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8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour

bedroom virtual tourFeverpitched

Video tours have quickly become the norm in the COVID-19 era as a safe way to get a closer look at the house you want to see in person. And while no doubt the kitchen and living room are high on your list to check out, the bedroom deserves more than a passing glance.

After all, a bedroom isn’t just a place to catch some zzz’s; it’s also a place that can function as a retreat or a quiet workspace. For your kids, it’s a room to play, do homework, and host sleepovers. And sure, a bedroom’s size and closet space are important—but they’re not the only things you should ask to see during a video tour. In fact, glossing over the bedroom could mean huge peeves after you buy—or worse, real problems that cost you money.

Here are some potential issues you might find hiding in the boudoir.

1. It might not actually be a bedroom

“Many listings will call a bonus room a bedroom even if it does not have a closet and a window, which is technically not correct, ” says John Gluch, founder of the Gluch Group in Scottsdale, AZ.

The legal requirements for classifying a room as a bedroom vary by state. Still, while taking the video tour, you should verify that bedrooms have a door and a window as two means of escape in an emergency.

The ceiling should be tall enough for a person to comfortably stand, and the square footage sufficient to accommodate a bed.

Be sure to ask your agent if the room is legally considered a bedroom.

2. There’s no privacy

Photo by Creative Window Designs 

Have your agent scan the windows and sills to check their condition. Take note of features such as triple-pane or tilt-and-turn windows.

Finally, check the view.

“You’ll want to know if a large, beautiful window in the master bedroom lacks privacy and looks right into a neighbor’s yard,” says Jennifer Smith, a Realtor® with Southern Dream Homes in Wake Forest, NC.

3. The fixtures and outlets are dated or in bad shape

“Buyers’ eyes tend to naturally go toward the beautifully made bed with lots of accent pillows and the art hanging on the walls,” Smith says. “But it’s important to remember to look at the more permanent features of the room that you’ll have to live with day to day.”

Ask your agent to zoom in on things like the flooring, ceiling fan, light fixtures, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and heating and cooling vents. Is there a radiator hiding behind the headboard or an air conditioner in the window?

Be sure to find out how many outlets are in the room. Older houses often have fewer outlets, and they may be the outdated, two-prong variety, which isn’t grounded.

4. The early morning sun will wake you up

Photo by Gaetano Hardwood Floors, Inc.

Oodles of natural light is a coveted feature—unless the morning sunlight wakes you up hours before your alarm goes off.

“Many Realtors and home buyers who visit a property at varying times throughout the day unintentionally fail to consider what the exposure is like at 5:30 a.m. with the sunrise,” says Gluch.

Curtains and blinds are obvious solutions, but you may not want to cover windows that showcase a beautiful view or are placed high in a vaulted ceiling.

5. Your furniture won’t fit

Whether it’s a large master suite or a children’s bedroom, pay attention to how much furniture is in the room and how it’s arranged, Smith says.

“Staging declutters and depersonalizes a space as much as possible, so buyers should think about how their current belongings will fit or if they’d have to buy all-new furniture,” says Smith.

Ask the listing agent for the dimensions of the bed and/or dresser for comparison. But if the dresser is missing, it could mean the bedroom has a large closet with organizational options.

Ask to see inside all the closets, and make note of the size, shelves, and other organizational components.

6. The bedrooms are in an inconvenient location

It’s easy to get disoriented when you’re taking a live video tour, so “buyers shouldn’t forget to pay attention to where bedrooms are located in the house,” Smith advises.

Ask yourself how the locations of the bedroom will suit your lifestyle. Will you be more comfortable with the kids’ bedrooms on the same floor? Is the master suite adjacent to a busy living room or kitchen? Where are the bathrooms in reference to the bedrooms?

7. The master bathroom doesn’t offer separation

Photo by Elad Gonen 

A spacious master suite isn’t just a place to rest your weary head at night. It’s your future dream retreat, where you can sink into a soothing bath or luxuriate in a rainfall shower. But if you want a bit of privacy, be mindful of how the master suite is laid out.

“Many people overlook the fact that there is not a door between the bedroom and the bathroom,” says Gluch. “Likewise, many floor plans now have a water closet—a small toilet room with a door—but do not have a door separating the bedroom from the rest of the bath.”

8. There might be potential safety hazards

If you’re looking at a multilevel home or a house with a bedroom in the basement, verify fire escape routes.

