How to Maximize Rewards on Everyday Spending

Woman using credit card on everyday spending

While many rewards enthusiasts focus on signing up for new credit cards to earn signup bonuses, not everyone has the time or desire to play the signup game. There is effort involved in tracking multiple cards, annual fees, and rewards programs, after all, and some people don’t want to spend their time or mental energy this way.

If you’re someone who falls into this category, you may be better off maximizing one or two cards instead of chasing rewards. Fortunately, you can earn plenty of rewards over time if you’re savvy about your card’s benefits and bonus categories.

The key to getting the most out of your rewards cards is understanding how they work and looking for opportunities to earn more points on your everyday spending. Here are some tips that can help.

Brainstorm every bill you could pay with a credit card

Because rewards cards offer points based on each dollar you spend, maximizing the amount you can spend on credit is the best way to boost your rewards haul. The smartest strategy to use here is figuring out how many of your monthly bills you can pay with a credit card.

While you may not be notified or aware, it’s possible that bills you’ve been paying with a check or debit card for years can be paid with a credit card without any fees. While your bills may vary, some expenses you should try to pay with a credit card include:

  • Rent
  • Utility bills like electric or gas
  • Health insurance
  • Cable television and internet
  • Cell phone
  • Taxes
  • Daycare
  • Auto and home insurance
  • Subscription services
  • College tuition or student loans
  • Medical bills
  • Lawn care

Keep in mind that these are just some of the bills you could be paying with credit. Depending on your situation, you could have additional, uncommon expenses to cover that could be paid with credit with ease.

Also, remember that these additional bills should be paid with credit on top of your everyday expenses like groceries, dining out, gas or bus fare, and miscellaneous spending. Every time you buy something in person or online, you should strive to pay with your rewards card if you can.

Leverage your rewards card bonus categories

It’s also important to leverage your favorite card bonus categories, whatever they may be. This is especially important if you have a few cards with different bonus categories since you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right card for bills that let you earn bonus points.

Let’s say you have a travel credit card that earns 3x points on dining and travel and another card that earns 6x points at the grocery store. In that case, you would be smart to use the travel card for dining and travel purchases and your other card when you stock up on food. While the amount of rewards you earn with individual purchases may seem nominal, using the right card for the right purchase can help you earn a lot more rewards over time.

Set up auto-pay bills to be paid with credit

Most of us have bills set up to be paid automatically, whether it’s our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, gym membership, or utility bills. Make sure each bill you have set up to be paid automatically is set up to be paid with your rewards card and not a debit card. This way, you can earn rewards points on those expenses every month.

Use shopping portals and dining clubs

Many flexible rewards programs, frequent flyer programs, and hotel loyalty programs have shopping portals you can access to earn extra points. Major airlines like American, Delta, and United also have shopping portals that work similarly. (See also: How to Maximize Rewards Through Credit Card Shopping Portals)

Some programs like Southwest and Delta also offer dining clubs. These programs let you earn additional points or miles just for dining at participating restaurants in your area. It’s easy and it’s free to join, so you may as well earn extra miles on your spending if you’re going to dine out anyway. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Airline Dining Rewards Programs)

How much the average family can earn

If you are skeptical the average family can rack up meaningful rewards without signing up for new cards over and over again, look at how this might work in real life. For example, imagine a family of four with two rewards card-toting adults. Across the two of them, they have:

  • A cash back card that earns 2% back
     
  • A travel credit card that earns 3% on dining and travel
     
  • A rewards card that earns 6% cash back at the grocery store on up to $6,000 in spending each year

To figure out how much this family might earn, we used Bureau of Labor Statistics spending averages from 2017. Here’s a rundown of that data for the year plus how much a family could earn in rewards over 12 months based on average expenses:

  • Food at home ($4,363): $261.78 in rewards at 6%
     
  • Food away from home ($3,365): $100.95 at 3%
     
  • Utilities, fuels, and public services ($3,836): $76.72 at 2%
     
  • Household operations ($1,412): $28.24 at 2%
     
  • Household supplies ($755): $45.30 at 6%
     
  • Household furnishings and equipment ($1,987): $39.74 at 2%
     
  • Apparel and services ($1,833): $36.66 at 2%
     
  • Gasoline and motor oil ($1,968): $39.36 at 2%
     
  • Other vehicle expenses ($2,842): $56.84 at 2%
     
  • Healthcare ($4,928): $98.56 at 2%
     
  • Entertainment ($3,203): $64.06 at 2%
     
  • Personal care products ($762): $45.72 at 6%
     
  • Education ($1,491): $29.82 at 2%

Total rewards: $923.75

While $900+ is a lot to earn in rewards within a year, you have the potential to earn a lot more. After all, these are just some of the expenses the average family faces and not all of them. If you could pay some additional big bills with credit each month like daycare or your rent, you could significantly add to your bottom line.

What to watch out for

While maximizing rewards cards is a smart idea if you’re using them already anyway, there are always pitfalls to be aware of when you’re using a credit card. Here’s what to watch out for during your quest for more cash back and travel rewards.

Fees for using credit

While there are many bills you can pay with credit without a fee, some vendors, merchants, and service providers charge a fee to use a credit card as payment. Fees are especially prevalent on bills such as utilities, cable or internet, rent, and insurance. Make sure to verify you aren’t being charged a fee to use credit before you proceed.

Annual fees

Don’t forget that some rewards cards charge annual fees. These fees may be worth it depending on your spending and rewards haul, but you should always factor them into the equation to make sure each fee is worth paying. If you’re against paying annual fees, look for rewards cards that don’t charge one.

Budgeting mishaps

Using a credit card for all your expenses may simplify your financial life, but it could also cause your budget to fall out of whack. Make sure you’re only spending on purchases you planned to make anyway, and that you’re tracking your spending and paying off your credit cards regularly.

