Tag: Security

Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download]

Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and finding yourself vulnerable in a long-term crisis. From power failures to hurricanes, emergencies strike every day, often without warning. By the time they do, it’s too late to start planning.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for a future emergency. But it can be an involved process, and it’s easy to forget something. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an emergency preparedness checklist.

These recommendations will help you create your own family emergency plan, including a checklist of steps to take and supplies to pack in a disaster supplies kit in the event of an emergency.

Download our printable emergency preparedness checklist

This printable emergency preparedness checklist can help you take the steps needed for creating an emergency plan to keep yourself and your family safe and secure.

emergency preparedness checklist download buttonemergency preparedness checklist download button

1. Understand the risks for your area

Start getting prepared for emergencies specific to your location by assessing the risks of your particular location. Though there are basic requirements for preparedness, each type of natural disaster also requires its own specialized preparations.

For example, an ice storm might cause an extended power outage, so you may want to install a portable generator. In an earthquake or tornado, you’ll need to know how to find the safest place to shelter. (In both cases, stay away from windows, near the center of an inside room.)

And different regions are prone to different disasters: Texas has been hit by freezing weather, hurricanes, floods, hail and fires. In California, earthquakes and fires are common threats. Oklahoma is in “tornado alley,” and is often hit by ice storms.

Consult relief agencies in your area to get information about emergency alerts for the community, evacuation routes from the area and special assistance options for elderly people and those with disabilities. Ask at your workplace and your children’s schools or daycare to learn about each facility’s emergency plan.

Monitor weather and fire reports via NOAA weather radio. Download a reliable weather app, and sign up for emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts sent to your smartphone will signal you with a unique tone and vibration, then brief text messages explaining the type of alert and recommended action.

2. Write down emergency contact numbers

Important phone numbers should be available in multiple locations and formats. It’s a good idea to post them on the fridge — along with your home number and address for reference — as well as near any landline telephones. Also, program these numbers into the cellphones of every household member.

Choose a primary emergency contact and at least one secondary contact to call if your family gets separated. One should live out of state, and one should live locally. Tell your family members and loved ones which to call during each possible type of emergency. Remember that sometimes during a crisis, it’s easier to get through to out-of-state numbers than local ones.

It’s also a good idea to know which emergency management and response organizations you may be dealing with following a disaster, such as FEMA or the American Red Cross. Post these numbers, as well, and store them in your contacts.

Program emergency services numbers into your phone and put them near the top of your list, so you can find them right away. Hint: Most phones list contacts alphabetically, so you might want to list emergency contacts with “AA” or the number 1. Then write them on a small card to place in your wallet, in case you’re away from the list you’ve posted, your phone isn’t charged or your WiFi is down.

Here are some numbers you should include:

  • Fire / paramedics
  • Police
  • Local relief agencies
  • Area utilities
  • Work
  • School
  • Child care
  • Relatives
  • Poison control

3. Identify escape routes

Draw out the floor plan of your house and determine which escape routes would be safest for a quick getaway in each type of emergency. Escape routes also should be practical for pets, if you have any.

Post escape route plans in a central location in your house, preferably alongside the important contact numbers, and in each bedroom. Consider loading these directions into your smartphone, too.

It’s important to know when to get out and when to take cover where you are. Fires can occur in any climate and are the most common type of emergency that require escape or evacuation routes; if you’re indoors during a tornado or earthquake, you’re better off staying put.

Strategically store any equipment that could help you escape more quickly, such as collapsible ladders in upstairs rooms or window breakers for shatterproof glass. If your windows or doors have security bars, be sure they’re equipped with emergency releases so you can get out quickly if you need to.

And if you have pets, make pet carriers easily accessible so you can load them up quickly. (Herding cats is even more difficult in a crisis.)

emergencyemergency

4. Locate emergency meeting places

Designate two different locations where family members can gather to find each other after leaving your home. One should be directly outside the home in the event of a fire. Identify a location that’s a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s home, mailbox or nearby stop sign.

The other designated meeting place should be outside the neighborhood in case of an evacuation. In the event of a major disaster that requires an evacuation, tune in to local media and be on the lookout for alerts about where to find help at emergency shelters.

You might also designate an out-of-state meeting spot if it’s common for your whole area to be evacuated, as in hurricane season. Make sure your family members have these addresses and phone numbers among their emergency contacts.

Include all locations in your escape route plan, clearly marked on a map. Post the meeting plan alongside the important contact numbers and escape routes.

5. Practice escaping, responding and meeting with family

Discuss with household members what to do during a fire, storm, earthquake, etc. At least two people in your home should know how to shut off utilities and respond to power outages. At least two should be familiar with first aid procedures to address personal injuries.

Make sure your household takes time to review the escape routes and practice using them so your whole family will be ready in the event of an emergency. Hold periodic drills the way schools, businesses and other public facilities do, to be sure everyone can get out of the building. If you can, have your family meet up at the designated local emergency meeting spots.

