Should Companies Pay Us When They Make Mistakes?

Every day, it feels like we are barraged by more and more responsibility for company mistakes while they suffer fewer and fewer consequences. After banks went into bankruptcy in 2009, we bailed them out. Meanwhile, if you have a credit card at 29% and can’t pay it, you are given the choice of bankruptcy and being hobbled financially for 10 years. When I lived in Germany, a country with a generally strong economy whose inhabitants almost never use credit cards, I shared American CC interest rates. 
“Here we would put someone in jail for rates like those,” they said. I could spend a day on the credit situation in this country but that’s for another article. What I want to talk about is the numerous hours each of us spends every year fixing company mistakes. Problem with your phone bill? That’s an hour on the phone. Computer breakdown? Three hours. Gas or internet set up? You might have to take off an entire day of work to be home between the hours of 10 and 6pm when the repair man might or might not come. Is there a reason we aren’t allowed to charge for our time? If I’m a graphic designer at $50 an hour, those three hours fixing my computer just cost me $150. Depending on your salary, these losses could be anywhere from $45 dollars to $600 each time. Why aren’t companies paying us for that time?

Once upon a time, companies used to pay us back when they made a mistake. It was called, credit. Companies seemed to be concerned with making us happy. When problems arose, you spoke with a human being who most often, would give you a refund to pay you for your trouble and inconvenience, A win-win for everyone. In the past decade, with the rise of digital companies who opted for no customer service and no way to reach a human being, other firms followed suit. After all, business is about money and customer service costs money. Since those days, it seems as if today’s business strategies revolve around how much money they can make with the least amount of effort and how much of their responsibility they can shove onto us. Here’s what is fundamentally wrong with that business format. We’re human. Paying someone for their time shows respect. It shows that you value that person’s expertise. By not reimbursing us, companies are in effect demonstrating that we don’t matter. Now on top of taking up our time, they are also taking our private, personal information. And what was the solution to protect our privacy? Use up more of our time. Take the current privacy crisis with social media. What solution did great minds come up with to solve this problem? They decided to set up light boxes that force anyone who wants to protect their privacy to read through pages and pages of legal documents few understand and no one has time for. That might be fine if each of us dealt with only one online company, but we don’t, we deal with hundreds. The other solution? Make us give our personal email and location information in order to have “privacy” with zero assurance we are actually getting it.

I am continually amazed by how kind, thoughtful, generous and nice people are, by how long they are willing to put up with persecution and only stand up to fight back when things have gotten to a point where they can no longer survive. Why are humans so patient in the face of injustice? I for one, say, companies should pay us for our precious time that they waste. Credit card companies should cut us the same breaks they get, our data should be private without having to read a legal forms, and none of us should have to miss work for a day for the repair man.

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Traveling for free- how and why

Growing up in the suburbs of Jersey, the only traveling we did was visiting family in New York. I definitely can’t complain, New York is fun and all, but I always wanted to see more. I almost felt homesick for a place I have never been too. Culture fascinated me almost as much as the run away from reality. I mean, fuck, this is therapeutic but I am going way off topic.

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” — Mark Twain

After I turned 18, I learned about credit cards. I learned more about credit card points and miles then anything else. Sign up and get a bonus 50,000 Miles after doing a few thousand in spending. Sure, as an 18 year old kid that’s more money than Angelina Jolie has kids, but my parents gladly used my new card for the grocery shopping and tuition. Before I knew it, I had more miles then I knew what to do with.

Until I was 20, I saved. Hoarded points and miles like your grandma hoards old photos. I had hundred of thousands of points and miles and was not ready to stop collecting.


The funny thing about points and miles is that it isn’t just a spend and win strategy. Some redemptions are so much better than the others, like a lot better.

As an example, if you were to take your points and use them towards cashback, with some credit cards you’ll get $500 for 100,000 points. If you use the exact points for travel, you can book the value of a 10–15 thousand dollar first class ticket in Singapore Airlines suites, a true iconic flight. But that’s for another time.

Bottom line, I had lots to learn. What does a young adult do when he’s got plenty to learn? Internet. Reddit. Blogs. YouTube. I spent months in a hole learning and learning. After a few months, we took our first trip to Europe. We flew from Tel Aviv (where I was located at the time) to London using British Airways Miles. From there we took a bus to Paris and rented a car. We spent the next 3 weeks traveling through Central Europe.

