Category Saving And Spending

How Can You Get Credit Card Rewards for Buying Gift Cards?

November 9, 2020 &• 4 min read by Jason Steele Comments 0 Comments

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The gift card market is worth more than $130 billion annually. Is that any surprise? You’ve probably bought at least one gift card in the past year for a friend or family member. It’s an easy way to show someone appreciation and to make sure they can get whatever they want. But what if we told you both you and the gift-giver can benefit from gift cards? That’s right—you can get credit card rewards for buying gift cards.

How Can Buying Gift Cards Earn You Rewards?

If you have a rewards credit card, you earn points or miles on some—or all—of your purchases. Unless your credit card terms of service say gift card purchases don’t count for rewards, you can get points or miles when you use your credit card to buy a gift card.

For example, let’s say you earn one point per dollar spent. You’re planning to buy your mom a $50 gift card for her birthday and your niece a $25 gift card for her special day. Use a credit card to buy those gift cards at retailers, and you can earn 75 points just for buying gifts you were already going to purchase.

Maximizing Rewards When Buying Gift Cards

But it does get better. If you plan ahead just a little, you can maximize the rewards you get. For example, imagine you want to buy a $100 gift card for a couple for their wedding.

Your credit card gives you one point per dollar for any purchase. You could buy that gift card at a department store or drug store and earn 100 points. But what if you get three points per dollar when you shop at grocery stores? You may be able to purchase the gift card at a grocery store and earn 300 points.

But you don’t have to limit your gift card rewards earning to actualgifts. Are you planning to buy an appliance from a store such as Best Buy? Imagine it’s going to cost around $500. You might purchase $500 in Best Buy gift cards at the grocery store with your credit card and use them to buy the appliance. And if you’re earning three points per dollar, that’s 1,500 points!

Use Gift Card Purchases to Meet Signup Bonus Requirements

If your new credit card requires you to spend $3,000 in three months to get the signup bonus points, gift cards might help you get there. Perhaps you’ve spent $2,000, but you really don’t need anything else. You don’t want to spend $1,000 on random things just to earn the bonus points. But you could buy $1,000 worth of grocery, restaurant and other gift cards that you can use to fund your life in the next few months.

Avoid Abusing the System

Of course, you need to approach getting rewards from buying gift cards with moderation. If a credit card company thinks you’re abusing the system, they may cancel your points—or even your account.

So how could you abuse the system? If you’re spending thousands a month buying gift cards at grocery stores to maximize category rewards points and then selling those cards to friends, that’s abuse.

But imagine that you need to buy medication and other supplies at a drug store every month. If those costs are around $150, you might use your credit card to buy a $150 gift card at a grocery store chain every month. That’s because the credit card in question gives you six points per dollar spent at grocery stores.

You’ll earn an extra 900 points a month, while buying medications you already would be paying for. That probably won’t be seen as abuse.

Should You Use Credit Card Rewards for Gift Cards?

This really isn’t a two-way street. While you canuse credit card rewards to get gift cards in most cases, it’s usually the most expensive way to redeem your rewards. That’s because you need more points for every dollar redeemed on gift cards than you might on travel rewards or other options.

Reward Credit Cards

If you’re planning to use your credit card to buy gift cards at grocery stores or other retailers to earn more rewards, make sure it’s allowed first. If you don’t already have a rewards card, you can shop for one in Credit.com’s credit card marketplace. Here are a few options:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which lets you earn one point for every dollar spent and comes with a generous signup bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable

Balance Transfer:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

Card Details +

  • Mastercard Black Card, which lets you earn 1.5% cash back or 2% airfare rewards

Mastercard® Black Card™

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:

Balance Transfer:
0% introductory APR for the first fifteen billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening. After that, your APR will be 14.99%.

Annual Fee:
$495 ($195 for each Authorized User added to the account)

Credit Needed:

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Patented black-PVD-coated metal card—weighing 22 grams.
  • 2% value for airfare redemptions with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. 1.5% value for cash back redemptions. Earn one point for every one dollar spent.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®—available by phone, email and live mobile chat. Around-the-clock service to help you save time and manage tasks big and small.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits—average value of $500 per stay (e.g., resort credits, room upgrades, free wifi, breakfast for two and more) at over 3,000 properties.
  • Annual Airline Credit—up to $100 in statement credits toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more. Up to a $100 application fee credit for the cost of TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry.
  • Enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select with access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide with no guest limit. Includes credits at select airport restaurants for cardholder and one guest.
  • Cell phone protection for eligible claims of up to $1,000 each year. Plus additional World Elite Mastercard® benefits.
  • Annual Fee: $495 ($195 for each Authorized User). Terms and conditions apply.

