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 â and make money for the machineâs owner.
Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. Itâs 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 Merchandiserâs Annual State of the Industry Survey â 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:
Hospitals and nursing homes
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.
âWeâre in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores donât want the machines there, they donât want the kids congregating, they donât want people touching them,â 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 doesnât require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.
âThereâs a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,â Ausmus said. âThe 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.â
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.
âIf (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 thatâs how busy they are,â Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy donât 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.
âYou gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it wonât move and you wonât make any money and you certainly donât want to throw [product] away,â Ausmus said. âYouâve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and thatâs what you restock with, what sells.â
Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning itâs possible to start small and expand. You donât 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. Ausmusâ novelty machines need kids around.
âOne of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,â he said.
Location can be about trial and error.
âItâs really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that itâs not making enough money. â¦ You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,â 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.
âMake sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,â said Ausmus. âIf somebody didnât 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.â
Automatic merchandising isnât 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.
âThen you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,â said Ausmus. âThree four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.â
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.
Since weâre in the middle of a pandemic, weâre all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether youâre working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While youâre taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, itâs probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.
Wondering how you should use your credit card? Weâve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency.
How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic
But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyoneâs situation is differentâso what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.
1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum
If youâre working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when youâre in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses.
David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. âTry browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,â Lord suggests. âIf you take a look at your cart the next day, youâll most likely find that 90% of the time you wonât remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.â
If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something thatâll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, youâll be too distracted to buy something else.
2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape
During a global emergency, it feels like everythingâs up in the air. Because of that, itâs important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst.
Letâs say you find yourself with a bill that you canât pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, youâd probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, youâll need a good credit score.
If youâre in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Hereâs some quick things you can do today:
Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
Pay your bills on timeâat least the minimum payment
Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%
But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you canât keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio wonât impact your score as much as missing a payment. Thatâs because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score.
3. Utilize Cashback Rewards
Do you have a greatÂ rewards credit card on your hands? Nowâs a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases.Â
4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards
If you already have significant debt or if youâve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.
These are great options if youâre faced with new debt. If youâre struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check canât cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so youâre not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.
Be Mindful of Your Situation
Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.
Go to Guide
If youâre looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you.
The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.
The Chase Sapphire PreferredÂ® Card* and American ExpressÂ® Gold Card are two of the most lucrative rewards credit cards available. Both cards earn flexible and transferable points â 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 youâre looking for in a credit card and how much youâre willing to pay for extra services and perks. Letâs 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 ExpressÂ® Gold Card
Chase Sapphire PreferredÂ® Card
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
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
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)
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)
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 â the one you value most will depend on what other credit cards you have and how you typically travel. Itâs 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.
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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 Chaseâs 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.
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.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred does not have very many noteworthy perks, other than its high welcome bonus and redemption options â but one nice benefit is its rental car coverage. The Preferred card offers primary rental car coverage, meaning you donât 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 â 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.Â
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, asÂ over $1.25 trillionÂ 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 reportedÂ spending 18% lessÂ 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, overÂ half of all small businessesÂ 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:
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 overÂ $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 orÂ 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.Â Click hereÂ to find out how!
The post 3 Reasons to Use Cash and 3 Reasons to Choose Credit appeared first on MintLife Blog.
For most people, working is inevitable: You need a job to afford your lifestyle. The trick, of course, is to find a balance where you can earn the money you need without spending all of your time in the workplace. Some of that depends on what the work culture is like in your city, how much you need to earn to pay for housing and how long you have to spend getting to work. To that end, SmartAsset analyzed 100 of the biggest cities in the country to find the best cities for work-life balance for 2021.
To do so, we considered data on the following metrics: walk score; arts, entertainment and recreation establishments as a percentage of all establishments; restaurants as a percentage of all establishments; housing costs as a percentage of income; average weeks worked per year; average hours worked per week; average commute time; percentage of workers with a commute longer than 60 minutes; October 2020 unemployment rate and labor force participation rate. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAssetâs fourth study on the cities with the best work-life balance. Read the 2020 version here.
Big city commuting blues. On average in our study, just 7.2% of commuters spend more than 60 minutes getting to and from work. In the biggest U.S. cities, though, that number can be much higher. For instance, 15.7% of commuters have a commute of at least an hour in San Francisco. In Boston, that figure is 11.9%. The city where the most commuters spend at least an hour on the go? New York City, where relatively packed subways and busy streets mean 27.2% of commuters spend at least an hour on travel alone, leaving even less time for recreation. New York also has the longest 2019 average commute time, at 41.7 minutes.
Midwest consistency up top. Four Midwestern cities â Madison, Wisconsin; Lincoln, Nebraska; Omaha, Nebraska; and Columbus, Ohio â also made the top 10 in this study last year. Three of these cities â Madison, Lincoln and Omaha â excel because of their low unemployment rate, finishing in the top 10 this year. Columbus finishes a bit lower (20th) in that metric, but it does particularly well in terms of low housing costs as a percentage of income, ranking sixth.
1. Madison, WI
For the second year in a row, Madison, Wisconsin is the best city in America for work-life balance. Madison doesnât lead in any categories, but it does finish in the top 10% of the study for six out of 10 metrics. This includes coming in second-lowest for average hours worked per week (36.4), third-lowest for October 2020 unemployment rate (3.9%) and sixth-highest for labor force participation rate (73.2%).
2. Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach, Virginia ranks in the top 10% of this study for two metrics: fourth-highest for restaurants as a percentage of all establishments (10.10%) and sixth-lowest for October 2020 unemployment rate (4.7%). The beach town also ranks in the top 20% of the study for two other metrics: 14th-best for labor force participation rate (71.9%) and 17th-best for arts, entertainment and recreation establishments as a percentage of all establishments (1.88%).
3. Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis is the first Minnesota city to make this list, and it does so on the back of finishing in the top five for two different metrics: third for a strong labor force participation rate (74.9%) and fifth for a low October 2020 unemployment rate (4.5%). Minneapolis also places 12th-best in terms of housing costs as a percentage of income at 29.43%.
4. Lincoln, NE
Lincoln, Nebraska has the lowest October 2020 unemployment rate in the study, just 2.7%. Lincoln also finishes second for the best commute time, an average of just 18.4 minutes, and places sixth-lowest for the percentage of commuters with a commute of longer than 60 minutes, just 2.7%. Lincoln finishes near the bottom of the study, though, in terms of the average weeks worked per year, at 39.65.
5. Omaha, NE
Another Nebraska locale is next â Omaha. The unemployment rate there in October 2020 was 3.3%, the second-lowest in the study â giving the top two spots in that metric to Nebraskan cities. Omaha also places eighth-best in terms of average commute time. The average commuter in Omaha spends just 20.1 minutes in transit, a far cry from the traffic-packed streets of some bigger cities. Omaha residents do work much of the year, finishing in the bottom quartile with 38.47 weeks worked per year.
6. Arlington, VA
Arlington, Virginia is a suburb of Washington, D.C., and it has the highest labor force participation rate in this study, 78.0%. Arlington also ranks second-lowest in the study for housing costs as a percentage of income â housing costs make up just 26.14% of income on average. People do work a lot in the town, though. Arlington ranks dead last in both the metrics measuring how much people work â an average of 41.3 hours per week and 41.80 weeks per year.
7. St. Paul, MN
St. Paul, Minnesota joins its twin city, Minneapolis, on this list and ranks in the top 10% percent of this study for three different metrics:
Fourth for average hours worked per week (36.8).
Sixth for October 2020 unemployment rate (4.7%).
10th for arts, entertainment and recreation establishments as a percentage of all establishments (2.04%).
8. Columbus, OH
Columbus, Ohio comes in sixth for housing costs as a percentage of income, at 27.53%. That is the only metric for which Columbus places in the top 10, but it does finish 11th-best for labor force participation rate (72.4%) and 20th-best for October 2020 unemployment rate (5.4%). Columbus finishes in the bottom quartile of this study for the metric measuring how many weeks per year people work on average, at 38.16.
9. Durham, NC
In Durham, North Carolina, just 2.7% of workers have a commute of at least an hour, the sixth-lowest total for this metric in the study. The average commute in Durham is 22.6 minutes, the 25th-lowest time spent traveling to work that we observed overall. Durham is not a particularly walkable city, however, finishing in the bottom 10% of the study in terms of walk score.
10. Lexington-Fayette, KY
Lexington-Fayette is the final entry into our top 10, and it finishes in the top 15% for three metrics:
14th for arts, entertainment and recreation establishments as a percentage of all establishments (1.95%)
14th for average commute time (21 minutes)
15th for housing costs as a percentage of income (29.66%)
Lexington suffers when it comes to walkability, though, finishing in the bottom quartile of the study in terms of walk score.
Data and Methodology
To find the best cities for work-life balance, we compared 100 of the largest cities in America across the following metrics:
Walk score. Data comes from walkscore.com and is for 2020.
Concentration of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments. This is the number of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments as a percentage of all establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2018 County Business Patterns Survey.
Concentration of restaurants. This is the number of restaurants as a percentage of all establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2018 County Business Patterns Survey.
Housing costs as a percentage of income. This is the median housing costs as a percentage of income for full-time workers. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Average number of weeks worked per year. This is how many weeks per year local employees work. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Average number of hours worked per week. This is the average number of hours a worker works in a week. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Average commute time. This is the average number of minutes it takes for a worker to commute to work. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Percentage of workers with a commute longer than 60 minutes. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for October 2020.
Labor force participation rate. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
First, we ranked each city in each metric. We then found the average ranking for each city. Walk score, concentration of arts and entertainment establishments, concentration of restaurants, housing costs as a percentage of income and labor force participation rate received a full weight. Weeks worked per year, hours worked per week, average commute time and percentage of workers with a commute of more than an hour each received a half weight. Unemployment rate received a double weight. We then ranked the cities based on this average. The top city received an index score of 100 and the bottom city received an index score of 0.
Tips for Finding a Healthy Financial Balance
Itâs easier to find balance if you can find support first. Once you have money, making sure it works for you can help you tip the scales of work-life balance in favor of life. A financial advisor can help with that. Finding the right financial advisor doesnât have to be hard. SmartAssetâs free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Budgeting is key. A budget can take care of your money decisions in advance and leave you with more time to actually enjoy life.
Save now if possible. When you retire, youâll likely be hoping to really live life without worrying about work for the first time. Make sure you use a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k) if it is available to you, as thatâs the best way to save for retirement and allow for travel and other leisure in your golden years.
