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Do You Qualify for Any of January’s Class-Action Settlements?

The New Year brings new opportunities to seek restitution for wrongs committed in previous months and even years. Take a look at this month’s list of class-action settlements to see if any of these offers will let you add some cha-ching to your pocket as you ring in 2021.

UnityPoint Health: Data Breach

Anyone who was affected by UnityPoint Health data breaches in 2017 and 2018 may be eligible for up to $7,000 plus a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

Also known as Iowa Health System, the lawsuit claims UnityPoint was hit by a data breach that began in November 2017. The multi-hospital delivery and health care system purportedly found the ongoing breach in February 2018, but failed to notify affected persons until April or even July of 2018.

The lawsuit alleges that more than 1 million names, addresses, phone numbers, billing information and health information were exposed, costing patients and consumers time and money to cancel credit cards and fight identity theft and fraud.

UnityPoint denied wrongdoing, but agreed to a $2.8 million settlement. UnityPoint Health said it contacted all affected consumers whose personal information was exposed during the 2017 and 2018 data breaches.

File your valid claim by March 2, 2021 to receive a year of free credit monitoring and up to $1,000 in “ordinary” expenses, including a maximum of three hours of time valued at $15 per hour and documented out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to the data breaches, such as postage fees and internet charges. You also may claim up to $6,000 in “extraordinary” expenses related to identity theft or fraud caused by the data breaches, including false tax returns and interest on loans you had to take out because of canceling your credit card accounts.

Kalispell Regional Healthcare: Data Breach

You could be eligible for expense reimbursement, cash payments and free credit monitoring services as the result of a $4.2 million class-action settlement.

In October 2019, Kalispell Regional Healthcare notified patients that hackers were able to access employee email accounts and used those accounts to access the personal data of patients.

In response, a lawsuit alleged Kalispell didn’t do enough to protect against hackers. The company did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to settle for $4.2 million.

Cyber thieves reportedly gained access to the following patient data:

  •     Names and addresses
  •     Medical record numbers
  •     Dates of birth
  •     Telephone numbers
  •     Email addresses
  •     Medical history and treatment information
  •     Dates of service
  •     Treating physicians
  •     Medical bill account numbers
  •     Health insurance information
  •     Social Security numbers

If you were notified by Kalispell Regional Healthcare that your personal information might have been compromised, you could be eligible for reimbursement of up to $15,000 in expenses related to the breach. You also may be eligible for up to five hours of time at the rate of $15 per hour.

In addition to reimbursement, you can choose between five years of Experian credit monitoring services valued at nearly $720 and an alternative cash payment of up to $100. Exact cash payment amounts will vary but will not exceed $100.

Claim forms are due by Feb. 25, 2021.

BMW: Failing Coolant Pump

If you owned or leased specific 2007 through 2019 models of BMW vehicles, you could claim up to $1,000 in reimbursements.

A class-action suit alleged the affected vehicles were equipped with electric coolant pumps that once they failed, caused engines to overheat, resulting in the need for expensive repairs. The lawsuit further alleged BMW knew of the problem but did not fix it or reimburse owners and lessees for resulting repairs.

Car owners and lessees may receive a maximum of $1,000 in out-of-pocket repair costs for parts and labor required to replace one failed electric engine coolant pump and a thermostat, if such replacement was needed within the first seven years or first 84,000 miles the vehicle was in service. In addition, BMW’s New Passenger Vehicle Limited Warranty may be extended to seven years or 84,000 miles.

BMW also will replace an electric coolant pump that fails for one year after the settlement becomes effective, no matter how old the vehicle is or how many miles it has on it.

We have the complete list of models covered and all the details you need to make a claim by the Feb. 18, 2021 deadline.

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Sports Research: Deceptive Supplement Labeling

If you bought Sports Research Corporation’s Premium MCT Oil products or Turmeric Curcumin C3 Complex products, you could be eligible for a portion of a settlement over allegations of deceptive labeling practices.

The premium-priced products that were labeled “packed with beneficial fats” and capable of fostering “natural” energy purportedly were falsely advertised. The MCT Oil merchandise contained 14 grams of saturated fat that did not allow it to be considered “healthy” as part of a diet. In addition, the “natural” energy supposedly induced by the use of raw coconut materials allegedly underwent processing.

The MCT Oil products were also promoted as containing antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, while the Turmeric Curcumin C3 products were marketed as anti-inflammatory products that provided antioxidant benefits.

If you bought Sports Research’s MCT Oil products or Turmeric Curcumin C3 products between Jan. 9, 2016 and Jan. 9, 2020, you could be eligible for either a $7 voucher to be used toward the purchase of any Sports Research product or $3 cash.

File your valid claim by Feb. 23, 2021 to receive your healthy dose of restitution.

A woman looks perplexed as she looks at her laptop screen.