Card Details +

  • TD Cash Credit Card, which lets you earn 2% cash back at grocery stores among other perks

TD Cash Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% Introductory APR for 6 months on purchases

Ongoing Apr:
12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% (Variable)

Balance Transfer:
0% Introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn $150 Cash Back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening
  • Earn 3% Cash Back on dining
  • Earn 2% Cash Back at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all other eligible purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Visa Zero Liability
  • Instant credit card replacement
  • Digital Wallet
  • Contactless Payments

Card Details +

Want to Get Approved? Have a Good Credit Score

Getting approved for top rewards cards does usually require good credit. Before you apply, make sure you know where you stand. Consider signing up for ExtraCredit to get details about your credit score as well as cash-back rewards when you’re approved for certain offers, including credit cards.


Sign up now.

Source: credit.com

What Is Phone Insurance?

What Is Phone Insurance? – SmartAsset

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Most adults in the U.S. consider a cell phone to be one of life’s essentials. We’re so reliant on our phones that losing or accidentally damaging a cell phone would constitute a major crisis. And because cell phones can be expensive, many Americans couldn’t afford to replace a cell phone right away. That’s why phone insurance can seem like an appealing option. Here’s what to know about phone insurance. 

Find out now: Is it better to rent or buy? 

Phone Insurance Basics

Like other forms of insurance such as life insurance, phone insurance is a hedge against risk. Specifically, phone insurance provides some protection against the loss, theft or destruction of your phone. Phone insurance may be offered to you when you buy your phone through your provider. Alternatively, you can buy a separate phone insurance policy.

Many phone plans and phone purchases come with basic phone insurance, through the phone manufacturer, the phone service provider or both. Generally, these built-in forms of insurance cover things that are the manufacturer’s fault. If your phone simply stops working, you’ll probably be able to get a new one at no cost.

But what about phone-related misfortune that isn’t the result of a manufacturing default? If you drop your phone in the bath tub, leave it at a restaurant or discover that someone has stolen your phone, what do you do? In most cases, your phone plan doesn’t come with built-in protection against these eventualities. You won’t be able to walk into, say, Verizon and ask for a new, free phone because you dropped yours on the sidewalk. But if you purchased additional phone insurance, whether through your provider or from another company, you would be covered against loss, theft and damage. Your phone would be repaired or replaced with a refurbished phone.

Find out now: How much life insurance do I need? 

Is phone insurance worth it? 

Phone insurance can add a significant expense to your budget. Like health insurance, phone insurance generally comes with both monthly premiums and a deductible. Phone insurance deductibles are usually around $200. The deductible is the amount you must pay before the insurance kicks in. Phone insurance plans generally limit the number of replacement phones you can get – so if you’re a chronic phone-loser, your policy might cut you off.

So is it worth it? Well, you may already have some coverage for your phone. Some phone plans come with built-in phone insurance, so before you evaluate whether to buy an add-on policy, take a look at your current plan to see whether you’re already covered. It’s also worth taking a look at the terms of your credit card, which may offer an extended warranty on your phone if you used the card to purchase the phone. And if you have homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance, take a look at those policies, too. Your phone might be covered through your homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance policy.

If you don’t have phone insurance, deciding whether to buy an add-on policy is largely a question of your comfort with risk and your budget. If you pay for phone insurance and nothing happens to your phone, you will have lost the money you spent on premiums. On the other hand, if you opt out of phone insurance and your phone is stolen, you’ll have to come up with the money to replace your phone. You won’t automatically get a refurbished phone, as you would if you had phone insurance coverage.

Check out our budget calculator. 

Bottom Line

If your phone is lost, stolen or damaged, you might want to dip into your savings to get a new, used or refurbished phone as a replacement. If you have some liquidity in your budget in the form of cash savings, opting out of phone insurance and buying a replacement phone could turn out to be a cheaper option. Before you decide, consider your budget and the likelihood that something might happen to your phone. If you do opt for phone insurance, look for an affordable option with a short (or non-existing) waiting period. Policies with waiting periods leave consumers out of luck if their phone is lost, stolen or damaged before the policy kicks in.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/MilosStankovic, ©iStock.com/xavierarnau, ©iStock.com/Portra

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Source: smartasset.com

3 Things Rideshare and Delivery Drivers Should Know About Car Insurance

December 9, 2020 &• 4 min read by Alice Stevens Comments 0 Comments

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Food delivery and ridesharing are great ways to earn extra income. The market for food delivery has increased as restaurants have had to adapt to COVID-19 precautions, and just about everyone could use some extra income as we continue to navigate life during a pandemic.

If you’re considering joining a food delivery or rideshare company as a driver, you need to be sure you have the right insurance coverage. If you’re in an accident, you want to be able to replace your car or fix it so you can keep working.

