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8 Ways to Save Money on Date Night

Whether you’re cozying up on the couch together with a bottle of wine or headed out to the trendy restaurant everyone’s talking about, date night is an essential part of most relationships.

“Date nights are important because they give new couples a chance to get to know each other and established couples a chance to have fun or blow off some steam after a rough week,” says Holly Shaftel, a relationship expert and certified dating coach. “Penciling in a regular date can ensure that you make time for each other when your jobs and other aspects of your life might keep you busy.”

Finding ways to spend less on date night can be easy if you're willing to be creative.

There’s just one small snag. Or, maybe it’s a big one. Date nights can get expensive. According to financial news website 24/7 Wall St., the cost of an average date consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine and two movie tickets is about $102.

When you’re focused on improving your finances as a couple, finding ways to spend less on date night is a no-brainer. But you may be wondering: How can we save money on date night and still get that much-needed break from the daily grind?

There are plenty of ways to save money on date night by bringing just a little creativity into the mix. Here are eight suggestions to try:

1. Share common interests on the cheap

When Shaftel and her boyfriend were in the early stages of their relationship, they learned they were both active in sports. They were able to plan their date nights around low-cost (and sometimes free) sports activities, like hitting the driving range or playing tennis at their local park.

One way to save money on date night is to explore outdoor activities.

If you’re trying to find ways to spend less on date night, you can plan your own free or low-cost date nights around your and your partner’s shared interests. If you’re both avid readers, for example, even a simple afternoon browsing your local library’s shelves or a cool independent bookstore can make for a memorable time. If you’re both adventurous, check into your local sporting goods stores for organized hikes, stargazing outings or mountaineering workshops. They often post a schedule of events that are free, low-cost or discounted for members.

2. Create a low-budget date night bucket list

Dustyn Ferguson, a personal finance blogger at Dime Will Tell, suggests using the “bucket list” approach to find the best ways to save money on date night. To gather ideas, make it a game. At your next group gathering, ask guests to write down a fun, low-budget date night idea. The host then gets to read and keep all of the suggestions. When Ferguson and his girlfriend did this at a friend’s party, they submitted camping on the beach, which didn’t cost a dime.

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The cost of an average date consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine and two movie tickets is about $102.

– Financial news website 24/7 Wall St.

To make your own date night bucket list with the best ways to save money on date night, sit down with your partner and come up with free or cheap activities that you normally wouldn’t think to do. Spur ideas by making it a challenge—for instance, who can come up with the most ideas of dates you can do from the couch? According to the blog Marriage Laboratory, these “couch dates” are no-cost, low-energy things you can do together after a busy week (besides watching TV). A few good ones to get your list started: utilize fun apps (apps for lip sync battles are a real thing), grab a pencil or watercolors for an artistic endeavor or work on a puzzle. If you’re looking for even more ways to spend less on date night, take the question to social media and see what turns up.

3. Alternate paid date nights with free ones

If you’re looking for ways to spend less on date night, don’t focus on cutting costs on every single date. Instead, make half of your dates spending-free. “Go out for a nice dinner one week, and the next, go for a drive and bring a picnic,” says Bethany Palmer, a financial advisor who authors the finance blog The Money Couple, along with her husband Scott.

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4. Have a date—and get stuff done

Getting stuff done around the house or yard may not sound all that romantic, but it can be one of the best ways to save money on date night when you’re trying to be budget-conscious. And, tackling your to-do list—like cleaning out the garage or raking leaves—can be much more enjoyable when you and your partner take it on together.

5. Search for off-the-wall spots

If dinner and a movie is your status quo, mix it up with some new ideas for low-cost ways to save money on date night. That might include fun things to do without spending money, like heading to your local farmer’s market, checking out free festivals or concerts in your area, geocaching—outdoor treasure hunting—around your hometown, heading to a free wine tasting or taking a free DIY class at your neighborhood arts and crafts store.

“Staying creative allows you to remain flexible and not bound to simply doing the same thing over and over,” Ferguson says.

6. Leverage coupons and deals

When researching the best ways to save money on date night, don’t overlook coupon and discount sites, where you can get deals on everything from food, retail and travel. These can be a great resource for finding deep discounts on activities you may not try otherwise. That’s how Palmer and her husband ended up on a date night where they played a game that combined lacrosse and bumper cars.

