The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
I am a strong believer in the cash envelope system. It works great for our family. But I also know that is not the case for everyone.Â You may not want to use cash but love the envelope system concept.Â Fortunately, there is a program you can use that marries your desire to use plastic with the discipline of a cash envelope budget.
When it comes to managing your money, spending and trying to get out of debt, there are many programs and apps out there. But, not all of them can do everything.Â That means one app for your budget, another for trying to get out of debt and then yet another for managing your spending.
ProActive does it all.Â You can manage your money, spending, budgeting, and debt payoff – all from one simple to manage app! But, before you jump in and download it, make sure you read this honest review.Â That way, you’ll know what to expect!
What is ProActive?
ProActive combines the beauty of shopping with plastic and the discipline of cash envelopes.Â The system ensures that you never overspend – ever!Â Just like with cash, when the envelope is empty, you are done shopping!
What is the cash envelope budget?
A cash envelope budget is what it sounds like. Rather than using plastic to shop you get cash and place the budgeted amounts into envelopes.Â For example, if your budget for food is $200 a paycheck, then you get cash and place $200 in an envelope earmarked for groceries.
When you grocery shop, you use only the cash in the envelope. That is all you have available to spend. It is impossible to overspend.Â If there is only $20 left then that means you can’t spend $22.Â There is not enough money there.
It is a system that works very well for people who want to better manage and control spending.
How does it work?
Once you sign up and create your account, you will get a ProActive branded debit card.Â When you are ready to spend, you use the ProActive card.Â But, before you can swipe, you have to let the app know which envelope the money needs to come from.Â That way, you always stay on budget and don’t spend more than you should.
Add funds to your account
When you get paid, review your budget.Â Pay the bills that are due.Â What you have left over is what you have left to spend on everything else on your budget.Â It will include items such as clothing, household items, personal care and beauty, groceries, entertainment, dues, etc.
You will go into the app and click the “+” icon.Â That starts the transfer from your bank account to your ProActive debit card.
Allocate the money to your virtual envelopes
Once the funds are deposited, you have to assign an amount to each category (a.k.a. envelope).Â Review the budget to see what you have available to spend.
Shop as usual (but pay with the ProActive card)
You can’t swipe your card until you have told the card which category (or envelope) the money should come from.Â Simply open the app and click the spend category.Â Then you can swipe.
If there is not enough money left in the category to cover your purchase, it will be declined.Â That makes it impossible to overspend.
The smart way to use ProActive
As parents, we teach our kids.Â They need to know how to take care of themselves, cook, clean and do other things around the house.Â But, it seems that financial responsibility is one that gets overlooked.
One thing that ProActive allows is for you to add your kids and teach them how to manage their own money.Â You can put funds on their account and they too can set up categories.Â And, just like mom and dad, they have to select the category before they spend so they are not spending more than they should either.
ProActive not only teaches your kids how to use a debit card, but also the financial responsibilities that go along with it.Â And, it is in an environment that both mom and dad can see (and control).
Who is ProActive a fit for?
Just like with every other app or budget system there is never a one-size-fits-all system. That means this may not work for you.Â If you love your credit card for the rewards then this will not work for you.Â You can’t attach a credit card and use this program.
But, if you struggle to try to manage your money and spending then you really need to get this app. It makes it impossible to overspend and helps you learn how to think about every purchase you make.Â You may not need to use it forever as you will become disciplined.
What does it cost?
When you sign up, ProActive will give you a 15-day trial.Â They want to make sure it is a fit for you before they make you pay.Â Then, if you love it, you continue at $5.75 a month (paid annually, so $69).Â You can add a second user for $29 a year and even add your kids for just $24 each.
What happens if I forget my phone?
It happens.Â We leave our phones behind. In that case, it is important that you always have an alternative payment method handy, such as your bank debit card, credit card or cash.
If your goal is to get out of debt, you have to first start with your budget and spending. If you don’t do that, you will never achieve your goals.Â ProActive is one tool that helps you every step of the way.
The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Cable companiesÂ aren’t in the habit of reporting your payments to the credit bureaus, at least when it comes to your traditional credit reports. But if that’s something you want, there is a way to getÂ those monthly bills to helpÂ your credit score.
Simply put, consider paying for cable with your credit card.
Unlike cable providers, credit card issuers do generally report to the major credit reporting agencies, so using your plastic toÂ pay for a bill that you’re already in the habit of covering from month to monthÂ can help you build a payment history, the single biggest factor in establishingÂ credit scores.
Find Your Card Now
Of course, for this strategy to work, you have to pay that credit card off on time and, ideally, in full. Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect on your score and you’ll wind up paying interest just to watch your favorite television shows.
To make sure you don’t miss a payment, sign up for alerts or, even, set your credit card bill to auto-pay. You could also pay the charge off via a linked debit card account as soon as it’s processed if you’re worried about winding up with a big balance (which could affect your credit utilization, another major factor of credit scores) at the end of the month.
A Few More Tips & Tricks
There’s a chance that your provider will charge a fee for paying by credit card, so be sure to check that there’s no extra chargeÂ before using this method. And, if you do set that credit card to auto-pay, monitor your monthly cable statements. You don’t want to miss a new fee or billing error and wind up paying more than you owe or intended.
