How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Theft

protecting yourself from credit card theft

Last fall, I received an email that appeared to be from my web host. The email claimed that there was a problem with my payment information and asked me to update it. I clicked on the link in the email and entered my credit card number, thinking that a recent change I’d made to my site must have caused a problem.

The next morning, I logged onto my credit card account to find two large unauthorized purchases. A scammer had successfully phished my payment information from me.

This failure of security is pretty embarrassing for a personal finance writer. I know better than to click through an email link claiming to be from my bank, credit card lender, or other financial institution. But because the email came from a source that wasn’t specifically financial (and because I was thinking about the changes I had made to my website just the day before), I let myself get played.

Thankfully, because I check my credit card balance daily, the scammers didn’t get away with it. However, it’s better to be proactive about avoiding credit card theft so you’re not stuck with the cleanup, which took me several months to complete.

Here’s how you can protect yourself from credit card theft. 

Protecting your physical credit card

Stealing your physical credit or debit card is in some respects the easiest way for a scammer to get their hands on your sweet, sweet money. With the actual card in hand, a scammer has all the information they need to make fraudulent purchases: the credit card number, expiration date, and the security code on the back.

That means keeping your physical cards safe is one of the best ways to protect yourself from credit card theft. Don’t carry more cards than you intend to use. Having every card you own in a bulging wallet makes it more likely someone could steal one when you’re not paying attention and you may not realize it’s gone if you have multiple cards.

Another common place where you might be separated from your card is at a restaurant. After you’ve paid your bill, it can be easy to forget if you’ve put away your card (especially if you’ve been enjoying adult beverages). So make it a habit to confirm that you have your card before you leave a restaurant.

If you do find yourself missing a credit or debit card, make sure you call your bank immediately to report it lost or stolen. The faster you move to lock down the card, the less likely the scammers will be able to make fraudulent charges. Make sure you have your bank’s phone number written down somewhere so you’re able to contact them quickly if your card is stolen or lost. (See also: Don’t Panic: Do This If Your Identity Gets Stolen)

Recognizing card skimmers

Credit card thieves also go high-tech to get your information. Credit card skimmers are small devices placed on a legitimate spot for a card scanner, such as on a gas pump or ATM. 

When you scan your card to pay, the skimmer device captures all the information stored in your card’s magnetic stripe. In some cases, when there’s a skimmer placed on an ATM, there’s also a tiny camera set up to record you entering your PIN so the fraudster has all the info they need to access your account.

The good news is that it’s possible to detect a card skimmer in the wild. Gas stations and ATMs are the most common places where you’ll see skimmer devices. Generally, these devices will often stick out past the panel rather than sit flush with it, as the legitimate credit card scanner is supposed to. Other red flags to look for are scanners that seem to jiggle or move slightly instead of being firmly affixed, or a pin pad that appears thicker than normal. All of these can potentially indicate a skimmer is in place. 

If you find something that looks hinky, go to a different gas station or ATM. Better safe than sorry. (See also: 18 Surprising Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen)

Protecting your credit card numbers at home

Your home is another place thieves will go searching for your sensitive information. To start, you likely receive credit card offers, the cards themselves, and your statements in the mail. While mail theft is relatively rare (it’s a federal crime, after all), it’s still a good idea to make sure you collect your mail daily and put a hold on it when you go out of town.

Once you get your card-related paperwork in the house, however, you still may be vulnerable. Because credit card scammers are not above a little dumpster diving to get their hands on your credit card number. This is why it’s a good idea to shred any paperwork with your credit card number and other identifying information on it before you throw it away.

Finally, protecting your credit cards at home also means being wary about whom you share information with over the phone. Unless you’ve initiated a phone call of your own volition — not because you’re calling someone who left a voicemail — you should never share your credit card numbers over the phone. Scammers will pose as customer service agents from your financial institution or a merchant you frequent to get your payment information. To be sure, you can hang up and call the institution yourself using the main phone number.

Keeping your cards safe online

You should never provide your credit card information via a link in an email purporting to be from your financial institution or a merchant. Scammers are able to make their fake emails and websites look legitimate, which was exactly the reason I fell victim to this fraud.