Debt

Never use credit cards for purchases you can’t afford to repay if you’re pursuing rewards. The interest you’ll pay will always be much more than the rewards you earn. If you’re worried using credit will cause you to rack up debt you can’t afford to repay, you’re better off sticking to cash or debit instead.

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Want to maximise your credit card rewards? The key to getting the most out of your rewards cards is understanding how they work and looking for opportunities to earn more points on your everyday spending. We’ve got the ultimate tips and tricks to help you save money and earn more rewards! | #creditcards #rewardsprogram #creditcardrewards


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Are All the Food Delivery and Subscription Services Worth It?

We’re living in an age of convenience. Groceries can be delivered, clothes can be picked out for you and just about every TV show and movie ever made can be beamed straight into your living room. If I had the money, I could get pretty much everything I need without ever leaving my house.

But unfortunately, I don’t have the money. Do you?

As our society has collectively fallen in love with subscription services, many of us have let them take over our budget. Because these are recurring expenses, it’s all too easy to sign up and forget about your card being charged every month.

It’s time to finally ask yourself -are all of these subscription services worth the money?

Are You Spending Too Much on Subscription Services?

Before you can decide if meal subscription and delivery services are eating up too much of your budget, you have to figure out how much you’re spending on them. This is a very subjective and personal question that depends on your income, total spending and other goals.

Look at your monthly subscription and food delivery spending in Mint, checking to see if the numbers align with your budget. Take the time to sort and categorize the transactions if you haven’t done so in a while. It may help to look through several month’s worth of expenses, because some subscription services like FabFitFun only ship once a quarter.

Spending may also vary based on the seasons or other external factors. You may spend more on food delivery services during final exams because you’re too busy to meal plan. If the seasons change and you don’t have any clothes, you may spend more on personal styling services.

Once you have an accurate account of how much you spend, compare it to your income and other expenses. Spending $50 a week on a meal kit service doesn’t mean anything without context. You need to know how that compares to your other expenses.

How to Cut Down on Subscription Services

If you found that you’re overspending on subscription services, it doesn’t mean that you need to cut them out entirely. Think about how much value each service provides to your life, and prioritize where your money is going.

Make a list of all the subscription services you currently have and how much you spend on them each month. Then rank the subscription and delivery services from most important to least.

Write down how often you actually use the products or services. Be honest with yourself. The goal is to keep the boxes and services that you actually use, love and enjoy on a regular basis. This can help you identify which services don’t fit into your lifestyle – or budget.

Try to be as objective and ruthless as possible here. Yes, you may love getting the monthly Stitch Fix box in the mail, but do you actually keep the clothes they send? Learning to cook with Blue Apron may be a worthy goal, but do you actually like the meals they send?

Once you have a list of essential subscriptions, look at your budget again and determine how much money is left for those services. If the available amount is greater than the total cost, you’re in the clear.

However, if the amount is more than you can afford, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. If you absolutely can’t bear the thought of parting with your subscriptions, you’ll have to look at cuts you can make in other spending categories.

How to Save on Subscription Services

Chances are, you’re paying more for some of your subscription services than is absolutely necessary. Most video streaming services let you watch multiple screens at once so you can split it with friends or family. Some even have student deals if you have a university email address. Your school may even have its own special agreements with certain providers.

If there are a lot of subscription services you want to keep, consider alternating which ones you use throughout the year. Most subscription and delivery services make it easy to cancel and resubscribe later.

For example, if you have a beauty box subscription and a bathroom full of toiletries, quit the service until you’ve used most of the products. Many of these products expire, so you’ll be saving money and cutting down on waste.

If you subscribe services but only use them during a particular season, like a streaming service tied to a seasonal sport, get rid of them and reactivate when you’re ready. You can also do this with streaming services that only have a few shows you’re interested in. Once you’re done watching Stranger Things, for example, you can deactivate your Netflix membership for no penalty.

Seek Alternative Ways to Save

Looking for cheaper versions of your favorite services can also help you avoid overspending. Some grocery stores now have meal kits similar to Blue Apron or HelloFresh. It’s not as convenient, but it’s a much more affordable alternative.

Many companies give customers referral codes they can send out to friends and family. When people use your referral codes, you’ll earn free credit or cash. For example, Barkbox provides a free month if someone signs up for a six or 12-month membership through your referral link.

Sometimes companies will have a special coupon for new customers that use referral codes, like Stitch Fix who provide a $25 bonus for both the new customer and the one who referred them.

You can share these links on social media, by text or through email. Some programs have a limit on how much you can earn with referral codes, but it never hurts to try. If you end up exceeding that amount, you can apply for their official affiliate program to earn cash instead of credit.

If you do cancel a program, check your bank account to make sure you’re no longer paying for it. Some services are guilty of occasionally charging former subscribers even after they’ve quit.

Which subscription service are you going to cut back on this year? Let us know in the comments!

The post Are All the Food Delivery and Subscription Services Worth It? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

Looking for entry level work from home jobs?

Are you wondering, “How can I work from home with no experience?”

I know it may seem like every job out there today requires several years of experience. This makes it very difficult to find a job, especially if you are brand new to the field and trying to get your start.

It can be difficult to find a way to make money from home when you are brand new, but it’s not impossible to find entry level work from home jobs.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you want to start working from home, then I have a great list of no experience work from home jobs for you to look into.

Now, just because these jobs, businesses, and ways to make extra money don’t require experience, it does not mean that they will be easy! Remember, good things don’t come easy.

You may have to learn a new skill, take a course, and so on.

Also, please remember that entry level means you are starting from the bottom and working up. That means it may take a while to establish yourself. Still, there is room to grow in many of these jobs.

