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Many Americans fail to plan for retirement. Gone are the days when an employee could just show up for work for 30 years and then collect a sizable pension for the next 30 years while they sat on a beach or hit the golf links. Today, workers are more likely to have access to a defined contribution plan. These plans have only what the employee puts into them, along with any employer matching funds. They are not guaranteed payoffs that last until death. Recent polls show that 60 percent of Americans have less than $25,000 put away for retirement. Millennials are not in any better shape for the most part. Only 17 percent expect to retire with 80 percent of their working income available.

The Time to Start Saving Is Now

It does not matter if one is 25 or 55. If an individual has access to an income, he or she should start to save money toward retirement now if they have not already done so. Of course, the amount of income they have will to some extent dictate the amount of savings they are able to sock away. The reason saving today is better than saving tomorrow is related to the time value of money. A quick check of a standard retirement calculator will show that an individual who saves $5,000 per year from ages 25 to 35 and then leaves the money alone until age 65 will have a larger nest egg available at age 65 than one who started saving at 35 and saved $5,000 per year, provided they earned the same 8 percent rate of return on their investments. This example just goes to show that using the power of time to your advantage is one of the best money moves a person can make.

Ways to Save

Many Americans think they make too little to save. If they fail to save, they will have too little to live in retirement. Therefore, the cost of not saving is great. There are several ways to start a retirement account. Some are sponsored by employers. Others receive all of their funding from individuals.

401k Accounts

One of the more common retirement savings vehicles is the 401k account. These have been around for several years, and they provide a tax-sheltered way to save for retirement. Many employers offer these accounts, and all an employee has to do to start saving is fill out an application form and then give an authorization for a specific deduction that can be a certain dollar amount each pay period or a certain percentage of pay.

The best time for employees to use a 401k for retirement investing is when their employer offers to match a certain percentage. One of the more common matches are 100 percent of the first 3 percent of the employee’s salary. Therefore, an employee who makes $2,000 a month would not have only $60 per month invested. With the employer’s match, that money would get an automatic 100 percent return to $120. Employer matches can be less than dollar-for-dollar, but it is always a good idea to invest at least up to the match.

Traditional 401k accounts also have a tax advantage. The income tax owed on this income is deferred until the money in the account is withdrawn. This can cut tax expenditures today so that the impact on current net pay is lower.

IRAs

Individual Retirement Accounts, more commonly known as IRAs, are another option that can benefit those who do not have the benefit of an employer match in a 401k. The traditional IRA will cut down on an individual’s taxable income during the year he or she makes a contribution. Like the traditional 401k, the tax is due on earnings when the money is withdrawn.

Roth IRAs are a newer addition to the retirement planning stable. Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deferred. They are funded with after-tax income. The benefit comes when the holder of the IRA withdraws funds from the account. Any gains are tax-free. This could conceivably lead to a very large payout in the future. Those who start investing in an IRA early can definitely benefit over the longer term more than someone who begins investing later in life.

Plan to Save

Regardless of which avenue an individual takes, it is important to set a plan. It is even more important to actually stick with the plan. Those who are able to stick with a plan for the long run will be able to build a solid nest egg by retirement.

Keep from Debt

One thing that can really derail a retirement plan is debt. Interest costs cut the available funds for retirement savings. It is much better for an individual to have their money work for them than it is for them to have to work for money to pay for the privilege of borrowing money. Those who can avoid debt will be more likely to stick with their retirement plan.

The time to save for retirement is right now. Millennials and Gen Xers alike can benefit from starting as soon as possible. Even Baby Boomers who still work should be saving toward their eventual retirement. Those who have employer-sponsored plans that offer matching funds should go that route at least to the amount of the match. Those who do not have this benefit should open up a Roth IRA and start there. They might have to give up on cable or eating out a few times a month, but their future selves will definitely thank them for their discipline as they are able to thrive in their golden years.

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One of the most important parts of learning how to use credit is learning how to use it responsibly. A new credit card does should not mean out-of-control spending – as a matter of fact, people will quickly learn that they can spend more if they remain in control than if they splurge.

For anyone who is trying to control their impulse buying on those purchases that seem to sneak in under the radar, here are a few of the top ways to stop out-of-control spending.

Go into the grocery store with a list.

Shoppers who attend grocery stores and other ongoing shopping expenditures with a list have much better luck in sticking to a budget than people who walk into a store unsure of what they actually want to purchase. Keeping a list tends to focus the mind on those items; as such, the buyer will literally not see those impulse items that are placed in strategic locations around the store in order to increase the chances of a purchase.

Clip coupons out of the Sunday paper.

Although there are many other ways to get news more quickly than the daily newspaper, there is no better place to get local coupons. The Internet is great for chain stores; however, for buyers who are looking to get discounts on things such as groceries and local warehouse staples, the Sunday paper is still the best place to look. As a matter of fact, the papers have begun to include more coupons in their Sunday editions simply because they recognize that this is the reason that they are able to stay in business. Clip those coupons before going to the store in order to save even more money on each trip.

Buy staples in bulk.

If you can make your purchases of groceries and things like underwear and T-shirts in bulk, then you can save more money for the luxuries that make your lifestyle great. Getting a warehouse membership is usually one of the best investments that an individual can make in this type of a lifestyle. Warehouse memberships allow people to make these stable purchases without having to spend a great deal of money at once. The staples will also last much longer, saving people money in the long run as well.

Detail uses for your credit cards.