But even with my momentary lapse in judgment about being asked for my payment information from my "web host," there were other warning signs that I could’ve heeded if I had been paying attention. 

The first is the actual email address. These fake emails will often have a legitimate looking display name, which is the only thing you might see in your email. However, if you hover over or click on the display name, you can see the actual email address that sent you the message. Illegitimate addresses do not follow the same email address format you’ll see from the legitimate company.

In addition to that, looking at the URL that showed up when I clicked the link could’ve told me something weird was going on. Any legitimate site that needs your financial information will have a secure URL to accept your payment. Secure URLs start with https:// (rather than http://) and feature a lock icon in the browser bar. If these elements are missing, then you should not enter your credit card information. (See also: 3 Ways Millennials Can Avoid Financial Fraud)

Daily practices that keep you safe

In addition to these precautions, you can also protect your credit cards with the everyday choices you make. For instance, using strong, unique passwords for all of your online financial services, from shopping to banking, can help you prevent theft. Keeping those strong passwords safe — that is, not written down on a post-it note on your laptop — will also help protect your financial information.

Regularly going over your credit card and banking statements can also help ensure that you’re the only one making purchases with your credit cards. It was this daily habit of mine that made sure my scammers didn’t actually receive the computer they tried to purchase with my credit card. The fact that I check my balance daily meant I was able to shut down the fraudulent sale before they received the goods, even though I fell down on the job of protecting my credit card information. 

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How to Host a Money Stress Free Thanksgiving

From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated by some of the links that appear in this article. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting.  Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated.

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. It’s the countdown to Christmas, the first real family gathering since Easter or Fourth of July. For some people, it’s the only time they see their families. For many of us, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate gratitude and to be surrounded by the people you love most.

For others, it’s a stressful, labor-intensive, marathon that only ends when your last uncle leaves. In many instances, the end of Thanksgiving is the best part.

That’s not the only problem. Hosting Thanksgiving is a huge financial endeavor. Feeding a dozen people (or more) can be a huge strain, especially on top of other holiday expenses.

But this year can be different. This year, you’ll be composed, organized and dare I say it, even frugal. This year you’ll actually be glad for Thanksgiving. Want to learn how? Read on.

Ask for More Help

It’s not uncommon if you’re hosting Thanksgiving to take on all the work yourself. Especially if you’re a young adult, hosting your first Thanksgiving is a sign that you’re a real grown-up.

Paying for a Thanksgiving meal for a dozen people can add up quickly and sometimes there’s no reason why you should take on the burden by yourself. Ask everyone who’s coming to bring a side dish while you take on the responsibility of cooking the turkey. If you delegate sides appropriately, you can end up with a meal that not only costs less but is less time-intensive.

If you feel odd about asking people to pitch in, don’t. Almost everyone is happy to help, especially if it means they get to decide how they want to make the stuffing.

Choose Chicken

Buying a turkey on Thanksgiving is a quintessential tradition, but it can also be a costly one. A whole turkey can cost $1.50 per pound compared to the average whole chicken which can be less than $1 per pound.

If your friends and family aren’t die-hard traditionalists, you can probably get away with serving the latter bird. If you really plan ahead you can find a chicken on sale so you spend even less.

If you still want to do a turkey, buy one pound of turkey per guest instead of 1.5-2 pounds. You don’t need to have a ton of turkey leftovers, especially since it’s so expensive.

Aim for Fewer Leftovers

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a meal of Thanksgiving leftovers the next day. I love to pick out my favorites and make a smorgasbord sandwich out of them. But if you’re not careful you might end up with too many leftovers that you can’t use up before they go bad. If this has always been the case, then aim to cut back and have as little remaining as possible. When you do have leftovers, freeze a few so they don’t go bad.

You can freeze anything from cranberry sauce to stuffing to turkey. Dairy items sometimes lose consistency in the freezing process, but it’s still worth trying. When you do freezer meals remember to label them and put them in the freezer right away you won’t forget.

