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Archive for April, 2011

Can Your Credit Cards Help You With Managing Your Money?

Written by Toi Williams on Apr 28th, 2011 | Filed under: credit cards

One of the newest tactics used by credit card companies to entice more consumers to sign up for their products is offering credit cards that will help the person manage their personal finances.  In recent months, several new credit card products have been introduced to the market that promise to help users pay down their debt, manage their daily spending, or budget for large purchases.  These credit cards are being marketed to credit worthy borrowers in every income bracket as a simple way to take control of their finances.

Some financial experts believe that these new credit card products are meant to relieve the anxiety that many consumers are feeling about using their credit cards since the financial crisis of 2008.  Unfortunately, many of these new credit card products carry interest rates that are significantly higher than the credit cards offered in past years.  Many credit card issuers say that the higher interest rates are unavoidable because of the tight lending standards that the lenders are now operating under.

One of the most popular new credit cards offered is the Blueprint card from Chase.  The goal of the Blueprint card is to make expenses more manageable by allowing cardholders to choose which purchases they would like to pay off every month and dividing large purchases into manageable payment blocks to be paid off over time.  The account holders do not pay interest on the purchases that they pay off each month.

What many credit card holders do not know is that these same things can be accomplished with any credit card by the cardholder’s own actions.  Anyone can go through the details of their credit card statement and pay off everyday expense charges.  Although the person will not pay interest on the purchases that they pay off in full every month, they will be assessed interest charges on their other purchases and interest rate charged could be as much as 21.99%.  The biggest benefit of this credit card is that it provides a visual aid for cardholder’s to see how they are managing their finances.

Other new credit card offerings, including the Payment Plus card from TD Bank’s, the Journey card from Capital One, and the Forward card by Citibank, offer customers better credit card terms for paying their bill on time.  Some cards cut interest charges by a certain percentage when the cardholder pays more than a predetermined percentage of their overall account balance.  Other credit cards offer cash back rewards or interest rate reductions for paying the bill before the due date on consecutive occasions.

Credit card issuers claim that these offerings are incentives meant to reward good behavior by the credit card holder, but the interest rates charged for these credit cards significantly reduce any benefits the cardholders receive from the card.  The credit card companies state that the interest rates charged reflect the level of risk taken on the issuance of the credit cards.  If the person can get a better rate with a different credit card, it may save them a great amount of money over the years that they hold the account.  There are very few things that these credit cards can do that the people cannot do for themselves with smart financial management.


Be Sure To Review These Features On Reward Credit Cards

Written by Toi Williams on Apr 20th, 2011 | Filed under: credit cards

Being able to obtain a credit card is very important part of today’s financial environment and many people are seeking a reward credit card meet their financial needs and reward their loyalty to the company issuing the credit card.  There are many differences between reward credit cards that can cost or save a person a great deal of money and knowing which type of rewards card is the best will take time and research to determine.  To find the best reward credit card, there are several features that the person should review. 

The Terms Of The Reward Credit Card

The best type of card for one person may not be the best type of card for another person.  An ideal reward credit card for an individual will have the highest credit limit with the lowest interest rate for the longest amount of time and rewards for activities that they regularly perform.  It is very important that any person looking for credit cards reads all of the terms and conditions associated with the credit card make sure that they understand the terms for the credit card and how the interest rates will be calculated.

The terms that you will get for a reward credit card will depend on your personal financial situation and previous credit history.  The majority of reward credit card interest rates are based on the person’s credit score, which is used to determine a person’s credit worthiness and their record of repaying money that they have borrowed from creditors.  A person with a good credit history for the last few years will be much more attractive to credit card companies than a person that has many missed payments on their credit report.

The Credit Limit For The Reward Credit Card

The credit limit for a reward credit card can vary from person to person.  Some people may have their credit limit capped at $2,500 while other people may qualify for a credit limit of $25,000 or more based on their income and credit history.  A reward credit card will have a reasonable credit limit based on the person’s income level without charging the person a great deal of hidden fees to obtain the credit card or keep the credit account open. 

The Rewards For The Reward Credit Card

The rewards offered by the reward credit card are not the most important features for choosing a particular credit card, but choosing a card with rewards that are actually valuable to you will be essential.  Who wants to earn rewards that they will not use?  There are many different types of rewards that can be earned, including travel vouchers, event tickets, cash back, and merchandise.


Summertime and the Savings are Easy

Written by admin on Apr 19th, 2011 | Filed under: saving

With most consumers still feeling the pinch, there’s never been a better time to embrace a more cost-effective and frugal way of life, particularly for those looking to boost their savings, reduce debt or generally cut their outgoings.