6. Pack an emergency supplies kit

Have a go-bag or preparedness kit ready that includes family records and other important documents (stored in a safe portable container), along with survival essentials that you may need during an emergency. Refer to the emergency preparedness checklist below for supplies to include in your emergency kit.

“Go bag” supplies

“Go bags” are emergency kits that contain the essentials for people to stay safe and secure in a crisis. Most items listed will apply across the board. However, you can decide whether you need to pack other essentials that address special needs — for instance, specialized medical supplies, prescription medications, spare eyeglasses, personal hygiene items or pet food.

For more information, check with the U.S. government’s official emergency preparedness website, ready.gov.

Essential survival supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Sleeping bag/tent
  • Drinking water
  • Protein bars
  • Canned food
  • Manual can opener

Additional supplies

  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone charger
  • Credit cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Garbage bags
  • Insurance policies
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Contact information
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Face mask
  • Rain gear, if applicable

Tool kit supplies

  • Pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries]

Personal hygiene and health supplies

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine supplies
  • Extra change of clothing
  • Washcloths
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clean wipes or towelettes

Food and drink supplies

Plan on having a 3-day supply of non-perishable food in a waterproof container, plus a supply of water. Keep a gallon of water per day for each person for several days, to be used for drinking and sanitation. Pack as lightly as possible without leaving out essentials. Foods like protein bars are great space- and weight-savers.

  • Drinking water
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Vacuum-packed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Crackers
  • Protein bars

Stay safe with our emergency preparedness checklist

It can be a complicated process to create an emergency plan and assemble a kit of supplies for your family. But it’s an endeavor that’s worth every moment of effort when your preparations keep your family safe and secure during a disaster.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020

As the Bob Dylan song goes, the times, they are a-changin’, and that couldn’t be truer than for apartment living.

Renting used to be a lower rung on the ladder as you climb toward the American dream — owning a single-family home in the suburbs. But as homes increase in cost and competition, renting is on the rise.

According to Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies 2017 rental-market report, the number of high-income households (earning at least $100,000) renting their homes rose by 6 percent from 2005 to 2016. As a result of this increase, apartment complexes have added more amenities to appeal to the influx of renters. The same study found that in 2016, 89 percent of new apartments offered in-unit laundry and 86 percent provided swimming pool access.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Today’s apartment complexes are not what they used to be, and apartment living is significantly nicer and more desirable than it was just 10 years ago. Here’s what you can expect for modern apartment living in 2020.

1. High-end amenities

indoor pool

Forget the bare-bones coin-operated laundry room and trash dumpster in the back parking lot or basement. According to NMCH’s 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 83 percent of adult and millennial renters said it was important to have an apartment that offered convenience and flexibility. Additionally, fast internet access, technology, and green initiatives are now considered must-haves for modern apartments.

To keep up with the competitive rental market, apartment complexes are upping the ante when it comes to amenities. In-unit laundry and pool access are quickly becoming par for the course, while many luxury complexes offer trash collection and recycling programs, high-speed internet, fitness centers, eco-friendly rooftop gardens and communal spaces, such as BBQs and theater rooms. These amenities make it easier to enjoy life at home and to entertain friends and family, just as one would if they owned a single-family home.

2. Online communication with apartment management

Speaking of convenience, flexibility and technology, many modern apartment complexes simplify the tasks that were previously pain points of renting — namely, rent payments, maintenance requests and apartment management communication. A number of complexes are capitalizing on technology to streamline these tasks.

For example, rather than having to mail a check each month, platforms like RentPay allow renters to automate their rent payments and pay via credit card or electronic check. Even if a landlord doesn’t accept electronic payments, RentPay prints a physical check and mails it directly to the landlord each month.

Additionally, it’s becoming more common for larger apartment complexes to offer an online portal or website for easier communication with apartment management, from submitting maintenance requests and asking questions to renew leases and sign contracts. This saves renters significant time and money.

3. More emphasis on safety and security

keypad

In the past, one of the downsides of renting was security. With people constantly going in and out of the building or complex, it seemed as if anyone could walk in. With so many technology advances this past decade, in terms of access and price, it’s easier for complexes and renters to invest in security.

Many of today’s complexes offer gated access to the parking lot, codes for elevator access and security key fobs to all points of entrance. Some even offer enhanced security within the individual units, like video doorbells and camera security systems.

If your building doesn’t offer in-unit security features, there are multiple home security options available that are non-intrusive, as far as security deposits and installation are concerned. Simply plug in the device and monitor your apartment from your smartphone. Many systems are easy to pair with indoor security cameras and other alarms for additional safety.

4. Smaller space

While apartments are getting smaller in square footage due to space constraints and population growth, architects are getting smarter with layout designs to maximize every inch of a room. For instance, micro homes, the tiny house equivalent in apartment form, are as small as 350 square feet but make use of movable and folding furniture so it can serve as an entertaining space by day and bedroom by night.

