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When to Cancel a Credit Card? 10 Dos and Don’ts to Follow

Maria O. says:

I’m a huge fan of the Money Girl Podcast and am also a Get Out of Debt Fast student. I’ve taken your financial advice and am glad to say that my husband and I are in a much better financial situation now.

We both have travel rewards credit cards with zero balances that we haven’t used in over a year. We know that canceling cards isn’t advisable, but we really want to stop paying the $95 annual fee. My husband’s credit score is 780 and mine is 818. What do you recommend?

Maria, thanks so much for your question and for being a part of the Money Girl community!

Before you cancel a credit card, it’s critical to understand how it will affect your entire financial life. Whether you should get rid of a card depends on a variety of factors, including your future financial goals.

In this post, I’ll cover 10 dos and don’ts for when to cancel a credit card. You’ll learn how to manage these accounts wisely so they improve your finances and don’t hurt them.

Before I cover each of these dos and don’ts, here’s an overview of why building good credit and using credit cards the right way is so important.

The benefits of building your credit

Having good credit simply means that you have a reliable financial track record according to the data in your credit history with the nationwide credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Different credit scoring models use that data to calculate credit scores, which act as shortcuts for various businesses to evaluate you quickly.

When you have high credit scores, potential lenders and merchants have more confidence that you’ll be a good customer who pays their bills on time. That’s an incentive for them to give you top-tier offers, which saves you money.

Having good credit scores allows you to get the most competitive interest rates and terms when you borrow money using credit cards, mortgages, car loans, student loans, and personal loans. For instance, paying just 1% less for a mortgage could save you over $100,000 on the cost of a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, depending on the total amount you borrow.

However, even if you never borrow money to finance a home or charge a vacation to a credit card, having good credit gives you other significant benefits, including:

  • Lower auto insurance premiums (in most states) 
  • Lower home insurance premiums (in most states) 
  • More opportunities to rent a home or apartment
  • Lower security deposits on utilities 
  • More government benefits 
  • Better chances to get a job

RELATED: 12 Credit Myths and Truths You Should Know

The Connection Between Credit Cards and Your Credit

The only way to build credit is to have active credit accounts in your name and to use them responsibly over time. That’s where credit cards come into play.

One of the biggest factors in how credit scores are calculated is called your credit utilization ratio. It only applies to revolving accounts, such as credit cards and lines of credit, which don’t have a fixed term. Credit utilization isn’t measured for installment loans, such as mortgages and car loans, because they do have a set ending or maturity date.Credit utilization is a simple formula that equals your total account balance divided by your total credit limit. For example, if you have a credit card with a balance of $1,000 and a credit limit of $2,000, your utilization ratio is 50% ($1,000 / $2,000 = 0.50).

Keeping a low utilization, such as below 20%, is optimal for good credit.

Keeping a low utilization, such as below 20%, is optimal for good credit. So, by paying down your balance on the card to $400, you could reduce your utilization ratio to 20% ($400 / $2,000 = 0.20) and boost your credit scores.

A low utilization ratio says that you’re using credit responsibly. A high ratio indicates that you may be maxed out and even getting close to missing a payment.

Many people mistakenly believe that getting rid of their credit cards will automatically improve their credit. The surprising truth is that canceling credit cards usually hurts it because your available credit on the card plunges to zero, which instantly increases your utilization and causes your credit scores to drop right away.

However, whether closing a card is right for you really depends on your current and future financial situation. Use the following do and don’ts to know when ditching a card is best and how to do it with minimal damage to your credit.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Get a Loan With Bad Credit

10 dos and don’ts for when to cancel a credit card

1. Do cancel credit cards that are a net loss

If you’re like Maria and have great credit with an unused card that’s costing you money, you may want to consider canceling it. Many rewards cards come with an annual fee, especially when they offer cashback, airline miles, or points for merchandise. In some cases, using the rewards easily offsets the annual fee.

If you won’t use the card or can’t afford the annual fee, common sense should be the deciding factor, not your credit score.

However, if you won’t use the card or can’t afford the annual fee, common sense should be the deciding factor, not your credit score. However, one option is to replace a card that charges an annual fee with another card that doesn’t, ideally before you cancel the first one. That allows you to swap out one credit limit for another one and avoid any damage to your credit.  

2. Do cancel credit cards that tempt you to overspend

I also don’t recommend keeping a credit card if it tempts you to overspend. Taking a temporary hit to your credit might be worth it to prevent bigger problems in your financial life.

3. Do cancel credit cards to simplify your financial life

If you’ve missed payments or can’t keep up with transactions because you have too many cards, it might be worth it to strategically cancel one or more credit cards. Keep reading for tips to minimize the potential damage to your credit.

