What Are the Best Loans If You Have Bad Credit?

If you need to borrow money but your credit is less than stellar, it’s possible you’ll wind up with a bad credit loan. These loans are geared toward individuals with imperfect credit histories who can prove their income and ability to repay the loan. As a result of their bad credit, however, consumers who use bad credit loans typically pay much higher interest rates and loan fees. Bad credit loan customers may also be limited in how much they can borrow as well as the terms of their loan’s repayment.

From our perspective, LendingClub is the overall best option when it comes to getting a loan when you have bad credit.

Borrow Money with LendingClub

What To Do If You Think You Have Bad Credit

Step 1 — Get Your Actual FICO Score

The only way to find out if you have bad credit is to take a look at your FICO score, which isn’t difficult since many companies offer online access for free. While your FICO credit score isn’t the only credit score you have, it’s the one used by most lenders that offer personal loans.

According to myFICO.com, the credit score ranges are as follows:

  • Exceptional: 800 and up
  • Very Good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Poor: 579 or below

If your credit score falls below 579, there’s a good chance you could only get approved for a bad credit loan. If your credit is just “fair,” on the other hand, there’s still a chance you’ll wind up with a loan for bad credit.

Get My FICO Scores

Step 2 — Compare Multiple Offers

Once you have determined your credit score, you’ll want to start comparing offers from different lenders to see what fits your needs. You can use this tool to start that process.

Continue reading to find out how Good Financial Cents breaks down the best loans for bad credit and what you should watch out for.

Best Bad Credit Loans of 2021

If you feel you’re a candidate for a bad credit loan, it still makes sense to compare loan options to find the best deal. Loans for bad credit may come with higher interest rates and more fees, but some are still better than others.

For the purpose of this guide, we compared all the bad credit lenders to see how their loan products stack up. The following loans are the best of the best when it comes to loans for poor credit:

  • LendingClub
  • Avant
  • LendingPoint
  • OneMain Financial
  • Upstart

Bad Credit Loan Reviews

Before you apply for a loan with one of the bad credit lenders above, it helps to have a basic understanding of their loan offerings, interest rates, and any other important details they offer. The following individual loan reviews can help you determine which lender offers loans that might work for your situation.

#1: LendingClub

lendingclub bad credit loans

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer lender that operates outside of traditional banks. This means loans funded through the platform are initiated by private investors instead of banks, and it also means you may be able to get funding through LendingClub if you can’t get approved for a loan elsewhere.

Investors in search of higher returns on their money can agree to offer loans to consumers with bad credit who present a higher risk. As a result, LendingClub personal loans come with APRs that range from 6.95% to 35.89%. Obviously, loans with rates on the higher end of the scale will go to those with low credit scores.

Before you apply, it’s important to be aware that LendingClub charges an origination fee that can equal up to 6% of your loan amount. You can repay your loan anywhere from 36 to 60 months, and there’s no prepayment penalty if you pay your loan off early.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement: check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Cons: Potential for a high origination fee and interest rate

Get a Loan from LendingClub Today

#2: Avant

avant bad credit loan

Avant is another lender that often extends personal loans to consumers with low credit scores. With Avant, your interest rate will fall somewhere between 9.95% and 35.99% and you can repay your loan from 24 to 60 months. A loan funding fee of up to 4.75% of your loan amount is required as well, which will push up the cost of borrowing.

Avant claims that they have loaned $4 billion dollars to more than 600,000 consumers so far and that they have a 95% customer satisfaction rate. You can apply for a personal loan through Avant online, and you can even check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Cons: High APRs and loan fees for bad credit

Borrow Better and Faster with Avant

#3: LendingPoint

lendingpoint bad credit loan

LendingPoint is another bad credit lender that offers personal loans to consumers who are willing to pay whatever APR it takes. Loans from LendingPoint come with APRs between 15.49% and 35.99%, and your loan origination fee can be as high as 6% of your loan amount.

You can repay your loan for anywhere from 24 to 48 months, and loans are offered in amounts up to $25,000. LendingPoint also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You do need a minimum credit score of 585 to qualify for one of their loans.

  • Pros: Check your rate without a hard inquiry; low minimum credit score requirement
  • Cons: Pricey APRs and loan origination fee; loans not available in every state

Sign Up Today with LendingPoint

#4: OneMain Financial

one main financial bad credit loans

OneMain Financial offers personal loans in amounts between $1,500 and $20,000, and you can repay your loan for anywhere from 24 to 60 months. Interest rates range from 18.00% to 35.99%, and an origination fee may apply as well.

You can apply for a bad credit loan with OneMain Financial online, and you can get your loan approved and funded within a matter of days. You can even check your rate and gauge your ability to qualify without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Finally, note that OneMain Financial has 1,500 physical locations in 44 states. To have your loan funded, you’ll need to visit a OneMain Financial location and meet with a loan specialist.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; borrow up to $20,000
  • Cons: Potential for pricey APR and loan origination fee

Get Started with OneMain Financial

#5: Upstart

upstart bad credit loan

Upstart is a unique online lender that makes it easier for borrowers with poor credit to qualify for a loan. This company considers more than your credit score when approving you for a personal loan, meaning they may give more weight to additional factors like your income and how much education you have.

Borrowers who qualify can access between $1,000 and $50,000 in loan funds with a repayment period of 3 or 5 years. Interest rates range from 5.69% to 35.99%, however, depending on creditworthiness and other factors.

Fortunately, loans from Upstart don’t come with any prepayment penalties. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; borrow up to $50,000
  • Cons: Potential for pricey APR and loan origination fee

Get the Loan You Deserve with Upstart

How We Chose the Best Loans for Bad Credit

The lenders above offer loans that can be exorbitantly expensive when you factor in interest rates and fees. Since expensive loans are the norm for consumers with bad credit, however, these still represent the best loan options for people with risky credit profiles.

With that in mind, here are the factors we considered to come up with the loans for this list:

Easy Rate Check

Having the ability to check your loan rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report is beneficial for potential borrowers who aren’t quite ready to fill out a full loan application. We ranked lenders who offer this option higher as a result. With an easy rate check, you can get an idea of your interest rate and loan fees before you apply.

Check Your Credit Score for FREE

No Prepayment Fees

While loans for bad credit typically come with high interest rates and more loan fees, we think prepayment penalties cross the line. We looked for bad credit loans that don’t charge prepayment penalties since borrowers should have the option to pay their loans off early.

