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Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score. 

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Best cards for food delivery and meal kit subscriptions

Credit cards for foodies are the latest trend, with more and more rewards programs and additional card benefits catering to both dining in and eating out. Restaurant and grocery bonus categories are becoming commonplace – letting cardholders rack up a few extra points or cash back on those purchases.

But what about those who prefer to order delivery? If you like to take advantage of popular food delivery services like DoorDash or Uber Eats or simplify cooking with a meal kit subscription, there are plenty of credit card rewards and benefits you can leverage to save a little money.

Finding the best card for your favorite services

Finding the best card for your favorite food delivery or meal kit service depends on a variety of factors, including the card’s yearly credits, special perks or rewards rate. For example, many dining cards offer bonuses that are tailored to a specific delivery service, as a monthly Uber credit.

See Related: Food delivery perks on luxury travel cards

For meal kit services, matching rewards is a little more complicated. You could opt for a rewarding grocery card, as many meal kit brands are now partnered with major supermarkets – so you can buy them in the store.

merchant category code that qualifies for a point or cash back bonus. You can test it by making a small charge to your card and seeing what rewards you earn.

Online shopping rewards, on the other hand, are much more flexible. They apply to both web and app purchases, so whether your order from your phone or computer, you can rack up bonus points or cash back.

See Related: Make the most of an online shopping bonus category

Best cards by delivery service or meal kit subscription

With all this in mind, here are some of our favorite cards for some of the most popular food delivery and meal kit subscription services.

Delivery service Card Rewards rate Why we like it
DoorDash Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
  • 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • Generous rate on dining purchases
  • Receive a yearly statement credit for DoorDash purchases ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021)
  • Get at least one free year of DashPass when you enroll with your card (activate by Dec. 31, 2021)
Uber Eats The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months of card membership
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 5 points per dollar on eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Get up to $200 in Uber credits per year ($15 per month, plus an extra $20 in December), which can be applied to Uber Eats
  • Automatic Uber VIP membership (where available) without ride requirements
Instacart Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • 8% cash back on Vivid Seats tickets (through Jan. 2022)
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Top-tier cash back on restaurant delivery, including most delivery services
  • Grocery bonus category includes eligible grocery delivery services, including Instacart
  • As a Mastercard, offers complimentary a 2-month Instacart Express membership if enrolled before Mar. 31, 2021
Grubhub/Seamless/Boxed/Instacart American Express® Gold Card
  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Enroll to receive up to $10 in statement credits per month (up to $120 per year) to use at participating restaurants, including Grubhub, Seamless and Boxed
  • Excellent rewards on grocery delivery services, such as Instacart
HelloFresh Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%)
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit purchases
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Generous rate on U.S. supermarket purchases (HelloFresh meal kits are sold in supermarkets such as H-E-B and Giant Food) and eligible grocery delivery services, such as Instacart
  • Unlimited 3% cash back on delivery purchases from ride-share services, like Uber and Lyft
Home Chef Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back general purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Generous rate on U.S. supermarket purchases (Home Chef meal kits are sold in select Kroger locations)
Other delivery services Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
  • 3% cash back on a category of choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • $2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Generous rate on online shopping purchases (if you select it as your 3% category) and good rate at grocery stores
  • Can swap choice 3% category monthly to account for different delivery services. For instance, the dining category rewards Grubhub purchases and the travel category rewards ride share purchases from services like Uber

If you don’t have a delivery service you prefer – or if you like to switch back and forth based on restaurant availability – a card with rewards on online shopping is your best bet.

Bottom line

Ordering food can be expensive, but using the right rewards card can help you alleviate some of that cost by racking up points or cash back. With some cards, you might even get a few extras that cover your next couple of meals.

Source: creditcards.com

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Flex℠, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®? The card names sound the same, and at a glance the rewards are similar.

Not so fast: Though the cards have a lot in common, there are a few key differences to keep in mind when deciding which is the best fit for you.

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer hefty sign-up bonuses, along with bonus cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The difference is their rewards structures: The Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a flat-rate 1.5% cash back on everything.

