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When most parents offer to fund their childâs tuition, itâs with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.
Unfortunately, what these plans donât tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.
Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.
So if youâre a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.
Contact the University
Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parentâs income has decreased.
Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, youâre out of luck.
Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if youâve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.
Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.
Try to Graduate Early
Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.
Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.
Fill out the FAFSA
If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.
Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it wonât show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.
Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools wonât even provide merit-based scholarships to students who havenât filled out the FAFSA.
Get a Job
If you donât already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.
Try to think outside the box. If youâre a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If youâre a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while youâre working.
Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if youâre in a different city.
It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.
Take Out Private Loans
If you still need more money after youâve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.
Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.
Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.
Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and thereâs little recourse if you graduate and canât find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.
Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School
Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.
If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.
Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so itâs better to be conservative.
The post My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Every year presents new lessons we should incorporate on this life journey, and this one, in particular, is no exception. In a world that is ever-changing one thing that has to remain the same is our ability to pivot when necessary. Whenever life challenges arise, we often make changes and shift out of force rather than free choice. While this logic can be applied to every aspect of our lives itâs an especially crucial concept as it relates to our finances. Thereâs no need to wait until your employer needs to decrease headcount or reduce work hours to jumpstart your rediscovery process. Make the decision today that no matter what happens within the economy, you are making the strides to guarantee your earning power doesnât rest in the hands of someone else.
Set yourself apart and strengthen your skills
Often times, the number one thing you can do before executing plans of any kind is focus on strengthening your skills. Are others able to depend on you?Â If you desire to run your own business or be a high-performing, contributing employee â are you reliable? Being able to breakdown complex situations and produce viable solutions, paying special attention to detail, and asking the right questions at the right time are skills that many often have, but have yet to master. Focusing on any skills that may come naturally to you while achieving mastery, in the long run, will absolutely contribute to the opportunities you are afforded over other candidates. Itâs not about competition, because whatâs for you wonât pass you by. Itâs about actively showcasing you are indeed the best candidate with the physical results to prove it.
Seek out new opportunities and expand your skillset
People believe there are only a few ways to bring in additional income â one being a side hustle. This isnât necessarily the case. Seeking out opportunities within your current or new place of employment can be just what you need to make substantial strides in increasing your earnings as well as visibility. Make yourself familiar with the Human Resources policies for promotions and role transitions. Look into if there are side projects you can add to your workload that can increase your skillset while being introduced to a new audience of people; consider exploring that. Be sure to document the pros and cons of the newly added responsibilities while making sure it aligns with where you ultimately want to be. Donât shy away from having a conversation with your manager and making your goals known.
Ask for more (and quantify it)
Employers have mid-year and end of year reviews to go over performance goals and ensure the work youâve done over time aligns with the responsibilities of the team as well as the company. While this is protocol, as an employee you donât have to wait until this designated time to discuss career goals. Not only does this conversation create awareness between you and your manager â it allows them to understand your desire for more. Iâm sure weâve all had less than desirable bosses, coworkers, and teams. Weâve also been in situations where we know that the work required of us was so much more than the actual amount of money we were taking home. To avoid the unfortunate cycle of being overworked and underpaid that many fall into, have an open and candid conversation with management. Be sure to quantify every task and tie a metric to it if possible. This helps to build your professional story while also making sure your resume stays current for all new opportunities as they arise.
Start a side hustle
When your friends, family, or peers often ask you to complete something and you enjoy doing it; what is that âthingâ? What talents do you innately have that seem as if it doesnât require a huge amount of effort? The answers to these questions should birth the idea of your new side hustle. As daunting as it may sound, take the time to loosely create a plan. Remember, this is scalable! Go at the pace that is most comfortable for you and can transition well into your lifestyle. Solicit the help of family and friends while using your larger network to advertise your talent. Social media and word of mouth can go a very long way â use all outlets to promote yourself and your services.