4. Do cancel credit cards with low credit limits first

If you cancel a credit card, choosing one with a higher credit limit poses more of a threat than getting rid of one with a smaller limit. The lower your credit limit on a card, the less closing it could negatively affect your credit.

As I previously mentioned, for optimal credit, it’s best to never carry a balance that exceeds 20% of your available credit limit. If you’re not sure what your credit limits are, you can review them by getting a free copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

5. Do cancel credit cards you recently opened by mistake

A common credit dilemma is what to do after opening a new credit card that you felt pressured into at a retail store. Sales clerks make getting a huge discount with a new card signup sound too good to pass up. In some cases, you may not even realize that what you’re signing up for is a credit card.

If you’re loyal to a store and make frequent purchases there, having its branded credit card can give you nice savings and promotional benefits that make it worthwhile. While you can’t erase the card from your credit history, if you decide that you’d rather not have the account, closing it sooner rather than later is better for your credit.

Free Resource: Credit Score Survival Kit – a video tutorial, e-book, and audiobook to help build credit fast!

6. Don’t cancel your only credit card

In addition to maintaining low credit utilization, the health of your credit depends on having a mix of credit accounts. That shows you can handle different types of credit, such as installment loans and revolving accounts. But if you cancel your only credit card, that would leave you deficient in the revolving credit category.

It’s better to spread out your balances on multiple cards and maintain low utilization on each of them, rather than have one card that you charge to the limit.

Therefore, I don’t recommend canceling a credit card if it’s your only one. Having at least one card in the mix rounds out your credit file. Ideally, you would have a total of two or three cards that come from different issuers, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover.

If you have more than one line of credit or credit card, most credit scoring models calculate your utilization ratio for each account and collectively on all your accounts. So, it’s better to spread out your balances on multiple cards and maintain low utilization on each of them, rather than have one card that you charge to the limit.  

Depending on the types of charges you make, you may need a low-rate card for times when you must carry a balance and a higher-rate rewards card for charges that you always pay off each month. No annual fee cards are best, but as I previously mentioned, rewards cards that come with a fee may be worth it.

 

7. Don’t cancel credit cards you’ve had for a long time

As if credit utilization and having a mix of credit accounts weren’t enough, a canceled credit card hurts your credit in other ways. Another factor that’s used in calculating credit scores is how long you’ve had credit accounts.

Having a long, rich credit history boosts your scores and makes you appear less risky to potential lenders and merchants. Canceling a long-standing credit card causes your average age of credit history to decrease, which hurts your credit. So, value credit cards that you’ve had for a long time more than those you’ve recently opened.

8. Don’t cancel multiple cards at the same time

If you have more than one credit card that you want to cancel, don’t shut them all down at the exact same time. It’s better to space out cancellations over time, such as one every six months, to minimize the damage to your credit health.

9. Don’t cancel credit cards if you’re planning to make a big purchase

If you’re planning to finance a big purchase, such as a home or vehicle, in the next three to six months, it’s not wise to cancel any credit cards. If your utilization rate increases and your credit scores suddenly take a dive during the application process, you may ruin your chances of getting a low-interest loan.

If you’re planning to finance a big purchase, such as a home or vehicle, in the next three to six months, it’s not wise to cancel any credit cards.

Maria didn't mention if she's looking to use her great credit to borrow money any time soon. But it's an important issue that I recommend she consider.

10. Don’t cancel credit cards because you’ve made late payments

Never cancel a credit card with negative information, such as late payments or being in collections, thinking that it will disappear from your credit file. All credit accounts stay on your credit report for seven years from the date you became delinquent, even after you or a card issuer closes it. Accounts with only positive information remain in your credit file longer, for up to 10 years

What should you do with unused credit cards?

If you or Maria go through these dos and don’ts and decide that it’s better not to cancel a credit card, use it occasionally to make small purchases that you pay off in full. That keeps it active and allows you to continue adding positive information to your credit history.

However, I don’t recommend keeping a credit card that you’re not using responsibly or that tempts you to overspend. Taking a temporary hit to your credit might be worth it to prevent bigger problems in your financial life.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com



Credit Union Vs. Bank Mortgage: Which Should You Choose?

Couple being handed the keys to their new home

You’ve saved up your money, you found the perfect house, and you’re ready to buy. Now you just need a mortgage. Commercial banks may be the obvious choice, but they aren’t the only option for your mortgage. Mortgage brokers, online mortgage lenders, and credit unions also originate mortgage loans.

Credit unions and other non-banks are gaining in popularity for mortgage originations. In fact, credit unions accounted for 9% of all mortgage originations in 2017. If you’re ready to take out a mortgage on your dream home, here’s what we think you should know about credit union vs. bank mortgages.

