, transfer funds, and borrow money. If left undetected, this activity can significantly damage your credit score.

    Though the damage is reversible, the entire process will be costly. That’s precisely why prevention is always the best option. ExtraCredit from Credit.com, for example, offers $1 million in identity theft protection and dark web monitoring, among other features.

    Make Budgeting and Planning a Habit

    During this crisis, budgeting is essential for keeping your credit card debt low and your credit score high. Pay attention to how much money you make and the amount of money you spend. Identify expenses where you can cut the usual costs, at least temporarily.

    Reworking your budget is necessary, especially if you’re currently unemployed or earning less money. You can consider the following money-saving ideas to maximize your savings:

    • Put nonessential purchases such as online shopping and clothes on hold
    • Temporarily suspend nonessential services such as cleaning and lawn care
    • Cancel subscriptions on cable, music streaming, video streaming, etc.
    • Search for affordable meal planning solutions
    • Cancel fitness and gym memberships
    • Cut back child-related extracurriculars such as tutoring, lessons, and sports
    • Spend less on takeout

    Although reducing costs is not fun, the
    result will reduce your financial stress and will allow you to better protect
    your credit.

    You Can Protect Your Credit Score from COVID-19

    All the things mentioned above have one thing in common: All require taking a proactive approach to your finances and credit. Follow the six credit-protection strategies mentioned above to maintain and protect your good credit even if you are facing a financial crisis.

    About the Author

    Lidia S. Hovhan is a part of Content and Marketing team at OmnicoreAgency. She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their online goals. You can find really professional insights in her writings.


    The post How to Protect Your Credit Score During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.

    Source: credit.com

    6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs

    Check out this list of ways to save money on college costs. This is a great list!How much does college cost? This is a question many wonder. There’s rarely a week that goes by where I don’t receive an email from a student or parents of a student who are looking for ways to cut college costs. That’s why today I want to talk about college costs and how you can create a college budget that works so that you can save money in college.

    College is very expensive – there is no doubt about that.

    However, I want you to know that it IS possible to get a valuable college degree on a budget!

    The average public university is over $20,000 per year and the average private university totals over $45,000 once you account for tuition, room and board, fees, textbooks, living expenses and more.

    Even with how expensive college can possibly be, there are many ways to cut college expenses and create a college budget so that you can control rising college costs.

    Continue reading below to read about the many different ways I cut college costs. While I was not perfect and still racked up student loan debt, I did earn three college degrees on a reasonable budget.

    Related articles:

    • How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500
    • How I Paid Off $38,000 In Student Loan Debt In 7 Months
    • The Benefits of Paying Off Student Loan Debt Early
    • Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?
    • How To Save Money – My Best Money Saving Tips

     

    1. Take classes at a community college to cut college costs.

    Whether you are in college already or you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.

    Earning credits at a community college usually costs just a small fraction of what it would cost at a 4-year college, so you may find yourself being able to save thousands of dollars each semester.

    There is a myth out there that your degree is worth less if you go to a community college. That is NOT TRUE at all. When you finally earn your 4-year degree, your degree will only say where you graduated from and it won’t even mention the community college credits at all. So this myth makes no sense because your degree looks the exact same as everyone else’s’ who you went to college with. You might as well save money because it won’t make much of a difference.

    I only took classes at a community college during one summer semester where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved around $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.

    Also, you are most likely just taking general credits at the community college, so it’s not like you would be missing much by taking classes there instead of a college that has a better reputation for the major you are seeking.

    If you do decide to go to a community college, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will transfer all of the credits. It’s an easy step to take so do not forget! You should do this before you sign up and pay for any classes as well as to make sure that ALL of the classes will transfer succesfully.

     

    2. Take advantage of high school classes to lower your college budget.

    Many high schools allow you to take college classes to earn both college and high school credits at the same time.

    This is something I highly recommend you look into if you are still in high school, as it saves time and is one of the best ways to save money on college costs.

    When I was in my senior year in high school, nearly all of my classes were dual enrollment courses where I was earning college and high school credit at the same time. I took AP classes and classes that earned me direct college credit from nearby private universities. I left high school with around 14-18 credit hours (I can’t remember the exact amount). This way I knocked out a whole semester of college. I could’ve taken more, but I decided to take early release from high school and worked 30-40 hours a week as well.

     

    3. Take all the credits you can to stay within your college budget.

    At many universities, you pay a flat fee. So whether you take 12 credit hours or 18 credit hours, you are paying nearly the exact same price.