Ability to Apply Online

Lenders that let you apply for a personal loan online are considerably more convenient, so we gave a better loan score to loan companies that offer this option. Bonus points were applied if you can complete the full loan application online and have your loan funded electronically.

Loan Reviews

We also looked at individual loan reviews on company loan pages and websites like Trustpilot. While all lenders have their share of poor loan reviews, the lenders that made our list boast considerably more positive user reviews than bad ones. Most of the lenders that made the cut for our ranking have customer approval rates over 90%.

Loans for Bad Credit: What to Watch Out For

Bad credit loans are not ideal since they come with high rates and fees that push up the total cost of borrowing. However, some bad credit loans are also considerably “better” than others based on how they charge fees and the rates they offer. Here’s everything you should watch out for before you apply.

Consider the Impact of High Rates

First, it can be immensely helpful to check your rate with multiple lenders in this space before you apply. There’s a huge difference between paying 25.00% APR and 35.99% APR even though both rates aren’t great, so you’ll want to pay the lowest interest rate that you can.
How much difference can it make? Imagine for a moment you need to borrow $10,000 and repay it over 60 months. Here’s what your monthly payment would look like — and how much interest you would pay overall — if you repaid your loan over 60 months with three different rates:

Loan APR Monthly Payment Total Interest Paid
10.99% $217.37 $3,042.46
25.99% $299.35 $7,960.73
34.99% $354.84 $11,290.34

Avoid Origination Fees If You Can

Also try to avoid loan origination fees if you can, although this may be difficult if your credit score is on the low end of the scale. Loan origination fees are charged as a percentage of your loan upfront, so you can’t avoid them — even if you pay your loan off early. They also add unnecessary expense to your bad credit loan without any benefit for you, the borrower.

Check for Prepayment Penalties

Also, make sure to check for any prepayment penalties that may apply to your loan, and if you can, opt for a lender that doesn’t charge these fees. It would be nice to have the option to pay your loan off early without a penalty if you wind up having the money you need to do so. If you’re able to pay your loan off ahead of schedule, you could pay a lot less in interest over your loan’s term.

Bad Credit Loans: Should You Improve Your Credit First?

If you’re worried about the impact of a bad credit loan on your finances, it can make sense to spend some time improving your score before you apply. If you’re able to pay all your bills early or on time for several months, for example, you could have a positive impact on your score. That’s because your payment history is the most important factor that makes up your FICO score. According to myFICO.com, this factor alone makes up 35% of your score.

The same is true if you’re able to pay down debt to decrease your credit utilization. This advice is based on the fact that how much you owe in relation to your credit limits is the second most important factor making up your FICO score at 30%.

In the meantime, try to avoid opening and closing too many accounts since either of these moves can also ding your score.

If you were able to move the needle and boost your credit score in the “fair” or “good” range, there’s a very good chance you could qualify for a less expensive personal loan with better rates and terms. Of course, this isn’t always possible if you need to borrow money sooner rather than later.

The Bottom Line

Bad credit loans may come with pricey APRs, but they are often the only option of last resort for borrowers whose credit has taken a hit. If you’re in the market for a loan and know you’ll need to get a loan for bad credit, the best thing you can do is compare loan options to find the best deal.

Keep an eye out for bad credit loans with the lowest interest rate and origination fee you can qualify for.

Also, look for lenders that let you check your rate and get prequalified online and before you fill out a full loan application.

With enough research, you should end up with a bad credit loan that helps your finances instead of making them worse.

The post What Are the Best Loans If You Have Bad Credit? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Make a Side Income Running a Vending Machine Business

As we continue to make our way through COVID-19, many people are still looking for ways to get items they need without physical contact with another person.

Vending machines serve that purpose — and make money for the machine’s owner.

Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. It’s also called automatic merchandising.

Basically, all you need to get started is some startup money to buy a machine, a good location and the right products.

The Vending Machine Business During COVID-19

Revenue for the vending machine industry was $24.2 billion in 2019, up 3% from the year before.

That data came from the Automatic Merchandiser’s Annual State of the Industry Survey — before the full impact of COVID-19 hit.

There were 2,175,756 vending machines in service in 2019 in a variety of locations including:

  • Manufacturing areas
  • Offices
  • Retail spaces
  • Hotels/motels
  • Schools
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Universities/colleges
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military bases
  • Restaurants, bars and clubs

Cold beverages were the top-selling product category. A majority of vending machines involve food and beverage products including sodas, coffee, snacks and candy.

There are also machines for bulk vending like gumballs, stickers, toys, novelties and more. During COVID-19, machines popped up selling masks and hand sanitizer.

At places like airports, vending machines often sell tech accessories and travel essentials like neck pillows, blankets and eye masks. Laundry rooms in residential buildings often have machines with detergent and fabric softener.

With many offices, businesses and other public spaces closed or restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vending industry is certainly taking a hit.

“We’re in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores don’t want the machines there, they don’t want the kids congregating, they don’t want people touching them,” said Scott Ausmus, director of manufacturing for National Entertainment Network, Inc. and president of the National Bulk Vendors Association.

He grew up in the vending business. The machines he sells and operates are the novelty kind, offering things like stuffed animals, toys and gumballs. Many are in restaurants and entertainment venues like bowling centers.

Many factors make owning a vending machine an attractive business venture.

The startup costs are relatively low, sometimes around $2,000. The work is flexible and often doesn’t require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.

“There’s a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,” Ausmus said. “The cost of goods is low on the gumballs and everybody likes gum, so everybody still purchases a gumball and so that is a winner for a lot of people.”

Starting a Vending Machine Business

While the startup costs are low and the income is often passive, owning vending machines is not without risk. You must be able to understand your own financial situation and how much you can afford to invest.

There is the cost of the machine, the cost of inventory, personnel to keep it stocked, maintenance and more.

The more perishable the product and the busier the area, the more of your time the machine will take.

“If (your machine location has) a big break room and a lot of employees, you would have to be there once a day to fill your machines up because that’s how busy they are,” Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy don’t require as much restocking.

One of the first steps in starting a vending machine business is finding your niche and deciding what to sell. That takes a bit of research and knowing who your customer is.

“You gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it won’t move and you won’t make any money and you certainly don’t want to throw [product] away,” Ausmus said. “You’ve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and that’s what you restock with, what sells.”

Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning it’s possible to start small and expand. You don’t have to wait for payments because customers pay when they purchase an item.

Location, Location, Location

To put yourself in the best position to be profitable means finding the right location.

Places with lots of foot traffic are good. Before COVID-19, that meant schools and universities, malls, office parks, etc.

Think about where people need to wait. While waiting, they may get hungry or thirsty. Ausmus’ novelty machines need kids around.

“One of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,” he said.

Location can be about trial and error.

“It’s really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that it’s not making enough money. … You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,” Ausmus said.

When looking for locations, be prepared to approach the owner or landlord with a business plan for the machine.

Also be prepared to:

  • Pay a percentage of sales or other fee for having your machine in their location.
  • Pay for the electricity the machine uses.
  • Ensure the security of the machine. There is money inside a machine as well as inventory. Theft and vandalism are always possible.
  • Research state and local laws and regulations.
  • Pay sales tax on the revenue the machine generates.

Key Purchase: Your Vending Machine

Then you will need an actual vending machine. There are several types, and prices vary depending on what is in the machine, whether it needs refrigeration or heating, and the interactivity.

Buying directly from a manufacturer or supplier is one option, as is purchasing on a secondary market. Some companies also rent machines. Ausmus cautioned to make sure there are spare parts and support available for what you buy.

Machines range from about $1,500 for a used or refurbished machine to several thousands for a new, high-end machine with many technical features.

Some machines have:

  • Remote monitoring software: This helps keep track of how the machine is working and notifies the operator if something is wrong.
  • Low stock alerts: Notify the operator when items needs replacing.
  • Vending management systems (VMS): Tracks sales and other data to help owners make better business decisions.
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Running a Vending Machine Business

While owning vending machines does not require any special skills, it is a business.

You will need inventory and someone to keep the machine stocked and maintained. This may require a van or truck.

Perishables need to be stocked more often than other items. Learning some basic maintenance skills could keep you from having to hire someone if there is a problem with the machine.

Different types of machines have different capabilities. Some take only cash while others will process credit or debit cards. Some models have touch screens or voice capabilities.

“Make sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,” said Ausmus. “If somebody didn’t get what they wanted, make sure the store can give them a refund and you pay the refund back to that store. Then get out there as soon as you can to fix the machine so that you can continue to make money.”

Automatic merchandising isn’t for everyone, but owning and operating a vending machine can be a good business. Being able to retrieve the money you make and restock your machines easily is the key.

“Then you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,” said Ausmus. “Three four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.”

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs. American Express® Gold Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card* and American Express® Gold Card are two of the most lucrative rewards credit cards available. Both cards earn flexible and transferable points – either Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. Both cards also offer solid welcome offers and earning potential, and each card can unlock powerful redemptions.

Deciding between the two comes down to what you’re looking for in a credit card and how much you’re willing to pay for extra services and perks. Let’s take a look at the Amex Gold versus Chase Sapphire Preferred and see which card may be right for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Amex Gold: At a glance

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Rewards rate
  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on Uber Eats purchases
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on travel
  • 2 points per dollar on dining
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Welcome bonus 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Annual fee $250 $95
Other benefits  

  • Up to $120 in annual dining credits
  • Transfer Membership Rewards points to 19 airline and 3 hotel partners
  • Up to $100 property credit and upgrade (when available) when booking hotel stays of two nights or longer through the Amex Hotel Collection
  • Up to $120 in Uber Cash annually (up to $10 per month)
  • Terms apply
  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to 11 airline and 2 hotel partners
  • 25% bonus when redeeming Ultimate Rewards for travel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (a value of 1.25 cents per point)

Earning points

Both the Amex Gold card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offer the ability to earn valuable flexible points. American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points work in similar ways – the one you value most will depend on what other credit cards you have and how you typically travel. It’s fair to say that a Membership Rewards point and an Ultimate Rewards point have a similar, if not equal, value.

See related: American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

That being said, the category bonuses of the American Express Gold card are decidedly better than those of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, for most people.

The Sapphire Preferred card only earns 2 points per dollar in the travel and dining categories, while the Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com.

It is true that Chase’s definition of the dining and travel categories is less restrictive (dining and travel versus restaurants and only flights at amextravel.com). Still, once you consider that the Gold Card also gives 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually, then 1 point per dollar), most people will likely earn more from ongoing spending with the Amex Gold card.

Redeeming points

Both Membership Rewards points earned with the Amex Gold Card and Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Sapphire Preferred can be redeemed in two major ways (at least for the most value per point). You can either transfer your points to hotel or airline partners or use your points to book travel directly.

Both American Express and Chase have a variety of hotel and airline transfer partners available. American Express has 22 different transfer partners, while Chase has 13 transfer partners. While the two brands share a few partners (Air France/KLM, British Airways and Marriott Bonvoy for instance), for the most part deciding which partnerships are worth more will depend on how you travel.

In most cases, both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards points transfer 1:1 to airline miles and hotel points, and both American Express and Chase offer periodic temporary transfer bonuses to various partners.

When it comes to redeeming points directly for travel, on the other hand, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are distinctly superior. You can book flights through amextravel.com at a rate of 1 cent per Membership Rewards point, but for other types of travel (hotel, car rentals, etc.), you will only get a value of 0.7 cents per point. Ultimate Rewards points redeemed by a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder, however, get a value of 1.25 cents per point on airfare, lodging, rental cars and even some travel experiences.

Bonus perks

The Chase Sapphire Preferred does not have very many noteworthy perks, other than its high welcome bonus and redemption options – but one nice benefit is its rental car coverage. The Preferred card offers primary rental car coverage, meaning you don’t have to file with your own insurance carrier first. Rental car coverage on the Amex Gold card is only secondary (after your own primary car insurance.)

The American Express Gold card has two big perks that come with having the card, that can boost its value. First, there is a $120 Uber Cash credit – the most recent addition to the list of Amex Gold benefits. You can use up to $10 per month on Eats or Rides in Uber Cash when you add your Amex Gold as a payment method in your Uber app.

best cards for grocery spending.

On the other hand, the higher welcome offer, increased value in redeeming points and lower annual fee mean that the Sapphire Preferred will likely provide more value for most people, especially during the first year of having the card. Take a look at your spending and travel patterns and decide which card is best for you.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

Source: creditcards.com

How Does Cash Back Work?

How Does Cash Back Work?