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The Advantages of Getting a Mortgage through a Credit Union

Credit unions operate like banks, but they are non-profit organizations with specific membership requirements. Members of the credit union are the collective owners of the union, offering some distinct advantages for mortgage origination. Credit unions may offer lower rates, easier approval, greater personalization, and more. Here are four advantages of working with a credit union vs. a bank for your mortgage.

Easier Approval

In general, credit unions are more likely to lend to people with poor credit scores and offer options for smaller down payments. Credit unions are also more likely to hold onto the mortgages they originate, rather than selling them like banks often do. When a bank sells a mortgage, outside investors drive the interest rates and underwriting standards, limiting the bank’s flexibility with mortgage terms. When credit unions don’t sell mortgages, they can be more flexible with who they loan to and what rates they offer.

In addition to having more flexible qualification options, credit unions prioritize customer service­—not profits. They want to help their members find the options that work best for them, their community, and the credit union membership as a whole. Plus, if you’re already a member of a credit union, it’s generally easier to get additional services through an institution you already have a relationship with. You may even be pre-approved for a mortgage based on your prior account activity.

Lower Rates

Because credit unions are exempt from paying federal taxes and prioritize breaking even, not making a profit, they can offer higher interest rates for deposits and lower interest rates for loans.

Overall, credit union rates tend to be lower for all loan types, including credit cards, but rates for mortgages may be similar to those from traditional banks if they sell their mortgages. Even a small difference in interest rate can make a big difference over the life of a mortgage, though, so any little bit helps.

Fewer Fees

There are many unavoidable costs of taking out a mortgage: closing costs, vendor fees, insurance. Many banks and mortgage brokers will also charge origination fees and other processing costs. Because credit unions are less concerned with turning a profit, originating a mortgage with one will often result in fewer origination fees and other processing costs. These reduced fees can potentially save you several hundred to several thousand dollars.

More Personalization

Credit unions prioritize customer service for their members. Banks, on the other hand, are primarily motivated by profits. You may get a better, more personalized experience by working with a credit union to originate your mortgage. Because credit unions more often hold on to their mortgages, you’re more likely to work with them for the life of the loan. They also often offer special rewards programs and incentives for first-time home buyers or no-down-payment plans.

Depending on the credit union you’re a part of, it may also be better able to provide specific advice and context for loans. For example, credit unions specifically for veterans may have more hands-on expertise with VA loans. Similarly, geographically based credit unions may have better understanding of local incentives for mortgages.

During times of crisis, like the coronavirus pandemic, credit unions may be more attuned to the needs of their customers and therefore more likely to offer financial hardship support. Reach out to your credit union if you need support or resources.

The Disadvantages of Originating a Mortgage with a Credit Union

Because credit unions are smaller, membership-based organizations, there are some disadvantages to working with one for your mortgage. Here are five things to keep in mind if you’re considering a credit union vs. bank mortgage.

Membership Requirements

While traditional banks open accounts with anyone who qualifies, credit union memberships have additional specific requirements and limitations depending on the union. If you do not meet those requirements, you cannot originate your mortgage with that credit union, even if it would be the best deal for you. You can find credit unions in your area that you may qualify for using CUlookup.com.

Fewer Locations

Credit unions are smaller and often more geographically limited than national banks. That means you’ll have fewer options for in-person service. In fact, credit unions have an average of three branches while most banks have an average of 16. Many credit unions still operate traditional banker’s hours—9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday—as well, limiting your options for service.

Dated Technology

Online services are becoming increasingly important to consumers who require and expect quick and easy self-serve online options. Credit unions are generally behind the times when it comes to technology, which means you may not be able to use an app or find other self-serve options online if you have questions. They are quickly catching up to traditional banks, though, so this may not be much of a disadvantage moving forward.

Limited Financing Options

Banks and credit unions fund mortgages and other loans with cash on hand and borrowed from other institutions. In order to lend more money to members, they must have more money available. Because credit unions typically have a smaller customer base, they tend to have less cash on hand to loan out, which may curtail loans available. Banks are, on average, 13 times larger than credit unions with $2.6 billion in assets vs. $207 million in assets for credit unions.

Insurance

The FDIC does not cover credit unions. Instead, the NCUA regulates federally insured credit unions and provides similar insurance coverage as the FDIC. Some credit unions are state chartered, however, and may be covered by a state agency or offer private insurance coverage instead. Private insurance is held to same regulatory standards but is generally considered less secure than federally chartered coverage. The NCAU Credit Union Locator can verify whether a credit union is federally chartered.

While the type of insurance an institution uses does not directly affect the terms of your mortgage, it should still be part of your consideration process for working with a credit union over a bank.