As you review your car insurance, here’s what you need to know:

You have a coverage gap

Rideshare and delivery companies offer some insurance coverage while you are on your way to pick up passengers or food and while you are transporting passengers or food. However, when you have your app on and are waiting to accept a delivery, neither your personal car insurance or your rideshare company offers coverage. 

If you are in an accident while you’re waiting to accept a job, you won’t have any insurance coverage. You’ll be on your own for covering the resulting costs and may have to deal with other issues.

Look for an insurance policy to cover the gaps

To protect yourself and cover this gap, you’ll want to purchase an additional policy or a policy that adds rideshare coverage to your personal policy. These policies and riders are commonly called rideshare insurance. However, they are commercial auto coverage policies that offer insurance coverage when you use your car for business.

Choose a reliable and highly rated insurer for your policy. Check the insurer’s financial strength to gauge the company’s financial stability and ability to make claims payments. Reading customer reviews can give you a sense of the customer experience with the insurer, which can also help you find a good company.

As you shop for policies or riders that can be added to your personal auto coverage, you can use companies like Policygenius to compare policies across multiple insurers. The ability to compare quotes and policies quickly and efficiently makes it easier to find a good deal. This can also be beneficial if you’re also shopping for personal auto insurance coverage.

Before you buy a policy, understand how it works:

  • What is the deductible? This is the amount you’ll pay before the insurer starts to pay for covered damage.
  • How much is the premium? This is the monthly fee you pay for insurance coverage.
  • Does the policy have a benefit maximum? This is the most an insurer will pay. Once this limit is reached, the rest of the expenses are your responsibility.
  • What coverage is offered—collision, liability, comprehensive, medical payments, income loss, etc.? Car insurance policies are highly customizable because you can choose how much and what kind of coverage to buy.

Car insurance requirements vary by state. Liability coverage for property damage and physical injury is most commonly required. Some states require additional coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance or Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP coverage offers coverage for lost wages according to your policy’s terms.

Making a claim for lost wages will depend on whether your state is an at-fault or no-fault state. You may need to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance, use your uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, or PIP coverage.

Keep in mind that you typically have to have the same level of coverage on your personal insurance as you do with your rideshare coverage. Knowing the cost and kind of protection offered by your policy will help you find one and choose coverage that will meet your needs.

Communicate with your personal car insurance carrier

If you’re driving for hire and do not communicate that to your car insurance company, you could lose your coverage. Insurers can end your policy and no longer offer you coverage if you don’t communicate clearly about your car usage. 

While communicating and getting commercial auto coverage added to your policy can cost more, you’ll be better protected if you have the right coverage and won’t have to worry about your insurer rescinding the policy. Communicating with your car insurance company about how you’re using your car will ensure that you have the coverage you need, which will give you peace of mind and benefit you in the long run.

Set yourself up for success

Before you sign up with a food delivery or rideshare service, understand what coverage your company offers and where the coverage gap is. This will help you know what to look for as you evaluate rideshare or commercial auto insurance policies.

If you’re happy with your current auto insurance provider, start by asking them what they offer. You can also compare what your current insurer provides with what other insurers are offering to check that your company is competitive.

Purchasing insurance to cover the gap will give you peace of mind and financial protection if you’re in an accident. It will also protect your car, which is essential to your ability to work as a rideshare or food delivery driver.


Sign up now.

Source: credit.com

Top 5 Tips for Keeping Senior Care Costs Low

Top 5 Tips for Keeping Senior Care Costs Low – SmartAsset

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Caring for an aging parent or friend can be expensive. But when you know that someone needs assistance, it’s hard to avoid offering to help. While there’s nothing wrong with providing a relative or confidant with financial support, you don’t want to lose sight of your own financial goals. Here are five strategies that you can implement to keep senior care costs low.

Find out now: How much life insurance do I need?

1. Invest in Long-Term Care Insurance

As an extension of health, disability and life insurance, long-term care insurance provides coverage for nursing home care, home health care and other services that meet the daily needs of elderly individuals. While long-term care insurance isn’t cheap, purchasing it may be worth it if your older family member or friend can’t qualify for Medicare and doesn’t have enough savings.

It’s best (and more affordable) to sign up for long-term care insurance before chronic or debilitating conditions surface. Just be sure to read the fine print and compare benefit options before picking a policy for you or your loved one.

2. Make Your House Home-Care Ready

Installing a walk-in shower or stair lift when you’re healthy may seem crazy. But making your home more accessible may pay off, especially if it eliminates the need for you to move to a special facility when you grow older.

