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Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

8 Free Sleep Apps for a Blissful Night’s Rest

Whether it’s fear of getting sick, worry for a loved one’s health, job anxiety, the stress of juggling parenting and career in a pandemic, or all of the above, sky-high stress seems to be the new normal.

While free sleep apps won’t solve your big-picture problems, they could help you fall asleep faster, so you can tackle life’s stressors feeling refreshed. Here are the best ones we’ve found.

1. White Noise

White noise free sleep apps are must-haves for travel, when you need a consistent noise to block out the sounds of other hotel guests, city noises, etc. The ‘lite’ version does the trick with free sleep sounds and nature sounds. For $4.99, you get 50 sounds plus the ability to create your own track that includes binaural beats, aka different frequencies that cue your brain to relax.

Find White Noise in the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon.

2. Relax and Sleep Well Hypnosis

Hypnosis usually costs several hundred dollars, but you’ll pay $0 for this hypnotherapy sleep app with four recordings of meditation and hypnosis. Additional hypnosis tracks are available as app purchases for $2.99 apiece. This one made Healthline’s 2019 list of the best sleep apps, so if you’re skeptical of hypnosis, their stamp of approval may persuade you to download hypnotherapy sleep apps.

Find Relax and Sleep Well Hypnosis in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

3. Headspace

Headspace’s guided meditation app is the perfect way to wind down for bed: Andy’s soothing British accent will lull you into a state of total relaxation where it seems like nothing could ever go wrong. While it’s $60 a year, Headspace often makes the best sleep apps lists. Students can pay $9.99 for annual access, and Netflix subscribers can watch the Headspace series for no extra cost. Each episode focuses on one style of meditation, so by the time you finish the season you’ll have a whole arsenal of relaxation techniques to try before bed.

Sign up for a free trial of Headspace or watch on Netflix.

Are you turning more to apps for wellness? Try these cheap or free meditation apps.

4. Deep Sleep With AJ

Deep Sleep With AJ is a cheaper alternative to Headspace, with a one-time cost of $2.99 and similarly dreamy Scottish accent. Developed by a mindfulness expert and therapist, the sleep app includes mindfulness and inspirational talks, bedtime relaxation techniques to help you wake up feeling refreshed, meditations for anxiety and panic attacks and more. You can cue up meditations to repeat a set number of times, so it ideally plays through until you’ve caught those Zs.

Find Deep Sleep With AJ on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

5. Relax Melodies

Combining relaxing sounds, free sleep stories and guided meditation for sleep, lucid dreaming, or relief from medical conditions like tinnitus (ringing in the ears that often gets worse before bed), free sleep app Relax Melodies has thousands of fans. It comes with 52 sounds including white noise, nature sounds, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response, or that warm tingle associated with sounds like whispers) and binaural beats. Premium sounds are available as app purchases for $4.99.

Find Relax Melodies on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

6. Nothing Much Happens

Think of free podcast Nothing Much Happens as adult sleep stories designed to help you relax into a peaceful slumber. As the title suggests, the stories are fairly low-stakes. Podcast host Kathryn is a meditation and yoga teacher, so think of this as an extended savasana where it’s actually awesome if you end up snoring after five minutes.

Find Nothing Much Happens on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

7. Endel

Perfect for the multitasker, Endel offers “personalized soundscapes” for relaxation, better sleep and better focus. The app pulls data from your environment (like weather, location or time of day), then moderates sounds to match your mood: focus music for daytime work and chill sounds to help you sleep. The app comes with a 7-day free trial, after which point you’ll need to buy a subscription ($5.99 per month or $49.99 per year, at present) or use the free, browser-based version.

Find Endel in the Apple App Store, Google Play, or on Twitch.

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8. Rise: Sleep & Energy Tracker

For those wanting a scientific approach to a good night’s sleep, the Rise sleep tracker app is worth checking out. It’s free to download with membership upgrades as app purchases beginning at $6.99 per month. Unlike sleep-tracking apps which just gauge your sleep cycle, Rise looks at “sleep debt”– aka how much sleep you should get but don’t. The sleep app works backward from your sleep debt numbers, drawing from sleep data and health information to help you improve sleep quality and quantity. Rise fans include pro sports teams and Fortune 500 leaders who find the price worth it to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.