Questions about our study? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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 â 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 theyâre handled a little differently by each rewards program, and thereâs a lot to consider when youâre trying to decide if theyâre the best way to redeem cash back or other rewards.
See related:Â 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 youâve 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 cardâs 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, youâd 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 â so be sure to read your issuerâs 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 youâd like. With a statement credit, however, the funds are âtrappedâ 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 havenât 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 doesnât 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 PreferredÂ® 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 youâve 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
Hereâs how some of the major rewards programs treat statement credits:
Can you redeem rewards as a statement credit?
Rewards rate when redeemed as a credit
Discover cards Cashback Bonus
Bank of America Cash Rewards
None ($25 for automatic redemptions)
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Should I redeem my points as a statement credit?
Once you know what a statement credit is and how itâs treated by your rewards program, youâll probably wonder if itâs 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 youâre trying to decide whether you should redeem your points as a credit statement, consider the following:
Are you going to carry a balance? If youâre not sure whether youâll be able to pay off your balance in full by the due date, redeeming your points as a statement credit makes sense. Youâll 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 canât help carrying a balance, youâll 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 âtrueâ cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit. If thatâs 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 youâre 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 issuerâs 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, youâre missing out on a lot of the value youâve 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 â You can link your bank account so that when you hit âredeem,â that money goes directly to your account. For some, this is more satisfying than receiving a statement credit.
A check â If you donât mind waiting, many credit card issuers will mail a check for the value of your rewards.
Gift cards â Some credit cards allow you to exchange your points or cash back for gift cards. Make sure that youâre getting the same or more value before you choose this option â sometimes the dollar value of gift cards is different from what you would get redeeming for a statement credit or direct deposit.
Merchandise â 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 youâre getting the same dollar value as you would with a direct deposit or statement credit.
Travel â 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 youâve already made. The other is using the issuerâs portal to book travel, such as flights or hotels, online.
A statement credit is just one way you can receive bonuses and redeem the rewards youâve earned. If youâre using a cash back card, it could be a smart, low-maintenance way to reduce your balance and build good spending habits. If youâre 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.
My first job out of college was with a recruiting firm run by three women who had nearly a hundred combined years of experience in the workforce. They taught me everything I needed to know about how to read resumes, including the warning signs to look for. A gap in employment was, according to them, the kiss of death.
Today, a hot minute and three U.S. presidents later, I truly believe that wisdom is as outdated as my prom dress. It was fine in the moment, but the moment has passed.
Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that.
The rules of employment history have changed, and the story you craft about your timeline is yours. Whether your employment gap happened because of a layoff, becoming a caregiver, taking a sabbatical, exploring entrepreneurship, or even just a mental health break, let's talk about how you can own that gap in a way that will want a prospective employer wanting more of you!
1. Lead with transparency
As poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that. There are no right or wrong plot points as long as each point is truthful.
When capturing your history (employment and otherwise) on your resume, be honest and transparent. There's no need to flag a gap in employment in bold print, but neither should you try to hide it.
Our journeys are complex and diverse. The trend toward inclusion will only grow in 2021. And beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce. Companies must look beyond the traditional one-directional career path, and search for talent whose life experience reflects that of their customers.
Beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce.
So don’t be ashamed of revealing your lived experiences, from caregiving to travel to taking time to pursue a passion. Transparency upfront will help you begin the conversation with a prospective employer on the right foot.
2. Reflect on your gains
Maybe you opted out of the workforce for a year to care for a child or parent or to travel the world. Or perhaps you were laid off in an economic downturn. Whatever your reason and whatever the cause, you were still a person living in the world during this time. Your experience may not have been “work experience,” but this is where life experience gets its time in the sun.
When I spent 2007 at home with my newborn daughter, there were days—many days—that left me feeling like my brain had turned to mush. Baby Beluga had become my theme song and I was spending days calculating ounces of milk digested and … processed. (Yes, I mean poops).
This is where life experience gets its time in the sun.
But as I started gearing up for a job search in 2008, I pushed myself to reflect on the gift of that year. Certainly, it was a privilege just to be with my infant daughter. But it had also given me some new skills and perspective.
Time management and prioritization become finely tuned when your baby’s naps are suddenly your only windows of productivity. I had become part of a new demographic—parents—which broadened my perspective not only on the world but on any company’s potential customer base.
Oh, and my ability to experience failure but keep on keeping on? That expanded immensely. I screwed up daily with sleep training and sign language and all the mothering things. But I also persisted because I had a new responsibility to manage.
These were some of my reflections. I challenge you to define your own.
Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.
Maybe you were laid off during the pandemic. You’re not alone. And remember, you’re leading with transparency. You don’t have to pretend the layoff was some grand gift. You’re allowed to experience disappointment. But shift quickly into considering what you gained during the weeks or months of not being employed.
What have you spent time doing? Being with family? Caring for a loved one? Supporting a working partner? Have you taken any classes? Picked up a new certification? Learned to cook? Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.
3. Craft the narrative
So now, armed with insight and reflection, it’s time to craft the story you will proudly tell any prospective employer. This is your chance to package yourself as the most irresistible product on the job market.
I’ve always loved the commencement address Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford back in 2005, during which he said:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.
