[YMMV] American Express Blue Business Plus 30,000 Points Signup Bonus With $5,000 Spend Pre-approval Offer

Update 2/9/21: More people targeted. Hat tip to MtM

The Offer

Direct link to offer (keep in mind, this won’t work for everyone)

  • Some people are getting a pre-approval offer on the American Express Blue Business Plus card with a signup bonus of 30,000 points after $5,000 in spend within the first three months of card ownership.

Card Details

  • 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases for the first $50,000 per calendar year
  • 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No lifetime language
  • 0% APR for first 15 months

Our Verdict

Not sure how widely available this offer is, likely very targeted. Lately they had a weird $300-credits signup bonus, but the standard has been either zero or 10,000 points since launch. We have seen targeted offers as high as 25,000 before, but never 30,000.

It’s not necessarily the best offer as you can technically get a referral from someone who will earn up to 30,000 points, in addition to the 10,000 points signup offer the new cardmember gets. That said, this is quite a good deal given the potential tax implications of referral bonuses whereas signup bonuses are not taxable. 

If you have any questions about American Express cards, read this first as it addresses the common questions.

Hat tip to manageroftheyear

Post history:

  • Update 12/9/20: More targeted. Hat tip to reader Bob
  • Update 11/17/20: More people targeted

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Why are Chase Ultimate Rewards points so valuable?

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Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of our favorite rewards program currencies, for a combination of reasons: Ultimate Rewards points are far more valuable than the average rewards point, you have many options for racking up bonus points – including several credit cards that offer generous sign-up bonuses and a diverse array of bonus categories – and your redemption options are extremely flexible.

In the rewards card world, they are known as a “flexible points currency” – meaning you can redeem points for a variety of options, including travel, merchandise, gift cards and cash back. You can also transfer them between Ultimate Rewards cards and to a large list of airline and hotel loyalty programs, giving you access to a huge network of airlines that can take you practically anywhere you want to travel.

Top Chase Ultimate Rewards cards

No annual fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Premium travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*

Luxury travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

5X points on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards

3X points on dining and drugstore purchases

1.5X points on every other purchase

20,000 points if you spend $500 in first 3 months

2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide

1 point per $1 on all other purchases

60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)

1 point per $1 on all other purchases

50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Ultimate Rewards points value

The value of Ultimate Rewards points varies greatly, depending on how you redeem your points. Most redemption options – including cash back and travel redemptions through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal – are worth 1 cent, but the value can exceed 2 cents per point if you take advantage of transfer options. A few options, including Amazon.com purchases, are worth less than 1 cent per point.

Redemption Option Point Value
Sapphire Reserve travel redemption (50% bonus) 1.5 cents
Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred travel redemption (25% bonus) 1.25 cents
Regular travel redemption 1 cent
Statement credit 1 cent
Direct deposit 1 cent
Gift cards 1 cent
Ultimate Rewards portal travel 1 cent
Apple products 1 cent
Amazon.com purchases 0.8 cent
Chase Pay purchases 0.8 cent
Singapore Airlines transfer 2.17 cents
World of Hyatt transfer 2 cents
Iberia Plus transfer 1.7 cents
Southwest Airlines transfer 1.57 cents
United Airlines transfer 1.52 cents
British Airways transfer 1.4 cents
Korean Air transfer 1.4 cents
Emirates Skywards transfer 1.1 cents
Air France/KLM transfer 1 cent
Aer Lingus transfer 1 cent
Virgin Atlantic transfer 0.8 cent
Marriott Bonvoy transfer 0.8 cent
IHG Rewards Club transfer 0.65 cent

One key point to estimating the value of your Ultimate Rewards points: You get a 25% to 50% bonus on your Ultimate Rewards points if you own a premium card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve and redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. So, basically, your points are worth between 1.25 and 1.5 cents (depending on which card you own) if you plan to use them for travel rewards. We value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.26 cents per point on average.

As you can see from our chart below, Ultimate Rewards points far exceed the value of the average credit card rewards point, which hovers around 1 cent per point. Compared to other loyalty programs, Ultimate Rewards points fall in the middle-of-the-pack – they are outmatched by miles-based programs, such as AAdvantage and MileagePlus, but they beat the value of similar points-based programs, such as American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou:

Point value by loyalty program

Other advantages of Ultimate Rewards points:

Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire

Your Ultimate Rewards points are valid as long as your account is open. Also, if you own a premium Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve cards, you can transfer your points to one of those cards or to one of Chase’s travel partners if you plan to close a card.