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

Credit card companies typically offer a plethora of rewards options for their cardholders to take advantage of. But cash back has long been a favorite of many, as it gives you the chance to earn cold, hard money for making everyday purchases. If you’re confused about how cash back works, read on for a full explanation.

How Cash Back Works

At its core, cash back refers to a predetermined percentage of a purchase you make being returned to you as cash rewards. Cash back rates typically range between 1% and 5%, though there are some outliers to be mindful of. Credit card issuers will usually clearly label what types of purchases earn what level of cash back. But like anything in the credit card industry, you must read the fine print.

This is mainly because all purchases and cash back rewards are governed by merchant category codes, or MCCs. Credit card companies ultimately determine these designations, with Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover calling the shots. Some common codes are “restaurant,” “department store,” “airline” and “entertainment,” among others. So if you earn 5% bonus cash back at restaurants and you go to Burger King — which has a restaurant MCC — you’ll get that 5% back.

But what these limiting MCCs sometimes don’t take into account are businesses that could fit into more than one category. Included in this group are hotels, superstores like Walmart, tourist attractions like museums and other multi-faceted establishments. In turn, you could lose out on cash back if you’re confused about which category a purchase you made falls into.

As an example, let’s say your family orders room service while on vacation in The Bahamas. You pay with your credit card thinking you’ll get the advertised 3% cash back on dining. When your credit card statement comes in the mail, however, you’ve only received the base 1% earnings. This is because the MCC of your hotel is just that, a hotel, which leaves your credit card issuer blind to what you really bought.

Unfortunately situations like these often offer very little recourse, as your card’s issuer has no ability to change these codes. In fact, only the major credit companies can change their own code selections.

New cardholders will often receive cash back promotions and bonuses. These offers can either be recurring — monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. — or simply for just one period of time, usually at the beginning of your account’s life. Hypothetically, a recurring bonus might look like this: “Earn 3% cash back at supermarkets and wholesale clubs, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.” On the other hand, a one-time promotion might allow for 5% cash back on airfare purchases made during the first three months you’re a cardholder.

Depending on your card, cash back may be capped or it could expire after a period of time. While some cards feature both an earnings limit and expiration dates, others may have no restrictions. All cash back cards have their own, unique system surrounding them. So it’s important to refer to your documentation whenever you have a particular question.

Using Your Cash Back Earnings

How Does Cash Back Work?

The vast majority of cash back credit cards offer variations of the same choices for redeeming rewards. Most often, you’ll see statement credits, checks, bank account deposits, gift cards and charitable donations available to you.

  • Statement credit – Instead of receiving your cash back in-hand, you can apply it to your upcoming monthly bill, saving you money in the process.
  • Check – As one of the more direct ways of redeeming cash back, checks allow you to basically do whatever you want with its value.
  • Bank deposits – Eligible accounts usually include checking accounts, savings accounts or investment accounts.
  • Gift cards – With this option, you can convert cash back into retail credit at a store or website at which you want to shop.
  • Donations – Many card issuers have open relations with charities. These partnerships open the door for you to aid your favorite causes with real money.

It’s by far the easiest to redeem cash back through your card issuer’s website that it provides. Here you’ll not only see your rewards status, you will also know every possible redemption you could make. If you’d rather talk to a real person, most companies still have rewards phone lines you can call, as well.

Those who’d rather not have to worry about where their rewards currently stand will find that a redemption threshold might be helpful. Not all cards offer this feature. But if yours does, set a threshold at which your cash back is automatically redeemed in any manner you desire. Additionally, some cards require you to attain a certain amount of cash back before redeeming is possible.

Cash Back With Each Major Credit Card Company

what is cash back

There are tons of different cash back cards, depending on your credit score you may be eligible for some but not others. While it’s impossible to give universal specifics for each credit card company, below we’ve provided overviews of some of the most popular cash back cards.

Citi Double Cash Card (Mastercard)

Cash Back Rate: 1% at the time of purchase, 1% when you pay them off

Limit or Expiration: No limit; Expires if no eligible purchases are made for 12 months

Redemption Options: As a check, statement credit or gift card

The “double cash” nature of the Citi Double Cash Card means you effectively earn cash back twice: first when you make the initial purchase and again when you pay your credit card bill. The 12-month expiration is fairly standard and the lack of limits on how much cash back you can earn is generous. Statement credits, checks and gift cards are three of the most common redemption choices, so it’s no surprise to see them offered here.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (Mastercard)

Cash Back Rate: 3% in the category of your choice, 2% on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% on other purchases

Limit or Expiration: Cash back on choice category, grocery stores and wholesale club purchases is limited on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: Once you have $25 or more, you can redeem as a statement credit, a check or a deposit to an eligible Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® account

Take note of the combined $2,500 quarterly limit on 3% and 2% cash back in category of choice and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, respectively. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card also requires cardholders to have a minimum of $25 in earned cash back before they can redeem.

Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card
(American Express)

Cash Back Rate: 3% on U.S. supermarket purchases, 2% on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store purchases, 1% on other purchases

Limit or Expiration: 3% rate at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 a year in purchases then drops to 1%; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: After earning at least $25, redeem as a statement credit in $25 increments; Gift cards and merchandise redemptions from time to time

Amex offers some of the strongest rewards cards around, and the Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card is no exception. It does come with some limits; namely the 3% cash back rate on U.S. grocery store purchases is capped at $6,000 in purchases a year. At that time, cardholders earn 1% in cash back on groceries.

Discover it® Card
(Discover)

Cash Back Rate: 5% in rotating categories like gas station, supermarket, restaurant, Amazon.com and wholesale club purchases, 1% on other purchases; Full cash back match at the end of your first year

Limit or Expiration: $1,500 cap on purchases that earn the 5% rate each quarter; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: Statement credits, deposits to a bank account, gift cards and eCertificates, pay with cash back at select merchants and charitable donations

Discover cards offer great first-year cash back matches and distinctive cash back categories. These traits are on full display with the Discover it® Card. This includes 5% cash back on purchases ranging from dining to Amazon.com. However, there are limits for this rate and you have to opt in to categories each quarter to qualify. This card also offers five redemption options — the most on this list.

