The Charge-It Blog

  • Dawn Papandrea

    Facebook reactions for my credit status

    Looking at your credit card statements or your credit report can bring forth a froth of emotions. Hopefully they’re mostly of the positive variety, but everyone has been down in the dollar dumps at one point or another.

    Take a look at what sort of credit statuses might inspire me to click each of Facebook’s new reaction buttons: Facebook reactions for my credit status

    LIKE — I’m always happy to give a thumbs-up when I learn about a credit product’s cool perks and features. One of my issuers offers a free credit score each month, and another offers a transparent, confusion-free cash back rewards system.

    Other reasons to click “like”:
    — An easy-to-navigate website and app to set alerts, check balances, redeem rewards, and make payments.
    — A credit report without any errors.

    LOVE — After a couple of years of hard work and smarter choices, finally achieving a stellar FICO score was enough to make me swoon. I’ve always had decent credit, but moving into a higher tier gave me a level of satisfaction that my commitment to better financial health was paying off. I “heart” progress!

    Other reasons to click “love”:
    — Seeing a zero balance on all of your credit statements.
    — Cashing in on a free flight or hanging out in a cardholder VIP lounge.

    HAHA — Realizing I spend way too much money on Chinese takeout (and other silly things). If your credit issuer offers a breakdown of your spending, seeing it in pie chart form can be a real eye-opener.

    Other reasons to click “haha”:
    — When I fumble with a chip reader only to find out the merchant doesn’t support my more secure chipped card yet.
    — Randomly signing my maiden name on a credit slip despite being married for 13 years. Some habits die hard.

    WOW — Discovering that you’ve accumulated thousands of reward points. Before I was keen to all this credit card stuff, I didn’t pay much attention to my points balance until one day I noticed it was there. I was able to redeem them for a whole bunch of gift cards that powered my holiday gift shopping that year.

    Other reasons for a “wow” reaction:
    — The totality of a credit report – it’s amazing how big one’s financial footprint can be!
    — Looking at the pile of credit card offers in my “to shred” pile. Yikes!

    SAD — When you look at the box on your statement that tells you how long it will take to pay off your balance. Even a small debt can seem hopeless when looking at it from that perspective.

    Other reasons for a “sad” reaction:
    — Imagining a day in the not-so-far future when my kids ask to be added to my credit account as an authorized user (please stop growing already!).
    — Having no choice but to use plastic to pay for an unexpected expense. It happens to the best of us, despite our best efforts to build an emergency fund.

    ANGRY — Scanning your credit activity and noticing that someone tried charging on your account, and it wasn’t you! I’ve caught potential fraud on my accounts a couple of times, and it is infuriating to realize that it can happen no matter how careful you are.

    Other reasons for an “angry” reaction:
    — When your spouse charges something that’s beyond your agreed-upon spending limit and “forgets” to tell you.
    — Forgetting to take your card back from a cashier or restaurant server. Been there, done that.

    Paying attention to how you react to your own credit standing can alert you if you’re not using credit in the most responsible way. If you have a lot to be sad or angry about, look for strategies to help turn those frowns upside down so you can start “liking” and “loving” your financial status.

    SEE ALSO: Your guide to picking the right credit card

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  • Dawn Papandrea

    Do you need credit when you retire?

    When you think about the need to have a good credit score, you probably associate it with buying a home, getting a good rate on an auto loan, and other “young adult” milestones. That’s probably why nearly half of baby boomers aged 51-70 said in a recent survey that they believe one’s credit score matters less after age 70.

    While that may be true in some cases, the survey by TransUnion (one of the three major credit bureaus) revealed some common misconceptions about the impact that credit standing can have on the lives of seniors.credit-important-seniors_Sm

    Among the findings, just 61 percent said that credit score was important for co-signing loans for adult children or grandchildren, and only 32 percent thought their score could affect their ability to move into a nursing home or long-term care facility.

    Despite those findings, as the population ages and life expectancy increases, maintaining a strong credit score throughout your life is becoming more important.

    “Good credit cannot only help them finance medical expenses and long-term care, but also help them support children, grandchildren and other family members as they take on middle-life expenses, like buying a house or paying for school,” Ken Chaplin, senior vice president for TransUnion, said in a news release.

