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Pick the best travel credit card like a pro

 

Travel rewards have become about much more than just earning airline miles, and if you’ve been carrying the same card for years, you might be missing out on better rewards for the same or lower fee as banks and airlines fight for your business.

If you don’t want to think much, and just want one card with a good offer, a comparison site like MileCards.com will let you enter your spending habits and tell you which cards earn you the most miles, or you can browse a list of the best travel credit cards.

But travel pros who have racked up millions of miles diversify their loyalty to reap the most rewards.

Gary Leff, an air travel expert who writes the View From the Wing blog, suggests three reasons to get a card. The first reason is the sign on bonus, which can offer significant value. The second is to take advantage of perks offered by the card, including free bags and priority boarding. And third, you should use a card that lets you rack up miles most quickly based on your spending pattern.

Very few cards offer do all three of these things well, so experts often hold more than one credit card to get the most out of things.

For example, many of the airline branded cards offer a first free checked bag. If you tend to use the same airline a couple times a year and check a bag, you can save the annual fee in bag fees, plus get perks like priority boarding. But these cards rarely offer you the most miles for every dollar you spend.

Instead, consider putting your spending on a card that earns transferable points, while keeping the airline card for the perks.

Transferable points are a favorite of Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy blog. They let you book travel two ways. First, you can transfer them into real airline miles with several airlines. Second, you can choose to use them like cash to book flights on any airline.

That makes them really flexible – you can add to the miles you’ve earned by flying, or you can use them like cash if you don’t want to deal with the rules of airline miles for a trip. Chase, American Express, and Citibank each have cards that offer transferable points. Many offer special bonuses on spending categories like dining and gas, so they can earn points more quickly than a single airline card.

Regardless of what card you choose – get to know the benefits. Many travel credit cards offer coverage that’s similar to the travel insurance airlines and travel agencies will try to sell you. You could be reimbursed if you need to cancel a trip because you get very ill, or get covered for a hotel if your flight gets delayed. There’s no extra charge – just book your flight with the card to activate the coverage. These benefits aren’t …read more

Read more here: Pick the best travel credit card like a pro

Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

By Dr Penny Pincher…

Frugal people who pay off their debt and achieve financial independence don’t succeed by accident. They establish habits that allow them to consistently reach their goals over the long haul.
During the past few years as a personal finance blogger and author, I have noticed that the most successful frugal people tend to follow a common set of habits. These same habits remind me of the traits that Stephen Covey detailed in his popular 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For this article, I kept the original seven habits, but updated them for achieving financial independence today.
What are the seven habits that allow some people to excel at being frugal?
1. Be Proactive
Frugal people are proactive about their money, taking action to monitor and control spending and maximize income. They find ways to spend less and reduce expenses – even if it requires effort and creative thinking. They direct most of the money they save from reduced expenses into savings and investments for long term goals.
Although the first thing that comes to mind with frugality is saving money, many frugal people maximize income through side hustles or by generating passive income in addition to controlling their spending. An extra dollar saved or an extra dollar earned both contribute favorably to the bottom line.
Frugal people know how much money they have coming in and how much is going out, often with great precision. This is accomplished by creating and following a budget and proactively monitoring spending. They focus on what they can control within their budget to achieve financial success.
2. Begin With the End in Mind
Why do frugal people work so hard to control spending and keep track of their money? Are they simply not interested in buying things? On the contrary, most frugal people are striving to reach financial independence so that they can travel or launch a second career or to have plenty of money to buy the things that matter to them. Frugal people are willing to worry about money now so they don’t need to worry about it later.
Surprisingly, many frugal people care more about their time than their money. Saving money buys financial independence, which buys time to do whatever you want. Frugal people want freedom to use their time as they wish and not be locked into working at a job until they reach old age.
Frugal people begin with the end in mind. The end they want to achieve is financial independence. With that end in mind, they make a plan to reach the goal and follow it every day. The sacrifices along the way are worth reaching the goal.
3. Put First Things First
What is the first thing you pay every month? Do you pay your mortgage first? Perhaps you pay your utility bill or car payment first. Frugal people pay something else first – themselves.
Paying yourself first means that you invest in your retirement fund or other savings accounts first, then you …read more

Read more here: 7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

Category: budgeting, frugal, money, personal finance, saving

How Credit Inquiries Affect Your Credit Score

By Wise Bread

Have you noticed inquiries on your credit report? Not sure what they mean? Soft and hard inquiries are the result of potential creditors assessing your credit report after you’ve applied for things such as a credit card, mortgage, or car loan. Hard and soft inquiries each affect your credit differently. Read on to learn more:

What Are Soft Inquiries?