For people with more than one credit card, a detailed plan for each of those financial devices is a great way to stop out-of-control spending. For instance, many individuals will have one credit card for emergencies only. Yet another credit card will be for gas and groceries. Another credit card will be for impulse purchases once a month. Credit cards that are meant for impulse purchases are usually paid back by the end of the month so that they do not carry a balance. This leads directly to the next tip:

Try not to carry a balance from month to month unless you absolutely have to.

Much of the burden of financial debt comes from interest payments and late fees rather than from principal payments. If it is at all possible, do not carry a month-to-month balance on impulse credit cards. Ideally, the only payments that should have interest-bearing accounts are long-term payments on large assets such as cars and houses.

More Serious Issues

For individuals who have dug themselves into a more serious financial hole, there are many steps that can be taken in order to bring back financial balance. Below are just a few of the ways in which an individual can help him or herself get back on the right financial track.

Debt management

Debt management is the first step in obtaining professional financial assistance with a budget. This is usually the first service that should be considered before any other type of professional financial help.

Debt management is not as invasive as other forms of credit management. The extent of the professional help will be for the financial professional to give you advice on a schedule and check in with you routinely. However, you will not be required to turn over any financial records to the professional, nor will you have any other records given to outside third parties.

Credit consolidation

Credit consolidation is a step between out-of-control spending and bankruptcy that has given many people options that they otherwise would not have had. Credit consolidation attempts to find a third-party creditor that will help to alleviate some of the debt that has accumulated over a period of time. Credit consolidation is usually only an option if there is more than $10,000 worth of debt and no viable, immediate income stream that can be directed towards paying off that debt.

Credit consolidation is also very helpful when there is an unexpected emergency in a household. Consolidation is useful for setting aside debt when there has been a death in the family, especially a breadwinner. Unexpected unemployment is also a reason to get debt consolidation services.

Some of the benefits of credit consolidation include lower monthly payments, a single bill rather than multiple payments to different companies and a barrier between the borrower and creditors that can alleviate some of the pressure that is usually involved with paying back a late account. Many creditors will also forgo late fees and other penalties if they see that a borrower is attempting to work with a credit consolidation company that is highly reputable. They are much more interested in getting some of their money back rather than overcharging fees and forcing the borrower into bankruptcy. Bankruptcy usually means that none of the money on account will be paid back, and the company must write the debt off as a total loss.

Depending on the individual situation of a borrower, there are many other ways that can be used to stop out-of-control spending. Some of these methods involve financial professionals; others are self employed methods of controlling a budget. Whatever methods are used, make sure that they are reputable and effective. There is no reason that any borrower should have to deal with the repercussions of out-of-control spending when there are so many ways to curb it before it becomes a huge problem.

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Are you interested in obtaining a credit card and not sure which type to get? Believe it or not, all credit cards are not created equal. During the first three months of 2014, more than 990 credit card offers were sent out – an indication of how many different types there really is. Depending on the type of credit card you get, there are differences in interest rates, fees and various options. Choosing the right credit card involves research, knowing what you want in a credit card and what’s available out there. Read this informative guide on what to look for in a credit card offer.

Type of Credit Cards Available

There are several types of credit cards being offered. Before you know what to look for in a credit card, it’s important to know what’s available. Here are the most common types of credit card offers.

  • Balance Transfer Credit Cards – These are the most popular credit cards because they allow borrowers to transfer balances from other credit cards onto this card. In many cases, transfer credit cards come with a 0% interest rate on purchasing for the first year. Although the upside of these cards is that they allow borrowers to pay off other credit cards, the downside is that they often card a transfer fee, which can add up to a substantial amount.
  • Convenience Check Credit Cards – These cards come with checks that consumers can write that are tied to credit cards. While convenient, they often come with a higher interest rate.
  • Cash-back or Rewards Credit Cards – These credit cards have been very popular since they first came out in the 1980s. They give back cash, often up to 5%, on every dollar spent on purchases. They often specify what type of purchases they cover, e.g. groceries, gasoline, home improvement supplies, etc. Some also give airline miles or points to be used towards other purchases.
  • Secured Credit Cards – This type of credit card is typically used by individuals with no credit for those who have bad credit but are trying to rebuild their credit. The borrower generally has to put some money into an account to be used as collateral or security. Secured credit cards generally have a higher interest rate.
  • Gas Cards – These credit cards are used for purchases at gas stations. They’re usually either general or brand-specific, which means consumers must make their purchases at a certain brand of gas station. Both offer rewards or rebates based on the gas and/or merchandise purchases that were made that month.
  • Basic Credit Cards – These are what the name entails. They’re a basic credit card that allows consumers to make purchases and pay the money back in monthly installments. They don’t offer rewards, rebates or cash back. Interest rates on basic credit cards vary from low to extremely high, depending on the card and the issuer.
  • Brand-specific Credit Cards – This type of credit card is used at specific places of business such as hotels, restaurants, department stores and can only be used at that specific store or establishment.

What to Look for in a Credit Card Offer

What a consumer looks for in a credit card depends a lot on what the card is needed for as well as their spending habits.