Read on to get a rundown on the pros and cons of each card, as well as which card is best suited for you, based on your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex versus Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate
  • 5% rotating quarterly categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%)
  • 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 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
Sign-up bonus $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Annual fee $0 $0
Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, including sign-up bonus) $532 $405
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • High rewards rate on both specific categories year-round and on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
  • No annual fee
  • High general rewards rate
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
Cons
  • Requires some maintenance
  • Can be difficult to max out rotating categories (may not always align with spending)
  • Low cash back rate on general purchases
  • Not the highest rate available on general purchases
Who should get this card?
  • Rewards maximizers
  • People who want to collect Ultimate Rewards points
  • People who like cash back variety
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who want to earn bonus cash back in both specific categories and general purchases
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex overview

The Chase Freedom Flex card offers a combination of year-round and quarterly-rotating bonus cash back categories. Each quarter, you can enroll in a new bonus category from the Chase cash back calendar and earn 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in that category (then 1% back after you reach the $1,500 threshold). Throughout the year, you’ll also get 5% back on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.

Upsides: The opportunity to earn bonus cash back in select categories year-round and in a variety of categories each quarter.

Downsides: The complex rewards program. To get the most out of the card, cardholders must track their spending, since the 5% rate only applies to certain categories that rotate frequently and is limited to $1,500 per quarter.

Furthermore, cardholders must log in to their Chase account and activate their rewards category by the deadline each quarter to earn the 5% rate. For example, to earn 5% cash back during the first quarter of 2021 (on select streaming services, phone, cable and internet services and at wholesale clubs), you must activate the category by March 14, 2021.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March April – June July – September October – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs
TBA TBA TBA

Chase Freedom Unlimited overview

Like the Freedom Flex, the Freedom Unlimited earns bonus cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel (5% back) and dining and drugstore purchases (3% back). However, instead of rotating cash back categories, the Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on general purchases. There’s also no annual fee, and no interest on purchases for 15 months from account opening (after which a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies). The card is currently offering a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months.

Upsides: The Freedom Unlimited card offers a straightforward rewards program that allows cardholders to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase they make – with no earning caps or rotating categories.

Downsides: Although 1.5% cash back is a substantial amount to earn on general purchases, it’s not the highest rate out there.

trio of Ultimate Rewards cards.

See related: Chase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

Source: creditcards.com

Your Guide to Budgeting for Summer Camp

Summer camp is a rite of passage. A place where traditions begin and memories are made. A unique venue with a structured opportunity for kids to grow and learn new skills. As enriching as it may seem, embarking on the process each year can be intense: How do I choose a camp? Should it have a philosophy? How do I know my child will have fun? But often the question at the top of the list is, “How do I budget for summer camp?”

Whether you’re scrambling for camp arrangements for this year or getting a jump-start on next summer, you’re in need of a working budget for summer camp. “As a parent who sent several kids to summer camp for many years, I know how expensive it can be,” says Leslie H. Tayne, author and founder of debt solutions law firm Tayne Law Group.

Read on for expert budgeting tips for summer camp and how to save money on summer camp so you can make the best decisions concerning your wallet and your child’s wish list:

1. Get a handle on camp tuition

According to the American Camp Association, sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition isn’t too far behind, ranging from $199 to more than $800 per week.

One of the best ways to budget for summer camp is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child's interests.

One of the best ways to budget for summer camp and prepare for tuition costs is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child’s interests. This will help you determine ‘how much’ and ‘what type’ of camp you want: Is day-camp coverage important all summer because of work? Does your child want to experience sleep-away camp for a portion of the time? Is a camp with a specific focus (say a sport or hobby) on the list?

Depending on your circumstances and child’s expectations, it’s not unusual to be looking at a combination of camps—and tuition costs—in one season. If you have multiple kids at different ages, with different interests, creating a budget for summer camp and understanding how much you’ll need to dish out in tuition becomes especially important.