Soft inquiries typically occur when your credit report is pulled for a background check. This can occur when you are applying for a new job, getting pre-approved for lending offers, and even when you check your own credit score.

While they will usually show up on your credit report, this isn’t always the case. Plus, they won’t affect your credit score, so you don’t need to be concerned about them.

What Are Hard Inquiries?

Hard inquiries occur when a lender pulls your credit report to make a lending decision. This takes place most commonly when you apply for a loan, credit card, or mortgage. However, there are other reasons that your credit may reflect a hard inquiry, such as when you request a credit limit increase. They can, in some cases, lower your FICO score by one to five points and can remain on your credit report for up to two years. Typically, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the likelier it is to affect your score.

Multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time can cause significant damage to your credit. When multiple hard inquiries come through at once, the credit bureaus assume you are desperate for credit or can’t qualify for the credit you need. Any future creditors may also take this information and assume that you are a high risk borrower, which will reduce your chances of getting the credit you need. In fact, according to myFICO, people with six hard inquiries or more on their credit are up to eight times as likely to file for bankruptcy, compared to people with no inquiries – meaning that more inquiries usually means greater risk.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are certain instances that are gray areas, which may result in a soft or hard inquiry depending on the situation (such as when you rent a car or sign up for new cable or Internet service). If you aren’t sure about whether your actions will result in a soft or hard inquiry, you can simply ask the financial institution you are requesting financing from.

Another exception is when you are rate shopping. Generally, your FICO score will only record one single inquiry within a 14-45 day period if you are shopping for the best mortgage, auto loan, or student loan rates. By doing all of your shopping for the same type of loan within a two-week span, you can reduce the effect on your credit.

Disputing an Unauthorized Inquiry

If a hard inquiry occurred without your permission, you may be able to dispute it. This can be done by calling or writing the creditor and asking them to remove the unauthorized hard inquiry from your credit …read more

Read more here: How Credit Inquiries Affect Your Credit Score

Category: credit score, economy, hard inquiry, soft inquiry

Get financially fit with a home gym — Savings Experiment

We all need exercise, but that doesn’t mean you need a pricey gym membership to stay in shape. We’ve rounded up 3 essential items you can use to get fit without ever leaving the house.
Let’s start with a little strength training.

If you’re aiming to gain functional strength rather than big muscles, try using resistance bands. The bands may look simple, but they’re actually very versatile. Just hook them on a door, table or any immovable object and you can do a whole range of full body exercises.

Sets can cost anywhere from $10 to $150, so shop around to see which type works for you.

But all the muscles in the world won’t help you without a little endurance, which is why a good jump rope should also be on your list.

They’ve been used by athletes and boxers for years to build conditioning, speed and core strength. And best of all, they only cost about $10 and travel easily.

Last but certainly not least, there’s the stability ball. It’s one of the most important things to have in your home gym and you can find it for as low as $10. Ab crunches, squats, hamstring curls – this simple ball can do it all, while improving your core strength and balance.

So depending on what your goals are, you can still get fit and save big by incorporating these fitness essentials into your home gym.

Just don’t let your favorite TV show distract you!

Related: 6 low-cost aids for your fitness program

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Category: exercise equipment, home gym, savings experiment

Considering a Fixer-Upper? 15 Ways to Avoid a Money Pit

By Money Talks News..

Fixer-uppers are back in style. During the housing boom, few homebuyers wanted to bother with renovation projects. New homes and those in move-in condition were the ideal.