So, as you look back at the totality of your experience—work and life—what is the story you want to tell that makes you the most compelling candidate? How will you choose to connect the dots and help your potential employer see the complete picture?
In 2008, I showed up in interviews not as a new mom hoping desperately for anyone to give me a chance, but as a person with a broad perspective to offer. I still had my pre-baby skills and experiences, but now I could apply a keen ability to prioritize, to think critically about what should command my focus, to learn from failure, and to be successful without having control over a situation.
My conversations with hiring leaders painted this picture of me. I made sure to bring in examples of both work and parenting experience. It made me real and whole. And it ultimately won me a great job.
So, what’s the story you’ll tell? Maybe being laid off taught you that things can change on a dime, which has challenged and enhanced your agility. Maybe you used your time to take classes, brush up on skills, and add a certification.
Prepare examples of how these insights and added skills will deliver value for your next employer. How lucky they will be to have you!
4. Fake it till you make it
I stand by the logic of everything I’ve said thus far. But there is so much more than logic at play here. There's ego and emotion and anxiety and lots of other messy human things. I’ve lived through, and overcome, all of that. Some days I’m still overcoming it.
Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it.
Are you wondering how I managed to show up with so much confidence after spending a year away from the corporate world? Then let me tell you my secret: It wasn’t confidence at all! It was all my fear and anxiety hidden behind a smile and a firm handshake. (Remember those?)
Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it. For now, if you’re struggling to access confidence, then just play the part. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the real thing will follow.
To make sure they were financially on the mark, Hynd, a marketing executive for HR software company Youmanage, decided to do some research on how to afford a dog on a budget, shortly after Chewie settled in. He was glad he did: He found that the costs of dog ownership added up to much more than he originally anticipated. Fortunately, there was still time for him to adjust.
But Hynd’s foresight is not always top of mind for new dog owners. Getting a dog can be an emotional, knee-jerk decision, and you may not think about the expenses that go along with it or how to budget for a dog. The cost of owning a dog over the average lifespan of 12 years ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. The majority of dog owners underestimate this figure.1 That’s the kind of misunderstanding that can leave you short on funds for things such as vaccinations and preventative careâeven food and toys.
So when asking yourself the question, “How much money should I budget for a dog?” you’ll be glad to know that a little financial preparation can go a long way toward making sure you’re ready for the responsibilities that come with pet ownership. The information that follows can help you and your new pooch share a happy, healthy friendship for years to come.
Welcome home: First-year costs for your pup
“Before getting my dog, I made sure to save as much money as possible,” says Danielle MÃ¼hlenberg, a professional dog trainer and blogger at PawLeaks, a site that focuses on dog training and dog behavior. MÃ¼hlenberg paid $1,300 for her 115-pound rottweiler Amalia. A safe approach when thinking about how to budget for a dog is to “always put away more money than you’ve calculated in your budget, so you won’t be overwhelmed by any surprise costs,” she adds.
MÃ¼hlenberg outlines the first-year expenses new dog owners should expect as they resolve how to afford a dog on a budget and some suggestions on managing costs:
Purchase/adoption fees and dog license
The purchase of a purebred puppy from a breeder can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 or moreâwhich makes a pure-blooded hound the most expensive type of dog to own. At the other end of the spectrum are the many shelter or rescue dogs in need of a home; they can generally be adopted for as little as a few hundred dollars. You will also need a dog license to bring home your pup, which runs from $10 to $20 on average (and needs to be renewed annually).
Pro Tip: Once you bring your tail-wagger home from the shelter or breeder, research local vets. Offices in one neighborhood or town can be much pricier than what you’d find if you’re open to a commute.
Upfront medical costs
It can cost between $200 and $800 to spay or neuter a dog at a veterinary clinic. You can typically pay less at a shelter or humane society, where such procedures are often subsidized by donations. In other costs, puppies need an initial exam and special vaccinations that typically run between $75 and $100 (rabies is the only shot required by law, however). Microchipping, while not mandatory, is recommended to help identify your pet if it’s lost or stolen. This procedure costs around $40.
Pro Tip: Plan to have your dog spayed or neutered. Otherwise, you may pay higher boarding fees and license fees, as well as release fees if your pup is taken in by animal control.
Comfort, training and grooming supplies
Expect to spend another few hundred dollars for a collar and leash ($6 to $50), food bowls ($10 to $50), waste bags ($6 to $20), a crate and bed ($25 to $250), doggie shampoo and brushes ($5 to $10), training pads ($16 to $35), toys ($10 to $200) and the first month’s supply of food ($40 to $60).
Pro Tip: Supplies like a dog crate or bowl can be found secondhand for a lower cost, sometimes for free. Check online listings for yard sales and giveaway events, where used or unwanted items are given away instead of being sold or thrown away.
Lost time at work
A new puppy needs a lot of attention, which can add to the cost of owning a dog. One in five dog owners took time off from work to care for a new puppy.2 Some puppies have a harder time on their own and can chew up your home and belongings, so it’s worth knowing this upfront in case your pup needs a sitter.
Pro Tip: Prepare for “puppydom” ahead of time by banking extra personal days or asking about short-term, work-from-home opportunities.
Ongoing expenses for your furry companion
Annual, ongoing costs of owning a dog can vary widely depending on your situation. Why the disparity? It’s due mainly to dog size. For instance, larger dogs eat more food, and if you’re the type of owner that chooses premium kibble over a lower-cost option, that can really add up. Groomers also charge more for larger dogs because of the extra time and care needed to handle them.