Find Rise in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Most people experience sleep problems for a range of underlying causes, thus it can be helpful to have multiple free sleep apps on your phone. Armed with nature sounds, bedtime stories, guided meditation, science-backed sleep habits and hypnosis for life’s most pressing worries, you can stop counting sheep and cue up what’s mostly likely to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Lindsey Danis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Best startup business credit cards

If you want to start a business, you’re going to need a business credit card. While many entrepreneurs fund the initial phases of their small business out of pocket, taking out a business credit card proves that you mean business – literally.

But which business credit card is right for your growing startup? We’ve got a list of the best startup business credit cards that meet a variety of business needs – whether you’re looking for a travel card to help make business trips a little more comfortable or a corporate card to issue to your new employees. We’ve also got tips on how to choose the best business card for your startup, how to increase your odds of getting accepted for a business credit card and how to make the most of your new card once you’ve got it.

Best credit cards for startups

  • No personal guarantee: Brex Corporate Card for Startups
  • Fair credit: Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
  • Financing a startup: American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
  • Cash back: Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
  • Travel rewards: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Brex Corporate Card for Startups

Brex 30 Card

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Score required: Excellent
Type of card: Corporate travel
Spending categories: Rideshares, travel, restaurants, software subscriptions

Read full review

  • 8X points on rideshares, 5X on travel, 4X on restaurants, 3X on eligible Apple purchases and 3X on software subscriptions when you make daily card payments. Those rewards are 7X points on rideshares, 4X on travel, 3X on restaurants, 3X on Apple purchases and 2X on software subscriptions with 30-day card payments
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 30,000 bonus points upon sign up and waived card fees for life (equal to $300+ value)
  • $5,000 credit for Amazon Web Services and 20% discount on annual Zoom subscription, along with other software discounts in your first year
  • $0 annual fee

Our take: With an application process that makes qualifying faster and easier than usual and a unique rewards program that offers up to 8X points on ride-sharing, the Brex Corporate Card is well-attuned to the needs of startup companies.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card with no personal guarantee

If your startup is at the point where you have a significant revenue stream and an office full of employees, you might be ready for a corporate card. Unlike your typical business credit card, which can be used by small business owners of any size (including solopreneurs and freelancers), corporate cards are designed to meet the needs of growing corporations.

In this case, that means no-cap rewards on four major spending categories – 8X Brex Rewards points on rideshares, 5X on travel, 4X on restaurants and 3X on software subscriptions depending on whether you make your card payments every 30 days or on a daily basis with Brex cash – as well as 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Your startup will also be eligible for discounts on popular services, such as Amazon Web Services, Zoom and Dropbox, as well as a 30,000-point sign-up bonus.

Plus, it only takes a few minutes to get approved for the Brex Corporate Card. All you need to do is provide basic information about your business and link your corporate account. There’s no personal guarantee required, though you do need a minimum of $100,000 in your corporate bank account to be eligible for this card. The Brex Corporate Card has no annual fee and you’ll get five employee cards at no cost, but it’ll cost you $5 per month for each additional employee card beyond that.

As you use your Brex Corporate Card, your credit activity and payments will be reported to Experian and Dun & Bradstreet, both of which will help your business build its credit history.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Our rating: 2.6 out of 5
Score required: Fair to good
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

Read full review

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • $0 annual fee

Our take: The Spark Classic card doesn’t offer the lowest APR or juiciest rewards; but it does help cardholders with damaged credit build a better credit score and earn a modest amount of cash back, so they can qualify for more generous cards over time.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for fair credit

Your credit score shouldn’t hold you back from small business success – so don’t let your less-than-perfect credit prevent you from taking advantage of all the benefits a small business credit card can provide. Use the Capital One Spark Classic for Business credit card to help you build your business and your credit at the same time.

When you use the Spark Classic for Business, you’ll earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase. That’s a little lower than what you might earn with the top business credit cards, but if you practice responsible credit habits like making on-time payments and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, your score should improve month-over-month – which means you might be eligible for an even better business credit card before you know it.

The Spark Classic for Business has no annual fee, which is one more reason why it’s a great card for people who want to get their business – and their credit – off the ground.