Watch Where You Buy Groceries

It’s always important to comparison shop your groceries, but it’s never more important than on a big holiday. Every store will have its own specials and deals and you might be surprised where you find the best option. My husband and I have recently been shopping a lot at Aldi, a chain more popular in the south in the Midwest. It’s a grocery store without a lot of extra frills so you can find deals way better than any of the other national brands.

We’ve also discovered the secret of ethnic grocery stores where produce prices are often 50% of what I see in my neighborhood grocery store. Before buying your Thanksgiving fixings, check out those stores to see if what you need is cheaper. Remember no one cares if you’re buying generic marshmallows for your sweet potato casserole. They just care that you follow Grandma’s recipe.

If you find yourself spending more on groceries, you may want a credit card that helps you maximize your rewards. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.

Simplify your Meals

If you’re like me, you probably have a variety of picky eaters in your family. Some people are vegan, some are vegetarian and some are changing their diet every week.

That can make it tempting to make a few different kinds of the same meal to please everyone, but making green bean casserole for your Whole30 aunt and a version for everyone else just isn’t cost-efficient. Take everyone’s diet into account and find a version that will suit everyone instead of making slightly different ones. You don’t need to be like Monica from Friends making three different kinds of mashed potatoes so Ross, Phoebe, and Joey will all be happy.

Use Easy Decorations

Everyone wants the Martha Stewart-Thanksgiving centerpiece, but few of us are that crafty. Instead, use squash in a decorative bowl as your centerpiece. It’ll look more natural and minimalist. Plus you won’t have to throw away the decor when the meal’s over.

If you have little cousins you can also enlist them to make pretty decorations before the meal gets started. If you do decide to buy decorations, make sure you store them properly so they can be used next year too.

Skip the Fancy Dinnerware

I’m one of those millennials who skipped the traditional bridal registry in favor of a honeymoon fund so I never got a ceramic gravy boat or silver platter when I got married. That means that when I host people I put chips in a mixing bowl and leave the dip in the package it came in. So far I’ve found that none of my guests care how I’m serving the food as long as it’s good.

Your Thanksgiving family and friends won’t mind either. Don’t feel like you have to rush out to get serveware that matches. If you truly don’t have a large enough platter head to Goodwill or a thrift store where you can find all those items for just a few dollars.

The post How to Host a Money Stress Free Thanksgiving appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax?

Woman works on her tax returnsEstate planning can help you pass on assets to your heirs while potentially minimizing taxes. When gifting assets, it’s important to consider when and how the generation-skipping tax transfer (GSTT) may apply. Also called the generation-skipping tax, this federal tax can apply when a grandparent leaves assets to a grandchild while skipping over their parents in the line of inheritance. It can also be triggered when leaving assets to someone who’s at least 37.5 years younger than you. If you’re considering “skipping” any of your heirs when passing on assets, it’s important to understand what that means from a tax perspective and how to fill out the requisite form. A financial advisor can also give you valuable guidance on how best to pass along your estate to your beneficiaries.

Generation-Skipping Tax, Definition

The Internal Revenue Code imposes both gift and estate taxes on transfers of assets above certain limits. For 2020, you can exclude gifts of up to $15,000 per person from the gift tax, with the limit doubling for married couples who file a joint return. Estate tax applies to estates larger than $11,580,000 for 2020, increasing to $11,700,000 in 2021. Again, these exemption limits double for married couples filing a joint return.

The gift tax rate can be as high as 40%, while the estate tax also maxes out at 40%. The IRS uses the generation-skipping transfer tax to collect its share of any wealth that moves across families when assets aren’t passed directly from parent to child. Assets subject to the generation-skipping tax are taxed at a flat 40% rate.

This tax can apply to both direct transfers of assets to your chosen beneficiaries as well as assets passed through a trust. A trust can be subject to the GSTT if all the beneficiaries of the trust are considered to be skip persons who have a direct interest in the trust.

How Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Works

Generation-skipping tax rules cover the transfer of assets to people who at least one generation apart. A common scenario where the GSTT can apply is the transfer of assets from a grandparent to a grandchild when one or both of the grandchild’s parents are still alive. If you’re transferring assets to a grandchild because your child has predeceased you, then the transfer tax wouldn’t apply.