Rewards credit cards can earn you some points, miles or cash back, so if you have one in your wallet, you might want to use that particular piece of plastic to pay your cable bill.Â If your credit is on the brink and you don’t have any credit cards, you canÂ consider applying for (and then using)Â a secured credit card, which is designed specifically to help people build credit. (You can learn more about the best secured credit cards in America here.)
A Quick Reminder
Unpaid cable bills can damage your credit,Â even when they’re not being covered by a credit card. Accounts that go unpaid long enough can wind up in collections, which will hurt your scores. (You can see how any collections accounts may be affecting your credit by viewing your free credit score, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
If your credit is in rough shape, due to an collection account or other payment history troubles, you may be able to improve your scores by paying delinquent accounts, addressing high credit card balances and disputing any errors that may be weighing them down. And remember, you can build good credit in the long term by making all loan payments on time, keeping debt levels low and adding to theÂ mix of accounts you have, as your score and wallet can handle it.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life
The post How to Use Your Cable Bill to Build Credit appeared first on Credit.com.
When personal finance blogger Allan Liwanag was establishing his career and living paycheck to paycheck, he often had just enough money to cover his expenses each month. He ran into an issue with an old checking account that caused him some major grief.
“I forgot to account for the $15 monthly fee that the bank would charge,” Liwanag says. “So I was short covering my rent. It was a stressful situation because I didn’t know at first if the bank would process the payment for the rent or not.” The bank ultimately covered it, but Liwanag got charged $35 for an insufficient funds feeâon top of the original monthly fee.
Liwanag, who now runs a consumer money-saving site called The Practical Saver, learned a lot from that experience. The main point being, checking accounts can rack up feesâeven for standard activity. In fact, bank fees, including those for ATM usage and overdrafts, continue to rise year-over-year, according to a 2019 Bankrate survey. As Liwanag learned, fees could eat away at the funds in your checking account, which may become problematic when it’s time to pay bills or take care of other expenses.
What you may not know is that there are no-fee checking account options without the hassle of common fees. DiscoverÂ®Cashback Debit, a no-fee checking account, for instance, doesn’t charge any account fees.1 It also offers no-fee checking without an opening deposit requirement, which is especially beneficial if you’re starting with a small balance or plan to make big withdrawals or transfers.
So you might be thinking right about now, “What are the benefits of a no-fee checking account?” To answer that question, it’s important to understand what types of fees you may be racking up and how you can make the most of a no-fee account. Let’s get to it.
Bank fees, including those for ATM usage and overdrafts, continue to rise year-over-year.
Your most common checking account fees
Checking account fees can become a trap you may not realize you’ve fallen into until it’s too late. It’s possible to be charged fees just for keeping your account open or for services or features you may have assumed came standard with the account. Being charged a fee doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong, but it’s a hassle you can avoid with the proper research.
Here is a list of some of the common checking account fees you could be paying:
Monthly fees to maintain or service your account
Overdraft or insufficient funds fees
Fees to order books of checks
Online bill pay fees
Stop payment fees
Replacement debit card fees
Not sure which checking account fees you’re dishing out for? Contact your bank or visit its website to get a copy of your deposit account agreement. This document usually has a list of fees related to your checking account that may apply to you.
Another good tipoff: “If you see monthly, quarterly or annual fees broken out on your monthly bank statement, you’ll know whether your account is truly no-fee,” says CPA and financial analyst Riley Adams of Young and the Invested, a site with strategies for financial independence.
It’s important to review your statements regularly to identify which fees you are being charged and to determine how that’s impacting your budget.
3 benefits of a no-fee checking account
Now that you’ve identified the many possible checking account fees you could be charged, you’ll find that the benefits of a no-fee checking account go beyond just freeing up some cash in your budget. In addition to the features you’re used to with a regular checking account, a no-fee checking account gives you a financial edge in the following ways:
More money for your financial goals. “Having a no-fee checking account can help you get ahead financially,” Adams says. “Instead of paying monthly service fees and even overdraft fees, you can apply that money toward your own financial goals.” The money you save on fees could be used to pay down debt, boost a savings account or help fund an education, business venture or vacation.
Flexibility. A benefit of a no-fee checking account is that it allows you to bank on your terms. If you’re just starting out, a no-fee checking account without an opening deposit requirement means you have the flexibility to fund the account with whatever amount makes sense for you. Need to make a big transfer from checking to savings? No problem, since you won’t have to worry about dipping below a minimum balance threshold. You can even go on your merry way using ATMs in your bank’s network without being restricted by fees, and if you accidentally overdraw, your no-fee account’s flexibility may save you the stress of a ding for insufficient funds.
No surprises. “Should I get a no-fee checking account?” was an easy decision for Liwanag because he knows exactly what to expect with one. “A plus of no-fee accounts is that you can rest assured that unaccounted-for or surprise fees will not kick you into overdraft,” Liwanag says. (Or, in other words, less s-t-r-e-s-s.)
Manage your finances with multiple no-fee accounts
There are also ways that no-fee checking accounts can help you better manage your income and expenses, in case you’re still wondering, “Should I get a no-fee checking account?”
Liwanag had no problem answering that question: âI have four,” he says, “which I use for easily tracking specific budget categories or expenses.”