Once your camp plan is in place, assess how much you’ll need to pay in tuition for the summer months with school out of session. The sooner you’ve arrived at this figure, the easier it will be to work the expense into your household budget, says Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of deal site Passion for Savings. “It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time,” Schisler says.

Sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition ranges from $199 to more than $800 per week.

– American Camp Association

2. Plan for expenses beyond tuition

One of the biggest budgeting tips for summer camp is planning for the many costs outside of tuition. Tayne points out that sleep-away camp usually comes with a longer supply list than day camp—such as specific clothing or gear and toiletries to cover the length of stay. If your child is heading to a sleep-away camp far from home, your budget for summer camp may also need to factor in the cost of transportation or the cost to ship luggage. Day camps can also have fees for extended hours or transportation if your child rides a camp bus each day.

Once you’ve selected a camp—day camp or sleep-away—check its website for camper packing lists and guidelines. Most camps offer checklists that you can print out, which can be good for tracking supplies and costs as you go. After you enroll, your camp may provide access to an online portal that can help you manage tuition and track additional expenses, like canteen money, which is cash your child can use for snacks and additional supplies while away.

One of the best budgeting tips for summer camp is making sure you understand how much everything will cost—that's tuition plus any extra camp costs.

3. Create a year-round savings strategy

By calculating the necessary expenses ahead of time for the camps you and your campers have chosen, you’ll be able to determine an overall budget for summer camp. A budgeting tip for summer camp is to save money monthly throughout the year. To determine a monthly savings goal, divide your total summer camp costs by the amount of months you have until camp starts. If camp is quickly approaching and you’re feeling the budget crunch, you may want to start saving for next year’s costs once it’s back-to-school time so you can spread out your costs over a longer period of time.

Once you start saving, you’ll need a place to put it, right? When it comes to budgeting tips for summer camp, consider placing your cash in a dedicated account, which will keep it separate from your regular expenses and help you avoid tapping it for other reasons. “Then you can have your bank set up an auto draft [for the summer camp money] so it automatically goes into your account each month and you will have the money you need when summer rolls around,” Schisler says. If you use a Discover Online Savings Account for this purpose, you’ll also earn interest that can be put toward camp expenses.

“It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time.”

– Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of Passion for Savings

4. Find ways to fund your summer camp account

To boost cash in your summer camp savings account, consider asking relatives and family friends to gift your children cash for camp in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts, says Tracie Fobes of budget blog Penny Pinchin’ Mom. “If your child has his or her heart set on sleep-away camp, they may be willing to forgo a gift or two,” Fobes says.

Another budgeting tip for summer camp is to put your cashback rewards toward your budget for summer camp. For example, if you open a checking account with Discover—called Cashback Debit—you’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 You can enroll to have that cashback bonus automatically deposited into your Discover Online Savings Account so it remains designated for camp costs (and can grow with interest).

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Lastly, if you don’t have your tax refund earmarked for another financial goal, you could use the windfall to kick-start your summer camp savings fund. Depending on the refund amount and your total camp costs, it could reduce your monthly summer camp savings goal significantly.

5. Reduce camp-related costs

Despite having your budget for summer camp in full view and planning in advance, camp can still be expensive. Here are some ways to save money on summer camp by cutting down on camp costs:

  • Ask about scholarships and grants: “Some camps offer scholarships or discounts for children and families,” Fobes says. Research your camp to see if they have anything similar to help offset—or even pay for—the cost of tuition.
  • Use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA): A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account is a pre-tax benefit account that can be used to pay for eligible dependent care services. You can use this type of account to “cover dependent care [costs], and camp may qualify,” Fobes says.
  • Negotiate price: “Many people don’t think about negotiating the cost of summer camp, but it is possible,” Tayne says, and more and more camps are open to it.
  • See if there’s an “honor system”: Some camps have what’s known as an honor system, where the camp offers a range of costs, or tiered pricing, and parents can pay what they can comfortably afford. Every child enjoys the same camp experience, regardless of which price point, and billing is kept private.
  • Take advantage of discounts: Attention early birds and web surfers: “There are sometimes discounts offered when you sign up early or register online,” Fobes says.
  • Volunteer: If your summer schedule allows, “offer to work at the camp,” Fobes says. If you lend your services—perhaps for the camp blog or cleaning the camp house before the season starts—your child may be able to attend camp for free or a reduced rate.