In about 3 weeks, we got to experience 12 countries completely soaked in the culture. Talk about culture shock! Aside from the learning cultural experience, we got to stay in luxurious hotels. I even got to spend my 21st Birthday in the beautiful Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona, right on the ocean. Being diamond status with Hilton from all the spending , we got upgraded to a tremendous and gorgeous suite.

Now, I’m not here to brag, rather talk about how far learning about something new and diving right in can get you. Maybe across the world, maybe just to see your long lost family, or maybe just running away from reality. Fuck, am I going off topic again?

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg

Credit Card Defaults: Disaster Looming?

Articles covering auto loan defaults have appeared in every major publication. Here is Wall Street Journal. Here is New York Times. Here is Bloomberg. If you don’t know that auto loan defaults are on the rise, it’s because you aren’t paying attention.

Whether we should be worried about an “auto bubble” is for someone else to write about. The only point I’m making here is that auto loan defaults seem to be on the rise and we all seem to know about it.

But, are auto loans the only consumer loan category that we should be worried about?

The four largest credit card issuers in the United States are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Capital One.

These are four well known banks. They have a combined market cap of over $700 billion. Their total credit card cards are responsible for nearly $1.5 trillion in annual spending. To measure this in context, total US credit card spending in 2016 was about $3 trillion.

To put it mildly, these four banks are a big, big deal when it comes to consumer spending.

All four seem to be in trouble with significant increases in loan losses. Yet, no one seems to be asking questions.

Let’s look at the numbers.

JPMorgan Chase is the country’s biggest credit card issuer; and it keeps getting bigger. If you haven’t read about Chase Sapphire you should.

In 2016, total debt outstanding on Chase cards increased by 8.9% compared to an increase in credit card accounts of only 2.7% and increase in total retail spending of less than 3%. This suggests, and Chase, has confirmed that each Chase customer is shifting more and more of their spending to Chase cards. But are Chase customers moving spending to cards to get more points or are they using their cards finance things they can’t afford? Chase is an issuer whose biggest growth has come in high FICO customers. These are customers who you would assume would be good at paying their balances. Let’s take a look at JPMorgan Chase’s latest financial report.

12 months ago, Chase had a net-charge off rate of 2.5% on its credit card debt. That means against outstanding loans of around $140 billion, the bank could expect to lose around $3.5 billion. Today, the bank has a net-charge off rate of 3.01%. That’s $4 billion in annual losses. (Actual statement says $3.8 and $4.3 billion.)

In other words, in the last 12 months, Chase’s bad debt on credit cards has increased by nearly 20%. Not surprisingly, Chase’s allowance for loan losses and reserve for loan losses in the past 12 moths have increased by 20%.

This would not be cause for worry if a) JPMorgan Chase wasn’t one of the best credit card operators in the US and a high FICO issuer and b) other banks were not experiencing similar increases.

Over the course of 2016, total debt outstanding on Capital One cards increased by 10%. Total purchase volume increased by 14%. But total number of cards only increased by 6%. Again, increase in retail spending was less than 3%.

Capital One, itself, is raising the alarm. Analysts noted that on their last quarterly call Capital One “sounded a lot more cautious”. And for good reason.

The first quarter of 2017 saw Capital One write off 5.1% of its debt as bad debt (compared to 3% at Chase.) This is the highest level of debt write off for Capital one in nearly a decade. And Capital One admits that this increase is caused by consumer behavior rather than a surge in loan growth. To this end Capital One has increased its loss provisions for its credit card unit.

Look at that graph carefully. Anything seem odd. Yup. This is the highest level since 2008!

Unlike Chase, Capital One is thought to be a bit of a subprime issuer. About a third of its cards are subprime cards. And that is cause for concern when you look at the increase in cash volume on the cards. That is 14% increase amount of cash that people are taking out on their credit cards. This is obviously incredibly risky behavior.

And when you look outside the big four issuers, numbers get even more interesting.

In its latest quarterly release, AmericanExpress, the high FICO issuer, increased its card member loans provisions for losses by 42% versus Q2 of 2016. (Provisions for losses totaled $345 million, up 46 percent from $237 million from 2016.) American Express tells us “the increase primarily reflected strong growth in the loan portfolio and a higher lending write-off rate.”

Okay. Let’s take a look at the first part of that sentence. Is there a strong growth in American Express’s loan portfolio? Over the past year, American Express lost its biggest co-brand deal, a deal with Costco that was worth billions in loans outstanding. And right there on its quarterly statement American Express is telling us that its total card members loans outstanding was up only 10%.

