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Amazon Prime Card offering new Whole Foods card art, limited-time bonus

On Jan. 20, 2021, Chase announced a new card art option for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card featuring Whole Foods Market and added a limited-time sign-up bonus offer for those who prefer to shop at Whole Foods in-store.

Amazon has become a leader in grocery shopping during the pandemic, with consumers avoiding grocery stores due to health safety concerns – not to mention the convenience of shopping from a web browser. Amazon Prime members can enjoy speedy free delivery, as well as get access to online shopping at Whole Foods Market and special member deals when shopping in-store.

They can also count on extra savings if they carry the Amazon Prime Rewards card from Chase – or if they’re looking to apply in the next few weeks.

Here’s what you need to know.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card

Amazon Prime Card Whole Foods

Our rating: 3.8 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: Amazon, Whole Foods, restaurants, gas stations, drug stores

  • 5% back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases
  • 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases
  • 1% back on other purchases
  • $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval or $100 statement credit after spending $100 at Whole Foods in first 2 months
  • No annual fee

Our take: While the Amazon Prime Rewards card offers excellent cash back on Amazon and Whole Food purchases, it might not be the best choice for customers who don’t currently have a Prime membership and aren’t looking to subscribe.

A new Whole Foods card design and limited-time offer

Chase introduced a new card design option for new Amazon Prime Rewards cardholders, featuring Whole Foods Market art. New cardmembers with an eligible Prime membership can choose the new design when they apply for the card. If you’re an existing cardholder and would like to switch to the new design option, you can call in to request a new card after Jan. 22, 2021.

If you frequently shop at Whole Foods in-store, the new limited-time introductory offer can also be exciting news for you. Through March 3, 2021, new Amazon Prime Rewards Visa cardholders can earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 in Whole Foods Market stores in the first two months from account opening. Alternatively, they can still choose the standard $70 Amazon gift card offer as a sign-up bonus.

Considering the standard bonus is lower, the new temporary offer might be a better deal. On the other hand, if you avoid shopping in-store or normally use Amazon Fresh for buying groceries, the gift card might make more sense for you.

Should I start shopping at Whole Foods if I have an Amazon credit card?

If you already shop at Whole Foods, the 5% back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Signature Visa and 10% off specially marked items is a good deal. The discounts, though, don’t make Whole Foods cheaper than other grocery stores.

In fact, according to a study from 2019, Whole Foods remains the most expensive grocery store with its prices at 34% above Walmart, which was reported to have the lowest prices overall. If your goal is to save on groceries, Whole Foods is evidently not the best option – even if you carry the Amazon Prime card.

Other cards to consider

The Amazon Prime Card isn’t the only option you should consider if you often shop on Amazon or at Whole Foods.

See related: Which is the best card to use on Amazon.com purchases?

For instance, with the Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa card, you can get a $50 Amazon gift card upon approval and earn 3% on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% percent at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all else. If you don’t have a Prime membership and aren’t looking to subscribe, this is a good option, since the card doesn’t require for a cardholder to be a member.

If you do have a membership and shop on Amazon a lot, the Amazon Prime card is a better deal. With 5% for purchases made at Whole Foods and on Amazon, 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all else, this card is hard to beat for Amazon and Whole Foods lovers.

If you’re looking for a card to buy groceries, consider the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express that could save you more than with the Amazon Prime Visa at Whole Foods. Why? Blue Cash Preferred cardholders earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%).

See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Bottom line

Now you can stack your rewards at Whole Foods, earning cash back and the limited-time bonus with the Amazon Prime Card, and you can get extra savings from the loyalty program. Whether it makes sense to shop at Whole Foods, even with rewards cards and the loyalty program, is up to you.

Source: creditcards.com

How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits

Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.

“COVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,” says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. “And it’s caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.”

Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if you’ve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and I’m still unemployed?

This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:

  • How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
  • Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
  • What can you do when unemployment runs out?
  • Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?

A record number of people have filed for unemployment, and many are wondering what to do when unemployment runs out.

If you’re just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.

If you’re already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to “Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.”

Common questions about unemployment benefits

Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.

