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

The No-Cash Envelope System That Works

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope system. It works great for our family. But I also know that is not the case for everyone.  You may not want to use cash but love the envelope system concept.  Fortunately, there is a program you can use that marries your desire to use plastic with the discipline of a cash envelope budget.

When it comes to managing your money, spending and trying to get out of debt, there are many programs and apps out there. But, not all of them can do everything.  That means one app for your budget, another for trying to get out of debt and then yet another for managing your spending.

ProActive does it all.  You can manage your money, spending, budgeting, and debt payoff – all from one simple to manage app! But, before you jump in and download it, make sure you read this honest review.  That way, you’ll know what to expect!

What is ProActive?

ProActive combines the beauty of shopping with plastic and the discipline of cash envelopes.  The system ensures that you never overspend – ever!  Just like with cash, when the envelope is empty, you are done shopping!

 

What is the cash envelope budget?

A cash envelope budget is what it sounds like. Rather than using plastic to shop you get cash and place the budgeted amounts into envelopes.  For example, if your budget for food is $200 a paycheck, then you get cash and place $200 in an envelope earmarked for groceries.

When you grocery shop, you use only the cash in the envelope. That is all you have available to spend. It is impossible to overspend.  If there is only $20 left then that means you can’t spend $22.  There is not enough money there.

It is a system that works very well for people who want to better manage and control spending.

 

How does it work?

Once you sign up and create your account, you will get a ProActive branded debit card.  When you are ready to spend, you use the ProActive card.  But, before you can swipe, you have to let the app know which envelope the money needs to come from.  That way, you always stay on budget and don’t spend more than you should.

 

Add funds to your account

When you get paid, review your budget.  Pay the bills that are due.  What you have left over is what you have left to spend on everything else on your budget.  It will include items such as clothing, household items, personal care and beauty, groceries, entertainment, dues, etc.

You will go into the app and click the “+” icon.  That starts the transfer from your bank account to your ProActive debit card.

 

Allocate the money to your virtual envelopes

Once the funds are deposited, you have to assign an amount to each category (a.k.a. envelope).  Review the budget to see what you have available to spend.

 

Shop as usual (but pay with the ProActive card)

You can’t swipe your card until you have told the card which category (or envelope) the money should come from.  Simply open the app and click the spend category.  Then you can swipe.

If there is not enough money left in the category to cover your purchase, it will be declined.  That makes it impossible to overspend.

 

The smart way to use ProActive

As parents, we teach our kids.  They need to know how to take care of themselves, cook, clean and do other things around the house.  But, it seems that financial responsibility is one that gets overlooked.

One thing that ProActive allows is for you to add your kids and teach them how to manage their own money.  You can put funds on their account and they too can set up categories.  And, just like mom and dad, they have to select the category before they spend so they are not spending more than they should either.

ProActive not only teaches your kids how to use a debit card, but also the financial responsibilities that go along with it.  And, it is in an environment that both mom and dad can see (and control).

 

Who is ProActive a fit for?

Just like with every other app or budget system there is never a one-size-fits-all system. That means this may not work for you.  If you love your credit card for the rewards then this will not work for you.  You can’t attach a credit card and use this program.

But, if you struggle to try to manage your money and spending then you really need to get this app. It makes it impossible to overspend and helps you learn how to think about every purchase you make.  You may not need to use it forever as you will become disciplined.

 

What does it cost?

When you sign up, ProActive will give you a 15-day trial.  They want to make sure it is a fit for you before they make you pay.  Then, if you love it, you continue at $5.75 a month (paid annually, so $69).  You can add a second user for $29 a year and even add your kids for just $24 each.

 

What happens if I forget my phone?

It happens.  We leave our phones behind. In that case, it is important that you always have an alternative payment method handy, such as your bank debit card, credit card or cash.

If your goal is to get out of debt, you have to first start with your budget and spending. If you don’t do that, you will never achieve your goals.  ProActive is one tool that helps you every step of the way.

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

2020 Destroyed Your Personal Cash Flow. Here’s How to Rescue It

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If you’re like most of us, 2020 did a number on your cash flow.

What is cash flow, you ask? We’re so glad you asked! Cash flow refers to the money that’s constantly moving into and out of your bank account.

Your paychecks (assuming you have work) flow in, and your payments (for food, housing and everything else) flow out.

For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has torn a hole in our finances, mucking everything up. Whatever has your cash flow bottled up, we’ve got six suggestions for improving it, one step at a time.

1. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company

Credit card debt will destroy your cash flow. And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

2. Get Paid Every Time You Buy Groceries

Grocery shopping was never exactly pleasant. But these days, it’s a downright struggle — wondering about your personal safety, maintaining six feet of distance from other customers, etc. Shouldn’t you have something to show for it?

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store.

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something…

3. Make Sure You’re Not Overpaying

Here’s another way to improve your cash flow: Stop overpaying for things.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online at Target and are about to overpay? That’s what this free service does.

Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

In this illustration, a car drives on a road that's between mountains and water.

4. Knock $540/Year From Your Car Insurance in Minutes

Speaking of overpaying for things, when’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options — and even discounts in your area.

Using Insure, people have saved an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

5. Add $225 to Your Wallet Just for Watching the News

This is a historic time for news, and we’re all constantly refreshing for the latest news updates. You probably know more than one news-junkie who fancies themselves an expert in respiratory illness or a political mastermind.

Research companies want to pay you to keep watching. You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. They’ll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them.

You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. This might sound too good to be true, but it’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news.