As he explains, it can be easier to track expenses when money for different priorities, such as his emergency fund or that much-needed vacation, is bucketed into different no-fee checking accounts. Because he may be charged fees for excessive withdrawals from a savings account, Liwanag uses his no-fee checking accounts to manage the money he’ll need to access frequently for specific purposes.
The best part: Maintaining multiple checking accounts doesn’t cost him extra since a benefit of no-fee checking accounts means fees aren’t in the equation, he says. Some banks do have limits on how many checking accounts you can open, so be sure to consider this if you’re using a multiple account strategy like Liwanag.
Keeping your expenses organized is a pretty big motivator; so if you’ve answered “yes” to the question, “Should I get a no-fee checking account?”, the next step is knowing how to choose one.
Find the best no-fee checking account for your needs
Although the benefits of a no-fee checking account are key, don’t lose your head too much and forget to consider other checking account features that match your lifestyle. If customer service is your deal breaker, make sure the bank offers it around the clock and that it’s recognized for being top-notch. If you’re always on the go and your phone is right there with you, mobile features and mobile check deposit may be on the top of your list. If you’re regularly withdrawing cash, evaluate the bank’s network of no-fee ATMs and see if an ATM locator is offered to make tracking them down a breeze.
Why should credit cards have all the fun?
Now you can earn cash back with your debit card.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
If the benefits of a no-fee checking account are top of mind, you may also want to consider the perks of a rewards checking account. For example, Discover’s Cashback Debit even offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.2 So on top of a no-fees savings strategy to meet your goals, you could also earn up to $360 a year. (Vacation, here we come!)
Start on your path to smart checking
Clearly, the benefits of a no-fee checking account and a no-fee checking account without an opening deposit requirement are numerous. Just be sure to do your research, then compare your findings carefully. The no-fee checking account you choose should ultimately help you reach your personal financial goals. You may find that saving on fees and reducing financial stress could be just the edge you need to set your checking account on the best course.
1Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
2ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPalÂ®, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.
The post Should I Get a No-Fee Checking Account? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Summer camp is a rite of passage. A place where traditions begin and memories are made. A unique venue with a structured opportunity for kids to grow and learn new skills. As enriching as it may seem, embarking on the process each year can be intense: How do I choose a camp? Should it have a philosophy? How do I know my child will have fun? But often the question at the top of the list is, “How do I budget for summer camp?”
Whether you’re scrambling for camp arrangements for this year or getting a jump-start on next summer, you’re in need of a working budget for summer camp. “As a parent who sent several kids to summer camp for many years, I know how expensive it can be,” says Leslie H. Tayne, author and founder of debt solutions law firm Tayne Law Group.
Read on for expert budgeting tips for summer camp and how to save money on summer camp so you can make the best decisions concerning your wallet and your child’s wish list:
1. Get a handle on camp tuition
According to the American Camp Association, sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition isn’t too far behind, ranging from $199 to more than $800 per week.
One of the best ways to budget for summer camp and prepare for tuition costs is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child’s interests. This will help you determine ‘how much’ and ‘what type’ of camp you want: Is day-camp coverage important all summer because of work? Does your child want to experience sleep-away camp for a portion of the time? Is a camp with a specific focus (say a sport or hobby) on the list?
Depending on your circumstances and child’s expectations, it’s not unusual to be looking at a combination of campsâand tuition costsâin one season. If you have multiple kids at different ages, with different interests, creating a budget for summer camp and understanding how much you’ll need to dish out in tuition becomes especially important.
Once your camp plan is in place, assess how much you’ll need to pay in tuition for the summer months with school out of session. The sooner you’ve arrived at this figure, the easier it will be to work the expense into your household budget, says Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of deal site Passion for Savings. “It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time,” Schisler says.
Sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition ranges from $199 to more than $800 per week.
2. Plan for expenses beyond tuition
One of the biggest budgeting tips for summer camp is planning for the many costs outside of tuition. Tayne points out that sleep-away camp usually comes with a longer supply list than day campâsuch as specific clothing or gear and toiletries to cover the length of stay. If your child is heading to a sleep-away camp far from home, your budget for summer camp may also need to factor in the cost of transportation or the cost to ship luggage. Day camps can also have fees for extended hours or transportation if your child rides a camp bus each day.
Once you’ve selected a campâday camp or sleep-awayâcheck its website for camper packing lists and guidelines. Most camps offer checklists that you can print out, which can be good for tracking supplies and costs as you go. After you enroll, your camp may provide access to an online portal that can help you manage tuition and track additional expenses, like canteen money, which is cash your child can use for snacks and additional supplies while away.
3. Create a year-round savings strategy
By calculating the necessary expenses ahead of time for the camps you and your campers have chosen, you’ll be able to determine an overall budget for summer camp. A budgeting tip for summer camp is to save money monthly throughout the year. To determine a monthly savings goal, divide your total summer camp costs by the amount of months you have until camp starts. If camp is quickly approaching and you’re feeling the budget crunch, you may want to start saving for next year’s costs once it’s back-to-school time so you can spread out your costs over a longer period of time.
