5 Things to Ask Before a Job Interview

ask-before-a-job-interview

No matter what is prompting you to search for a new job, there’s a lot to think about. There are the numerous factors you have to consider during your job hunt. What kind of position will your educational background help you qualify for? Also, how do you want your career to look in five, ten, or 20 years?

Once you narrow down your prospects and land a few interviews, however, the stakes get even higher. Choose the wrong offer — or fail to ask the right questions — and you could wind up regretting it.

To prepare yourself for the challenge, there are several issues you should confront before you sit down with a hiring manager or recruiter. To find out which questions to ask yourself, I reached out to several financial advisers with experience in this space. Here’s what they said.

1. Do I Have a Mentor?

While plenty of job research can be conducted online, few resources are as helpful as having a real, live mentor to turn to for advice. With a mentor by your side, you can learn the ins and outs of your desired profession, plus moves to make that can help you get ahead.

Of course, having this mentor before you land a job is a better idea than landing a mentor after.

“Before you do anything, find a mentor,” Taylor Schulte, financial adviser of Define Financial in San Diego, said. “Don’t go on the job hunt alone. It’s a competitive world out there and you need all the support you can get.”

2. Am I the Ideal Candidate for This Position?

Financial planner Clint Haynes of NextGen Wealth in Kansas City, Missouri adds another tip that can be helpful before an interview. Before you waste your precious time trying to get a job, he says, you should ask yourself if you’re the ideal candidate to begin with.

“This question will open your eyes to exactly what and who it is they’re looking for in the ideal candidate to fill this position,” Haynes said. “The answer will provide you with tremendous insight when you are called back for follow-up interviews.”

By asking yourself what your potential employer might be looking for, you create an opportunity to accentuate those skills. But if you don’t have the skills you think they want, this could also backfire.

“On the flip side, their answer might help you realize that maybe this isn’t the perfect position for you,” Haynes said.

3. Do I Know How Much I Should Be Paid?

While you might be inclined to accept any offer you’re given, you can lose out on thousands of dollars if you’re unaware of average earnings for your profession, or if you don’t like to negotiate.

Charles C. Scott, a financial adviser in Scottsdale, Arizona, suggests doing your homework to see what other people make for the jobs you’re applying for.

“A good place to start is reviewing websites that can provide general info about salary scales,” he said.

Most of the time, websites like Salary.com and Payscale.com will offer the information you’re looking for.

“Also try local recruiters or job-search consultants who are familiar with your area of expertise or the company you’re interviewing with,” Scott said.

4. Am I Prepared to Compare Offers?

Ideally, you’ll interview for several positions and wind up with more than one choice. But, how will you vet those choices? And, are you adequately prepared to compare offers?

Financial planner Tom Diem of Diem Wealth Management says you should be prepared to compare each offer in its entirety and ask “what makes one firm an attractive choice over the others?”

Just make sure you’re not comparing apples to oranges. When you compare offers, you should see how total compensation stacks up. Total compensation is everything you’re offered, not just your salary. Remember, benefits like a 401K match, company-sponsored health insurance and vacation pay can be lucrative, too.

5. Am I Putting my Best Face Forward?

With competition for jobs at an all-time high, it’s crucial to find ways to stand out. In addition to creating a carefully crafted resume, you have to put in some work online, too.

As a financial adviser who is active on the internet, I know how important it is to make sure your online presence is the best it can be. If you haven’t already, take some extra time to update your profile on any career websites you belong to. Because more and more employers have started using LinkedIn to find details on potential candidates, it’s absolutely essential to keep your page looking sharp.

If you really want a job, you have to make a good impression. Fortunately, the tools to do so are readily available.

Your New Career

Applying for a brand new job takes some guts. You’re not only putting yourself in a vulnerable position, but you might be changing your life drastically in the process.

The best way to prepare for a career change and any accompanying interviews is to ask yourself the right questions before you dive in. With enough research and preparation ahead of time, you’ll be in the best position to land a job you actually want.