Credit Union vs. Bank Mortgage

When you’re ready to take out a mortgage, you have a lot of options. Like with other financial decisions, you should shop around across credit unions, banks and other lenders to find the best deal for you. And if you’re not getting the rate you think you deserve, working to improve your credit score is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a competitive mortgage rate.

Check your credit report using the free Credit Report Card. You can also find more resources, including a free, no-obligation quote, in our Loan Resource Center.

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The post Credit Union Vs. Bank Mortgage: Which Should You Choose? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com



Should You Pay Your Kids For Good Grades?

Mother paying daughter for good grades

In a recent attempt to get our kids to consume some vegetables, we offered them the bribe — I mean, incentive — of a brand-new toy if they each ate a carrot with dinner every night for several weeks. After the carrot challenge ended and the boys were delighted with their new toys, we faced the problem of both kids declaring that they would never eat another carrot again as long as they lived. So much for fostering an appreciation for carrots.

This is the central paradox of incentivizing good behavior. You may be able to get your children to do what you want them to for a short time, but will it ultimately result in changed habits? 

Here’s what you need to know about paying your kids for good grades, so you can decide the best way to encourage them to succeed. 

Cash incentives may work

One of the most compelling arguments for paying kids for good grades is that it’s how the world of work is structured. Most adults wouldn’t go to work every day without getting paid, and they are incentivized to improve their performance by the promise of bonuses, raises, and other perks. So it does seem reasonable to offer kids compensation for their hard work at school.

In fact, research has found that this kind of incentive can actually work to improve student performance and test scores. According to Education Week, Roland Fryer, an economist at Harvard University, conducted a series of experiments in the mid-2000s in which he paid $6 million to over 18,000 low-income students in several U.S. cities to incentivize them to improve their test scores. However, the results indicated that when offering cash for school performance, the important thing to focus on is rewarding something students feel like they have control over. 

That means using money (or other incentives) to motivate inputs, such as number of hours spent studying, rather than outputs, such as grades or test scores. Students may want to improve their performance, but not know how to budge the needle. Rewarding them for their effort will be much more effective in encouraging better outcomes than rewarding them for a specific grade. (See also: 5 Money Moves Every Single Parent Should Make)

Tread carefully with multiple kids

If parents do decide to offer financial incentives to their kids, another potential landmine can be knowing how to handle more than one child in the family. If one kid is a born scholar and another struggles with learning disabilities or behavioral issues, rewarding the first for what they’re already good at and giving nothing to the second will not end well. The student you most want to motivate will learn to hate and resent school.

On the other hand, it can be tough to offer a sliding scale of payment for each kid. The high-achiever might resent that their struggling sibling gets the same money for worse grades or test scores. Making it clear that you’re rewarding effort rather than results is the best way to make sure you don’t discourage the very behavior you’re trying to encourage.

Incentives can backfire

While paying kids to improve their grades can result in better studying habits and improved scores, it may not effectively encourage them to engage with school. Studies have shown that rewards incentivize students to do the minimum necessary to receive their prize, after which point they lose interest. This was the exact problem my family encountered with our carrot-eating challenge, as the incentive was the only reason the kids were eating their vegetables, and they were not interested in trying to find a way to like eating carrots.

This is unsurprising when you think of all the disengaged workers who only show up and do the bare minimum to keep from getting fired. Without the intrinsic engagement with the work, whether that’s learning literature and history, or filing TPS reports, payment for this kind of work becomes the only thing the recipient cares about.

In addition, likening school to work by offering cash incentives can also backfire. That’s because schools can’t fire underperforming students the same way an employer can fire a lackluster worker. Nor do schools have access to any of the other negative consequences an employer can use to improve an employee’s poor performance. With a carrot and no stick, students will both get a false sense of what work life will look like, and feel more comfortable simply opting out of incentives, since there are no negative consequences for bad grades that they haven’t already felt.

Instilling a love of learning in disengaged students is not an easy task, as any teacher can tell you. But paying them is no way to create that enjoyment for school. A better way to help kids engage with their studies is to encourage their interests and show how school relates to the subjects they are most passionate about. This may take more effort than simply handing out the dollar bills come report card time, but it will have better outcomes for encouraging a love of learning. (See also: 7 Parenting Mistakes Everyone Makes But No One Talks About)

Should you pay for good grades?

Bribery as a parenting tactic is not going away anytime soon. It’s effective in the short term, and sometimes Mom and Dad simply need to get their kids to do something. However, paying kids is not always the best way to encourage them to engage with their school work. 

If you’re considering paying your kids for their school work, make sure all of your kids understand what they can each do to earn their rewards, use the payments to incentivize behavior they have control over, and continue working to help them see the joys of learning. 


Source: feeds.killeraces.com



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



10 Risky Investments That Could Make You Lose Everything

If the stock market crashed again, would you respond by investing more? Is day trading your sport of choice? Do you smirk at the idea of keeping money in a savings account instead of investing it?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re probably an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Hold up, Evel Knievel.