Some states and nonprofits offer loans and grants to help low-income elderly individuals make modifications to their homes. So that’s something to consider if you need help covering the cost of your renovations.

Related Article: Do Wealthy Investors Need Long-Term Care Insurance?

3. Look Into Government Programs

The federal government offers some programs that make senior expenses less expensive. For example, your loved ones can apply for traditional Medicare. If they need help covering additional costs, they can consider enrolling in a Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan.

Depending on your loved one’s situation, they may be eligible for Medicaid. They’ll have to meet certain financial qualifications. But if they qualify, Medicaid coverage can lower the cost of their healthcare.

4. Compare Care Options

If you need a professional to help care for your elderly relative, you may need to look beyond nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It’s a good idea to take the time to visit different adult care facilities and meet with independent caregivers, home care agencies and home health aides. That way, you can compare a range of costs and services.

Even if you have elderly family members who can live alone, they may need companionship. If you have a busy schedule, you may be able to find a virtual caregiver online who can support your older loved one.

Related Article: 4 Financial Emergencies That Could Derail Your Retirement

5. Claim as Many Tax Breaks as Possible

If you choose to take care of an aging parent or relative on your own, you’ll need to make sure you’re financially prepared to assume that responsibility. Fortunately, there are tax breaks for individuals who serve as caregivers. For example, you may qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

Final Word

Caring for an older family member can place a big strain on your budget. That’s why it’s important to make the most of any resources and programs that can lower the cost of senior care.

If you’re concerned about your ability to cover your own healthcare costs in the future, you’ll need to make saving for retirement a priority. And it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to stay healthy to reduce your chances of contracting a serious illness or disease.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/phillipspears, ©iStock.com/adamkaz

Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz’s articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.
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How Can You Support Small Business During the 2020 Holidays?

November 20, 2020 &• 5 min read by Credit.com Comments 0 Comments

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Small businesses are a huge part of the American economy. They make up 99% of all businesses in the nation. But even in good times, small businesses have around a 50% long-term survival rate, making economic uncertainty and a global pandemic extremely worrisome for many small-business owners. Find out how you can support small businesses in your community this holiday season to help make your local economy a bit merrier and brighter.

How Are Small Businesses Struggling in 2020 and Beyond?

COVID-19 has hit the bottom line hard for businesses and consumers alike. Businesses of all sizes were overwhelmed by the increased consumer demands for shipping, delivery, and curbside service, and many were forced to close for weeks or even months in 2020. Many are looking to the holidays to make up for lost revenue earlier in the year.

Bluehost conducted a State of Small Business Marketing in August 2020 to find out small-business owners’ outlook for the future. While more than 70% of business owners said they were optimistic about the future, they do have concerns:

  • 44% are worried about finding new customers through 2021
  • 30% are worried about long-term economic impacts from the pandemic
  • 21% are worried about lower-than-normal sales or consumer demand

At the same time, many consumers have experienced negative impacts to their personal budgets during COVID due to lost jobs and reduced salaries. As a result, some might be planning to scale back on total holiday spending, and others might be turning to different shopping habits to help keep themselves and their families safe.

How Can I Help a Small Business?

Whether you want to shop online to stay safe during potential outbreaks or you’re reducing how much you spend in 2020 to make up for financial shortfalls, you can still support small businesses. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

  1. If you’re going to spend, choose to shop local instead of buying with big-box retailers or huge e-commerce platforms. Not sure if there’s a small business offering what you need? In the next section, you can get tips for finding local companies. Skip ahead >>
  2. Check local small business websites to see if there are options for shopping online. Many offer free shipping opportunities or curbside pickup, so you can get what you need without entering stores.
  3. Call ahead to ask about the best times to shop. Going out during slow times can limit your contact with people and can help you get the best possible service from local businesses.
  4. Spread your shopping out. Starting as early as possible and buying a little at a time can take the sting out of holiday costs while letting you enjoy the festivities and support small businesses. According to the National Retail Foundation, around 74% of businesses expect shoppers to spread out their spending in 2020.
  5. Plan ahead to take advantage of Small Business Saturday deals. Though stores might spread out the deals this year, Small Business Saturday is still occurring. This is the day after Black Friday, and many small businesses offer specific deals on that day.

Other ways to support local small businesses include dining out, using local bakeries and caterers if you need help with holiday feasts, and buying tickets for nearby festivities and events if it is safe to do so. While many are still worried about COVID-19 risks, businesses have had time to prepare new ways of serving customers and holding events in a safe manner.

How Do I Find Local Businesses?

Word of mouth—simply asking your friends and family—can be a great way to find small businesses to support. But if you have a limited social circle, you just moved to an area, or you’re trying to expand your options, here are other ways you can find stores and businesses to support during the holidays.