What you’ll find in this list of entry level work from home jobs are new careers and businesses you can start without having a college degree or years of experience.

There are many ideas on this list that involve starting a freelance career by using existing skills, like if you have a good eye for spotting grammar and punctuation errors, then you may be interested in proofreading.

There are other ideas on this list that will require you to learn some new skills – all ones you can easily pick up online.

The most important part is that all of these jobs are 100% work from home ideas. Yes, these are all jobs you can work from the comfort of your own home, while you travel, etc.

Finding a work from home job can be a great way to make money.

After all, it’s what I do, and I love it!

And, there are so many different options depending on what you are looking for. You may be able to find entry level work from home jobs that are part time, full time, that work while you are traveling, and so on.

Plus, many of the entry level jobs from home on my list allow you to have a more flexible schedule, where you may be able to choose the days you work, your hours, and more.

So, if you are looking to start making extra money or if you want a new career path that lets you earn money from home, this list is especially for you.

Before you’re scared off by any of these ideas, please remember that you don’t need to be an expert in any of them right now. As with any new job, you learn as you go and can find training as well.

Related content on entry level work from home jobs:

  • 12 Passive Income Ideas That Will Let You Enjoy Life More
  • 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside
  • 15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started

Below are 20 entry level work from home jobs.

 

1. Create a blog to earn an income.

If you’re looking to work from home, I recommend that you think about starting a blog.

You don’t need previous experience, and most bloggers are brand new to blogging anyways!

I was brand new when I started my blog many years ago, and I learned everything I know along the way.

I read lots of online articles written by other bloggers who were once in the same spot I was, and I have also taken several great courses to help me improve my blog over the years.

I created Making Sense of Cents in 2011, and since then, I have earned over $5,000,000 from my blog.

Blogging allows me to travel full-time, have a flexible schedule, and I earn a great income doing it.

My blog was created on a whim as a way to track my own personal finance progress. When I first started my blog, I honestly had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!

One of the reasons that blogging is one of the best entry level work from home jobs is because blogging is quite affordable to start.

You can easily learn how to start a blog with my free How To Start a Blog Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn:

  • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
  • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
  • Day 3: How to create your blog (in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress – my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog)
  • Day 4: How to make money blogging
  • Day 5: My tips for making passive income from blogging
  • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
  • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

 

2. Sell items through Amazon.

Yes, you read that correctly. You can sell items on Amazon while working from home.

Even if you have no experience, you can earn money selling all kinds of items on Amazon, from books, work out equipment, electronics, and more. 

Amazon has many people who sell items and earn money from home. Most have no experience selling things online or have ever worked at Amazon.

Jessica Larrew, of The Selling Family, is a friend of mine, and she and her family started selling things on Amazon FBA a few years ago without any experience – they made over $100,000 profit in their first year! And, they were working less than 20 hours a week total.

Jessica now has a FREE 7 day course that will teach you everything you need to know in order to start selling on Amazon. I recommend signing up for it now!

I interviewed Jessica in How To Work From Home Selling On Amazon FBA, and we talk about:

  • How Jessica started selling on Amazon FBA
  • What exactly Amazon FBA is
  • How to choose what to buy and sell
  • How much a person can expect to earn
  • The positives of selling on Amazon, and more

 

3. Teach English online.

This one will probably surprise you, but there are entry level work from home jobs where you teach English to kids in other countries. You don’t need to have been a teacher or speak a language other than English.

The requirements are that you have experience working with kids. That can include mentoring, tutoring, coaching, babysitting, or being a parent.

That’s a pretty easy requirement, though!

You can typically earn around $14 to $22 per hour by teaching English online.

Learning how to teach English online has become extremely popular, making it one of the best online jobs from home for many good reasons – it’s flexible, there’s a high need for teachers, and it pays pretty well.

My top three picks are ones my readers have recommended and ones I have researched:

  1. VIPKID
  2. Qkids
  3. Education First

Learn more at Make Extra Money By Learning How To Teach English Online.

 

4. Tutor from home.

To go along with the above, you can also work from home as an online tutor.

Course Hero is a website that has entry level work from home jobs where you help high school and college students with course-specific questions.

Course Hero was founded in 2007 and is an online learning website where students can find tutors and search by their specific school to find study guides, videos, practice problems, class notes, and step-by-step explanations.

Using the website, students connect with Course Hero tutors on a wide range of subjects and classes, which makes this a great option for people with different educational backgrounds and experience.

What might surprise you to learn is that you don’t need to have experience as a tutor, professor, or teacher in order to become a Course Hero tutor.

However, you will need to share information that proves you have expertise in the subjects you would like to help students with, such as degrees or previous work history.

Tutors earn an average of $3 for each question they answer on Course Hero. Earning between $12-$20 per hour, Course Hero tutors earn an average of $300 a week.

Here’s how this online tutoring job work:

  1. You apply here to become a Course Hero tutor
  2. When you are available to answer questions, you do so on the Course Hero website
  3. You get paid

Learn more at How To Make $300+ Weekly As An Online Tutor With Course Hero.

 

5. Become a virtual assistant.

Several years ago, I was a virtual assistant.

I had no previous experience, and I simply learned skills as I worked.

Virtual assisting is a field that is growing a lot, and there are lots of entry level work from home jobs as a virtual assistant.

Virtual assistant (VA) tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing content, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business, but doesn’t need to be done by them.

My friend Kayla is a full-time blogger, virtual assistant, and project manager who earns over $10,000 per month while working from home. She is also the founder of $10K VA, a course where she teaches exactly how you can make a consistent $10,000 per month as a virtual assistant!

Kayla used to work a full-time job as a credit analyst, earning about $2,000 per month. She was struggling to make ends meet while paying off debt, so she started a side hustle as a virtual assistant.