So a 10% increase in loans against a 46% increase in provisions for losses from those loans.

And American Express, again, is a very high FICO issuer.

What about specialty card issuers? Let’s look at one.

Alliance Data is a speciality co-brand issuer. It issues private label and co-brand credit cards for big retailers like Walgreens, Forever21, Talbots, Wayfair and Pottery Barn. If you’ve applied for a credit card at a retailer, the odds are good that you would have actually been applying for an Alliance Data card.

According to its latest quarterly release, loan losses at Alliance data are up 26% over the past 12 months and its principal loss rate is up to 6.1% (increase by nearly a full percentage) and its delinquency rate is up to 5% (an increase of almost 10% or 50 basis points.)

It seems that loan losses are increasing in every sector of the credit card business, in general issuing (Chase), in sub-prime (Capital One), in high end cards (Amex) and in speciality card (Alliance Data.)

It, of course, must be said that loan growth in the credit card world has not increased by much in 2012–2015, so maybe increasing losses to 4–5% are not as big a deal. Maybe this is a return to normal. That is not a bad argument.

But there are four factors that should make us think there is something here.

First, it is incredibly important to remember that loan losses are a trailing factor. Before a loan loss occurs a customer has to apply for a card, spend money, refuse to make minimum payments and then avoid the bank’s basic collection efforts. And thanks to better software, banks are getting better at issuing cards and collecting on bad loans. Under normal circumstances, one would expect that these improvements would lead to lower losses.

Second, and this cannot be overstated, millennials hate credit cards. The adoption rate for credit cards for those under 35 is only 33%. That means that as years pass loan risk gets concentrated into a smaller and smaller segment of the market — and a segment of the market with lower and lower future income potential.

Third, student loans are now eclipsing credit card debt. But student loans are not easily avoided. You can’t just declare bankruptcy and get rid of student loans. So when people go bankrupt, it is their credit card debt that is written off first.

Fourth, the CARD Act (or The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure) passed in 2009 in response to the last financial disaster created significant rules around disclosure and delinquencies. We are not living in the old days when anyone with a pulse could get a credit card. Credit cards have gotten harder to get. Presumably this means, again, that defaults should be going down.

It is difficult to say whether banks are acting irresponsibly. It is almost certainly true that the banks mentioned above are not. JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, American Express and Alliance Data are incredibly well-run operations. They are the cream of the crop. The concern is this: if these banks are seeing 10–40% increases in losses, what is happening at banks that are less well run? What is happening at banks that are well-run, but issue cards only in sub-prime?

Are we all missing a looming credit card debt disaster?

Many thanks to Aaron Frank (@arfrank) for helping with this post.

How to think about your taxes like you think about your credit card points

Spend hours thinking through how to maximize your credit card perks? You could be doing the same thing with your donation dollars. With some upfront thinking and strategizing, you can save on taxes while doing good in the world.

You might have spent hours combing through your tax deductions this year, only to realize you just missed the cutoff for itemizing.

We can’t help you get back that time, but we can help you make smarter tax decisions by understanding your donation habits. With a Donor Advised Fund, you can “front load” your charitable contributions one year, allowing you to write off a larger portion of your income, and then spend down that contribution over many years.

To make this happen, you have to consider your taxable income, your current itemizing, your income bracket, and — of course- your financial plan.

First, let’s explain the concept of taxable income:

Income taxes are payments paid to the government based on a percent of taxable income. You calculate your taxable income by taking all the income you make — either through your day job or your investments — and subtracting out what’s deductible, or not taxable.

{Taxable Income = Income — Nontaxable Income}

The higher your taxable income, the more taxes you pay. Put another way, the higher your non-taxable income, the less taxes you pay.

There are lots of examples of non-taxable income, a key one being income you donated to nonprofits. (Note: We’re using nontaxable income to refer to adjustments, deductions and exemptions. For a more complete breakdown check out this Motley Fool Article)

Now, let’s talk about itemizing:

The default option when you do your taxes is “non-itemizing” and taking the standard deduction. That basically means, the government assumes that if you’re single, $12,000 of your income is deductible (non-taxable), and if you’re filing married jointly, about $24,000 of your income is deductible (nontaxable).