Once you start saving, you’ll need a place to put it, right? When it comes to budgeting tips for summer camp, consider placing your cash in a dedicated account, which will keep it separate from your regular expenses and help you avoid tapping it for other reasons. “Then you can have your bank set up an auto draft [for the summer camp money] so it automatically goes into your account each month and you will have the money you need when summer rolls around,” Schisler says. If you use a Discover Online Savings Account for this purpose, you’ll also earn interest that can be put toward camp expenses.
âIt’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time.â
4. Find ways to fund your summer camp account
To boost cash in your summer camp savings account, consider asking relatives and family friends to gift your children cash for camp in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts, says Tracie Fobes of budget blog Penny Pinchin’ Mom. “If your child has his or her heart set on sleep-away camp, they may be willing to forgo a gift or two,” Fobes says.
Another budgeting tip for summer camp is to put your cashback rewards toward your budget for summer camp. For example, if you open a checking account with Discoverâcalled Cashback Debitâyou’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 You can enroll to have that cashback bonus automatically deposited into your Discover Online Savings Account so it remains designated for camp costs (and can grow with interest).
Say hello to cash back on debit card purchases.
No monthly fees. No balance requirements. No, really.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Lastly, if you don’t have your tax refund earmarked for another financial goal, you could use the windfall to kick-start your summer camp savings fund. Depending on the refund amount and your total camp costs, it could reduce your monthly summer camp savings goal significantly.
5. Reduce camp-related costs
Despite having your budget for summer camp in full view and planning in advance, camp can still be expensive. Here are some ways to save money on summer camp by cutting down on camp costs:
Ask about scholarships and grants: “Some camps offer scholarships or discounts for children and families,” Fobes says. Research your camp to see if they have anything similar to help offsetâor even pay forâthe cost of tuition.
Use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA): A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account is a pre-tax benefit account that can be used to pay for eligible dependent care services. You can use this type of account to “cover dependent care [costs], and camp may qualify,” Fobes says.
Negotiate price: “Many people don’t think about negotiating the cost of summer camp, but it is possible,” Tayne says, and more and more camps are open to it.
See if there’s an “honor system”: Some camps have what’s known as an honor system, where the camp offers a range of costs, or tiered pricing, and parents can pay what they can comfortably afford. Every child enjoys the same camp experience, regardless of which price point, and billing is kept private.
Take advantage of discounts: Attention early birds and web surfers: “There are sometimes discounts offered when you sign up early or register online,” Fobes says.
Volunteer: If your summer schedule allows, “offer to work at the camp,” Fobes says. If you lend your servicesâperhaps for the camp blog or cleaning the camp house before the season startsâyour child may be able to attend camp for free or a reduced rate.
Don’t let summer camp costs become a family budget-buster. Plan ahead and look for money-saving opportunities and work your budget for summer camp into your annual financial plan.
To save money on summer camp, remember that you only need to focus on camp necessities. “Don’t spend a lot of extra money on new clothing, bedding, trunks or suitcases,” Schisler says. “Remember, summer camp is all about the experience, not the things.”
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
The post Your Guide to Budgeting for Summer Camp appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
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 companyâs products and authorized partners. Youâll also find that the companyâs 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 donât have good credit, itâs best to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company beforehand so that you know what youâre signing up for.Â
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 wonât 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 itâs an account that you can only use it to shop on Fingerhut or through its authorized partners.Â
This credit account features:
Â 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 wonât know prior to applying.Â
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.Â
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.Â
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.Â
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 wonât 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 companyâone where you can make purchases anywhere, not just at Fingerhut.Â
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.Â
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.Â
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.Â
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 youâve done all your research and decided that Fingerhut isnât 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.Â
Discover it Secured:Â 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, thereâs 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.Â
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 isnât very long-winded, thatâs 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.Â
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 itâs important to consider this before applying.Â
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 Fingerhutâs merchandise are enough to scare you away, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card.Â
How to Build Credit with Fingerhut is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
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
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.
Sign up for ExtraCredit today!
The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.
Perch is a new mobile app available for iOS that can improve your credit score by incorporating your rent history and recurring subscriptions such as streaming services.
Currently, Perch is only available through the Apple Store. There are some similar offerings out there, but I think this one is better. Itâs completely free and it reports to more credit bureaus.
Read more from our credit card experts.
Ask Ted a question.
Typically, your rental payment history does not appear on your credit reports. Thatâs a shame, because rent is the largest monthly expense for many households. It would be great if paying your rent on time helped you build your credit score.
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There are some existing services that facilitate reporting your rent to the credit bureaus, but they typically charge fees. They can also get complicated, since many require your landlord to respond to the tracking company each month or mandate that they receive your payments through their platform). With Perch, you provide your lease details and grant read-only access to your bank account via Plaidâs secure API. That allows Perch to verify your payment history â without bugging your landlord or forcing you to change your payment method.
Even better, Perch can retroactively add up to 24 months of rental payment history to your credit reports with all three major bureaus. This could jumpstart your credit score in a big way. The company tells me their average customer improves their credit score between 60 and 160 points. And many who were previously unscorable instantly land between 670 and 690 â placing them in the âgood creditâ category. Thatâs incredible!