  • Interest Rates – This is probably the most important thing to look for in a credit card because it can make a big difference in determining the monthly payment. Consumers are often shocked when they see their final balances, which are much higher than their initial purchases. Ask these three questions.
  1. After the initial low interest rate, who much will the interest be?
  2. How long does the 0% or low interest rate last?
  3. Do they offer a fixed or variable interest rate?
  • Annual Fees – Many consumers get credit cards with low interest rates only to discover later that the card is bombarded with various high annual fees. Some charge processing fees, servicing fees, activation fees and more, and these often more than make up for the low interest. Prior to signing up for a credit card, consumers should double check about annual fees.
  • Credit Limit – Consumers who only need a credit card for occasional use are not going to be too concerned about the credit limit. On the other hand, those who have a large purchase in mind are going to need one with a larger credit limit. However, new borrowers or those who might be compulsive shoppers should start off with credit cards that have a low credit limit to avoid getting too far in debt.
  • Know the Fine Print – When choosing a credit card, interest rates may be the single deciding factor to the consumer. In fact, many consumers check interest rates and nothing else when applying for a credit card However, just because the credit card comes with a low interest rate doesn’t mean that it’s not going to get their money some other way. Consumers should read all the fine print before signing their name on the dotted line.
  1. Are they charging fees for cash advances?
  2. Do they allow transfers?
  3. What type of late payment fees will there be?
  4. What about over-limit fees?
  5. What type of transaction fees do they carry?
  6. Are consumers automatically enrolled in credit protection services?
  • Grace Period – The grace period, which begins on the day consumers make a purchase and goes to the day it begins accruing interest, can also play a big part in how much consumers end up paying for credit card purchases. Believe it or not, some credit cards have no grace period, which means they begin charging interest on the same day purchases are made. What makes this unattractive is that it makes it very hard to pay these credit cards off because they’re constantly accruing more interest. Consumers should look for credit cards that offer the longest grace period.

Summary

Credit cards can be a very helpful financial tool when used properly and in conjunction with good spending habits. Hopefully, this article can help consumers make wise choices not only when using their credit cards but also when choosing a credit card. They should keep in mind that just because a credit card company is advertising that they offer the best credit card is no guarantee that it really is the best or the best for them. Another point to remember is that the best credit card offers do not have to send flyers in the mail to get customers – customers come to them!

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Today’s world is filled with Siri, in-car navigation assistance, Google, Yelp, and a variety of other tools to help make managing one’s life fast and easy. However, what if there was an option that combined all of the above conveniences using a real-live person? This service is known as a credit card’s concierge service, and while it has been around since the late 90’s, it is now more widely spread and accessible to a greater amount of customers. When the credit card’s concierge service started, it was primarily for extremely high-limit credit cards, but now it is included in more moderate-limit cards, helping the credit card companies stay competitive with the likes of smart phones. The personalized services that the concierge provides are numerous and many of them are included below.

Making Restaurant Suggestions and Reservations

A customer’s credit card concierge service is a great resource to help make dinner reservations, especially if one is traveling and he or she is not familiar with the area. When relying on an internet search to find a restaurant, the user is unable to personalize their request in the same manner he or she can with the live customer service representative. Customers may let their concierge service know certain parameters, such as the fact that they want an inexpensive BBQ restaurant in downtown that is open past 9 p.m. If customers are looking for very specific requests, the service will need ample time to do research. This means that credit card users might not be able to ask for recommendations an hour before they want to eat. Once the recommendations are received, the customer can call back to get the concierge to make his or her reservations, or he or she can call themselves, as the number should be included in whatever form of communication he or she chose their restaurant suggestions to come in. However, a possible benefit of having a credit card company make the reservation is that they may have an ongoing relationship with certain restaurants, snagging the customer arrangements at a place that is being advertised as booked. While this is not a given, it can’t hurt to relax and let a customer service representative call and try and book a table.

Planning Entertainment for the Customer’s Weekend

Whether it is a weekend concert or a weekday baseball game, the credit card’s concierge service is able to help find and book tickets. While the service is not able to provide backstage passes or free tickets, other preferences may be available. These might include knowing about pre-sale tickets, offering preferred seating options, or finding tickets to an event that is being labeled as “sold-out.” When it comes to booking tickets to a show or sporting event, the perks of using the concierge service are evident. Without a customer’s credit card concierge service, finding pre-sales and preferred seating tickets may take a great deal of extra time spent on research and extra money spent on upgrades. Credit cards like to reward customers for using their services. This is something that does not exist with Siri, Google, or Bing, as these search engines yield the same general search results for every internet user.

Planning and Booking a Trip

When looking to plan a regional or international trip, the credit card’s concierge service is the customer’s ally. The service can help recommend quality hotels and book plane tickets. This can be extremely useful in international travel, because the customer may not have a way to confirm that a hotel or restaurant is as high-quality as the website or brochure boasts. Every dining and hotel experience is precious when traveling abroad, because it may be the only time the customer gets to visit a certain country. Through utilizing the concierge service, the customer can be more assured that suitable accommodations will be made. It is true that one has every capability of visiting travel sites and booking their own trip; however, if customers desire first-class travel and hotel services, the credit card company is a beneficial tool to procure these requests.

Shopping

A less direct method of using the concierge service is to price shop and locate future purchases. A customer can call their credit card’s concierge service and request them to find the lowest priced HDTV at stores in a specific city. This will save the customer time and money as they go to make their purchase. However, price shopping is not the main function of a concierge service, so if finding the absolute lowest price on an item is of great importance to you, make sure to state this in the beginning of the call to a customer service representative. A concierge service may also be able to tell you if a specific store has a hard to find item. As with any recommendation of the service, it may take a little time to yield results.

