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

6 Cheap Super Bowl Snacks to Serve With the Big Game

Everyone knows that Super Bowl time is snack time.

But this year, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, you may be staying home to watch the game rather than heading to a big bash or going to a bar or restaurant and plunking down big bucks.

However you decide to watch the game, you can still enjoy some classic Super Bowl snacks.

6 Cheap Super Bowl Snacks to Enjoy With the Big Game

1. Chex Party Mix

Everyone loves this crunchy, salty snack. While there are thousands of different ways to make it, this time-tested recipe from The Spruce Eats is super easy and will appeal to the garlic lovers in your crowd.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 60 minutes

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 2 cups wheat Chex cereal
  • 1 ½ cups mixed nuts
  • 1 cup small pretzels
  • 1 cup garlic-flavored bagel chips
  • 1 cup mini pretzel rods

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Melt the butter in a large pan and stir in Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic salt and onion powder. Add everything else and toss thoroughly until well-coated. Bake for one hour, stirring the batch every 15 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

2. Honey Garlic Crockpot Meatballs

For a hearty main course, this incredibly easy meatball recipe from Family Fresh Meals will keep your crew happy. Serve them over noodles or rice for a main dish, or just let people enjoy them as an appetizer.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 4 hours

You’ll need:

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 (28 oz) bag fully cooked, frozen meatballs

Mix together the brown sugar, honey, ketchup, soy sauce and garlic. Next, place the meatballs in a three- or four-quart crockpot and cover in sauce, tossing to coat. Turn the crockpot on low for four hours and stir occasionally.

3. Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Enjoy the diner classic at home with The Spruce Eats recipe for baked mozzarella sticks.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 sticks of low-moisture, part skim milk mozzarella string cheese (cut in half crosswise and frozen for 3-4 hours)
  • Grapeseed oil for frying
  • Marinara or other sauce for dipping

Add grapeseed oil to a skillet, and then mix the flours, parmesan, garlic powder, salt and black pepper in a shallow dish. Beat the eggs and add them to a separate dish. Coat the cheese, alternating between the dry mixture and the egg. Make sure to cover the entirety of the cheese pieces, including the ends.

Next, heat the oil in the pan to 360 degrees and then drop the frozen cheese into it. Turn them every 20 to 30 seconds until they are a golden brown color. Place the cheese on paper towels to absorb the excess oil, and then transfer them to a platter for serving.

4. Pigs in a Blanket

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Go with the classic childhood favorite: buttery dough enveloping tasty mini-sausages. Pillsbury has a great recipe for pigs in a blanket. 

You’ll need:

  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 48 cocktail-sized smoked linked sausages

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unroll all the dough and pull into 16 triangles. Cut each triangle into three narrow triangles. Roll a sausage link up in each triangle of dough. Place them on unlined baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown, rotating halfway through. Serve warm.

5. Crockpot Beer Cheese Dip

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

This snack from The Spruce Eats just may be the most indulgent one on this list. Have it with pretzels or tortilla chips — or even try something fancier like apples and vegetables.

  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 pound processed cheese spread loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • You’ll also need food to dip into it; The Spruce Eats suggests not only tortilla chips and hard and soft pretzels but also apples, crackers, bread cubes and assorted vegetables.

Combine the beer, Tabasco sauce and processed cheese spread in a slow cooker. Add more Tabasco sauce if you prefer a spicier treat. Cover and cook on high for 40 minutes. Once the cheese has melted, stir it to make it smooth. Keep it in the slow cooker on low and serve with the dippers.

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6. Restaurant-Style Buffalo Chicken Wings

It really is possible to enjoy restaurant-style buffalo chicken wings at home. This recipe from AllRecipes takes more time than others on the list, but that’s only because you need to chill the chicken before cooking it.

Prep time: 60-90 minutes (includes time to chill ingredients before cooking)

Cook time: 15 minutes

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 chicken wings
  • oil for deep frying
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup hot sauce
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • 1 dash garlic powder

Mix flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl. Put the chicken wings in a nonporous glass dish or bowl and then sprinkle the flour mixture on top, evenly coating the wings. Cover the dish and refrigerate it for 60-90 minutes.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Mix butter, hot sauce, pepper and garlic butter in a small saucepan and then put it over low heat. Stir until the butter melts and blend the mixture thoroughly. Then remove it from the heat.