[Editor’s Note: Many employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process, so it’s a good idea to know about your credit ahead of time. You can get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three main credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — every year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also view two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.]

Image: Steve Debenport

The post 5 Things to Ask Before a Job Interview appeared first on Credit.com.

Do I Need to Shred My Old Credit Cards?

shred_credit_cards

Chances are you’re probably already shredding documents like your bank and credit card statements before discarding them. You might even be taking the extra step of shredding things like credit card applications and other pieces of mail you receive since they contain personal information, such as your address. But are you shredding old credit cards when you get a replacement card?

If you aren’t, you probably should.

“With the proliferation of data breaches, phishing scams and ID theft, consumers should do everything possible to protect themselves and minimize risk,” said Thomas Nitzsche, media relations manager for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.

And that includes your old credit cards (it’s even a good idea for card accounts you’ve closed). That’s because the two most important components of preventing identity theft and unauthorized charges on your accounts are one, securing your sensitive information, and two, reviewing your financial statements regularly.

“Not completely destroying a credit card puts you at risk for ‘dumpster divers’ retrieving your card information and using it fraudulently,” Nitzsche said. “The best way to securely dispose of an old credit card is to shred it and place it in a secure locked recycling bin — such as a locked workplace data destruction service bin.”

Of course, your credit card protects you from fraudulent charges, but you still have to report those suspect charges within a reasonable timeframe. Law dictates that you’re only liable for up to $50 of unauthorized activity, no matter when you report it. And if your card wasn’t present in the unauthorized transaction, you have zero liability. Still, even if you’re regularly checking your statements, it can be easy to overlook small amounts charged over a long period of time. This form of unauthorized use is known as “cramming.”

“Most credit card issuers will only go back and remove the charges for a certain number of months, so it is important to be vigilant,” Nitzsche said.

With all the capabilities credit card thieves have, it’s unrealistic to expect you can prevent theft. Beyond shredding your credit cards, you’ll want to take other precautions, like using secure payment websites, never storing payment information in your web browser and only enabling NFC or RFID payment at the moment of a transaction. Beyond that, you’ll have to watch out for signs of credit card fraud.

You can check your account activity routinely — even daily — or set up transactional monitoring with your bank or credit card issuer. You’ll also want to check your credit scores for sudden changes (it could be a sign someone ran up your credit card balance without your permission) and review your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com for other kinds of fraud that can be trickier to detect, like identity theft. To get updates on your credit standing, you can see two of your free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

Image: mapodile

The post Do I Need to Shred My Old Credit Cards? appeared first on Credit.com.

The ‘Leftover’ Cars You Can Buy for Less This Year

car-for-less

Labor Day weekend has long been a big week for car sales, but according to Edmunds.com, you may be able to save really big if you look into leftovers — that is, outgoing 2016 models scheduled to be phased out or redesigned for 2017.

Per the car shopping site, dealers will be looking to get rid of these vehicles at steep discounts (think thousands of dollars) as they try to clear out their lots to make room for shiny, new 2017 models. And you don’t need to feel too behind the times for buying a car that’s last year’s news.

“Even though these vehicles are being redesigned or going away altogether, they still have the same great technology and performance that you’d find in most new cars, but at a much better value,” Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, said in a press release. “Bargain hunters are strongly encouraged to consider these vehicles.”

Edmunds identified nine vehicles in particular that are going at a good price relative to their MSRP, based off of the Price Promise deals listed on its site. Note: Some of the discounts are regional, so it’s still a good idea to comparison shop for car deals in your area. And it’s best to avoid buying a car outside of your budget just because you can get a good discount.

With that in mind, here are the five most lucrative leftover vehicles.

1. 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan

Edmunds spotted a number of deals for $7,000 to $10,000 off the soon-to-redesigned luxury sedan’s $71,175 MSRP.