    Keeping your credit in shape as you age is not unlike maintaining your own health. Here are some ways to keep your score young and vibrant:

    • Stay active. Just as you power walk, golf, or do pool aerobics, it’s important to flex your credit muscles regularly, too. The simplest way to do that is to use a credit card or two for small purchases each month, and pay the bill in full. You might designate a card for your gas, your groceries, or your prescriptions, for instance.
    • Get regular check-ups. Checking your three credit reports on a regular basis, at least once per year via annualcreditreport.com, will help ensure that warning signs of fraud or identity theft don’t go unnoticed. A routine exam will confirm that all of the accounts listed are accurate and up to date.
    • Get fit for your golden years. As you get older, you should keep aiming for as close to a debt-free lifestyle as possible. Keep paying all your bills on time, and work on eliminating any lingering credit card balances if you have them.
    • Start a healthy budget diet. As you approach your nonworking years, it’s a good idea to practice living on what your fixed income will be when you retire. Anything extra that you can put into savings and/or retirement accounts to help ensure that you don’t have to borrow will help give your credit status longevity.

    While you might not think that your credit score will come into play later in life, taking good care of it could serve you well should the day come when you need to sign for a loan or qualify for a great interest rate for something. In short, keeping up with your financial fitness regimen is something that can benefit you for a lifetime.

    SEE ALSO: 7 ways to keep your credit strong in your later years

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  • Peter Fullam

    Women handle credit better than men, study finds

    Women are better than men when it comes to credit and financial management, a new study by Experian finds. Women have higher credit scores, less debt, more open credit cards and fewer late payments.

    “Even with more credit cards, women have fewer overall debts and are managing to pay those debts on time,” Michele Raneri, Experian’s vice president of analytics and new business development, said in an email. “Men appear to be taking on a bit more than women, specifically when it comes to the homes and cars they buy, which could be affecting their credit scores.”card-match_Sm

    The study by one of the three major credit score bureaus noted six key areas in which women outperform men:

    • Credit scores: The average score for women was 675 compared with 670 for men.
    • Average debt: Women have 3.7 percent less.
    • Number of open credit cards: Women have 23.5 percent more.
    • Revolving credit: Women’s use of available credit was 4.2 percent lower.
    • Average mortgage amount: Women’s loan amount was 7.9 percent less.
    • Late mortgage payments: Women had an 8.1 percent lower incidence of late payments.

    “Paying your bills on time is the single most important contributor to good credit,” Raneri said. “While the instances of late payments are relatively low for both men and women, it’s important to understand that late payments negatively affect your ability to get credit since they indicate a stronger likelihood that you will make late payments again or will be unable to pay your debts in the future.”

    Experian’s findings may not come as a surprise. Several previous studies have found women to be better budget minders than men, and that both sexes generally agree on that.

    A 2009 global Reuters Synovate survey of more than 9,000 men and women in 12 countries found that women are more responsible with their money, less likely to get in debt and work harder to become financially independent. More than half the respondents of both genders agreed women are more responsible.

    “Looking closer at our data … we see that women working full time in the United States earn approximately 23 percent less income than men, but that women are taking steps to manage their finances better than men,” Raneri said in comments with a similar 2013 report by Experian.

    Minnesota was the state the highest credit scores for both men and women, 703 and 710 respectively. Nevada had the lowest average credit scores for men, 645, and Mississipi had the lowest average credit scores for women, 640, according to the latest report.

    The study was conducted using 750,000 consumers from Experian’s December 2015 consumer credit database, which represents a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds.

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  • Kayla Albert

    Some debts can give you a tax break

    Sending in mortgage payments and chipping away at your student loan debt might be painful throughout the year, but at tax time these debt payments can help lessen your obligation to Uncle Sam. If you haven’t already filed your taxes, you may be able to cash in on these tax breaks.

    College tuition and fees
    If you attended college during the 2015 school year, this big deduction can lower your tax. The American Opportunity Tax Credit allows you to claim up to $2,500 per student as long as your adjusted gross income (AGI) is at or below $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for married filers. The credit can be used toward required course materials (books, supplies and equipment) as well as tuition and fees.

    Some debt could give you a tax break

    Student loan interest
    If you’re paying back student loans, you can deduct up to $2,500 of qualified student loan interest per year. The fine print: Your  modified AGI must be $65,000 or less if you’re filing as single or head of household. If you’re married and filing jointly, your  modified AGI must be $130,000 or less. If your AGI is between $65,000 and $80,000 (single) or $125,000 and $160,000 (married), you could qualify for a smaller deduction.