Chime Digital Bank Service Disruption

Were you unable to access your Chime deposit account between Oct. 16-19, 2019 because of a service disruption? If so, you could be eligible for a portion of a $1.5 million class-action settlement.

The intermittent outage lasted for several days, according to the lawsuit, which resulted in late bill payments and disrupted purchases. The suit also says Chime failed to warn users of the outage and only communicated via Twitter.

Chime did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to the class action settlement.

Compensation is divided into two tiers. Tier one allows consumers who suffered a loss due to the service disruption to receive a cash payment up to $25 with no proof of such loss. Tier two provides payments up to $750 for those who can provide documentation.

We have all the details and how to file your claim by the Feb. 15, 2021 deadline.

BMW: Defective Timing Chain

Former owners and lessees of certain 2012 to 2015 models of BMW vehicles could be eligible for reimbursement for allegedly defective timing chain components.

A lawsuit that alleged certain BMWs equipped with N20 and N26 engines were prone to experiencing damage and needing costly repairs because of defective timing chains.

BMW owners and lessees may qualify for either a reimbursement program or a prospective repair program.

The reimbursement program provides between 40% and 100% reimbursement for vehicle repairs depending on the mileage at the time of service. No cap exists for repair reimbursement if the repairs were completed at a BMW center. However, repairs done at an independent service center are capped at $3,000 for timing chain modules and oil pump drive chain modules and at $7,500 for engines.

A separate program provides reimbursement for future repairs. Some of these claims will be covered under vehicles’ existing warranties while others will be reimbursed for between 40% and 75% of the total repair costs. Vehicles must be taken to a BMW center.

Expenses are only eligible for reimbursement if the damage was caused by failure of the timing chain or oil pump drive chain modules. Vehicles that have over 100,000 miles or have been in service for over eight years are not eligible.

Check out the details, the list of covered vehicles, and the claim form that must be submitted by the estimated deadline of March 18, 2021.

Navy Federal Credit Union: Unfair NSF Fees

Navy Federal Credit Union has agreed to a $16 million settlement over allegations it charged unfair non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees to its customers.

Navy Federal customers who were charged two or three NSF fees on one transaction between Jan. 28, 2014 and Oct. 27, 2020 may be eligible for cash payments or account credits.

Multiple fees purportedly were incurred when a merchant presented a transaction for payment several times after an initial rejection. With each attempt, Navy Federal allegedly tried to process the payments again, which resulted in an additional NSF fee. This practice of charging the additional NSF fees violated Navy Federal’s own terms of its agreements, according to the suit.

Exact awards will depend upon the number of NSF fees charged and the number of customers who agree to participate in the settlement.

No claim form is required because cash payments or account credits automatically will be distributed, but you have until Feb. 24, 2021 to object to the settlement or to ask to be excluded from it.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Painless Steps

If you want to whip your finances into shape, here’s a good New Year’s resolution: improving your credit score.

A lot of New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re so extreme. Think of all the bonkers weight-loss and money-saving goals that surface at the start of every year.

This resolution is different. No extreme measures are required. But there aren’t any shortcuts. Building good credit is a goal you need to commit to 12 months a year.

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Steps

Ready to make 2021 the year you finally prove your creditworthiness? Or are you looking to recover from a 2020 setback? Here’s how to build good credit in 10 steps.

1. Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports

It’s essential to monitor your credit reports, especially if you received a hardship agreement from a lender due to COVID-19. Under the CARES Act rules, lenders are supposed to report your account as paid in full while the agreement is in effect, as long as you weren’t already delinquent. But mistakes happen. Even in normal times, about 1 in 5 credit reports contained inaccurate information.

Through April 2021, you can get one free credit report per week from each bureau. (Typically, you’re only entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau.) Make sure you access your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, rather than one of the many websites that offer “free” credit scores but will make you put down your credit card number to sign up for a trial. File a dispute with the bureaus if you find anything you think is inaccurate or any accounts you don’t recognize.

Your credit reports won’t show you your credit score, but you can use a free credit-monitoring service to check your score. (No, checking your own credit doesn’t hurt your score.) Many banks and credit card companies also give you your credit scores for free.

Pro Tip

If the bureaus agree to remove information from your credit reports, expect to wait about 30 days until your reports are updated.

2. Pay Your Bills. On Time. Every Single Month

Yeah, you knew we were going to say this: Paying your bills on time is the No. 1 thing you can do to build good credit. Your payment history determines 35% of your score, more than any other credit factor.

Set whatever bills you can to autopay for at least the minimums to avoid missing payments. You can always pay extra if you can afford it.

A strong payment history takes time to build. If you’ve made late payments, they’ll stay on your credit reports for seven years. The good news is, they do the most damage to your score in the first two years. After that, the impact starts to fade.

3. Establish Credit, Even if You’ve Made Mistakes

You typically need a credit card or loan to build a credit history. (Sorry, but all those on-time rent and utility payments are rarely reported to the credit bureaus, so they won’t help your score.)