But, for some people, that ballpark is too low. That’s when you might decide to itemize — that is, show the IRS an itemized list of all the tax-exempt transactions you’ve made that year.

Itemizing is often seen as advantageous, because you can lower your taxable income even more than the standard amount — pending that you prove you’ve made outsized contributions.

Prior to 2019, the “standard amount” was about half the current rate, $6,350. That means you’ll have to give more this year and in coming years to exceed the standard deduction amount that you did in the past.

How does this affect my giving strategy?

For some donors, a method called “bunching” allows them to plan their giving and their tax strategy simultaneously. If you’re coming into a year where you know you may be close to or exceeding the standard deduction, you can use a Donor Advised Fund to front-load your charitable deduction one year, and then over time, spend that money down.

For example, rather than giving $3,000 each year for three years, you can put $9,000 into a Donor Advised Fund, and write-off that $9,000 this year. Over the next three years (or any time period, really) you can give that money away to charities, spending down the amount as if it were a debit card or a gift card. Since you already received the write-off when you put money into the Donor Advised Fund, you don’t report any charitable deductions in the years to come. Those two years, you instead take the standard deduction amount.

In this way, you’ve front-loaded your donations to achieve the minimum one year, without decreasing your philanthropic commitment.

Of course, this strategy requires more upfront planning to figure out the best deal (much like your credit card point game plan) and an understanding of how much you’d like to budget each year for philanthropy. If you’re interested in putting a bunching strategy in action, check out our blog on developing a charity budget or Sign up to join the waiting list to use our Donor Advised Fund product and we’ll add you to our community.

Note: GivingFund is a nonprofit organization registered in the state of California. The aim of our blog is to educate and inform everyday individuals on strategies to be more effective philanthropists. We do not provide investment advice. Just so you feel extra comfortable, here’s how we make money.

How To Travel: Utilizing Credit Cards

This is the second post in my “How To Travel” series. To read “How To Travel: An Introduction” click here.

After reading the title of this post you’re thinking ‘what do credit cards have to doing with traveling?” That is a fair question as most don’t know to make the connection. Credit card debt is a serious issue which is why there is so much negativity and fear out there about them. But here’s the thing, when chosen properly and used wisely credit cards give you rewards points which come in very handy when traveling.

Like most people, I hate paying for things. If I can find a way to do something and not pay for it I’m all about it. My biggest reason for not doing something is simply not wanting to spend the money. I’ll walk instead of Uber and I’ll cook instead of eating out. But at the end of the day most things in life aren’t free which means I’m constantly spending money. Everyone has their preferred method of payment. Some say cash is king. Others prefer debit cards. And I hear there’s still a subculture of people that actually write checks (not making that up). What do each of these people have in common? They’re completely missing out on the rewards.

A Quick Warning:
Before we get too far, let me say that the advice below only works if you are aware of your finances and responsible with your credit cards. I treat mine like a debit card and pay each of them off at the end of
every week. Yes, I pay mine off weekly. Which may seem OCD but it keeps me from ever living beyond my means. The reason credit cards have gotten a bad reputation is because people think having one gives them an excuse to buy whatever the fuck they want. It doesn’t. It’s imperative for you to understand your budget and finances before you get a credit card. If you decide to get one after reading this post don’t change your spending habits but simply enjoy the rewards. You’re doing all of the work already (spending the money) you might as well get something out of it.

If used properly, credit cards can help you secure a free flight to anywhere in the world. I booked my flight from Melbourne to LAX in May ($875) for free with my points. Thank you Chase!

Once you’ve decided you’re responsible enough for a credit card (or two) what’s next? You need to figure out which credit card is best for you based on your spending habits and your goals.

What you buy most and what you want to do with the rewards you earn will dictate which credit card is best for you. I only got a credit card to help me travel. Which means I found the ones that help me do that best. To be honest, I was pretty pissed I didn’t get one in college to start earning points even sooner. Bali would have been a nice graduation gift.

There are a shit ton of credit cards out there, but only a few for people who love to travel and travel often. Below is a list of the credit cards I have along with a few card highlights.