Tips to Maximize Cash Back Potential and Minimize Credit Risk

  • Cash back is one of the most prolific perks that the modern credit card market has to offer. But it’s important that you don’t overspend outside of your means just for the sake of rewards. Because many cash back cards come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs), this could force you into large, unsustainable interest payments.
  • Whenever possible, swipe your card for purchases in bonus categories. Not all cards have these to offer, but most do. So make sure you know which cards in your wallet offer bonuses at places like gas stations and supermarkets.
  • Know what types of redemptions — statement credits, bank account deposits, gift cards etc. — work best for you. This will drastically narrow down your card options, making the decision process much simpler.

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/4×6, Â©iStock.com/Pgiam, Â©iStock.com/Ridofranz

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

The post How Does Cash Back Work? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.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

What is a credit card statement credit?

A recent trend in credit card rewards is increased flexibility in how you can redeem your cash back, points or miles. You can book travel, invest, get gift cards and more – but one of the most common ways a credit card company will issue rewards is as a statement credit.

Statement credits may seem simple, but they’re handled a little differently by each rewards program, and there’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to decide if they’re the best way to redeem cash back or other rewards.

See related: What is cash back?

What is a statement credit?

Put simply, a statement credit is money credited to your account. In its most basic form, a statement credit is not much different from a payment. Like a normal monthly payment, a statement credit is deducted from your card balance, reducing the amount of money you owe. But where cardholders are responsible for payments, credits come from either a merchant or card issuer.

rewards cards also allow you to redeem the points or miles you’ve earned as statement credits. While some cards allow you to use a statement credit to reduce your balance with no restrictions, others only apply credits to your account after you meet certain criteria or make purchases in specific spending categories.

Statement credits on cash back cards

Cash back cards usually make it easy to redeem your points as a statement credit. In most cases, all you need to do is meet the card’s minimum redemption criteria, then choose a statement credit as your redemption method. Once a credit is applied to your account, your card balance decreases accordingly.

If, for example, you were to spend $3,000 with a flat rate 1 percent cash back card, you’d earn a $30 credit; and if you were to redeem this entire credit, $30 would be deducted from your account balance.

While many cards give you the option to request your cash back in the form a check, some only allow you to redeem as a statement credit – so be sure to read your issuer’s terms carefully. After all, when you get your cash back as a check or direct deposit, the money is yours to spend or save as you’d like. With a statement credit, however, the funds are “trapped” in your account and only impact your card balance. If you stop using your card or close your account, you could lose any cash back or points you haven’t redeemed.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for example, allows you to book travel through the rewards center at a rate of 1 cent per mile. But if you redeem your miles for cash back as a statement credit, their value is cut in half to just 0.5 cents per mile.

If you prefer to redeem your rewards as a statement credit, make sure doing so doesn’t dilute the value of your points or miles, as each rewards program grants and values statement credits a little differently.

Statement credits for an introductory bonus

Statement credits also frequently appear as part of a card introductory or annual bonus, when issuers offer to reward you if you spend a certain amount of money within a given timeframe. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, offers a $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 with your new card in the first 3 months. Instead of simply sending you a check for $250, however, American Express credits your account $250 after you’ve met the conditions of the offer. Once received, the credit will cover the next $250 you charge.

Statement credits for card benefits

Many cards also award extra perks in the form of a statement credit. The United Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, each offer up to a $100 credit to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.

In these cases, a statement credit is applied to your account only after you make the eligible purchase and cannot be used for anything else.

How statement credits work with the major rewards programs

Here’s how some of the major rewards programs treat statement credits:

Rewards program Can you redeem rewards as a statement credit? Minimum redemption Rewards rate when redeemed as a credit
Discover cards Cashback Bonus Yes None 1:1
Bank of America Cash Rewards Yes None ($25 for automatic redemptions) 1:1
American Express Membership Rewards Yes $25 1:0.6
Chase Ultimate Rewards Yes $20 1:1

Should I redeem my points as a statement credit?

Once you know what a statement credit is and how it’s treated by your rewards program, you’ll probably wonder if it’s smart to redeem your points or miles in this form. While the answer will depend on your spending habits, goals and financial situation, it makes more sense in certain circumstances.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should redeem your points as a credit statement, consider the following:

  • Are you going to carry a balance? If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to pay off your balance in full by the due date, redeeming your points as a statement credit makes sense. You’ll knock a chunk off your balance and make it easier to pay in full and avoid interest charges. Keep in mind, however, that statement credits are not usually considered payments, so if you can’t help carrying a balance, you’ll still have to make a minimum out-of-pocket payment.
  • Does your card offer an incentive for redeeming points as a statement credit? Some cash back cards offer redemption bonuses when you opt for a statement credit over “true” cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit. If that’s the case, and you plan to continue using the card, go with a statement credit to get more mileage out of your cash back rewards.
  • Are your points worth less when redeemed as a statement credit? If you’re using a card with a more flexible rewards program, redeeming your rewards as a statement credit is likely possible, but not necessarily wise. Check your issuer’s terms to see if your points lose any value when redeemed as a statement credit. If 1 point is worth 1 cent when used for travel purchases, but only 0.5 cents when redeemed as a statement credit, you’re missing out on a lot of the value you’ve earned. If you have no interest in travel, see if you can get full value out of your points in a roundabout way, like redeeming points for gift cards at stores you frequent.

Other ways to redeem your credit card rewards

Many cards offer several other options for redeeming your rewards. In addition to statement credits, you may be able to redeem cash back, points, or miles for:

  • A direct deposit – You can link your bank account so that when you hit “redeem,” that money goes directly to your account. For some, this is more satisfying than receiving a statement credit.
  • A check – If you don’t mind waiting, many credit card issuers will mail a check for the value of your rewards.
  • Gift cards – Some credit cards allow you to exchange your points or cash back for gift cards. Make sure that you’re getting the same or more value before you choose this option – sometimes the dollar value of gift cards is different from what you would get redeeming for a statement credit or direct deposit.
  • Merchandise – Credit card issuers sometimes have shopping portals that give you the option to use your cash back or points to pay for merchandise. This is another option that you should approach with caution. Do the math to make sure you’re getting the same dollar value as you would with a direct deposit or statement credit.
  • Travel – Travel redemption options vary from card to card, but there are two main methods, one of which is receiving a statement credit for travel purchases you’ve already made. The other is using the issuer’s portal to book travel, such as flights or hotels, online.

Final Thoughts

A statement credit is just one way you can receive bonuses and redeem the rewards you’ve earned. If you’re using a cash back card, it could be a smart, low-maintenance way to reduce your balance and build good spending habits. If you’re using a more flexible rewards or travel card, though, make sure redeeming as a statement credit still gets you fair value for your points or miles.