2. 2016 Hyundai Genesis Sedan

Up for rebranding as the Genesis G80, this sedan is going for $3,000 to $5,500 less than its $49,800 MSRP in certain areas.

3. 2016 Buick LaCrosse

Edmunds is seeing deals for as much as $6,200 off the $38,982 MSRP on the entry-level full-size sedan getting a redesign in 2017.

4. 2016 Cadillac SRX

The luxury SUV is going for $8,000 off its $56,380 MSRP, once the incentives are factored in. It’s being replaced by the 2017 Cadillac XT5.

5. 2016 Subaru Impreza Sedan

Scheduled for a 2017 redesign, the 2016 Impreza is going for $900 to $1,100 less than its $22,052 MSRP. But, according to Edmunds, San Franciscans can get the real deal — saving as much as $2,300.

Looking to Buy This Labor Day?

Of course, it can pay to do your research and comparison shop before hitting a dealership, no matter what area you’re in or what car you’re looking to buy. It’s a good idea to think about your monthly payments versus price, so you know exactly what the car is going to cost you over the life of the loan — and you don’t overextend yourself.

Also, it can help to check your credit, since a good score will help you qualify for the best financing opportunities and save you on interest. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month at Credit.com.

Image: Ridofranz

The post The ‘Leftover’ Cars You Can Buy for Less This Year appeared first on Credit.com.

What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Buy a House?

credit-score-after-purchasing-a-home

If you’ve just bought a new home, chances are you spent quite some time worrying about your credit score. After all, your credit score affects your ability to get a mortgage, and the interest rate you’ll pay on that mortgage.

But what happens to your credit score after you’ve purchased a home? That’s a complicated question with a complicated answer.

Credit Inquiries Cost Some Points

You’ll likely start seeing minor dings in your credit score as soon as you begin applying for mortgages. When you apply for pre-approval, lenders will pull your credit score. When the lenders do perform a hard credit pull, it tells the credit scoring algorithm you’re looking for new credit, which will cause a small drop in your credit score.

You can limit this effect while mortgage shopping by applying for pre-approval with several companies within a two-week period. Some credit scoring models will give you a longer period than this, but keep it to two weeks to be safe. When you limit your mortgage shopping to a short time period, you’ll still get a ding on your credit score, but it will be smaller. (You can view two of your credit scores for free by signing up for an account on Credit.com.)

New Credit Costs Even More

Applying for mortgages will ding your credit a bit, but actually opening a mortgage will cost even more points, especially if this is your first home loanmortgage. The large increase in overall debt will definitely cause a drop in your credit score.

Luckily, installment debts like a mortgage cause less of a score decrease than high-balance revolving debts like credit cards. Still, though, you’ll likely find that your score drops by a few points once the credit bureaus pick up your new mortgage account.

But Adding to Your Credit Mix Is Good

If you’ve never had a mortgage before, adding one to your credit profile can ultimately be a good thing. Approximately 10% of your credit score is made up of your overall credit mix. The more variety, the better!

Once your credit score gets past the temporary ding from the inquiries and taking out a new account, it may actually increase because you’ve expanded your credit mix.

And Making On-Time Payments Is Even Better

Ultimately, if you make your mortgage payments on time, you should see a fairly quick increase in your credit score. In fact, within a few months, barring any other issues, your credit score will likely be higher than it was before you first applied for a mortgage.

When you buy a home, it’s important to be prepared for your credit score to temporarily drop. This happens any time you pick up a new credit account. But once you get past the initial drop, financially responsible homeownership will likely increase your credit score more than ever before.

Image: Justin Horrocks

The post What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Buy a House? appeared first on Credit.com.

How a Reporter Became the Target of a Phantom Debt Collector

debt-collector-scams

How persistent and brazen are phantom debt collectors? Last month, when I emailed a firm named Advance Cash Services asking for comment on collection harassment allegations, the firm replied by saying I owed them $935.76 for an unpaid payday loan.