MÃ¼hlenberg spends about $1,200 per year on her Rottweiler’s high-end food and another $600 annually for twice-weekly social training sessions. A pricey diet and puppy play camp may fall in the “nice to have” category of dog ownership for some. Dog owners worried about how to afford a dog on a budget can minimize these costs by choosing less expensive canned food and kibble or by making their own dog food. To save on other expenses, MÃ¼ehlenberg grooms her dog at home, makes her own toys and treats and buys pet supplies in bulk.
To get a handle on how to budget for a dog, here are some of the biggest costs annually that dog owners need to plan for:
To help relieve the financial burden of how to afford a dog on a budget, you may want to open a savings account for emergencies. MÃ¼hlenberg puts a few hundred dollars aside each month, which can be tapped for unplanned household repairs due to any damage the dog may cause, dog sitting for unexpected travel or illness or other pup-related surprises. The Discover Online Savings Account is one place to hold cash for a dog-only emergency fund and grow your savings.
You earned it. Now earn more withÂ it.
Online savings with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Invest in keeping your pooch healthy
As you can see, there are a lot of annual costs to consider when determining how to afford a dog on a budgetâand they can really add up, particularly when a pooch gets sick or is involved in an accident. Preventative care such as flea, tick and heartworm medication, which can cost a total of $64 to $320 monthly, and regular vet visits can decrease the risk of an expensive health condition.3
For larger or recurring costs, consider pet insurance (an annual policy costs about $360 to $600).2 Some unexpected expenses can be offset by a pet insurance policy, which “is kind of like a forced savings account,” says Sara Ochoa, DVM, veterinary consultant for product review site DogLab. “You pay the insurance company, and they will pay for most of your pet’s medical bills.” This might go a long way in resolving how to budget for a dog.
For example, a typical pet insurance policy may cover accidents, illness and conditions that are genetic, congenital and chronic, as long as these conditions were not present at the time the policy was purchased.5
âAlways put away more money than you’ve calculated in your budget, so you won’t be overwhelmed by any surprise costs.”
Ochoa is often able to witness the financial benefits of pet insurance firsthand. She cites one example of a client whose dog had emergency surgery and spent a few nights in the hospital. According to Ochoa, the bill would have cost the owner around $7,000. With their pet insurance, they paid somewhere around $1,000.
Create a happy home for your four-legged friend
In the end, how to budget for a dog just takes some advance planning and preparation, which can help manage the upfront costs and monthly cash cushion required to ensure a happy and healthy dog. By understanding the cost of owning a dog as much as possible, you’ll have less financial stress and more time to focus on play time with your pup.
“Even with the associated costs,” Hynd says, “I don’t for one moment regret our decision [to bring Chewie home].” MÃ¼hlenberg agrees: “Bringing a dog into my life has always been a goal and dream of mine. The love and affection you receive back from a dog are priceless.”
1“The True Cost of Owning a Dog or Cat,” Credit.com 2“The True Cost of Getting a Puppy in 2019,” Rover.com 3“The True Cost of Getting a Dog,” Rover.com 4“5 Reasons to Get Your Dog Licensed,” Cesar’s Way 5“Pet Insurance Coverage: What You Need to Know,” ConsumersAdvocate.org
The post Fido-Proofing Your Budget: Managing the High Cost of Owning a Dog appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
While COVID-19 has affected all parts of daily life, the travel industry has certainly been put on hold as people have had to cancel plans and stay at home. Since most travelers plan many months in advance, this also leaves many holding tickets they can no longer use. Frequent flyers and hotel loyalty members are left wondering what recourse they have, if any, when it comes to their member status and points or miles.
We researched the major players in the hotel and airline industry to find out how these companies plan to accommodate their valued members â by extending points, status levels and more â in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus relief measures by loyalty or travel program
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
American Airlines AAdvantage
Southwest Rapid Rewards
In addition to donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals, Hilton has promised to compensate its Hilton Honors loyalty program members in a number of ways.
Lower status requirements
Hilton has cut status qualification requirements by half.
Previous status requirements
New status requirements
4 stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points
2 stays, 5 nights or 12,500 base points
20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points
10 stays, 30 nights or 37,500 base points
30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points
15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 base points
For any Silver, Gold or Diamond members that were due to downgrade in 2020 or 2021, statuses will be extended through March 31, 2022.
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Weekend night rewards on eligible Hilton credit cards that were not expired by May 1, 2020, will now be valid through August 31, 2021, and certificates issued from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, are valid for 24 months from the date of issuance. All free weekend night certificates issued in 2021 can be used any night of the week and expiration is extended until Dec. 31, 2022.
Additionally, bonus points will continue to count as base points on eligible purchases through Dec. 31, 2021, and toward elite status tier qualification, including Lifetime Diamond Status.
All 2020 elite qualifying nights will be rolled over to the 2021 status year. This applies to all nights members have already completed or will complete this calendar year.
On top of that, Hilton has lowered the requirements to earn Milestone Bonuses for 2021. Previously, you could earn 10,000 bonus points every 10 nights after completing 40 nights in a calendar year. Starting in January, that requirement has been changed to 20 nights stayed to align with the new Gold qualification level. However, 60 nights will still earn you 30,000 points.