“Consider potential safety hazards such as how difficult it might be to drop a fire escape ladder out of an upstairs bedroom window or a ladder up from a basement bedroom,” says Gluch.

Basement bedrooms should have an egress window, and upper-floor windows should be clear of obstructions like trees or sections of the house that would make an emergency exit difficult.

The post 8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

The Financial Truths COVID-19 Has Taught Us

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all some hard lessons. Here are six hard financial truths we’ve learned from 2020.

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

Business credit cards

If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.

Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.

Another coronavirus complication: Scams

As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.

In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.

“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.

Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques

Bottom line

The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.

Source: creditcards.com

Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

CARES Act: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was the first coronavirus relief package passed in March 2020. It expanded unemployment assistance, authorized ,200 stimulus checks and provided relief for small businesses, among several other things. Under this law, those who are partially or fully unemployed as a direct result of the coronavirus may receive up to 39 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.
Beyond helping those who were laid off, PUA offers benefits to people who can’t go to work or lost income due to a variety of coronavirus-related reasons. Some examples include contracting COVID-19, caregiving for someone who has COVID-19 or staying home to take care of your kids whose school closed due to COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Millions of newly eligible folks now have access to benefits. But the new programs put state unemployment agencies in a tricky position. They are receiving record-breaking surges in applications at the same time that they are tasked with creating and paying out brand new benefits. The result: overburdened websites, unclear instructions and lots of jargon.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.
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.
Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.
Take, for example, this update to applicants on Arkansas’ unemployment website after the second stimulus package passed:

The 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
DOL: The federal Department of Labor oversees all states’ unemployment systems. Your state may have its own agency named the Department of Labor that administers its unemployment benefits. Generally speaking, DOL refers to the federal agency.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Also referred to as Unemployment Compensation, UI is the longstanding benefits program run by each individual state. It’s for people who are out of work at no fault of their own. To qualify for UI, you have to have made a certain amount of money in the recent past  — typically from a W-2 job with an employer that paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes. Specifics like previous employment duration or earnings vary.
PEUC: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends the length of Unemployment Insurance aid for a maximum of 24 weeks. The first stimulus deal extended UI benefits for 13 weeks, and the second stimulus package added an additional 11 weeks. New applicants (after Dec. 27, 2020) are only eligible for the 11-week extension. This program does not extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment benefits policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Pro Tip
These two foundational programs provide the bulk of unemployment aid through weekly payments. Once you understand the difference between them, a lot of the other programs will start to make sense.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

“Some extensions and changes to federal UI programs will include the reinstatement of the FPUC program, extension of PUA program and PEUC program for those who qualify,” the notice states.
The overwhelming majority of people relying on unemployment benefits are receiving aid from two key programs. According to figures from the Department of Labor, more than 13 million people are collecting Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
Our plain English guide will help you make sense of it all. Consider bookmarking this page and referencing it as you trudge through the process of getting your benefits.
DUA: Disaster Unemployment Assistance is not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may come across this long-standing natural disaster assistance program on your state’s unemployment website. Do not apply. Despite their similar names, they are very different.

Our guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance includes an interactive map to help you find your state’s application rules.
A woman holds hands with her infant while looking for something on her laptop.

7 Quick Definitions to Important Unemployment Terms and Programs

FPUC: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boosts unemployment benefits by 0 a week for up to 11 weeks between Dec. 27, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Anyone who is approved for at least of unemployment benefits will automatically receive this bonus. No separate application or action is needed. This program previously paid out 0 per week under the CARES Act, but that version expired in July 2020.
Additionally, to collect UI, you have to be able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. Some states have waived the “actively seeking work” requirement during the pandemic.
Depending on your state, average UI payments are between 0 and 0 per week, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. The duration of UI programs also depends on your state. They last between 12 and 30 weeks (without any extensions). The most common duration is 26 weeks.
Since the start of the pandemic, mass unemployment has rocked the nation. To help mitigate the damage, two economic stimulus packages allotted unprecedented sums of money to create new benefits programs that assist people who are out of work.
EB: Extended Benefits are available in every state except South Dakota. EB is a state-level benefit that extends Unemployment Insurance by six to 20 weeks — depending on your state and your local unemployment rate. To qualify during the pandemic, you may have to exhaust a federal unemployment extension first. (See PEUC below.)
For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal unemployment program. It’s up and running in all 50 states. The first stimulus package created PUA in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, PUA has been a lifeline for tens of millions of jobless people who don’t qualify for regular UI benefits.
CAA: The Continued Assistance Act, aka Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers, is part of the 0 billion stimulus package that became law on Dec. 27, 2020. It extends many of the unemployment programs created by the CARES Act.
Because PUA is a federal program, all states must offer it for a maximum of 50 weeks. The minimum weekly payments vary by state, however, because they’re calculated as half your state’s average UI payment. With average state UI payments between 0 and 0, you can expect minimum weekly PUA payments between and 5 depending on your state.
Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.
After reading that sentence, you may have a couple choice acronyms yourself. Maybe, “OMG — WTH does that mean?”
Now that you have a better understanding of the two major unemployment benefits programs, let’s look at extensions, payment enhancements and other important programs that you may be eligible for.