See related:Â How to pay rent with a credit card
Perch also has a novel approach to monitoring subscriptions. Users notify the company which recurring subscriptions they want to include, and Perch provides them with a virtual debit card loaded up to that pre-approved amount. The user pays Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music or another subscription service with that virtual card number. They then pay Perch back. Perch reports this virtual card payment activity as an additional tradeline on usersâ credit reports (note that Perch currently reports subscriptions to Equifax and TransUnion; it plans to add Experian by July).
See related:Â I signed up for Experian Boost. This is what happened
I asked Perch founder and CEO Michael Broughton what happens if someone doesnât pay them back â would that end up hurting their credit score? He said no. Perch really wants to help their users build credit, so it will not place a negative mark on a customerâs credit report in that situation â or even charge a late fee.
Instead, Perch relies on proactive measures such as cash flow underwriting and warnings if your account balance falls too low. If you donât pay, theyâll eventually prevent you from making future purchases. Broughton explained that their liability is very limited because they pre-approve these virtual card purchases and the eligible subscription services tend to charge modest amounts. He assured me that no one can get away with buying $500 Nikes and skipping town.
Broughton is a 21-year-old graduate of the University of Southern California. He was inspired to found Perch after he had difficulty securing a loan for a $10,000 tuition shortfall. One of seven children born into a military family, Broughton was the first member of his family to attend college. Heâs now assisting others who wish to improve their financial lives. The companyâs investors include heavy hitters such as Citi, Sequoia Capital, SoftBank and Y Combinator.
The market is huge. FICO reports that 79 million Americans have subprime credit and another 53 million canât be scored because they lack a sufficient credit history. Broughton told me Perchâs initial sweet spot is 18-25 year-olds, but he also noted that many older adults could benefit, particularly immigrants and people rebuilding their credit after a misstep. He has big plans for expansion and believes Perch can benefit 100,000 people in 2021. The app formally launched in late January and is onboarding new customers in weekly batches.
See related:Â How to build credit
Broughtonâs ultimate goal is to spread the gospel of financial literacy and credit building. He wants to help people obtain their first credit cards and other financial products. âWe want to launch you into the credit world on a better foot,â he said. The way I see it, Perch is off to an excellent start.
Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me atÂ firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ and Iâd be happy to help.
When’s the last time you made an appearance at a bank branch? With the latest digital technology, there’s almost no reason to step inside a physical bank: Nearly three-quarters of Americans bank primarily online or from their mobile device, according to the American Bankers Association.
But you might still like the idea of having a checking account at a bank with a branch nearby. Why? Maybe you think online banks aren’t as convenient as stopping by your neighborhood branch to get cash (free coffee aside), the perks aren’t as good as with traditional banks or that online banks aren’t insured. Actually, these are three of several big myths about online banking.
âPeople who say online bank accounts are inconvenient may not know how they work,” says Monica Lam, founder of money-saving blog Lucky Mojito. âI can mobile deposit a check into my account at any time without having to drive to the bank and wait in line.”
Lam wishes she hadn’t fallen for common online banking myths and took the benefits of online checking accounts more seriously sooner. âIf someone had told me I could avoid using gas or spending time going to the bank to deposit my checks,” Lam says, âI would have switched a long time ago.”
By now you’re probably wondering, “What are the most common myths about online banking?” We reveal themâand debunk themâso you can understand why opening an online checking account might be right for you.
Myth 1: They’re inconvenient
Don’t just take Lam’s word that inconvenience is an online banking myth. Patricia Russell, a certified financial planner at FinanceMarvel, agrees. âSome online accounts offer 24/7 access to many features of the bank. You can open your account, view your balance, deposit checks, apply for loans and pay billsâall from the convenience of the mobile app or website,” Russell says.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans bank primarily online or from their mobile device.
In fact, some online banks make it easy and convenient to open an account. âOnline accounts are extremely easy to open,” says Miguel A. Suro, founder of the financial blog The Rich Miser. âAll you have to do is go to the website or download the app and follow the simple prompts.”
If convenience is on your mind, you may also worry about the ability to access cash without a physical bank branch, but online banks may have a large network of ATMs that you can use, Russell says. For instance, with Discover’s online checking account, called Cashback Debit, you can use your debit card at over 60,000 no-fee ATMs. How’s that for debunking myths about online checking?
Myth 2: The perks aren’t as good as with traditional banks
If you believe this, you’ve fallen for one of the most common myths about online banking.
Suro thinks one reason you may be able to score benefits from some online banks is that low overhead often means incentives can be passed down to the consumer.
One such incentive that disproves this myth about online checking is that many online banks charge low or no fees.
“You may be able to pay no fees for routine banking,” Suro says, “such as just having an account, ordering checks, ATM access and most money transfers.”
Discover Cashback Debit, for example, charges no fees. Period. That means you won’t be charged an account fee on your online checking account.1 Imagine, a host of potential fee-carrying features you no longer have to worry about!
Why should credit cards have all the fun?
Now you can earn cash back with your debit card.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Another perk on the online checking account sceneâdiscrediting this myth about online checkingâis cash back rewards, which have more traditionally been associated with credit cards. With Discover Cashback Debit, you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases monthly.2 That means your monthly cash back earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year. This perk could be covering a good portion of your coffee habit!
You may also find this online banking myth refuted with the fact that some online checking accounts offer higher yields compared to traditional banks, Lam says, which means you can potentially make some cash while your funds are stashed.