It’s fine to embrace a “no-risk, no-reward” philosophy. But some investments are so high-risk that they aren’t worth the rewards.

10 Risky Investments That Could Lead to Huge Losses

We’re not saying no one should ever consider investing in any of the following. But even if you’re a personal finance daredevil, these investments should give you serious pause.

Sure, if things go well, you’d make money — lots of it. But if things go south, the potential losses are huge. In some cases, you could lose your entire investment.

1. Penny Stocks

There’s usually a good reason penny stocks are so cheap. Often they have zero history of earning a profit. Or they’ve run into trouble and have been delisted by a major stock exchange.

Penny stocks usually trade infrequently, meaning you could have trouble selling your shares if you want to get out. And because the issuing company is small, a single piece of good or bad news can make or break it.

Fraud is also rampant in the penny stock world. One common tactic is the “pump and dump.” Scammers create false hype, often using investing websites and newsletters, to pump up the price. Then they dump their shares on unknowing investors.

2. IPOs

You and I probably aren’t rich or connected enough to invest in an IPO, or initial public offering, at its actual offering price. That’s usually reserved for company insiders and investors with deep pockets.

Instead, we’re more likely to be swayed by the hype that a popular company gets when it goes public and the shares start trading on the stock market. Then, we’re at risk of paying overinflated prices because we think we’re buying the next Amazon.

But don’t assume that a company is profitable just because its CEO is ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. Many companies that go public have yet to make money.

The average first-day returns of a newly public company have consistently been between 10% to 20% since the 1990s, according to a 2019 report by investment firm UBS. But after five years, about 60% of IPOs had negative total returns.

3. Bitcoin

Proponents of bitcoin believe the cryptocurrency will eventually become a widespread way to pay for things. But its usage now as an actual way to pay for things remains extremely limited.

For now, bitcoin remains a speculative investment. People invest in it primarily because they think other investors will continue to drive up the price, not because they see value in it.

All that speculation creates wild price fluctuations. In December 2017, bitcoin peaked at nearly $20,000 per coin, then plummeted in 2018 to well below $4,000. That volatility makes bitcoin useless as a currency, as Bankrate’s James Royal writes.

Unless you can afford to part ways with a huge percentage of your investment, bitcoin is best avoided.

4. Anything You Buy on Margin

Margining gives you more money to invest, which sounds like a win. You borrow money from your broker using the stocks you own as collateral. Of course, you have to pay your broker back, plus interest.

If it goes well, you amplify your returns. But when margining goes badly, it can end really, really badly.

Suppose you buy $5,000 of stock and it drops 50%. Normally, you’d lose $2,500.

But if you’d put down $2,500 of your own money to buy the stock and used margin for the other 50%? You’d be left with $0 because you’d have to use the remaining $2,500 to pay back your broker.

That 50% drop has wiped out 100% of your investment — and that’s before we account for interest.

5. Leveraged ETFs

Buying a leveraged ETF is like margaining on steroids.

Like regular exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, leveraged ETFs give you a bundle of investments designed to mirror a stock index. But leveraged ETFs seek to earn two or three times the benchmark index by using a bunch of complicated financing maneuvers that give you greater exposure.

Essentially, a leveraged ETF that aims for twice the benchmark index’s returns (known as a 2x leveraged ETF) is letting you invest $2 for every $1 you’ve actually invested.

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty, but the risk here is similar to buying stocks on margin: It can lead to big profits but it can also magnify your losses.

But here’s what’s especially tricky about leveraged ETFs: They’re required to rebalance every day to reflect the makeup of the underlying index. That means you can’t sit back and enjoy the long-haul growth. Every day, you’re essentially investing in a different product.

For this reason, leveraged ETFs are only appropriate for day traders — specifically, day traders with very deep pockets who can stomach huge losses.

6. Collectibles

A lot of people collect cars, stamps, art, even Pokemon cards as a hobby. But some collectors hope their hobby will turn into a profitable investment.

It’s OK to spend a reasonable amount of money curating that collection if you enjoy it. But if your plans are contingent on selling the collection for a profit someday, you’re taking a big risk.

Collectibles are illiquid assets. That’s a jargony way of saying they’re often hard to sell.

If you need to cash out, you may not be able to find a buyer. Or you may need to sell at a steep discount. It’s also hard to figure out the actual value of collectibles. After all, there’s no New York Stock Exchange for Pokemon cards. And if you do sell, you’ll pay 28% tax on the gains. Stocks held long-term, on the other hand, are taxed at 15% for most middle-income earners.

Plus, there’s also the risk of losing your entire investment if your collection is physically destroyed.