The great news is that switching to a more frugal way of life isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as many think. It can even be fun, particularly as the results rack up!

A quick trawl through money-saving websites, frugal living books and articles and online forums will reveal a wealth of tips to start cutting down on unnecessary spending. The trick is to start small and build upwards, involving your family as much as possible and ideally making the project into a fun, shared one.

Start with the essentials. If you have savings, make sure that they are earning interest. An ISA is a great place to start – aim to fill it up each year for tax-free savings.

Cash and stocks/share ISAs are both available and you can find a good ISA with Moneysupermarket, Compare the Market and other online comparison stores.

Additionally, if you go via a cashback site when reviewing a potential ISA you may find that cashback is offered on any eventual product taken out.

It’s important though not to make financial product decisions based on the potential of a cashback sum, as they aren’t foolproof and are offered at the provider’s discretion.

Take a deep breath and go through your monthly income and outgoings. Create a budget. If you’re spending more than you earn, look at areas where savings can be made to help your books balance.

For example, review utility providers to see whether a more competitive deal is available. Look for ways to reduce your energy consumption in the home; simple measures such as turning off standby electrical items and using energy-efficient light bulbs will make a significant different.

Look too at ways to reduce food shopping. A popular way is to ‘downgrade’ your supermarket, or your brand purchases for own-label alternatives.

Start cooking to avoid spending on ready meals. Make large portions and freeze them for future use. Buy fresh and in season and make use of local markets for extra money saving.

For social events and treats, sign up to schemes such as Groupon and Living Social to get special offers on days out, online shopping and gifts – these utilise the power of bulk / group purchasing and the savings can be significant.

Sign up for loyalty schemes and start using them, make use of vouchers and keep your eyes open for free and cheap entertainment. Often you’ll be amazed at what’s on offer when you start to look, particularly council-run events, ‘two for one’ offers and cheap midweek eating

Ultimately, frugal living is very much the theme of the day and a hugely popular one for many people. So ride the trend and take advantage; you’ll find you may get fitter, healthier, spend more time with your family and save money into the bargain.


Using Spring Cleaning To Create Some Cash

Written by Toi Williams on Apr 11th, 2011 | Filed under: mindset

Every year about this time, people across the nation begin their spring cleaning rituals, making their homes clean and clutter free as soon as the days begin to warm from winter’s freezing temperatures.  Many things are discarded during the spring cleaning process that may still have some value to other individuals, so instead of consigning those items to the trash can you should try to turn them into money for your needs.  There are many different ways to turn your unwanted items into cash.

Selling Items

There are many venues available for selling unwanted items and nearly anything can be resold.  There are consignment stores that purchase clothing, handbags, and hats.  There are reseller stores that specialize in electronics, sports equipment, media items, or items for the home.  Most of these stores pay cash for the items they determine that they would like to buy after a brief inspection for quality and ability to function. 

The amount that is paid for each item sold to these stores will depend on a number of factors.  The popularity of the item sold, the condition of the item, and the age of the item all play a part in determining how much a particular item is worth.  You will not get a great deal of money from these stores for each item, but the amount you get is better than the zero money you would get if you threw the item in the trash.

You can also choose to have a garage sale to sell your items yourself.  Many local newspapers will allow you to list the date and address of your garage sale in a specific section of the newspaper for a nominal fee to increase the chances that an interested party will learn about your garage sale.  Some cities require a permit to hold a garage sale so be sure to review the rules for your area before you begin setting out your items.

Donating Items

Any items that cannot be sold can be donated to a worthy charity to be restored, refurbished, or used for parts.  Many charities will pick up the items from your home if you call them directly and schedule a pick up date.  Some will also give you a receipt for your items so that they can be claimed as a charitable contribution on your annual income taxes.


What Assets Are Protected When Filing For Bankruptcy?

Written by Toi Williams on Apr 10th, 2011 | Filed under: bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy is a stressful process felt by more than 1.5 million individuals every year, often at the end of a long, difficult period of trying to reduce debt levels to a manageable amount.  In most cases, many of the assets held by the person declaring bankruptcy will be taken by the trustee and sold to pay off creditors, but there are some assets that are protected when filing for bankruptcy.  The exact assets protected from seizure will vary depending on the state that you live in, but here are the assets that are protected in most areas.

Primary Residence

The decision of whether you will be able to keep your primary residence after bankruptcy will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the property, the amount owed on the home, and the state that the person lives in.  In some states, the amount of land around the home that can also be kept is specified in the bankruptcy rules and anything above that amount will be sold to pay off creditors.  It is important to read the bankruptcy rules for your particular state to find out whether or not you will be able to keep your home after declaring bankruptcy.