Barclay Arrival +

-2x Miles on all purchase

–Earn 50,000 bonus miles as a sign up bonus (after spending $3,000 in 3 months)

–Get 5% miles back when cashing your miles in for a trip

-No foreign transaction fees

-$89 fee (waived the first year)

Discover IT

-5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter (currently gas stations and wholesalers)

-1% cash back on all other purchase

-Matches your cash back total at the end of the first year

-0% APR on balance transfers

-FICO Credit Score on each statement

-No Fee

Chase Sapphire Preferred

-Earns 2x points on dining and travel, including expenses like food and grocery delivery services, tolls, Uber and more

-1 point on everything else

-1:1 Point Transfer to other airlines

-No Foreign transaction fees

-50,000 sign up bonus points (spend $4,000 in the first 3 months)

–Chip and Signature Technology, which provides better security and wider acceptance when traveling overseas

-$95 annual fee (waived the first year)

Chase Freedom Unlimited

-1.5% cash back on everything

-$150 bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months

-0% APR for 15 months from opening account

-No Fee

I know what you’re thinking, no, you don’t need 4 credit cards. I have each of mine for a different reason and use them strategically to maximize the reward points. But I’ll give you the same advice I give everyone when I first start talking credit card strategy.

Establish your goal and timeframe.

Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

For example, if your goal is to go to Prague next year the best thing you can do is get the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You then start working toward spending $4,000 in the first 3 months to get the 50,000 point bonus giving yourself a free flight to Prague. It sounds like a lot of money, but if you actually examine your finances you’ll find it’s not hard to do. If you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for ALL of your spending those first 3 months you’ll have no problem reaching the required spend and cashing in on the rewards points. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to spend $4,000 here are a few ways I’ve found to make it easier (and cheaper) to do:

-Whenever you go out with friends/family pick up the tab and have them pay you back via Venmo, Square, cash, etc
-Put all your bills/utilities on your credit card (cell phone, health care, gas/water etc)
-Plan a trip and put all the expenses on your Chase credit card
-Wait to make a ‘big purchase’ until after you get your card (furniture, car, etc)

You’ll get double the points on anything travel (uber, taxi, RV rental, trains, flights, etc) and restaurant (anything food related not counting grocery stores).

If you travel for work this card is perfect for you. Your company will take care of the required spend for you. A lot of my friends have the Southwest credit card which is fucking stupid. Yes, you get 2x the points when booking a Southwest flight, but guess what, you get the same amount of rewards points booking a Southwest flight using your Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can transfer points to basically any airline 1:1 which means if you want to switch between Southwest, Delta, or American you can. You’re not stuck with one airline if they don’t have your flight or a different airline has it cheaper. You simply transfer your Chase rewards points to whatever airline rewards program you prefer allowing yourself more options.

Quick Note on Strategy: I recently got the Barclay Arrival + credit card because I wanted to have at least 50,000 points for next year since my trip to Asia used all my Chase points. I’ve set up my system so I can rotate ‘main’ cards each year racking up the points and alternate the spending of my points. This way I always have enough for a free international flight. For example, I have 63,374 Barclay points that I’ll use next year when I go on my next trip and in the meantime I’ll start saving up Chase points again so in 2 years I can use those.

I had to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months but I didn’t have any big purchases coming up and didn’t want to buy something just to meet the required spend (you should not change your spending habits to meet the required spend). I looked at my finances and realized that I could pay my rent on my credit card. I usually Venmo my landlord at the start of each month. $450 from my bank account to his. For a 3% fee I could charge my credit card. I wasn’t wild about adding $13 to my rent each month but it meant instead of spending $3,000 in 3 months all I had to spend was $1,611 which is all too easy to do. Every time you spend money you have to learn to think “this sucks, but how can I get rewarded for this.”

Pro Tip:

I strongly suggest not opening more than 1 card at once to start with. It’s best to open one card at a time and dedicate your spending on that card until you’ve reached the amount needed for the sign-up bonus.

Last quick note on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s impossible to not feel like a baller when using this card. It’s sleek, enabled with chip security, but more importantly it’s heavier than any card I’ve ever held. When I use my card (especially abroad) and the cashier takes it from me they look at me with a ‘who is this guy and how can he afford to use this card’ look which I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy just a little.

For more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred check out The Points Guy, 5 Additional Benefits, and NerdWallet

OK, you’ve met the required spend for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. What’s next?

Get the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

There’s nothing fancy about the Chase Freedom Unlimited nevertheless it’s effective. While the Sapphire Preferred is boom or bust (2% or 1% cash back) the Freedom Unlimited does nothing but consistently get on base with its 1.5% cash back on every purchase. I won’t go into too much detail but if you’d like more information check out NerdWallet and The Points Guy.