Turn to coupons and money-saving apps for fun ways to save money on date night.

There are also a ton of apps on the market that can help you find ways to save money on date night. For instance, you can find apps that offer discounts at restaurants, apps that let you purchase movie theater gift cards at a reduced price and apps that help you earn cash rewards when shopping for wine or groceries if you’re planning a date night at home.

7. Join restaurant loyalty programs

If you’re a frugal foodie and have a favorite bar or restaurant where you like to spend date nights, sign up for its rewards program and newsletter as a way to spend less on date night. You could earn points toward free drinks and food through the rewards program and get access to coupons or other discounts through your inbox. Have new restaurants on your bucket list? Sign up for their rewards programs and newsletters, too. If you’re able to score a deal, it might be time to move that date up. Pronto.

8. Make a date night out of budgeting for date night

When the well runs dry, one of the best ways to save money on date night may not be the most exciting—but it is the easiest: Devote one of your dates to a budgeting session and brainstorm ideas. Make sure to set an overall budget for what you want to spend on your dates, either weekly or monthly. Having a number and concrete plan will help you stick to your date night budget.

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“Staying creative allows you to remain flexible and not bound to simply doing the same thing over and over.”

– Dustyn Ferguson, personal finance blogger at Dime Will Tell

Ferguson says he and his girlfriend use two different numbers to create their date night budget: how much disposable income they have left after paying their monthly expenses and the number of date nights they want to have each month.

“You can decide how much money you can spend per date by dividing the total amount you can allocate to dates by the amount of dates you plan to go on,” Ferguson says. You may also decide you want to allot more to special occasions and less to regular get-togethers.

Put your date night savings toward shared goals

Once you’ve put these creative ways to save money on date night into practice, think about what you want to do with the cash you’re saving. Consider putting the money in a special savings account for a joint purpose you both agree on, such as planning a dream vacation, paying down debt or buying a home. Working as a team toward a common objective can get you excited about the future and make these budget-friendly date nights feel even more rewarding.

The post 8 Ways to Save Money on Date Night appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Minimum Payments on a Credit Card

Your minimum monthly payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay on your credit card balance. Any less could result in a derogatory mark, any more will clear more of the principal. 

Your monthly payment is one of the most important aspects of your credit card debt and failure to understand this could seriously impact your credit score and leave marks on your credit report that remain for up to 7 years.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how these payments operate and how you can quickly clear your credit card debt.

How Minimum Payments on a Credit Card are Calculated

The minimum payment is calculated as a percentage of the total balance at the end of the month. This percentage ranges from 2% to 5%, but it has been known to go lower. 

As an example, if you have a $5,000 credit card balance and are required to pay 5% a month, then your monthly payment will be $250. However, this only covers the principal, which is the money that you borrowed. It does not cover the interest, which is where things get a little complicated and expensive.

What Influences Your Minimum Monthly Payment?

The reason credit card interest is so high is because it compounds. This means that if you have an annual percentage rate of 20% and a debt of $20,000, that debt will climb to $24,000, at which point the next billing cycle will commence and this time you’ll be charged 20% on $24,000 and not $20,000.

However, credit card interest is calculated daily, not yearly. To arrive at your daily percentage rate, simply divide your interest rate by 365 (the number of days in a year) and then multiply this by your daily balance.

For example, if we stick with that 20% interest rate, then the daily rate will be 0.00054%. If we multiply this with the daily balance, we get an interest rate of $2.7 for the first day. Multiply this by 30, for the total days in a billing cycle, and it’s $81. That’s your total interest for the first month.

So, when we calculate the 2% minimum monthly payment, we’re calculating it against $5,081, not $5,000, which means we get a total of $101.62, reducing the balance to just $479.38.

In other words, you pay over $100, but reduce the balance by a little over $20 when you make that monthly payment. If penalty fees and interest rates are added to that, it will reduce in even smaller increments.

Pros and Cons of Only Paying the Minimum Payment on your Credit Card

As discussed above, it’s imperative that you make the minimum payment, avoiding any late payment charges or credit score reductions. However, if you only make those minimum payments every month then it will take a long time to clear your balance and you may struggle to keep your head above water.

The Benefits of Paying More Than the Minimum

Many borrowers struggle to pay more than the minimum not because they don’t have the money, but because they fail to see the benefits. They focus on the short-term and not the long-term, seeing an extra $100 payment as a lost $100 in the present, as opposed to a saved $500 in the future.