I interviewed her at How Kayla Earns $10K/Month From Home as a Virtual Assistant, and we talk about:

  • The amount of money a beginner virtual assistant can expect to earn
  • How to find your first virtual assistant job
  • The steps to become a virtual assistant without previous experience
  • Her best tips for being a virtual assistant

And more!

 

6. Evaluate Google’s search engine results.

A Search Engine Evaluator (also known as a Google Rater) is where you rate websites based on their quality and usefulness.

You are rating websites to help Google improve their search engine results.

This is one of the entry level work from home jobs that almost anyone can do – you don’t need to be a technical person in order to make money as a search engine evaluator.

Another great positive is that you can work in the language of your country, as Google operates in nearly every country around the world.

Learn more at How To Become a Search Engine Evaluator.

 

7. Manage Facebook advertising for small businesses.

Did you know that you can make a living from Facebook? With Facebook advertising, you can help businesses expand their reach.

And, yes, this is a skill that you can learn!

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads. This is expected to continue to grow, and it is one of the largest advertising spaces that exists.

My blogging friend Bobby Hoyt knows a lot about this topic. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He learned how to run Facebook ads on his own to earn extra money. Bobby now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

I interviewed Bobby about entry level work from home jobs running Facebook ads, and in our interview, you will learn:

  • How he started earning income through running Facebook ads
  • Why small businesses want Facebook ads
  • How a person can find their first Facebook ads client
  • How much you can make doing this type of work – the average is around $1,000 extra a month per client

Also, Bobby has a free webinar on this topic too. His webinar (you can sign up here) will teach you how to start this business even if you’re brand new, how to find paying clients, and more.

 

8. Get paid to share your opinion.

This isn’t exactly a job, but it is a way to make extra money.

And, you don’t need any previous experience.

Yes, you can get paid to share your opinion!

Companies use surveys all the time to learn what their current and potential customers think of their products, services, and company. With the surveys you take, companies get valuable opinions on how to improve their products, and that’s what they are paying you for.

Below are the survey companies I recommend:

  1. American Consumer Opinion
  2. Survey Junkie
  3. Swagbucks
  4. InboxDollars
  5. Opinion Outpost
  6. OneOpinion
  7. Pinecone Research
  8. Prize Rebel
  9. Product Report Card
  10. Survey Club

 

9. Create an online store of your own.

This is one of the entry level work from home jobs that many people are surprised to hear about. But yes, you can start your own online store, and you don’t need to have tons of experience or a lot of money to do so. Many people start with absolutely no background.

I had the opportunity to interview Jenn Leach of E-commerce and Prosper, who explains exactly how to start an online store.

Jenn is a corporate mom turned e-commerce store owner and blogger.

She started her online business a little over three years ago, and since then, she has developed and grown three successful online e-commerce stores earning an average of $19,000 per month.

She is super successful despite only spending around 5-10 hours per week on her e-commerce business.

You can read our interview at How Jenn Makes Over $10,000 A Month With Her Online Store In Less Than 10 Hours Per Week.

 

10. Start a bookkeeping business.

I’m sure you’re surprised to hear that bookkeeping is an area with entry level work from home jobs, but it definitely is.

A bookkeeper is someone who tracks the finances of a business, handles billing and payments, making spreadsheets, etc., but that doesn’t mean you need to be an accountant or have any related experience.

Ben, from Bookkeeper Launch, helps people get started as bookkeepers even when they don’t have any experience. Ben is a CPA who founded his business after realizing that many businesses needed better bookkeepers. 

In our interview, we talk about:

  • What a bookkeeper is
  • The typical clients a bookkeeper has
  • How much new bookkeepers earn
  • How to become a bookkeeper
  • The positives and negatives of bookkeeping

You can read all of his answers and more in our interview Make Money At Home By Becoming A Bookkeeper.

Also, you can sign up here for a free series that will teach you more about running your own virtual bookkeeping business.

 

11. Find stuff to resell.

This is one another one of the entry level work from home jobs that anyone can start. That’s because we all have lots of stuff in our house that we can probably sell online.

Have you ever found something that you thought you may be able to resell and actually make some money?

Melissa’s family earned $133,000 in one year through buy and sell flipping, and they were working only 10-20 hours per week.

Yes, just 10-20 hours a week!

Some of the best flipped items that they’ve sold include:

  • An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later
  • A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later
  • A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day

You can learn more at How Melissa Made $40,000 In One Year Flipping Items.

 

12. Write online as a freelancer.

I know so many people who have found entry level freelance writing jobs. You don’t need a background in writing or a degree in English or creative writing.

A freelance writer is someone who writes for a number of different clients, such as websites, blogs, magazines, advertising companies, books, and more. They don’t work for one specific company, rather they work for themselves and contract out their writing.

My friend Holly from EarnMoreWriting.com (as well as the popular personal finance blog Club Thrifty) is a very successful freelance writer and has earned over $200,000 writing online!

Her freelance writing course includes nine video modules, several printable worksheets, and awesome add-ons, too. Here are some of the things you can expect to learn if you take her freelance writing course:

  • Discover the #1 most important thing you can do to get paid writing jobs
  • Learn how to find entry level work from home jobs as a writer and move up over time
  • Learn how price affects the amount of work you get
  • Learn which types of jobs help Holly earn the most pay, and where you can find them
  • Find out which online platforms work best for finding paid work, and how to use them
  • Learn how to structure your work day to earn six figures or more

Learn more at How I Earn $200,000+ Writing Online Content.

 

13. Transcribe audio or video into text.

Transcription is the art of turning any audio or video content into a text document.