There’s no limit to how many Ultimate Rewards points you can earn

Though some Ultimate Rewards cards – such as the Chase Freedom card – may enforce a cap on the number of points you can earn on bonus categories, there are no overall limits to the number of Ultimate Rewards points that you can earn in a year or over the lifetime of your Ultimate Rewards membership. As long as you use your cards, you will accumulate Ultimate Rewards points.

You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for a variety of rewards

Though travel rewards are your best bet, the Ultimate Rewards program gives you a diverse array of redemption options, including statement credits, bank deposits, gift cards and merchandise. Also, you have a lot of flexibility in how you redeem your points for travel. You can purchase travel from an outside site and redeem your points for statement credits or you can purchase travel through the Ultimate Rewards site.

 You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Chase’s travel partners at a 1:1 rate

One of the main advantages of Chase Ultimate Rewards is that you can transfer them to an outside loyalty program if you own an Ultimate Rewards card with an annual fee. Chase’s list of travel partners includes several major airlines and hotel chains – giving you access to a worldwide travel network. Your points transfer at a 1:1 rate, which means your points maintain their value once you transfer them.

You can redeem any number of Ultimate Rewards points at any time

You don’t have to wait to accumulate a certain number of Ultimate Rewards points to start using them. You can redeem your points starting at 1 point per 1 cent of cash back.

You can combine points and cash to book travel rewards

You don’t have to worry about collecting a large amount of points to book a travel reward. If you don’t have enough points for a particular flight, you can use cash to cover the remainder of the fare (though a minimum number of points may be required for some flights).

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points between cards

For rewards card jugglers, Ultimate Rewards offer the valuable opportunity to combine points earned across any Ultimate Rewards cards you have open. This is a great feature that makes combining cards particularly lucrative, as you can stockpile rewards earned on different bonus categories across cards. Plus, if you have a premium card like the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer points to that card to unlock a higher point value when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

One small drawback: You can’t buy Ultimate Rewards points

Unlike some rewards programs, Chase doesn’t allow you to purchase points to make up for a lack of points. However, given the program’s flexibility, paying with points is mostly an unnecessary option. You can pay with cash to make up for missing points in most cases.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

Source: creditcards.com

How Does Cash Back Work?

How Does Cash Back Work?

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Credit card companies typically offer a plethora of rewards options for their cardholders to take advantage of. But cash back has long been a favorite of many, as it gives you the chance to earn cold, hard money for making everyday purchases. If you’re confused about how cash back works, read on for a full explanation.

How Cash Back Works

At its core, cash back refers to a predetermined percentage of a purchase you make being returned to you as cash rewards. Cash back rates typically range between 1% and 5%, though there are some outliers to be mindful of. Credit card issuers will usually clearly label what types of purchases earn what level of cash back. But like anything in the credit card industry, you must read the fine print.

This is mainly because all purchases and cash back rewards are governed by merchant category codes, or MCCs. Credit card companies ultimately determine these designations, with Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover calling the shots. Some common codes are “restaurant,” “department store,” “airline” and “entertainment,” among others. So if you earn 5% bonus cash back at restaurants and you go to Burger King — which has a restaurant MCC — you’ll get that 5% back.

But what these limiting MCCs sometimes don’t take into account are businesses that could fit into more than one category. Included in this group are hotels, superstores like Walmart, tourist attractions like museums and other multi-faceted establishments. In turn, you could lose out on cash back if you’re confused about which category a purchase you made falls into.

As an example, let’s say your family orders room service while on vacation in The Bahamas. You pay with your credit card thinking you’ll get the advertised 3% cash back on dining. When your credit card statement comes in the mail, however, you’ve only received the base 1% earnings. This is because the MCC of your hotel is just that, a hotel, which leaves your credit card issuer blind to what you really bought.

Unfortunately situations like these often offer very little recourse, as your card’s issuer has no ability to change these codes. In fact, only the major credit companies can change their own code selections.

New cardholders will often receive cash back promotions and bonuses. These offers can either be recurring — monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. — or simply for just one period of time, usually at the beginning of your account’s life. Hypothetically, a recurring bonus might look like this: “Earn 3% cash back at supermarkets and wholesale clubs, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.” On the other hand, a one-time promotion might allow for 5% cash back on airfare purchases made during the first three months you’re a cardholder.