  1. Use the Small Business Saturday site. There’s an entire site dedicated to Small Business Saturday, which includes a map for locating small businesses near you. They’ve also created a map of 100 Black-owned businesses to support around the country.
  2. Search Yelp. You can search Yelp for specific types of businesses in your area and easily see whether people are having good experiences with each company.
  3. Check social media. Many small businesses have pages on Facebook or Instagram. You may be able to browse some products right on social or connect with a business to understand what services it offers. Social is also often a good way to find out the most current details on COVID-19 hours, restrictions, or safety protocols each business is observing.
  4. Begin with the search engines. Google especially can be helpful because it offers map results and access to consumer reviews a click or tap away from the immediate results page.
  5. Visit your local chamber of commerce, digitally or in person. Your chamber of commerce may provide a list of reputable local businesses, and you can also call or speak to someone in person about businesses specific to your needs.
  6. Search Etsy, Redbubble, and Society6. Many small businesses and independent artists sell their goods on sites like Etsy and Redbubble.
  7. Support small businesses via Amazon. The company’s Support Small initiative highlights small companies you can shop with and provides local directories. You can also buy hundreds of products from small businesses on Amazon and take advantage of Prime and free shipping offers.

If you want to support small businesses with your holiday shopping while also benefiting yourself or your family, consider getting a rewards credit card. You can earn points or cash back on spending and use those benefits to fund more holiday fun or future travel or spending.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now

on American Express’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% for 12 months on purchases

Ongoing Apr:
13.99%-23.99% Variable

Balance Transfer:

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • $95 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

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The Average Cost of a Divorce

The Average Cost of a Divorce – SmartAsset

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Even the most amicable of divorces generally involve some kind of expense. The average cost of a divorce varies greatly based on how complicated the case is and on the kind of divorce you seek. At the very least you’ll have to pay court costs and filing fees for divorce paperwork. But if lawyers are involved, costs can balloon from a few hundred dollars to several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars. The cost of getting a divorce can exceed the average cost of a wedding. 

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The Average Cost of a Pro Se Divorce

A pro se litigant is someone who represents himself or herself. While you can do this in a divorce case, legal professionals advise against it. However, in the case of a collaborative, uncontested divorce both parties may work together for a pro se divorce. This could mean using a “divorce kit” and working together to get the divorce filed and granted. In this scenario, the average cost of a pro se divorce could be as low as $300.

Working through the divorce paperwork on your own and filing the papers with the courts yourself (as opposed to hiring a lawyer to help you with both steps) can save you thousands. However, this simplest form of divorce only works in simple cases. If there are children involved or complicated assets to split, cheap and easy is probably not an option.

Related Article: 4 Things to Know About Splitting Up a 401(k) in a Divorce

The Average Cost of Divorce Mediation

Another way to save on the costs of a divorce is to turn to a mediator instead of enlisting the services of lawyers. Particularly if you’re embarking on an uncontested divorce, a mediated divorce can be a much less costly option that a litigated divorce. Again, this option works best when matters are relatively uncomplicated and both parties are willing to cooperate.

You can employ a mediator who works with each party one-on-one and aids in communication between the two parties. Alternatively, both parties can sit down with the mediator and hammer out the details collaboratively. Private mediation can be billed using a flat fee or an hourly rate. Mediators generally charge lower hourly rates than lawyers, but the cost can still add up if the process drags on. The hourly rate for private divorce mediators is generally between $100 and $200.

Even if a divorce goes to trial the judge may order both parties to go to mediation. Court-ordered mediation is free to both parties and is non-binding. However, if you retain the services of a lawyer in a contested divorce and are then ordered to go to mediation, you will still run up legal bills for the work your attorney does to advise you and monitor the mediation process. Your lawyer will also bill you for the time spent revising the settlement reached in mediation.

Related Article: 5 Ways Getting Married Affects Your Tax Bill

The Average Cost of a Contested Divorce

A contested, litigated divorce is the most expensive route. Costs can go as high as $50,000, or higher if wealthy parties and expensive lawyers are involved. Typically, divorce lawyers will charge an hourly rate of $250, but this can vary based on the firm and the city (rates are higher in expensive cities).

Parties in a divorce can decide whether they want full representation, or if they want a more limited service such as an initial consultation or an attorney review of a settlement reached in mediation. The average cost of a litigated divorce is around $15,000. Attorney fees (which are generally not tax-deductible) aren’t the only costs. You may need to hire an accountant to assess the assets that are being divided, or hire an appraiser to value the family home. Counseling for both parties (and any children involved) may also be necessary. There are court fees to pay as well.