There are many businesses looking for transcriptionists too – since general transcriptionists convert audio and video to text for virtually any industry, there really isn’t a typical client. Some examples include marketers, authors, filmmakers, academics, speakers, and conferences of all types.

Beginning transcriptionists earn around $15 an hour to start.

There are many transcriptionist jobs that don’t require experience, and most transcriptionists learn more and improve their skills as they work.

You can learn more about becoming a transcriptionist in the interview Make Money At Home By Becoming A Transcriptionist. The interview explains:

  • What a transcriptionist is
  • How you can get started as a transcriptionist
  • What kind of money you can expect to make
  • The type of training you need, and more

 

14. Find proofreading jobs online.

Finding entry level proofreading jobs online is very possible.

All you need to work as a proofreader is a laptop or tablet, an internet connection, and a good eye for pointing out mistakes.

Proofreaders look for punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, lack of consistency, and formatting errors.

In 2014, Caitlin made slightly over $43,000 by being a freelance proofreader.

You’ll learn more about this in my interview with Caitlin that I link to below, but proofreaders take content that other people have written and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. You might be proofreading blog posts, print articles, academic articles, website copy, ad copy, books, student papers, emails, and more.

This job is for a very specific type of person who LOVES to correct grammar or makes a note of spelling mistakes on a restaurant menu… it takes a certain “eagle eye” ability to be good at proofreading!

I interviewed Caitlin on what it takes to become a proofreader, and in our interview we go over questions such as:

  • What a proofreader does
  • How much proofreaders earn
  • How quickly a person can start making money as a proofreader
  • The steps needed to become a proofreader

You can find out about entry level work from home jobs and more at How To Become A Proofreader And Work From Anywhere.

Caitlin has put together a FREE 76-minute workshop, where she answers all of the most common questions about becoming a proofreader, and she even shows you how to use the most popular tools used by proofreaders around the world. You can sign up for free here.

 

15. Learn how to become a scopist.

Scoping is when you are editing legal documents for court reporters. This is different from proofreading for court reporters.

I interviewed an expert on the topic – Linda from Internet Scoping School. She has been scoping for over 35 years and has taught scoping online for around 20 years.

She also has a free course that will introduce you to scoping so that you can decide if it’s one of the entry level work from home jobs you want to pursue. You can find the free course by clicking here.

Scopists who are working with an average court reporter tend to make around $30,000 to $45,000 per year working pretty much full-time.

You can learn more at How To Become A Scopist.

 

16. Assist with podcasts.

Currently, there’s a huge demand for podcast virtual assistants.

There are over 800,000 podcasts out there, and that number just continues to grow. Podcasts are still a pretty new area, and that opens the door for lots of new entry level work from home jobs helping with all of these new podcasts.

While the podcast host can record themselves, other tasks like editing and publication take time, so many podcasters outsource their work to freelancers or virtual assistants. Also, some podcasters may not know how to do those things, or they may choose to focus their time on other areas.

Some of the different services you could do as a podcast virtual assistant include:

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

Learn more at How I Make $1,500 A Month As A Podcast Virtual Assistant.

Also, you can sign up here for free information on learning more about how to become a podcast VA. In this free resource, you’ll learn more about what exactly a podcast virtual assistant is, the services you can offer, and starting rates.

 

17. Work as a freelancer.

Freelancers are people who work for others by doing part-time jobs. A business may hire you on for one-time gigs or you may get a long-term job with a company as a freelancer.

In addition to some of the freelance jobs I’ve already mentioned (writing, proofreading, transcribing, and bookkeeping) there are even more entry level work from home jobs out there for people who are able to leverage existing skills, like:

  • Graphic design
  • Web design and development
  • Video editing
  • Sound design
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Programming
  • Photography

This is one of the best work from home jobs because you can use a skill you already have and start finding work on job platforms like UpWork and Fiverr.

 

18. Find a work from home job in customer service.

Many large companies outsource their customer service departments to people who are working from home. 

Customer service representatives may be responsible for a number of things, such as:

  • Working at an online call center
  • Working as a chat agent
  • Offering technical support
  • Virtual assistant tasks
  • Working as a travel agent

This is becoming one of the best entry level work from home jobs because the number of large companies who need online customer service reps is growing. Companies like Apple, American Express, UHAUL, and more offer basic training for new hires.

 

19. Secret shop.

Funny enough, many people think that you have to “know someone” or have previous experience in order to become a mystery shopper.

But, that’s not the truth at all.

You don’t need any previous experience in order to become a secret shopper.

This won’t be a full-time job, but it can give you some extra money each month. And, yes, there are some mystery shops that can be done by phone and online.

I remember when I first heard of being a secret shopper. I was working at a retail store and we regularly had mystery shoppers come in to grade how we were doing. We never knew who the mystery shopper was, but we would get to read their report afterwards.

I thought it was so interesting that people were getting paid to shop!

Not long after hearing about it, I decided to try mystery shopping to make extra money to help pay off my student loan debt.

I regularly earned around $150 to $200 a month mystery shopping, and I earned free items/services as well, such as $100 to spend at restaurants (which I had to grade while I was there), makeup, and more.

If this sounds interesting to you, you can join Bestmark by clicking here. This is my favorite mystery shopping company, and the only one I used back when I was mystery shopping, so I know it’s legitimate.

Learn more at Want To Make An Extra $100 A Month? Learn How To Become A Mystery Shopper.

 

20. Become a voice over actor.

A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons.

This job doesn’t require previous experience or special skills – you just need to have the right kind of voice that companies are looking for.

In 2014, Carrie replaced her salaried day job to become a full-time voice over actor. People are constantly asking her how she got her start and how they can too.

So, she created a six-week online class, and it sold out. Several of her students booked voice acting jobs before the class was even over!