A few days later, I wrote about Susan Marquardt of Chicago, who says she was harassed by ACS, which alleged that she owed $4,526. And in the usual space reserved for comment from the accused company, we published the “comment” I’d received claiming I owed them money too. And we all had a laugh.

You might assume that national syndication of such a goofy incident would get ACS to “call off the dogs” on me. But you’d be wrong.

Late last week, ACS upped the stakes and sent me this email, suggesting “charges” against me were imminent:

Your Case File is being transferred to United States District Court 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007 in order to take legal action against you within 48 Hours According to Section(9) and Chapter(19).

Having checked your Social Security Number through our National Checking Database System, and finding out that you have been never charged for a fraud activity,

If you fail to respond us the Charges will be pressed against the name are:

1. Violation of federal banking regulation act 1983 (C)

2. Collateral check fraud

3. Theft by deception (ACC ACT 21A)

NOTE: THIS CASE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION UNDER MAJOR CREDIT BUREAUS.

Yours sincerely

Advance Cash Services Collections & Legal Department.

Again, I replied to the note, telling the sender I was a reporter seeking a comment and this time noted that I wanted to give ACS a chance to comment because publication of this email was also imminent. Against my better judgment, I sent along a phone number so the firm could call me. I haven’t received a response yet.

I called a number listed for ACS on the Better Business Bureau website and was told I had reached a wrong number. I also tried many of the contact emails and phone numbers listed on this Washington State Department of Financial Institutions website on ACS warning about “what appears to be a collection scam” to no avail. That landing page was first created in 2011 but updated in 2015.

So, all at once you can see how relentless phantom debt collectors can be and how persistent that alleged scam is.

Dealing With a Phantom Debt

My story is funny, but phantom debt collection is no laughing matter. It is a scam that persists because it works.

Nearly every week brings news of some other operation being sued by state and federal officials. Last week, the Minnesota state attorney general sued an operation based in Jamaica. As an example, state officials said an elderly couple in St. Cloud paid $400 to pay off a payday loan from a firm she’d never heard of … and then received more harassing calls.

A quick scan of the Federal Trade Commission website shows dozens of similar actions by that agency, stretching over several years. Many of the cases involve consumers who did indeed apply for a payday loan online at some point. That meant they’d shared a lot of personal information, which somehow gets into the hands of phantom debt collectors. So that’s lesson No. 1 from this story: Applying for a high-interest, high fee payday loan online can lead to trouble in more ways than one. But the big lesson is this: Anyone can email you or call you and claim you owe them money. Anyone.

The only barrier is a phone number or an email address. After all, if you are running a debt collection scam, the marginal cost increase to adding your email or phone to their campaign is nearly zero. So you should take any message claiming you owe money with a grain of salt. It’s a best practice to always demand proof that the debt exists and always get a mailing address and phone number, then hang up and call back. It’s also good to have your state attorney general’s office on speed dial in case something seems wrong.

If you are reading this story, you probably know all this. But no doubt, somewhere among your set of friends and family is someone who is more vulnerable than you think. Maybe it’s an elderly relative who is easily confused; maybe it’s a friend who has silently fallen on hard times and does hold legitimate debts. (You can see how your debts are affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.) These folks can be tricked into paying up, so talk to them often. Ask them questions about their finances or even share this story with them so they’ll have some tips on hand for dealing with potential con-artists.

Image: MartinPrescott

The post How a Reporter Became the Target of a Phantom Debt Collector appeared first on Credit.com.

Green Dot Review: Everything You Need to Know Before Using this Prepaid Card

credit card increase_lg

The Green Dot Card is the biggest prepaid card in the U.S. with 4.28 million active cards currently issued. When you use a prepaid card, you must have money loaded onto it before you can use it, and it does not provide you with the opportunity to build credit history. Rather, prepaid cards often serve as a substitution for traditional checking accounts.