Never underestimate the power of networking
We all have a comfort zone and typically stay within those walls on a regular basis unless probed. However, do you consider the opportunities that could be available to you by adding several new people to your network? Utilize employee resource groups at your place of employment, various professional networks in your local cities, and other organizations that have a virtual platform. Do a quick Google search based on your preferred industry and start the journey of expanding your network. Thereâs a very familiar phrase weâve all heard at some point, âitâs not what you know, itâs who you know.â LinkedIn is a great social media platform to engage with professionals all over the world on various subject matters and topics. Donât be afraid to put yourself out there and make the connections that could lead you to new opportunities.
Become a lifelong learner
Make a commitment to yourself that no matter what happens, you will always seek knowledge, no matter the method. Explore personal and professional learning opportunities. This may be pursuing an advanced degree to expand opportunities. For others, it can be obtaining a certification within your desired field to land a better position â resulting in a salary increase. If either of those doesnât sound appealing or fit within your current life circumstances, you can always attend conferences, listen to webinars, podcasts, and so many other cost-effective (or free) learning channels to keep your skills in top shape. This could be listening to an audible book while driving in your car or reading a new article every day related to your industry before getting your day started â learning is limitless!
The post How to Increase Your Earning Potential appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Weâre big on investing. Itâs an important way to grow your money and set yourself up for retirement someday.
But is it dangerous to be too obsessed with the stock market?
You bet it is. Our financial advice columnist, Dear Penny, recently heard from a reader whose husband stopped funding his 401(k) so he can bet on the stock market, instead.
Is it OK that heâs stopped contributing to his 401(k) so he can trade stocks? the reader asked. How do I ask him what heâs actually investing in? Iâm worried that heâs gambling money that we need for our retirement.
Thatâs not the way to go. Here are five safer ways to invest and grow your money.
1. Just Steadily Invest Like a Normal Person
Instead of betting all your money on the stock market, just steadily invest in it. Take the long view. The stock market is unpredictable, which means that sometimes stock prices go up, and sometimes they go down â but over time, they tend to go up.
If you havenât started investing and have some money to spare, you can start small. Investing doesnât require you throwing thousands of dollars at full shares of stocks. In fact, you can get started with as little as $1.*
We like Stash, because it lets you choose from hundreds of stocks and funds to build your own investment portfolio. But it makes it simple by breaking them down into categories based on your personal goals. Want to invest conservatively right now? Totally get it! Want to dip in with moderate or aggressive risk? Do what you feel.
Plus, with Stash, youâre able to invest in fractions of shares, which means you can invest in funds you wouldnât normally be able to afford.
If you sign up now (it takes two minutes), Stash will give you $5 after you add $5 to your invest account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**
2. Grow Your Money 16x Faster â Without Risking Any of It
Save some of your money in a safer place than the stock market â but where youâll still earn money on it.
Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account wonât do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)
But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.
Not too shabby!
Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for âthis is totally safe.â
3. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company
One way to make sure you have more money is to stop wasting money on credit card interest. Your credit card company is getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.
If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
The benefit? Youâll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), youâll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but donât worry â they wonât spam you with phone calls.
4. Cut Your Bills by $540/Year
Another way to grow your money: Stop overpaying on your bills.
For example, whenâs the last time you checked car insurance prices? You should shop your options every six months or so â it could save you some serious money. Letâs be real, though. Itâs probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesnât have to be.
A website called Insure makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and itâll show you your options â and even discounts in your area.
Using Insure, people have saved an average of $540 a year.
Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.
5. Add $225 to Your Wallet Just for Watching the News
Hereâs a safe way to earn a little cash on the side.
Weâre living in historic times, and weâre all constantly refreshing for the latest news updates. You probably know more than one news-junkie who fancies themselves an expert in respiratory illness or a political mastermind.
And research companies want to pay you to keep watching. You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. Theyâll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them.
You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. This might sound too good to be true, but itâs already paid its users more than $56 million.
It takes about one minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news.