I was excited to learn more about this work from home job, so I interviewed Carrie to learn:

  • How she got into this interesting career field
  • Who the common clients are
  • How much money a beginner voice over actor can expect to make
  • The positives of this job
  • How to find your first job
  • The costs, and more

You can read my interview with her at How To Become A Voice Over Actor And Work From Anywhere.

 

How can I make money from home with no experience?

As you can see, there are many different options for you if you are looking for an online job or work from home business with no experience.

I hope you are able to find what works best for you and your situation.

What entry level work from home jobs would you add to the list above?

The post 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing

Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and that’s especially true if your current loans are stuck at a high-interest rate. With a new loan at a lower APR, you could save a bundle of money on interest each month and ultimately pay your student debt off faster. Consolidating several loans into one new one can also simplify your financial life and make keeping up with bills a lot easier.

College Ave and Earnest topped our list, but since student loan refinancing is an incredibly competitive space, you’ll also want to spend time comparing student loan companies to see who offers the best deal. Many lenders in this space offer incredibly low APRs, flexible payment options, borrower incentives, and more. This means it’s more important than ever to shop around so you wind up with the best student loan for your needs.

What You Should Know About Refinancing Federal Student Loans with a Private Lender

The lenders on this list can help you consolidate and refinance both federal student loans and private student loans. However, there are a few details to be aware of before you refinance federal loans with a private lender.

Switching federal loans to private means giving up federal protections like deferment and forbearance. You also give up your chance to qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). Income-driven repayment plans let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving your remaining loan balances, so this perk isn’t one you should give up without careful thought and consideration.

Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021

As you start your search to find the best student loan for your lifestyle, take the time to compare lenders and all they offer their customers. While there are a ton of reputable companies offering high-quality student loan refinancing products on the market today, there are also companies you should probably steer clear of.

To make your search easier, we took the time to compare most of the top lenders in this space in terms of interest rates offered, fees, borrower benefits, and more. The following student loan companies are the cream of the crop, so you should start your search here.

Our Top Picks:

  1. Splash Financial
  2. College Ave
  3. Earnest
  4. SoFi
  5. CommonBond
  6. LendKey
  7. Wells Fargo
  8. PenFed Credit Union

Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews

1. Splash Financial

Splash Financial may be a newer company in the student loan refinancing space, but their offerings are competitive. This company lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and their variable rates currently start at just 2.25% APR.

Not only are interest rates offered by Splash Financial industry-leading, but the company has a 95% customer satisfaction rate so far. Their cutting-edge technology also lets you apply for your loan and complete the loan process online, meaning less hassle and stress for you as the borrower.

Check Out Splash Financial’s Low Rates

2. College Ave

College Ave offers student loan refinancing products that can be tailored to your needs. They offer low fixed and variable interest rates, for example, and you’ll never pay an application fee or an origination fee. You can even qualify for a discount if you set your loan up on autopay, and a wide range of repayment schedules are available.

College Ave also offers a wide range of online calculators and tools that can help you figure out how much student loan refinancing could help you save and whether the move would be worth it in the end. Considering their low variable rates start at just 2.74% APR, there’s a good chance you could save money by refinancing if you have excellent credit or a cosigner with great credit.

Get Started with College Ave

3. Earnest

Earnest is another online lender that focuses most of its efforts on offering high-quality student loans. This company lets you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate than you might find elsewhere, and you get the option to pick a monthly payment and repayment period that works with your budget and your lifestyle.

While you’ll need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, loans from Earnest come with variable APRs starting at 1.81% and low fixed rates starting at just 3.45%. To qualify for student loan refinancing with Earnest, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 650 and a strong employment and income history. You also need to be current on all your bills and cannot have a bankruptcy on your credit profile.

Refinance and Save with Earnest

4. SoFi

Also make sure to check out student loan refinancing company SoFi as you continue your search. This online lender offers some of the best student loan refinancing products available today, including loans with no application fee, origination fee, or hidden fees.

SoFi lets you apply for and complete the entire loan process online, and they offer live customer support 7 days a week. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which makes it easier to see how much you could save before you commit.

Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes

5. Commonbond

Commonbond is another online student lender who lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. With student loan refinancing from Commonbond, you could easily save thousands of dollars on interest with a new fixed interest rate as low as 3.21%. Repayment terms are offered for 5 to 20 years as well, letting you choose a new monthly payment and repayment timeline that works for your needs.

You can apply for your new loan online and note that these loans don’t come with an origination fee or any prepayment penalties. Your loan could also qualify for forbearance, which means having up to 24 months without payments during times of financial hardship.

Apply Online with Commonbond

6. LendKey

LendKey offers private student loans and flexible student loan refinancing options to serve a variety of needs. You can repay your loan between 5 and 20 years, and their refinance loans don’t charge an origination fee.

You can use this company’s online interface to check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and variable APRs start at just 2.01% for graduates with excellent credit. LendKey loans also receive 9.3 out of 10 possible stars in recent reviews, meaning their customers are mostly happy with their decision to go with this company.

Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey

7. Wells Fargo

While Wells Fargo is mostly popular for their banking products, home mortgage products, and personal loans, this bank also offers student loan refinancing products. These loans let you consolidate student debts into a new loan with a low variable or fixed interest rate, and you can even score a discount for setting your loan up on autopay.

Terms for Wells Fargo loans are available anywhere from 5 to 20 years, meaning you can choose a repayment schedule and monthly payment that suits your needs. Wells Fargo also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Get Started with Wells Fargo

8. PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union offers unique student loan products powered by Purefy. You might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate that could lead to enormous interest savings over time, and PenFed lets you choose a repayment term and monthly payment that fits with your budget and lifestyle.