7. Junk Bonds

If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay a high interest rate when you borrow money because banks think there’s a good chance you won’t pay them back. With corporations, it works the same way.

Companies issue bonds when they need to take on debt. The higher their risk of defaulting, the more interest they pay to those who invest in bonds. Junk bonds are the riskiest of bonds.

If you own bonds in a company that ends up declaring bankruptcy, you could lose your entire investment. Secured creditors — the ones whose claim is backed by actual property, like a bank that holds a mortgage — get paid back 100% in bankruptcy court before bondholders get anything.

8. Shares of a Bankrupt Company

Bondholders may be left empty-handed when a corporation declares bankruptcy. But guess who’s dead last in terms of priority for who gets paid? Common shareholders.

Secured creditors, bondholders and owners of preferred stock (it’s kind of like a stock/bond hybrid) all get paid in full before shareholders get a dime.

Typically when a company files for bankruptcy, its stock prices crash. Yet recently, eager investors have flocked in to buy those ultracheap shares and temporarily driven up the prices. (Ahem, ahem: Hertz.)

That post-bankruptcy filing surge is usually a temporary case of FOMO. Remember: The likelihood that those shares will eventually be worth $0 is high.

You may be planning on turning a quick profit during the run-up, but the spike in share prices is usually short-lived. If you don’t get the timing exactly right here, you could lose big when the uptick reverses.

9. Gold and Silver

If you’re worried about the stock market or high inflation, you may be tempted to invest in gold or silver.

Both precious metals are often thought of as hedges against a bear market because they’ve held their value throughout history. Plus in uncertain times, many investors seek out tangible assets, i.e., stuff you can touch.

Having a small amount invested in gold and silver can help you diversify your portfolio. But anything above 5% to 10% is risky.

Both gold and silver are highly volatile. Gold is much rarer, so discovery of a new source can bring down its price. Silver is even more volatile than gold because the value of its supply is much smaller. That means small price changes have a bigger impact. Both metals tend to underperform the S&P 500 in the long term.

The riskiest way to invest in gold and silver is by buying the physical metals because they’re difficult to store and sell. A less risky way to invest is by purchasing a gold or silver ETF that contains a variety of assets, such as mining company stocks and physical metals.

10. Options Trading

Options give you the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price before a certain date. The right to buy is a call. You buy a call when you think a stock price will rise. The right to sell is a put. You buy a put when you think a stock price will drop.

What makes options trading unique is that there’s one clear winner and one clear loser. With most investments, you can sell for a profit to an investor who also goes on to sell at a profit. Hypothetically, this can continue forever.

But suppose you buy a call or a put. If your bet was correct, you exercise the option. You get to buy a winning stock at a bargain price, or you get to offload a tanking stock at a premium price. If you lose, you’re out the entire amount you paid for the option.

Options trading gets even riskier, though, when you’re the one selling the call or put. When you win, you pocket the entire amount you were paid.

But if you end up on the losing side: You could have to pay that high price for the stock that just crashed or sell a soaring stock at a deep discount.

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What Are the Signs That an Investment Is Too Risky?

The 10 things we just described certainly aren’t the only risky investments out there. So let’s review some common themes. Consider any of these traits a red flag when you’re making an investment decision.

  • They’re confusing. Are you perplexed by bitcoin and options trading? So is pretty much everyone else.If you don’t understand how something works, it’s a sign you shouldn’t invest in it.
  • They’re volatile. Dramatic price swings may be exciting compared with the tried-and-true approach of investing across the stock market. But investing is downright dangerous when everything hinges on getting the timing just right.
  • The price is way too low. Just because an investment is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good value.
  • The price is way too high. Before you invest in the latest hype, ask yourself if the investment actually delivers value. Or are the high prices based on speculation?

The bottom line: If you can afford to put a small amount of money in high-risk investments just for the thrill of it, fine — as long as you can deal with losing it all.

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

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com



How to Build Credit with Fingerhut

If you’ve been wanting to make a big purchase, but your credit is less than spectacular, you might have looked into Fingerhut as an option. 

Fingerhut is an online catalog and retailer that showcases a multitude of products. On this website, customers can shop for anything from electronics to home décor to auto parts. Fingerhut offers financing through their own line of credit, making it appealing to shoppers with poor credit or a nonexistent credit history. Many consumers have a better chance of getting approved by Fingerhut, than they might have of getting approved through most other credit card companies. It’s an option worth looking into if you want to improve your credit score through credit utilization.  

The major difference between Fingerhut and credit cards that cater to low credit scores is that Fingerhut credit is exclusively available for use with its own company’s products and authorized partners. You’ll also find that the company’s products are pricier than they would be through most other retailers, while also bearing the weight of higher interest rates. While it might seem like a good idea if you don’t have good credit, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company beforehand so that you know what you’re signing up for. 