Mike Brassfield (email@example.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He tries not to be obsessed with the stock market.
*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
**Youâll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Your minimum monthly payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay on your credit card balance. Any less could result in a derogatory mark, any more will clear more of the principal.Â
Your monthly payment is one of the most important aspects of your credit card debt and failure to understand this could seriously impact your credit score and leave marks on your credit report that remain for up to 7 years.
With that in mind, letâs take a closer look at how these payments operate and how you can quickly clear your credit card debt.
How Minimum Payments on a Credit Card are Calculated
The minimum payment is calculated as a percentage of the total balance at the end of the month. This percentage ranges from 2% to 5%, but it has been known to go lower.Â
As an example, if you have a $5,000 credit card balance and are required to pay 5% a month, then your monthly payment will be $250. However, this only covers the principal, which is the money that you borrowed. It does not cover the interest, which is where things get a little complicated and expensive.
What Influences Your Minimum Monthly Payment?
The reason credit card interest is so high is because it compounds. This means that if you have an annual percentage rate of 20% and a debt of $20,000, that debt will climb to $24,000, at which point the next billing cycle will commence and this time youâll be charged 20% on $24,000 and not $20,000.
However, credit card interest is calculated daily, not yearly. To arrive at your daily percentage rate, simply divide your interest rate by 365 (the number of days in a year) and then multiply this by your daily balance.
For example, if we stick with that 20% interest rate, then the daily rate will be 0.00054%. If we multiply this with the daily balance, we get an interest rate of $2.7 for the first day. Multiply this by 30, for the total days in a billing cycle, and itâs $81. Thatâs your total interest for the first month.
So, when we calculate the 2% minimum monthly payment, weâre calculating it against $5,081, not $5,000, which means we get a total of $101.62, reducing the balance to just $479.38.
In other words, you pay over $100, but reduce the balance by a little over $20 when you make that monthly payment. If penalty fees and interest rates are added to that, it will reduce in even smaller increments.
Pros and Cons of Only Paying the Minimum Payment on your Credit Card
As discussed above, itâs imperative that you make the minimum payment, avoiding any late payment charges or credit score reductions. However, if you only make those minimum payments every month then it will take a long time to clear your balance and you may struggle to keep your head above water.
The Benefits of Paying More Than the Minimum
Many borrowers struggle to pay more than the minimum not because they donât have the money, but because they fail to see the benefits. They focus on the short-term and not the long-term, seeing an extra $100 payment as a lost $100 in the present, as opposed to a saved $500 in the future.
However, if you can get over this mindset and start paying more than the minimum, you will do your future self a huge favor, helping with all of the following:
Shorten the Term and Lessen the Interest
Every extra dollar that you add to your minimum payment can help you get out of debt quicker than if you simply stick with the minimum. This is true for all debtsâa higher monthly payment means that more money goes towards the principal, which means there is less interest to compound.
Credit card debt is like a snowball gathering momentum as it rolls, and this is exacerbated every time you miss a payment and are hit with penalty fees. By paying more than the minimum, youâre taking a giant chunk out of that snowball and slowing its progression.
Youâll Improve Your Credit Utilization
Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most important parts of your credit report, counting for 30% of your total. This ratio takes your total available credit (such as a credit limit on a credit card) and then compares it to total debt (such as the balance on that credit card). The higher the number, the more of your credit has been used and the more your credit score will suffer.
Every time you pay more of your credit card balance, youâre reducing this score and significantly boosting your credit score.
Avoid Maxing Out Your Balance
Not only will a maxed-out credit card do some serious damage to your credit utilization score, but it can also have a direct impact on your credit score on the whole. Lenders donât want to see it and credit bureaus will punish you for it. If youâre still using the card and only paying the minimum, you may be stuck in a cycle of persistent debt, but by paying more and using it less, you can prevent that.