Navigation

If a customer is lost in a foreign country or downtown in their own city, the concierge service may be able to help them find their way. It is important to remember that the concierge service is utilized over the phone, so if a blue tooth is in place; it is a hands-free service. This is much safer than trying to search for directions on one’s phone while driving. It will be helpful for the customer to know their current location or any surrounding landmarks, as the concierge does not have access to the location of the customer’s phone, as a traditional GPS would. Especially if one lost overseas, it will be reassuring and helpful to have a customer service representative who speaks the customer’s language assist in navigating him or her back to their hotel or car.

Live Customer Service Representatives

Perhaps the greatest benefit of using the concierge service on one’s phone is that the customer gets to speak with an actual person. Yes, search engines and Siri are sometimes faster, but they cannot work out specific details like a real-life person can. If the customer has specific parameters or a unique situation that they need help with, talking to someone at the credit card company can help them find exactly what they are looking for without searching through hundreds on online results and guessing as to which is the best answer. Over the years, people have taken the backseat in customer service as the internet has taken over. However, when a customer needs specific needs met in a friendly and helpful manner, nothing beats talking to a fellow human.

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Child identity theft has experienced a marked increase during the past decade. In fact, according to a report released by Carnegie Mellon University CyLab, a well respected cyber-security research and education center, children are significantly more likely than adults to be victims of identity theft. Cyber-criminals prefer stealing children’s identities because it typically takes longer for these crimes to come to light.

Being a victim of child identity theft can complicate things for a young adult trying to get a loan for college, among other things, so it’s important to be alert to the problem. Efforts to fight child identity theft involve raising awareness about the crime and teaching parents concrete, practical techniques for dealing with this crime, as well as working toward legislative and regulatory changes so parents are better able to protect children against identity theft.

Common To Target Children

The most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that in 2012 about 16.6 million people 16 years of age and older were victims of identity theft. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) cites two separate studies in pointing out how much more likely children are to be victimized in this manner.

One report, prepared by CSID, an international company specializing in identity security and fraud prevention technologies, found children to be 35 times more likely to experience identity theft. The other report FICO cited was the one prepared by the Carnegie Mellon CyLab, which placed the number at 51 times more likely.

Safer For The Cyber-Criminal

In many cases, it can be years before a family realizes that a child’s identity has been stolen. Often, it isn’t noticed until the financial aid process is begun for college. Then, the information starts to pop up. There may be credit reports, credit cards, utility bills, foreclosures and repossessions.

Sometimes parents find out much sooner through a fluke, such as a debt collector tracking down their preschooler or a child in elementary getting pre-approved credit card offers. Most parents aren’t checking their children’s credit reports because, well, they’re kids, so it is easy to see how such a thing could be missed for so long.

Impact Typically Delayed

Because this crime often takes some time to surface, the impact on its victim is often delayed. That impact can go much further than problems with applying for college financial aid. Credit reports are often reviewed by potential employers and landlords. The young adult may have difficulties in obtaining a car loan. Sometimes, it takes a while to work these things out.

An Ounce Of Prevention

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises parents to be protective of their children’s sensitive information right from the start. Keep social security cards locked up and don’t share them. Try not to give them out unless absolutely necessary. Everybody seems to ask these days, doctors, dentists, summer camp, and so on. Always suggest alternatives, such as using just the last four numbers.

The FTC also recommends that parents be proactive in letting their children’s schools know that they expect those schools to be diligent about protecting such information. Ask for specifics about how the information is protected, as well as about who has access to the information and why. Pay attention to school websites and what types of information is displayed.

In a National Public Radio (NPR) interview, founder of Identity Theft 911 and former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Adam Levin told host Michael Martin that most parents share far too much about their children on social media. He went on to explain that even fairly innocuous things, like a child’s favorite color, book, song or a pet’s name could be used as security question answers by identity thieves.

Start checking a child’s credit report at about 16 years of age. That way, if identity theft is discovered, there is plenty of time to get things worked out before college financial matters come up. Furthermore, proving that the financial activities showing up on credit reports is the result of fraud should be easier when the child is clearly still a minor.

If A Pound Of Cure Is Called For

If child identity theft is discovered by a parent, via such warning signs as an IRS notice concerning unpaid income tax, credit card bills or other unusual documents, it is important to talk to police. File official reports detailing the fraud and request a fraud alert for the child from one of the three credit reporting agencies. Then, work on clearing the credit report of incorrect information.

The credit reporting agencies investigate when an entry is disputed, which is best done in writing. Be sure to keep all records of the credit report correcting process, as some items may have to be dealt with more than once. However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that most people are able to clear up identity theft issues within a few days. Although it does happen, it is unusual for the process to take months.
Legislative And Regulatory Change Necessary

With the rise in identity theft against children, some legislative and regulatory weaknesses soon became apparent. Credit reporting agencies and state officials in many states wouldn’t work with parents to protect children because the way the regulations and laws were written, parents couldn’t work with credit issues on behalf of their children.

In some states, changes have been made, but other states still need to be pressed for change. However, the credit reporting agencies have really stepped up to the plate to help parents deal with this sort of situation. They will perform searches on a child’s name, offer tips on how to protect against child identity theft and make it clear that they will act as a partner in helping to unravel the credit report issues associated with this type of crime.

Raise Awareness, Be Cautious

Parents can help fight against child identity theft by joining the effort to raise awareness. That way, instead of being surprised by child identity theft at the college financial aid office, parents will recognize the signs of a problem much sooner or avoid such problems altogether by being cautious with their children’s sensitive information right from the start.

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Regardless of the amount of money people have to spend, they should always create a plan. The plan should include three spending categories: needs, wants, and savings. Along with your everyday spending, it is important to include savings for rainy days.