Many prepaid cards come with hefty fees. When you can’t get a checking account with a traditional financial institution, unfortunately you are usually subjected to charges that you wouldn’t normally encounter at a bank. These fees are commonly referred to as “poor tax.”

If you must use a prepaid card, the Green Dot Card isn’t your worst option, but you’ll want to read on to make sure you know all the ins and outs of dodging its fees.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 5.41.15 PM

Overview of the Green Dot Card

Options to load money:

Direct deposit: With the Green Dot Card, you can set up direct deposit for:

  • Paychecks
  • Social Security benefits
  • Veterans’ compensation and pension benefits
  • Supplement Social Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Civil Service Benefits such as retirement or annuities

Direct deposit comes with no fees, but you are limited to only having $2,500 in your account at any given time. If your paycheck or benefits exceed this limit, you can make a request for an exception to be made.

Walmart: You can also put money on your card by cashing your check at Walmart. Walmart charges a $3 fee on all check-to-card transactions up to $1,000. This fee is in addition to the $3.74 that Green Dot charges.

Deposit cash: You can deposit cash at select financial service centers and retailers across the country. You will be charged reload fees, which can be as high as $4.95 depending on the retailer.

Deposit checks. If you want to avoid the fees at Walmart, you can cash your checks via Green Dot’s mobile app. It should be noted that you will not have access to these funds for up to ten business days, though.

moneypakMoneyPak: You can purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak, which is a card that will allow you to load money onto your personal card. This option comes with a $5.95 service fee per deposit.

Deposit cash into Paypal: You can use Green Dot to deposit cash into your PayPal account at select retailers. There is a $3.95 fee for this service, and you will need either a smartphone or access to a computer and printer.

Use your tax refund: During certain times of year, you can direct deposit your tax refund onto your Green Dot Card. The timeframe for this service is limited though; in 2016 it was only available until May. Because many people may not file taxes until after the standard mid-April filing deadline, this option may not be available when you file.

How to access your account:

App or Online: Green Dot has an app available for smartphone users. From this app, you can access transaction history, register your new card or order an additional card for your account with an authorized user. This app is available on both Android and iOS.

Text alerts: You can check your balance and recent deposits through text. Make sure you know if your cell carrier has any charges for this service before utilizing it.

Other ways to use your account besides swiping at checkout:

Pay bills online: While the cardholder agreement explicitly forbids setting up recurring transactions, you can pay your bills online for no fee. Just make sure they are one-time transactions and not set up to come out regularly.

Transfer money: You can send money to and from others with Green Dot Cards via mobile for no service fee.

Fees for paper checks: If you need paper checks, you can order them for $5.95 per 12 checks.

How it Works

Step 1: Apply

In order to open a Green Dot Card, you will need to either buy a temporary card at a participating retailer or financial service center, or get the process started online. When you apply online, you will be issued a temporary card number, but it can’t be used at places that require you to have a physical card in order to make a purchase. This is a non-issue when you apply for Green Dot in person as the temporary card will be physical.

Step 2: Register the account

In order to get a permanent card, you will have to register your account. You will have to provide personal details to verify your identity, such as your name, Social Security number, address and date of birth.

Step 3: Activate personalized card

After you have registered, Green Dot will send you a personalized card in the mail. You will then need to follow activation instructions in order to start using your account.

You will be able to use your card where Visa or MasterCard is accepted (depending on which you are issued,) and you’ll also be able to use it to withdraw cash from ATMS. As discussed above, you can also use your account to transfer money to others with a Green Dot Card or pay bills online fee-free.

The Fine Print

This card does come with a lot of fine print, and you’re going to want to review all of it before opening an account.

Direct Deposit

While Green Dot boasts that you can get your paycheck or benefits a full two days early when using direct deposit, that is by no means a guarantee. First, the institution paying you money must give Green Dot a notification that they intend to pay prior to actually paying you. Then, Green Dot must elect to put those funds in your account two days early. To further complicate matters, just because you have received your paycheck or benefits two days early in the past, there is no guarantee that you will continue to receive them two days early in the future. It’s a wait-and-see game each and every time.