While you should still use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on any travel or dining purchase ($500 in 3 months is super easy to do) everything else should be put on your Freedom Unlimited card to maximize your rewards earning.

The best thing about having these two cards? You can combine the points you’ve earned on each card into one account.

Since the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an “elite” tier Chase card you’re allowed to pair it with a lower tier card. Meaning everything you buy will get 1.5% or 2% cash back. It makes earning rewards points a lot easier when you can alternate these 2 cards to maximize your points earned by combining them.

The Freedom Unlimited sign up bonus is 15,000 points ($150) if you spend $500 in the first 3 months. For those who aren’t great at math, that’s 65,000 Chase points just by getting these 2 cards and meeting the spending requirements. You’d be hard pressed to find a place in the world you can’t get to with 65,000 points. If you’re not interested in using your points to travel you can also get cash back, gift cards, etc. 65,000 points is equal to $650 in cash back rewards to use however you want.

Points on Points on Points:
Chase gives out bonuses for Referring A Friend. 10,000 points for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and 5,000 points for the Chase Freedom Unlimited. If you learned anything from this post and are interested in being my ‘referred friend’ leave your name and email below!

Even if you decide the two Chase cards aren’t for you I hope this post has helped you understand how rewarding using a credit card can be. Spending money is a lot more enjoyable when you’re getting some of it back and putting it toward your next adventure.

Few things beat exploring the world for free.

Four Ways To Avoid Getting Into Debt This Holiday Season

Courtesy of freestocks.org

Large retailers like Target, Macy’s, and Walmart hit consumers with the 1-
2–3 punch, bombarding us with advertisements of “must-have” items of the holiday season. Starting with Halloween costumes and candy in October, to Thanksgiving dinner and decorations in November, and rounding it off with the biggest spending holiday of all, Christmas. These holiday’s can
increase pressure on consumers to loosen their purse straps and give in to the holiday spending demands. In addition to monthly bills and unexpected costs accumulated throughout the year, end of year holiday spending can tip the scale and bring your credit score down with it. Even seemingly harmless end of the year blow-out sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday add to the spending frenzy and may cause consumers to buy more than they can afford. According to a 2017 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report by Lauren Schwann from Nerdwallet.com, “Taking on debt to pay for gifts is becoming more common. More people who shopped during the 2016 holiday season say they incurred credit card debt (56%) than those who shopped during the 2015 holiday season (48%).” Below are four ways to stay out of financial trouble this holiday season.

  1. Give away groupon deals as gifts

Get steep discounts on experiential gifts like spa treatments
and merchandise. Groupon has a wide array of items to choose
from, and it allows you to send what you purchase as a gift
through the application. Don’t just take my word for it, celebrity
comedian Tiffany Haddish is a Groupon spokesperson and
swears by their deals.

2. Retail-Me-Not
This application curates in-store promotional discounts based upon
your immediate area, so instead of you searching for sales the sales
find you.

3. Amazon/Ebay/Overstock.com
Online retailers such as these are a good way to save money on your
purchases, and they are excellent at order fulfillment and shipping &
handling. Ordering items online can not only save you money on the
actual items, but it can also save you gas money, time, and the
hassle of going from store to store searching for the perfect gift.

4. Lay-A-Way programs

These programs allow you to “hold” items of your choosing by putting
a nominal amount down interest free, and make consecutive
payments based upon the store’s policy. Normally, there is a set
amount of time you have to pay off the items, otherwise you may risk
losing the money you have paid to the program. Click the below link
to find out which stores currently provide a Lay-A-Way program.

Getting your finances in order and managing your credit can feel like a full
time job. Let’s face it, there are tons of services and financial management
tools out there to assist you with your finances. The real question is will
you use your best judgment and live within your financial means? These
four tips will help you do that while enjoying the holiday season, and
dodging the not-so merry side. Don’t let materialistic demands turn this
upcoming holiday season into a financial disaster.

Credit Card Customer Service: Getting the Best Results from You Call


7 Credit Card Travel Hacks You Need to Know

Summer is here, and with it a busy season of vacations and travel. Before you load up your suitcases and hit the road, there are a few things you should do first to prepare yourself financially. We’re not talking about budgeting or saving up the cash to take the trip (although all of that is important) — we’re focusing on what steps you need to take to make sure your credit card travels just as well as you do. Here are our top seven credit card travel hacks.