6. See if You Can Get More Money From This Company

Here’s the deal: If you’re not using Aspiration’s debit card, you’re missing out on extra cash. And who doesn’t want extra cash right now?

Yep. A debit card called Aspiration gives you up to a 5% back every time you swipe.

Need to buy groceries? Extra cash.

Need to fill up the tank? Bam. Even more extra cash.

You were going to buy these things anyway — why not get this extra money in the process?

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

In summary: Take these six steps and watch your cash flow improve.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What to Do When Your Credit Card Goes Missing

You’re likely to lose track of a credit card at some point—many people do. You’re standing at the checkout counter, you open your wallet and it’s not there. What you do depends on how prepared you are and whether you think the card was lost or stolen.

How to Prepare for a Lost Credit Card

Losing a credit card doesn’t have to be something that turns into a nightmare. You can manage the situation more effectively if you’ve taken these three steps to prepare in advance.

1. Choose Your Financial Institutions Wisely

Do you often think your bank could improve its customer service? Have you had past problems getting unauthorized charges removed from a credit card statement? If your bank or credit card company has failed you in the past, it’s more likely it will do so in the future when you need help the most.

Of course, it’s easier to just coast along with whichever company you have been using to meet financial goals. But it’s worth the time to think of worst-case scenarios and make a change to the financial institutions you use before you need emergency services.

Take a few minutes to think how you would rate the services offered by your banks and credit companies and compare policies for lost or stolen cards. Little things can make a big difference, such as a company guarantee to get you a replacement card within a specific time frame.

2. Keep Your Contact Information Up to Date

Imagine you need a replacement credit or debit card, but the agent tells you he can’t send it to your current address because the company has an old address on file. Or imagine trying to activate a card via text or email while you’re traveling, but you can’t get it to work because the company has old numbers and addresses on file.

Unsurprisingly, financial institutions are hesitant to make any changes to an account while it’s flagged for possible fraudulent activity. If you want to get a replacement card in hand as quickly as possible when you need it, make any updates to your contact information now.

3. Keep Your Credit Card Contact Information and Account Number Handy

This one is easy. Record the toll-free support number for each card’s financial institution in your phone’s contact book. Though you could probably track down the number fairly quickly with internet access, time is often of the essence when reporting a lost or stolen card, so make it easy for yourself. Having your account number ready can also save valuable time verifying your identity with the customer service rep.

What to Do When a Credit Card Goes Missing

In general, you should treat a lost credit or debit card as if it was stolen. There’s no major downside to reporting it stolen, other than having to replace the card.

Obtaining the highest level of protection against fraudulent use of your card is based on how quickly you report the incident. Federal law says you have zero liability for any charges made on your card after you report it’s gone, but you may be liable for charges made before you do so.

If You Think Your Card Is Lost

1. Retrace your steps.

You may be lucky. Your card or wallet might be waiting for you right where you left it.

2. Cancel your card, and request a replacement.

Even if you’re lucky enough to find your lost card or it’s returned to you by a good Samaritan, your financial information may be compromised. Someone may have copied all the information needed to process a transaction. It may be best to err on the safe side and get a new card.

If You Think Your Card Was Stolen

1. Report it immediately

Call the financial institution that issued the card using the 24-hour support phone number for fraud prevention and report the card as stolen. If your entire wallet was stolen with multiple cards and pieces of identification in it, call every financial institution as soon as possible.

2. Keep records

Make a record of the time and date of your call and who you spoke to. Since your liability for unauthorized transactions is tied to speedy reporting, plan to prove you were diligent just in case.

3. File a police report

Another way to demonstrate your due diligence and avoid any liability for unauthorized charges is to show you made an official report regarding the incident.

4. Notify the credit reporting agencies

It’s a good idea to put a security alert on your credit reports. Although this may be overkill for the loss of a single card, it can offer an extra layer of protection if the theft evolves into full-fledged identity theft. Victims of identity theft can sometimes have a hard time proving that negative credit reporting was the result of an impersonation. An immediate alert regarding the initial incident can go a long way when you want negative information removed.

5. Watch your account activity

Take advantage of online access to your account to monitor activity. Check your monthly statements immediately upon receipt and not months later. If you see anything strange or unauthorized, contact your financial institution. Don’t assume that because you canceled the card everything is under control. Thieves develop new ways to take advantage of access to even the smallest bit of your financial information all the time.

6. Update your auto payments

Try to remember to do this before the auto payments bounce back for nonpayment. Don’t let the theft of the card derail your good credit.

FAQs

What do I do if I lost my credit card?

To ensure maximum protection against having to pay for unauthorized charges, call the credit card company’s 24-hour support line and report the missing card right away at any time of the day or night. Try retracing your steps if you think you can find the lost card, but even if it’s returned to you by a third party, you may want to request a replacement card to be safe.

Can I track my credit card if I lost it?

New ways to track personal belongings are being developed all the time. Check with your financial institution to see if it has a way to locate a missing card by its internal chip. Some companies offer other features, such as the ability to turn the card on and off with an app if it’s temporarily misplaced.

How long does it take to get a replacement credit card?

Typically, it takes seven to 10 days to receive a replacement card. However, each company has its own policies regarding turnaround time, which can range from overnight to weeks.

Why is my credit card not working?

A credit card can stop working for any number of reasons, including damage to the card or a negative credit balance. Occasionally, a credit card company places a hold on a card if the security agents see a suspicious transaction or a transaction with details that lie outside of your normal spending habits. In these cases, you can usually reactivate your card by calling the credit company and verifying your identity and recent transactions.

The post What to Do When Your Credit Card Goes Missing appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com