Source: creditcards.com

How an Employer 401(k) Match Works

Man at desk on tablet

Whether your retirement plans involve writing your memoir from a lovely little seaside cottage, a heated game of bocce against your (*ahem* sore loser) neighbor, or hitting up every farmers market in a 50-mile radius, a 401(k) is one savings strategy you can use to save money to get you there.

Simply put, a 401(k) is a mechanism for saving retirement funds by making pre-tax contributions through deductions from payroll. Some plans offer a 401(k) employer match, which can be the equivalent of getting “free money” from an employer.

A Quick Breakdown on 401(k) Plans

A 401(k) is an investment plan many employers offer their employees as a way to save for retirement. Employees can contribute either a percentage of or predetermined amount from each paycheck and, in some cases, the contributions can be matched by the employer up to a certain amount.

These deferred wages, also called “elective deferrals,” aren’t typically subject to federal income tax withholding, and are not listed as taxable income on the employee’s annual return.

If someone is self-employed, they can contribute to a one participant 401(k) plan plan with the same rules and requirements as an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Similarly, 457(b) plans can be used for public sector employees, and 403(b) plans for public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations.

Advantages of Participating in a 401(k)

A few advantages to participating in a 401(k) :

1. Investment gains and elective deferrals to 401(k) plans are not subject to federal income tax until they’re distributed, which is typically when:

•   The participant reaches the age of 59½
•   The participant becomes disabled, deceased, or otherwise has a severance from employment
•   The plan terminates and no subsequent plan is established by the employer
•   The participant incurs a financial hardship

2. Elective deferrals are 100% vested. The participant owns 100% of the money in their account, and the employer cannot take it back or forfeit it for any reason.

3. Participants choose how to invest their 401(k). The plans are mainly self-directed, meaning participants decide how they’d like to invest the money in their account. This could mean mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) which invests in a wide array of sectors and companies, but typically doesn’t include investing in individual companies and stocks.

Investment tactics might vary from person to person, but by understanding their goals, investors can decide whether their portfolio will have time to withstand market ups and downs with some high-risk, high-reward investments, or if they should shift to a more conservative allocation as they come closer to retirement.

What About 401(k) Vesting Schedules?

“Vesting ” means “ownership” in a retirement plan. The employee will vest, or own, some percent of their account balance. In the case of a 401(k), being 100% vested means they’ve met their employer’s vesting schedule requirements to ensure complete ownership of their funds.

Vesting schedules, determined by 401(k) plan documents, can lay out certain employer vesting restrictions that range from immediate vesting to 100% vesting after three years to a schedule that increases the vested percentage based on years of service. Either way, all employees must be 100% vested if a plan is terminated by the employer or upon reaching the plan’s standard retirement age.

How Does a 401(k) Match Work?

A 401(k) match is an employee benefit that allows an employer to contribute a certain amount to their employee’s 401(k) plan. The match can be based on a percentage of the employee’s contribution, up to a certain portion of their total salary or a set dollar amount, depending on the terms of the plan.

Not all employers offer this benefit, and some have prerequisites for participating in the match, such as a minimum required contribution or a cap up to a certain amount.

Meeting with an HR representative or a benefits administrator is a one way to get a better idea of what’s possible. Learning the maximum percent of salary the company will contribute is a start, then the employee can set or increase their contribution accordingly to maximize the employer match benefit.

Benefits of a 401(k) Employer Match

According to a report from Fidelity Investments , the average employer 401(k) match reached a record high of 4.7% in 2019 and “boosted the average total savings rate to an all-time high of 13.5%.”

Many employees are taking advantage of this benefit. Some reasons they could benefit:

It’s Basically “Free Money”

An employer match is one part of the overall compensation package and another way to maximize the amount of money an employer pays their employees. Those employees could be turning their backs on free money by not contributing to an employer-matched 401(k) plan.

Reducing Taxable Income

According to FINRA , “with pre-tax contributions, every dollar you save will reduce your current taxable income by an equal amount, which means you will owe less in income taxes for the year. But your take-home pay will go down by less than a dollar.”

If a participant contributed $1,500 a year to a 401(k), they’d only owe taxes on their current salary minus that amount, which could save some serious money as that salary grows.

The Most Common Employer Match Formulas

Not all employer matches are created equal.

According to a recent report from Vanguard , “How America Saves,” among the 150 distinct match formulas administered through their employer-matched 401(k) plans in 2018:

•  70% of plans used a single-tier match formula, with the most commonly cited being $0.50 on the dollar on the first 6% of pay.
•  21% of plans used multi-tier match formulas, e.g., dollar-on-dollar on the first 3% of pay and $0.50 on the dollar on the next 2% of pay.

A Sample Employer Match 401(k) Scenario

For the sake of breaking a few things down, here’s a retirement saving scenario that can illuminate how 401(k) matching works in real life:

Let’s say a person is 30 years old, with a salary of $50,000, contributing 3% of their salary (or $1,500) to a 401(k). Let’s also say they keep making $50,000 and contributing 3% every year until they’re 65. They will have put $52,500 into their 401(k) in those 35 years.

Now let’s say they opt into an employer match with a dollar-for-dollar up to 3% formula. Putting aside the likelihood of an increase in the value of the investments, they’ll have saved $105,000— with $52,500 in free contributions from their employer.

That’s a no-cost way to increase retirement savings by 100%.

How Much Should a Participant Contribute?

The average 401(k) employee contribution amount, according to Fidelity , reached a record level of $2,370 in 2019. Still, there’s no across-the-board amount that will work for everyone.

When deciding how much to contribute to a 401(k) plan, many factors might be considered to take advantage of a unique savings approach:

•   If a company offers a 401(k) employer match, the participant might consider contributing enough to meet whatever the minimum match requirements are.
•   If a participant is closer to retirement age, they’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what they already have saved and what they need to reach their retirement goals. An increase in contributions can make a difference, and maxing out their 401(k) might be a solid strategy.

A retirement calculator can also be helpful in determining what the right contribution amount is for a specific financial situation.

Are There 401(k) Contribution Limits?

In addition to the uncertainty that can come with choosing how much to contribute to a 401(k), there’s the added pressure of potential penalties for going over the maximum 401(k) contribution limit.