Remove the wings from the refrigerator and fry them in the hot oil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the heat, put them in a serving bowl, add the hot sauce mixture and stir before serving.

Kristen Pope is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Editor Sushil Cheema contributed to this post.

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

By: Sirenbliss

Horrible experience with a radio station. I owed a 100 dollar bill, and got overwhelmed financially. I am not sure how to handle them now because — the debt, a year old now — is trying to be recovered by someone at the radio station who is calling associates of mine trying to find my name and number … people have been contacting me telling me the collector verbally stated that I owe them money and are trying to collect. Anyway — I am exhausted. Because its a business debt its not protected under the FDCPA. Does anyone know what other protections might be available to me legally? I am contacting an attorney to have them write a cease and desist letter for defamation. Thanks … any thoughts would be appreciated

Source: credit.com

Fall in Love with Your Credit Score

Close up image of pink, white, and red felt hearts

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you’re probably thinking about your plans for the big day. Whether you’re celebrating with your significant other or friends, love is definitely in the air. But do you feel that love for your credit score? That’s right—it’s time for you to fall in love with your credit score. And we’re here to help. 

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a single number that reflects the overall state of your credit history. It’s used by lenders to determine your eligibility for a loan. The score is calculated and reported by the three major credit bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Every bureau calculates its own score, so you can have a different score with each agency.

What’s an Excellent Credit Score?

Credit scores are broken into ranges. Scores in higher ranges are considered good or excellent. People with these higher scores can typically get approved for more loan options and may get better terms, interest rates, APRs, etc.

How credit scores are broken up depends on which model is used. Firstly, there’s FICO. This credit score range was developed by FICO, a company that specializes in predictive analytics. FICO uses your credit information to create your credit score, which will help lenders predict your behavior. Here’s the FICO score range:

  • 800 to 850: excellent
  • 740 to 799: very good
  • 670 to 739: good
  • 580 to 669: fair
  • 300 to 579: very poor

Then there’s VantageScore, which is a result of a joint venture from the three major credit bureaus. Here’s the VantageScore credit score range:

  • 750 to 850: excellent
  • 700 to 749: good
  • 650 to 699: fair
  • 600 to 649: poor
  • 300 to 599: bad

Don’t forget that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each have their own credit score. That’s why it’s important to check them out whenever you can! 

How to Feel the Love for Your Credit Score

You wouldn’t settle for a mediocre date, so why settle for a mediocre credit score? If you’re ready to fall head over heels for your score, it might be time to improve your credit. We’ve got some tips on how to love your credit score the right way—by treating it right. 

1. Educate Yourself About Credit

You know how people like to say “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”? That definitely doesn’t apply to your finances. Take time to educate yourself about credit—especially your credit.

First, learn about the five factors that play into your credit score:

  • Payment history: Making up 35% of your score, this refers to how often you have late payments.
  • Credit utilization: This refers to the amount of your credit that you use. Your credit utilization ratio should be less than 30%. This also makes up 30% of your credit score.
  • Average age of accounts: If you have some older accounts, it’ll show lenders that you have great financial management skills. This makes up 15% of your credit score.
  • Account types: It’s best to have a good mix of accounts, such as revolving accounts and installment accounts. This makes up 10% of your score.
  • Inquiries: When you apply for credit, it’s common for lenders to do a hard pull on your credit. This results in an inquiry on your report. Inquiries only make up 10% of your score. 

You should also learn about your own credit. Order your free credit report to see exactly where you stand so you can start improving your credit.

2. Get Organized and Pay Your Billson Time

Timely payments—which means never being late with loan payments or defaulting on loans—is the biggest factor in your credit score. This accounts for almost a third of your score.

Sure, getting organized and being on the ball financially sounds like a chore. But it also means that you’ll be caught up on all your payments. You’ll feel freedom when you know you paid all the bills for the month.

Get a month ahead on bills so you’re never rushing to pay anything. You get the added benefit of a cushion that can be helpful if emergencies do arise. Plus when you make on-time payments your, credit score could rise. 

3. Work with Professionals to Clear Up Errors

Finding an error on your credit report can feel like finding skeletons in your significant other’s closet. Are they real? Is it a false alarm? The best way to tackle an error on your credit report is to go to a professional to help clear the air. 