6 Products You Need to Keep Your Home Germ-free and Sanitized in 2020

Looking to turn your house into a healthy haven to protect your family from COVID-19? Try these six products to transform your space.

*Cover image sourced from Home Depot.

The post 6 Products You Need to Keep Your Home Germ-free and Sanitized in 2020 appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com

How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Every State

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the new programs and provisions in the second stimulus package.

For the first time nationally, independent contractors and gig workers can receive unemployment benefits — through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Millions of Americans have relied on this program since it was created by the first stimulus package in March 2020.

Depending on your state, PUA effectively expired on Dec. 26 or 27. At the 11th hour, lawmakers rallied to pass a second stimulus package, extending the program for 11 weeks. However, some states had to pause making PUA payments as they implemented the new rules.

The Penny Hoarder looked at the application process in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. when the program was first created. We compiled the information into an interactive map that shows you how to file in each state, then updated the information based on new provisions laid out in the second stimulus package.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

What Is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

  • How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA
  • A 50-State Interactive Map to Help You Apply for PUA
  • Documents Needed to File for PUA
  • This $300 boost is known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

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    How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA

    Initially, the CARES Act authorized PUA payments for a maximum of 39 weeks. The second stimulus package extended PUA to 50 weeks total — or 11 extra weeks.

    PUA now sunsets on March 14, 2021, unless extended by Congress and the Biden administration. Those who haven’t exhausted their PUA benefits as of March 14, 2021, may continue receiving benefits until April 5, 2021.

    One new and notable limitation: PUA used to be available retroactively as far back as January 2020. The new stimulus law tightens the window for retroactive PUA payments to Dec. 1, 2020, through March 14, 2021.

    All PUA recipients should be expecting to file more paperwork, too. To curb fraud, the second stimulus deal forces current and new PUA recipients to submit documents related to employment or self-employment, according to the DOL.

    The exact documents needed will be determined by your state agency, which is required to notify you. The deadline to file those documents is March 27, 2021. Defer to your state’s deadline if different.

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    How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, State by State

    Our interactive map includes PUA filing instructions for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

    Based on The Penny Hoarder’s analysis, 35 states and D.C. process PUA applicants using the same application for general unemployment. Only 15 states have separate PUA applications.

    Here’s how we broke it down on the map.

    General Unemployment

    To determine PUA eligibility, most states funnel applicants through the Unemployment Insurance system first. Those states require you to file two applications: state unemployment first, then PUA.

    In such states, you must get denied Unemployment Insurance (UI) before applying for PUA. Only a handful of states have one streamlined, general unemployment application that determines your eligibility for both PUA or regular benefits.

    For simplicity — and because in both instances your first step is filing a general unemployment claim — both methods are categorized as “general unemployment (UI)” on the map, in dark  blue.

    To see if you need to file two applications or one streamlined version, click your state on the map for specific filing instructions.

    PUA

    States marked in light blue have a PUA application separate from the regular Unemployment Insurance system. If you are a resident of one of these states, you can file for PUA directly so long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

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    Documents Needed to File for PUA

    If you’re ready to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you’ll need to gather several types of identification- and income-related documents.

    Your state may require a few additional documents, but here’s an overview:

    • State-issued ID card.
    • Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number.
    • Mailing and residential address (if different).
    • Bank account information for direct deposit, otherwise your benefits will arrive via a prepaid debit card or check.
    • Tax return: Form 1040, Schedule C, F and/or SE.
    • As many income statements as possible: bank receipts with deposit information, 1099 forms, W-2s, paycheck stubs, income summaries and business ledgers.