    For this reason, I always recommend that a student take as many classes as they can if they are going to a college that charges a flat fee tuition.

    If you think you can still earn good grades and do whatever else you do on the side, definitely get full use of the college tuition you are paying for!

     

    4. Apply for scholarships to lower your college costs.

    Before you start your semester, you should always look into scholarships, grants, FAFSA, and more. You usually have to turn in any paperwork around spring time for the following semester, so I highly recommend doing this right now if you are going to college in the fall.

    Another myth will be busted right now. Many believe that all scholarships are impossible to have or it means you have to win a contest. That is just a myth.

    I received around $16,000 a year in scholarships to the private university I attended. That helped pay for a majority of my college tuition. The scholarships were easy for me to get as they were all just because I earned good grades in high school and scored well on tests. I received scholarships to all of the other colleges I applied for as well just for good grades, so I know they can be found as long as you do well in high school!

    There are other ways to find scholarships as well. You can receive scholarships from private organizations, companies in your town, and more. Do a simple Google search and I am sure you will find many free websites that list out possible scholarships for you to apply to.

    Tip: Many forget that you usually have to turn in a separate financial aid form directly to your college. Don’t forget to do this by the deadline each year!

     

    5. Search for cheaper textbooks to lower your college budget.

    Students usually spend anywhere from around $300 to $1,000 on textbooks each semester, depending on the amount of classes they are taking and their major.

    For me, many of my classes required more than one book and each book was usually around $200 brand new. This means if I were to buy all of my college textbooks brand new, I probably would have had to spend over $1,000 each semester.

    I saved a decent amount of money on college textbooks by renting them and finding them used. Renting them was nice because I just had to pay one fee and didn’t ever have to worry about what to do with the textbook after the class was done, as I only had to return them. There was no worrying about the book being worthless if a new edition came out, which was nice! Buying books used was nice occasionally as well just because sometimes I could make my money back.

    I recommend Campus Book Rentals if you are looking for textbook rentals. Their rentals are affordable and they make getting the textbooks you need easy.

    Read: How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review

     

    6. Skip the high price of living on campus to cut your college budget.

    To save more money, I decided to live on my own. I didn’t have the option of living at home after high school and living on campus would have cost me a ton of money.

    Instead, I found a very cheap rental house (the house was VERY small and probably could have been considered a tiny home) and was able to somewhat easily commute to work and college from it. I probably saved around $500 a month by living on my own instead of on campus, and I learned a lot by living on my own at a young age as well.

    If you can live at home though and want to save money, I highly recommend it if it’s an option for you. You can save thousands of dollars a semester by doing this!

    I understand that some are against this because it may impact your “college experience,” but I think most people would be fine not living on campus, especially if it’s not in the budget. You could probably save around $40,000 over the years on your degree by living at home.

    How did you cut college costs and control your college budget? How much student loan debt did you have when you graduated?

     

    The post 6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

    Source: makingsenseofcents.com

    We Want to Retire to Florida or a Florida-Type Atmosphere and Buy a Condo With Lots of Amenities for $250,000—Where Should We Go?

    Retirement locales in Florida and South CarolinaGetty Images

    Dear MarketWatch,

    My wife and I are looking to retire in three years from New Jersey to Florida or a Florida-type atmosphere — warm weather, no snow!

    We will be getting around $5,000 from Social Security monthly and will have a little over $1 million spread among savings/401(k)/house equity. We want to buy a condo for about $250,000 that has all the extras like pools, restaurants, social activities and near the beach.

    Can you make any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Marty

    Dear Marty,

    With 1,350 miles of coastline in Florida alone, never mind the rest of the South, you have many possibilities for your retirement. But as you can imagine, properties closest to the beach are more expensive, so “near the beach” may involve some compromise.

    I started my search with Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.) and its picks of affordable beach communities, but didn’t stick to it exclusively.

    My three suggestions are just a starting point. No place is perfect, not every development will have all the amenities you want, and every town has its own personality, so you may want to think about what else is important to you. You also may want to consider gated communities and townhomes, not just multistory condominium buildings.

    As you narrow down your list, I recommend you visit at least twice — once in the winter to experience the crowds in high season and once in the summer to understand what southern humidity is like. It’s worse than in New Jersey.

    Think about how you will build your new social network, even with all the social amenities in your condo building. Don’t rule out the local senior center or the town’s recreation department.

    Consider renting for the first year to test it out to make sure you’ve picked the right area.