Cash flow planning is used by accountants in order to optimize cash flow. The objective is to pay all debts when due, and use surpluses to buy items for cash. Although some credit buying is necessary, consumers should plan their purchases in order to keep interest and other charges at a minimum.

Needs Cash Flow Plan:

Responsible spenders plan for their needs before their wants and entertainment. They know that if money is tight at the end of the month, they will have something to eat and a place to sleep. Therefore, wise spenders develop a cash flow plan.

Developing a Cash Flow Plan:

Cash flow plans are developed by using an electronic spreadsheet or a columnar pad. It is the process of adding each month’s income to the beginning cash balance and subtracting each month’s expenses. The result is the beginning balance for the following month.

Planning for responsible summer spending begins with the cash balance on June 1, add June’s income, subtract June’s expenses and the remainder is the cash balance for July. The process is repeated for the following months.

Planning must include all expenses such as rent, utilities, groceries and all other cash payments that are due during this period. Be sure to include taxes, insurance and other extraordinary payments.

Wants Cash Flow Plan:

Wants may be defined as things that people desire, but things they don’t need. These items should be purchased only when sufficient cash or credit is available after all needs are met. Planners who have completed their cash flow plan for needs can quickly determine the amount available for wants. However, planners should keep in mind that the money they spend on wants will not be available for entertainment.

Items included in the wants category may be computers, electronics, televisions and things they’ve always wanted, but couldn’t afford. Planners may distribute the entertainment amount in any manner desired. Vacations, short trips, baseball games and other entertainment forms must fit the planner’s budget. The objective is to end the summer debt free.

Developing the Wants Cash Flow Plan:

Record the August 31 balance from the needs worksheet in the June column. List the cost of the wanted items in the month to be purchased. Begin by subtracting the item cost from the June balance and carry the figures forward as was done in the needs cash flow. The August 31 balance is the amount available for entertainment

Spending Strategies:

After creating a plan, responsible spenders can easily see which items can be purchased. Many will be able to supply all of their needs, wants and entertainment. Others may struggle to supply their needs. However, applying the following strategies will help every planner to improve his or her purchasing power.

Planning Shopping Trips:

People who plan their shopping trips buy more for less. Since they are responsible spenders, they avoid impulse buying, and follow guidelines to get the most from their shopping dollars.

Alert shoppers look for sales so that they can take advantage of the best bargains. They also take inventory of their stock and replenish those items at sale prices. Alert seniors learn which days their favorite store offers senior discounts. They arrange their shopping schedule to take advantage of their discount. Smart shoppers know that a manufacturer’s coupon is as valuable as the money in their pockets, and they know when they can double their money.

Travel Expense:

The best shoppers plan their shopping trips in order to accomplish all of their shopping in one trip. Travel costs also add to the cost of purchases. Shoppers can find coupons in Sunday newspapers or magazines.

Many coupons and promotion codes are available online. A Google search for a specific product coupon will yield several choices. In addition, online shoppers may find huge promotion code discounts for online businesses. Best of all, shoppers can find coupons online that duplicate coupons found in newspapers.

Credit Cards:

Credit cards offer many benefits to shoppers. Regardless of the card, users can accumulate points or dollars and redeem them for various rewards. Some cards offer 5 percent for gas, 5 percent for groceries and 5 percent for various other purchases. Shoppers should find the best card for their needs and use it wisely.

When shoppers analyze cash flows, they may notice that an extraordinary payment occurs in July. This payment may result in a negative cash flow, and the shopper may find that credit is the perfect solution.

Many card issuers allow 5 to 20 percent cash back when shopping online. Shoppers go through the card issuer’s website and onto the online business. The credit card is charged the full price of the order, but the discount is credited to the card holder’s account in a few days.

In addition, many online businesses do not charge state sales taxes.

Conclusion:

Responsible spending, this summer, requires planning and self-discipline. Cash flow plans for needs, wants and entertainment show shoppers their ability to buy the items they need and want. The responsible shoppers will analyze their situation and optimize their spending.

Shoppers can stretch their dollars by using coupons, promotion codes and credit. Online shopping offers many advantages to those who want to stretch their dollars.

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The majority of consumers are starting to realize the importance of a credit score. They are well aware that the score is a number that determines their suitability for a financial product. Savvy consumers even know two or three different ways to improve their scores and enhance their rankings. These people know that they must obtain a score before completing an application so that they can see where they need work. Are they getting the right score, however? Are they obtaining the number that holds merit in the consumer credit world, or are they reaching for a cleverly named imposter?

The FICO Score Is the Golden Book of Credit Decisions

The majority of credit card companies, banks, private lenders and other organizations uses the FICO score to rate their potential customers. The F-score has been around for decades, and it consists of a structure that measures the consumer’s payment history, balances, new credit accounts, length of credit and type of credit. The F scoring system starts at 300 points for the poorest credit profile, and it maxes out at 850 points. Creditors make decisions based on an applicant’s placement within that number range. The F system is legendary and convenient. Therefore, most businesses use it as their only credit reference method.

What Is a FAKO Score?

The success of the FICO system was so great that other companies started implementing their own systems. Each of the three major credit bureaus developed its own special adapted version of the FICO scoring system. Experian calls its system the Scorex system. Equifax incorporates the Beacon score. TransUnion has its own Transrisk scoring system. Consumers who did not appreciate the new systems started referring to them as FAKO scores. People who reference such scores as FAKO scores have derogatory intentions.