Money seems to slip through your fingers so easily when you’re traveling, and with a credit card it’s easier than ever to just swipe your savings away. Things get even more complicated when you’re in a foreign country and dealing with exchange rates, currency conversion fees, etc. While it’s not exactly the most exciting or fun part of a vacation, keeping your receipts and being cognizant of what you’re spending each day will help you avoid a nasty surprise once you’re back home. Set a budget before you leave the house and stay up to date with your transactions. A simple note in your phone should suffice — spreadsheets are definitely not vacation-friendly.

If you’re nervous about blowing your credit limit, consider the humble prepaid card. While it might seem a little childish or embarrassing to basically give yourself an allowance, a prepaid card can help you stay on track and avoid budget woes. Just be aware that if you’re traveling internationally, the currency conversion fees for prepaid cards are usually much higher than for regular credit and debit cards.

While it doesn’t happen often, remember that businesses can ask you to prove your identity by showing an ID. Keep your driver’s license on you (or your passport, if traveling internationally), even if you’re not planning to drive. Don’t get offended or huffy if a store clerk asks for ID — they’re just doing their job to prevent fraud.

Yes, we know we’re a credit card processing company, but we can’t discount the value of some good old-fashioned cash every once in a while. Since you’ll be traveling outside of your home area where you know all the little quirks, pack some cash and search out some ATMs ahead of time. This credit card travel hack means won’t have to worry if the taxi’s credit card meter is “broken” or if the taco truck you’re craving only accepts cash.

Before you embark on a trip, give your bank and/or credit card company a call or go online to let them know you’ll be roaming far and wide to avoid them disabling your card out of concern for fraud. While international travel is more commonly associated with this kind of shutdown, it can happen anywhere, and it never fails to rear its head at the most inconvenient of times (see why we suggest you carry some cash?). While you can sort this sort of thing out from the road if it does happen, it’s not exactly the kind of problem you want to have to handle on vacation.

This is one of the most popular credit card travel hacks, and with good reason. Most credit cards have some sort of points or rewards system, but there are some that are better for travel than others. Look for cards that give you double or even triple points on airline tickets, hotel stays, rental cars, and more, and for those that offer you travel protection and trip insurance if your vacation goes sideways. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is widely regarded as one of the top travel cards out there — if you qualify, it’s certainly worth looking into.

Even with the most careful prior planning in the world, traveling can still throw you for a loop. The most important credit card travel hack out there is to be ready for anything. Carry multiple forms of ID to prove you are who you say you are. Keep plenty of cash on hand to help out in an emergency. Figure out how you’ll contact your card company if your card malfunctions or is declined. All these things will help you have a smoother and lower stress trip, even if something doesn’t quite go according to plan.

When you arrive back home after a relaxing trip, the last thing you want to find out is that everything fell apart at your business while you were gone. With 360 Payments, you can rest assured that your payments are being processed without a hitch. We pride ourselves on being a true partner to business owners and on making sure we’re doing our job so you can focus on yours (or not, we all need a break!). Want to learn more? Give us a call at 1–855–360–0360 or drop us a line on our website.

PS — Make sure your website SEO optimization is up to speed with these tips.

PPS — Check out these tips to make an open office plan work for you.

3 Ways to Improve your Credit Score

Your credit score can seem like a mysterious number that is pulled out of thin air. For people with good credit, it takes months and even years of regular, consistent payments and dedication to maintain your credit. For those with bad credit, sometimes little things go wrong in life that lower your credit. Whether your credit is good or poor, you always should know tips and tricks to improve your credit score.

Keep your credit card balances low, and pay them off in full every month.

You know how important it is to pay your credit card statement on time each month, but it’s also important to maintain a good credit score to keep your balances low and pay them off in full each month. It’s more likely that you’ll miss a payment when the balance is higher, so keeping a low balance will help you to pay off in full. The reason why paying in full is valuable is because a high revolving credit payment can indicate to credit card companies that you are impulsive with purchases and less likely to make on-time payments. In many cases, credit card companies are relying on you to miss a payment so they can hike up your interest rate.

Don’t open lots of accounts and then expect overnight success.

Opening a lot of accounts rapidly, for instance, to improve your credit score is a short-sighted strategy. New accounts will lower the average age of your credit, which is what many creditors use to calculate your credit score. Length of time that your credit has been building is important, particularly when applying for loans. Rapid account growth can also signify untrustworthiness in the eyes of creditors. Slow and steady wins the race to improve your credit score.