American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

Our rating: 3.9 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

Read full review

  • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 1% cash back on all purchases after that
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first 12 months (13.24-19.24% variable thereafter)
  • Spend over your credit limit with no penalty (as long as you stay within the over-the-limit amount)
  • Apply for 30-, 60- or 90-day Working Capital terms after first 6 months of membership
  • $0 annual fee

Our take: The Blue Business Cash card is a great option for small business owners seeking to create cash flow for a new or expanding business, thanks to its flexible credit limit and working capital terms.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for large purchases

Startups often come with startup costs – which means you’re going to want a credit card that rewards big spending. The American Express Blue Business Cash Card is one of the top business cash back cards on the market, offering 2 percent cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year and 1 percent cash back on all additional purchases.

This isn’t the only reason why you’ll want to use the Blue Business Cash Card to help you finance your startup costs. You’ll also get access to a flexible credit limit, making it possible to fund extra purchases during those months when you really need to invest in your business. (Be aware that you’ll need to cover both your minimum payment and your above-limit spending at the end of your billing cycle.) Plus, once you’ve had your Blue Business Cash Card for six months, you’ll be able to apply for working capital terms, a feature in which Amex will pay your vendors up front, and you’ll pay off the costs in 30, 60 or 90 days.

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Our rating: 4.1 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

Read full review

  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • $500 cash back if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee (waived first year)

Our take: If you want a simple business credit card with a superb cash-back rate, you will love the Spark Cash card.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for cash back

If you want to earn as much cash back on your purchases as possible, consider the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card. Like the Blue Business Cash Card, the Spark Cash for Business offers 2% cash back – but unlike the Blue Business Cash Card, those cash back rewards don’t end once you spend $50K in a calendar year. Instead, you get an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase.

You also get a welcome bonus – if you spend $4,500 in your first three months as a cardholder, you’ll earn a one-time $500 cash bonus. Just think about how you could use that money to grow your business (or to pay off your credit card balance).

The Spark Cash for Business credit card does include a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year – and don’t forget that business credit card fees are tax-deductible.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Score required: Excellent
Type of card: Travel
Spending categories: Flights, hotels

Read full review

  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • 2X points on travel purchases on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 50% more points (1.5 points per dollar) on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million bonus points per year)
  • 85,000 points if you spend $15,000 in first 3 months
  • Get 35% points back on a designated airline each year (up to 500,000 bonus points per year) when you pay with points and book your flight on amextravel.com
  • $595 annual fee

Our take: The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers generous bonus points and great travel perks – including the best lounge access around – for frequent business travelers.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for travel

If your startup requires you to spend a lot of time working out of hotel rooms, you’re going to want a credit card that rewards travel spending. The Business Platinum Card for American Express is ready to help get you where you need to go.

Earn 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar when you purchase flights and prepaid hotel rooms through amextravel.com, 2X points on additional travel purchases made through amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases – unless you make a purchase of $5,000 or more, at which point you’ll earn 1.5 points per dollar. You’ll also be able to access an incredible welcome bonus in your first three months of membership: 85,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases.

Want to maximize those Membership Rewards points after you’ve earned them? We’ve got a guide to help you get started, but here’s one tip: Use Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35 percent of your points back (for up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year).

The Business Platinum credit card also gets you access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, a year of complimentary Platinum Global Access from WeWork (for cardholders who enroll between Feb. 15 and Dec. 31, 2019) and a $200 airline fee credit, among other perks. Be prepared to pay a $595 annual fee for the privilege of using this card – but if you travel often enough, it’ll be more than worth it.

Compare top startup business credit cards

Rewards Annual fee
Brex 30 Card
  • 7X points on rideshares, 4x on travel, 3x on restaurants and 2x on software subscriptions
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 30,000 bonus points upon sign up
$0
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
  • 1% cash back on every purchase
$0
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
  • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 1% cash back on all purchases after that
$0
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • $500 cash back if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
$95 (waived first year)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • 2X points on travel purchases on amextravel.com
  • 1.5X points on eligible purchases over $5,000
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 85,000 points if you spend $15,000 in first 3 months
$595

How to choose a business credit card

Ask these questions before choosing which business credit card might be best for your growing startup:

How will you use the card?

If you’re going to use your business credit card to finance a large purchase, look for a card with a long 0% introductory APR period. That way, you can maximize the time you have to pay off your purchase without paying anything extra in interest. 

If you’re just going to use it for day-to-day expenses, think about what those expenses are. Look for a card that will reward your everyday purchases – like travel, office supplies or utilities – at a boosted rate.