Which Score Should a Consumer Have?

Since most creditors use the FICO system, a consumer would want to weigh his or her F-score more heavily than a score generated by an alternative method. Small portions of businesses do use Beacon scores, but a consumer who only pays attention to a Beacon score is limiting himself or herself significantly. The old F system of calculating credit worthiness is already an accepted an adopted system. Therefore, obtaining other credit scores is not likely to help a debtor. At best, such would confuse the person and make recovery difficult.

How Credit Score Is Calculated By FICO

F-style uses a pie chart to explain its structure. The consumer’s payment history takes up the largest portion of the pie, which means that it is the most important factor in credit health. A consumer’s payment history makes up 35 percent of the F-score. Balances come in at a close second to payment history at 30 percent. Consumers with high balances stand out to debtors as possible risks.

The length of a person’s credit history accounts for 15 percent of the equation. Therefore, having multiple new accounts can bring a person’s credit score down significantly. However, each month of age that a new account accumulates will increase the person’s credit score slightly. New credit is worth 10 percent of the equation. A consumer’s credit score will drop immediately upon the opening of a new account. However, the high available balance might counteract the deduction from a new line. Balance is three times more powerful than new accounts are. Therefore, a new account with a super-high balance can skyrocket someone’s consumer score.

The F-score includes the types of credit accounts that a consumer has. These count for 10 percent of the equation. They factor in the presence of revolving accounts, installment accounts, open accounts and more. Revolving accounts and installment accounts are the most powerful because they expose a consumer’s true nature. The lender can get an accurate view of a persons’ spending habits by reviewing revolving account activity.

The figure that bureaus and lenders obtain from this system places people into different categories of risk. A person who has an F-score of 750 points or more can obtain almost any product that he or she desires. Alternatively, consumers with F-scores of less than 500 are not likely to obtain approval for unsecured products without paying triple interest charges.

Tips for Improving Credit Ranking

A consumer can develop an ironclad plan for total consumer wellness by using the F-system as his or her guide. For example, making payments early and making double payments can boost a credit number rather quickly. The debtor is touching two highly regarded credit-scoring areas at the same time with that strategy. Allowing credit items to remain open for extending periods can also boost credit rankings in the long run. Another tip for improving one’s credit profile is reducing inquiries. Inquiries do affect credit profile if a person performs them too much. Finally, the best financial products for improving score are revolving accounts with high balances.

How to Get a Credit Report

A consumer can obtain a copy of his or her credit report using several methods. The first method is the recent denial method. Credit bureaus such as Experian will issue one credit report to a consumer who has been turned down for assistance in the past 60 days. Other credit bureaus have similar offerings.

A person who just wants to obtain the score can sign up for credit monitoring for a free score. Credit monitoring services can come in handy during times when the consumer does not want to take a risk. Credit monitoring software can alert a consumer at the first sign of any changes in the score. Some credit monitoring software versions have anti-fraud properties. Advanced programs will send information to a debtor if someone tries to apply for credit using his or her name. The debtor can then decide if he or she would like to take legal steps to reprimand the fraudulent party.

Using the Right Score

Some variations of the F-score are more detailed than the traditional F-system is. For example, the Beacon scoring system uses factors such as address changes and job changes in its scoring calculations. This information may or may not improve the accuracy of credit scoring. The Vantage system works on a score range of 501 points to 990 points, and it contains grade letters. The positive aspect of the Vantage system is that it does not deduct points for lack of credit history. However, the bottom line is that the F-score is the most widely used tool by a multitude of consumers. Therefore, the F-score is the right score for reviewing, managing and improving one’s credit profile.

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It is an excellent strategy to find out exactly what is required of a borrower before taking out a credit card. One of the most important aspects of using credit responsibly is learning how to pay back money in a timely manner.

Every credit card has minimum payments that a borrower must make. There are, however, rumors circulating that making only the minimum payments on a credit card may actually hurt an overall credit score. We will take a look at the facts of owning a credit card to see if this is true.

How Much Is a Minimum Payment?

There is an industry standard that usually sets the minimum payment of the average credit card at 2% of the outstanding balance. This is not a hard and fast rule, and there are some credit cards that require less. There are also some credit cards that require more. For the most part, the better your credit score, the lower that your minimum payment will be.

The minimum payment is designed to keep the balance in check while providing a measure of profit for the underwriting bank. Depending on the percentage of the outstanding balance that the minimum payment actually represents, it may never allow for a complete payment of the amount being borrowed. It is not the responsibility of the bank to state whether a minimum payment will actually pay off an entire balance in any time frame. These calculations should be made by the borrower during the period in which he is deciding on a credit card.

If paying off a minimum every month will not ever pay off the entire principal, credit may need to be provided in an ongoing manner by an underwriter. Usually, an underwriter will have no need to report anything to a credit rating agency as long as minimum payments are made on time. The credit score of the borrower, however, is based on more than just the reports of underwriting banks.

What Is the Credit Score Actually Based on?

In order to determine if making the minimum payment on a credit card will actually hurt long-term credit, we must look at what that score is actually comprised of. The exact numbers are a secret of the three major credit rating agencies, so there is nothing set in stone here today. There are, however, ways in which financial professionals can make educated guesses as to any situation. The first is understanding what these scores have been based on in the past.