Know that consistency is what the FICO score really looks for.

The longer you pay your bills on time, the more your FICO score will reflect your responsibility. Building good habits is the true trick to having good credit. Older credit issues, like old missed payments from years ago, will matter less and less when you’ve paid your bills on time for a regular, consistent period of time.

PIRG security freeze and identity theft prevention tips

The first defense against any kind of identity theft is to be vigilant about protecting your personal information by taking steps like creating secure passwords, installing anti-virus and anti-malware software, and shredding personal documents.

However, if and when someone does steal enough of your information to commit any form of identity theft (new account financial identity theft, theft of medical services, theft of tax refunds, etc.) there is really only one type of identity theft that you can stop before it happens: New account identity theft, where someone opens a new account in your name. All other types of identity theft and fraud, at best, can only be detected after the fact. New account identity theft can only be stopped by a security or credit freeze; credit monitoring may detect it after it has already happened.

Helpful things to know about security freezes:

  • Security freezes are offered by state law in nearly every state; the credit bureaus now allow consumers to place them anywhere.
  • A security freeze does not affect your ability to use existing credit you already have, such as a credit card or loan, nor does it prevent existing creditors from reviewing your continued eligibility for current or additional credit.
  • You can easily unfreeze or “thaw” your credit report when you want to apply for new credit. Freezes can be temporarily or permanently lifted when you want.
  • A security freeze does not affect your credit score. In fact, a security freeze helps protect your score by preventing your credit from being negatively scored if someone tries to fraudulently apply for credit in your name.
  • Security freezes are available to consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A security freeze costs between $3–10 for each of the three major national credit bureaus, depending on the state. There is a $2–12 fee, depending on the state, for unfreezing your credit report with each bureau. All states give you the right to free security freezes if you can prove that you are an identity theft victim. Some states offer them for free to consumer 65 years+. There are six states where freezes are free to all consumers, whether they are identity theft victims or not:Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
  • Security freezes can also be placed by parents and legal guardians of minors and medically incapacitated consumers.
  • Consumers who chose a security freeze should account for the time it can take to thaw their reports if they want to apply for credit in the future. In most cases if a request for a thaw is made online or over the phone, a report can be unfrozen within 15 minutes. However, it can take longer if a consumer lost his or her PIN number that was assigned when the report was frozen. It can also take up to three days of receipt of a thaw request if it is made via postal mail.

How to Freeze (and Unfreeze) Your Credit Report

  • It is recommended you freeze your credit report with at least the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Placing a freeze with one bureau does not automatically freeze your account with the other bureaus. You have to place a freeze with each bureau where you want one. Some creditors use one, some use another, so your best coverage is to freeze all three.
  • You will receive a PIN number for your credit freeze with each bureau. You will use this PIN number when you want to unfreeze your credit report any time you want to apply for new credit.
  • If you want to temporarily lift a freeze because you are applying for credit or a job, try to find out which credit bureau the business uses to check credit reports. You can save some money and time by only lifting your freeze for that credit bureau.
  • You can temporarily lift a freeze for a particular creditor or for a specific period of time, from one day to one year.
  • Make sure to account for the time it can take to thaw your report. In most cases if you request a thaw online or over the phone, your report can be unfrozen within 15 minutes. However, it can take longer if you don’t have your PIN number that was assigned to you when you froze your report, so make sure to keep your PIN number in a safe, memorable place where you can quickly retrieve it when needed. It can also take up to three days of receipt of your request if you make it via postal mail.

Placing and Lifting a Security Freeze with Each of the Credit Bureaus

You can place a freeze online, over the phone, or in writing.

Equifax

Online: https://www.freeze.equifax.com
Phone: 1–800–685–1111 (NY residents please call 1–800–349–9960)
Mail: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Experian

Online: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
Phone: 1‑888‑397‑3742
Mail: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013

Experian includes a potentially confusing three paragraph “Security Freeze Warning.” They are just explaining that you will need to unfreeze your credit report before applying for credit if you ever wish to do so in the future. You might also notice right next to their warning is an offer to purchase their credit monitoring service for $15.95 a month — again, the credit freeze is the ONLY way to prevent new accounts from being fraudulently opened in your name and is much cheaper than paid credit monitoring.

TransUnion

Online: http://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze
Phone: 888–909–8872
Mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

Additional detailed Identity Theft Tips from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are here: https://www.identitytheft.gov

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