The generation-skipping tax is a separate tax from the estate tax and it applies alongside it. Similar to estate tax, this tax kicks in when an estate’s value exceeds the annual exemption limits. The 40% GSTT would be applied to any transfers of assets above the exempt amount, in addition to the regular 40% estate tax.

This is how the IRS covers its bases in collecting taxes on wealth as it moves from one person to another. If you were to pass your estate from your child, who then passes it to their child then no GSTT would apply. The IRS could simply collect estate taxes from each successive generation. But if you skip your child and leave assets to your grandchild instead, that removes a link from the taxation chain. The GSTT essentially allows the IRS to replace that link.

You do have the ability to take advantage of lifetime estate and gift tax exemption limits, which can help to offset how much is owed for the generation-skipping tax. But any unused portion of the exemption counted toward the generation-skipping tax is lost when you die.

How to Avoid Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

Accountant prepares a tax return

If you’d like to minimize estate and gift taxes as much as possible, talking to a financial advisor can be a good place to start. An advisor who’s well-versed in gift and estate taxes can help you create a plan for transferring assets. For example, that plan might include gifting assets to your grandchildren or another generation-skipping person annually, rather than at the end of your life. Remember, you can gift up to $15,000 per person each year without incurring gift tax, or up to $30,000 per person if you’re married and file a joint return. You’d just need to keep the lifetime exemption limits in mind when scheduling gifts.

You could also make payments on behalf of a beneficiary to avoid tax. Say you want to help your granddaughter with college costs, for example. Any direct payments you make to the school to cover tuition would generally be tax-free. The same is true for direct payments made to healthcare providers if you’re paying medical expenses on behalf of someone else.

Setting up a trust may be another option worth exploring to minimize generation-skipping taxes. A generation-skipping trust allows you to transfer assets to the trust and pay estate taxes at the time of the transfer. The assets you put into the trust have to remain there during the skipped generation’s lifetime. Once they pass away, the assets in the trust could be passed on tax-free to the next generation.

This strategy requires some planning and some patience on the part of the generation that stands to inherit. But the upside is that members of the skipped generation and the generation that follows can benefit from any income the assets in the trust generates in the meantime. Trusts can also yield another benefit, in that they can offer asset protection against creditors who may file legal claims against you or your estate.

Another type of trust you might consider is a dynasty trust. This type of trust can allow you to pass assets on to future generations without triggering estate, gift or generation-skipping taxes. The caveat is that these are designed to be long-term trusts.

You can name your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and subsequent generations as beneficiaries and the transfer of assets to the trust is irrevocable. That means once you place the assets in the trust, you won’t be able to take them back out again so it’s important to understand the implications before creating this type of trust.

The Bottom Line

Man works on his tax returns

The generation-skipping tax could take a significant bite out of the assets you’re able to leave behind to grandchildren or another eligible person. If you’re considering using this type of trust to pass on assets or you’re interested in exploring other ways to transfer assets while minimizing taxes, it’s wise to consult an estate planning lawyer or tax attorney first.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to your financial advisor about how to best shape your estate plan to minimize taxation. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations for advisors online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Creating a trust can yield some advantages in your estate plan. In addition to helping you minimize tax liability, the assets in a trust are not subject to probate. That’s different from assets you leave behind in a will.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ljubaphoto, ©iStock.com/baona, ©iStock.com/svetikd

The post What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider

The ultimate question: Could you and your friend make the perfect business duo? The answer may be more complicated than you think. You love spending time with your friend and the idea of becoming entrepreneurs together. Why not fulfill your dreams with each other? Companies like Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s had success in this area — they all started from friendships.

But much more goes into starting a business with a friend. You may make great business partners, or you could wish you had taken your venture solo. Before making any financial decisions, analyze the pros and cons and ask hard questions. For example, will you equally invest? Who will take on which tasks and responsibilities? Sift through the easy and hard questions to see where your business friendship lies.