Myth 3: You have to be tech savvy to use online accounts
While you need to have a computer, tablet or smartphone to use an online bank and access an online checking account, one of the top myths about online banking is that you have to be a techie.
âThere is no need to know a lot about technology to have an online account,” Russell says. âSome banks know the importance of easy-to-use websites and mobile apps, so they often have a design that is simple and straightforwardâeven for those claiming not to be tech savvy.”
Lam, who recently opened a new online bank account, also challenges this myth about online banking. âI went online and filled out a simple form and instantly had access to my account,” she says.
Suro has had an online bank account for 10 years and has not found the technology to be challenging, debunking this myth about online checking. âIf you can manage your traditional bank’s account online via its website or app, you can manage an online-only account,” Suro says. âIt’s the same basic experience.”
âIf you can manage your traditional bank’s account online via its website or app, you can manage an online-only account. It’s the same basic experience.”
Myth 4: You won’t be able to talk to a human if there’s a problem
Another online banking myth is that you won’t be able to access good customer service for your online checking account because you can’t walk into a branch to talk to someone. Not so fast.
Some online banks have customer service representatives that you can call, and some may even have this service available around the clock (no need to even leave the comfort of your home if you have a question). For instance, Discover’s customer service is available 24/7.
âYou no longer have to make it to the bank before it closes, you can actually contact the bank in the evening and get an answer,” Russell says.
If you’re all about communication from your favorite device, note that some online banks offer digital customer service through the bank’s website or app, calling into question this myth about online checking. âMany online banks offer [live] chat,” Russell says. You may also be able to contact an online bank’s customer service through social media.
Despite the face-to-face opportunity, Suro doesn’t think bank branches are necessarily better at providing customer service. He once needed to send a wire transfer and easily figured out how to do it online. When his relative went into a branch to do the same thing, he got held up. “The whole thing turned into an ordeal that took over 45 minutes,” Suro says.
Myth 5: Online checking isn’t insured
One final online banking myth is that deposited money isn’t insured.
Online banks can be members of the FDIC, which means they insure your money up to $250,000 or the maximum allowed by law, Lam says. Before you open an account, you’ll want to make sure that the online bank is FDIC-insured. One way to do this is to call the FDIC’s toll-free number at 1-877-ASK FDIC (1-877-275-3342) and ask a deposit insurance specialist to confirm that the online bank in question is FDIC-insured. The FDIC’s online tool BankFind also allows you to search banks by name and informs you of their FDIC number and status, among other information. Banks often include language on their websites and in marketing materials noting if they are members of the FDIC, so be sure to look for that as well.
No myths about online bankingâonly a new reality
“Despite the benefits of online banks, many people don’t open accounts because of all these misconceptions,” Russell says.
Now that some of the common online banking myths have been challenged, you can more easily see the simplicity of online accounts and the time saved by banking onlineâtwo key reasons Suro is a huge proponent.
âThat’s why banking online is one of my core strategies for effortlessly saving money and moving through life more efficiently,” he adds.
1 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
2 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPalTM, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
The post 5 Online Banking Myths Debunked appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Sending cash to friends and family? Before you reach for that credit card, grab a calculator. It’s time to do a little math.
With most everything you purchase online or through apps, credit cards have the edge. With plastic, you have chargeback rights. If you’re overcharged or receive the wrong item, broken merchandise or nothing at all, your card issuer will make it right. And if you use a rewards card, you collect points or miles, too. Win-win.
But it’s different story when you’re sending money through peer-to-peer platforms. Many of them (like Google Pay, Popmoney and Zelle), don’t allow consumers to use a credit card to send cash.
Others (like Cash App, PayPal and Venmo), allow credit cards but also charge a fee for the privilege – often about 3%.
See related: How to choose a P2P payment service
The hidden costs of using credit cards to send money
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Choose a credit card to send money and you might also end up paying additional fees to your card issuer. That’s because the combination of some peer-to-peer apps with certain cards are coded as cash advances, rather than purchases.
For many cards, that cash advance code triggers a higher interest rate that kicks in the moment you make the transaction, as well as a separate cash advance fee that’s often $10 or 5% of the transaction – whichever is higher. (Currently, the average interest rate for cash advances is 24.8%, while the average APR for purchases is 16.05%.)
So the combination of peer-to-peer service fees, credit card cash advance fees and that higher interest rate (with no grace period) could make sending a few hundred dollars a bit more costly than you’d planned.
No chargeback rights with credit cards
The real kicker: Unlike other venues, you don’t have chargeback rights when you use credit cards to make peer-to-peer money transfers.
When you present your credit card in an online or brick-and-mortar store, there’s a merchant involved – and the law provides chargeback rights for your protection in case you don’t get what you were promised in the deal. But in a peer-to-peer money transfer, there’s no merchant, so currently the laws don’t give consumers any chargeback rights, says Christina Tetreault, manager of financial policy for Consumer Reports.
“The chargeback right requires a merchant,” says Tetreault. “One of the hoops a consumer has to jump through is to try and work it out with the merchant.”
If you use a peer-to-peer service and send the wrong amount or send the money to the wrong person, most platforms advise that the only way to get it back is to contact the recipient and ask them to return it. And that’s often the same whether you use a credit card, debit card, bank account or funded account on the platform.