That’s still true for many buyers. But others are finding that, done correctly, remodeling a fixer-upper can save a lot of money. Fixers are getting attention because:

  • Home prices are high in many cities, and a fixer-upper may be the only affordable choice in decent neighborhoods.
  • Home decorating and improvement TV shows inspire many buyers to turn to remodeling to get a home perfectly suited to them.
  • Lovers of period homes always want to restore older structures.

However, the wrong remodeling project can become a money pit that strips your bank account right down to the studs. Here are 15 ways to identify the fixer uppers worth your time and money:

1. Make cool calculations

Bring a cold analytical eye when shopping for a home to renovate. Put your emotions in the back seat while you assess each home’s possibilities.

2. Love the floor plan

Look for a floor plan you can live with. Moving load-bearing walls is an expensive proposition and generally to be avoided. SFGate tells how to identify load-bearing walls.

3. Start with the basement

Inspect a home thoroughly, inside and out. Check inside and outside the basement or foundation for exposed wires and pipes, cracks in the foundation, or water pooling around the home.

“The biggest problems in a house typically arise as a result of poor stability in the structure or foundation,” contractor Tyson Kunz told Bankrate.

Wise Bread says:

[A basement] can provide valuable clues on the quality of construction; condition of the HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems; and how well previous owners have maintained the building. Avoid sagging floor joists or unstable supports, ancient heating and AC systems, leaking water heaters, and electrical panels with loose wires.

HouseLogic and About.com offer more details on inspecting basements.

4. Inspect the roof

Get a home inspector or trusted roofing specialist to tell you if the home needs a new roof, which costs $20,000 to $40,000 and up.

In an article on assessing fixer-uppers, Consumer Reports says:

Runaway water can wreak havoc on any home, and a leaky roof is its quickest way in. If the home has an asphalt roof, look for cracked, curled and missing shingles. Gutters, downspouts and leader pipes should also be in place to collect rainwater and channel it away from the house.

5. Scrutinize bathrooms

Bathrooms deserve special attention because leaks cause rot and structural damage.

“Sloppy showers lead to repeated occurrences of water on the floor that seep through into the floor of the bathroom and adjacent rooms,” says HowToManGuide.com.

6. Avoid ancient plumbing and wiring

The presence of these elderly building materials is a sign of trouble:

  • Galvanized steel pipes: Sediment can build up in the pipes, and they may leak and corrode.
  • Aluminum wiring: It’s a potential fire hazard.

Replacing a home’s plumbing and wiring are …read more

Read more here: Considering a Fixer-Upper? 15 Ways to Avoid a Money Pit

Category: budgeting, buying a house, finance, first house, home improvement, renting an apartment

Don’t Skip These 8 Tax Breaks for Students

By Damian Davila ..

Dear students, I’m sure that you have heard the news: Every single year the average student loan debt per borrower is increasing. For example, the average class of 2015 graduate with student loan debt will owe a little more than $35,000.

Still, there is a silver lining: College students and grads often qualify for significant tax breaks and deductions. To minimize your tax bill and increase your chances of a refund, here are eight tax deductions and breaks worth knowing about.

1. 529 Plans

If your parents or other donor started a 529 plan for you, you’re in luck. Also known as qualified tuition programs, 529 plans allow individuals to save for education expenses on a tax-deferred basis and allow a designated beneficiary (ideally, that’s you) to use those funds, including interest gains, for qualified expenses free of taxes or penalties.

But few people know that you can also start a 529 plan for yourself. Yes, if you anticipate returning to school for any reason, you can save for related expenses in your own 529 plan – at any age. The list of qualified education expenses goes beyond tuition and academic fees, including expenses for room and board, transportation, equipment, and accommodations for individuals with special needs, so adults can benefit, too. (See also: The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans)

2. Qualified IRA Distributions

Qualified distributions taken from a traditional IRA for use in qualified higher education expenses create no tax burden or penalty for you, assuming you only withdraw contributions, and not any earnings on the contributions. (Note: If your spouse, parent, or grandparent takes distributions from their own plans to fund your educational expenses, they would have to pay applicable income taxes on those funds, but don’t have to pay the early distribution penalty which applies if under age 59 1/2.)