    Then there are the money questions. The last thing you need is a surprise.

    You’ll have condo fees; they can be quite high, particularly in a high-rise building along the beach. What do they cover and what don’t they cover? How much have fees been rising over, say, the past 10 years? How does the board budget for bigger repairs? More broadly, are you OK with the condo association’s rules?

    Ask about the cost of both flood and wind insurance given that the southern coastline is regularly threatened with hurricanes. That’s on top of homeowner’s insurance. Or are you far enough inland that you can get away without them?

    Walk into the tax assessor’s office to try for a more accurate tax assessment than your real-estate agent may give you. And since this would be your primary residence, ask about the homestead exemption.

    And don’t forget that you’re trading your New Jersey heating bill for more months of air conditioning; what will that cost?

    Finally, three years isn’t that far away. Start decluttering now. That’s hard work, too.

    Here are three coastal towns to get you started on your search:

    Venice, Florida

    Venice Beach pier
    Venice Beach pier

    frankpeters/iStock

    This town of nearly 25,000 on the Gulf Coast is part of the Sarasota metro area, deemed by U.S. News & World Report to be the best area in the U.S. to retire. Venice is 25 miles south of Sarasota and its big-city amenities; it’s 60 miles north of Fort Myers, the runner-up in the U.S. News listing.

    It also made Realtor.com’s list of affordable beach towns for 2020.

    This is a retiree haven — 62% of residents are 65 and over, according to Census Bureau data.

    While you can always travel to the nearby big cities, when you want to stay local, see what’s on at the Venice Performing Arts Center and the Venice Theatre. Walk or bicycle along the 10.7-mile Legacy Trail toward Sarasota and the connecting 8.6-mile Venetian Waterway Park Trail to the south. The latter will lead you to highly ratedCaspersen Beach.

    Temperature-wise, you’ll have an average high of 72 in January (with overnight lows averaging 51) and an average high of 92 in August (with an overnight low of 74).

    Here’s what is on the market right now, using Realtor.com listings.

    Boynton Beach, Florida

    Boynton Beach condos
    Boynton Beach condos

    Carl VMAStudios/Courtesy The Palm Beaches

    On the opposite side of the state, smack between Palm Beach and Boca Raton, is this city of about 80,000 people, plenty of whom are from the tri-state area. More than one in five are 65 or older.

    Weather is similar to that in Venice: an average high of 73 in January and 85 in August.

    Boynton Beach is in the middle of developing the 16-acre Town Square project that will include a cultural center and residential options, among other things. Still, this is an area where one town bleeds into the next, so whatever you don’t find in Boynton Beach, you’ll probably find next door.

    At the western edge of town is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 145,000 acres of northern Everglades and cypress swamp. The Green Cay Nature Center is another natural attraction.

    You can also hop Tri-Rail, a commuter train line that runs from West Palm Beach to the Miami airport with a stop in Boynton Beach, when you want to go elsewhere. The fancier Brightline train is adding a stop in Boca Raton to its existing trio of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami; the current plan is for a mid-2022 opening.

    This city has many amenity-laden retirement communities, and the median listing price for condos and townhouses fit your budget, according to Realtor.com data. Here’s what’s on the market now.

    Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

    Myrtle Beach, FL
    Myrtle Beach, FL

    Kruck20/iStock

    If you’re ready to look beyond Florida, Myrtle Beach, S.C., with nearly 35,000 people, made Realtor.com’s 2018 and 2019 lists of affordable beach towns, and Murrells Inlet, just to the south and home to just under 10,000 people, made the 2020 list. The broader Myrtle Beach area, known as the Grand Strand, extends for 60 miles along the coast.

    Summer temperatures in Myrtle Beach are a touch cooler than Florida; an average high of 88 in July, with lows averaging 74.

    A word of warning: In the winter, average overnight lows get down to around 40, and average daytime highs reach the upper 50s. Is that acceptable, or too cold?

    Myrtle Beach boasts of its low property taxes, especially when combined with the state’s homestead exemption. While you may think of the city as a vacation destination, 20% of residents are 65 or older. (Nearly 32% of Murrells Inlet residents are seniors.)

    Here’s what’s for sale now in Myrtle Beach and in Murrells Inlet.

    The post We Want to Retire to Florida or a Florida-Type Atmosphere and Buy a Condo With Lots of Amenities for $250,000—Where Should We Go? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

    Source: realtor.com

    Older posts