You May Get a Better Credit Limit
Credit card issuers monitor their customerâs activities very closely. If they clear their balances every month without issue, they are more inclined to increase their credit limit, offer them rewards, and generally provide them with good opportunities. If they are accumulating large amounts of credit card debt and only meeting their minimum payments, theyâll be less inclined to do any of those things.
It always helps to get on a creditorâs good side, because you never know when you will need that improve credit limit or access to that generous rewards scheme.
What Happens if you Only Make the Minimum Payment?
If you only pay the minimum, the debt will take a long time to clear and youâll repay huge sums of interest in that time. If we go back to the previous example and assume an APR of 20%, a balance of $5,000 and a minimum payment of 2%, you will repay over 400% in interest alone and it will take you decades to repay the debt.
Thankfully, very few credit card providers will actually let you pay such a small amount on such a substantial debt. But even if we increase the minimum payment to 5%, it still looks abysmal for the borrower. It would take them about 9 years to pay the balance, requiring $250 a month and paying close to $2,500 in interest.
Although itâs more realistic, this is still a poor option, especially when you consider the card will still be active and you may still be using it, which means that every time you make a repayment, youâre adding more debt and offsetting all your hard work.
Your credit score will not suffer if you only make the minimum payment. Providing you make it on time then you will build a respectable payment history, a stable credit report, and a credit score that is sure to impress lenders. However, it wonât look great for your finances as youâre giving yourself an expensive liability that will cripple your debt-to-income ratio and your credit utilization ratio for years to come.
Are There Any Advantages to Just Paying the Minimum?
The only advantage to paying just the minimum is that you will have more money in your pocket at the end of the month, which will allow you to make additional investments and purchases that would otherwise not be available to you. However, this is a pretty narrow-minded way of looking at it, because while you will have more cash in the long-term, it comes at the expense of many additional risks and obligations, not to mention thousands of dollarsâ worth of additional interest paid over the term.
What Happens if you Canât Pay the Minimum Payment?
If there is a late payment or a missed payment, your creditor may charge you a penalty fee or a penalty rate. If your payment is due for more than 30-days they may also report you to the credit bureaus, at which point a derogatory mark will appear on your credit report and your credit score will drop.
This can happen even with a single missed payment, which is why you should never simply skip a payment on the basis that youâll just double-up next time around.
Instead, contact your creditor, explain your situation, and see if there is anything they can do to help you. They may say no, but it doesnât hurt to ask, and, in most cases, they will offer you some kind of reprieve. After all, they want their money, and if they can increase their chances of getting paid by providing you with some leeway, theyâll often be more than happy to do it.
Some people believe that you can simply pay a few dollars and it will count as a minimum payment and not show on your credit report. This is a myth. Technically, any payment that doesnât meet the full minimum requirement can be classed as a late payment and can lead to fees and derogatory marks.
Resources to Lower Minimum Payments on a Credit Card
Itâs important to keep a close eye on your credit card statement and activity at all times. Monitor your spending, making sure it doesnât go overboard, and if you find yourself struggling to make payments at any time, checkout the following resources and options to get the help you need:
- Credit Counselors: Speak with a trained expert who has helped many individuals in a similar position. They will discuss your finances and your debts and will help you to find a solution.
- Debt Management: A debt management plan can help when youâre struggling to meet your debt obligations and have a huge debt-to-income ratio. They will provide assistance and help you swap multiple debts for a single consolidation loan.
- Debt Settlement: An option that works best for individuals with multiple debts and missed payments. Itâs one of the cheapest ways to clear personal loan and credit card debt, as well as other forms of unsecured debt.
- Debt Consolidation: Another consolidation loan option, this time with a long term, ensuring that you pay less per month but more over the term. This is a good option if youâre stuck in a tricky spot right now and need to reduce your outgoings.
In all the above cases, you can use the NMLS Consumer Access site to find a legitimate and reputable company or professional working within the financial sector. You can also use resources like the Better Business Bureau as well as the many guides, reviews, and help files right here on the Pocket Your Dollars website.