Depending on your card, cash back may be capped or it could expire after a period of time. While some cards feature both an earnings limit and expiration dates, others may have no restrictions. All cash back cards have their own, unique system surrounding them. So it’s important to refer to your documentation whenever you have a particular question.

Using Your Cash Back Earnings

How Does Cash Back Work?

The vast majority of cash back credit cards offer variations of the same choices for redeeming rewards. Most often, you’ll see statement credits, checks, bank account deposits, gift cards and charitable donations available to you.

  • Statement credit – Instead of receiving your cash back in-hand, you can apply it to your upcoming monthly bill, saving you money in the process.
  • Check – As one of the more direct ways of redeeming cash back, checks allow you to basically do whatever you want with its value.
  • Bank deposits – Eligible accounts usually include checking accounts, savings accounts or investment accounts.
  • Gift cards – With this option, you can convert cash back into retail credit at a store or website at which you want to shop.
  • Donations – Many card issuers have open relations with charities. These partnerships open the door for you to aid your favorite causes with real money.

It’s by far the easiest to redeem cash back through your card issuer’s website that it provides. Here you’ll not only see your rewards status, you will also know every possible redemption you could make. If you’d rather talk to a real person, most companies still have rewards phone lines you can call, as well.

Those who’d rather not have to worry about where their rewards currently stand will find that a redemption threshold might be helpful. Not all cards offer this feature. But if yours does, set a threshold at which your cash back is automatically redeemed in any manner you desire. Additionally, some cards require you to attain a certain amount of cash back before redeeming is possible.

Cash Back With Each Major Credit Card Company

what is cash back

There are tons of different cash back cards, depending on your credit score you may be eligible for some but not others. While it’s impossible to give universal specifics for each credit card company, below we’ve provided overviews of some of the most popular cash back cards.

Citi Double Cash Card (Mastercard)

Cash Back Rate: 1% at the time of purchase, 1% when you pay them off

Limit or Expiration: No limit; Expires if no eligible purchases are made for 12 months

Redemption Options: As a check, statement credit or gift card

The “double cash” nature of the Citi Double Cash Card means you effectively earn cash back twice: first when you make the initial purchase and again when you pay your credit card bill. The 12-month expiration is fairly standard and the lack of limits on how much cash back you can earn is generous. Statement credits, checks and gift cards are three of the most common redemption choices, so it’s no surprise to see them offered here.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (Mastercard)

Cash Back Rate: 3% in the category of your choice, 2% on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% on other purchases

Limit or Expiration: Cash back on choice category, grocery stores and wholesale club purchases is limited on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: Once you have $25 or more, you can redeem as a statement credit, a check or a deposit to an eligible Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® account

Take note of the combined $2,500 quarterly limit on 3% and 2% cash back in category of choice and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, respectively. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card also requires cardholders to have a minimum of $25 in earned cash back before they can redeem.

Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card
(American Express)

Cash Back Rate: 3% on U.S. supermarket purchases, 2% on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store purchases, 1% on other purchases

Limit or Expiration: 3% rate at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 a year in purchases then drops to 1%; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: After earning at least $25, redeem as a statement credit in $25 increments; Gift cards and merchandise redemptions from time to time

Amex offers some of the strongest rewards cards around, and the Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card is no exception. It does come with some limits; namely the 3% cash back rate on U.S. grocery store purchases is capped at $6,000 in purchases a year. At that time, cardholders earn 1% in cash back on groceries.

Discover it® Card
(Discover)

Cash Back Rate: 5% in rotating categories like gas station, supermarket, restaurant, Amazon.com and wholesale club purchases, 1% on other purchases; Full cash back match at the end of your first year

Limit or Expiration: $1,500 cap on purchases that earn the 5% rate each quarter; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: Statement credits, deposits to a bank account, gift cards and eCertificates, pay with cash back at select merchants and charitable donations

Discover cards offer great first-year cash back matches and distinctive cash back categories. These traits are on full display with the Discover it® Card. This includes 5% cash back on purchases ranging from dining to Amazon.com. However, there are limits for this rate and you have to opt in to categories each quarter to qualify. This card also offers five redemption options — the most on this list.