However, if you can get over this mindset and start paying more than the minimum, you will do your future self a huge favor, helping with all of the following:

Shorten the Term and Lessen the Interest

Every extra dollar that you add to your minimum payment can help you get out of debt quicker than if you simply stick with the minimum. This is true for all debts—a higher monthly payment means that more money goes towards the principal, which means there is less interest to compound.

Credit card debt is like a snowball gathering momentum as it rolls, and this is exacerbated every time you miss a payment and are hit with penalty fees. By paying more than the minimum, you’re taking a giant chunk out of that snowball and slowing its progression.

You’ll Improve Your Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most important parts of your credit report, counting for 30% of your total. This ratio takes your total available credit (such as a credit limit on a credit card) and then compares it to total debt (such as the balance on that credit card). The higher the number, the more of your credit has been used and the more your credit score will suffer.

Every time you pay more of your credit card balance, you’re reducing this score and significantly boosting your credit score.

Avoid Maxing Out Your Balance

Not only will a maxed-out credit card do some serious damage to your credit utilization score, but it can also have a direct impact on your credit score on the whole. Lenders don’t want to see it and credit bureaus will punish you for it. If you’re still using the card and only paying the minimum, you may be stuck in a cycle of persistent debt, but by paying more and using it less, you can prevent that.

You May Get a Better Credit Limit

Credit card issuers monitor their customer’s activities very closely. If they clear their balances every month without issue, they are more inclined to increase their credit limit, offer them rewards, and generally provide them with good opportunities. If they are accumulating large amounts of credit card debt and only meeting their minimum payments, they’ll be less inclined to do any of those things.

It always helps to get on a creditor’s good side, because you never know when you will need that improve credit limit or access to that generous rewards scheme.

What Happens if you Only Make the Minimum Payment?

If you only pay the minimum, the debt will take a long time to clear and you’ll repay huge sums of interest in that time. If we go back to the previous example and assume an APR of 20%, a balance of $5,000 and a minimum payment of 2%, you will repay over 400% in interest alone and it will take you decades to repay the debt.

Thankfully, very few credit card providers will actually let you pay such a small amount on such a substantial debt. But even if we increase the minimum payment to 5%, it still looks abysmal for the borrower. It would take them about 9 years to pay the balance, requiring $250 a month and paying close to $2,500 in interest.

Although it’s more realistic, this is still a poor option, especially when you consider the card will still be active and you may still be using it, which means that every time you make a repayment, you’re adding more debt and offsetting all your hard work.

Your credit score will not suffer if you only make the minimum payment. Providing you make it on time then you will build a respectable payment history, a stable credit report, and a credit score that is sure to impress lenders. However, it won’t look great for your finances as you’re giving yourself an expensive liability that will cripple your debt-to-income ratio and your credit utilization ratio for years to come.

Are There Any Advantages to Just Paying the Minimum?

The only advantage to paying just the minimum is that you will have more money in your pocket at the end of the month, which will allow you to make additional investments and purchases that would otherwise not be available to you. However, this is a pretty narrow-minded way of looking at it, because while you will have more cash in the long-term, it comes at the expense of many additional risks and obligations, not to mention thousands of dollars’ worth of additional interest paid over the term.

What Happens if you Can’t Pay the Minimum Payment?

If there is a late payment or a missed payment, your creditor may charge you a penalty fee or a penalty rate. If your payment is due for more than 30-days they may also report you to the credit bureaus, at which point a derogatory mark will appear on your credit report and your credit score will drop.

This can happen even with a single missed payment, which is why you should never simply skip a payment on the basis that you’ll just double-up next time around.

Instead, contact your creditor, explain your situation, and see if there is anything they can do to help you. They may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and, in most cases, they will offer you some kind of reprieve. After all, they want their money, and if they can increase their chances of getting paid by providing you with some leeway, they’ll often be more than happy to do it.

Some people believe that you can simply pay a few dollars and it will count as a minimum payment and not show on your credit report. This is a myth. Technically, any payment that doesn’t meet the full minimum requirement can be classed as a late payment and can lead to fees and derogatory marks.