You can apply for student loan refinancing on your own, but PenFed Credit Union also allows cosigners. Low fixed interest rates start at just 3.48% APR, and you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Learn More about PenFed Credit Union

What To Look For When Refinancing

If you decide you want to refinance your student loans, you’ll be happy to know the refinancing market is more robust than ever. A variety of lenders offer insanely attractive loan options for those who can qualify, although you should know that student loan companies tend to be very finicky about your credit score. Some also won’t let you refinance if you didn’t graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an “unapproved” school.

While you should be aware of any lender-specific eligibility requirements before you apply with any student loan company, there are plenty of other factors to look out for. Here’s everything you should look for in a student loan refinancing company before you decide to trust them with your loans.

Low Interest Rate

Obviously, the main reason you’re probably thinking of refinancing your loans is the potential to save money on interest. Lenders who offer the lowest rates available today can potentially help you save more, although it’s important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you don’t have excellent credit.

Cosigner Requirements

Also consider that most lenders will offer better rates and loan terms if you have a cosigner with better credit than you have. This is especially true if your credit isn’t great, so make sure to ask family members if they’re willing to cosign on your new student loan if you hope to get the best rate. Just remember that your cosigner will be jointly liable for repayment, meaning you could quickly damage your relationship if you default on your loan and leave them holding the bag.

Low Fees or No Fees

Student loans are like any other loan in the fact that some charge higher fees or more fees than others. Since many student loans come with an application fee or an origination fee, you’ll want to look for lenders that don’t charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.

Discounts Available

Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If you’re able and willing to set up automatic payments on your credit card, you could save .25% or .50% off your interest rate depending on the lender you go with.

Rate Check Option

Many of the top student loan refinancing companies on this list make it possible to check your interest rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This is a huge benefit since knowing your rate can help you figure out if refinancing is even worth it before you take the time to fill out a full loan application.

Flexible Repayment Plan

Also make sure any lender you go with offers some flexibility in your repayment plan and your monthly payment. You’ll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and it’s crucial to choose a new loan with a monthly payment you can live with.

Most lenders in this space offer repayment timelines of up to 20 years, which means you could spread your payments over several decades to get a monthly payment that makes sense with your income. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll pay more interest over the life of your loan when you take a long time to pay it off, so you may want to consider prioritizing a faster payment plan.

The Bottom Line

Student loan refinancing may not sound like a lot of fun. However, taking the time to consider all your loan options could easily save you thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you have a lot of debt at a high interest rate. By consolidating all your student loans into a new one with a lower APR, you could make loan repayment easier with a single payment and save a ton of money that would otherwise go to straight to interest without helping you pay off your loans.

The first step of the loan process is the hardest, however, and that’s choosing a student loan refinancing company that you trust. The lenders on this list are highly rated, but they also offer some of the best loan products on the market today.

  • Work with College Ave, our top pick, to refinance your student loan.

Start your search here and you’re bound to wind up with a student loan you can live with. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of the loans that are available and how much you might save if you decide to refinance later on.

The post The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

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

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

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

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

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

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

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

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

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

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

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

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

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Pay More Than the Minimum?

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

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

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

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

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

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

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

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

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

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Understanding the Perk of a Credit Card Extended Warranty

Many manufacturers warranty their products against defects or certain other issues for a period of time. This is known as the manufacturer’s limited warranty, and depending on the product, it might provide coverage for a period as short as 30 days or as long as three or more years. In many cases, by swiping the right piece of plastic at checkout, you can get an automatic credit card extended warranty.

What Is Extended Warranty Coverage?

An extended warranty is any coverage that goes beyond what the manufacturer provides automatically when you buy a product. Extended warranties are often available for purchase from third parties.

For example, you might purchase an appliance at a home-improvement store like Home Depot or a piece of electronics at a big-box store such as Best Buy. When you pay, you might be asked if you want to purchase extra warranty coverage of several years beyond the manufacturer warranty. In some cases, these warranties step in to provide additional coverage, such as replacing the product if it is damaged or falls victim to typical wear and tear.

What is a Credit Card Extended Warranty?

Some credit card accounts come with a special perk. If you purchase a qualifying product with your card, the card network backs your purchase with an extended warranty coverage. The extended warranty coverage that comes with some of the best credit cards usually extends the manufacturer’s warranty for up to a year longer.

The length of an extended warranty offered can vary by card, and the credit card network won’t extend a warranty past a certain time. Typically, if the manufacturer offers more than a five-year limited warranty, no card network adds time to that. Some only add time if the manufacturer’s warranty is three years or less. Others only add to a manufacturer’s warranty that ends within 12 months.

How Can You Tell if Your Credit Card Includes Extended Warranty Protection?

Many major cards, including some on Visa, American Express and MasterCard networks, offer warranty protection. The best way to find out if your credit card company includes this perk is to read your benefits guide, which is included in the paperwork that came with your card. You can also usually find this information online if you have an online account for the card or you can call the customer service number for your credit card issuer and ask.

Does My Visa Card Have an Extend Warranty?

If your card is a Visa Signature card, then this extra perk is included. Simply look for the words Visa Signature on the front of your card. If you don’t see those words, consult your benefits paperwork or call customer service to get the details about card benefits.

Does Capital One Offer Extended Warranty?

Yes, some Capital One cards come with extended warranty protection. This is because Capital One cards are typically issued on either the Visa or MasterCard network, and it’s the network that provides the warranty coverage.

Does the Costco Visa Include Extended Warranty Perks?

Yes, someCostco-branded Visa credit cards include an extended warranty perk. This is also true for several other branded cards for various stores, hotel chains or airlines.

How Does the Visa (or Other) Extended Warranty Work?