Open floor plans are still popular and, while they can at first seem daunting to decorate, they offer the most options for room layouts. And thanks to more furniture companies starting to specialize in small home living, it’s much easier to find compact couches and dual-purpose furnishings that go beyond the futon.

Popular home stores like Pottery Barn, CB2 and IKEA offer couches, tables and other items designed specifically for small spaces. While it’s becoming harder to find spacious apartments, complexes are making up for it with communal spaces for entertaining.

Apartment living has changed for the better

If you’re looking for a place to call home, apartment living may be the perfect solution. The evolution of apartments in the past decade means they’re a favorable housing option for a variety of lifestyles — in both urban and suburban settings.

Lush amenities, online communication, security measures and optimized floorplans have helped renting become a more comparable alternative to buying. You can enjoy the in-unit laundry, entertainment amenities and peace of mind without worrying about the costs or inconvenience of maintenance tasks.

The post What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020 appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

What to Do About Bad Smells in the House

When you’ve found the perfect new home and are counting down the days until you can move in, nothing can put a damper on your spirits quite like bad smells in the house that just doesn’t seem to go away. Musty or stale smells, odors from previous smokers or pet owners, or even smells from fresh paint can be less-than-welcome and hard to get rid of.

While it might take a little elbow grease, there are several plans you can put into place to get your new home smelling a little fresher.

1. Start with a top-to-bottom deep clean

cleaning

While one can hope that the previous owners, previous tenants or landlord have already done a thorough move-out clean, it doesn’t hurt to go through the process once more to ensure nothing was left behind in the turnover process.

Wipe down surfaces, sweep and mop the floors and use your go-to cleaning products, so the scents left behind will be familiar to you. Perhaps the most important task: open up the windows, turn on any ceiling fans and let fresh air circulate throughout your new home. This will help eliminate any bad smell in the house.

2. Try to identify the cause of the odor

dirty dog

If the bad smell in your home still seems to be lingering a day or two after you’ve cleaned and aired out your new space, it’s time to get to the bottom of the issue. Depending on the source, your cleaning techniques will be different.

Pet odors

Odors left behind by pets can be notoriously strong and difficult to get rid of — especially if your home has carpet. Try to identify specific areas where pet urine may have left stains — a blacklight can help you here as it will illuminate any areas containing urine.

You can try techniques like baking soda or an enzyme-based carpet cleaner to spot treat the area and neutralize lingering odors. Spot test any cleaning products first or your security deposit could be at risk if you cause further damage to the flooring.

Food odors

If strong food or spice smells are still present after your general cleaning, focus your attention on the kitchen and deep clean areas like vents, fans, oven, refrigerator, etc. Examine sinks and garbage disposals to see if they might be the source of bad smells. Consider asking your landlord to repaint any walls located close to the oven, refrigerator, sink or microwave.

Smoke odors

Cigarette smoke is one of the most potent odors and hardest to remove, which is why most landlords and property managers prohibit smoking of any kind indoors. Very strong remaining odors can even lead to thirdhand smoke damage to new occupants.

To truly tackle cigarette smoke odors, removable items like blinds, carpet and draperies will need replacing, which is something you should discuss with your landlord.

Mold odors

Odors from mold or moisture damage are not only unpleasant, but they can also impact your health. Mold typically grows in parts of the home that are prone to moisture or ventilation issues — like the bathroom or basement — but can grow almost anywhere including on wood, carpet, food and fabric.

For areas with light mold like the shower, use bleach to effectively remove the mold. For larger mold issues, contact your property manager as a few states have laws in place defining landlord responsibility regarding mold maintenance.

3. Consult with your property owner

man on the phone talking about bad smells in the home

If you’ve done your own deep cleaning, tried to address the issue at the source and still can’t seem to shake the bad smell in your home, it’s time to consult with your landlord to see how the two of you can address the situation together. In some cases, foul odors can be a sign of a larger issue that is beyond renter control.

Stubborn odors from a previous pet or smoke damage may require a cleaning crew or maintenance crew to replace items like blinds and filters. If your home contains a substantial amount of carpet, ask to have the carpets professionally cleaned if they weren’t already before you moved in.

You may run into issues concerning financial responsibility, as foul odors from food or unhygienic previous tenants are not typically a health risk (though odors from cigarette smoke or pets may be, depending on individual situations). Your landlord may ask you to split the costs or cover costs of additional cleaning if you are unhappy with the living situation, but it is always worth bringing it to their attention early on to see what the two of you can work out.

Eliminate bad smells in your house

Even though they are a pain to deal with, most unpleasant smells in the home can be handled if you are persistent and try various tried-and-true methods to eliminate them.

The post What to Do About Bad Smells in the House appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What You Need to Know About the New Apple Credit Card

Man in light green shirt shopping on a tablet with his apple credit card

UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned here.