Resources to Lower Minimum Payments on a Credit Card

It’s important to keep a close eye on your credit card statement and activity at all times. Monitor your spending, making sure it doesn’t go overboard, and if you find yourself struggling to make payments at any time, checkout the following resources and options to get the help you need:

  • Credit Counselors: Speak with a trained expert who has helped many individuals in a similar position. They will discuss your finances and your debts and will help you to find a solution.
  • Debt Management: A debt management plan can help when you’re struggling to meet your debt obligations and have a huge debt-to-income ratio. They will provide assistance and help you swap multiple debts for a single consolidation loan.
  • Debt Settlement: An option that works best for individuals with multiple debts and missed payments. It’s one of the cheapest ways to clear personal loan and credit card debt, as well as other forms of unsecured debt.
  • Debt Consolidation: Another consolidation loan option, this time with a long term, ensuring that you pay less per month but more over the term. This is a good option if you’re stuck in a tricky spot right now and need to reduce your outgoings.

In all the above cases, you can use the NMLS Consumer Access site to find a legitimate and reputable company or professional working within the financial sector. You can also use resources like the Better Business Bureau as well as the many guides, reviews, and help files right here on the Pocket Your Dollars website.

How to Reduce the Balance on a Credit Card Debt

One of the best ways to reduce your balance is to initiate a balance transfer. As the name suggests, this entails moving your balance from one card to another. Balance transfer cards entice you by offering a 0% APR on all transfers and this lasts for up to 18% with the best providers. 

In that time, you won’t pay any interest on your balance, which means all your monthly payment will go towards the principal and you can reduce your debt in huge leaps as opposed to small steps.

These cards are not without their issues, however. You will need a good credit score to get a card that has a good APR and balance transfer offer. If you don’t, and you fail to clear the balance during that introductory period, you may be paying more interest than you were before.

In most cases, though, these cards will be just what you need to ease the burden of mounting credit card debts and get back into the black. Take a look at our guide to the best balance transfer cards to learn more and discover how you can move your current balance to a card that has more preferable terms, in the short-term at least.

The Bottom Line: Clear that Balance

A minimum payment is the least amount you need to commit to a credit card balance. If credit card debt was a house party, the minimum payment would be the equivalent of showing up, saying your introductions, and then hiding in the corner for the rest of the night. If you really want to make an impact, you need to be proactive.

It doesn’t have to be twice or thrice the size of your minimum payment. It doesn’t have to be a consistent sum that you pay every month, but it does have to be something. Don’t worry if it’s only 1% or 2% of the balance, because every additional payment helps. Just pay whatever you can afford, whenever you can afford it. A small amount of money today can save you a huge sum of money in the future.

Minimum Payments on a Credit Card is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

[Targeted] Best Buy Credit Card: Spend $1,500+ Outside Best Buy & Get A $75 Reward Certificate

Update 1/18/21: Some people also have an offer for 11% back on rewards on a single purchase by 1/31/21. Hat tip to reader JJ

The Offer

Offer sent out via e-mail, unknown subject line

  • Some Best Buy credit cardholders are being offered a $75 reward certificate when you spend $1,500 or more outside of Best Buy by 2/28/21.

Our Verdict

High spend requirement.

Hat tip to reader JJ

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Understanding the Perk of a Credit Card Extended Warranty

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

What Is Extended Warranty Coverage?

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

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

What is a Credit Card Extended Warranty?

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

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

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

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

Does My Visa Card Have an Extend Warranty?

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

Does Capital One Offer Extended Warranty?

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

Does the Costco Visa Include Extended Warranty Perks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Protection by Paying with Credit Cards

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

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

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

Source: credit.com

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

Earn a cash back bonus of up to $200 with the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards

If you’re looking for a way to get a large influx of Ultimate Rewards points, there is great news for Chase members: Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards offer a high cash bonus for a low spend threshold.

Currently, both cards are offering a $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months.

Which Chase Freedom card is better in the first year?

That depends largely on your spending habits. While the two cards share certain earning categories, they still have different rewards earning structures.

The Freedom Unlimited offers the same flat rate of 1.5% cash back on purchases outside of bonus categories, and the Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1% cash back).

Comparing the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards

For many cardholders, the Chase Freedom Flex card should offer greater value, assuming you are able to maximize your spending in its quarterly bonus categories.

That said, if you’re not able to maximize the Freedom bonus categories, the Freedom Unlimited card might be a better choice thanks to its higher rewards rate on general purchases.