But if you have bad credit or you’re a credit newbie, getting approved for a credit card or loan is tough. Look for cards that are specifically marketed to help people start or rebuild credit. Store credit cards, which only let you make purchases at a specific retailer, can also be a good option.

4. Open a Secured Card if You Don’t Qualify for a Regular Card

Opening a secured credit card is one of our favorite ways to build a positive history when you can’t get approved for a regular credit card or loan. You put down a refundable deposit, and that becomes your line of credit.

After about a year of making your payments on time, you’ll typically qualify for an unsecured line of credit. Just make sure the card issuer you choose reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Look for a card with an annual fee of no more than $35. Some secured card options we like (and no, we’re not getting paid to say this):

  • Discover it Secured
  • OpenSky Secured Visa Card
  • Secured Mastercard from Capital One
A woman checks her credit card balance while on the phone.

5. Ask for a Limit Increase. Pretend You Never Got It

Increasing your credit limits helps your score because it decreases your credit utilization ratio. That’s credit score speak for the percentage of credit you’re using. The standard recommendation is to keep this number below 30%, but really, the closer to zero the better.

If you have open credit, ask your current creditors for an increase, rather than applying for new credit. That way, you’ll avoid lowering your length of credit, which could ding your score.

The downside of a higher credit limit: You’ll have more money to spend that isn’t really yours. To get the biggest credit score boost from a limit increase and avoid paying more in interest, make sure you don’t add to your balance.

Pro Tip

Don’t believe the myth that carrying a small credit card balance helps your credit score. Paying off your balance in full each month is best for your score, plus it saves you money on interest.

6. Prioritize Credit Card Debt Over Loans

Tackling credit card debt helps your credit score a lot more than paying down other debts, like a student loan or mortgage. The reason? Your credit utilization ratio is determined exclusively by your lines of credit.

Bonus: Paying off credit card debt first will typically save you money, because credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than other types of debt.

7. Keep Your Old Accounts Active

Provided you aren’t paying ridiculous fees, keep your credit card accounts open once you’ve paid off the balance. Credit scoring methods reward you for having a long credit history.

Make a purchase at least once every three months on the account, as credit card companies often close inactive accounts. Then pay it off in full.

8. Apply for New Credit Selectively

When you apply for credit, it results in a hard inquiry, which usually drops your score by a few points. So avoid applying frequently for new credit cards, as this can signal financial distress.

But if you’re in the market for a mortgage or loan, don’t worry about multiple inquiries. As long as you limit your shopping to a 45-day window, credit bureaus will treat it as a single inquiry, so the impact on your score will be minimal.

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9. Still Overwhelmed? A Debt Consolidation Loan Could Help

If you’re struggling with credit card debt, consolidating your credit card debt with a loan could be a good option. In a nutshell, you take out a loan to wipe out your credit card balances.

You’ll get the simplicity of a single payment, plus you’ll typically pay less interest since loan interest rates tend to be lower. (If you can’t get a loan that lowers your interest rate, this probably isn’t a good option.)

By using a loan to pay off your credit cards, you’ll also free up credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.

Many debt consolidation loans require a credit score of about 620. If your score falls below this threshold, work on improving your score for a few months before you apply for one.

10. Keep Your Credit Score in Perspective

All the credit-monitoring tools out there make it easy to obsess about your credit score. While it’s important to build good credit, look at the bigger picture. A few final thoughts:

  • Your credit score isn’t a report card on the state of your finances. It simply measures how risky of a borrower you are. Having an emergency fund, saving for retirement and earning a decent living are all important to your finances — but these are all things that don’t affect your credit score.
  • Lenders look at more than your credit score. Having a low debt-to-income ratio, decent down payment and steady paycheck all increase your odds of approval when you’re making a big purchase, even if your credit score is lackluster.
  • Don’t focus on your score if you can’t pay for necessities. If you’re struggling and you have to choose between paying your credit card vs. paying your rent, keeping food on the table or getting medical care, paying your credit card is always the lower priority. Of course, talk to your creditors if you can’t afford to pay them, as they may have options.

Focus on your overall financial picture, and you’ll probably see your credit score improve, too. Remember, though, that while credit scores matter, you matter more.

Now go crush those goals in 2021 and beyond.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best?

You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and even debt management; you’ve begged your creditors, liquidated your assets, and pestered your friends and families for any money they can afford, but after all of that, you still have more debt than you can handle.

Now what?

Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving as debt management and they’ll do much more damage to your credit score than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms of debt relief and nothing seems to work, all that remains is to consider debt settlement and bankruptcy.

Debt settlement is a very good way to clear your debt. It’s one of the cheapest and most complete ways to eradicate credit card debt and can help with most other forms of unsecured debt as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a last resort option for debtors who can’t meet those monthly payments and have exhausted all other possibilities.