The Apple credit card launches this summer, and it pairs the high-tech, app-based culture of the brand with some favorite credit card user perks. Before you join the flock likely to flood Apple with credit card applications, do your homework to make sure this card will meet your needs. Check out the details about the Apple credit card below, as well as some alternative credit cards you might apply for.

What’s the Apple Credit Card?

The Apple credit card is a payment card offered by Apple and issued by Goldman Sachs. Despite the Apple name on the card, whether or not a consumer is approved and the day-to-day financial management of accounts is handled by Goldman Sachs.

The design of the card and all its cash-back credit card perks, however, are courtesy of Apple and include:

  • Integration with Apple Pay and Apple Wallet
  • Integration with your iPhone or another iOS mobile device to support phone-based payments and access to accounts
  • Apple’s customary security and privacy levels
  • Cash back offers that are especially useful to Apple fans

Basic facts to know about the new Apple credit card include:

  • It comes with a 49% to 23.49% variable APR (as of 12/19/2019) depending on your creditworthiness.
  • You earn 1 to 3% cash back on purchases.
  • The Apple credit card doesn’t come with any fees—that includes no annual fee, late payment fees, foreign transaction fee and over-limit fees.
  • Though you do receive a physical card whose number you can use in Google Wallet, the Apple credit card also comes as a virtual card number designed to live in your Apple Wallet.

The wide range APRs suggest so some that the card may be available to people with a fair credit score.1 No one will know until the card actually launches though.

Benefits and Perks of the Apple Credit Card

While interest rates and credit limits are important, most consumers also choose a card based on the perks its rewards program affords them. Intelligent use of perk-related cards, such as travel rewards cards, can help you save money or earn extra pennies on cash you already plan to spend. Here’s a look at how Apple credit card perks stack up for users.

Expense and Spending Organization in One Place

Apple is making a big deal out of the user experience element of this credit card, which involves heavy integration with iPhones. The card itself is housed in the Apple Wallet app on your iOS device. Since you can only use the digital version of the card where Apple Pay is accepted, you also get a unique physical card that’s as sleek and high-tech as any Apple device.

The card’s digital component offers specific benefits:

  • You can apply for the card and, if approved, it’s immediately in your Wallet app. You can start using it the same day without waiting for a card to arrive in the mail.
  • Without using a physical card, you don’t have a card number or other elements that can be stolen, which increases the security of your account.

Apple also provides an app that lets you manage your spending and account in a single location. You can view charges based on a map to figure out where money was spent, get a color-coded breakdown of your expenses to help you budget and view visual and numeric information about how various payment amounts impact the total owed. Log in to the app when you’re ready to make a payment on your account, and you’re also provided with estimates on how much interest you’ll be charged and can see how much interest you’ll pay if you pay your card off sooner than later and vice versa.

Cash Back and Daily Cash Back with Some Purchases

The card gives account holders the chance to earn cash-back rewards too. And you get even more cash back rewards when you spend with Apple.

  • You get 3% cash back on all purchases from Apple. That includes purchases at apple.com, Apple stores, iTunes and the Apple app store. You earn cash back on the game, app and in-app purchases, including music, storage plans and books.
  • You get 2% cash back on anything else you purchase and pay with using Apple Pay.
  • If you have to break out the physical Apple Card to make a payment, you still earn 1% cash back.

Cash back is always a great perk for a credit card, but it’s especially nice when the card doesn’t have an annual fee. The Apple credit card makes cash back even more of a perk by awarding it to you the day after you spend rather than waiting for the statement cycle to close.

To make use of cash back the next day, you do have to have an Apple Cash card, which is how Apple transmits rewards to you. If you don’t have an Apple Cash card, then the cash back rewards are applied as a statement credit on your Apple credit card account.

Who Benefits Most from This Credit Card?

Because of its heavy integration with iOS technology and the Apple Wallet, the Apple credit card is more likely to be useful to Apple customers. Individuals who carry Android or other devices won’t be able to access many of the features available with this card. And if you’re not shopping with Apple or using Apple Pay, you miss the top tier cash-back rewards.

You might benefit from this card if:

  • You have an iPhone, especially if you’re prone to or like the idea of handling your finances via a single app on your device.
  • You’re an avid user of Apple technology and have already adopted Apple Pay and Apple Wallet.
  • You make a lot of purchases at Apple’s stores or using Apple subscriptions or the Apple app stores.

Alternatives to the Apple Credit Card

The Apple credit card is obviously not right for everyone. If you don’t have an iPhone, prefer Android or aren’t interested in using any or much technology for your financial management, you may want to opt for a different kind of credit card account.

For those who don’t fit the target audience for the Apple credit card, plenty of other rewards cards are available. Here are a few you might consider.