If you’re feeling ready to dump your credit score over a mistake, it might be time to call in the professionals. Instead of a couple’s counselor, you need a credit repair agency. Sure, they can do the things you could do yourself—but with a lot of time and effort on your part. But the professionals can intervene for you to provide experienced guidance and resources to help get errors on your credit report fixed.

Get to Know Your Credit Score Now

Every good relationship starts with getting to know each other. Before you can fall in love with your credit score, you need to get to know what’s going on with it now and understand your own goals for the future. Start by getting your free credit report card to understand your score and how you rank on each of the five factors that play into it. 

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The post Fall in Love with Your Credit Score appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Is The Fair Credit Billing Act (fcba)?

Have you ever received a bill from a credit card company that contained errors? Did the merchant charge your card twice? Does your billing statement contain unauthorized charges for goods or services that were not…

The post What Is the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)? appeared first on Crediful.

Credit Sesame Will Give You A Free Credit Score, Credit Monitoring And Identity Theft Insurance

Credit Sesame is a service that gives you FREE monthly credit scores and credit monitoring. Here is what they have to offer, and why you should sign up.

The post Credit Sesame Will Give You A Free Credit Score, Credit Monitoring And Identity Theft Insurance appeared first on Bible Money Matters and was written by Peter Anderson. Copyright © Bible Money Matters – please visit biblemoneymatters.com for more great content.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

In a recession it’s common for many people to rely on credit cards and loans to balance their finances. It’s the ultimate catch-22 since, during a recession, these financial products can be even harder to qualify for.

This holds true, according to historical data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It found that during the 2007 recession, loan growth at traditional banks decreased and remained deflated over the next four years. 

Credit can be a powerful tool to help you make ends meet and keep moving forward financially. Here’s what you can do if you’re struggling to access credit during a weak economy.

Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. Does this mean you’re completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.

How Does a Financial Downturn Affect Lending?

Giving someone a loan or approving them for a credit card carries a certain amount of risk for a lender. After all, there’s a chance you could stop making payments and the lender could lose all the funds you borrowed, especially with unsecured loans. 

For lenders, this concept is called, “delinquency”. They’re constantly trying to get their delinquency rate lower; in a booming economy, the delinquency rate at commercial banks is usually under 2%. 

Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. There are all sorts of reasons a person might stop paying their loan or credit card bills. You might lose your job, or unexpected medical bills might demand more of your budget. Because lenders know the chances of anyone becoming delinquent are much higher in a weak economy, they tend to restrict their lending criteria so they’re only serving the lowest-risk borrowers. That can leave people with poor credit in a tough financial position.

Before approving you for a loan, lenders typically look at criteria such as:

  • Income stability 
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit score
  • Co-signers, if applicable
  • Down payment size (for loans, like a mortgage)

Does this mean you’re completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.

5 Ways to Help Get Your Credit Application Approved 

Although every lender has different approval criteria, these strategies speak to typical commonalities across most lenders.

1. Pay Off Debt 

Paying off some of your debt might feel bold, but it can be helpful when it comes to an application for credit. Repaying your debt reduces your debt-to-income ratio, typically an important metric lenders look at for loans such as a mortgage. Also, paying off debt could help improve your credit utilization ratio, which is a measure of how much available credit you’re currently using right now. If you’re using most of the credit that’s available to you, that could indicate you don’t have enough cash on hand. 

Not sure what debt-to-income ratio to aim for? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests keeping yours no higher than 43%. 

2. Find a Cosigner

For those with poor credit, a trusted cosigner can make the difference between getting approved for credit or starting back at square one. 

When someone cosigns for your loan they’ll need to provide information on their income, employment and credit score — as if they were applying for the loan on their own. Ideally, their credit score and income should be higher than yours. This gives your lender enough confidence to write the loan knowing that, if you can’t make your payments, your cosigner is liable for the bill. 

Since your cosigner is legally responsible for your debt, their credit is negatively impacted if you stop making payments. For this reason, many people are wary of cosigning.

In a recession, it might be difficult to find someone with enough financial stability to cosign for you. If you go this route, have a candid conversation with your prospective cosigner in advance about expectations in the worst-case scenario. 

3. Raise Your Credit Score 

If your credit score just isn’t high enough to qualify for conventional credit you could take some time to focus on improving it. Raising your credit score might sound daunting, but it’s definitely possible. 