WARNING: Know that your employer cannot legally require you to receive your paycheck via a prepaid card.

If the direct deposit transfer is irregular or there is a transmission error, you may not be able to access your funds for a full five days after their deposit.

You can only deposit up to $2,500 at a time, though if your benefits or pay is regular, Green Card may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Max Transaction and Balance Limits

On any given day, you can only spend $2,500 on your Green Card. That is also the max you’re allowed to have in your account, unless an exception has been made for you because of direct deposit.

You’re only allowed to take out $400 at a time when making a withdraw from an ATM, however, the ATM you’re using may have limits that are even more stringent.

First Load at Retailer

The first time you load money onto your card at a retailer, you must load at least $10 but no more than $500. The retailer may or may not have stricter policies for the initial load. Also remember that when you load your card at a retailer, you will incur a fee.

Authorized Users

You can have an authorized user on your account, and he or she will be issued a separate card. The card number and funds will be the same as yours, though, and you are solely responsible for any spending, charges or fees that they rack up. The authorized user will not be able to load funds onto your card. In order to remove an authorized user, you will have to close your entire account and open a new one.

Using Your Card to Make Specific Purchases

In some situations, you’ll have to use your card in precise ways. For example, if you’re getting gas, you can only use your Green Dot Card as a debit card with your PIN at the pump. If you want to pay credit, you’ll have to go inside.

In other situations, Green Dot may put a hold put on your card. That means that a certain amount of funds are frozen and you can’t use them, even if they exceed the actual transaction amount. This commonly happens when you make a huge purchase, such as reserving a hotel or car rental. It can also happen when you go out to a restaurant; Green Dot may reserve additional funds in case you decide to leave a non-cash tip. These funds can be frozen for up to 90 days.

Fraudulent Activity

If you lose your card or it is stolen, you have two days to notify Green Dot. If you’re reviewing your transaction history and see some weird activity that is not your own, you have 60 days, though there is exception for those with “good cause” like being hospitalized or away on long trips. If you notify Green Dot within these timeframes, you will only lose $50. If you don’t, but Green Dot decides that it could have identified the fraud themselves, you can only lose up to $500.  If neither of those apply, you could lose everything according to Green Dot’s own policies.

However, MasterCard and Visa also provide protection. If your card is a Visa, you will only lose money if they determine that you’re lying about the charges being fraudulent or if you were grossly negligent. If your card is a MasterCard, you will only lose money if your card is not in good standing (which is rather difficult, though not impossible, to do with a prepaid card,) or if you have reported unauthorized activity more than twice in the past twelve months.

Negative Balance and Account Closures

If you have a zero account balance and incur fees, Green Dot will charge you a max of $11.90. That is more than can be said about many traditional financial institutions. If you try to spend more money than you have on your card, the transaction may be declined, or you may end up with a negative balance on your card commensurate with the difference. So if you tried to make a $30 purchase, but only had $10 on your card, you could potentially end up with a -$20 balance.

You must pay off negative balances. If you don’t, or if you have a zero balance, your card can be closed without notice.

If you have money in your account, but you don’t use it for a year, it will be turned over to your state as unclaimed property. You must then go through the claim process with your state if you want to see that money again. You can find out if you have any unclaimed property here.

Avoiding Fees

The Green Dot Card does come with a number of fees. Here are ways you can avoid them:

  • Initial Purchase Fee: $4.95 or less if you purchase in-person at a retailer (but $6.95 for the NASCAR® Prepaid Visa card). You can avoid this fee by opening your card online.