  • The Chase Freedom® Unlimited card comes with 3% cash back on your first $20,000 in purchases your first year as a cardholder. After that, you can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase.The extra cash back your first year makes this card ideal in order to maximize your rewards. And the 1.5% after that is nothing is nothing to sneeze at.
  • The American Express® Gold card, which does require decent credit but offers some spectacular perks for those who love a fine dining experience or are always chasing the next fun foodie adventure. This card is also known as a great travel rewards card.
  • The Capital One® Quicksilver® card, which offers unlimited 1.5% cash back without limits. That makes this card an ideal daily swiper. And an APR of 0% intro on purchases for 15 months lets you double your rewards by making a large purchase and paying it off without interest in the first year or so.
  • The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards is a rewards card option for people with bad, poor or fair credit. It lets cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase (some terms apply).

Apple isn’t the only—or first—company to enter the market of branded credit cards. If you like the idea of rewards that are brand-based, but you don’t use an iPhone or spend a lot at the Apple store, consider some of the options below.

  • The Montgomery Ward credit card that lets you buy now and pay later for hundreds of brands at Montgomery Ward.
  • The Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® card that lets you earn rewards to use for free groceries and to save on gas.
  • The Official NASCAR® Credit card from Credit One Bank® that pays you double cash back on items purchased from the NASCAR.com Superstore (terms apply) and 1% cashback on all other purchases too.

Ultimately, there’s a credit card option for almost any spending or financial goal. Browse the selection of offers on Credit.com to find a card that works for your needs and preferences, including:

  • Cards for building or repairing credit, which usually start with lower limits that grow as you handle the account responsibly.
  • Balance transfer cards, which let you move balances from higher-interest accounts and pay them down faster to save money.
  • Rewards cards, which let you earn money on expenses you would be paying anyway, including travel, utilities, food and clothing.
  • Cards with no annual fee that let you avoid paying the card issuer to use your credit card.

Whether or not you’re approved for the Apple credit card or any of these other card offers depends on your creditworthiness. Review the information about each credit card carefully, ensuring you understand the offers, fees and rewards structures. Then, check your credit score—for free—and apply for a credit card on Credit.com.

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/26/apple-credit-card-read-the-fine-print.html

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post What You Need to Know About the New Apple Credit Card appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re looking to repair your credit, you may have come across websites that advertise a credit privacy number, credit protection number or CPN. These numbers are nine digits like a Social Security number (SSN), and sellers claim that you can use them instead of your SSN. However, these CPNs are often actual SSNs lifted from real people, reportedly children, prison inmates and the deceased – and you can never legally buy a new SSN. In other words, a CPN is no solution to your credit rating problem. Under no circumstances should you try to buy a CPN.

Why a CPN is No Credit Fix

Websites have sprung up all over the internet, offering CPNs to people with bad credit or low credit scores. They advertise that this number can serve as a “get out of jail free” card for your bad credit. In theory, you can use a CPN instead of your SSN on credit applications to hide the poor credit associated with your personal SSN. If you have bad credit but still need a credit card or loan, this can seem like the solution, assuming you can pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

That price might seem worth it for a chance to wipe the slate clean. However, these offers are essentially a big scam. The CPNs you can buy online are not legally assigned credit protection numbers. Instead, they are usually stolen Social Security numbers, taken from children, the deceased or inmates.

Also, using a purchased CPN puts you in some hot water, too. Credit agencies can easily spot discrepancies if you try to use a CPN on an application instead of your SSN. Not only will this fail to help your credit, but it’s also committing fraud which is punishable by jail time.

How to Avoid CPN Scams 

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re dealing with some bad credit, don’t turn to a CPN. Only scammers sell CPNs, and they in turn may cheat you out of your personal information as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a purchased CPN can also put you in jail, even if you didn’t know the number was fraudulent. This is why it’s important to be aware of this popular scam.

If you really need a CPN or new SSN, it will be free. The process will go through the Social Security Administration Office, since a new number would be tied to your old SSN. That said, it is very hard to qualify to receive a new number. Having bad credit is never a qualifying reason.

How to Get a Legal CPN

With so many fraudulent websites and companies trying to sell you a way to reset your credit, it’s hard to know how to get a legal CPN. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some experts say that you can speak with an attorney to obtain a legal CPN. The attorney can then contact the Social Security Administration Office on your behalf. However, others maintain that all CPNs are illegal.

Generally, it seems that you cannot get a legal CPN unless you actually need one. These situations include celebrities, government officials and people under witness protection. You can also apply in other specific instances, like if you’re a victim of abuse, stalking or identity theft. A real CPN would be attached to your SSN, so it’s still not an escape from the credit tied to your SSN.

You may also stumble upon offers to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. The IRS does issue EINs, but only businesses can use them for business costs. This means that you cannot legally obtain an EIN as an individual looking to improve your credit. You also cannot make up a home business, apply for an EIN and use that new number for a credit reset. It is a federal crime to obtain an EIN under false pretenses. In any case, the credit profile for your EIN is still tied to your SSN.