Here are some strategies you can pursue:

  • Report your rent payments. Rent payments aren’t typically included as part of the equation when calculating your credit score, but they can be. Some companies, like Rental Kharma, will report your timely rent payments to credit reporting agencies. Showing a history of positive payment can help improve your credit score. 
  • Make sure your credit report is updated. It’s not uncommon for your credit report to have mistakes in it that can artificially deflate your credit score. Request a free copy of your credit report every year, which you can do online through Experian Free Credit Report. If you find inaccuracies, disputing them could help improve your credit score. 
  • Bring all of your payments current. If you’ve fallen behind on any payments, bringing everything current is an important part of improving your credit score. If your lender or credit card company is reporting late payments a long history of this can damage your credit score. When possible speak to your creditor to work out a solution, before you anticipate being late on a payment.
  • Use a credit repair agency. If tackling your credit score is overwhelming you could opt to work with a reputable credit repair agency to help you get back on track. Be sure to compare credit repair agencies before moving forward with one. Companies that offer a free consultation and have a strong track record are ideal to work with.

Raising your credit isn’t an immediate solution — it’s not going to help you get a loan or qualify for a credit card tomorrow. However, making these changes now can start to add up over time. 

4. Find an Online Lender or Credit Union

Although traditional banks can be strict with their lending policies, some smaller lenders or credit unions offer some flexibility. For example, credit unions are authorized to provide Payday Loan Alternatives (PALs). These are small-dollar, short-term loans available to borrowers who’ve been a member of qualifying credit unions for at least a month.

Some online lenders might also have more relaxed criteria for writing loans in a weak economy. However, you should remember that if you have bad credit you’re likely considered a riskier applicant, which means a higher interest rate. Before signing for a line of credit, compare several lenders on the basis of your quoted APR — which includes any fees like an origination fee, your loan’s term, and any additional fees, such as late fees. 

5. Increase Your Down Payment

If you’re trying to apply for a mortgage or auto loan, increasing your down payment could help if you’re having a tough time getting approved. 

When you increase your down payment, you essentially decrease the size of your loan, and lower the lender’s risk. If you don’t have enough cash on hand to increase your down payment, this might mean opting for a less expensive car or home so that the lump sum down payment that you have covers a greater proportion of the purchase cost. 

Loans vs. Credit Cards: Differences in Credit Approval

Not all types of credit are created equal. Personal loans are considered installment credit and are repaid in fixed payments over a set period of time. Credit cards are considered revolving credit, you can keep borrowing to your approved limit as long as you make your minimum payments. 

When it comes to credit approvals, one benefit loans have over credit cards is that you might be able to get a secured loan. A secured loan means the lender has some piece of collateral they can recover from you should you stop making payments. 

The collateral could be your home, car or other valuable asset, like jewelry or equipment. Having that security might give the lender more flexibility in some situations because they know that, in the worst case scenario, they could sell the collateral item to recover their loss. 

The Bottom Line

Borrowing during a financial downturn can be difficult and it might not always be the answer to your situation. Adding to your debt load in a weak economy is a risk. For example, you could unexpectedly lose your job and not be able to pay your bills. Having an added monthly debt payment in your budget can add another challenge to your financial situation.

However, if you can afford to borrow funds during an economic recession, reduced interest rates in these situations can lessen the overall cost of borrowing.

These tips can help tidy your finances so you’re a more attractive borrower to lenders. There’s no guarantee your application will be accepted, but improving your finances now gives you a greater borrowing advantage in the future.

The post How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

3 Reasons to Use Cash and 3 Reasons to Choose Credit

Cash vs credit

3 Reasons To Use Cash (and 3 Reasons To Choose Credit)

Credit and debit cards have become so ubiquitous, you’d be forgiven for thinking physical cash is just a couple years away from being declared obsolete and worthless by the government.

Well, as it turns out, the death of dead presidents is greatly exaggerated, as over $1.25 trillion still circulates around the United States alone.

Way too many people use cash for it to ever go away completely, regardless of how much plastic gets wiped every day.

So why in the world would anydiv still pay with Georges and Bens? Here are a few good reasons why:

Less Chance of Identity Theft

Few things are scarier than hearing that the store you regularly swipe your card at just had a security breach, and that some anonymous criminal may have your identity at their disposal.

Paying cash eliminates that issue — chunks of metal and pieces of paper stacked in a register tells fraudsters absolutely nothing, while the information sent to vulnerable computers via your bank card can reveal everything.