    Income statements and related documents are crucial to proving how and when the coronavirus affected your earnings. For freelancers and independent contractors, it may be difficult to compile everything. Include as much as possible.

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    Pro Tip

    Depending on which gig app you use and how much you earned, you may not have received any 1099 income forms in the mail. In that case, log on to the app and download your income statements.

    Expect Delays

    Due to new rules outlined in the second stimulus package, state labor departments are once again scrambling. Hiccups should be expected while applying for, asking about or submitting documents related to PUA. Many gig workers and independent contractors warn of website crashes, unavailable customer service, confusing questionnaires and more.

    Perseverance is key.

    Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

    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 Avoid a Prepayment Penalty When Paying Off a Loan

    Look at you, so responsible. You received a financial windfall — stimulus check, tax refund, work bonus, inheritance, whatever — and you’re using it to pay off one of your debts years ahead of schedule.

    Good for you! Except… make sure you don’t get charged a prepayment penalty.

    Now wait just a minute, you say. I’m paying the money back early — early! — and my lender thanks me by charging me a fee?

    Well, in some cases, yes.

    A prepayment penalty is a fee lenders use to recoup the money they’ll lose when you’re no longer paying interest on the loan. That interest is how they make their money.

    But you can avoid the trap — or at least a big payout if you’ve already signed the loan contract. We’ll explain.

    What Is a Loan Prepayment Penalty?

    A prepayment penalty is a fee lenders charge if you pay off all or part of your loan early.

    Typically, a prepayment penalty only applies if you pay off the entire balance – for example, because you sold your car or are refinancing your mortgage – within a specific timeframe (usually within three years of when you accepted the loan).

    In some cases, a prepayment penalty could apply if you pay off a large amount of your loan all at once.

    Prepayment penalties do not normally apply if you pay extra principal in small chunks at a time, but it’s always a good idea to double check with the lender and your loan agreement.

    What Loans Have Prepayment Penalties?

    Most loans do not include a prepayment penalty. They are typically applied to larger loans, like mortgages and sometimes auto loans — although personal loans can also include this sneaky fee.

    Credit unions and banks are your best options for avoiding loans that include prepayment penalties, according to Charles Gallagher, a consumer law attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    Unfortunately, if you have bad credit and can’t get a loan from traditional lenders, private loan alternatives are the most likely to include the prepayment penalty.

    Pro Tip

    If your loan includes a prepayment penalty, the contract should state the time period when it may be imposed, the maximum penalty and the lender’s contact information.

    ”The more opportunistic and less fair lenders would be the ones who would probably be assessing [prepayment penalties] as part of their loan terms,” he said, “I wouldn’t say loan sharking… but you have to search down the list for a less preferable lender.”

    Prepayment Penalties for Mortgages

    Although you’ll find prepayment penalties in auto and personal loans, a more common place to find them is in home loans. Why? Because a lender who agrees to a 30-year mortgage term is banking on earning years worth of interest to make money off the amount it’s loaning you.

    That prepayment penalty can apply if you want to pay off your loan early, sell your house or even refinance, depending on the terms of your mortgage.

    However, if there is a prepayment penalty in the contract for a more recent mortgage, there are rules about how long it can be in effect and how much you can owe.

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruled that for mortgages made after Jan. 10, 2014, the maximum prepayment penalty a lender can charge is 2% of the loan balance. And prepayment penalties are only allowed in mortgages if all of the following are true:

    1. The loan has a fixed interest rate.
    2. The loan is considered a “qualified mortgage” (meaning it can’t have features like negative amortization or interest-only payments).
    3. The loan’s annual percentage rate can’t be higher than the Average Prime Offer Rate (also known as a higher-priced mortgage).

    So suppose you bought a house last year and then wanted to sell your home. If your mortgage meets all of the above criteria and has a prepayment penalty clause in the mortgage contract, you could end up paying a penalty of 2% on the remaining balance — for a loan you still owe $200,000 on, that comes out to an extra $4,000.

    Prepayment penalties apply for only the first few years of a mortgage — the CFPB’s rule allows for a maximum of three years. But again, check your mortgage agreement for your exact terms.

    The prepayment penalty won’t apply to FHA, VA or USDA loans but can apply to conventional mortgages — although the penalty is much less common than it was before the CFPB’s ruling.