Lastly, think about who will be using the card. If you want your employees to be authorized users, look for a card that offers free employee cards or custom spending limits. 

What kind of rewards do you want?

Are you hoping to earn some cash back on your everyday purchases, or are you shooting for rewards-funded travel? If you’re searching for a travel rewards card, it’s important to consider additional perks and benefits, like rental car insurance and airport lounge access.

What is your credit score?

Your personal credit will probably be pulled when you apply for a business credit card. If your score isn’t great, apply for a card that’s within your range. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to work on building your credit before you apply. 

Getting a line of credit in your business’s name can also be useful if you’re going to take out a business loan in the near future. Your business has a credit score too, and a positive borrowing history can contribute to a good business credit score, giving you a lower interest rate when you apply for business loans. If that’s important to you, make sure that the card you’re applying for reports to at least one – or all three – of the dominant business credit bureaus. 

How to apply and get approved for a business credit card

Applying for a business credit card is a lot like applying for a personal credit card. You’ll need to provide basic personal information, such as your name, address and income. You’ll also need to provide basic business information, such as your business’s name, address and revenue. Once you’ve filled out the application, expect a hard pull on your credit as the credit card issuer determines whether you are eligible for the card.

If you want to increase your odds of getting approved, here are a few tips:

  • Check your credit score to learn where you stand. If you don’t already have access to your credit score, use a free service to learn whether your credit is fair, good, excellent or needs work – and then use that information to find credit cards designed for people with your credit score.
  • Build your personal credit score before applying for a business credit card. Lenders check your personal credit history before issuing business credit cards, so consider doing some basic maintenance on your credit score before applying. Disputing errors on your credit report, paying off revolving balances and requesting credit limit increases can all improve your score and make you eligible for more business credit cards.
  • Use our CardMatch service to quickly identify which credit cards might be right for you. There’s no impact on your credit score, and you might receive special offers and pre-qualified matches.

Pros and cons of using a credit card for your startup

There are a lot of advantages (as well as some disadvantages) to using a credit card to help fund your startup:

Pros

  • Credit card financing is easily obtainable if you already have good credit and credit cards in your name.
  • You can cover business expenses during periods of low cash flow or finance a large purchase that will help you attract more customers and grow your revenue.
  • You can also use earn rewards on everyday expenses or earn points that you can put towards business travel – both of which can save your business money in the long run.
  • With timely payments, you can use a business credit card to build a credit history for your new business.
  • You can use credit card purchase and travel protections to insure purchases for your business.
  • Many business cards offer valuable perks for small business owners, such as airport lounge access, discounts on business purchases or credits toward commonly purchased items.
  • Credit cards can make expense tracking easier – many cards allow you and your employees to upload and track your receipts from your mobile phone and to download your expenses to Quickbooks and other accounting software.
  • You can automate repeating purchases, such as software licenses.

Cons

  • For financing a business, a small business loan might offer lower interest rates than a business credit card.
  • Likewise, using crowdfunding to get seed money (and customer buy-in) before launching a new product might be a better option than putting all your expenses on credit.
  • If the card requires a personal guarantee, your business credit card could affect your personal credit score.
  • Credit cards have high interest rates. Unless your business card comes with a 0 percent offer for new purchases, it can be very expensive to carry a balance on it.
  • Credit cards can foster sloppy financial habits if you’re not disciplined about paying off your balance each month.
  • Overall, since they’re usually linked to your personal credit history and charge high interest, credit cards can be a very risky means of funding a startup.

See related: Should you fund your startup business with a credit card?

Final thoughts

Getting a business credit card is an important part of growing a small business. For many small business owners, it’s one of the first big steps in separating your personal finances from your business finances. When it’s time to apply for a business card for your startup, think about which problems you’d like your business credit card to solve – and then look for cards that provide the solution you’re looking for. Think of it like writing a job description and finding the candidate that’s the best fit.

As your startup continues to grow, start thinking beyond business credit cards. The next step might be a small business loan, a crowdfunding project or a group of investors. Business credit cards are excellent tools to help you cover day-to-day expenses while earning rewards, but they aren’t the only way to finance a startup – and you’ll know when it’s time to start exploring other options.

Source: creditcards.com

5 Savvy Money Moves to Make This Year

A young couple sits in bed on a laptop discussing savvy money moves.

The following is a guest post from The Savvy Couple.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, money is a very important tool that can be used to better our lives.