 

  • Monthly Charge: $5.95. You can avoid this charge by loading at least $1,000 onto your card during each billing cycle, or by making 30 purchase transactions in each billing cycle. It should be noted that many, though by no means all, traditional financial institutions will also have a monthly service fee if you do not meet similar guidelines.
  • ATM Fee: $2.50 every time you withdraw cash from an out-of-network ATM or from any teller. $0.50 per balance inquiry at out-of-network ATMs. You can avoid these fees by only withdrawing money from in-network ATMs, though you should remember that individual ATM operators may have their own fees.
  • Reloading at Retail Locations: This can cost you up to $4.95, depending on the retailer. To avoid this, keep as much of your money digital as possible so that you won’t have to deposit cash. If you work in the service industry, this is much easier said than done.
  • Replacement Card Fee: $4.95. You can avoid this fee by not losing, damaging or having your card stolen, but that’s everyone’s goal, anyways.
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%. You can avoid this fee by not using this card out of the country, or by using another card that carries no foreign transaction fees.
  • Failure to Register: $5.95 starting after 90 days. If you purchase your card in person, you will need to register and submit all necessary identifying documentation within 90 days, otherwise, you’ll start incurring a $5.95 fee. Avoid this by registering within 90 days.
  • Charge for Checks: $5.95/12 checks. You can potentially avoid this fee by paying all of your bills online or in cash. (Just be sure to always get a receipt.) If a check is mandatory, you can’t really get around this one.
  • PayPal Service Fee: $3.95 every time you put cash directly into PayPal. To get around this fee, find another way to fund your PayPal account.

Pros & Cons

Pro: Provides a way for many to access financial services that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them.

Con: These services are riddled with fees.

Pro: Direct deposit is free, and provides a way to dodge expensive cash-checking services.

Con: You can only have $2,500 in your account at a time unless you have filed for a direct deposit exception and been approved.

Pro: Many of these fees can be circumvented if you have internet access.

Con: The very reason you need a prepaid card may be lack of internet access.

Pro: Reasonable limit on fees if your card has a zero balance.

Con: The monthly deposit requirement to avoid a Monthly Charge may exceed your income.

When to Migrate Away from Prepaid Cards

If you have a prepaid card, do everything you can to find a reputable bank or credit union to use instead. Investigate their fees, too, to make sure you’re not paying too much for services that are free with many traditional financial institutions.

However, there are legitimate reasons for having a prepaid card, and it’s typically because there aren’t too many other options available to you due to a

Another reason you may opt for a prepaid card if you don’t have a traditional financial institution in your neighborhood, and lack a way to regularly access one in another neighborhood. If this is the case, turn to your computer. Mobile banking has been made easier and more reliable in recent years, and you can do almost anything that you’d be able to do at a physical branch.

If you don’t have access to a computer or a home internet connection, it is not advised to use the library to do mobile banking as this connection is shared and not secured. Instead, you may want to look at doing mobile banking via your smartphone, or look into the ConnectHome program to get a low- or no-cost computer and/or internet connection.

If you don’t have a smart phone and have exhausted all other options, a prepaid card may be your best bet. Go in with your eyes wide opened. Figure out the best way to dodge fees so that they don’t cut into your pay or benefits. Then, as you build your credit score or gain access to mobile banking, migrate away to a traditional checking account that is almost guaranteed to be less laden with fees, allowing you to keep more of your own money.

The post Green Dot Review: Everything You Need to Know Before Using this Prepaid Card appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

RushCard’s New Security Features: What You Need to Know

prepaid_debit_card

Almost a year after a glitch locked thousands of people away from their money and out of their accounts, the prepaid debit card provider RushCard is revamping for cell phone technology. With the new mobile phone app, customers have access to an account-freeze feature that allows them to temporarily put their accounts on hold if they misplace their cards, as well as the opportunity to open the app by fingerprint for additional security. The card will also give customers electronic access to a discount prescription program at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and eliminate the need for them to carry related prescription cards.