To help you and your friend make a confident and informed decision, skip to our flowchart or keep reading.

karen-gordon-quote

Questions to Ask Before Going Into Business With a Friend

Before jumping into your business plan, ask the hard questions. These can be tough to ask and answer, but they could save your friendship from a business relationship gone sour.

Question 1: Do You Share the Same Values?

Depending on your life stage and goals, your values could differ greatly from those of your potential business partner. You may appreciate living a relaxed lifestyle that gives you the financial freedom to do what you love, while others may value a fast-paced lifestyle filled with activities and long workdays. Differences in values could spark tension in your business relationship.

Ask yourself: Do you and your potential business friend have the same values? If so, great! If not, note your differences and if they’re worth working through.

Question 2: Do You Share the Same Business Goal?

To make sure you’re on the same page, schedule a brainstorming session with your friend. Map out your one-month, six-month, one-year, and five-year goals for your startup. Is your goal to make a certain amount of revenue? To hire a certain number of full-time employees? Or to take your business idea global?

If you have the same intentions, move on to question three. If any of your goals contrast, there may be trouble in paradise. See if you can work through your differences before investing your time and money.

Question 3: Do Your Skills Complement Each Other?

You and your friend each have your own strengths For example, you may be good at time management while your friend is better at sales. For skills you’re both lacking, think about how you’ll fill in the gaps. If you and your friend’s startup plan has a budget for hiring freelancers, or one of you has the dedication to learn something new, this may not be a concern. No matter what, especially if you’re bootstrapping your business idea, it’s essential to talk through it.

If you don’t compliment each other’s needed skills, who will step up and learn them?

Question 4: Do Your Career and Lifestyle Habits Align?

Depending on your business goals, this could be a make or break question for a professional partnership. For instance, one friend may be a morning person while the other’s a night owl. One can take over morning meetings and emails while the other’s responsible for evening website development and customer service.

If one friend’s lifestyle habits don’t suit the other, it may be best to opt for other business opportunities. While starting a business could adjust your habits, it’s easy to fall back into old ones from time to time.

baylie-carlson-quote

The Pros and Cons of Doing Business With Friends

Before entering any business arrangement, it’s reassuring to weigh the pros and cons. Could your new business idea benefit or hinder your future relationship and career?

Pros: You Have a Friend Through the Ups and Downs

Starting a business with a friend is similar to marriage — you’re there for each other through the good and bad. Whenever you’re having trouble, you know who you can go to for help. And you’ll be able to do most tasks together. For example, approaching investors as a team vs. going solo could put your nerves at ease.

Cons: You Know the Same People

Instead of getting together for your weekly catch-ups, you could spend all day together! While this can be exciting, it can also be hard to leave work at work. When you both hang out with the same people, there may be little room to disconnect from each other and your business.

Pros: You Understand Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses

You likely already know how each other operates and your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of learning the way a new business partner functions, you already have the upper hand. On day one, you and your partner could delegate tasks that fit everyone’s strengths best.

Cons: Your Friendship Could Turn Strictly Business

Your current friendship can be hard to separate from your new work partnership. Taking your work too seriously could stiffen your current relationship. Even after your work’s done, “friend” time may slow down. To have the best of both worlds, over-communicate throughout your entrepreneurial adventures.

mike-falahee-quote

Pros: You Feel Comfortable Communicating

You may have been friends for months, years, or even decades. Having a strong friendship foundation helps bolster your communication in the workplace. Plus, you most likely know how your friend may react to a situation gone wrong. Take note of your friends’ communication habits and foster them throughout your business relationship.

Cons: It’s Easy to Let Emotions Get the Best of You

Be careful not to let your emotions dictate your business decisions. A situation could happen in your friend group that makes its way into the office. To avoid any personal matters in the workplace, come to an agreement — no drama. If situations arise, take some time off to clear your mind, rest, and come back more motivated and inspired.

Pros: You Get to Spend More Time With Each Other

You get to spend countless hours talking and doing business activities together. You could spend all day tackling business tasks and wrap up the workday chit-chatting about your lives. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your friend without letting other responsibilities slip through the cracks.