So why don’t we take better care of managing it?

Luckily, there are some savvy money moves that you can make this year to improve your finances and feel more financial peace. This year can be a great one, and you can use your money to help make it happen.

We have narrowed down our top five money moves that you can make this year that will have a huge impact on your overall finance. The best part is they are not complicated and they won’t take a lot of time to implement. In fact, you can start to put them in place right after reading to the end of this article.

1. Create a Money Plan and Stick to it

It’s really important to create a plan, or budget, for your money. If you don’t, then you could find your money just escaping and not having a clue where it’s gone.

A lot of people think that a budget is strict, and something that you use for just your bills. But a good budget will be a plan for your money for the month and how it is going to be spent. Your budget should reflect the direction that you want your life to take.

It should enable you to spend more money on the things you love and cut wasteful spending on the things you don’t.

It doesn’t have to be super strict either—we advise “paying yourself first.” Meaning put your money where it’s most important first (investing, savings, fun money), and then using the rest of the money to pay your bills.

Think about what your goals are for your life and base your budget around that. You have a set amount of income, and you can decide where you want that money to go.

2. Cut Your Monthly Expenses

One step toward creating the money plan that you want can be cutting your monthly expenses. This doesn’t mean that you need to be drastic with the expenses that you are cutting out.

When it comes to creating your money plan, it’s important to look at what you are currently spending money on.

If you have never tracked your expenses before, you will likely be surprised to see where your money is going. We like to think that we have a good idea of what we are spending, but if you are not tracking your spending then you are most likely vastly underestimating your spending.

Go back through your spending and highlight any problem areas. The important thing here is to not beat yourself up for anything that you’ve spent.

When you have created the plan for your money, you may find that you have been spending on things that don’t fit in with that plan. These could be the ones that you choose to cut down on.

Cut down on your expenses slowly. Otherwise, you could find that it’s too much of a change and you want to go back to how you were spending before. Try picking one thing to cut down on, and do a bit of trial and error.

3. Stay Away from Debt

We’ve been talking about creating a money plan for your life, but there are some things that can throw your plan off track—debt being one of them.

Sometimes, debt is unavoidable. There are situations that we find ourselves in such as medical emergencies, car repairs, or any kind of emergency really!

The best thing to do is to prepare for these kinds of situations. We can’t fully plan, of course, but we can set aside some money to prepare. These are usually referred to as emergency funds. We recommend saving a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible, then slowing building that up to 3–6 months of living expenses after your debt is paid off.

Debt is so normalized in society, but debt doesn’t have to be! Making savvy money moves and trying to prepare for future emergencies will help tremendously in the long run.

4. Understand How Your Credit Score Works

Let’s be honest—a lot of us don’t pay much attention to our credit score. It’s one of those boring things that we don’t think about until we need it.

The last thing that you want to happen is to find that you need to take out credit but you can’t because of your credit score. Therefore, it’s a savvy money move to understand how your credit score works.

Credit scores are generally used by lenders when you want to take out a line of credit with them—for example, when you are getting a mortgage or car loan. If you have a high credit score then you will have access to better rates and terms for your loans.

Your credit score is largely determined by whether you pay your bills on time, as any missed payments will go against you. Your score is also determined by how much credit you have used compared to the amount that you have been lent.

It’s essential that you check your credit report as there can be errors on there which you can rectify—the sooner the better. The longer you wait to repair your credit, the harder it can become.

You can get your Experian VantageScore 3.0 for free from Credit.com when you sign up for the free Credit Report Card. And if you want more details on your credit score, sign up for ExtraCredit. You’ll get 28 FICO® scores and your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.

Try ExtraCredit Today

5. Start an Online Side Hustle

We are huge fans of starting side hustles because at the end of the day you can only cut your expenses so much. But your income has unlimited potential.

Side hustles are great because you can create an income stream for your goals, or even use it to leave your day job.

The benefit of starting an online side hustle is that there are so many possibilities, you pretty much only need to have access to the internet.

It’s worth brainstorming some side hustle ideas that you have an interest in doing. It’s also worth thinking about ideas that will be free or have a very low cost to start up. The last thing that you want to do is spend a lot of money on something that’s not going to take off.

You can determine how much time and effort you want to put into your side hustle—it doesn’t have to be a brand-new business, but can be getting an extra job or something small.