Tips to Maximize Cash Back Potential and Minimize Credit Risk

  • Cash back is one of the most prolific perks that the modern credit card market has to offer. But it’s important that you don’t overspend outside of your means just for the sake of rewards. Because many cash back cards come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs), this could force you into large, unsustainable interest payments.
  • Whenever possible, swipe your card for purchases in bonus categories. Not all cards have these to offer, but most do. So make sure you know which cards in your wallet offer bonuses at places like gas stations and supermarkets.
  • Know what types of redemptions — statement credits, bank account deposits, gift cards etc. — work best for you. This will drastically narrow down your card options, making the decision process much simpler.

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/4×6, Â©iStock.com/Pgiam, Â©iStock.com/Ridofranz

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

The post How Does Cash Back Work? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

In a recession it’s common for many people to rely on credit cards and loans to balance their finances. It’s the ultimate catch-22 since, during a recession, these financial products can be even harder to qualify for.

This holds true, according to historical data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It found that during the 2007 recession, loan growth at traditional banks decreased and remained deflated over the next four years. 

Credit can be a powerful tool to help you make ends meet and keep moving forward financially. Here’s what you can do if you’re struggling to access credit during a weak economy.

Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. Does this mean you’re completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.

How Does a Financial Downturn Affect Lending?

Giving someone a loan or approving them for a credit card carries a certain amount of risk for a lender. After all, there’s a chance you could stop making payments and the lender could lose all the funds you borrowed, especially with unsecured loans. 

For lenders, this concept is called, “delinquency”. They’re constantly trying to get their delinquency rate lower; in a booming economy, the delinquency rate at commercial banks is usually under 2%. 

Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. There are all sorts of reasons a person might stop paying their loan or credit card bills. You might lose your job, or unexpected medical bills might demand more of your budget. Because lenders know the chances of anyone becoming delinquent are much higher in a weak economy, they tend to restrict their lending criteria so they’re only serving the lowest-risk borrowers. That can leave people with poor credit in a tough financial position.

Before approving you for a loan, lenders typically look at criteria such as:

  • Income stability 
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit score
  • Co-signers, if applicable
  • Down payment size (for loans, like a mortgage)

Does this mean you’re completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.

5 Ways to Help Get Your Credit Application Approved 

Although every lender has different approval criteria, these strategies speak to typical commonalities across most lenders.

1. Pay Off Debt 

Paying off some of your debt might feel bold, but it can be helpful when it comes to an application for credit. Repaying your debt reduces your debt-to-income ratio, typically an important metric lenders look at for loans such as a mortgage. Also, paying off debt could help improve your credit utilization ratio, which is a measure of how much available credit you’re currently using right now. If you’re using most of the credit that’s available to you, that could indicate you don’t have enough cash on hand. 

Not sure what debt-to-income ratio to aim for? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests keeping yours no higher than 43%. 

2. Find a Cosigner

For those with poor credit, a trusted cosigner can make the difference between getting approved for credit or starting back at square one. 

When someone cosigns for your loan they’ll need to provide information on their income, employment and credit score — as if they were applying for the loan on their own. Ideally, their credit score and income should be higher than yours. This gives your lender enough confidence to write the loan knowing that, if you can’t make your payments, your cosigner is liable for the bill. 

Since your cosigner is legally responsible for your debt, their credit is negatively impacted if you stop making payments. For this reason, many people are wary of cosigning.

In a recession, it might be difficult to find someone with enough financial stability to cosign for you. If you go this route, have a candid conversation with your prospective cosigner in advance about expectations in the worst-case scenario. 

3. Raise Your Credit Score 

If your credit score just isn’t high enough to qualify for conventional credit you could take some time to focus on improving it. Raising your credit score might sound daunting, but it’s definitely possible. 

Here are some strategies you can pursue:

  • Report your rent payments. Rent payments aren’t typically included as part of the equation when calculating your credit score, but they can be. Some companies, like Rental Kharma, will report your timely rent payments to credit reporting agencies. Showing a history of positive payment can help improve your credit score. 
  • Make sure your credit report is updated. It’s not uncommon for your credit report to have mistakes in it that can artificially deflate your credit score. Request a free copy of your credit report every year, which you can do online through Experian Free Credit Report. If you find inaccuracies, disputing them could help improve your credit score. 
  • Bring all of your payments current. If you’ve fallen behind on any payments, bringing everything current is an important part of improving your credit score. If your lender or credit card company is reporting late payments a long history of this can damage your credit score. When possible speak to your creditor to work out a solution, before you anticipate being late on a payment.
  • Use a credit repair agency. If tackling your credit score is overwhelming you could opt to work with a reputable credit repair agency to help you get back on track. Be sure to compare credit repair agencies before moving forward with one. Companies that offer a free consultation and have a strong track record are ideal to work with.