As you consider how to prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, remember that you're not alone.

While they’re designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Here’s what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a person’s previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment agency for guidance.

How do you apply for unemployment benefits?

Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state government’s website for details.

Who can file an unemployment claim?

This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

When should you apply for unemployment benefits?

Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. “If you are someone who has had steady W2 work, it’s important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,” Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer you’re likely to wait to get paid.

When do you receive unemployment benefits?

Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if there’s a surge of people filing claims.

Can unemployment benefits be extended? Check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers

In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you don’t have steady W2 income—for instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employed—you still may qualify for unemployment benefits.

“That program is a retroactive payout,” Simon-Mishel says. “If you’re just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.”

Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, it’s important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

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“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you.”

– Julia Simon-Mishel, unemployment compensation attorney

Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out

In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

If you’re still unemployed but haven’t yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you don’t become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:

Talk to service providers

Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if you’re preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.

“A lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people don’t contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,” Schmoll says. “[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.”

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Save what you can

To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.

“If you can try and save something out of the benefits that you’re receiving while you’re receiving them—it doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $20—that’s going to help provide some cushion,” Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so you’re not tempted to spend them. That way you’re more prepared in case of an emergency.

If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that aren’t necessary.

“There might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,” Schmoll says. “That way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.”

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Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Seek additional financial aid

If you find that your savings and benefits aren’t covering your expenses, and you’re reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.

For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programs’ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.

As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.

Keep up with the news

During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,” says Simon-Mishel. “You should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.”

Pay attention to social media and local news as you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Options for extending your unemployment benefits

If you’re currently receiving benefits, but they’ll be ending soon, you’re likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.

If you’re wondering, “Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?” the answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait until your current “benefit year” expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.

You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your state’s rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your state’s website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.

If your claim is still active but you’ll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:

File for an unemployment extension

During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.

Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out? It can vary by state, so reach out to your unemployment office.

For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.

As you’re determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. It’s important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm you’re eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.

Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state

Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.

“After those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,” Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.

It’s hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so don’t worry if you don’t have your state’s benefits program memorized. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.

For anyone considering what to do when unemployment runs out, it's important to take things one day at a time.

Beyond unemployment benefits

While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.

“Realize that at some point your current situation will improve.”

If you find that your benefits aren’t covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when it’s time to use your emergency fund.

1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.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.

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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

    How Does Cash Back Work?

    How Does Cash Back Work?

    Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

    Credit card companies typically offer a plethora of rewards options for their cardholders to take advantage of. But cash back has long been a favorite of many, as it gives you the chance to earn cold, hard money for making everyday purchases. If you’re confused about how cash back works, read on for a full explanation.

    How Cash Back Works

    At its core, cash back refers to a predetermined percentage of a purchase you make being returned to you as cash rewards. Cash back rates typically range between 1% and 5%, though there are some outliers to be mindful of. Credit card issuers will usually clearly label what types of purchases earn what level of cash back. But like anything in the credit card industry, you must read the fine print.

    This is mainly because all purchases and cash back rewards are governed by merchant category codes, or MCCs. Credit card companies ultimately determine these designations, with Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover calling the shots. Some common codes are “restaurant,” “department store,” “airline” and “entertainment,” among others. So if you earn 5% bonus cash back at restaurants and you go to Burger King — which has a restaurant MCC — you’ll get that 5% back.

    But what these limiting MCCs sometimes don’t take into account are businesses that could fit into more than one category. Included in this group are hotels, superstores like Walmart, tourist attractions like museums and other multi-faceted establishments. In turn, you could lose out on cash back if you’re confused about which category a purchase you made falls into.

    As an example, let’s say your family orders room service while on vacation in The Bahamas. You pay with your credit card thinking you’ll get the advertised 3% cash back on dining. When your credit card statement comes in the mail, however, you’ve only received the base 1% earnings. This is because the MCC of your hotel is just that, a hotel, which leaves your credit card issuer blind to what you really bought.

    Unfortunately situations like these often offer very little recourse, as your card’s issuer has no ability to change these codes. In fact, only the major credit companies can change their own code selections.