Tax Exempt Retirement Fund

The money that has been placed in a tax exempt retirement fund is legally protected from seizure to pay off creditors in a bankruptcy.  In most states, 401K’s, employer sponsored retirement plans, and individual retirement plans cannot be taken in bankruptcy court.  Some states cap the amount that is protected in an IRA at $1.17 million per person, with amounts above that seized to pay creditors.

Vehicle

Your primary vehicle may be protected from seizure if it meets certain criteria under the bankruptcy laws in your state.  Vehicles where the owner owes more than the value of the vehicle on the loan can generally be kept as long as the payments remain current.  Some states have an exemption limit for bankruptcy filings and vehicles that are paid off whose value is lower than this threshold may be kept.  Valuable vehicles that are paid off may be seized and sold to pay creditors.


Talking Your Debts the Sensible Way

Written by admin on Apr 7th, 2011 | Filed under: debt relief

Reducing your debts can be incredibly difficult unless you have a strategy and approach that you can stick to. You will need to be persistent and motivated in your approach but the end result will be worth it.

There’s no point in thinking that your debts will just go away over night, so you need to map out your progress to make sure you’re on the right track.

If you have a long list of debts then the first thing I would do is list your debts in order of priority so that you can identify which ones need to be paid off first. Your high interest debts should be your top priority as they will be the most damaging to you financially.

Once you have identified which debts you need to pay off, you need to think of what you can do in the short term to try and give you some stability.

For example, do you have a lot of credit card debt? If you have then you should consider taking out a balance transfer credit card. Using one of these cards you can transfer all of your credit card debts to one card and you can avoid paying any interest on these debts for up to 18 months. This will then give you the time to focus on the more damaging debts that you have.

You should also check if you have any savings that you are able to quickly access to relieve some of the pressure on you. Even if the best cash ISA doesn’t solve all of your debt problems it certainly will help.

Another thing you could do is sell an asset that you don’t need, this could be used as a quick fix to pay back some of the money owed. Do you have any collectables or unwanted items that you could part with? When dealing with debt it’s true that every little helps.

One of the very important short term fixes to debt is budgeting. Set up a budget so that you know where you spend your money week in week out. Then you can identify where you can cut back to try and get some money together to tackle your debts.

Once you have initiated some short term fixes to give you some breathing space, it’s time to try and identify how you are going to tackle your long term debt problems. Grab a pen and paper and brainstorm, how you can make some extra cash? Could you cut down your phone bill? Could you switch electricity providers? These are the sorts of questions you need to think of.

Tackling your debts should be a well thought out process, you don’t want to make a quick and irrational decision to find out that it was the wrong one that has long term implications.

If you feel like your debts have spiralled out of control, and that you are in a position that there is no coming back from, you need to consult your bank and/or a financial adviser as they will be able to guide you on the best possible course of action.


Feeling The Pain At The Gas Pump?

Written by Toi Williams on Apr 6th, 2011 | Filed under: saving

In recent years, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has fluctuated dramatically, currently settling in a range that is close to $4.00 per gallon.  This has affected many family’s budgets in a very negative way, with more of the family income going towards purchasing gasoline and less going towards basic luxuries like trips to the movies or new shoes.  Although there seems to be nothing we can do about the high gas prices, there are some actions that we can take to make the pain at the pump hurt a little bit less.  Here are some tips on reducing your consumption of gasoline and getting the best price when you do have to purchase fuel for your vehicle.

Use A Gas Price Application To Check Prices

There are many applications available on the internet or designed for smart phones that will allow the user to check the gas prices for the gas stations in the area that they are in.  Different gas stations can have widely different prices for gasoline based on the location of the gas station and the brand of gasoline that is being sold.  Using these applications to check prices before heading to a gas station helps you find the cheapest prices in the area and can save you hundreds of dollars in gas purchases every year.

Use Those Frequent Shopper Discounts

Many grocery store chains are offering their frequent shoppers a discount on each gallon of gas that they purchase from the store branded gas station.  For example, one popular grocery chain offers customers a $0.10 discount on each gallon of gas purchased for each $100 spent from the beginning of the month until the end of the month.  A person that spent $300 in merchandise and groceries from the store would receive a $0.30 per gallon discount, a $4.50 discount on a 15 gallon fill up.

Fill Up Strategically

Waiting until you are almost completely out of gas before stopping at a gas station virtually guarantees that you will be stopping at the first place you see, which may not have the best prices.  By planning your fill ups ahead of time, you can take advantage of the lowest prices along your typical commute route and avoid purchasing gas on the days that the prices are highest, typically on the weekends when people are traveling. 

Following these tips can save you hundreds of dollars each year on your gasoline purchases.  Wouldn’t you love to have that money to put towards other needs?