    Mortgage interest
    Mortgage interest can take a big chunk out of your monthly payment, but it’s mostly all tax deductible. You can deduct the interest paid on home loans up to $1 million, or $500,000 if you’re married and filing separately (as each spouse can deduct up to half of the $1 million). If you have a second home, you can write off that interest as well — as long as the total for both your primary and secondary homes is under that limit. 

    Private mortgage insurance
    If you didn’t put at least 20 percent down when you purchased your home, you’re likely dealing with a pesky   called Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This too might be deductible at tax time if your loan was acquired in 2007 or later, the home is your primary residence and your AGI is less than $109,000 (or $54,500 for married taxpayers filing separately).

    Your car
    If you’ve jumped on board with the ridesharing economy, or you use your car for making deliveries, for example, that set of wheels could deliver a deduction on your taxes.  For 2015, the maximum first-year depreciation write-off for a new (not used) car is $3,160 plus up to an additional $8,000 in bonus depreciation, according to TurboTax’s tax tips for small businesses.

    For a used car, the maximum first-year write-off for 2015 is a much lower $3,160. (These figures assume 100 percent business use.) If you bought a sweet SUV ride to pick up and drop off riders — or packages, you may be able to claim a much bigger deduction.

    Beware, however, you can only take this deduction in the first year you began using your car. If you weren’t using it for business at the time, you’re out of luck.

    While tax breaks will never make up for the expense of these debts, the deductions will at least lessen the blow of your final tax bill — or put a few extra dollars back in your pocket.

    SEE ALSO: 1099-C: Not all forgiven debt is forgotten at tax time

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  • Kayla Albert

    Does your card offer these unusual perks?

    That  credit card that’s handy for purchases also may offer some sweet and unusual discounts, freebies and cash back. In addition to including money-saving benefits such as price protection and extended warranties, credit cards are offering more unique perks.

    Here are a few of the more interesting ones:

    Discounts on Uber rides
    Leaving your car at home just got a little smarter. Through April 30, 2016, Capital One Quicksilver and QuicksilverOne cardholders  can get a  20 percent discount on all Uber rides, plus 1.5 percent cash back on the fare price.  Oh, and all new Uber riders using the promo code RIDIN20 can get their first ride free (up to $20) through April 30. That promo code applies for Capital One cardholders and anyone else using Uber for the first time.pay-by-selfie_Sm

    American Express cardholders with Membership Rewards can score 2 reward points for every $1 spent on Uber fares through July 31, 2018, Cardholders also receive up to $30 off their first Uber ride using the promo code UBERAMEX on the Uber app.

    Cash back bonus for good grades
    Discover is challenging the notion that good grades don’t come with a monetary payback with the Good Grade Reward offered to new card members with a Discover it or Discover it Chrome cards for students. Students enrolled in college with a GPA of 3.0 or higher can receive one $20 credit per school year.

    Free rounds of golf
    If you have the Citi Prestige Card, you can practice your swing with three free rounds of golf per calendar year. There are over 2,000 public and private courses around the world where you can cash in this benefit. Just  be sure to cancel any tee-times you can’t make, or you could be on the hook for the charges. 

    Access to your favorite NFL teams
    Die-hard football fans can now take their fan status to a whole new level: the NFL Extra Points Credit Card. With this card you will get 20 percent off all purchases at NFLShop.com and 2 points per $1 spent on NFL or team purchases (including tickets). The best part? Points can be redeemed for VIP NFL experiences.

    Free museum admission
    If you’d rather browse art exhibits than watch football games, a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit card may be just the ticket. With either of these cards, you can get free general admission on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month to one of 150 museums, science centers and more in 33 states. 

    Did we miss some great card perk out there? Have you ever received a unique perk for using your credit card? Leave a comment and let us know what it was!

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  • Brianti Downing

    Pay for your purchases — using a selfie?!?!

    Forget your password? Starting this summer you may be able to snap a selfie to verify your identification for payment.