    New cardholders will often receive cash back promotions and bonuses. These offers can either be recurring — monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. — or simply for just one period of time, usually at the beginning of your account’s life. Hypothetically, a recurring bonus might look like this: “Earn 3% cash back at supermarkets and wholesale clubs, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.” On the other hand, a one-time promotion might allow for 5% cash back on airfare purchases made during the first three months you’re a cardholder.

    Depending on your card, cash back may be capped or it could expire after a period of time. While some cards feature both an earnings limit and expiration dates, others may have no restrictions. All cash back cards have their own, unique system surrounding them. So it’s important to refer to your documentation whenever you have a particular question.

    Using Your Cash Back Earnings

    How Does Cash Back Work?

    The vast majority of cash back credit cards offer variations of the same choices for redeeming rewards. Most often, you’ll see statement credits, checks, bank account deposits, gift cards and charitable donations available to you.

    • Statement credit – Instead of receiving your cash back in-hand, you can apply it to your upcoming monthly bill, saving you money in the process.
    • Check – As one of the more direct ways of redeeming cash back, checks allow you to basically do whatever you want with its value.
    • Bank deposits – Eligible accounts usually include checking accounts, savings accounts or investment accounts.
    • Gift cards – With this option, you can convert cash back into retail credit at a store or website at which you want to shop.
    • Donations – Many card issuers have open relations with charities. These partnerships open the door for you to aid your favorite causes with real money.

    It’s by far the easiest to redeem cash back through your card issuer’s website that it provides. Here you’ll not only see your rewards status, you will also know every possible redemption you could make. If you’d rather talk to a real person, most companies still have rewards phone lines you can call, as well.

    Those who’d rather not have to worry about where their rewards currently stand will find that a redemption threshold might be helpful. Not all cards offer this feature. But if yours does, set a threshold at which your cash back is automatically redeemed in any manner you desire. Additionally, some cards require you to attain a certain amount of cash back before redeeming is possible.

    Cash Back With Each Major Credit Card Company

    what is cash back

    There are tons of different cash back cards, depending on your credit score you may be eligible for some but not others. While it’s impossible to give universal specifics for each credit card company, below we’ve provided overviews of some of the most popular cash back cards.

    Citi Double Cash Card (Mastercard)

    Cash Back Rate: 1% at the time of purchase, 1% when you pay them off

    Limit or Expiration: No limit; Expires if no eligible purchases are made for 12 months

    Redemption Options: As a check, statement credit or gift card

    The “double cash” nature of the Citi Double Cash Card means you effectively earn cash back twice: first when you make the initial purchase and again when you pay your credit card bill. The 12-month expiration is fairly standard and the lack of limits on how much cash back you can earn is generous. Statement credits, checks and gift cards are three of the most common redemption choices, so it’s no surprise to see them offered here.

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (Mastercard)

    Cash Back Rate: 3% in the category of your choice, 2% on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% on other purchases

    Limit or Expiration: Cash back on choice category, grocery stores and wholesale club purchases is limited on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; No expiration dates

    Redemption Options: Once you have $25 or more, you can redeem as a statement credit, a check or a deposit to an eligible Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® account

    Take note of the combined $2,500 quarterly limit on 3% and 2% cash back in category of choice and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, respectively. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card also requires cardholders to have a minimum of $25 in earned cash back before they can redeem.

    Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card
    (American Express)

    Cash Back Rate: 3% on U.S. supermarket purchases, 2% on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store purchases, 1% on other purchases

    Limit or Expiration: 3% rate at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 a year in purchases then drops to 1%; No expiration dates

    Redemption Options: After earning at least $25, redeem as a statement credit in $25 increments; Gift cards and merchandise redemptions from time to time

    Amex offers some of the strongest rewards cards around, and the Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card is no exception. It does come with some limits; namely the 3% cash back rate on U.S. grocery store purchases is capped at $6,000 in purchases a year. At that time, cardholders earn 1% in cash back on groceries.