Three common limits to 401(k) contributions :

1. Elective deferral limits: Contribution amounts chosen by an employee and contributed to a 401(k) plan by the employer. In 2020, participants can contribute up to $19,500.

2. Catch-up contribution limits: After the age of 50, participants can contribute more to their 401(k) with catch-up contributions. In 2020, participants can make up to $6,500 in catch-up contributions.

3. Employer contribution limits: An employer can also make contributions and matches to a 401(k). The combined limit (not including catch-up contributions) on employer and employee contributions in 2020 is $57,000.

If participants think their total deferrals will exceed the limit for that particular year, the IRS recommends notifying the plan to request the difference (an “excess deferral ”) “be paid out of any of the plans that permit these distributions. The plan must then pay the employee that amount by April 15 of the following year (or an earlier date specified in the plan).”

Getting Started With Investing

Real, human advisors are a great outlet for discussing financial situations and potentially finding a retirement planning strategy that works for each investor (remember that beachside cottage?).

Opening a SoFi Invest® account lets you get started with as little as $1 and comes with complimentary access to financial advisors who are held to the highest fiduciary standards, meaning they’re required to act on your best interests. Try an exploratory conversation at no cost.

Start saving for retirement with SoFi Invest.



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50 Ideas To Help You Get Out of Debt!

The post 50 Ideas To Help You Get Out of Debt! appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

When it comes to trying to get out of debt, I’ve seen and heard it all.  From the person who gets three jobs to the guy who sold his dream car – just to make it all happen.  It got me to thinking – what are some of the craziest ideas out there to help you find your way out of debt?

find money to pay off debt

I decided to make a fun post about the craziest ideas people have tried just to try to get their debts paid off.  The funniest thing is that these really do work!  Who knows?  Maybe one of these will inspire you too!

If you are struggling  with paying off your debt, these folks may be able to help:
Call 866-948-5666.

50 IDEAS TO HELP YOU GET OUT OF DEBT

SELL ITEMS

Things are that – just things.  They don’t define us, and they don’t always make us completely happy.  My husband and I sold so many items when we were trying to get out of debt that we were able to raise more than $1,000.  The thing is – I can’t even remember what we sold (which proves that they were things we obviously did not really need).  Here are some unconventional ideas of things you can sell:

1. Hair.  This may sound bizarre, but people will pay for long hair!  Crafters often use it for making dolls, so they will pay to buy it.  You will need to have at least 10″ or more to sell, and the price will vary greatly. You can visit eBay to learn more and get started.

2. Toilet paper / paper towel rolls.  Have you been on Pinterest and seen the number of craft projects which require a paper towel or toilet paper tubes?  They are all over the place!

You can get onto local sites such as Wallapop, Craigslist or even visit eBay and list your products for sale.  It may sound crazy, but it actually can work.

3. Gift cards.  If you get a gift card for any reason, be it a return or even a gift, you can turn around and sell the card.  You won’t get quite face value for it, but you also can at least get paid cold hard cash.

They don’t have even to have the full value on them.  For instance, if you had a $100 gift card to your favorite sporting goods store, but you only have used $26.48, you can still sell your card, and another person can use the remaining balance.

Visit Raise.com to learn more about placing your gift cards up for sale.

4. Daily Deal vouchers.  Did you buy a deal on LivingSocial and haven’t yet redeemed the voucher, you can sell it.

5.  Sell things you don’t need.  Use eBay, Craigslist or LetGo to sell the stuff you do not need anymore.  Go through your home and decide what you need and what you could sell to raise some quick funds to pay off your debt!

 

SIMPLE IDEAS

These are things that just make sense and most people think about…but you may not have thought of every one of them!

6.  Budget.  Of course, it seems this should go without saying, but it is not always obvious. If you don’t have a budget, you have no control of your money.  Learn How to Create a Budget.

7. Coupons.  Start using coupons to save as much as you possibly can at the grocery store.  Then, use the amount you save to pay towards your debt! Read more about How to Use Coupons.

8. Change where you shop.  If you live near an Aldi, start to buy groceries there.  Skip the clothing store and find consignment stores to find gently used clothes.  Read more about How to Shop at Aldi.

9. No more dinners out.  This is a tough one, but it works.  Best of all, its not something you will have to give up forever!  Just think, if you spend $100 or more a month dining out that is more than $1,000 to pay towards your debt in just one year!

If you do have dinner out, skip the soft drinks and go for water instead, which is free!  Make sure you also pass on the appetizers and consider splitting a larger entree to pay less.

10. Give up your hobbies.  If you are an avid golfer, you might give that up for some time and use the monthly dues to pay towards debt.

11. Menu plan.  By planning your meals, you not only know what you will have for dinner, but it also helps you plan your shopping trip.  That ensures you have all you need on hand when you get ready to cook all of your meals – saving you from running to the store for that “one item,” which often leads to more.  Read more about How to Create a Menu Plan.

12. Ask for rate reductions.  Contact your creditors to see if they would lower your interest rate at all. This is not always something that works, but it is definitely worth a few calls to see if it won’t work for you. Learn the tricks to asking for a rate reduction.

13. Avoid paying monthly fees.  If your bank charges monthly fees, ask them to waive them.  If they will not, consider moving to another one which offers free banking.  Even $5 a month is $60 a year that you are giving to them, just to have your account.

14. Keep the change.  I always use cash.  I don’t even pay with change.  If the total is $6.42, I hand over $7 and keep the change.  I roll all of this once a year and usually have quite a nice amount saved up.  Best of all – I never miss it!

15.  Overbudget.  This is a fun way to get extra money.  We may budget $300 for groceries every two weeks, but I will do what I can to keep my shopping way under this amount.  Then, I take anything left over at the end of that two weeks and save it (you could use it towards your debt). It’s a fun way to challenge yourself to see how little you can spend!

16.  Change insurance.  Make some calls to find out of you can get a better rate on your auto and home (renter’s) insurance.  You can sometimes find a better deal by bundling or even by increasing your deductibles a bit.

17.  Skip the evening movies.  If you love to visit the movies try the matinee instead!  You can usually pay less by catching the afternoon show. Make sure you pass on the snacks too, as those can add up quickly!

18.  Don’t buy books.  Instead of buying books, visit the library or get free Kindle books.  No need to buy them at all, when there are ways you can get them for free!  Find out more ways to get free books.

 

EXTREME IDEAS

These are ideas which do not work for everyone, but have worked to help others get out of debt very quickly!