Many divorces settle, curtailing the costly trial process. Naturally, cases that settle out of court tend to carry a lower average price tag than divorces with a protracted trial. Regardless, you’ll have some up-front costs. Clients pay a retainer when they first find a lawyer to help them through the divorce process.

Bottom Line

For many who divorce, the process carries high emotional and financial costs. The emotional stakes and the amount of money on the line – both in assets and attorney fees – are good reasons to seek skilled help, whether from a mediator or a lawyer. Do your research before committing to either.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Jelena Popic, ©iStock.com/BernardaSv, ©iStock.com/svengine

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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A Bill Was Sent to the Wrong Address and Is Now In Collections: What Do I Do?

November 2, 2020 &• 4 min read by Gerri Detweiler Comments 6 Comments

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For many people, a call from a debt collector about a past due or delinquent account with no prior communication may signal that they’re dealing with a debt collection scammer. If you haven’t received any of the letters they say they sent—or didn’t know the debt existed in the first place—you might assume it’s not correct information. But another factor could be at play. Perhaps you simply didn’t get the mailed notices.

Just because you didn’t receive the notices doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook for the debt. But you do have rights under the law. Find out what to do if you’re suddenly dealing with an unexpected collections account.

Always Request Validation of the Debt

First, make sure that the debt is actually yours. Older debts might’ve been bought multiple times by various collection agencies. That increases the likelihood of data being misconstrued and debts being assigned to the incorrect party. You also want to make sure the debt isn’t part of an identity theft issue because you didn’t know about it already.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives consumers the right to request verification or validation of a debt. The process may start when you get a phone call from a debt collector. Within five days, the debt collector must mail you a notice with information about the debt. They must also include an explanation of your rights.

If the initial contact from the debt collection agency is by mail, the notice should contain all the information mentioned above. However the first notice occurs, you have 30 days to request validation of the debt.

Once you ask for debt validation, the collection agency must stop collection efforts until it has fulfilled your request. The bar for what constitutes validation of debt is fairly low, but you should at least receive information on when and by whom the original debt was incurred.

This right is considered significant. In fact, even if the debt collector unintentionally fails to comply with this part of the law, it has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

What if You Missed the Original Debt Collection Letter?

What if you don’t get the letter that triggers the 30-day deadline for requesting validation of the debt? According to National Consumer Law Center staff attorney April Kuehnhoff, the burden of proof in this case might fall on you. If the debt collector can show a letter was mailed in the course of normal business, you may need to prove it wasn’t mailed to the right address.

However, if the debt collector sent it to the wrong address and the letter was returned to the collection agency as undeliverable, there’s a good chance the collector didn’t fulfill the requirements of the law. That’s especially true if the collector can’t prove it updated the address and delivered the notice as required.

“Even if the letter is not returned,” says Kuehnhoff, “the debt collector may not have complied with the FDCPA if the letter is mailed to the wrong address. That’s especially true if the individual never lived at that address or hasn’t lived there for years.”

Michael Bovee, founder of the self-help website Consumer Recovery Network, says many legitimate debt collectors often treat random or unprovoked debt validation requests as if they were timely requests in response to collection notices. So, you have nothing to lose by requesting a validation of the debt even if you missed the initial notice.

Can a Company Send You to Collections Without Notice?

In some cases, you can end up in collections without receiving a notice about the original bill. This is rare, but it can legally happen.

However, it’s critical to understand your rights so you know how debts should impact your credit report. If someone never sent you a bill and you pay as soon as you are contacted about a collection, an argument can be made that you are not delinquent on the payment, for example.

How Do I Know If I’ve Been Sent to Collections?

One way to reduce the confusion and stress related to a sudden collections activity is to keep an eye on your own credit report. You can see if lenders think you owe them money. That way if a debt collector does call, you aren’t caught off guard. You also know if the debt is unlikely to be yours because it never showed up on your credit report.

Triaging Your Credit Report

Whether you find something incorrect when you check your creditor you’re dealing with a collection account without receiving any prior notice, you likely have options. The law affords you a right to a fair, accurate credit report. You can work with credit repair firms to dispute inaccurate items, potentially including collections accounts where you received no appropriate notification of the debt.

If you’re looking for a little extra help with your credit, take a look at ExtraCredit. It has five killer features all targeted towards your credit needs, including Restore It, which connects you to trusted repair leaders. ExtraCredit can help get you where you want to go.

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Rakuten: Earn Up To 40% Cashback + $10 Sign Up Bonus

August 11, 2020 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Make Money

Rakuten cashback can help you save money when shopping online! Most of us shop online anyway; wouldn’t it be nice to get some cash back along the way? Currently, Rakuten offers up to 40% cashback on your purchases. Plus, you receive $25 referral bonus and a 10$ bonus when you sign up.  