    Discover it® Card
    (Discover)

    Cash Back Rate: 5% in rotating categories like gas station, supermarket, restaurant, Amazon.com and wholesale club purchases, 1% on other purchases; Full cash back match at the end of your first year

    Limit or Expiration: $1,500 cap on purchases that earn the 5% rate each quarter; No expiration dates

    Redemption Options: Statement credits, deposits to a bank account, gift cards and eCertificates, pay with cash back at select merchants and charitable donations

    Discover cards offer great first-year cash back matches and distinctive cash back categories. These traits are on full display with the Discover it® Card. This includes 5% cash back on purchases ranging from dining to Amazon.com. However, there are limits for this rate and you have to opt in to categories each quarter to qualify. This card also offers five redemption options — the most on this list.

    Tips to Maximize Cash Back Potential and Minimize Credit Risk

    • Cash back is one of the most prolific perks that the modern credit card market has to offer. But it’s important that you don’t overspend outside of your means just for the sake of rewards. Because many cash back cards come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs), this could force you into large, unsustainable interest payments.
    • Whenever possible, swipe your card for purchases in bonus categories. Not all cards have these to offer, but most do. So make sure you know which cards in your wallet offer bonuses at places like gas stations and supermarkets.
    • Know what types of redemptions — statement credits, bank account deposits, gift cards etc. — work best for you. This will drastically narrow down your card options, making the decision process much simpler.

    Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/4×6, Â©iStock.com/Pgiam, Â©iStock.com/Ridofranz

    Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

    Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

    The post How Does Cash Back Work? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

    Source: smartasset.com

    My take on Chase Freedom’s Q1 2021 categories

    From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021, the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex℠ cards will offer 5% cash back at wholesale clubs; select streaming services; and internet, cable and phone services.

    The promotion includes up to $1,500 in combined spending as long as you activate by March 14, 2021. If you wait to activate (but still make the deadline), you’ll retroactively earn 5% back on bonus category purchases made after Jan. 1, 2021. Once you reach $1,500, you’ll earn 1% cash back.

    At first glance, I’m not particularly excited about these categories, but your mileage may vary. It’s a big win for people who frequent wholesale clubs (I don’t). These stores haven’t been a Freedom 5% category since Q4 2018. But it makes sense, as many people are stocking up more frequently at warehouse clubs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Read more from our credit card experts.

    Ask Ted a question.

    Earning at wholesale clubs

    Note that Costco, the largest wholesale club, only accepts Visa cards in-store. The original Chase Freedom card was a Visa card, but it stopped accepting applications in Sept. 2020. Cardholders who still have one can take advantage of this 5% promotion in Costco stores. The Freedom Flex essentially replaced the Freedom, with some new perks like enhanced travel, restaurant and drugstore rewards. But it’s a Mastercard, so it’s not accepted in Costco stores. It is accepted at Costco.com. Freedom Flex cardholders can, of course, earn 5% back in Q1 at other warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s and others.

    See related: Best credit cards for Costco purchases

    The Q1 list in 2020 also rewarded Freedom cardholders for spending money on certain streaming services and internet, cable and phone services, but gas stations were on the list instead of wholesale clubs. Chase included gas stations during Q1 rotating categories each year going back to 2016. Amid the pandemic, it’s likely a favorable trade to wholesale clubs if you have a membership, and many Americans do. Costco has over 100 million members, Sam’s Club has more than 50 million and BJ’s has more than 5 million. There’s some overlap (and some of Costco’s members live in other countries), but it’s reasonable to estimate that about half of U.S. adults have a wholesale club membership.

    Spending at gas stations is more universal, but the average gas expenditure is around $175 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I think there’s a good chance we’ll see gas on the calendar later this year, probably in the summer when a lot of Americans tend to hit the open road. And don’t fret if you do most of your food shopping at grocery stores rather than warehouse clubs. Groceries tend to be a Q2 Freedom bonus category.

    How I’ll use my card in 2021

    Since I don’t belong to any wholesale clubs and I spend very little on streaming, my Q1 Freedom Flex strategy will focus on internet, cable and phone services. By paying my April bills a little early, I’ll be able to squeeze four months’ worth of expenses into Q1. I’ll probably end up a little more than halfway to the $1,500 limit for 5% transactions.