But which option is right for you, should you be looking for a debt settlement company or a bankruptcy attorney?

Similarities Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement

Firstly, let’s look at the similarities between bankruptcy and debt settlement, which are actually few and far between. In fact, beyond the fact that they are both debt relief options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact your credit score quite heavily.

A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years and do a lot of damage when it is applied. It may take several years before you can successfully apply for loans and high credit lines again, and it will continue to impact your score for years to come.

Debt settlement is not quite as destructive, but it can reduce your credit score in a similar way and last for up to 7 years. Accounts do not disappear in the same way as when you pay them in full, so future creditors will know that the accounts were settled for less than the balance and this may scare them away.

In both cases, you could lose a couple hundred points off your credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on your credit report and how extensive the settlement/bankruptcy process is.

Differences Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement

The main two types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The former liquidates assets and uses the funds generated from this liquidation to pay creditors. The latter creates a repayment plan with a goal of repaying all debts within a fixed period of time using an installment plan that suits the filer.

Debt settlement, on the other hand, is more of a personal process, the goal of which is to offer a reduced settlement sum to creditors and debt collectors, clearing the debts with a lump sum payment that is significantly less than the balance.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all non-exempt assets will be sold, and the money then used to pay lenders. There are filing costs and it’s advised that you hire a bankruptcy attorney to ensure the process runs smoothly.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing most unsecured debts in this time. There is no repayment plan to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.

Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on a repayment plan that typically spans up to 5 years. The debts are not wiped clear but are instead restructured in a way that the debtor can handle. This method of bankruptcy is typically more expensive, but only worthwhile for debtors who can afford to repay their debts.

Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and there is no guarantee you will be successful. There are strict bankruptcy laws to follow and the bankruptcy court must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.

Bankruptcy will require you to see a credit counselor, which helps to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. This can feel like a pointless and demeaning requirement, as many debtors understand the rights and wrongs and got into a mess because of uncontrollable circumstances and not reckless spending, but sessions are short, cheap, and shouldn’t cause much stress.

How Debt Settlement Works

The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to a settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from a debt settlement company.

The debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your debts every month. This has two big benefits:

1. More Money

You will have more money in your account every month, which means you’ll have more funds to go towards debt settlement offers. 

The idea of making large lump sum payments can seem alien to someone who has a lot of debt. After all, if you’re struggling to make $400 debt payments every month on over $20,000 worth of debt, how can you ever hope to get the $5,000 to $15,000 you need to clear those debts in full?

But if you stop making all payments and instead move that money to a secured account, you’ll have $4,800 extra at the end of the year, which should be enough to start making those offers and getting those debts cleared.

2. Creditor Panic

Another aspect of the debt settlement process that confuses debtors is the idea that creditors would be willing to accept reduced offers. If you have a debt worth $20,000 and are paying large amounts of interest every month, why would they accept a lump sum and potentially take a loss overall?

The truth is, if you keep making monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept a settled debt offer. But as soon as you start missing those payments, the risk increases, and the creditor faces the very real possibility that they will need to sell that debt to a collection agency. If you have a debt of $20,000, it may be sold for as little as $20 to $200, so if you come in with an offer of $10,000 before it reaches that point, they’ll snap your hand off!

Types of Debt

A debt settlement program works best when dealing with credit card debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt, medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work. 

With government debt, you need specific tax relief services, and, in most cases, there is no way to avoid it. With secured debt, the lender will simply take your asset as soon as you default.

Debt settlement companies may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase your total debt and worsen your financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop making monthly payments, they may ask that you place yourself on a budget, stop spending money on luxuries, stop acquiring new debt, and start putting every penny you have towards the settlement.

It can have a negative impact on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll be debt-free within 5 years.

Pros and Cons of Debt Settlement and Bankruptcy

Neither of these processes are free or easy. With bankruptcy, you may pay up to $2,000 for Chapter 7 and $4,000 for Chapter 13 (including filing fees and legal fees) while debt settlement is charged as a fixed percentage of the debt or the money saved. 

As mentioned already, both methods can also damage your credit score. But ultimately, they will clear your debts and the responsibilities that go with them. If you’ve been losing sleep because of your debt, this can feel like a godsend—a massive weight lifted off your shoulders.

It’s also worth noting that scams exist for both options, so whether you’re filing bankruptcy or choosing a debt settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. Reputable debt settlement companies will provide you with a free consultation in the first instance, and you can use the NACBA directory to find a suitable lawyer.

Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement: The End Goal

For all the ways that these two options differ, there is one important similarity: They give you a chance to make a fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reduced credit score and a derogatory mark that will remain on your credit report for years to come.

If you’re heavily in debt, it can feel like your money isn’t your own, your life isn’t secure, and your future is not certain. With bankruptcy and debt settlement, your credit score and finances may suffer temporarily, but it gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.