Cons: Friendship Failure Could End in Financial and Business Failure

When tension builds in the workplace, it could damage your business outcomes. Not wanting to attend a meeting with your partner could halt business productivity, or worse, end it. To avoid losing profits on your friendship and investments, you should both outline an exit plan if things go wrong.

Tips for Starting a Business With Your Friend

Before toasting to your other half and investing in your passions, properly prepare yourself. Show up to your new business like you would a new job. Have your plan documented before building your business empire.

1. Nit-Pick Your Business Plan

Small issues could grow months or years after starting your business. To avoid future problems, talk through small and large inconsistencies with your partner. Having different lifestyle habits may not be an issue now, but could be difficult after a year of working together.

2. Communicate Often

About one third of projects lack proper communication. Avoid project or business failure by finding a communication method that works for you and your partner. Daily catch-up meetings or weekly email updates are a few examples. Make it enjoyable by sipping your favorite coffee or eating your lunch while playing catch up.

3. Establish and Honor Boundaries

Eliminate tension in the workplace by setting a rubric for working hours. Avoid talking about personal matters until you step away from your work tasks. If you and your partner need to establish additional boundaries, clearly outline them as they come up.

4. Make it Official With Contracts

Once you’ve worked through any complications, put it all in writing. If things were to go wrong, documents and written statements can be referenced in court. To do this, contact a lawyer and draft up a business plan. Any business promises you make should be in writing for any miscommunications. Compensation rates, profit shares, investment contributions, and business accounts are a few things that should be listed on this document.

Before investing your time, energy, or money into your startup dreams, make sure you’re fully prepared. Could you and your friend be great business partners? Take our quiz below to find out. Don’t forget to keep track of your budget and investments throughout the startup process.

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

17 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Acne and Pimples

Little bit of lemon (or vinegar)

To help clear out clogged pores, simply dab some lemon juice right on your pimples. The acid will help dissolve the oil that keeps them around. You can also use vinegar, but lemon juice smells nicer!

An aspirin a day keeps acne away

Did you know that the bottle of aspirin you’ve got at the back of your medicine cabinet is a powerful pimple popper? Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory drug, and its active ingredient is similar to salicylic acid, which is used to treat acne. To harness aspirin’s anti-acne properties, simply crush up a tablet or two and combine with enough water to make a paste. Apply it to the blemish and allow the paste to dry, then rinse off with cool water. Your skin will look great, and you won’t have had to spend an extra cent for a fancy pimple cream!

Obviously, avoid using aspirin to treat acne if you’re allergic!

Milk of magnesia mask

On the off chance you don’t have any aspirin around, you can also try using milk of magnesia. (Yes, the same stuff used to treat constipation or upset stomach.) Just dab it on affected skin like a mask. Allow to dry, then rinse it off with warm water. Not only does milk of magnesia absorb excess oil, but the zinc it contains also helps heal pimples.

Chamomile–witch hazel toner

For acne-prone skin, try this antioxidant-rich toner. Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea, allowing the bag to steep for five minutes or more. Allow the tea to cool, and mix in an equal amount of witch hazel, a powerful astringent that can be found at most drugstores. Apply the toner to clean skin with a cotton ball and rinse after 10 minutes. The leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Special blackhead buster

For blackheads, mix together 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Spread the paste onto skin and allow to dry, then rinse off with warm water. This wonderful smelling toner will prevent acne, get rid of blackheads, and tighten your pores!

RELATED: 4 Common Skin Problems and How to Deal

Banana peels for pimples

As we shared in our post on the many uses of a banana peel, you can rub the pulpy side of the peel right on your face to help get rid of pimples.

Acne attacker

Got a pimple problem? Don’t head to the skincare aisle of the drugstore just yet—not only are those treatments costly, they also contain tons of chemicals that your skin does not need. Instead, reach for a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. This common (and cheap) over-the-counter antiseptic is a miracle-worker on acne. It kills the pimple-producing bacteria living in your skin and oxygenates your pores to prevent new bacteria from setting up shop. First, wash your face with soap and water to remove dirt, oils, and any make-up. Gently pat dry. Then soak a cotton ball in peroxide and dab it over any blemishes or apply it all over your face. Let sit for about two minutes, or until the peroxide stops bubbling, then rinse off with water and apply oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

Experiment with what you’ve got in your pantry and see what works best for your skin.