    Assuming the Freedom calendar follows its typical blueprint, Q1 should be my weakest of the year. As long as groceries are included in Q2, I won’t have any trouble maxing out that quarter. In 2020, Q3 included Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market. I spend a lot at Amazon.com, and if I’m right about gas, that would make the summer quarter even more lucrative. Q4 generally focuses on holiday shopping, and especially if it includes PayPal again, that will be easy to optimize.

    Bottom line

    Even though I won’t use it a ton in Q1, the Freedom Flex remains a strong player in my overall cash back strategy. Subsequent quarters should be even stronger. This no annual fee card provides a lot of other benefits, too, like purchase protection (which saved me $299 in 2020) and 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores. I haven’t traveled in a while because of the pandemic. But when I do, I plan to take advantage of 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase portal. The Freedom Flex is a very valuable all-around card, even if your spending doesn’t line up with every rotating category.

    Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@creditcards.com and I’d be happy to help.

    Source: creditcards.com

    The Best Things to Charge on Your Credit Card When You’re Rebuilding Credit

    Charging a few small, easy-to-pay-off items to your card each month can help you rebuild credit.

    If your credit needs rehabilitation due to late payments, accounts in collections or other negative items, it might be time to rebuild. Rebuilding your credit requires an understanding of your current situation, identifying past mistakes and implementing the right strategies going forward.

    Wise use of a credit card is one way to start. Surprising, right? But if you use that plastic correctly, it really can help you. Good credit card strategies include keeping a low balance, making payments on time and paying your balance in full each month. To do that, it’s best to start small and only charge things that won’t kill your credit building project before it takes off. (You can check on your progress with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

    Here are a few things you can charge on your credit card to help you boost that score.

    Gas

    The cost of gas can add up, but if you already have room for gas in your monthly budget, you can charge your gas expenses and pay them off in full using the funds in your bank account. Some credit cards offer special cash back rates on gas purchases so you can earn a little money back in your wallet (although getting a new unsecured credit card might not be the best move for you at this stage as the inquiry will cause your score to take even more of a hit).

    Groceries

    Groceries are another staple you likely already have built into your budget. Instead of handing over cash or a check when you pick up the necessities for the week, charge your groceries to your credit card and pay those purchases off in full each month. There are several credit cards on the market that offer special cash-back rates on groceries, as well.

    Streaming Services

    Monthly streaming services usually cost less than $20 a month. You could conceivably set up your credit card to pay for a streaming service, pay it off in full each month and never use it for anything else.

    Balance Transfers

    If you have a large balance on a high-interest credit card, it could be damaging your credit score and affecting your ability to make your payment. If you have a lower interest credit card, you can transfer the balance and reduce the interest. If you can qualify, a card with a long 0% intro APR period can help you pay your balance off interest-free.

    (Cheap) Dining & Recreation

    It’s probably not a good idea to use your credit cards at the club or restaurants, as it’s easy for costs to spiral out of control. But if you’re on a date at the movies or taking the kids out for mini golf and milkshakes, low-cost dining and recreation purchases might be a safe bet.

    Small Everyday Expenses

    Sometimes you have to run into a local store for a roll of duct tape or some socks. Small everyday purchases can be fairly easy to pay off in full.

    Using Your Credit Card Wisely to Build Credit

    For the most part, small purchases you can afford to pay off each time the statement arrives are the best things to put on your credit card, as payment history is the biggest influencer of your credit scores. Plus, carrying a balance means you’ll be hit with interest and it will take you longer to pay down your balance.

    But even relatively small purchases can threaten your credit if they pile up too quickly. (Credit experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio — that is, your amount of debt in relation to your credit limit — at 30%, ideally 10%.) So, a good practice is to treat your credit card like cash and only purchase things you can cover with available funds.

    Have any questions about improving your credit? Ask us in the comments below and one of our credit experts will do their best to help.

    Image: bowdenimages

    The post The Best Things to Charge on Your Credit Card When You’re Rebuilding Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

    Source: credit.com