    “It’s more of private loans — loans for people who’ve maybe had some struggles and can’t qualify for a Fannie or Freddie loan,” Gallagher said. “That block of lending is the one going to be most hit by this.”

    How to Find Out If a Loan Will Have a Prepayment Penalty

    The best way to avoid a prepayment penalty is to read your contract — or better yet, have a professional (like an attorney or CPA) who understands the terminology, review it.

    “You should read the entirety of the loan, as painful as that sounds, because lenders may try to hide it,” Gallagher said. “Generally, it would be under repayment terms or the language that deals with the payoff of the loan or selling your house.”

    Gallagher rattled off a list of alternative terms a lender could use in the contract, including:

    • Sale before a certain timeframe.
    • Refinance before a term.
    • Prepayment prior to maturity.

    “They avoid using the word ‘penalty,’ obviously, because that would give a reader of the note, mortgage or the loan some alarm,” he said.

    If you’re negotiating the terms — as say, with an auto loan — don’t let a salesperson try to pressure you into signing a contract without agreeing to a simple interest contract with no prepayment penalty. Better yet, start by applying for a pre-approved auto loan so you can get a pro to review any contracts before you sign.

    Pro Tip

    Do you have less-than-sterling credit? Watch out for pre-computed loans, in which interest is front-loaded, ensuring the lender collects more in interest no matter how quickly you pay off the loan.

    If your lender presents you with a contract that includes a prepayment penalty, request a loan that does not include a prepayment penalty. The new contract may have other terms that make that loan less advantageous (like a higher interest rate), but you’ll at least be able to compare your options.

    How Can You Find Out if Your Current Loan Has a Prepayment Penalty?

    If a loan has a prepayment penalty, the servicer must include information about the penalty on either your monthly statement or in your loan coupon book (the slips of paper you send with your payment every month).

    You can also ask your lender about the terms regarding your penalty by calling the number on your monthly billing statement or read the documents you signed when you closed the loan — look for the same terms mentioned above.

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    What to Do if You’re Stuck in a Loan With Prepayment Penalty

    If you do discover that your loan includes a prepayment penalty, you still have some options.

    First, check your contract.

    If you’ll incur a fee for paying off your loan early within the first few years, consider holding onto the money until the penalty period expires.

    Pro Tip

    If you don’t have a loan with a prepayment penalty, contact your lender before sending additional money to ensure your payment is going toward principal — not interest or fees.

    Additionally, although you may get socked with a penalty for paying off the loan balance early, it’s likely you can still make extra payments toward the balance. Review your contract or ask your lender what amount will trigger the penalty, Gallagher said.

    If you’re paying off multiple types of debt, consider paying off the accounts that do not trigger prepayment penalties — credit cards and federal student loans don’t charge prepayment penalties.

    By using techniques like the debt avalanche, debt snowball and debt lasso methods, you can tackle your other debts while giving yourself time to let a prepayment penalty period expire.

    Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

    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 accept credit card payments

    Many small business owners who didn’t accept credit cards before the pandemic find that it’s absolutely mandatory now. With more shopping and transactions taking place through online commerce and mobile apps ­– and many consumers preferring to avoid handling cash – accepting credit cards is one of the most valuable steps you take to grow your business, if you’re not doing so already.

    Even with the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out, 74% of small business owners expect consumers to prefer contactless payments once a vaccine is widely available, according to recent research by Visa.

    Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

    Ask Elaine a question.

    Benefits of accepting credit card payments

    There are many advantages to accepting credit card payments that go beyond changing consumer preferences. Consumers will often buy more with credit cards than they would with cash. If you run a service business, accepting credit cards can improve cash flow. A consumer who can’t pay you with cash immediately may be able to pay you with a credit card more quickly. And accepting credit cards can also help make it easier to keep track of revenue. All of your records of credit card transactions will be in one place.

    How to accept credit cards as a small business

    If you are going to accept credit cards on an ongoing basis in a small business, you’ll probably want to find a merchant account provider to set you up with a commercial bank account allowing you to accept and process electronic payment card transactions. You will need to sign an agreement with the merchant account provider that outlines per-transaction costs you will pay, as well as any associated fees. It is important to shop around as these costs may vary considerably.