Focus on the experience—not the extras

Don’t let summer camp costs become a family budget-buster. Plan ahead and look for money-saving opportunities and work your budget for summer camp into your annual financial plan.

To save money on summer camp, remember that you only need to focus on camp necessities. “Don’t spend a lot of extra money on new clothing, bedding, trunks or suitcases,” Schisler says. “Remember, summer camp is all about the experience, not the things.”

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal™, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post Your Guide to Budgeting for Summer Camp appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

The Difference Between Credit Cards and Debit Cards: Explained​​​

Have you ever wondered about the uses of a credit card vs. a debit card? It’s likely you have both types of cards in your wallet at this very moment, and you’re given the option to choose one of them—sometimes in a matter of seconds—every time you make a purchase. Still, you have lingering uncertainty about whether you’re making the best choice… and that same question pops into the back of your mind every time you buy something: “Should I use a credit card or debit card?”

Being uncertain about the difference between a credit card and debit card or the best time to use either is a common dilemma. The better you understand the benefits of each—beyond the fact they offer a way to access money without having to carry cash or a checkbook around—the savvier a spender you’ll become.

Managing revolving credit vs. a bank account balance

Credit cards and debit cards both offer a convenient way to pay for things, but they work quite differently behind the scenes. As a result, they each appeal to different types of consumers, says Lou Haverty, financial analyst and founder of Financial Analyst Insider.

A credit card is a form of revolving credit. When you spend with your credit card you are borrowing, and you pay interest if you carry a balance, Haverty says. A debit card, by contrast, is linked to a bank account—usually a checking account—and the money is withdrawn as soon as you make the transaction, typically using a PIN.

A credit card gives you access to a revolving line of credit, while a debit card draws from your account balance--that's a major difference between credit cards and debit cards.

A difference between credit cards and debit cards is that with a credit card, the exact amount you can spend depends on your credit limit and the balance you are currently carrying on the card, Haverty explains. If you have a $1,000 credit limit and a $600 balance from previous purchases, you can continue to charge an additional $400. If you’ve reached your credit limit, you won’t be able to use the card for more purchases until you pay off at least part of the balance. You owe a minimum payment each month.

When considering credit card vs. debit card, know that most credit cards carry an interest rate, expressed as an annual percentage rate (APR), which is essentially what you pay to borrow. You’ll have to pay interest on that $600 balance mentioned above if you carry the balance from month to month. “Credit cards require a responsible approach to your personal finances because you have the ability to spend beyond what you might have as cash in your bank account,” Haverty says.

A difference between credit cards and debit cards is that with a debit card, funds are pulled directly from the balance you have in the checking account to which the card is linked. In a traditional account setup, you can’t spend more than what you have in the account, which helps reduce the chance of racking up debt. If your account offers overdraft protection, you may be able to spend more than your account balance by leveraging funds from a different, linked bank account.

“Credit cards require a responsible approach to your personal finances because you have the ability to spend beyond what you might have as cash in your bank account.”

– Lou Haverty, financial analyst and founder of Financial Analyst Insider

Knowing the requirements for each card

Another key difference between a credit card and a debit card is the criteria you’ll need to meet for each. “Getting approved for a credit card is usually dependent on your personal credit score. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to be approved,” Haverty says. “If you have a lower credit score, you may still get approved, but you might have a lower credit limit.”

Patricia Stallworth, certified financial planner and money coach, says that in addition to your credit history, factors such as your employment status could play a role in credit card approval.

When analyzing credit cards vs. debit cards, consider that a debit card is typically issued automatically when you open a checking account. This process usually requires some personal information, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license, employment information and valid email address. A deposit may also be needed to fund the account and complete the application. Then stay tuned for your debit card in the mail!

When should I use credit vs. debit?