Some of our favorite side hustle ideas include:

  • Starting a blog
  • Proofreading
  • Facebook advertising for businesses
  • Teaching English online
  • Freelance writing

Savvy Money Moves throughout the Year

If you want to make some good money moves this year, this is a good place to start. These are some simple things that anyone can do to improve their finances greatly.

What are your best savvy money moves? Let us know in the comments!


Kelan and Brittany Kline are the creators and co-founders of The Savvy Couple. They write about personal finance, budgeting, making money online, entrepreneurship, and more.

The post 5 Savvy Money Moves to Make This Year appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How To Balance Working And Going To College

5 Tips For Working Students In CollegeMore and more are choosing to attend college and work at the same time.

Whether you are working a part-time or a full-time job, it can be tough to balance both. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both correctly, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

Related: 21 Ways You Can Learn How To Save Money In College

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to get around it and manage both successfully at the same time, though.

I took a full course load each and every semester, worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once or maybe you are choosing to multi-task and you are wanting to better manage your time.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for working college students. The tips below are what helped save me!

 

Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with minimal time wasted.

You can do this by researching into what classes are offered when and trying to eliminate any gap that may be in-between each class. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of time as well.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

 

Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate any time wasters including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can bulk make your meals instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and TV. The average person wastes many, many hours on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without you even realizing it.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money

 

Separate yourself from distractions.

Working college students experience a lot of distractions.

Noise in the background, such as with a TV that is on or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else.

Related: 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students

 

Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful for working students in college because you will know exactly what has to be done and by when. You will then have your responsibilities sitting there right in your face so that you will have to face reality.

Plus, I know that when I am stressed it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes I may waste debating about whether I forgot to do something.

 

Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future?

With the tips above for working students in college, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not?

 

The post How To Balance Working And Going To College appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Tips And Services To Help Your Bookkeeping Go Paperless

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a catalyst to shift businesses toward digital transformation, it merely sped up the process. Businesses needed to scramble to move much of their operations online so workers could efficiently collaborate with each other and maintain business continuity during a difficult time.

Fortunately, departments not traditionally associated with the digital universe, like Bookkeeping, had an easier time adapting thanks to online services like Bookstime.com, a provider of digital bookkeeping tools with unique experience in difficult areas like sales tax automation, health benefits administration, and more.

Advantages of digital bookkeeping

Keeping track of every business transaction is among the most important and perhaps underappreciated tasks. Failure to keep track of transactions in a professional manner can result in a business owner making wrong decisions because they have inaccurate information.

Even worse, they might think they end the year with a profit but in reality, a bunch of small bookkeeping mistakes over several months means the business owner really lost money.

A shift to a digital platform eliminates these concerns. Online digital platforms make use of the most up-to-date accounting automation software that erases nearly every careless mistake. This is especially useful for a business owner who does the tedious but necessary job of bookkeeping themselves to save money. The more time a business owner spends on ancillary tasks, the less time they have to generate revenue and keep clients happy.

Some of the other advantages associated with going online include:

  • Eliminating clutter: keeping a clean home office is challenging enough but a digital platform means more space for higher priority files.
  • Save time: A digital bookkeeping platform is always available online with a few short clicks of the mouse. It can be accessed as needed and when needed in a few short seconds.
  • Environmental benefits: It isn’t unusual for a company to use at least 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Shifting resources online may seem like a small benefit but everyone has a responsibility to do a little bit more to protect our environment.

Case in point: Fill in a W-4

Every business owner is happy to hire new workers because it means they are expected to provide value to the company above and beyond their salary. But that doesn’t mean that the formal process is enjoyable.

One of the more undesirable parts of the hiring process is the pesky W-4 form that every employer has to ensure is properly filled in before a worker’s first day. Simply put, the W-4 form confirms how much income tax a worker wants to have withheld from their recurring paychecks. Under-withholding taxes means a worker will likely experience a shock come tax season as they owe money to the government. Over-withholding taxes means a worker is paying the government too much money and has to wait for a refund.

Digital bookkeeping can help simplify this process so you're less prone to errors. When other people’s finances are at stake, small careless mistakes could impact a worker’s desire to give the business owner 100% of their focus.