How Fingerhut credit works

When you apply for a Fingerhut credit account, you can get approved by one of two accounts:

  • WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account.
  • Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank.

As it happens, by submitting your application, you are applying for both credit accounts. Applicants will be considered for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank as a direct result of being denied for the WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account. In other words, you won’t have a way of knowing which one you will be approved for prior to applying. Both credit accounts are issued by WebBank and are set up so that customers can purchase merchandise by paying for them on an installment plan with a 29.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). These are the only things that the different Fingerhut credit accounts have in common.

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account works very much like an unsecured credit card, except that it’s an account that you can only use it to shop on Fingerhut or through its authorized partners. 

This credit account features:

  •  No annual fee.
  • A 29.99% interest rate.
  • A $38 fee on late or returned payments.
  • A possible down payment; it may or may not be required. You won’t know prior to applying. 

If you get denied for this line of credit, your application will automatically be reviewed for the Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Account issued by WebBank, which is both structured and conditioned differently.

Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank

If you get approved for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan, you must follow these three steps to activate it:

  • Make a one-time purchase of no less than $50.
  • Put a minimum payment of $30 down on your purchase, and your order will be shipped to you upon receipt of your payment. You may not use a credit card to make down payments, but you can use a debit card, check, or a money order. 
  • Make monthly payments on your balance within a span of six to eight months.

You can become eligible to upgrade to the Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account so long as you are able to pay off your balance during that time frame or sooner without having made any late payments. Keep in mind that paying for the entire balance in full at the time you make your down payment will result in you not qualifying for the loan as well as being ineligible for upgrade. 

How a Fingerhut credit account helps raise your credit score

The fact that it can help you improve your credit is one of the biggest advantages of using a Fingerhut credit account. 

When you make your payments to Fingerhut in full and on-time, the company will report that activity to the three major credit bureaus. This means that your good credit utilization won’t go unnoticed nor unrewarded. If you use Fingerhut to improve your credit score, you will eventually be able to apply for a credit card through a traditional credit card company—one where you can make purchases anywhere, not just at Fingerhut. 

Additional benefits of a Fingerhut credit account

Besides using it as a tool to repair your bad credit, there are a few other benefits to using a WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account such as:

  • No annual fee.
  • Fingerhut has partnerships with a handful of other retailers, which means you can use your Fingerhut credit line to make purchases through a variety of companies. Fingerhut is partnered with companies that specialize in everything from floral arrangements to insurance plans.
  • There are no penalties on the WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account when you pay off your balance early.

How to build credit with Fingerhut

Fingerhut credit works the same way as the loans from credit card companies work: in the form of a revolving loan. 

A revolving loan is when you are designated a maximum credit limit by your lender, in which you are allowed to spend. Whatever you spend, you are expected to pay back in full and on-time through a series of monthly payments. This act of borrowing money and paying off bills using your Fingerhut account causes your balances to revolve and fluctuate, hence, its name. 

Your credit activity, good or bad, gets reported to the three major credit bureaus and in turn, will have an effect on your credit report. Revolving loans play a large role in your credit score, affecting approximately 30% of your score through your credit utilization ratio. If your credit utilization ratio, the amount of available revolving credit divided by your amount owed, is too high then your credit score will plummet. 

When using a Fingerhut account, the goal is to try to keep your amounts owed as low as you possibly can so that you can maintain a low utilization ratio, and as a result, have a higher credit score.

Alternatives to Fingerhut

If you’ve done all your research and decided that Fingerhut isn’t the right choice for you, there are other options that might serve you better, even if you have bad credit. There are a variety of secured credit cards that you can apply for such as:

  • The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You will need a $200 security deposit to qualify for this secured credit card, but you can most likely get approved without a credit check or even a bank account. It can also be used to improve your credit, as this card does report to the three major credit bureaus. While this card does come with an annual $35 fee, you can use it to shop anywhere that will accept a Visa. 
  • Discover it Secured:  For all those opposed to paying an annual fee of any sort, this card might just be the one for you. With a $0 annual fee and the ability to earn rewards through purchases, there’s not much to frown about with this secured credit card. One of the best perks, is that it allows you the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card after only eight months. 
  • Deserve Pro Mastercard: This card is a desirable option for those with a short credit history. There is no annual fee and no security deposit required and, if your credit history isn’t very long-winded, that’s okay. The issuers for this card may use their own process to decide whether or not you qualify for credit, by evaluating other factors such as income and employment. This card is especially nifty because you can get cash-back rewards such as 3% back on every dollar that you spend on travel and entertainment, 2% back on every dollar spent at restaurants, and 1% cash back on every dollar spent on anything else. 