Bottom Line

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

You shouldn’t ever, under any circumstances, try to purchase a CPN. These offers are fraudulent and don’t provide any credit repair or relief. At the very least, buying a CPN wastes money you should put towards repaying your loans in the first place. At worst, you could go to jail for fraud. There are better, more constructive ways to repair your credit. If you’re truly in a situation that calls for a CPN, contact your lawyer for assistance.

Tips on Rebuilding Your Credit 

  • Of course, the best way to legally clean up your credit is to pay back your debts and improve your credit practices. A good place to start is to pay off your credit card debt with the highest interest.
  • Sometimes you’ll just have to wait for your bad history to fall off your record. Generally, negative info stays on your credit report for seven years. If you can’t get a debt collection removed from your credit report, for example, it’ll stay there for seven years. However, as time goes on, the toll it takes on your report lessens.
  • Don’t go it alone. If you have a good income, but you’re just bad at managing your money, a financial advisor can help. With guidance, you can make smarter choices – and even start growing your wealth. To find an advisor, use our free, no-obligation matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/becon, Â©iStock.com/Xesai, Â©iStock.com/Kerkez

The post Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

5 Tips for Building a Side Business

You’ve probably noticed that people are embracing entrepreneurship like never before. Due to the widespread availability of technological business tools, there’s never been a better time to become your own boss. With an internet connection and a smart-phone or laptop, you can work from just about anywhere on the planet.

If you’ve been dreaming of quitting your day job to start a business, you might be wondering if taking such a big leap is worth it.

While there’s nothing wrong with holding down a W-2 job and getting a steady paycheck, having income from your own business comes with many upsides. But if you’ve been dreaming of quitting your day job to start a business, you might be wondering if taking such a big leap is worth it.

The good news is that there are incremental ways to become self-employed that are stable and reduce your risk, instead of plunging abruptly into a precarious financial position. In this chapter excerpt from Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers, you’ll learn practical strategies for building a solo business while keeping the security of a regular job.

Tips for building a business on the side

Becoming your own boss may seem glamorous from the outside, but it can have stressful pitfalls, such as little pay, no insurance benefits, and unpredictable clients. However, you can avoid or minimize some of the downsides by maintaining a reliable day job while you grow your solo business.

Having the security of a job and the excitement of becoming a solopreneur gives you lots of upside with much less risk. A steady paycheck may give you the confidence you need to take business risks—such as buying more advertising, equipment, or software—that will make your venture more profitable.

Having the security of a job and the excitement of becoming a solopreneur gives you lots of upside with much less risk.

Aside from maintaining a reliable income stream, being both an employee and an entrepreneur can make you a better worker. In my experience, growing a side business also builds skills and experiences that make you more effective at your regular job. You may even find your side hustle revives an appreciation for your day job. There’s a lot to like about having a salary, benefits, and other perks, after all.

Whether you decide to be both an employee and your own boss for weeks or years, it will take some juggling to manage successfully. Here are five tips to face your career fears responsibly and prepare for the future by adding entrepreneurship to your resume on the side.

Define your vision for success

Before changing your job or making the transition from employee to self-employed solopreneur, take the time to define what you truly want to achieve in your career. Sometimes your ideas about success come from other people, and they can cause you to follow a career path that never truly fulfills you.

Maybe your boss thinks you should regularly work late so you can climb the corporate ladder, or a parent says you should go to graduate school. You might take a lucrative job in a field you’re not crazy about because that’s what your friends are doing. But if that job requires frequent travel when all you truly want is to start a family, care for aging parents, or spend time enjoying where you live, you’ll never be happy.

Never let external markers of success, such as a big paycheck or a fancy job title, become more important than your heartfelt calling and goals for your life.

If you don’t pause periodically to reflect on what success means to you, it becomes easier to follow other people’s priorities when it comes to your work. If your decisions aren’t purposefully leading you toward a life that excites you, you’ll likely wander away from what you genuinely want.

Never let external markers of success, such as a big paycheck or a fancy job title, become more important than your heartfelt calling and goals for your life.

That said, getting in touch with your real desires isn’t always easy, and you might have to listen carefully to hear your inner voice. Try incorporating some quiet time into your daily routine. When you first wake up or when you’re settling down at bedtime, think about what you’re grateful for—but also what you’d like your life to be. Consider your definition of success and any changes you’d like to make to your life in the near and distant future.

Ask yourself the following questions to better understand your values and get clarity on your unique vision for success:

  • What type of work makes me happiest? 
  • Where do I want to live? 
  • What types of people do I want in my work life?
  • What does a good life mean to me?

This exercise isn’t something you do once to figure out the arc of your entire life. You need to come back to these fundamental questions during different seasons of your life and career, because the answers may change, sometimes repeatedly.

Over time, your working life is sure to change, in both good and bad ways. When you find yourself getting restless or feeling like you want more from your job, slow down and become more introspective. It can reveal a lot about what your next career or business move should be.