How to Reduce the Balance on a Credit Card Debt
One of the best ways to reduce your balance is to initiate a balance transfer. As the name suggests, this entails moving your balance from one card to another. Balance transfer cards entice you by offering a 0% APR on all transfers and this lasts for up to 18% with the best providers.Â
In that time, you wonât pay any interest on your balance, which means all your monthly payment will go towards the principal and you can reduce your debt in huge leaps as opposed to small steps.
These cards are not without their issues, however. You will need a good credit score to get a card that has a good APR and balance transfer offer. If you donât, and you fail to clear the balance during that introductory period, you may be paying more interest than you were before.
In most cases, though, these cards will be just what you need to ease the burden of mounting credit card debts and get back into the black. Take a look at our guide to the best balance transfer cards to learn more and discover how you can move your current balance to a card that has more preferable terms, in the short-term at least.
The Bottom Line: Clear that Balance
A minimum payment is the least amount you need to commit to a credit card balance. If credit card debt was a house party, the minimum payment would be the equivalent of showing up, saying your introductions, and then hiding in the corner for the rest of the night. If you really want to make an impact, you need to be proactive.
It doesnât have to be twice or thrice the size of your minimum payment. It doesnât have to be a consistent sum that you pay every month, but it does have to be something. Donât worry if itâs only 1% or 2% of the balance, because every additional payment helps. Just pay whatever you can afford, whenever you can afford it. A small amount of money today can save you a huge sum of money in the future.
Minimum Payments on a Credit Card is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
I took a look at Azlo, Novo, BlueVine, and Radius Bank. Each business checking account has pros and cons depending on the type of small business you run. We compare so you donât have to.I took a look at Azlo, Novo, BlueVine, and Radius Bank. Each business checking account has pros and cons depending on the type of small business you run. We compare so you donât have to.
The post Novo Vs. Azlo Vs. BlueVine Vs. Radius Bank â The Battle Of Online Business Checking Accounts appeared first on Money Under 30.
Your credit score is incredibly important. In fact, this number is so influential on various financial aspects of life that it can determine your eligibility to be approved for credit cards, car loans, home mortgages, apartment rentals, and even certain jobs. Knowing what your credit score is, and what range it falls under, is important so you can decide what loans you can to apply for, and if necessary, if steps need to be taken to improve your score.
So what constitutes a good credit score?
The Credit Score Range Scale
The most common credit score used by lenders and other business entities is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The bigger the number, the better. To create credit scores, FICO uses information from one of the three major credit bureau agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Knowing this range is important because it will help you understand where your specific number fits in.
As far as lenders are concerned, the lower a consumer’s number on this scale, the higher the risk. Lenders will often deny a loan application for those with a lower credit score because of this risk. If they do approve a loan application, they’ll make consumers pay for such risk by means of a much higher interest rate.
Understand Your Credit Score
Within the credit score range are different categories, ranging from bad to excellent. Here is how credit score ranges are broken down:
Bad credit: 630 or Lower
Lenders generally consider a credit score of 630 or lower as bad credit. A number of past activities could have landed you in this category, including a string of late or missed credit card payments, maxed out credit cards, or even bankruptcy. Younger people who have no credit history will probably find themselves in this category until they have had time to develop their credit. If you’re in this bracket, you’ll be faced with higher interest rates and fees, and your selection of credit cards will be restricted.
Fair Credit: 630-689
This is considered an average score. Lingering within this range is most likely the result of having too much “bad” debt, such as high credit card debt that’s grazing the limit. Within this bracket, lenders will have a harder time trusting you with their loan.
Good Credit: 690-719
Having a credit score within this range will afford you more choices when it comes to credit cards, an easier time getting approved for various loans, and being charged much lower interest rates on such loans.
Excellent Credit: 720-850
Consider your credit score excellent if your number falls within this bracket. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the fringe benefits that come with credit cards, and will almost certainly be approved for loans at the lowest interest rates possible.