19. Stop retirement contributions.  If you are in debt, you might want to take that 15% you were saving for retirement and throw it all towards your debt.  As soon as you are debt free, you can start that contribution again (and maybe even do more than that to other accounts).

20. Cancel cable completely. If you really want to go drastic, you need to take all steps necessary to do so.  Cable can run more than $100 (or even more than $150) per month.  If you can cut out cable entirely, you might quickly free up $100 or more every single month!

21. Sell your car.  If you are leasing a vehicle, that is a simple way to throw money away, as you will never own it.  Turn in the vehicle and then take out a loan to purchase a much older car, where you will pay less per month.  Best of all, you will own it in a few short years!

If you have an expensive vehicle, you can also sell that and then purchase an older car, which will reduce your monthly overhead (and possibly taxes and insurance).

22. Move.  If you are renting or even if you own your home, consider downsizing to pay less each month.  I know many people have opted to sell their home and use any income to pay towards debt, and then they rent until they are debt free.  Then, they save to get the house of their dreams, which they can purchase debt free!

23.  Turn off your home phone.  This can run $30 or more a month.  Just use your cell phone and cancel your home service.

24. Downgrade your cell phone.  Try to reduce the data you use to see if you can’t lower your monthly payment on your cell phone.  Stick with your home internet for most of your data usage, and you can use your phone less and less and rack up the savings.

25.  Swap services.  Instead of paying for babysitting, exchange time with another couple.  You watch their kids for free, and they can do the same for you.  You might be able to swap your tutoring for haircuts or your lawn mowing for handyman repairs.

26.  Make gifts.  Instead of buying people gifts for birthdays and holidays, consider making them yourself.  You could even offer a “service” gift where you will babysit once a month for a year, etc.  Find a way to give from the heart instead.

27.  Budget bill your utilities.  If you can, arrange for budget billing with your services.  This can make it easier to include your budget and will avoid those swings in the summer or the winter when certain utilities may be more expensive.

28.  Drop the gym or country club.  If you have a membership of any sort, just cancel it.  If you work out at the gym, try to find free videos you can follow at home or create your own workout plan. If you like to golf, go with a friend instead of paying for your membership.

29.  No more coffee trips.  Make your coffee at home each morning and cancel that run through the drive-thru.

30.   Take your lunch.  It is great to go out to lunch every day, but pack your lunch, and you’ll ensure you eat up leftovers.  Not only will you waste less food, but you’ll also save a nice chunk of money every month.

31.  Carpool.  Take turns driving to work and save money on fuel and also wear and tear on your vehicle.

32.   Set up no spend months.  This is a tough one, but see if you can go a few weeks without spending anything more than you need to survive.  That means no dining out.  No entertainment.  No clothes.  Just food and fuel and that’s it!

 

MAKE MONEY

This is a bit different than working from home.  These ideas help you make a bit more money just doing things you might already do – like search the internet, shop, etc.  These sites will pay you money to do just that.  Then, turn around and apply anything you make towards your savings.

33. Swagbucks. Use this site to get paid for doing searches and other things you normally do online!  Click HERE to learn more about Swagbucks.

34. Sell crafts on Etsy. If you are good at crocheting, woodworking or anything at all, look at selling your wares on Etsy. It is a simple platform and the costs are very low, which allows you to keep most of what you make from each sale.

35. Rent a room in your home.  If you have a walk-out basement, consider renting out the space to make more money.  Just check with your local laws and homeowner’s association to ensure this is allowed before you jump in to start this one.

36. Sell stocks.  If you have investments, considering selling them and using the proceeds to pay towards your debt.

37. Give music lessons.  If you know an instrument or you can sing, consider selling your time to help teach others.

38. Tutor.  Find your expertise and teach others.  You never know who you might be able to help!

39. Start a blog.  You may not get rich with your blog, but it can turn into a nice stream of income!  Learn more about How to Start a Blog.

40.  Visit garage sales and upcycle.  Find items very inexpensive at a yard or garage sales.  Put in some elbow grease, paint and creativity and turn them into something you can sell for a profit.  Check out flea markets and farmer’s markets for larger items and for places where you can sell your items.

41.  Find holiday work.  When the holidays roll around, many stores hire employees for a short 6 – 8 week period.  Sign up and put in some extra time after your regular job and make some extra cash you can use to pay down your debt.

42.  Become a mystery shopper.  This is a great way to get some things for free.  This is not a way to get rich but is an excellent way to get some of the things you need for free (which allows you more money to pay towards your debt).

43. Become an eBay master.  Purchase items on clearance or at deep discounts and then sell them for a profit on eBay.   You can still offer prices which are less than in the store, but more than you paid.

44.  Ask for a raise.  Don’t be afraid to ask for one.  Make sure you share the additional work or responsibilities you’ve taken on as a reason why.  Or, if it has been a while since you last had a raise, you can mention that too.  It never hurts to try.

45.  Sell an eBook.  If you are an expert in any field, or if you love to write, create a book you can sell on Amazon!

 

MENTAL

While there are things that you can physically do to save or to make money, you need to get your brain into the right mindset too.

46.  Make your goal visible.  If you want to get out of debt so you can afford to save for a vacation, tape a photo of the destination where you see it each day.  It could be on your office wall, bathroom mirror or the refrigerator.

47.  Learn to be happy with less.  Sure, a new TV might be fun to own. It could be enjoyable to go out to dinner.  However, do you need those things?  Probably not.  Find a way to be happy spending time at home spending no money at all, and you’ll realize how much those things don’t matter.

48.  Learn to say no.  You may need to tell friends you can’t go out to dinner.  It may mean telling the kids that they can’t get that treat at the grocery store. You may need to say to yourself that you do not need to grab that afternoon latte.  Learning to say no can easily keep more money in your pocket.

49.  Give more.  This may seem crazy, but it actually works.  When you give more of yourself to others, you feel better.  Best of all, giving is not always financial. It can mean your time or even your prayers.

50. Surround yourself with the right people. If your friends encourage you to spend money, then you might want to distance yourself from them (at least until you can get better control over your finances and self-control).  Find other people who think like you do so that they can encourage and build you up.

There you’ve got it.  Fifty ways to help get you out of debt!  Which are you getting ready to try?

ideas to help find money to pay off debt

The post 50 Ideas To Help You Get Out of Debt! appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.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