Raising your credit isn’t an immediate solution — it’s not going to help you get a loan or qualify for a credit card tomorrow. However, making these changes now can start to add up over time. 

4. Find an Online Lender or Credit Union

Although traditional banks can be strict with their lending policies, some smaller lenders or credit unions offer some flexibility. For example, credit unions are authorized to provide Payday Loan Alternatives (PALs). These are small-dollar, short-term loans available to borrowers who’ve been a member of qualifying credit unions for at least a month.

Some online lenders might also have more relaxed criteria for writing loans in a weak economy. However, you should remember that if you have bad credit you’re likely considered a riskier applicant, which means a higher interest rate. Before signing for a line of credit, compare several lenders on the basis of your quoted APR — which includes any fees like an origination fee, your loan’s term, and any additional fees, such as late fees. 

5. Increase Your Down Payment

If you’re trying to apply for a mortgage or auto loan, increasing your down payment could help if you’re having a tough time getting approved. 

When you increase your down payment, you essentially decrease the size of your loan, and lower the lender’s risk. If you don’t have enough cash on hand to increase your down payment, this might mean opting for a less expensive car or home so that the lump sum down payment that you have covers a greater proportion of the purchase cost. 

Loans vs. Credit Cards: Differences in Credit Approval

Not all types of credit are created equal. Personal loans are considered installment credit and are repaid in fixed payments over a set period of time. Credit cards are considered revolving credit, you can keep borrowing to your approved limit as long as you make your minimum payments. 

When it comes to credit approvals, one benefit loans have over credit cards is that you might be able to get a secured loan. A secured loan means the lender has some piece of collateral they can recover from you should you stop making payments. 

The collateral could be your home, car or other valuable asset, like jewelry or equipment. Having that security might give the lender more flexibility in some situations because they know that, in the worst case scenario, they could sell the collateral item to recover their loss. 

The Bottom Line

Borrowing during a financial downturn can be difficult and it might not always be the answer to your situation. Adding to your debt load in a weak economy is a risk. For example, you could unexpectedly lose your job and not be able to pay your bills. Having an added monthly debt payment in your budget can add another challenge to your financial situation.

However, if you can afford to borrow funds during an economic recession, reduced interest rates in these situations can lessen the overall cost of borrowing.

These tips can help tidy your finances so you’re a more attractive borrower to lenders. There’s no guarantee your application will be accepted, but improving your finances now gives you a greater borrowing advantage in the future.

The post How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Americans spend on average $4,464 in groceries every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shopping for groceries is one of the main weekly expenses in every American household.

That’s why the credit cards tying reward points to grocery shopping are getting more numerous and their offers are getting increasingly more competitive. In 2020 you have a whole new lineup of cards ready to reward you for the purchases you make at grocery stores.

Here are the best cards whether you like those premium rewards, are an everyday shopper, are building credit, you’d rather skip the prep and go straight to the meal or you like to buy groceries at superstores.

See related: Best cash back cards

American Express® Gold Card – Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – Best for earning cash back on groceries
  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card – Best for earning cash back on groceries with no annual fee
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else
  • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card – Best for earning cash back on groceries and dining out
  • Target REDcard™ – Best for earning cash back on Target purchases
  • Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® – Best for earning cash back on Walmart purchases
  • American Express® Gold Card: Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

    Amex Gold gives you an unprecedented rewards rate whether you’re dining in or out. If that weren’t enough, paying at certain eligible restaurants (see terms for qualifying merchants) after enrollment can get you up to $10 a month in statement credit. You also get up to $120 in Uber Cash every year ($10 per month) that can be applied to U.S. Uber Eats orders – a big plus for those who order their groceries through the platform (must add Gold Card to Uber app in order to receive the Uber Cash benefit).

    The intro bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months is excellent, and there are many redemption options, including gift cards, merchandise and travel with no blackout dates.