DIY pore strips

Here’s an affordable alternative to commercial pore strips, which help keep skin clear and free of pimples. Mix together 1–2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin with equal parts milk, and heat until warm. Spread this mixture on your skin, and allow to dry completely. You will be able to peel it off in strips, removing blackheads in the process!

Glue pore strip

Here’s another cheap and easy DIY pore strip: white glue like Elmer’s. Spread a thin layer on the problem area (avoiding the eyes), let dry, and peel away. It works on blackheads, and it’s actually pretty fun!

Potato acne fighter

Sprouting pimples like they’re going out of style? Try this neat trick to clear up your face. Cut a raw potato in half and rub the flat end over your face. Leave the juice on for 20 minutes before rinsing off. The starch in the potato will help dry out your oily skin.

RELATED: Which Type of Potato Should You Use?

Nourish with nutmeg

This nutmeg-milk scrub provides a double-whammy of skin nourishment: Nutmeg works as an astringent, exfoliant, and anti-inflammatory (goodbye blackheads and acne), while the milk’s lactic acid works as a peel to eliminate dead skin cells. To make the scrub, combine nutmeg and milk until the mixture resembles a paste. After washing your face with a cleanser, massage the nutmeg scrub onto your skin in gentle circular strokes. Exfoliate for 5–10 minutes, then rinse.

Stop a zit in its tracks

If a giant pimple sprouts up at work or school, here’s a way to make it less noticeable without applying a face mask at your desk: Place an ice cube on it for 30–60 seconds, and/or place a few eye drops onto a tissue and hold it on the spot for 3 minutes. This will cause the blood vessels below your skin to contract, making the pimple less red and easing some of the irritation.

Honey for pimples

We love this all-natural remedy for skin blemishes—it’s easy, effective, and cheap! Simply apply a drop of honey on top of the affected area and cover with a band-aid. Honey is loaded with healing enzymes that kill bacteria and toxins, reduce inflammation, and moisturize the skin. So the next time your skin acts up, just reach into your kitchen pantry for some sweet stuff.

No ifs, ands, or butts

Who knew diaper rash cream could help get rid of pimples? Dab a bit on offending areas, and the zinc oxide in the cream will dry up oil and kill bacteria, while the moisturizers will soften your skin. Meanwhile, it costs less than most store-bought acne treatments with the same ingredients.

Tea tree + toothpaste

Fear you’re getting a pimple? Dab the offending spot with a little tea tree oil (available at many drugstores), then cover it with a bit of toothpaste. The tea tree oil is a great all-natural remedy with proven results similar to over-the-counter acne creams, and the toothpaste has an anti-inflammatory effect. Repeat three times a day for an ongoing acne problem.

If you have rosacea, avoid tea tree oil because it may aggravate your condition.

Bag those blemishes

Both chamomile and mint have anti-inflammatory properties, so try soaking a tea bag in water and then applying to your acne for a few minutes several times a day. You can also use green tea, which is both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Supercharge this remedy by making ice cubes out of the tea! Chamomile, mint, and green tea work great, but you can also use hibiscus or even basil tea. Experiment with what you’ve got in your pantry and see what works best for your skin.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 5 New Uses for Used Tea Bags

Get rid of acne scars

Do you have acne scars or other dark spots on your face? Erase them with home remedies. You can use the enzymes in certain foods to help lighten them! Here’s a soothing mask to try. Stir together 1 teaspoon each lemon juice and honey plus 2 teaspoons plain yogurt in a small bowl. Apply to your face, and leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

For more all-natural remedies from all around the internet, check out our Health and Beauty Tips board on Pinterest. 

The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only.  The author and publisher do not accept liability for damages arising from the use, attempted use, misuse, or application of any of the suggestions included on this website.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Stop Using Credit Cards

The post How to Stop Using Credit Cards appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The reason most people are in debt is due to credit cards. These little pieces of plastic tempt you with high limits and low payments.  They are simple to use and often a hard habit to break.  You have to teach yourself how to stop using credit cards and end the cycle of more debt.

credit card debt

According to the Federal Reserve, Americans have accumulated $992 billion in credit card debt (as of November 2016).  While many people pay them off every month, there are thousands of others who do not.