Keep reading to learn how you can earn Rakuten cashback on your purchases.

What is Rakuten and how do you get cashback?

Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is a website that gives you a percentage off when you shop online. Rakuten is a legit website with an A rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

To get cashback from Rakuten, you simply go to their website www.rakuten.com, or the Rakuten app. You then create or login to your account. There are over 2,500 stores. All of the major stores are in there. They include the best retailers like Amazon, Macy’s, Walmart, Best Buy, Home Depot, you name it. Besides cash back, you also get discounts special promotions and store deals.

Earn 40% cashback when you shop through Rakuten

When you shop through Rakuten at your favorite store, you have the opportunity to earn up to 40% cashback. Each store will list how much cash back you will earn.

There are no fees, no forms to fill out. You simply click on the store of your choice and start earning cash back on your purchases.

How to earn $10 bonus from Rakuten?

Not only will you get cash back on your purchases through Rakuten, you will also receive a $10 bonus just to sign up. But in order for you to get cash bonus, you’ll have to spend at least $25 dollars shopping at your store through Rakuten shopping portal. Join Rakuten for free and get a $10 bonus money today just for signing up.

How do you get your free money from Rakuten?

You get your free money by getting a check or via PayPal payment. Rakuten will send you your free money every quarter.

The bottom line is if you’re going to shop online, why don’t you get cashback on your purchases. As long as you are buying things you need, it makes sense to sign up for Rakuten which offers cashback from retailers on clothing, beauty supplies, groceries, ect. This free money can go towards your bills and pay down your debt.

SAVINGS ACCOUNTCIT Savings Builder – Earn 0.85% APY. Here’s how it works: Make at least a $100 minimum deposit every month. Or Maintain a minimum balance of $25k. Member FDIC. Click Here to Learn More.

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Save on a Gym Membership With At-Home Workouts

Save on a Gym Membership with At-Home Workouts – SmartAsset

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Somewhat unsurprisingly, search traffic for “gym membership” peaks between January 3 and January 9, according to Google Trends. If you already belong to a gym you’ve probably noticed that things get pretty crowded every January. But if you want to save money this year, consider some of these free or inexpensive alternatives to a gym membership. 

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Try At-Home Yoga

There are plenty of options for anyone who wants to save money by canceling their gym membership or skipping out on the usual early-January gym membership purchase. One option is at-home yoga. You can buy an inexpensive yoga mat, or just use a towel or the floor if you don’t want to commit to buying a mat. An internet search will turn up sample yoga routines or you can head to your local library for a book on yoga. If you know how to do a basic sun salutation, you can start off with that – and repeat until you feel like you’ve gotten a good workout. The cost? $0.

Related Article: The Best 3 Gyms for Your Wallet

Use YouTube

YouTube is a great resource if you want to try working out at home but you’re not sure which type of exercise is the best fit for you. You can find short videos and long videos, videos for beginners and for advanced users. There are videos with Pilates routines, body weight exercises, Zumba classes and more.

You can try one-off routines to get a feel for a particular style of exercise, a particular YouTube channel or a particular vlogger. But you can also commit to a series or program that, through the aid of YouTube videos, will take you on a multi-week fitness journey. The cost to you? $0.

Related Article: How to Cancel Your Gym Membership

Go Old-School

If taking up yoga or learning something like Pilates or Zumba through YouTube doesn’t sound like your speed, you can always go old-school with classic body weight exercises performed free of charge, in the comfort of your own home. That means push-ups, squats, lunges and other exercises that require no equipment.

There’s a lively online community devoted to helping people achieve their strength and fitness goals through body weight alone, without using free weights or any gym accoutrements. If you think you need to pay for a pricey gym membership to get the results you want, take a look at the information that’s out there on body weight training – you might be surprised by what’s possible.

Head Outside

OK, so this one isn’t technically “at home” but you can always hit the streets, head to a local park or set up in your backyard to get your exercise. Running and walking are popular forms of exercise, but you can also do the body weight training mentioned above. At first, you might feel a little self-conscious doing walking lunges in your yard or in the park, but the (free) fitness gains should help you overcome any initial embarrassment.

Bottom Line

Every January, gym owners count on consumers to buy pricey gym memberships and then never use them. They oversell gyms the way airline owners oversell flights, counting on a high number of no-shows. This year, why not prove them wrong and opt for an at-home workout regimen?

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Squaredpixels, ©iStock.com/Squaredpixels, ©iStock.com/ilbusca

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Support Small Businesses with Small Business Saturday Shopping

November 25, 2020 &• 5 min read by Kaitlyn Mahoney Comments 0 Comments

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A lot has changed during the coronavirus pandemic. Large in-person gatherings are a thing of the past, the economy has been affected, and some businesses have even shut down. There are many small businesses that are still open, but they’re struggling. It’s up to everyday people to continue to support them.