Diamond members will be able to gift Gold status for staying 30 nights in 2021 instead of 60 nights which was the previous requirement. The requirement to gift Diamond status is lowered to 60 nights instead of 100.
To ensure member safety, Hilton is providing flexible cancellations and full points refunds for all Hilton Honors experiences booked through May 31, 2021.
You can follow further updates for Hilton Honors members on the loyalty program website.
Marriott plans to compensate its Marriott Bonvoy members, although benefits may vary depending on membersâ location.
See related: Marriott data breach involves 5.2 million hotel guests
Bonvoy members who earned elite status for 2020 can now enjoy their benefits through February 2022.
Points set to expire by February 2021 will be paused, and no points will expire until after that time period.Â
Active free night awards (as part of Marriott credit cards or packages) set to expire beginning March 1, 2020, will be extended through Aug. 1, 2021. Additionally, more recent certificates set to expire before July 31, 2021, will be extended through that date as well. Suite night awards set to expire by Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended another year through Dec. 31, 2021.
Additionally, Marriott will depositÂ Elite Night Credits into Bonvoy elite membersâ accounts in the amount of 50% of the nights required for the status they earned in 2019. This can make it easier for the members to reach the next tier.
Elite Night Credits deposit breakdown
Annual tier requirements
Extra elite night credits
100 Qualifying Nights and $20,000 stay spend
50 Elite Night Credits
75 Qualifying Nights
38 Elite Night Credits
50 Qualifying Nights
25 Elite Night Credits
25 Qualifying Nights
13 Elite Night Credits
10 Qualifying Nights
5 Elite Night Credits
Stay up to date on relief measures for Bonvoy members on the companyâs COVID-19 page.
Coronavirus: What to do if youâre unemployed and have credit card debt
How to manage your credit cards during the coronavirus outbreak
IHG Rewards Club
Due to travel constraints and shortened travel periods, IHG has lowered its requirements for elite status membership by 25% or more, as well as extended statuses and points for all members (since elite membersâ points never expire).Â
Lower status requirements
Previous qualification requirements
New qualification requirements
10,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
10 qualifying nights in a calendar year
7,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
7 qualifying nights in a calendar year
40,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
40 qualifying nights in a calendar year
30,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
30 qualifying nights in a calendar year
75,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
75 qualifying nights in a calendar year
55,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
55 qualifying nights in a calendar year
See related: The benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status
Program statuses will be extended through January 2022 for all members. Spire elite members will also retain their Choice benefit of 25,000 bonus points or gifting of Platinum Elite status to someone each year.
Anniversary night certificates (U.S. and U.K. only) set to expire before March 1, 2020, will be extended through the end of the year. All 2020 certificates will be redeemable for 18 months, instead of the usual 12. Some members have also reported that free night certificates expiring before Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended until August 2021.
Follow updates to IHG Rewards Club benefits on the programâs travel advisory page.
World of Hyatt
The World of Hyatt loyalty program will extend all statuses and rewards to compensate valued members.
All active elite statuses, as of March 31, 2020, will be extended through Feb. 28, 2022.Â
Forfeiting points due to inactivity will be suspended through June 30, 2021. No points will expire until that date.
Any earned rewards, such as free nights or upgrades, set to expire between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
Check the updates to Hyatt relief measures on the programâs COVID-19 page.
Keep an eye on Wyndhamâs COVID-19 statement page for updates.
It took Choice some time to follow suit and join other hotel chains in extending elite statuses and offering other promotions amid the outbreak. On May 21, 2020, the company announced a series of offers to expand the benefits of its Choice Privileges loyalty program.
“Even during this crisis, our members found a number of ways to engage with us and make a difference,” saidÂ Jamie Russo, vice president, loyalty programs and customer engagement, Choice Hotels. “Some of them are essential and frontline workers who chose to stay in our small-business hotels, and others showed their generosity by donating their Choice Privileges points to aid recovery efforts. Our latest loyalty program changes tell our members that we appreciate their continued support and our hotels are here to welcome them whenever they feel safe traveling again.”
All membersâ current elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
Lower status requirements
Choice is also easing requirements to qualify for elite status in 2021.
Previous status requirements
2021 status requirements
Additionally, Choice is giving current elite members a limited-time upgrade to the next tier. Gold members will be upgraded to Platinum status and Platinum members will be upgraded to Diamond. Additionally, members who stayed at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020, will be able to keep their upgraded tier through 2021.
United has said it would compensate their MileagePlus members by extending all annual memberships, subscriptions and checked bag benefits for six months. United also plans to make status membership requirements easier and will release information later in 2020.
All MileagePlus Premier members will get to retain their 2020 status through Jan. 31, 2022.
Lower status requirements
MileagePlus Premier membership now has easier requirements, reduced 50% for each status level.
Premier qualifying flights
â¦ or PQP
All valid travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020, will be extended to be valid for two years for booking, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. All redeposit fees for flights booked through May 31, 2020, will be waived, as well as all fees for members who cancel within at least 30 days of departure.
Follow more updates to United MileagePlus on the programâs travel notice page.
Delta has stepped up to say they will compensate their Medallion members by extending their Member status.
2020 Medallion Member status will be extended through Jan. 31, 2022, and this change should be reflected on the memberâs SkyMiles account by Feb. 1, 2021. Additionally, all 2020 Medallion Qualification Miles will roll over into 2021.