RELATED: How to Create Your Own Self-Employed Benefits Package 

Create a side gig

Even when you’re clear about what you want, one of the fastest ways to ruin your financial future is to take a flying leap from a steady paycheck. Jumping from a day job into an uncertain, full-time venture too early could mean trouble. You might face significant financial struggles and even get into debt. Many businesses take years of hard work before they’re profitable enough to support you.

If you slowly add entrepreneurial experience to your career, you’re likely to gain a variety of skills that will make you more valuable to employers.

Hanging on to your day job gives you the financial security you need to try out new business ideas, especially if you have a spouse, partner, or kids who depend on your income.

The best side gigs combine work that you’re excited about with something that you’re uniquely positioned to provide. These businesses may also come with a large existing customer base or appeal to customers who are willing to pay you well for the skills and experience you offer.

I was a part-time entrepreneur for a decade before I said goodbye to my employer. I enjoyed having a mix of job stability and entrepreneurial upside. Plus, I found that expanding my career by adding self-employment to a W-2 job made me much better at both.

If you slowly add entrepreneurial experience to your career, you’re likely to gain a variety of skills that will make you more valuable to employers. It may be easier to experiment with business-formation ideas when you have less financial stress or know a side gig could actually complement your existing career.

The bottom line is that creating a business on the side protects your income, diversifies your network, and improves your skills, instead of leaving you financially vulnerable. If you enjoy your entrepreneurial work and find that it pairs well with your day job, the benefits and personal growth can really pay off.

Negotiate your job flexibility

If you plan to start a business on the side, or you already have, you know you’ll be working more, perhaps a lot more. You might need to work early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends to fit it all in. That could stress your relationships or cause you to burn out if you don’t take some precautions.

Consider some different ways that you can tailor your business for your day job, and vice versa.

Once you’re confident about your business idea or begin seeing increasing revenues, you may find that you need more flexibility in your schedule. At that point, consider some different ways that you can tailor your business for your day job, and vice versa.

In 2008, my employer began feeling the financial pinch of the Great Recession. My podcasting and blogging career had started to take off by that point, so instead of allowing my position to get downsized, I proposed a solution that my boss liked. I’d work four days a week for a couple of months and then go down to three days a week for the rest of the year. Then we’d reevaluate where the company stood and discuss whether he could still afford to keep me on as an employee.

My employer would save money by paying me less, and I’d have more time to work on creating content, partnering with brands, and writing my first book, while still having a regular paycheck coming in. If I hadn’t suggested that solution, my company wouldn’t have known that I was willing to cut my hours. I didn’t offer to tell my boss what my plans were for my newfound free time, and he didn’t ask.

You may be able to negotiate with your employer for more schedule flexibility.

You too may be able to negotiate with your employer for more flexibility. You might ask to work fewer hours, to maintain the same total number of hours but work fewer days per week, or to work from home a day or two each week.

If you have a long commute or spend a significant amount of time getting ready, packing a lunch, and getting out the door in the morning, working remotely could save a lot more time than you think. Then you can invest that saved time in your side business.

Find more time in your day

If you can’t get more flexibility or you worry that even asking for it could put your day job in jeopardy, there are other options. One is to structure non-negotiable time for your business into your day. For instance, make a rule that you’ll step away from your desk for a solid hour (or longer if possible) during lunch to accomplish something meaningful for your business.

Find a nearby cafe or reserve a conference room in your office where you can work and eat undisturbed. I did that for many years, and it’s incredible how much you can accomplish in 45 minutes if you truly focus. If you can’t find enough quiet or privacy in your office, you could even work in your car.

It’s incredible how much you can accomplish in 45 minutes if you truly focus.

If working on your business during your lunch hour isn’t possible with your day job, consider coming to the office an hour earlier or staying later. You could also work on your business in a nearby coffee shop or a co-working space (where drop-in memberships can often be had for the same price as joining a gym) before or after your job. The idea is to create a routine that builds in regular time to focus entirely on your venture and to complete essential tasks.

Another option is to outsource a portion of your work. If you can afford to delegate tasks to freelancers, that can help you balance your to-do lists.

When your day job is so unpredictable that it prevents you from working on your side gig for long periods, consider getting a different job with a more reliable schedule. If you’re truly committed to getting your business off the ground, you may need a position with more flexibility so you can do both more easily.

Have a solid exit strategy

Having an exit strategy is a common concept in the business world. Partners and investors want to know what will happen after clearly defined milestones are reached, such as taking a company public or selling it after a certain profit margin is achieved.

But employees should create exit strategies, too. It’s a great way to force yourself to think about the future and what you would or should do next. With a W-2 job, you never know what’s around the corner.

It’s wise to start every professional relationship with an idea of how it could end.

Your company could suddenly downsize after a merger or an unexpected loss of market share. Your department could be reorganized after new leadership begins. All these scenarios have happened to me at some point in my career.

It’s wise to start every professional relationship with an idea of how it could end. This ensures that you’re never caught entirely off-guard. Knowing that you’ve thought about the end of a job or a business partnership can make you feel more secure about a potential split.