Final Thoughts 

Fingerhut is an option worth looking into for those with bad credit or a short credit history. If you want to use a Fingerhunt credit account to improve your credit score, be sure to use it wisely and make all of your payments on time, just as you would with any other credit card.

Even though it might be easy to get approved, the prices and interest rates on items sold through Fingerhut are set higher than they would be at most other retailers, so it’s important to consider this before applying. 

There are a ton of options available, regardless of what your credit report looks like, if you are trying to improve your credit. If the prices of Fingerhut’s merchandise are enough to scare you away, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. 

How to Build Credit with Fingerhut is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com



Apple Card $50 Signup Bonus When You Spend $50 At ExxonMobil

The Offer

  • Apple is offering a $50 bonus when signing up for Apple Card and spend $50 at Exxon Mobil via Apple Pay. Valid until 1/31/21.

 

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No cash advance fees
  • No late payment fees (late or missed payments will result in additional interest accumulating toward your balance)
  • No over-the-limit fees, no balance transfer fees, no expedited card delivery fee
  • Card earns the following rewards:
    • 3% cash back on Apple purchases and services (including the app store, Apple Music payments, etc.)
    • 3% cash back on Walgreen’s, Duane Reade, Uber, UberEATS, T-Mobile store purchases, and Nike when using Apple Pay 
    • 2% cash back on all Apple Pay purchases
    • 1% cash back when using the physical card

Our Verdict

We’ve seen the same deal for various other merchants. There was a $75 offer for Nike, but I think a lot of people will prefer $50 at the gas station.

Hat tip to Milestomemories

Source: doctorofcredit.com



How to stack cards to get the most on your everyday spending

Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available.

Running an errand to fill up your gas tank or restock your pantry may not be the most glamorous part of your day, but, with the right cash back card, you can make those everyday tasks much more rewarding.

Best credit card combinations for everyday spending

  • For Amex loyalists
  • For maximizing points
  • For maximizing cash back

There are many cash back credit cards that offer bonus rewards on everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. One of our favorites is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which gives you a whopping 6% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases and (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, 1% thereafter), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services 3% cash back on transit and U.S. gas station purchases and 1% cash back on everything else.

The card does charge a $95 annual fee, but we think that fee is well worth it if you want to earn the most cash back on your everyday spending. We figure that the average shopper who spends $15,900 on the card would earn around $323 in cash back each year.

Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter)
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% transit and U.S. gas stations
  • 1% other purchases
2.63% $323

Even better, you can push your rewards rate higher by pairing the Blue Cash Preferred card with credit cards that offer bonuses on other categories of purchases. Here are some of the best card pairings for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card.

Combination one: Amex all the way

If you love American Express cards, or you just want to keep things as simple as possible for yourself by sticking to a single issuer – the American Express Cash Magnet® Card that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase makes a great partner to the Blue Cash Preferred card.

See related: Which 1.5% cash back card is right for you?

By swapping in the Cash Magnet card to earn 1.5% cash back on purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus with the Blue Cash Preferred card, the average cardholder can push their cash back rate to 2.91%, amounting to $368 in cash back with $15,900 yearly credit card spend.

Estimated yearly rewards: Blue Cash Preferred + Amex Cash Magnet

Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 3% transit and U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 1.5% other purchases with the Cash Magnet card
2.91% $368

Combination two: Maximizing points

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is another great card to pair with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. Just like the Cash Magnet card, it offers at least 1.5% cash back on every purchase. However, the rewards that you earn with the Freedom Unlimited card are a little more versatile than the Cash Magnet card and it comes with additional cash back categories: 5% on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel, plus 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. You can transfer them to certain Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*, which awards a 25% bonus on those points when you redeem them for travel for the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

If you prefer to earn points rather than cash back on purchases that fall outside the Blue Cash Preferred card’s bonus categories, Ultimate Rewards cards are a great way to go:

Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred + Chase Freedom Unlimited

Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 5% Chase Ultimate Rewards travel with the Freedom Unlimited card
  • 3% dining and drugstore purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card
  • 3% transit & U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 1.5% other purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card
3.49% $459.91

Combination three: Maximizing cash back

If you prefer cash back rewards and want to earn the most cash back possible, the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Blue Cash Preferred cards is one of the ultimate card pairings. The Citi Double Cash card offers up to 2% back on every purchase – 1% when you make the purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill on time.

Combined with the Blue Cash Preferred card, the Citi Double Cash card pushes the rewards rate to 3.19% cash back for the average cardholder. We figure that a cardholder who spends around $15,900 per year on these two cards can earn nearly $412 in cash back per year.

Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred + Citi Double Cash

Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 3% transit & U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 2% other purchases with the Citi Double Cash card (1% when you buy, 1% as you pay)
3.19% $412

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Source: creditcards.com




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