Credit card extended warranty programs have some unique guidelines but do tend to follow the same overall concept. You pay for an eligible item with your credit card. If a covered issue arises after the manufacturer’s warranty coverage is up but before the extended time period covered by the card network, then you can file a claim to be reimbursed for the loss. To file a claim, you’ll need to call the benefits administrator for your credit card issuer.

  • American Express: 1-800-225-3750
  • Visa: 1-800-882-8057
  • MasterCard: 1-800-622-7747

When you make a purchase with your credit card, keep the receipt in case you need to file a claim. Also keep the manufacturer’s warranty, receipt, serial number and product description information on hand. You’ll need all of this information when you make the phone call to file a claim.

Make it a habit to start a paper file whenever you spend big on something. That way, you’ll be ready in case you need to use this benefit. But do note that not all purchases are covered by these rewards. Examples of what’s not covered include boats, motorized vehicles, computer software and used or pre-owned items.

Extra Protection by Paying with Credit Cards

The credit card extended warranty isn’t the only perk you might get when you pay with your credit card. Some cards offer buyer’s remorse protection, ensuring you can always return eligible items within certain windows, or travel and road protections for peace of mind when you find yourself 100 miles or more away from home.

Understanding how credit cards work and what benefits you get from yours lets you get added value when making purchases. Start off right by choosing the best credit card for your needs and using it wisely as one resource in your personal money management toolbox.

The post Understanding the Perk of a Credit Card Extended Warranty appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

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

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

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

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

How Does a Financial Downturn Affect Lending?

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Help Get Your Credit Application Approved 

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

1. Pay Off Debt 

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

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

2. Find a Cosigner

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

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

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

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

3. Raise Your Credit Score 

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

Here are some strategies you can pursue:

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

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

4. Find an Online Lender or Credit Union

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

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

5. Increase Your Down Payment

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

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

Loans vs. Credit Cards: Differences in Credit Approval

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

4 credit cards offering a $500 sign-up bonus

Nowadays, it is easy to score a generous introductory bonus on a credit card. Just by meeting eligibility requirements and a specified spend threshold, you can bring home hundreds of dollars in extra pocket change when you sign up for a new card.

While cash back cards typically offer less valuable introductory bonuses than rewards cards offering points or miles, these bonuses come with a big advantage. Rather than having to redeem points a certain way to stretch their value, you can use a big cash back bonus to make a huge dent on any kind of purchase.

Plus, cash back cards are offering higher and higher bonuses to compete with other rewards currencies – even up to $500 or more.

Right now, $500 (or higher) intro bonuses are limited to business credit cards – but offers change regularly, so a personal card boasting an inflated bonus could be around the corner. Personal cards, including the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, have offered intro bonuses up to $500 in their history. Though the sign-up offer on the Savor is not at its peak, keep an eye out for future limited-time offers on this and other cards.

Which cards are currently offering $500 introductory bonuses?

At the moment, only small business credit cards are offering intro bonuses of $500 or more. Take a look at four current offers below:

Card Introductory offer
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card $750 if you spend $7,500 in first 3 months
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card $750 if you spend $7,500 in first 3 months
Capital One Spark Cash for Business $500 if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard® $500 if you spend $4,500 in first 150 days

As you can see, each of these generous intro offers requires a fairly high spend threshold to reach it. Before you sign up for one of these cards, ensure you can spend enough to earn the bonus without overextending your budget.

See related: How business credit cards can help you run a business from home

Who is eligible to earn these bonuses?

Before jumping at one of these generous offers, you should ensure you are eligible to earn the bonus. Issuers often have restrictions on who can take home a sign-up bonus.

For example, the Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Unlimited cards from Chase are subject to the 5/24 rule. This means if you’ve opened five or more credit cards with any issuer in the last 24 months, you likely won’t qualify for either card.

On the bright side, Chase business cards will not count against your 5/24 standing for future applications.

For the Capital One Spark Cash card and U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards card, the sign-up bonus is limited to new account holders. If you currently have or have previously had one of these cards, you might not be eligible for a new bonus on the same card.

Cash bonuses vs. points bonuses

The possibilities for a $500 sign-up bonus are endless – allowing you to book a trip, buy yourself a special something, offset your next major bill and so much more. It is easy to see how an extra $500 is valuable – but is it the best offer you can find?

The short answer is no. Points-based sign-up bonuses can offer incredible potential value when you redeem rewards strategically. Because the value of points and miles shifts depending on how you spend them, you can often get much more than the estimated cash value of a sign-up bonus by redeeming your points for well-priced flights, hotels or other promotions.

For example, check out some top points-based introductory offers and our estimated value. At first glance, the following bonuses seem to offer a similar value to a $500 cash bonus. But when you redeem your points for travel, they can actually take you much further.

Card Introductory offer Estimated value of introductory offer
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card 140,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months $770
Chase Sapphire Reserve® 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months $750 (when redeemed for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*

60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months $750 (when redeemed for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal)
IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card 100,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months $550

But there is a big drawback – point bonuses are typically only worth their full value when you redeem them for a specific kind of purchase. If a card offers an 80,000-point bonus – but points are only worth a full 1 cent each when redeemed for travel – then that bonus is only ideal for cardholders who already spend a significant amount on travel. If you’d sacrifice half the value of your bonus offer to redeem it for another kind of purchase – such as a statement credit to cover your bills – then you are better off opting for a more flexible cash back offer.

Should you sign up for a $500 bonus offer?

Before jumping at a high bonus offer, you should always consider the spend requirement. If you will have to charge more than you can afford to pay off in order to earn the bonus, it might not be worth it.

See related: Card APRs are at a record high. Is a sign-up bonus still worth the risk?

Additionally, cash bonuses don’t always offer as much potential value as a points-based introductory bonus. Consider how you want to spend your rewards and which card’s earning rate works best for you before you apply.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

Source: creditcards.com