    Mastercard announced at the Mobile World Congress in late February that customers soon will be able to choose facial recognition (a selfie) or fingerprint identification to approve their purchases, says Dennis Gamiello, vice president of iIdentity solutions at MasterCard. pay-by-selfie_Sm

    “Passwords are a pain. They’re easily forgotten,” he says. “We want to do away from them to make sure there’s a more safe and seamless experience when you shop online and deal with your bank.”

    To sign up for the selfie-pay program, you’ll download MasterCard’s Identity Check mobile app and upload a photo of yourself. Gamiello says that image isn’t stored but encrypted in a series of ones and zeroes that will focus on your most prominent features for facial recognition. When you make purchases, you’ll take a selfie to verify it’s you. (You have to blink so it’s clear it’s not someone just holding up a static image of you.)

    Why selfies for payment authentication?

    “Millennials relate well to selfies, but other groups relate to it as well,” Gamiello says.

    Facial recognition and fingerprint identification fight identity fraud, which is increasing. A 2016 Javelin study found that identity fraud  rose by 3 percent in 2015, amounting to 13.1 million victims.

    There’s no “silver bullet” to security. Scans of a fingerprint, facial features or an eye’s iris saved in a database — like your Social Security number — could be stolen in a data breach.

    MasterCard tested its Identity Check app in the United States and the Netherlands. For the U.S. test, the card network worked with Silicon Valley’s First Tech Federal Credit Union, which has customers in the high-tech community — a tough crowd that probably knows more than most of us about security.

    With the Dutch participants, nine of 10 indicated they would like to replace their password with biometric identification. Almost 75 percent said they believe the use of biometrics will reduce fraud.

    Biometric security — checking someone’s identity using characteristics such as face, voice or fingerprints — has been in development for decades. For example, San Antonio-based USAA became the first U.S. financial institution to allow customers to log onto its mobile app using facial and voice recognition.

    And Visa announced at the Mobile World Congress its own partnership with ID specialists Morpho to work on a range of biometric security solutions.

    For MasterCard, selfie and fingerprint identification are “just the beginning,” Gamiello says, adding Identity Check could be integrated into e-commerce sites, like Amazon, in the future.

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  • Tom O'Connell

    6 ways to save money with your plastic

    It’s all about saving during America Saves Week, and saving is something we all can do better. Just 40 percent of U.S. households are doing a good job saving money, according to an annual survey by Consumer Federation of America, which started the nationwide saving initiative in 2001.

    “America Saves Week reminds people across our country of the value of developing a financial plan and saving to help achieve their goals,” says Thomas J. Curry of the U.S. Treasury Department on the AmericaSavesWeek website.

    Saving tips and tricks
    America Saves offers 54 ways to save on everything from entertainment to home heating and cooling.card-match_Sm

    Among the tips are six ideas to save by smartly using credit and debit cards:

    1. Track your spending. Every month, sit down and review your credit card statements and other records, and analyze your purchases. Decide if some of your discretionary spending can go toward an emergency fund instead.

    2. Limit your credit card purchases. Buy things on credit only if you’re able to pay them off in full before interest accrues.

    3. Watch those overdraft fees. Never rely on your debit card’s overdraft option.

    4. Bring your credit card debt down by $1,000, which can save you up to $200 a year, and a lot more if you’re paying high penalties.

    5. Make your card payments on time. Those late fees add up and can really take a toll on your credit score.

    6. Save around $150 a year by using only ATMs in your network.

    Create a plan for successful saving
    The America Saves survey found that those who have a “savings plan with specific goals” are more successful. Eighty-four percent of respondents with a saving plan spend less than their income and save the difference, compared to 46 percent of those without a plan. Over half of those with a plan reported “making good or excellent saving progress,” compared to less than a quarter of those without a plan.

    To get started on your own savings goals, America Saves invites you to “take the pledge.” The online tool allows you to enter a savings goal and a set length of time to achieve it. America Saves will send you regular text messages containing tips and reminders to help you along the way.

    Never too late to start saving
    One of the central messages of America Saves Week is that it’s never too late to start saving. Even as America Saves Week (Feb. 22-27) is ending, you can start setting some financial goals — for a vacation, an emergency fund or your retirement.

    “It’s a common theme to see expenses and debt get in the way of retirement savings,” says Kathy Stokes, director of the American Savings Education Council, in a news release. “But even saving just a small amount can add up over time.”

    SEE ALSO: 8 ways spare change can help you live a richer life

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