What’s Your Credit Score?
Federal law allows consumers to check their credit score for free once every 12 months. But if you want to check more often than this, a fee is typically charged. Luckily, there are other avenues to take to check your credit score.
Mint has recently launched an online tool that allows you toÂ check your credit scoreÂ for free without the need for a credit card. Here you’ll be able to learn the different components that affect your score, and how you can improve it.
You’ll be able to see your score with your other accounts to give you a complete picture of your finances. Knowing what your credit score is can help determine if you need to improve it to help you get the things you need or want. Visit Mint.com to find out more about how you can access your credit score – for free.
Lisa Simonelli RennieÂ is a freelance web content creator who enjoys writing on all sorts of topics, including personal finance, investing in stocks, mortgages, real estate investments, and anything else to do with the world of economics.
The post What’s a Good Credit Score? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
If youâre looking for a way to get a large influx of Ultimate Rewards points, there is great news for Chase members: Both theÂ Chase Freedom FlexÂ andÂ Chase Freedom UnlimitedÂ cards offer a high cash bonus for a low spend threshold.
Currently, both cards are offering a $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months.
Which Chase Freedom card is better in the first year?
That depends largely on your spending habits. While the two cards share certain earning categories, they still have different rewards earning structures.
The Freedom Unlimited offers the same flat rate of 1.5% cash back on purchases outside of bonus categories, and the Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1% cash back).
Comparing the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards
For many cardholders, the Chase Freedom Flex card should offer greater value, assuming you are able to maximize your spending in its quarterly bonus categories.
That said, if youâre not able to maximize theÂ Freedom bonus categories, the Freedom Unlimited card might be a better choice thanks to its higher rewards rate on general purchases.
Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Unlimited
|Introductory offer||$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months||$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months|
|Estimated earnings in first yearÂ (Assumes maxed-out bonus categories and a $15,900 annual spend)||$666||$526|
Of course, thereâs nothing to stop you from applying for both cards and potentially earning both cardsâ sign-up bonuses. The Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards go nicely together â you can use the Chase Freedom Flex card to earn 5% cash back on its quarterly bonus categories and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card to earn 1.5% cash back on everything else. Then, use either card at drug stores, restaurants and on travel purchases in the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Recent changes to the Chase Freedom cardsâ sign-up bonus
While some rewards cards frequently update their sign-up bonuses, the offers on the Chase Freedom cards are fairly consistent. Recently, however, we have seen increased welcome offers, with both cards offering a $200 bonus. For a limited time, both cards also offered a higher rate on grocery store purchases in the first year of card membership, but that offer has expired.
|Chase Freedom Flex card recent changes|
|Current||$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months|
|Previous||$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases in first year (on up to $12,000 in spending, not including TargetÂ® or WalmartÂ® purchases)|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited card recent changes|
|Current||$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months|
|Previous||$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases in first year (on up to $12,000 in spending, not including TargetÂ® or WalmartÂ® purchases)|
|Previous||$150 if you spend $500 in first 3 months|
Who is eligible to apply for the sign-up bonus?
New cardholders who have not received a sign-up bonus for the same card within the past 24 months are eligible to earn the bonus with the Chase Freedom cards. Of course, you have to qualify for the cards first, which means you’ll need a credit score in the good to excellent range (at least 680).
Chase doesnât appear to have a hard limit on how many cards you own, though they may deny your application if you have too large of a credit limit across your other Chase cards. Also, while there is no strict rule on how many Chase cards you can apply for within a certain timeframe, many applicants report a limit of one to two new cards per month.
Chase has recently cracked down on applicants who have opened several credit cards at once. Though itâs not an official policy, Chase appears to be enforcing a â5/24â rule on new credit card applications. What this means is â if you have opened at least five credit card accounts in the past 24 months withÂ anyÂ issuer (not just Chase) â your application will likely be denied. The rule seems to apply to any credit card account that shows up on your credit report, including co-branded store cards and authorized user accounts. (On the plus side, business credit cards that donât appear on your personal credit report do not affect your chances of being approved.)