Chase Freedom Flex
/
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Rewards rate
  • 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 per quarter)
  • 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Annual fee $0 $0
Introductory offer $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Estimated earnings in first year (Assumes maxed-out bonus categories and a $15,900 annual spend) $666 $526

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from applying for both cards and potentially earning both cards’ sign-up bonuses. The Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards go nicely together – you can use the Chase Freedom Flex card to earn 5% cash back on its quarterly bonus categories and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card to earn 1.5% cash back on everything else. Then, use either card at drug stores, restaurants and on travel purchases in the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Recent changes to the Chase Freedom cards’ sign-up bonus

While some rewards cards frequently update their sign-up bonuses, the offers on the Chase Freedom cards are fairly consistent. Recently, however, we have seen increased welcome offers, with both cards offering a $200 bonus. For a limited time, both cards also offered a higher rate on grocery store purchases in the first year of card membership, but that offer has expired.

Chase Freedom Flex card recent changes
Current $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Previous $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases in first year (on up to $12,000 in spending, not including Target® or Walmart® purchases)

 

Chase Freedom Unlimited card recent changes
Current $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Previous $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases in first year (on up to $12,000 in spending, not including Target® or Walmart® purchases)
Previous $150 if you spend $500 in first 3 months

Who is eligible to apply for the sign-up bonus?

New cardholders who have not received a sign-up bonus for the same card within the past 24 months are eligible to earn the bonus with the Chase Freedom cards. Of course, you have to qualify for the cards first, which means you’ll need a credit score in the good to excellent range (at least 680).

Chase doesn’t appear to have a hard limit on how many cards you own, though they may deny your application if you have too large of a credit limit across your other Chase cards. Also, while there is no strict rule on how many Chase cards you can apply for within a certain timeframe, many applicants report a limit of one to two new cards per month.

Chase has recently cracked down on applicants who have opened several credit cards at once. Though it’s not an official policy, Chase appears to be enforcing a “5/24” rule on new credit card applications. What this means is – if you have opened at least five credit card accounts in the past 24 months with any issuer (not just Chase) – your application will likely be denied. The rule seems to apply to any credit card account that shows up on your credit report, including co-branded store cards and authorized user accounts. (On the plus side, business credit cards that don’t appear on your personal credit report do not affect your chances of being approved.)

How to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points

As cash back cards, the Chase Freedom cards offer a flat 1 cent value on most redemption options. However, there are a few options that you want to avoid. Our table below shows that Amazon.com and Chase Pay purchases are valued at only 0.8 cents per point:

Redemption options for Chase Freedom cards

Redemption option Point value (cents) Value of 20,000 points
Statement credit 1 $200
Direct deposit 1 $200
Gift cards 1 $200
Ultimate Rewards portal travel 1 $200
Amazon.com purchases 0.8 $160
Chase Pay purchases 0.8 $160

You can also transfer points from the Chase Freedom cards to certain Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card* and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. As you can see from the table below, transferring your points to one of these cards will allow you to get more value out of your sign-up bonus. You get a 25% to 50% bonus on your points if you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, depending on which card you own.

Also, both the Sapphire cards allow you to transfer your points at 1:1 value to one of Chase’s many travel partners to get even higher values on your points. For instance, we value Southwest Airlines points at 1.6 cents on average (note the value can vary widely on the ticket that you purchase), which means the 20,000-point bonus can net you $320 of value on average when used for Southwest airfare:

Redemption options for Chase Sapphire cards

Redemption option Point value (cents) Value of 20,000 points
Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50% redemption bonus 1.5 $300
Chase Sapphire Preferred – 25% redemption bonus 1.25 $250
Singapore Airlines transfer 2.36 $472
British Airways transfer 1.4 $280
Southwest Airlines transfer 1.6 $320
JetBlue transfer 1.53 $306
United Airlines transfer 1.52 $304
World of Hyatt 1.43 $286
Air France transfer 1 $200
Virgin Atlantic transfer 0.8 $150
Marriott Rewards transfer 0.8 $160
IHG transfer 0.65 $130

An extra $500 per year

In addition to a sign-up bonus, the Chase Freedom cards offer a referral bonus worth up to $500 each year. Chase’s “Refer-a-Friend” program gives Freedom cardholders $100 cash back for each person they refer who is approved for the Freedom card – up to five people per year.