    The card charges an annual fee of $250, but if you take advantage of both the Uber Cash and the dining credit, keeping the Amex Gold card will essentially cost you $10 every year.

    If you are OK with only redeeming travel directly through Amextravel.com or Amex’s airline partners to maximize the value of the Membership Rewards points you’ll earn, this is a great card for foodies and travelers.

    Here’s a closer look at the features:

    • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
    • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter
    • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
    • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for earning cash back on groceries

    Even though it has fewer features than the Amex Gold, it gives you perhaps the highest cash back rate available on groceries, and it has a lower annual fee – $95. Plus, running errands like groceries is way easier when you get cash back on gas for the commute. Take a closer look:

    • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
    • 3% on transit purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: Best for earning cash back on groceries with no annual fee

    The Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers grocery shoppers the opportunity to double down on cash back for food by selecting dining for its 3% category along with its outstanding 2% rate on grocery stores and wholesale clubs, with no annual fee.

    If cardholders want something other than dining for the 3% rate, Cash Rewards offers the flexibility to let them choose their own category. However, the $2,500 quarterly spending cap on both categories is low.

    Have a closer look:

    • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee

    Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else

    For those who don’t want to have to choose a spending category but still want no annual fee, Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a consistent rate of at least 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

    • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
    • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
    • Cash back rewards do not expire
    • No annual fee

    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card*: Best for earning cash back on groceries and dining out

    This card is for those with way too packed a social life to buy groceries. Sure, you get 2% cash back at grocery stores for those times your social calendar eases up and you can actually get to the store, but otherwise, you get way more return on your cash back when you dine out or see a show.

    Plus, if you love concerts, 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats is absolutely unprecedented.

    Check out the details:

    • $300 cash bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first three months
    • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer expires January 2022)
    • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • $95 annual fee

    Why go to a standard grocery store when superstores allow you to get the grocery shopping done all in one shot? For those who prefer one-stop shopping, there are some great credit card options for superstore shoppers that will give you monster returns you don’t often see with standard cash back cards as long as you use them in-store.

    Target REDcard™: Best for earning cash back on Target purchases

    The Target Redcard has no annual fee. This, combined with its standard offer of 5% off in-store purchases applied right at the checkout counter and 5% off at Target.com with free shipping, makes it a great card for frequent Target shoppers, especially since the 5% discount is applied in perpetuity. You can also stack your discount with others available through Target’s Cartwheel app and in-store.

    Though most people don’t need 120 days to return an item, you get that with this card when its extra 30 days is combined with Target’s standard 90-day return policy. The extra time could allow a greater piece of mind on those large ticket items you buy.

    However, if you’re known to carry a balance, this isn’t the right card for you. The high variable APR can far outweigh the 5% discount, so pay the card off after each billing cycle.

    Here’s a snapshot of all the benefits of this card: 

    • 5% off eligible Target purchases in-store and online at Target.com (except pharmacy purchases)
    • Can be used together with Target Circle and other discounts
    • Free two-day shipping on orders from Target.com with no spending minimum
    • An extra 30 days to return items on top of the standard 90-day return policy
    • Early access to special events, products and promotions
    • No annual fee

    Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®: Best for earning cash back on Walmart purchases

    This card is great because, unlike Target’s Redcard, it offers some cash back outside of Walmart purchases, including 2% cash back at restaurants and travel and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

    However, while Target’s Redcard offers its in-store 5% discount with no limit, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard only offers the same discount in-store for the first 12 months and you have to use Walmart’s mobile wallet on your purchases to get it.

    Where this card really shines is online, especially if you do a lot of grocery pickup or delivery orders from Walmart.com.

    It’s very easy to apply for and, like the Redcard, it carries no annual fee, as well as some smaller benefits you’ll see below:

    • 5% cash back on Walmart purchases online, including grocery and delivery orders
    • 5% cash back on in-store purchases in the first year when you pay using the Walmart Pay digital wallet
    • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee
    • Easily apply via text message
    • Card is automatically transferred to Walmart Pay digital wallet on approval
    • Fraud alerts and the ability to freeze your account

    Comparing the best cards for grocery shopping

    Card Grocery bonus Other rewards Annual fee
    American Express® Gold Card 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter

     

    • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
    • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
    • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
    $250
    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
    • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
    • 3% on transit purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $95
    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
    • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $0
    Chase Freedom Unlimited® n/a
    • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
    • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
    $0
    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 2% cash back at grocery stores
    • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer ends January 2022)
    • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
    • 1% cash back on other purchases
    • $300 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
    $95
    Target REDcard™ 5% discount at Target and Target.com n/a $0
    Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®
    • 5% cash back on in-store purchases for the first 12 months when using Walmart Pay
    • 5% cash back on Walmart.com purchases, including grocery pickup and delivery orders
    • 2% cash back on in-store Walmart purchases after the introductory period
    • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
    • 2% cash back on the purchase of gift cards at Walmart (online, app, Walmart Pay or in stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $0

    Honorable mentions

    There is no shortage of credit card options that reward grocery spending, so in addition to our top picks above, consider these alternatives.

    • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card – A no-annual-fee alternative to the Capital One Savor Card, the SavorOne offers the same 2% cash back on grocery store purchases. While it offers a slightly lower rate on dining and entertainment than the Savor card, the SavorOne is a good alternative for those wary to pay an annual fee.
    • U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card – The newly launched U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card offers a competitive rewards rate on both dining and grocery purchases – 4 points per dollar on dining and food delivery and 2 points per dollar on groceries, to be exact. It also offers 2 points per dollar on gas and streaming service purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Plus, it doesn’t charge an annual fee.
    • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card – If you prefer to do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you can’t beat the rewards rate on the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. In addition to 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases, the card offers the same 5% rate at Whole Foods locations. You’ll also earn 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases and 1% on everything else. You have to be a Prime member to qualify for the card, but if you spend a significant amount on Amazon orders or at Whole Foods, your rewards can help offset the cost of membership.
    • Apple Card – The Apple Card is best known for its high rewards rate on Apple purchases, but it can also be a great choice for grocery shopping. When you make a purchase via Apple Pay, the card offers 2% back on all qualifying purchases. This is on par with some of the highest flat-rate credit card offers. Just make sure your preferred grocery story accepts the mobile wallet before you work this card into your rewards strategy.

    How to pick the right card for grocery shopping

    For most of us, using a credit card at a grocery store simply involves taking it out in the checkout line. But if you want to up your grocery shopping game and save some serious money, here are some tips and secret strategies from credit card experts and the most seasoned shoppers we could find.

    When picking the credit card you’ll use at the grocery store most experts recommend either a card with a high cash back rate that can provide a percentage off every time you shop or a tiered rewards card that offers specific rewards every time you use it for groceries.

    “When you use a cash back card, it’s like having a coupon to save a certain amount off your total purchase each and every time you buy groceries. This savings isn’t limited to grocery stores – a flat-rate rewards card will apply the same cash back or miles to all of your purchases,” says Ashley Dull of CardRates.com.

    However, if you’re picking a tiered rewards card with a grocery store category, they often have a limit on how much you can earn annually.

    For example, American Express limits the 6% cash back rate spent at U.S. supermarkets annually on its Blue Cash Preferred Card to $6,000 in purchases (after that, it’s 1%), so be mindful of those restrictions.

    Apple Card gives you cash back every day.

    You also want to pick a card where rewards don’t expire, there are multiple options for redemption and you can transfer rewards between accounts. Always keep track of the terms of your credit card and compare card features vigorously before making your final selection.

    How to earn the most rewards while grocery shopping

    If you really want to maximize your rewards at the grocery store, stack your savings with a cash back app such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards or Checkout 51. Your grocery store’s loyalty app is also a great way to double-dip on savings.

    “By taking a few minutes to scan in your grocery receipts, a family of four can easily earn over $25 a month in rewards,” says Nermeen Ghneim of The Savvy Dollar personal finance blog.

    Finally, if you’re choosing a store-branded credit card because you tend to shop at the same store all the time, make sure you pay off the balance before the billing cycle resets because store cards tend to have very high interest and fees.

    “Many people know that making a habit of paying off high interest credit cards will actually have a slightly negative effect on their credit,” says Dan Gallagher, author, retired financial planner and personal finance expert at ScoreSense.com. “But some grocery credit cards are in-house credit extensions, especially the ones that are valid in-store only. The in-store-only variety does not harm your score for avoiding interest and paying balances off early, so do not fear a grocery store credit card.”

    *All information about the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

    Source: creditcards.com