Part of what long-term credit is based on is the ratio of money that is still outstanding as opposed to the total amount of credit that is being issued to the borrower. If a borrower has an outstanding balance that is more than 30% of his total credit line across all credit cards, long-term credit will most likely be affected in a negative way. If making a minimum payment every month does not reduce this ratio to 30% or less, then the long-term credit will never be able to recover itself.

Another aspect of what affects the credit score is the timing of loans. This is why a big-ticket purchase will hurt long-term credit simply because it is being made. A borrower that is making a minimum payment on a mortgage that does not eventually pay off the principal will experience more of a negative long-term credit effect than a borrower who is making a minimum payment on a bicycle.

If you are expecting to take out a loan on a big-ticket items such as a house or car, then it would probably be in your best interest to begin paying off other credit balances higher rate than the minimum per month. If you hold out and do not pay more than the minimum, then you will likely increase your outstanding balance/total credit ratio to above 30%. You will also likely be paying much less than what is required to pay off the principal as it relates to your total credit. This will cause the ratio to increase even more over time, lowering your long-term credit even more.

The third aspect of what all consumers should consider about a long-term credit report is the amount of credit lines that are outstanding at one time. For most people, a long-term credit report will not be negatively affected up to around five credit lines. If there are more credit lines than this that are outstanding, it may behoove the borrower to begin paying off one or more of them at a rate that is higher than the minimum per month. If a big-ticket item is purchased and the lines of credit are increased beyond the number that is acceptable, the long-term credit report will suffer greatly.

When Is Paying the Minimum Payment Okay?

If you are not in any of the above situations, paying the minimum on your lines of credit will most likely not hurt your long-term credit. This is not to say that you should not endeavor to pay down your lines of credit in case you have a medical emergency or some other unexpected financial responsibility. It is always good to leave some room when it comes to your use of credit.

Borrowers should also consider the difference between secured and unsecured lines of credit when determining whether to pay the minimum or not. Paying the minimum on secured lines of credit is less important than paying the minimum on unsecured lines of credit. First of all, the banks that underwrite unsecured lines of credit are much more likely to report you for an infraction of terms. Some of them may even have the ability to report you for carrying a balance over from month to month even if you do pay the minimum. Check the terms of your agreement to be sure that you are not in this situation. If you are, then paying the minimum only will definitely harm your long-term credit report.

Basically, there is no short answer for the question that is asked in the title. The effect of the amount of money that is paid each month on long-term credit is based on the situation of the individual. Care should be taken to understand the exact nature of your financial situation before deciding to pay the minimum or not.

Just to be sure: You should always pay at least the minimum in all cases in order to avoid financial trouble.

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Credit repair can take longer than expected. When a credit report reflects a low score, it is time to get help. Consumer credit consultancy services often recommend joining a friend or family member as a joint account holder to improve a credit score. Getting out of debt is hard. By taking actionable and practicable steps to correcting a credit report, the damage from a bankruptcy or collections debt is partly alleviated with a secondary user.

The Authorized User Strategy

Friends or family members willing to assist a consumer in raising their credit score will find that one of the easiest solutions to repair is the secondary user strategy. Signatory of joint account holders in good standing can raise a credit score. Joint users are named on another credit card holder’s account.

The joint account holder strategy supports a consumer in rebuilding their credit. Since joint account holders may not be eligible for the same terms and conditions to credit, not to mention the same limits on credit card and other credit bearing instruments, their chance of improving their credit rating in a year or two is far lower. Secondary users benefit from better credit limits, interest rates, and of course, credit standing.

If a joint account strategy is planned and executed properly, the process of rebuilding credit results in positive improvements. The most effective method of raising a credit rating without risk is for both users pay their financial obligations on time. In such case, both scores will rise. The key is to avoid adding more debt to either consumer record. New credit relationships should not exceed a reasonable debt to income ratio to make the most of a secondary user strategy.

For secondary users, once the joint account is added to a credit report, improvements should be seen right away. Existing accounts with a history of timely payment and a low balance to the limit ratio, will boost a secondary user’s credit rating without the stress of other rebuilding strategies. The future of a joint account holder’s FICO score is based on designated metric review of the new account. Recognition of the new account by the FICO system results in reporting to the three credit bureaus.

Terms to the Authorized User Relationship

The potential to reinstate credit worthiness is a gift. Secondary users with a bankruptcy on their record may be viewed as a risk, yet another account holder can avoid the perils of ruined credit by establishing rules to the relationship. If a joint account holder appears to be too much of a risk, signatory without allocation of an actual card makes sense until the joint account holder has repaired their credit enough to evidence good financial habits.

Financial health is an important criteria to employment, lending, and other key life decisions such as housing rental or purchasing an automobile. The fact that individuals with a bankruptcy on their record are unable to access the benefits of basic financial services, not to mention favorable evaluation of credit record on major transactions, means that up to ten years of their life will be more challenging than average.

Broker services offering secondary user relationships to consumers are another potential source of rebuilding relationship with similar terms. The upside to joint account holder strategy is that if a new card is not issued, there is no damage done to the primary cardholder. Moreover, without access, the secondary user is not liable for purchases on the card under these agreements.

Whether a joint account holder on a family or friend’s account, or via a broker, the secondary user usually never has access to a physical credit card linked to the actual account. Secondary users have no permissions to the account.

Liabilities to Authorized User Relationship

When primary cardholders succumb to debt overages, the potential for a joint account holder to sustain damage from the relationship is moderate. Depending on the level of financial burden assumed, and number of missing payments or months exceeding an account limit, a secondary user may find that the relationship is no longer beneficial.