Easier to Watch and Control Your Spending

Actually seeing the cash you owe, as opposed to simply staring at a generic card with no monetary value of its own, can remind you to spend less overall, since all of a sudden the money is real, and real valuable at that.

Financial guru Ramit Sethi, for example, lost his credit card, and spent nothing but cash until a replacement came. He reported spending 18% less when forced to watch his green wad dwindle in real-time.

Some Places Still Don’t Take Plastic (or Require a Minimum Purchase Amount)

Amazingly, over half of all small businesses won’t take cards, likely because they can’t afford the fees.

It’s always good to keep at least some cash on you in case you need to make a purchase from one of these places.

Even if they accept cards, some of these businesses might only do so if you spend X amount, in order to override the fee.

If you entered the store to spend more than the minimum amount, then swipe away. But if you only want a loaf of bread, and they want you to spend $10 before they’ll accept your card, just pay for your bread with bread.

That all being said though, there are several cases where plastic owns cash. Here are a few of those:

Cash vs credit online purchases

Online Purchases

Increasing amounts of items can now only be purchased online and with a credit card, or at the very least are extremely difficult to cover with cash.

Plane tickets, while still technically available at a travel agent’s physical office, are usually much, much cheaper online, where you can’t obviously use cash. The same thing goes for e-books, MP3s, subscriptions to streaming sites, and the like.

The more you shop online, the more reliant you will become on cards in your everyday life.

ATM Fees Can Pile Up

Unless your bank’s ATM is everywhere, then you may often find yourself forced to withdraw your cash from the competition’s ATMs, which will cost you anywhere from $2-4 per pop.

This adds up to a ridiculously high amount, as it’s estimated that the use of cash costs Americans over $200 billion per year.

While not all of that amount is ATM-related, a large chunk of it is, and could easily be saved with the use of cards.

Smart Card Use Can Help You Build Your Credit Score

Finally, while cash is great, it does absolutely nothing to improve how companies and lenders look at you. Responsible credit card use, on the other hand, not only helps you purchase what you want and need, but helps build up your credit score.

There’s a good chance that not having using a card could negatively affect your credit score or nullify it altogether, since you’re not giving the credit agencies any information about your financial habits.

So get a card or two, use it when necessary, use cash every other time, and you should achieve a pleasant balance between the two that can only bode well for your fortune going forward.

Whether you use cash or plastic, Mint.com can help you budget every penny of your finances. Click here to find out how!

The post 3 Reasons to Use Cash and 3 Reasons to Choose Credit appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What is a Storage Unit?

A storage unit is a space, usually in the interior of an enclosed structure, that’s used solely for — you guessed it — storage.

A storage unit isn’t equipped with the same types of amenities needed to constitute a residence suitable for living but may be climate controlled in some cases. Other storage units are very rudimentary structures that fluctuate in temperature fairly drastically and are commonly made of sheet metal.

Who needs a storage unit?

A storage unit can be beneficial to a couple of categories of people. Anyone who has excess belongings that can’t fit in their home can benefit from a storage unit. Storage units are also often frequently used during a move.

Short-term and long-term storage

Some renters use a storage unit for a short stint of time while others utilize one long term. There are some reasons for using storage units like this.

Short-term uses

  • Decluttering your home
  • Storing your items during a move/apartment hunting
  • If you move away seasonally (like a college student during the summer)

Long-term uses

  • Permanent downsizing
  • To maintain a home business
  • If your apartment complex offers one

Where can you find a storage unit?

storage unit

Storage units are a common occurrence in cities across America, so you can almost always find one for rent nearby. However, many apartment communities offer a storage unit as an included amenity with some or all rental units.

These included storage units may be on-site at the actual apartment community or offsite somewhere else. This is especially common in urban areas where rental apartments tend to be smaller.

Additional resources

  • Does Renting a Storage Unit Make Sense?
  • What is an Amenity?
  • 5 Tips for Finding a Self-Storage Unit Before a Deployment
  • Bike Storage in a Small Apartment: 5 Freewheeling Solutions
  • 8 Ingenious Storage Ideas for Clothes, Shoes and More

The post What is a Storage Unit? appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

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

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

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

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

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

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

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

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

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

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

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

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

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Pay More Than the Minimum?

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

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

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

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

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Source: pocketyourdollars.com