What’s more, this process may take several years to complete and in the case of bankruptcy, it comes with credit counseling. Once you make it through all of this, you’ll be more knowledgeable about debt, you’ll have a better grip on your finances, and your impulse control. 

And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as your credit score will be too low for you to apply for new personal loans and high limit cards.

Other Options for Last Ditch Debt Relief

Many debtors preparing for debt settlement or bankruptcy may actually have more options than they think. For instance, bankruptcy is often seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card, an easy escape that you can use to your advantage whenever you have debts you don’t want to pay.

But that’s simply not the case and unless you have tried all other options and can prove that none of them have worked, your case may be thrown out. If that happens, you’ll waste money on legal and filing fees and will be sent back to the drawing board.

So, regardless of the amount of debt you have, make sure you’ve looked into the following debt relief options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy. 

Debt Consolidation

A debt consolidation loan is provided by a specialized lender. They pay off all your existing debts and give you a single large loan in return, one that has a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. 

Your debt-to-income ratio will improve, and you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. However, in exchange, you’ll be given a much longer-term, which means you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.

A Debt Management Plan

Debt management combines counseling services with debt consolidation. A debt management plan requires you to continue making your monthly payment, only this will go to the debt management company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.

You’ll be given a monthly payment that you can manage, along with the budgeting advice you need to keep meeting those payments. In exchange, however, you’ll be asked to close all but one credit card (which can hurt your credit score) and if you miss a payment then your creditors may back out of the agreement.

Balance Transfer Card

If all your debts are tied into credit cards, you can use a balance transfer credit card to make everything more manageable. With a balance transfer credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period. 

The idea is that you continue making your monthly payment, only because there is no interest, all the money goes towards the principal.

Home Equity Loans

If you have built substantial equity in your home then you can look into home equity loans and lines of credit. These are secured loans, which means there is a risk of repossession if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reduced interest rate and a sum large enough to clear your debts.

Bottom Line: The Best Option

Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to be last resort debt-relief options, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. Generally speaking, we would always recommend debt settlement first, especially if you have a lot of money tied up in credit card debt.

If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulating late fees, it might be time to consider bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you exhaust all other possibilities first.

Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many? – Lexington Law

There’s no right or wrong answer to how many credit cards you should have. More importantly, aim to understand how to best manage them to keep your score high.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

How Removing Your Name from a Shared Credit Card Affects Your Credit Score

Credit cards exceptional financial instruments. They allow you to buy without any cash and earn rewards while at it. Another interesting feature is the option of adding another person as an authorized user to your card. However, credit card usage does have a huge impact on your creditworthiness. So, does removing your name from a […]

The post How Removing Your Name from a Shared Credit Card Affects Your Credit Score appeared first on Credit Absolute.

Source: creditabsolute.com

My 5 credit card predictions for 2021 – The Points Guy

2020 was a year of vast change. For those of us who use credit cards, especially travel rewards cards, there were indeed changes aplenty. The pandemic radically transformed how we use our cards on a daily basis. As the year progressed, changes in spending behavior — along with a sudden slowdown in travel — forced …

Source: thepointsguy.com

What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits

Credit card issuers have consumers right where they want them, lending money at high-interest rates and earning money from many different fees. Even reward cards benefit the issuers, because all the additional perks and rewards they provide are covered by the increased merchant fees, which essentially means the credit card company offers you extra money to incentivize you to spend, and then demands this money from the retailers.

It’s a good gig, but some consumers believe they can beat the credit card companies and one of the ways they do this is via something known as credit card churning.

What is Credit Card Churning?

Many reward cards offer sign-up bonuses to entice consumers to apply. Not only can you get regular cash back, statement credit, and air miles, but you’ll often get a reward just for signing up. For instance, many rewards credit cards offer a lump sum payment to all consumers who spend a specific sum of money during the first three months.

Credit card churning is about taking advantage of these bonuses, and getting maximum benefits with as little cost as possible.

“Churners” will sign up for multiple different reward cards in a short space of time, collect as many of these bonuses as they can, clear the card balance, and then reap the rewards.

Does Credit Card Churning Work?

Credit card churning does work, to an extent. Reward credit cards typically don’t require you to spend that much money to receive the sign up bonus, with most bonuses activated for a spend of just $500 to $1,000 over those first three months. This is easily achievable for most credit card users, as the average spend for reward cards is over $800 a month.

If you have good credit, it’s possible to sign up to multiple credit cards, collect bonus offers without increasing your usual spend, and get everything from hotel stays to free flights, cash back, gift cards, statement credit, and more.

However, it’s something that many credit card companies are trying to stop, as they don’t benefit from users who collect sign-up bonuses, don’t accumulate debt, and then pay off their balance in full. As a result, you may face restrictions with regards to how many bonuses you can collect within a specified timeframe. 

What’s more, there are several things that can go wrong when you’re playing with multiple new accounts like this, as all information is sent to the credit bureaus and could leave a significant mark on your credit report.