3. American Opportunity Credit

Replacing the Hope Scholarship credit, the American Opportunity Credit allows you to cover up to $2,500 of undergraduate college costs, including:

  • 100% of your first $2,000 qualified education expenses; and
  • 25% of next $2,000 qualified education expenses.

Keep in mind that you can claim the American Opportunity tax credit on your own academic expenses or on those of your spouse and kids. This means that you can claim up to $2,500 per student living in your household. However, to be eligible for the full credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be $80,000 or less (those making more receive a reduced amount of the credit).

Another advantage of this tax credit is that 40% of it is refundable, meaning that the IRS will issue a refund for that amount even if you don’t owe any federal income tax.

4. Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit allows you to deduct up to 20% of your first $10,000 in qualified education expenses, up to $2,000 per taxpayer.

Unlike the American Opportunity Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit isn’t refundable. You can use it …read more

Read more here: Don’t Skip These 8 Tax Breaks for Students

Category: college, millennials, students, tax, tax breaks, taxes

Simple plumbing tricks you can (really!) do yourself — Savings Experiment

Whether it’s a problem with your sink, toilet or pipes, a typical plumbing service call can set you back about $150.Filed under: Savings Experiment, Home & Garden
But there’s hope: Some of these issues are actually easy and inexpensive to fix on your own. And if we can do it, so can you.

Leaky toilets are a common issue and can raise your water bill. But how do you know you if even have a leak?

Here’s a simple test: Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait 15 minutes. If you see any color appear in the water below, chances are you have a leak. The culprit may be a worn-out flapper in the tank. Luckily, they’re easily replaceable for less than $3.

The water level is another thing than can cause some problems. If you’re toilet’s running, the level is too high. Weak flush? It’s probably too low.

But that’s an easy fix too. If you open the lid of your tank, in most models, you’ll see a fill valve on the left side. Turn the screw on top of the fill valve to adjust how high or low you need your water to be.

Finally, don’t be so quick to throw out that leaky showerhead. It could just mean you need a little plumber’s tape. Remove the showerhead, and clean off any old tape from the ring. Then simply wrap new tape in its place in a clockwise direction so it doesn’t come off when you screw it back on.

And there you have it! Now that you know these simple tricks, try them out — and save the plumber for the bigger stuff.

Related: 10 cheap home fixes

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Read more here: Simple plumbing tricks you can (really!) do yourself — Savings Experiment

Category: leaky showerhead, leaky toilet, plumbing repair, savings experiment

10 Money Moves to Make After a Promotion

By Damian Davila …

Congratulations on your promotion! You’ve just made another step toward a successful future.

Still, this isn’t the time to become complacent. A promotion comes along with new challenges and tasks. To help you make the very best out of your new job, here are the 10 money moves to make after a promotion.

1. Revisit Your Tax Withholding

Most promotions don’t come with just a title upgrade, they come with a well-deserved raise. If that’s your case, calculate whether or not you need to adjust your W-4 form and submit it to your HR department.

Let’s assume that you file a joint return with your spouse and your combined taxable income was $90,000. Your tax due would be $18,293.75 ($5,156.25 + 25% of the amount over $37,450). After your promotion, your new combined taxable income is now $100,000. Your new tax bill is $21,071.25 ($18,481.25 + 28% of the amount over $90,750). Assuming no offsets to your salary bump and no changes to your W-4, you would be $2,777.50 short of your tax bill! (See also: Top Three Tax Facts to Know for 2016)

Use the IRS Withholding Calculator and determine if you need to update your W-4.

2. Calculate Vesting of Company Shares

Vested company shares are another way that your employer could reward you. Very often, these restricted stock units vest over time, meaning that you gain ownership of those shares the longer you stay. The idea is that your employer wants you to perform well and remain with the company. Contact your HR department to find out the vesting schedule of your company shares so that you know how much you would actually take with you if you were to part ways with your employer.