But consumers have also been affected—many people have lost their jobs, making it more difficult to support small businesses. Small Business Saturday offers a way for consumers to support local businesses, while also offering you some much-needed deals for your holiday shopping.

What and When Is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year, that’s November 28. The day was developed in 2010 by American Express to encourage more people to do their holiday shopping at small businesses. The Senate even passed a resolution to officially recognize the day in 2011.

Tucked between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a big shopping day, and it continues to grow in popularity each year. In 2019, US consumers spent $19.6 billion on purchases that day.

Small Business Saturday may look different this year, but it isn’t canceled. You don’t have to avoid shopping altogether out of coronavirus fears. Instead, you can take steps to shop smart and support your favorite small businesses.

Follow These Small Business Saturday Shopping Tips

As long as you take the right steps, you can support small businesses while reducing worries about your finances, as well as health and safety. Here are some tips you can follow.

Check to See Which Stores Are Celebrating the Shopping Day        

Take time to research your favorite shops to see if they’re participating in Small Business Saturday. Many post special promotions on their social media pages. This can help you decide where to shop in order to save money.

Plan in Advance to Avoid Overspending

No matter what shopping day you choose to participate in this year, it’s important to spend only what you can afford. Overspending can lead to debt and other financial problems.

Sticking to a budget is especially important if you’re struggling financially because of COVID-19. Don’t feel like you have to take part in this shopping day—but if you do, stay within your budget.

If you’re not good at creating or sticking to a budget, now might be a great time to start practicing. Learn how to budget better to make smart financial choices when shopping.

Use Credit Cards to Your Advantage

If you plan to use credit cards instead of cash or debit when doing your Small Business Saturday shopping, use them to your advantage. Check to see which rewards credit cards you already have in your wallet, and verify the perks they offer.

[There’s still time to apply for a new credit card to take advantage of Small Business Saturday spending perks. Check out RewardIt from ExtraCredit to get personalized offers.]

Maximize your earning potential by using the right credit cards for the right purchases. Many cards will allow you to earn more points, miles, or cash back if you spend in a specific category, for example.

American Express often offers cashback rewards when you spend a certain amount at qualified small businesses. You will need to sign up for the program, so check your cards’ eligibility and sign up before Small Business Saturday arrives.

Debit transactions often cost merchants aflat fee plus a percentage of the transaction, while credit cards charge only a percentage and can cost merchants less for smaller transactions. If you can, consider using credit cards to help keep costs down for your local small business.

Consider Getting a New Card

If you’ve been eyeing a new rewards or cash-back credit card, now might be a good time to apply. You can use your holiday shopping to meet spending requirements for a bonus while you earn rewards points or miles.

For example, the TD Cash Credit Card might be a good option for individuals looking for a credit card with some perks but no annual fee. Earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 within the first 90 days after account opening. Though its cash-back earning potential isn’t as high as some other cards, it could be a good beginner rewards card.

TD Cash Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% Introductory APR for 6 months on purchases

Ongoing Apr:
12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% (Variable)

Balance Transfer:
0% Introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn $150 Cash Back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening
  • Earn 3% Cash Back on dining
  • Earn 2% Cash Back at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all other eligible purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Visa Zero Liability
  • Instant credit card replacement
  • Digital Wallet
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Do Your Shopping Online

If you want to support small businesses but don’t want to risk in-person shopping, consider placing orders online for delivery. Many small businesses will waive shipping fees if you spend a certain amount of money, and your purchases will arrive right at your doorstep.

Order Ahead and Pick Up Your Order

If you don’t want to deal with crowded stores on Small Business Saturday but don’t want to deal with shipping, simply place an order online and then pick it up yourself. Many small businesses have begun offering this service since the onset of coronavirus. You may also be able to arrange to pick up items after the weekend, when the store might be less crowded.

Wear a Mask and Time Your Visit

If you prefer to visit your favorite small businesses in person, take precautions. Be sure to wear a mask and keep your distance when you see other shoppers in the store. If possible, plan when to shop to avoid the busiest times of the day. For example, shopping soon after a store opens might be your best bet.

Be Safe When Shopping on Small Business Saturday

Yes, it’s possible to shop safely at your favorite locally owned stores this Small Business Saturday. Be sure to act smart, keep the pandemic in mind, and plan your shopping to avoid debt and earn more credit card rewards.

If you’re in need of a rewards credit card, take some time now to compare card options. If you’ve struggled with credit and debt and want to keep better track of your financial health, ExtraCredit offers access to 28 of your FICO® scores and other opportunities for staying on top of and protecting your credit.


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