Follow updates to the Delta SkyMiles program on the coronavirus travel update page.
American Airlines AAdvantage
As AAdvantage members experience reduced travel opportunities due to the coronavirus, American Airlines is offering elite status extension, lowering elite status requirements and allowing eligible cardholders to earn miles toward Million Miler status with credit card spend.
Members whose elite status expires on Jan. 31, 2021, will automatically get an extension until Jan. 31, 2022.
Lower status requirements
Members will be able to qualify for a higher elite status in 2021 with lower requirements, including Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD), Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS).
Gold oneworld Ruby
Platinum oneworld Sapphire
Platinum Pro oneworld Sapphire
Executive Platinum oneworld Emerald
$2,000 EQDs and 20,000 EQMs or
$2,000 EQDs and 20 EQSs
$4,500 EQDs and 40,000 EQMs or
$4,500 EQDs and 45 EQSs
$7,000 EQDs and 60,000 EQMs or
$7,000 EQDs and 70 EQSs
$12,000 EQDs and 80,000 EQMs or
$12,000 EQDs and 95 EQSs
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® cardholders who hold a companion certificate expiring Dec. 31, 2020, will receive a six-month extension as well, bringing the expiration date to June 30, 2021.
Learn more about AAdvantage program updates on aa.com.
JetBlue took a bit longer to join other airlines in taking measures to support loyal customers. On May 14, 2020, JetBlue announced it’s extending Mosaic elite statuses, as well as making it easier to earn one.
All currently valid Mosaic elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
Lower status requirements
JetBlue is reducing the qualifying thresholds for Mosaic status by 50% for 2021. To earn the status this year, you’ll need to earn 7,500 qualifying TrueBlue base points or 6,000 qualifying TrueBlue base points and 15 flight segments.
Alternatively, you can get the elite status by spending $50,000 in annual net purchases on the JetBlue Plus card â this spending requirement hasn’t changed for 2020.
Virgin Atlantic has also made it easier for customers to earn and maintain elite status amid the pandemic.
In March 2020, Virgin Atlantic extended status for Gold and Silver members, allowing them an additional six months to meet the requirements.
On Aug. 20, 2020, the airline added another six months to the extension, making it one year in total.
Starting Sept. 1, 2020, the Flying Club program members will be able to earn tier points on award flights, meaning they’ll be able to earn elite-qualifying points on flights where they used Flying Club miles to redeem for travel.
On top of that, Virgin Atlantic makes it easier for members to earn and redeem Companion Vouchers, Upgrade Vouchers and Clubhouse Vouchers.
Members can now use Companion Vouchers with any ticket in any booking class, regardless of status. Gold and Silver members can book their companion into any cabin for zero miles, and Red members can book their companion into Economy and Premium for zero miles or upper class at a 50% discount.
Upgrade Vouchers can also be used with any ticket in any booking class, excluding Economy Light, for a one-cabin upgrade on a return flight.
Clubhouse Vouchers can be used for one entry to any clubhouse when booked on a Virgin flight or with Air France, Delta or KLM when flying internationally. Gold members will continue to receive two vouchers.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
On April 16, Southwest announced a status extension for A-List and A-List Preferred members and companion passes. The company is also giving a points “boost” to all Rapid Rewards members.
“As we continue to navigate our way through this unprecedented time and deal with extraordinary challenges, we are committed to keeping you informed and updated on the steps we are taking to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Southwest said in a message to Rapid Rewards members.
Companion Pass Members who received an extension of their earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021, will have their benefits extended for another six months. Members will be able to keep their status through Dec. 31, 2021.
Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, a âboostâ of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status, as well as 15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 qualifying flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred.
Southwest cardholders can also spend their way all the way to A-List status, with no cap on tier qualifying points (TQPs) earned through card spend. Previously, cardholders could only earn up to 15,000 TQPs per year via card spend.
Additionally, travel funds created or expiring between March 1, 2020, and Sep. 7, 2020, will now expire on Sep. 7, 2022. Alternatively, Rapid Rewards members can convert those funds into Rapid Rewards points. According to Southwest, the conversion ratio is âthe same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.â
On June 11, British Airways finally joined other airlines in extending the elite status for its members. Additionally, the carrier is reducing the number of tier points needed to reach a higher membership tier.
British Airways is extending tier status by 12 months for members who have a tier point collection end date of July 2020, through to June 2021.
Lower status requirements
The carrier has also reduced the number of points needed to retain and upgrade a membership status by 25%.
Here are the new tier qualification thresholds:
Bronze: 225 Tier Points or 18 eligible flights
Silver: 450 Tier Points or 37 eligible flights
Gold: 1125 Tier Points
Members who have earned heir Gold Upgrade Vouchers, Companion Vouchers and Travel Together Tickets with a British Airways credit card will get a 6-month expiration extension to any current vouchers.
CLEAR is a program that makes it quicker for travelers to get through airport security lanes by using biometrics for ID verification. Since many people are currently avoiding traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak, a CLEAR membership might not be useful at the moment.
Originally, CLEAR offered customers to pause their membership for three months. Now CLEAR is allowing members to request a three-month extension to their membership, which can be done by contacting the company directly. With customer service channels such as phone lines overloaded by requests, the fastest way to do so is via CLEARâs online chat. However, some users have reported experiencing difficulties finding the chat box on the website. Alternatively, you can reach CLEAR by text, email or phone.