Businesses that shifted their bookkeeping process online to better navigate through the pandemic quickly realized this was a move that should have been done years ago. The advantages of having access to a clean and organized online tool far outweigh the costs.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

10 Things to Know About Working in New York

10 Things to Know About Working in New York
Thinking about working in New York? There are some features of work life in the Big Apple that set it apart from the work culture in other cities. Is it true that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere? We’re not making any promises, but we can give you some tips about what working in New York is really like. 

Check out our 401(k) calculator. 

1. Salaries are high – but so is the cost of living.

For many fields, particularly those that require highly skilled workers, salaries in New York are higher than those in other cities. But before you get too excited about the fact that salaries in New York tend to be higher, keep in mind that the cost of living in New York is higher, too.

Luckily, there are plenty of financial experts around to help you figure out how to keep your finances in check. These are the top 10 New York financial advisor firms.

2. New Yorkers put in long hours.

New Yorkers tend to work longer hours than folks in other cities. In part, that’s because the workday itself is longer, but it’s also because New Yorkers tend to have long commutes. If you want to have plenty of free time to pursue side hustles or hobbies, working in New York might not be the best fit for you.

3. Commuting by public transit is the norm.

According to recent Census Bureau figures, 55.6% of New Yorkers take public transportation to work, 0.8% bike to work, 10.3% walk and 3.9% work at home. Hate crowds? Commuting by public transit could take some getting used to.

4. Office happy hour options are plentiful.

Working in New York means having a multitude of options for weekday lunches and office happy hours at your fingertips. Socializing with your coworkers after the end of a workday is easy with so many places to go and easy public transportation options to take you home at the end of the evening.

5. Being a working parent is expensive in New York.

10 Things to Know About Working in New York

New York has some of the highest childcare costs of any city in the nation. Being a working parent in New York is expensive – and it’s not easy, given the long hours New Yorkers put in. New York has a lower rate of working mothers than many other major U.S. cities, in part because the high price of childcare makes it hard for many New Yorkers to earn more than they would have to pay for childcare.

6. New York work culture takes some of its cues from Silicon Valley.

Some New York workplaces are taking their cues from the start-ups of Silicon Valley, implementing casual attire, flexible workdays and other features. In an effort to compete with companies in other cities, some New York companies are expanding the perks they offer their workers, so if you’re lucky enough to get a job in one of those companies, you’ll find that working in New York has its compensations.

7. Lots of New Yorkers have more than one job.

Whether they’re care workers who work double shifts or actors who tend bar on the side, many New Yorkers have more than one job. For some, having a second (or third) job is a matter of necessity, while for others it’s a way of advancing their career or expressing their artistic side. Plus, getting a second job (or a roommate) makes it easier to live the New York dream without going into debt.

8. There are professional support opportunities here.

Because it’s a huge, densely populated city, New York has professional support opportunities for those up and down the career ladder. You can get help finding a job or finishing your GED. You can also attend high-powered networking events and conferences. The important thing is to know what resources are out there and how to take advantage of them.

9. You can outsource a lot of tasks – if you have the money.

If it’s in your budget, you can outsource a lot of tasks that you don’t want to have to tackle during your non-working hours. That includes mailing packages, getting food, dropping off dry cleaning, completing home repairs and more. Of course, these services aren’t within reach of all New Yorkers, and many people like to do these basic “life admin” tasks themselves. But if you’re planning on diving into the workaholic lifestyle in New York and you think you’ll have some money to spare, there are lots of companies looking to make outsourcing chores easier for you.

10. It helps to know someone.

It helps to know someone when you’re looking for work in New York, if only to stand out from the pile of applications that so many New York jobs attract. That’s why it’s a good idea to build and maintain your network and put it to work for you when you’re looking for a new (or just better) job.

Bottom Line

10 Things to Know About Working in New York

Working in New York isn’t for everyone, but many find it to be an exciting challenge unlike what they would face elsewhere. For others, working in New York is more of a means to an end – living in New York. Wherever you stand, working in New York is made easier when you have a strong network and plenty of determination.

Tips for Maximizing Your Money

  • Come up with a budget – and stick to it. Instead of spending $5 a day on a latte, put that money in one of the best savings accounts where you can earn interest.
  • Work with a financial advisor. In addition to helping you craft a financial plan and identify your financial goals, a financial advisor can help you determine the right investments for your financial situation, time horizon and level of risk tolerance. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Tempura, ©iStock.com/NYCstocker, ©iStock.com/Pavlina2510  

The post 10 Things to Know About Working in New York appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com