Dangers of Churning

Even if the credit card companies don’t prevent you from acquiring multiple new credit cards, there are several issues you could face, ones that will offset any benefits achieved from those generous sign-up bonuses, including:

1. You Could be Hit with Hefty Fees

Many reward credit cards have annual fees, and these average around $95 each, with some premium rewards cards going as high as $250 and even $500. At best, these fees will reduce the amount of money you receive, at worst they will completely offset all the benefits and leave you with a negative balance.

Annual fees aren’t the only fees that will reduce your profits. You may also be charged fees every time you withdraw cash, gamble, make a foreign transaction or miss a payment,

2. Your Credit Score Will Drop

Every time you apply for a new credit card, you will receive a hard inquiry, which will show on your credit report and reduce your FICO score by anywhere from 2 to 5 points. Rate shopping, which bundles multiple inquiries into one, doesn’t apply to credit card applications, so credit card churners tend to receive many hard inquiries.

A new account can also reduce your credit score. 15% of your score is based on the length of your accounts while 10% is based on how many new accounts you have. As soon as that credit card account opens, your average age will drop, you’ll have another new account, and your credit score will suffer as a result.

The damage done by a new credit card isn’t as severe as you might think, but if you keep applying and adding those new accounts, the score reduction will be noticeable. You could go from Excellent Credit to Good Credit, or from Good to Fair, and that makes a massive difference if you have a home loan or auto loan application on the horizon.

Your credit utilization ratio also plays a role here. This ratio is calculated by comparing your total debt to your available credit. If you have a debt of $3,000 spread across three credit cards with a total credit limit of $6,000, your credit utilization ratio is 50%. The higher this score is, the more of an impact it will have on your credit score, and this is key, as credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score.

Your credit utilization ratio is actually one of the reasons your credit score doesn’t take that big of a hit when you open new cards, because you’re adding a new credit limit that has yet to accumulate debt, which means this ratio grows. However, if you max that card out, this ratio will take a hit, and if you then clear the debt and close it, all those initial benefits will disappear.

You can keep the card active, of course, but this is not recommended if you’re churning.

3. You’re at Risk of Accumulating Credit Card Debt

Every new card you open and every time your credit limit grows, you run the risk of falling into a cycle of persistent debt. This is especially true where credit card rewards are concerned, as consumers spend much more on these cards than they do on non-reward credit cards.

Very few consumers accumulate credit card debt out of choice. It’s not like a loan—it’s not something they acquire because they want to make a big purchase they can’t afford. In most cases, the debt creeps up steadily. They pay it off in full every month, only to hit a rough patch. Once that happens, they miss a month and promise themselves they’ll cover everything the next month, only for it to grow bigger and bigger.

Before they realize it, they have a mass of credit card debt and are stuck paying little more than the minimum every month. 

If you start using a credit card just to accumulate rewards and you have several on the go, it’s very easy to get stuck in this cycle, at which point you’ll start paying interest and it will likely cost you more than the rewards earn you.

4. It’s Hard to Keep Track

Opening one credit card after another isn’t too difficult, providing you clear the balances in full and then close the card. However, if you’re opening several cards at once then you may lose track, in which case you could forget about balances, fees, and interest charges, and miss your chance to collect airline miles cash back, and other rewards.

How to Credit Churn Effectively

To credit churn effectively, look for the best rewards and most generous credit card offers, making sure they:

  • Suit Your Needs: A travel rewards card is useless if you don’t travel; a store card is no good if you don’t shop at that store. Look for rewards programs that benefit you personally, as opposed to simply focusing on the ones with the highest rates of return.
  • Avoid Annual Fees: An annual fee can undo all your hard work and should, therefore, be avoided. Many cards have a $0 annual fee, others charge $95 but waive the fee for the first year. Both of these are good options for credit card churning.
  • Don’t Accumulate Fees: Understand how and why you might be charged cash advance fees and foreign transaction fees and avoid them at all costs. The fees are not as straightforward as you might think and are charged for multiple purchases.
  • Plan Ahead: Make a note of the bonus offer and terms, plan ahead, and make sure you meet these terms by the due dates and that you cover the balance in full before interest has a chance to accumulate.
  • Don’t Spend for the Sake of It: Finally, and most importantly, don’t spend money just to accumulate more rewards. As soon as you start increasing your spending just to earn a few extra bucks, you’ve lost. If you spend an average of $500 a month, don’t sign up for a card that requires you to spend $3,000 in the first three months, as it will encourage bad habits. 

What Should You do if it Goes Wrong?

There are many ways that credit card churning could go wrong, some more serious than others. Fortunately, there are solutions to all these problems, even for cardholders who are completely new to this technique:

Spending Requirements Aren’t Met 

If you fail to meet the requirements of the bonus, all is not lost. Your score has taken a minor hit, but providing you followed the guidelines above, you shouldn’t have lost any money.