3. Time Profit Sharing and Bonus Checks

When your promotion includes a large bonus or profit sharing check, pay attention to the date that the
payment will be issued on. An elective deferral contribution to your retirement accounts must be deposited by the tax filing due date (April 19, 2016 for Maine and Massachusetts residents and April 18, 2016 for everybody else). For 2015 and 2016, the contribution limit to 401K, 403B, and most 457 plans is $18,000, and to regular and Roth IRA plans it’s $5,500. If you’re age 50 or over, you can make an additional $6,000 in catch-up contributions. When you haven’t met the applicable contribution limit, take advantage of that windfall to fatten up your retirement accounts.

4. Identify Additional Costs

With great power comes great responsibility, Peter Parker! Take stock of the responsibilities of your new position and determine how much additional time you may need to perform those tasks successfully. Having to stay a bit longer at work may increase several costs, including paying higher fees for babysitters or preschools, and dining out more often than before the promotion. Your first weeks in your new position will provide you an idea of how much your budget will need to adjust.

5. Determine …read more

Read more here: 10 Money Moves to Make After a Promotion

Category: income, money, new job, personal finance, promotion, salary

7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

By Tim Lemke …

You’re in your 30s now. If you’re finally looking to get settled in your financial life, you may want to consider ways to build wealth over the long term. But that checking account alone isn’t gonna cut it. It’s time to examine the options out there for someone in their 30s who finally has a little bit of money to invest.

Here are seven essential investment accounts all 30-somethings should have.

1. 401K, If Available to You

If you’re employed full-time, your company may offer a retirement plan that gives you access to a number of mutual funds and other investments, plus the great tax advantages that come with it. Under a 401K, 403B, or similar plan, contributions are deducted from your pre-tax income, and most employers will match a certain percentage of what you put in. Now that fewer employers are offering pensions, the 401K has become the primary vehicle for saving for retirement. Pumping cash into this account while you’re still relatively young gives your investments plenty of time to rise in value and give you a sizable nest egg. Even better, your investment is tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals.

2. Traditional IRA

You don’t necessarily need a traditional Individual Retirement Account if you have a 401K with an employer match. But if you have 401K from an old employer, it might make sense to roll it into an IRA, because you have a much broader choice of investments to choose from – many with lower fees. With an IRA, you can invest in practically anything, including individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and even commodities. Traditional IRAs are also great for people who are self-employed or otherwise don’t have access to a 401K. Like a 401K, your contributions are deducted from your taxable income. You can open an IRA at most discount brokers such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and E*TRADE.

3. Roth IRA

This account is a little bit like a 401K in reverse. The tax advantage is on the back end, when you can withdraw money upon retirement without paying tax on the earnings. That’s because contributions to a Roth IRA come from earnings after tax, unlike 401Ks, which draw on pre-tax income. Under a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually, and you can withdraw contributions (but not your gains) before retirement age without paying a penalty.

4. Taxable Brokerage Account

While your main focus should be investing in tax-advantaged accounts that are designed for retirement, it’s good to have some investments available in this type of account due to the flexibility. You don’t need to wait until retirement age to access funds in this account, for one thing. That means you can use it to boost your income now, through the sale of stock or the gain of dividends. If you hold on to investments in a taxable account for a long time (generally over a year), you’ll pay only the long-term capital gains tax (mostly likely 15%) …read more

Read more here: 7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

Category: 30s, 401ks, budgeting, economy, investments, IRAs, personal finance, savings

Mortgage Rates Higher After Jobs Report

Mortgage rates moved only moderately higher today after the Employment Situation report came out much stronger than expected. The all-important jobs data showed payroll growth of 242k in February compared to a median forecast of 190k. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent despite more people joining or re-entering the labor force. Economic data is one of the most important cues for the bond markets that underlie mortgage rates. Stronger data tends to put upward pressure on rates and today’s was no exception. That said, today’s movement wasn’t especially bigger than any other day spent moving higher over the past week. Indeed, rates were likely able to avoid a sharper move for precisely that reason: they’ve been consistently moving higher. The most prevalent conventional 30yr fixed …read more

Read more here: Mortgage Rates Higher After Jobs Report

Category: currency, dollar, economy, federal reserve, gas prices, inflation, interest rates, janet yellen, job market, jobs, monetary policy, oil prices

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