While it’s easy to have credit card vs. debit card on the mind, there are some scenarios in which using either a debit card or a credit card could fit the bill, depending on your financial needs and goals. Use the outline below as a guide for when the question of “When should I use credit vs. debit?” comes up:

Use your debit card if…

  • You’re new to using a card to make purchases. Until you know you have the discipline to control your spending with a card, a debit card could be the way to go, as it’s a great tool for ensuring you don’t charge more than you can afford. “Debit cards are great for everyday purchases that you have budgeted for because the money comes directly out of your account,” Stallworth says.
  • You want cash back without the fees. If your debit card is linked to a checking account that offers rewards, Stallworth says you may have rewards-earning potential without the hassle of fees. “While there is generally no cost to participate in debit card rewards programs, the costs and fees may be higher with some credit card programs,” she adds. For instance, Discover Cashback Debit charges no fees1 and allows you to earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.2

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  • You have debt you can’t pay off. When should I use credit vs. debit? “If you’re struggling to manage or get out of debt, a debit card should be your ‘go-to card,’” Stallworth says. “You can’t get out of debt if you keep charging.”
  • You want cash at the register. If you still like to have cash in your wallet, consider this difference between credit cards and debit cards: Most retail stores will allow you to get cash at the register when you pay with your debit card. “A credit card will most likely charge you a cash advance fee if that feature is available,” Haverty says.

“Debit cards are great for everyday purchases that you have budgeted for because the money comes directly out of your account.”

– Patricia Stallworth, certified financial planner and money coach

Use your credit card if…

  • You want product coverage. Some credit cards come with purchase protection, which makes them a great option for online and large purchases, Stallworth says. “If I have a dispute with a merchant, I have more leverage with a large credit card company behind me.”
  • You’re trying to build (or rebuild) your credit. “You will need a single credit card with a small limit that you pay off in full each month to build a credit history,” Haverty says. A key difference between credit cards and debit cards is that debit card usage can’t help you build a credit history. A debit card can help you build strong budgeting skills so you’re better prepared to transition to a credit card.
  • You want to earn travel rewards. If you’re debating credit card vs. debit card and are focused on travel, consider that credit card rewards programs may offer robust rewards in a specific category, like travel, Stallworth says. While it’s always important to read the fine print (so you’re not paying more than you intend in fees or interest rate charges just to get rewards), you could find a credit card that offers opportunities to earn free flights and pay less for checked baggage—just for using the card regularly.

If you're debating credit card vs. debit card and are focused on travel, consider a credit card rewards program for travel.

How to use both cards to maximize your finances

Now that you understand which circumstances might be best to use a credit card vs. debit card, you can make the point-of-purchase decision of “When should I use credit vs. debit?” a little easier. It really depends on the goals you have laid out for your personal finances.

Get comfortable using both financial tools for their respective features. But be sure to stick to your budget, and don’t accidentally overspend from your bank account or charge more than you can afford to pay in full by your credit card’s monthly due date. When you learn to confidently use both of these cards to your advantage, you can enjoy all the various perks and protections—times two!

1 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.

2 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal™, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post The Difference Between Credit Cards and Debit Cards: Explained​​​ appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

How to add an authorized user to a Wells Fargo card

You already know that your on-time Wells Fargo credit card payments boost your credit score. But did you know that your payments could also help increase the credit score of a family member or friend with a lower score? Or that your payments could help your children build their own credit scores?

It’s true. This can all happen if you add friends or family members– or anyone else – as authorized users to your Wells Fargo credit card account.

Just be careful: While adding authorized users can help others build or repair credit, it could leave you with some financial pain if your authorized users don’t follow your spending rules.

What is an authorized user?

An authorized user is someone who has access to your credit card account. When you add an authorized user to your account, that person receives a credit card in the mail with its own unique number. But when they make purchases with this card, the charges go onto your account.

You’d add an authorized user to your Wells Fargo credit card to help that user build or repair credit. Every time you make an on-time payment on your card, it’s reported to the three national credit bureaus of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

These on-time payments steadily improve the credit score of both you and your authorized users. This is why parents might add their children to help them build a score or a friend or family member with a low score that needs a boost.