“Be doubly sure when you’re sending the money that you’re putting in the correct information,” says John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud for the National Consumers League. “It’s still a buyer beware world when it comes to peer-to-peer.”
If you’re sending money and want to use a credit card, it pays to do a little sleuthing first. Check out the peer-to-peer site. Does it allow users to send money with a credit card? If so what, if any, fees does it charge?
On some platforms (PayPal is one), you could see similar fees for using a debit card – while sending from a bank account or funded account on the platform is free.
The good news is that many peer-to-peer platforms clearly disclose it when there’s an extra charge to use a credit card, says Tetreault. With Venmo, for example, you’ll get a pop-up message.
Harder to decipher: Will credit card transactions on the platform be treated as a cash advance? If your preferred platform doesn’t post this information, you might need to contact customer service. (And how quickly and easily you get an answer can tell you a lot, too.)
Ask your card issuer the same question: Are peer-to-peer money transfers on the platform you’ve chosen treated as a cash advance? If they are, what’s the interest rate, and what’s the cash advance fee?
“What I would suggest is to ask that question, via email, of your financial institution,” says Tetreault. “It may be in their FAQs. And you want to save that email. If you have it in writing, if there’s an issue later, you’re better positioned to contest that fee.”
But “the hard truth is you may not be able to find out ahead of time,” she says.
Another solution: Opt to use a credit card issued by a credit union.
“With credit unions, the APR is usually the same” for purchases and cash advances, says John Bratsakis, president and CEO of the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association.
Likewise, with American Express cards you pay your regular interest rate and no cash advance fees on peer-to-peer transfers, says Elizabeth Crosta, vice president of public affairs for American Express.
And credit cards from U.S. Bank register peer-to-peer money transfers as regular purchases – with no cash advance fees or cash advance APRs, says Rick Rothacker, spokesperson for the bank.
See related: How do credit card APRs work?
What’s your reason for using a credit card?
Take a good look at the reason you’re using a credit card, too. If you want chargeback rights, that’s not an option. If you’re doing it for the rewards, will the value of those points or miles be eaten up by extra fees or a higher interest rate you have to pay to use the card?
And if you’re using a card because you don’t have the cash, that might be a good reason to rethink the idea of sending money in the first place.
That’s a huge red flag, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
“The need to convert credit into cash is what really gets my attention – because that hints at a lack of savings,” he said. “It’s a reality a lot of people are facing, especially now.”
Cash advances aren’t as expensive or risky as payday loans and car title loans, but they should be among your last resorts. If you’re looking for short-term relief, you could ask your credit card issuer for help, or find out if you qualify for a personal loan. You could also borrow from a family member or trusted friend, but be wary of the potential relationship toll if you can’t pay them back.
Getting cash from credit cards
Fifty-two percent of Americans report that the pandemic has damaged their finances, according to a recent survey by the NFCC. More than a fifth of those had to tap savings for everyday expenses, while 16% increased their credit card spending.
And that’s a sign of financial stress, says McClary. “It means that, in some situations, they have run out of savings.”
There are ways you can use your card to get cash, though.
Cashing in rewards
Some rewards cards from issuers such as Chase, Bank of America and US Bank let you deposit cash-back rewards directly to your bank account.
And Wells Fargo also will let you deposit its Go Far Rewards directly into another Wells Fargo customer’s account, says Sarah DuBois, spokesperson for the bank.
Many credit cards let you convert rewards into retail gift cards. So a pile of points can help a friend or family member buy much-needed groceries or a few holiday presents.
Or simply “buy a gift card for someone,” says Bratsakis.
Retailer-specific gift cards and gift cards issued through local and regional retail associations and malls often come with no fees – meaning every dollar you spend goes toward your gift.
While you can get a cash advance or use convenience checks from your card issuer, both those options often come with fees and higher interest rates. Not a smart money move, especially in the current economy.
While some lenders may offer convenience checks with deferred interest, that’s not the same as “no interest,” says Bratsakis. Also, if you don’t pay the loan in full, will you owe the full interest retroactively?
“That’s where consumers have to be careful,” he says. With a convenience check or even a cash advance, “that’s usually where consumers can get themselves into trouble if they can’t pay it off and get hit with deferred interest.”
See related: What is deferred interest?
When it comes to peer-to-peer payments, cash really is king. You can then put it into a funded account with the money transfer platform or your bank account. And most peer-to-peer platforms let you do this for free.
“The safest way to use these services is to send money person-to-person and be diligent about getting all the details correct so it doesn’t go to the wrong person,” says Tetreault.
Only send to people you trust and know in real life, she says. “And before sending money make sure you understand what, if any, fees you might incur.”
While many rewards enthusiasts focus on signing up for new credit cards to earn signup bonuses, not everyone has the time or desire to play the signup game. There is effort involved in tracking multiple cards, annual fees, and rewards programs, after all, and some people don’t want to spend their time or mental energy this way.
If you’re someone who falls into this category, you may be better off maximizing one or two cards instead of chasing rewards. Fortunately, you can earn plenty of rewards over time if you’re savvy about your card’s benefits and bonus categories.
The key to getting the most out of your rewards cards is understanding how they work and looking for opportunities to earn more points on your everyday spending. Here are some tips that can help.