    If you’re having trouble finding a merchant provider, asking other businesses in your industry is a good place to start. That’s because many merchant account providers tailor their offerings to particular industries. A plan that’s best for a small medical office might not be ideal for an e-commerce merchant – and vice versa. Some trade organizations can also recommend preferred providers.

    What credit card payment processing options are available?

    If you don’t need to accept credit cards on a constant basis but still want to be able to offer this payment option to customers, there are a number of ways to do so, through payment services providers. Here are some options:

    • Square provides you with a free device you can attach to your phone or iPad and allows you to process transactions anywhere with good Wi-Fi. It costs 2.6% plus 10 cents per tapped, dipped or swiped transaction to use.
    • Clover offers a similar card reader you can plug into your digital devices to accept credit cards. The Clover “Go” reader costs $69.The least expensive plan, “Register Lite,” costs $9.95 a month and 2.7% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions and 3.5% plus 10 cents for keyed-in transactions.
    • PayPal Here offers a free mobile card reader when you sign up. You can also opt for a chip-and-swipe reader or a chip-and-tap reader that comes with a charging stand for $79.99. PayPal Here charges 2.7% per swipe for card-present transactions. Keyed transactions are 3.5% plus a fixed fee.

    See related: Square vs. PayPal Here: What’s best for your business?

    There is another quick and easy way to accept credit cards through your invoicing software. If you use QuickBooks, FreshBooks or Xero accounting, you can offer customers the option of paying by credit card by selecting that option on your invoices. If you normally invoice your coaching clients this way, it may be the simplest way to accept credit cards.

    For customers who simply want to pay electronically and not specifically by credit card, you might also check out Zelle, a bank-to-bank transfer system that allows a customer to pay you in cash electronically. There are no fees. However, the customer has to have the cash available to do this, as Zelle doesn’t accept credit cards.

    In-store vs. online payments

    If you want to accept in-store payments, you will need a point-of-sale system or a mobile system such as Clover, Square or PayPal. Your merchant processing provider will typically be able to provide you with the equipment you need to swipe, dip and key in transactions.

    When deciding how you will process transactions, it’s important to consider what the flow of activity is like in your place of business. If you operate a store, it may be most efficient to have a countertop point of sale system. However, in a restaurant where customers pay at the table, you might do better with a system that allows customers to pay on a tablet.

    Bottom line

    Some business owners are reluctant to accept credit cards because they don’t want to pay the fees. It’s not possible to avoid credit card processing fees, but it’s important to consider the cost of not accepting credit cards.

    Will a potential customer opt out of working altogether if you don’t make it easy to pay – and miss out on your services as a result? If that’s the case, it may be worthwhile to accept credit cards.

    Every customer has different habits when it comes to making payments. The more varied the payment options you offer, the easier it will be for customers to choose to do business with you.

    Source: creditcards.com

    Best Cities for Women’s Pay – 2021 Edition

    Image shows a woman who is wearing glasses sitting at a desk in front of a laptop and removing a paycheck from an envelope in her hands. SmartAsset analyzed data to find the best cities for women's pay.

    Women’s earnings in the U.S. make up about 81% of men’s, according to Census Bureau data from the past several years. Though this figure has steadily grown over the course of decades, researchers predict the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could set back pay for women. Bureau of Labor Statistics data unequivocally shows that the COVID-19 crisis has had a disproportionate impact on women’s participation in the labor force and unemployment, and many analysts theorize this will carry over to women’s earnings.

    In this study, SmartAsset uncovered the best cities for women’s pay leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. We compared the 150 largest U.S. across four metrics: median earnings for women, growth in women’s earnings, women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings and the change in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. Both metrics that examine changes over time consider the years 2017 and 2019. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

    This is SmartAsset’s third annual study on the best cities for women’s pay. Check out the 2020 version here.

    Key Findings

    • Midwestern cities lag. Among the top 10 cities for women’s pay, the Northeast, South and West are all represented. There are two cities in the Northeast, three in the South and five in the West. The first Midwest city in our ranking, however, is Overland Park, Kansas, coming in at 19th. Though both Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio squeeze into our top 25, women’s earnings fall significantly short of men’s. The pay gap in all three Midwest cities in our top 25 is greater than 10%.
    • Median earnings for women do not equal or surpass men’s earnings in any city in our study. Last year, we found that median earnings for women were equal to or exceed median earnings for men in four cities: Yonkers, New York; Spring Valley, Nevada; Tempe, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado. Though Sacramento, California has the highest women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings this year, it is still at 99.05%.