How to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points
As cash back cards, the Chase Freedom cards offer a flat 1 cent value on most redemption options. However, there are a few options that you want to avoid. Our table below shows that Amazon.com and Chase Pay purchases are valued at only 0.8 cents per point:
Redemption options for Chase Freedom cards
|Redemption option||Point value (cents)||Value of 20,000 points|
|Ultimate Rewards portal travel||1||$200|
|Chase Pay purchases||0.8||$160|
You can also transfer points from the Chase Freedom cards to certain Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card* and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. As you can see from the table below, transferring your points to one of these cards will allow you to get more value out of your sign-up bonus. You get a 25% to 50% bonus on your points if you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, depending on which card you own.
Also, both the Sapphire cards allow you to transfer your points at 1:1 value to one of Chaseâs many travel partners to get even higher values on your points. For instance, we value Southwest Airlines points at 1.6 cents on average (note the value can vary widely on the ticket that you purchase), which means the 20,000-point bonus can net you $320 of value on average when used for Southwest airfare:
Redemption options for Chase Sapphire cards
|Redemption option||Point value (cents)||Value of 20,000 points|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve â 50% redemption bonus||1.5||$300|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred â 25% redemption bonus||1.25||$250|
|Singapore Airlines transfer||2.36||$472|
|British Airways transfer||1.4||$280|
|Southwest Airlines transfer||1.6||$320|
|United Airlines transfer||1.52||$304|
|World of Hyatt||1.43||$286|
|Air France transfer||1||$200|
|Virgin Atlantic transfer||0.8||$150|
|Marriott Rewards transfer||0.8||$160|
An extra $500 per year
In addition to a sign-up bonus, the Chase Freedom cards offer a referral bonus worth up to $500 each year. Chaseâs âRefer-a-Friendâ program gives Freedom cardholders $100 cash back for each person they refer who is approved for the Freedom card â up to five people per year.
To take part in the promotion, enter your last name, zip code and last four digits of your credit card on ChaseâsÂ Refer-a-Friend page. On the following page, enter the first name and email address of each person you wish to invite. You also have the option to post an invitation link to Facebook or Twitter or refer friends through the Chase app.
*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This card is no longer available through CreditCards.com.
Fun fact about pandemic life: Zoom fatigue is real. And not just real, but “widely prevalent, intense, and completely new,” according to Psychiatric Times.
Although we might be avoiding Zoom these days when an email or even a phone call (is it 1986 again?) will suffice, there's one place where video conferencing still shines, and that's the good ol' brainstorm.
Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.
When I picture brainstorms of years past, I see images of big tables full of candy and fidget toys and pens and Post-Its galore. Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.
Today we’ll talk about some virtual brainstorming strategies I’ve seen work really well. And then hopefully, you’ll give one a try.
Choose your occasion wisely
brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation.
Back when our biggest workplace woe was a vending machine out of Diet Coke, many of us took brainstorming sessions for granted. But in a virtual world, it's harder to organize, facilitate, and get people engaged.
That's why brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation. (Often what you’re looking for is just a meeting.) Brainstorms are a very specific brand of discussion in which a collective of creative voices, ideas, and opinions are necessary inputs to achieve a valuable output.
Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions. They're a fabulous enabler of ideas and solutions, so do use them. But do so strategically and with clear intention.
Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions.
What are some great occasions to host a brainstorming session? Use them when you need to:
- Add or refine product features
- Define a path in a sticky situation
- Solve a complex problem
These and many other scenarios call for a variety of perspectives in which there are no right or wrong answers, but only ideas.
In contrast, many other occasions don’t call for a brainstorm. Like when you need…
- Approval or alignment
- Receipt of a message or direction
- Feedback on a mostly baked idea
These are not brainstorm moments—they're meetings with a much more defined outcome. See the difference?