Liabilities from a secondary user relationship where the account holder impacting both credit reports, can cause long term detriment to a credit rating. Removal of an joint user from a primary cardholder’s credit relationship is advisable if the current activity is resulting in damage. By eliminating a joint user name from a credit card or other credit bearing instrument, the secondary account holder is removed from all future credit reporting.

Managing a joint account relationship with continuous monitoring of a credit rating with the three major credit bureaus reduces the potential risk of bad activity turning into long term, poor standing on credit record. Avoiding credit default at all costs may result in the secondary user paying part of a primary cardholder’s balance.

Remember, monthly, on-time payments according to schedule at a designated amount reflects responsible credit management. Paying off monthly balances to ensure that an account is under 50% of the total credit limit is a good rule of thumb. The main objective to an joint account relationship is achieved when proper credit to payment equilibrium is shown. An authorized credit score will increase through participation with a primary cardholder with smart financial management.

For more information about the joint account strategy, consult with a consumer credit specialist. Credit education offers the details to secondary user strategy in comparison with other credit rebuilding tactics. Repair your credit by becoming a joint account holder. If a family or friend is out of the question, find out about broker services providing authorized user credit rebuilding agreements.

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Whether you only have an emergency credit card or if you sign up for new cards for rewards themselves, ensuring you aren’t wasting your rewards is just as important as using the card itself. Knowing how to put credit card rewards you have racked up over time to good use is a way to ensure you are getting the most out of any card you use, while also allowing you to get rewards that are valued the highest.

Research Credit Cards With the Best Value and Offers

Before you begin cashing in on rewards available from credit cards today, it is important to compare different cards you are qualified for to determine the best option based on the reward system that is currently in place. Researching the reward system from each card you are interested in is a way for you to find the card that provides the most cash back and value for your rewards points with every dollar you spend.

Seeking out a card that provides at least two cents for every dollar spent on the card is a baseline to begin with when researching cards and eliminating those that are not suitable for the best rewards available.

It is also important to consider the type of rewards that you personally consider the most valuable and in-demand personally. Whenever you find a card that provides a reward system that offers vacations, travel or other cash back options that work for you, it may be worth applying for it.

Consider all of the rewards available from each card you are qualified to receive as well as the number of points you must earn over time in order to cash in for the items or rewards you have in mind. The more research you conduct on each card that is available today individually, the easier it is to make an informed decision to ensure you get the most rewards possible for the cash you spend yourself.

Check Expiration Dates

Always be sure to check whether or not the credit card rewards you have available have an expiration date. Some bank and credit card companies now limit the time frame you have to put any earned rewards to use, depending on the service you are using the the type of card you have been approved for personally. Ensuring you do not have any expiration dates of the points that are accrued over time is essential before applying for a new card that offers credit card rewards.

Avoid Purchasing Products With Rewards You Have Earned

One of the worst ways to spend any rewards you have received from a card you have been approved for is to spend them on various products offered within an online rewards catalog. Spending points on household products such as gaming consoles, computers and even blenders or knife kits is often a waste of points which can be redeemed for additional travel and airfare for a lesser exchange rate.

Be sure to review the number of points or rewards that are required for each product you are interested in before making a purchase and checking out. It is also highly recommended to compare the price of travel and airfare using frequent flyer miles depending on the type of rewards you want most.

Traveling is the Best Option When Redeeming Travel Card Rewards

If you want to ensure you are using your credit card rewards to the max any time you are cashing in,
frequent flyer miles and other travel tickets are the best ways to redeem points on travel cards. Traveling is one of the very best purchases to use card points and rewards towards, especially if you fly frequently. Whether you are interested in taking a short flight to another state over or if you are looking to travel internationally, it is possible to cash in card rewards for airfare with most card companies available today. Flying with card rewards is one of the most popular methods of redeeming points accumulated.

If you are looking to find all-inclusive packages with your cards, you can do so by researching the cards’ reward systems before applying for individual cards. Some card reward systems allow you to not only book airfare with points and rewards you have earned, but also hotel stays and transportation to assist you upon arrival. It is possible to book an entire vacation with some reward systems offered from various cards today, based on your qualifications and the number of points you have to your name.

Get Cash Back when Redeeming Cash Back Rewards

Using a cash back rewards system is also possible with some credit cards on the market today, based on your current credit score and qualifications when applying. Getting cash back when you make purchases often allows you to get up to 2% cash back any time you use your card while shopping, which adds up over time, especially if you use your card daily or frequently each week. Using the getting cash back option may be boring and uneventful without the use of redeeming your rewards for additional prizes, trips and airfare, but it is an additional way to ensure you are saving as much money as possible any time you are shopping for household items, groceries and even clothing for yourself.

Purchasing Groceries and Gas

Using a credit card rewards system is also possible to pay for groceries and gas at various locations depending on where you are currently living as well as the participating businesses near you. Grocery store coupons and gift cards are often similar in the rewards that are available for cash back options, which is why it is important to compare catalogs and prices of various rewards from different cards before making your final decision.

You may also opt for a fixed savings when getting gas from some card companies, depending on the gas stations near you as well as the amount you drive each day and week. Be sure to verify the amount of money you will be saving each time you fill up your tank to ensure you are not spending more money than you are saving with additional fees, taxes and interest on the card itself.

The more you know about each individual card you have to your name and the rewards they have to offer, the easier it is to ensure you are making the most out of any rewards you receive over time. Putting your card rewards to use properly is a way to get the most money back for anything you have spent or invested with the card over time.

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