TSA Precheck is a five-year membership that provides expedited security checks at select domestic airports in the U.S. At this time, TSA is planning to keep enrollment centers open while working to determine if any temporary closures are required. Some centers have been closed or changed hours.
If youâre planning to visit an enrollment center, itâs recommended that you schedule an appointment â as walk-ins may be deferred.
Visit TSAâs enrollment questions page for more information.
Global Entry, a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks when arriving in the U.S, has reopened its enrollment centers on Sept. 8, 2020. After a six-month hiatus, the program will finally allow conditionally approved Global Entry applicants to complete in-person interviews at most Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers in the U.S. The interviews must be scheduled in advance online, and their availability will vary by location.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected processing times for Global Entry renewals, CPB has increased the renewal grace period to 18 months. This means that if you apply for your Global Entry renewal before its expiration date, you’ll be able to use Global Entry for another 18 months.
As the coronavirus situation is unprecedented and changing rapidly every day, hotels and airlines continue to make updates to their travel policies, including their loyalty programs. Travelers should continue to check airline and hotel websites as the situation evolves. If they cannot find the information they need online, they should contact their hotel, airline or travel agencyâs customer service number.
Tornadoes are no joke. With winds that can top 250 miles per hour, these storms can clear a path a mile wide and 50 miles long. Emerging from afternoon thunderstorms, tornadoes usually include hail and high winds. This is why you need to take cover when the warning siren goes off.
The average alert time for a tornado is 13 minutes, but there are environmental clues one is on its way. The sky transforms into a dark, greenish mass and begins to roar like an oncoming train.
Tornadoes can happen anywhere
Tornadoes occur all over the world, but, âIn terms of absolute tornado counts, the United States leads the list, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
The U.S. experiences tornadoes all over the country, but one particular area gets hit the hardest. Known as Tornado Alley, the area covers South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Northern Texas and Eastern Colorado.
Whether you live in an area where tornadoes are common or not, it’s important to know how to stay safe in your apartment. Just as you create a plan for many emergency situations, know where to go in your apartment during these destructive storms.
Staying safe in an apartment building
On average, tornadoes move at speeds of about 10-20 miles per hour. They rarely travel more than six miles, which means they can damage a whole section of town. For that reason, if a tornado is in your area, seek shelter.
While basements are not an option in all apartment buildings, get low if you can during a tornado. Heading to the basement or even the sub-level of a parking garage offers the most insulation against the weather.
If your building doesn’t have a basement, try to get to the lowest floor if you can, regardless of whether or not it’s underground.
The next safest option during a tornado is any area fully-inside the building. This means no outside walls. Under a stairwell, an interior hallway or even a room within your apartment can work. Make sure there are no windows.
Crouch down as low as you can get with your face down. Cover your head with your hands for extra protection or bring in a bike helmet to wear during the storm. Because of your location, there’s still a chance for debris to fall, so protecting your head is important.
Even if they have an exterior wall or windows, bathrooms are safe because the thick pipes inside the walls insulate you during a tornado. Climb into the bathtub if you have one and bring in your bed’s mattress to serve as a cover.
These are usually interior rooms by design, making closets a good choice to ride out a tornado. Pull your clothes off their hangers and grab any bedding from the shelves to insulate yourself. Don’t forget to close the closet door for even more protection.
Avoid dangerous areas
Tornadoes kill about 80 people each year, according to John Roach at AccuWeather. There was a decrease in tornado fatalities in 2018, with only 10 Americans dying. This is the lowest number since record-keeping started in 1875.
Yet, people still lose their lives to these dangerous storms. While knowing the safest places to be in your apartment during a tornado, you should also know what areas to avoid.
With gusting winds strong enough to shatter glass, windows become dangerous during a tornado. Even worse, once a window breaks, all kinds of debris can blow inside.
If you can’t stay completely clear from windows during a tornado, do your best to block them and protect yourself. If you can, duct tape a blanket over the window or slide a big piece of furniture in front to keep glass out of your apartment.
While it may seem like a good idea to slide under your bed or inch behind a heavy dresser for protection during a tornado, it’s not. These pieces of furniture can shift during a storm or even fall through the floor. You don’t want to get pinned under or against something so heavy you can’t move.
Preparing for a tornado
If you live in an area where tornado warnings are common, consider creating a tornado evacuation kit to have on hand. These can include items you’d need to safely and easily exit your apartment after a tornado passes, such as:
Cell phone charger
Spare set of car and apartment keys
Photocopy of your driver’s license
Having these items ready can make it easier to evacuate your building after the storm.
Remaining safe after the tornado passes
Being safe doesn’t stop once a tornado passes. Dealing with the aftermath of this type of storm includes new dangers. Make sure to watch out for fallen or exposed utility lines, downed trees or limbs and debris.
Exercise extreme caution when leaving your apartment building. If enough damage occurs, you may have to stay out of your apartment. You may not see the dangers, so it’s important to wait for an official word before reentering. When you can, take pictures of any damage to your own property since you’ll most likely have to file an insurance claim.
Preparing for the unexpected such as weather, fire or even flood means having the right supplies and the best information on how to stay safe.
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