There is a risk here for you: Authorized users aren’t responsible for paying off any of the charges they make. When they make a purchase, the primary account holder is responsible for paying it off. If you don’t, that charge will carry over past your credit card’s due date, triggering your card’s interest rate. If your authorized users make a lot of charges and don’t pay them off in full? You could face unexpectedly higher credit card bills each month.

That’s why it’s so important to come to an agreement with your authorized users, spelling out exactly how much they can charge each month and when they must pay you for their purchases. If they don’t follow this agreement? You can remove them from your account.

It’s not all risk when you add an authorized user, though. If you have a Wells Fargo-branded rewards card – such as the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card or the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card – your authorized users will rack up rewards points and cash back bonuses when they use your card to make purchases, helping you earn rewards and cash back at a faster pace.

Authorized user eligibility requirements

You can add anyone as an authorized user to your Wells Fargo credit card account. This includes family members, of course, but can also include friends, employees or anyone else you’d like to add.

To add authorized users, you must provide their name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.

How to add an authorized user to your Wells Fargo account

You can easily add an authorized user to your account by first logging onto Wells Fargo Online Banking. After logging in, click on the “Account Services” tab and then click “Credit Card Service Center.” Next, click on the “Request credit card features” heading. You can then click the “Additional cardholders for your account” link, which will allow you to add authorized users.

 

Fee for adding an authorized user

There are no fees for adding an authorized user to your Wells Fargo credit card.

Managing authorized user access

You can’t set limits on how much your authorized users spend each month. That’s why it’s important to only add authorized users whom you trust to follow whatever spending rules you set up with them.

Fortunately, it’s easy to remove authorized users from your Wells Fargo account if they are not following your limits.

Again, log into your Wells Fargo account. Click on “Account Services” and then on “Credit Card Service Center.” Next, choose the “Request credit card features” heading. You can then click “Additional cardholders for your account” to remove any of the authorized users on your account. You can also call the 800-number on the back of your Wells Fargo credit card to remove users.

Pros and cons of adding an authorized user

There are both risks and rewards for adding an authorized user to your Wells Fargo card.

Pros

  • Credit score boost: When you add authorized users, you can help them repair damaged credit. When you make an on-time payment on your Wells Fargo card, that payment is reported to the national credit bureaus, which will provide a boost to your credit score and the scores of any authorized users.
  • Building credit scores: Some people don’t have enough of a history to have a credit score. This often happens with young adults who haven’t yet applied for their own credit cards or taken out any loans. You can help these consumers build their credit scores by adding them as authorized users. They’ll get the benefits of positive credit history without having to qualify for a card themselves.
  • A boost to your rewards: When authorized users make purchases with their Wells Fargo card, those charges go onto your account. This can help you earn rewards and cash back bonuses at a faster rate.

Cons

  • Overspending: You are responsible for any charges made by your authorized users. If they refuse to pay you for their charges? You’ll have to make the payments – something that could bust your monthly budget.
  • A higher credit-utilization ratio: Your credit utilization ratio – a measure of how much of your available credit you are using – can help or hurt your credit score. If that ratio is high, your score will take a dip. If authorized users run up your credit card balance and then don’t pay you back for your charges? Your credit utilization ratio could rise, and your credit score could fall.
  • You could hurt your authorized users’ scores, too: If you make a payment 30 days or more past your due date, your credit score could fall by 100 points or more. And if you have authorized users on your account? Their scores will fall, too. Only add authorized users if you’re certain that you’ll always make your credit card payments on time.

Should you add an authorized user to your Wells Fargo card?

Adding an authorized user to your Wells Fargo credit card could improve the credit of your spouse, children or friends. But don’t ignore the risks. If authorized users run up charges on your account, you’re the one responsible for paying them off.

The key? Only add authorized users whom you trust. And be sure to reach an agreement on how much these authorized users can charge and when they must pay you back for their charges.

Source: creditcards.com