If you’re unprepared for an interruption in work or business income, it can be devastating to your emotional and financial life. So whether you’re laid off or you voluntarily quit, prepare for it now.

If you have a financial runway to find new opportunities or you’ve built an income from a side business, quitting or getting fired can be a positive experience. Having a good exit strategy can make the difference between feeling crushed by a job loss or becoming empowered by it.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Gratitude in a Difficult Year

This year took so many twists and turns we haven’t been able to keep count– often leaving us in complete overwhelm with a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Grief, anxiety, and sheer disappointment are just a handful that comes to mind when we reflect on the endless amount of curveballs life has thrown over the past year. Tragedy and loss plagued the entire world, leaving us speechless day after day. Despite the darkness that loomed for what seems like an eternity there has been an outpour of positives that we can’t forget to remember. As 2020 quickly comes to a close, let’s take the time to decompress and reflect on the happier moments we were lucky enough to live through and witness. Even though Thanksgiving may look less traditional than previous years, we still can readily name some things that shift our hearts to a place of gratitude.

Family first

Let’s face it – the hustle and bustle of life impact our family and friends more than we’d like to admit. Competing schedules, conflicts, and not making enough time for those that matter are often reasons why we are unable to nurture the people we hold near and dear. Because of restrictions on travel and other entertainment, we were forced to become more creative with our time indoors; in turn, helping us to restore the meaning of family and work-life balance. Quite frankly, it allowed us to hit the pause button on everything that probably was unintentionally too high on the priority list in the past. Our families served as the safety net it’s supposed to be when the weight of the world (and social media) became overbearing with less than desirable news. We utilized technology to a new degree when scheduling virtual happy hours, catch up sessions with our loved ones, and birthday celebrations in other geographic areas. It made us truly appreciate the very thing we took for granted; all the people that make up our family tribe.  

Curating and developing passions

2020 generated a newfound level of introspection, leaving our minds to really consider what it is that we really cherish the most. Whether it be career-related or new passion projects, this year made room for some much-needed self-reflection, making us reassess where our fulfillment really comes from. Leveraging books, social media outlets, and various streams of consuming knowledge-based information sent us on a path of rediscovery. Remember that ‘other’ to-do list that’s filled with the things you really don’t want to do around the house? It even made that list appear fun-filled! Home improvement projects and DIY tasks were done with enjoyment while being budget-friendly. Adulthood can be full of things that aren’t as exciting, but mustering up the courage to take ideas from ideation to execution served as a second wind. New business ventures and side hustles were birthed with unmatched creativity, a place many of us haven’t been in quite some time. Existing businesses were able to thrive despite the unprecedented events occurring nationally. Funding was also provided to various business owners which granted many small businesses to increase their visibility while positively generating profit. 

The importance of sustainment

There are a countless number of families that were impacted by job loss and/or unexpected expenses. It doesn’t matter if things started off rocky financially – what matters most is you’re still standing. Getting caught up on bills, eliminating some debt and saving are all things to be very proud of. Temporary hardships don’t have to turn into permanent problems. Creating a plan of action and sticking to it no matter what arises will always be rewarding. Celebrating the small wins should never be overlooked. We’ve all handled this year in different ways – but what’s most important is discovering what works for you. Rule of thumb for those that are battling with the ‘not enough’ emotions: don’t believe the hype. While there is a multitude of people accomplishing great things, there are also many imposters. Social media is a highlight reel, a virtual platform where people can share whatever information they choose, at their discretion. People are more likely to share their highs versus their lows, so be sure to keep in mind you may only be getting a small piece of the overall story. Don’t look at someone else’s life and fail to recognize what you’ve done on your own. Financial progress, no matter how insignificant you may think it is – is still progress. We all make financial missteps and life has a way of making things very difficult that hit us where it really hurts. Keeping your head above water, remaining afloat, maintaining your health, and providing for your family should never be considered a small feat. Grant yourself some grace and reflect on the dedication it took for you to get (and stay) where you currently are.

Back to the basics

This year forced us to really hone in on what matters and prioritize accordingly. This applies to our lives, but most importantly our finances. Pulling back the curtain to really take a look and evaluate where money was going served as a constant reminder that we should be doing this more than the occasional once or twice a year. It’s never too late (or too early) to create new money habits! Financial stability is essential – and maybe the cushion we imagined should be enough proved itself to be untrue. Our willingness to make changes at a faster rate to ensure the financial security of our families felt less painful and so much more intentional. The uncertainty of everything occurring allowed us to complain less while redefining comfort levels with our contingency plans.

No matter what has transpired this year, what are you most thankful for? As things come to mind be sure to jot them down. Reference them when your days seem laborious or when your feelings try to force you to reflect on things that aren’t as positive. It’s clear we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know (and have been reintroduced) to the moments, things, and people that continually keep us hopeful and thankful – no matter what lies ahead.

The post Gratitude in a Difficult Year appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com