You now have two options: You can either clear the balance as normal and move onto your next card, taking what you have learned and trying again, or you can keep the card as a back-up or a long-term option. 

Credit card churning requires you to cycle through multiple issuers and rewards programs, never sticking with a single card for more than a few months. But you need some stability as well, so if you don’t already have a credit card to use as a backup, and if that card doesn’t charge high fees or rates, keep it and use it for emergency purchases or general use.

Creditor Refuses the Application

Creditors can refuse an application for a number of reasons. If this isn’t your first experience of churning, there’s a chance they know what you’re doing and are concerned about how the card will be used. However, this is rare, and in most cases, you’ll be refused because your credit score is too low.

Many reward credit cards have a minimum FICO score requirement of 670, others, including premium American Express cards, require scores above 700. You can find more details about credit score requirements in the fine print of all credit card offers.

Your Credit Score Takes a Hit

As discussed already, credit card churning can reduce your credit score by a handful of points and the higher your score is, the more points you are likely to lose. Fortunately, all of this is reversible.

Firstly, try not to panic and focus on the bigger picture. While new accounts and credit length account for 25% of your total score, payment history and credit utilization account for 65%, so if you keep making payments on your accounts and don’t accumulate too much credit card debt, your score will stabilize.

You Accumulate Too Much Debt

Credit card debt is really the only lasting and serious issue that can result from credit card churning. You’ll still earn benefits on a rolling balance, but your interest charges and fees will typically cost you much more than the benefits provide, and this is true even for the best credit cards and the most generous reward programs.

If this happens, it’s time to put credit card churning on the back-burner and focus on clearing your debts instead. Sign up for a balance transfer credit card and move your debt to a card that has a 0% APR for at least 15 months. This will give you time to assess your situation, take control of your credit history, and start chipping away at that debt.

What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

PNC BusinessOptions Credit Card $750 Sign Up Bonus [AL, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, VA, WI and WV]

Update 1/2/20: Extended through June 30, 2021.

The Offer

Direct link to offer

  • The PNC BusinesOptions Credit card is offering a bonus of $750 in the form of statement credit when you spend $25,000 or more in qualifying purchases during the first three billing cycles

 

The Fine Print/Card Details

  • Offer is valid until December 31st, 2019
  • Annual fee varies on spend, first annual fee is due in the 13th billing cycle after account opening (e.g it’s waived first year) and as follows with annual spend of:
    • $0-$49,999.99: $500 annual fee
    • $50,000-$74,999.99: $250
    • $75,000-$99,999.99: $125
    • Greater than $100,000: $0
  • Choose one of three rewards programs:
    • Cash back:
      • 1.5% when you choose a revolving card (e.g normal credit card)
      • 1% when you choose a pay in full card (e.g charge card)
    • PNC points: 5x points per $1 spent (points are worthless)
    • Travel Rewards: 1x mile per $1 spent:
      • 25,000 miles = air ticket worth up to $315, then you must redeem in increments of 5,000 miles = $50

Our Verdict

Sign up bonus was previously $400 for $15,000 in spend. Most people will choose the revolving card that earns 1.5% cash back, if you spend $25,000 total you’d earn $1,125 ($750 from the bonus and $375 from the spend itself) for a total of 4.5% cash back. The opportunity cost when compared to a 2% cash back card is $125. Very appealing deal for people that spend large amounts of money and value cash sign up bonuses. I will be adding this to our list of the best business credit card sign up bonuses.

Post history:

  • Update 7/13/20: Extended through December 31st, 2020
  • Update 4/4/20: Deal has been extended until June 30th, 2020.
  • Update 1/3/20: Deal has been extended until March 31st 2020

Hat tip to reader Eddie S

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Using Credit Cards During COVID-19

Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether you’re working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While you’re taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.

Wondering how you should use your credit card? We’ve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency. 

How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic

But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyone’s situation is different—so what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum

If you’re working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses. 

David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. “Try browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,” Lord suggests. “If you take a look at your cart the next day, you’ll most likely find that 90% of the time you won’t remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.”

If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something that’ll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, you’ll be too distracted to buy something else.

2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape

During a global emergency, it feels like everything’s up in the air. Because of that, it’s important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst. 

Let’s say you find yourself with a bill that you can’t pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, you’d probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, you’ll need a good credit score. 

If you’re in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Here’s some quick things you can do today:

  • Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
  • Pay your bills on time—at least the minimum payment
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%

But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you can’t keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio won’t impact your score as much as missing a payment. That’s because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score. 

3. Utilize Cashback Rewards

Do you have a great rewards credit card on your hands? Now’s a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases. 

4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you already have significant debt or if you’ve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.

These are great options if you’re faced with new debt. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check can’t cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so you’re not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.

Be Mindful of Your Situation

Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.

Go to Guide
Privacy Policy

If you’re looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you. 