To take part in the promotion, enter your last name, zip code and last four digits of your credit card on Chase’s Refer-a-Friend page. On the following page, enter the first name and email address of each person you wish to invite. You also have the option to post an invitation link to Facebook or Twitter or refer friends through the Chase app.

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

Source: creditcards.com

Do College Rankings Matter?

student at college campus mobile

All articles about college rankings should perhaps be read with a grain of salt and primarily through a lens of what matters most to individuals about the college experience and what they’re hoping it will be an investment toward.

Prominent publications and people have conveyed a variety of views about whether college rankings matter:

The editor-in-chief of the Science Family of Journals said no in May 2020. “To any logical scientific observer, the fine distinctions of where schools show up on this (U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges) list are statistically meaningless—but try telling that to a roomful of alumni or parents,” H. Holden Thorp wrote.

Ian Bogost, distinguished chair at Georgia Tech, wrote in The Atlantic in June 2020: “The absurdity of a numerical ranking mechanism for colleges becomes apparent the moment you look at how U.S. News calculates it. The methodology reads like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet: 8% for class size; 10% for high-school-class standing; 4.4% for first-to-second-year student retention, and so on.”

But just because the consensus leans toward “no” doesn’t mean it should be the last word on anyone’s ultimate decision about where to go to school.

Even U.S. News & World Report says on its best-colleges website: “The rankings provide a good starting point for students trying to compare schools. … The best school for each student, experts say, is one that will most completely meet his or her needs, which go beyond academics.”

What Are the College Rankings?

There is no single, ultimate, etched-in-stone set of college rankings. All over the world, there are entities using a wide array of criteria to appraise universities.

Rather than expecting a “yes” or “no” to the question of whether college rankings matter, it would be more beneficial to understand why “It depends” could be more appropriate.

If you’re aiming for an education from a prestigious school, and money is no object—well, first of all, congratulations and good luck.

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Source: sofi.com

Amex Platinum temporarily adding $30 monthly PayPal credit

As 2020 ended, we left behind some challenging times – and some valuable credit card perks, like $20 streaming and mobile statement credits the on The Platinum Card® from American Express. (Both expired on Dec. 31, 2020.)

Fortunately, Amex hasn’t left Platinum cardmembers with nothing in the place of the expired perk. On the contrary, the issuer has added yet another exciting benefit.

See related: Amex adds Uber Eats Pass for Green, Gold and Platinum, Uber Cash credit on Gold

For a limited time, Amex Platinum cardholders will be able to enjoy a $30 monthly PayPal credit. While it’s less than the cumulative $40 in monthly streaming and mobile credits the issuer offered late last year, the perk still offers a great value and can be very versatile.

How the new PayPal credit works

Amex Platinum cardmembers will be able to use the new perk through June 30, 2021. No registration is required, and the credit will be applied automatically.

To use the perk, link your American Express Platinum card to your PayPal account and set it as the default payment method. Now, when you shop at eligible online merchants, you can select to check out via PayPal and get up to $30 credited back to you in your monthly statement. You’ll earn Membership Rewards points on this type of transactions as well.

Note, however, that peer-to-peer payments aren’t eligible for this offer, and you also can’t use it on gift card purchases or prepaid card reloads.

Receive up to $880 in credits with Amex Platinum in 2021

This perk is far from the first valuable credit offered on the Platinum card.

The credits on the Amex Platinum include annual Uber credits of up to $200 ($15 per month plus an extra $20 in December), an up to $200 airline-fee credit, up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credits per year, a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck application fee credit every four years and a $100 hotel credit every time you book with The Hotel Collection.

The $30 monthly PayPal credit will be available through June – for up to $180 in PayPal credits in total.

The newly added limited-time perk brings the total credits you can receive from the Amex Platinum up to $880 in 2021 (if you only use the hotel credit once).

Considering the card’s annual fee is $550, you can get a lot of value from your Amex, especially if we get to see travel finally coming back this year.

Bottom line

The new $30 monthly PayPal credit on Amex Platinum may be less valuable than the discontinued $20 streaming and mobile statement credits, but it’s versatile and easy to use – PayPal checkout is available at thousands of online retailers, including major ones, such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot and others.

Coupled with other credits and perks the Amex Platinum offers, the new benefit drives up the value of the card, making it a travel credit card that’s worth it to have even in the times when travel is limited.

Source: creditcards.com