They just pay the minimum and then continue to use the cards, resulting in increasing debt. If you are serious about wanting to get out of debt, you have to take steps to stop using your credit cards and racking up more debt.

Read More:

  • Why Your Credit Score Matters and How to Increase It
  • How to Pay off Credit Card Debt
  • The Five Mistake People Make When Getting Out of Debt

HOW TO STOP USING CREDIT CARDS

UNDERSTAND WHY YOU SHOP

It is so easy for someone on the outside looking in to tell you to stop spending. However, if it were that simple, you would have quit long ago, right? Before you can stop spending, you have to know why you are doing it.

Your reason could be to replace something missing in your life. It might be the high you get from spending. Your logic is not wrong. It is your own.

Once you understand why you shop, you can then start to work on that, and in turn, your desire to buy as much can slowly fade as well.  Knowing the reason why is one of the first things you must do finally break the cycle of credit card debt.

Read more:  Why you continue to overspend

 

CUT UP THE CARDS

I know that this is pretty extreme, but the truth is that it works.  If you do not have cards to use, you can’t rack up additional debt.

If you are nervous about getting rid of them altogether, put them on ice.  Literally. Put your credit card in a bowl of water and freeze it.  When you feel you need your card, it will be more challenging to get to, and the urge to use it may pass more quickly.

 

USE ONLY CASH

One thing that goes hand-in-hand with cutting up the credit cards is sticking with cash.  That doesn’t mean a debit card.  It is using paper money.

When you use cash, you have to think twice about what everything costs.  When the money is gone, you can’t spend any more.

When you use a debit card, you can still spend more than you intend.  That is never the case with cash.

If you have $100 to spend with cash, you can not make a purchase that is $105.  But, with a debit card, you still can.

It is far to easy to swipe plastic.

Read more:  Setting up and using a cash budget

 

SET UP REWARDS

A simple trick to sticking to not using your cards is to set up milestone rewards.  For instance, if you can go one week without using your card, allow yourself an extra coffee the following week.

As you reach more and more milestones, such as paying off a card, going six months without using plastic, etc., set up small rewards for yourself.  Just make sure that you never cover the cost of your reward by using your credit card!!

 

CREATE A VISION BOARD

If you want to stop using credit cards and pay off your debt, it is helpful to have a goal in mind.  It may be to afford the new car you want or buy a home. It might even be to live without feeling so much stress.

Whatever your reason, create a vision board.  When you have a clear vision of what will happen when you reach your goal, the more likely you are to stay on track.

 

GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER

The best way to stop is to have someone to help keep you on track.  An accountability partner can do just that.

If you are in a relationship, you will be accountable to your partner (of course).  However, if you both have a difficult time not using credit, you might want to look beyond yourselves.  Find another couple who is in the same situation as you are and become accountable to one another.

However, if you are single, then it may be a bit more challenging to find someone.  Reach out to friends and family to find someone with whom you can connect and help one another.

 

TRACK EVERY PURCHASE

When you have a cash budget, you get into the habit of doing this.  However, if you are not ready to make that leap, start tracking every purchase you make.

Sometimes, seeing where you spend your money can be enough to make you want to throw the credit cards away for good.

Read more:  How to track your spending

 

MAKE SURE YOU BUDGET WORKS

You absolutely must have a budget.  There is no way to get around it.  But, more than just a budget, it needs to be a budget that works.  Sit down and go back over your budget to see where you may be spending too much and see if you can find ways to make improvements.

Also look carefully at how much money you spend on credit card debt each month.  Imagine what you could do with that money if you did not have to send it away to someone else.

Read more:  How to create a budget that works

 

Put some simple strategies to work and you’ll stop using credit cards and can get in control or your money.  Finally.

stop using credit cards

The post How to Stop Using Credit Cards appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score. 

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com