Brainstorm every bill you could pay with a credit card
Because rewards cards offer points based on each dollar you spend, maximizing the amount you can spend on credit is the best way to boost your rewards haul. The smartest strategy to use here is figuring out how many of your monthly bills you can pay with a credit card.
While you may not be notified or aware, it’s possible that bills you’ve been paying with a check or debit card for years can be paid with a credit card without any fees. While your bills may vary, some expenses you should try to pay with a credit card include:
Utility bills like electric or gas
Cable television and internet
Auto and home insurance
College tuition or student loans
Keep in mind that these are just some of the bills you could be paying with credit. Depending on your situation, you could have additional, uncommon expenses to cover that could be paid with credit with ease.
Also, remember that these additional bills should be paid with credit on top of your everyday expenses like groceries, dining out, gas or bus fare, and miscellaneous spending. Every time you buy something in person or online, you should strive to pay with your rewards card if you can.
Leverage your rewards card bonus categories
It’s also important to leverage your favorite card bonus categories, whatever they may be. This is especially important if you have a few cards with different bonus categories since you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right card for bills that let you earn bonus points.
Let’s say you have a travel credit card that earns 3x points on dining and travel and another card that earns 6x points at the grocery store. In that case, you would be smart to use the travel card for dining and travel purchases and your other card when you stock up on food. While the amount of rewards you earn with individual purchases may seem nominal, using the right card for the right purchase can help you earn a lot more rewards over time.
Set up auto-pay bills to be paid with credit
Most of us have bills set up to be paid automatically, whether it’s our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, gym membership, or utility bills. Make sure each bill you have set up to be paid automatically is set up to be paid with your rewards card and not a debit card. This way, you can earn rewards points on those expenses every month.
Use shopping portals and dining clubs
Many flexible rewards programs, frequent flyer programs, and hotel loyalty programs have shopping portals you can access to earn extra points. Major airlines like American, Delta, and United also have shopping portals that work similarly. (See also: How to Maximize Rewards Through Credit Card Shopping Portals)
Some programs like Southwest and Delta also offer dining clubs. These programs let you earn additional points or miles just for dining at participating restaurants in your area. It’s easy and it’s free to join, so you may as well earn extra miles on your spending if you’re going to dine out anyway. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Airline Dining Rewards Programs)
How much the average family can earn
If you are skeptical the average family can rack up meaningful rewards without signing up for new cards over and over again, look at how this might work in real life. For example, imagine a family of four with two rewards card-toting adults. Across the two of them, they have:
A cash back card that earns 2% back
A travel credit card that earns 3% on dining and travel
A rewards card that earns 6% cash back at the grocery store on up to $6,000 in spending each year
To figure out how much this family might earn, we used Bureau of Labor Statistics spending averages from 2017. Here’s a rundown of that data for the year plus how much a family could earn in rewards over 12 months based on average expenses:
Food at home ($4,363): $261.78 in rewards at 6%
Food away from home ($3,365): $100.95 at 3%
Utilities, fuels, and public services ($3,836): $76.72 at 2%
Household operations ($1,412): $28.24 at 2%
Household supplies ($755): $45.30 at 6%
Household furnishings and equipment ($1,987): $39.74 at 2%
Apparel and services ($1,833): $36.66 at 2%
Gasoline and motor oil ($1,968): $39.36 at 2%
Other vehicle expenses ($2,842): $56.84 at 2%
Healthcare ($4,928): $98.56 at 2%
Entertainment ($3,203): $64.06 at 2%
Personal care products ($762): $45.72 at 6%
Education ($1,491): $29.82 at 2%
Total rewards: $923.75
While $900+ is a lot to earn in rewards within a year, you have the potential to earn a lot more. After all, these are just some of the expenses the average family faces and not all of them. If you could pay some additional big bills with credit each month like daycare or your rent, you could significantly add to your bottom line.
What to watch out for
While maximizing rewards cards is a smart idea if you’re using them already anyway, there are always pitfalls to be aware of when you’re using a credit card. Here’s what to watch out for during your quest for more cash back and travel rewards.
Fees for using credit
While there are many bills you can pay with credit without a fee, some vendors, merchants, and service providers charge a fee to use a credit card as payment. Fees are especially prevalent on bills such as utilities, cable or internet, rent, and insurance. Make sure to verify you aren’t being charged a fee to use credit before you proceed.
Don’t forget that some rewards cards charge annual fees. These fees may be worth it depending on your spending and rewards haul, but you should always factor them into the equation to make sure each fee is worth paying. If you’re against paying annual fees, look for rewards cards that don’t charge one.
Using a credit card for all your expenses may simplify your financial life, but it could also cause your budget to fall out of whack. Make sure you’re only spending on purchases you planned to make anyway, and that you’re tracking your spending and paying off your credit cards regularly.
Never use credit cards for purchases you can’t afford to repay if you’re pursuing rewards. The interest you’ll pay will always be much more than the rewards you earn. If you’re worried using credit will cause you to rack up debt you can’t afford to repay, you’re better off sticking to cash or debit instead.
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This article is from Holly Johnson of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
5 Reasons Not to Use Debit Cards When You Shop Online
How to Resist These 4 Rationalizations to Spend Money
4 Mindful Spending Habits That Will Save You Money