The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Best business credit cards with a 0% intro APR

Choosing a card with an introductory APR can be a great move for a small business. You can pay off large purchases over time without worrying about accruing interest – allowing you to truly invest in your business.

If you have a large business purchase looming ahead that you want to finance, there are plenty of great small business credit cards that offer 0% interest on new purchases for the first few months of card ownership.

Read on to learn about some of the best business credit cards with an intro APR.

See Related: How does credit card APR work?

Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

  • Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
  • American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
  • Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business
  • Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business
  • Best intro APR business card for office supplies: Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

    The Ink Business Cash Credit Card offers one of the longest introductory periods available on the market – 0% for the first 12 months on purchases (13.24% to 19.24% variable APR thereafter). Plus, the card comes with a competitive earning rate that makes it a particularly good choice for small business owners who need to stock up on office supplies.

    Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
    Ink Business Cash

    Why should you get this card?

    If you’re determined to keep costs to a minimum, the Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card offers a lot of cash back on your business purchases — including purchases made on employee cards — for no annual fee.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 5% cash back on internet, cable and phone services and at office supply stores (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year)
    • 2% cash back on gas and dining (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year)
    • 1% cash back on other purchases
    • $750 if you spend $7,500 in first 3 months
    • No fee for employee cards
    • Mobile wallet app to track receipts

    Beyond a competitive intro APR, the Ink Business Cash card offers plenty of potential value for cardholders with a competitive rate of cash back on internet, cable and phone services, office supplies, gas and dining purchases. If you spend a lot of money on office supplies or you frequently charge client dinners to your business card, you can rack up plenty of rewards with the Ink card.

    Best intro APR business card for a flat rate on all purchases: American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

    The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card offers an intro APR of 0% on new purchases for the first 12 months of card ownership (13.24% to 19.24% variable APR thereafter). Unlike the Ink Business Cash card, the Amex Blue Business Cash offer the same 2% cash back on all purchases, up to $50,000 per calendar year (1% thereafter). If you have a wide variety of purchases to make for your business, this flat rate might equate more rewards.

    American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
    Blue Business Cash

    Why should you get this card?

    The American Express Blue Business Cash Card comes with a major selling point: 2% cash back on your first $50,000 of purchases each year for no annual fee.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1% cash back
    • Eligibility to enroll in American Express Working Capital Terms
    • Free employee cards
    • Business expense-tracking tools
    • No annual fee

    Adding to its appeal for small business owners, the Blue Business Cash card comes with access to top-notch business perks from Amex, including expense-tracking tools and the ability to enroll in Working Capital Terms.

    Alternate #1: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

    If points are more your speed than cash back, the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express offers the same generous rewards rate as the Blue Business Cash – with one key difference. Rather than cash back, Blue Business Plus cardholders earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 in spending each year and 1 point per dollar on all purchases thereafter.

    value Membership Rewards points at an average of 1.19 cents per point. If you redeem your rewards strategically, you can stretch them a long way.

    Plus, the Blue Business Plus card offers the same lengthy introductory interest rate on new purchases – making it a top-notch card for financing large purchases in the first year (after that, it’s 13.24% to 19.24%).

    Alternate #2: Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

    Another popular Chase small business credit card, the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card offers the same 12 months interest-free for new purchases (13.24% to 19.24% variable APR thereafter) as the Ink Business Cash. But unlike the Ink Business Cash card, the Ink Business Unlimited offers the same flat rate of cash back on all purchases – 1.5%.

    Though a slightly lower rate than the Amex Blue Business Cash or Blue Business Plus, this earning rate is still great for cardholders who don’t weigh their spending heavily to one particular category. For a card with no annual fee, it is a pretty generous earning scheme. Plus, there are no caps on what you can earn. If you spend significantly more than $50,000 per year on your business, the ongoing flat rate of 1.5% might make more sense for you.

    Other intro APR business cards

    While a 0% interest rate is a compelling reason to choose a business rewards card, you should also ensure that the rewards rate on the card closely matches your spending habits. This will boost your ability to eke plenty of value out of the cards even after the intro APR ends.

    If none of these Chase or American Express cards seem right for your spending, Capital One also offers two cards with introductory APRs. Both the Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business* and the Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business* offer a 0% APR on new purchases for the first nine months (13.99% to 23.99% variable APR thereafter).

    Though this introductory period is shorter than those on competing business cards, it might be worth taking a shorter offer if one of these card’s rewards better suits your spending. With the Spark Cash Select, you can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The Spark Miles Select comes with 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, while other purchases earn 1.5 miles per dollar.

    Bottom line

    Business credit cards are a valuable resource, as they can improve your cash flow while allowing users to rack up rewards on all their business purchases. By choosing a card with an introductory APR, you can pay off large purchases or debt over time without racking up interest – saving yourself money to reinvest in your business.

    *The information about Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business and Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

    Source: creditcards.com