    1. Raleigh, NC

    Raleigh, North Carolina ranks in the top quartile of cities for all four metrics in our study. It has the 32nd-highest median earnings for women (about $50,300), and women’s earnings make up the 10th-highest percentage of men’s earnings (almost 96%). Between 2017 and 2019, Raleigh had the sixth-greatest increase in earnings for women (18.62%) and fourth-highest increase in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (13.05%).

    2. Tacoma, WA

    Women in Tacoma, Washington earn roughly $49,700 on average. Though this figure does not fall in the top fifth of the study, Tacoma ranks within the top 15 cities for our other three metrics: Women’s earnings increased by more than 17% between 2017 and 2019 and women’s earnings make up about 93% of men’s earnings – almost 10% higher than in 2017.

    3. Huntington Beach, CA

    Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings increased the most in Huntington Beach, California compared to any other city in our study. Census Bureau data shows that the gender pay gap closed by almost 16% between 2017 and 2019. Huntington Beach also has the 12th-highest median earnings for women, at $61,148.

    4. Sacramento, CA

    Sacramento, California has the smallest pay gap of all 150 cities in our study. In 2019, women’s earnings made up 99.05% of men’s earnings. This figure is 7.27% higher than it was 2017. As a gross figure, median earnings for women in Sacramento are about $50,400, 31st-highest of the cities we considered.

    5. Jersey City, NJ

    Earnings for women in Jersey City, New Jersey grew by the second-highest rate of any city in the study. Between 2017 and 2019, median women’s earnings increased by 22.82%. As a result of that growth, 2019 median earnings for women in Jersey City are the seventh-highest overall, at $62,530.

    6. St. Petersburg, FL

    Women’s earnings in St. Petersburg, Florida have grown substantially over the past couple years. In 2017, median earnings for women were less than $40,400, and in 2019, they were greater than $45,700 – marking a two-year growth of 13.39%, 19th-highest in our study. Relative to men, women in St. Petersburg earn about 8% less on average.

    7. Honolulu, HI

    Honolulu, Hawaii ranks in the top third of our study for all four metrics we considered. It has the 38th-highest median earnings for women (about $47,700) and ranks 45th-best for women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (88.51%). Between 2017 and 2019, the capital of Hawaii had the 20th-greatest increase in women’s earnings (13.24%) and 19th-largest change in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (almost 7%).

    8. Portland, OR

    From 2017 to 2019, median earnings for women in Portland, Oregon increased by 18.40% – the third-highest increase of any city in our top 10 and seventh-largest overall.  With that increase, Portland has the 17th-highest 2019 median earnings for women, at more than $55,200.

    9. Baltimore, MD

    Baltimore, Maryland ranks in the top 20 cities of the study for two metrics: women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (92.31%) and growth in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (6.47%). Census Bureau data from 2019 shows that median earnings for women in Baltimore are about $47,500, 39th-highest across all 150 cities in our study.

    10. Boston, MA

    Boston, Massachusetts rounds out our list of the top cities for women’s pay. Women’s earnings in Boston are the 11th-highest in our study, at roughly $61,700. Boston additionally ranks in the top 25 for women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (91.88%) and the two-year growth in women’s earnings (12.23%).

    Data and Methodology

    To find the best cities for women’s pay, SmartAsset looked at the 150 largest cities in the U.S. We compared those cities across four metrics:

    • Median earnings for women. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
    • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. This is median earnings for women divided by median earnings for men. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
    • Growth in women’s earnings. This is the change in median earnings for women from 2017 to 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
    • Growth in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. This is the difference between women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings in 2017 and 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.

    In all cases, earnings figures are for full-time workers 16 years and older.

    To determine our final list, we ranked each city in every metric, giving a full weighting to all metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

    Tips for Maximizing Your Paycheck

    • Contribute to a 401(k). A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan in which you divert pre-tax portions of your monthly paycheck into a retirement account. Some employers will also match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary, meaning that if you chose not to contribute, you are essentially leaving money on the table. Take a look at our 401(k) calculator to see how you and your employer’s contributions can add up.
    • Consider professional help. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

    Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

    Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/AndreyPopov

    The post Best Cities for Women’s Pay – 2021 Edition appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

    Source: smartasset.com