Figure out the specific problem you want to address
Okay, so you've figured out that your situation calls for a brainstorming session. Now, it's time to make sure everybody who comes to the brainstorm is on the same page before you begin by creating a statement that lays out the specific problem and how you need to tackle it.
Your problem statement might be something like:
We’re losing market share on X product, and we need to define new features to attract Millennial customers.
And here's another example:
This client wasn’t happy with our last deliverable and we need to redefine how we’re engaging with them.
One of your goals is to keep the session short (because fatigue) while maximizing what you take away from it. A clear problem statement allows you to invite your brainstorming participants to get the creative juices flowing ahead of the actual session.
Assign some prework to get things rolling
Now that you've stated the problem or opportunity, it's time to let participants know you’re looking forward to a collaborative discussion and invite them to jot down some early ideas and send them your way.
You can then do some analysis ahead of the session. Did you spot any common themes? Any particular ideas you’re interested in having the group build upon?
Share your findings at the beginning of the brainstorming session. This will give you a strong foundation from which to build.
Get creative with tech
Love it or hate it, video conferencing technology is definitely your friend in a virtual brainstorm. It allows you to create a purposeful connection amongst participants. But you have to understand how to engage them.
When I used to run in-person meetings with leadership teams, I was always intentional about switching up the activities every 30 minutes or so. I’d facilitate a breakout, and then we’d do a quick poll, and then I’d have people plot Post-It notes around the room, and more.
Keeping things changing and moving is a great way to keep adults engaged. According to the Harvard Business Review: "If you don’t sustain a continual expectation of meaningful involvement, [people] will retreat into that alluring observer role."
So take the time to learn the features of whatever platform you’re using, and make the session engaging. Some tactics you might try?
- Use polls to test out early ideas
- Use small group breakout sessions to create mini-competitions between your participants
- Use a whiteboard to replicate a poster board people can plot virtual Post-It notes on
- Use voting to prioritize or stack rank
Of course, talking is part of any brainstorm. But using technology can keep participants from slipping into the shadows without contributing.
Establish norms that serve your purpose
A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.
A client once told me this story about a packaging company that was struggling with productivity. Their products had to be wrapped in newspaper before being shipped. But often, as employees were packaging product, they’d accidentally start reading the newspaper, losing precious packing minutes. These minutes added up to lost productivity.
One day the leadership team was brainstorming solutions to this distraction problem and one executive said, “Well, what if we just poked their eyes out?”
Of course, he wasn't serious—the question was absurd and meant to add a little humor. But it triggered a new line of thinking. Eventually, the company established a partnership with a non-profit organization that finds jobs for blind people.
Is this story true? I’m honestly not sure. But it’s a great illustration of the importance of free-flowing ideas.
A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.
As the facilitator, what norms can you put in place to ensure that all ideas get voiced without judgment and everyone has a chance to speak?
Here are a few you might consider:
- Use the improv rule of “yes, and.” It means that ideas are never knocked down, only built upon. (Don’t worry, they can get voted down later, just not during the brainstorm)
- Use the two- (or one- or five)-minute rule. Ask people to limit themselves to two minutes at a time, even if they need to stop mid-thought (they can finish on their next turn). This challenges people to be concise and ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak.
- Use a round-robin technique. Circle around the Zoom participants, calling on each person as you go. If someone isn’t ready, they can pass. But this is a great way to prevent introverts from getting overlooked.
What other norms will keep you on track?
Close out thoughtfully
Save a few minutes at the end of your scheduled session to check in on the process. How did it feel for everyone? What worked well and what might you skip next time? Do they have other tactics to recommend?
The best answer to “How do I host a great virtual brainstorm?” is the answer that your own participants give you.
When scheduled for the right occasion and with the right people, brainstorms are a fabulous tool. Don’t be intimidated by them. Just be open to learning as you go.