The popular prepaid debit card, founded in 2003 by hip hop producer and celebrity Russell Simmons, is used by many low-income consumers without access to traditional bank accounts who need to put money on the card to pay their bills or get paychecks electronically deposited.

The company faced a torrent of social media complaints in October when customers were locked out of their accounts over a 19-day period, blocking their ability to pay bills and access their paychecks and savings. In May, the company agreed to pay $19 million to the disgruntled customers, plus $1.5 million in attorney fees.

Following the debacle, RushCard issued a statement on its Facebook site, explaining how the glitch had been caused when upgrading to a new processing partner during an effort to improve its customer experience on October 11.

“Unfortunately, the transition did not go as planned and some of you experienced hardship as a result,” said the Facebook post. “If you were impacted, we can’t begin to express both how sorry we are for the pain that you’ve experienced and our commitment to make this right.”

RushCard waived its fees from November 1 through February 29, 2016 to try to make amends.

What to Do If Your Account Is Frozen

If you do find yourself locked out of your cash card account, it’s wise to stop your direct deposit and request a paper paycheck. People can do this by contacting their payroll company to stop the direct deposit process.

And if your account is frozen when you have rent or a bill due, there are several things you can do to quickly come up with the money you need. If possible, it might be a good idea to open a traditional checking account and get a debit card, which can be easily replaced if lost or stolen.

Ultimately, secured credit cards are significantly safer than prepaid debit cards. These cards require a cash collateral deposit which serves as a credit line for the account. And secured cards also can help you establish or improve your credit as credit issuers will report your payment history to the credit reporting agencies.

Of course, you’ll need to make on-time payments to all of your creditors and keep your balances low relative to credit limits. You can keep track of how your credit scores are improving by getting your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com. It’s also a good idea to pull your free credit reports, which you can do every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Image: guruXOOX

The post RushCard’s New Security Features: What You Need to Know appeared first on Credit.com.

RushCard’s New Security Features: What You Need to Know

prepaid_debit_card

Almost a year after a glitch locked thousands of people away from their money and out of their accounts, the prepaid debit card provider RushCard is revamping for cell phone technology. With the new mobile phone app, customers have access to an account-freeze feature that allows them to temporarily put their accounts on hold if they misplace their cards, as well as the opportunity to open the app by fingerprint for additional security. The card will also give customers electronic access to a discount prescription program at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and eliminate the need for them to carry related prescription cards.

The popular prepaid debit card, founded in 2003 by hip hop producer and celebrity Russell Simmons, is used by many low-income consumers without access to traditional bank accounts who need to put money on the card to pay their bills or get paychecks electronically deposited.

The company faced a torrent of social media complaints in October when customers were locked out of their accounts over a 19-day period, blocking their ability to pay bills and access their paychecks and savings. In May, the company agreed to pay $19 million to the disgruntled customers, plus $1.5 million in attorney fees.

Following the debacle, RushCard issued a statement on its Facebook site, explaining how the glitch had been caused when upgrading to a new processing partner during an effort to improve its customer experience on October 11.

“Unfortunately, the transition did not go as planned and some of you experienced hardship as a result,” said the Facebook post. “If you were impacted, we can’t begin to express both how sorry we are for the pain that you’ve experienced and our commitment to make this right.”

RushCard waived its fees from November 1 through February 29, 2016 to try to make amends.

What to Do If Your Account Is Frozen

If you do find yourself locked out of your cash card account, it’s wise to stop your direct deposit and request a paper paycheck. People can do this by contacting their payroll company to stop the direct deposit process.

And if your account is frozen when you have rent or a bill due, there are several things you can do to quickly come up with the money you need. If possible, it might be a good idea to open a traditional checking account and get a debit card, which can be easily replaced if lost or stolen.

Ultimately, secured credit cards are significantly safer than prepaid debit cards. These cards require a cash collateral deposit which serves as a credit line for the account. And secured cards also can help you establish or improve your credit as credit issuers will report your payment history to the credit reporting agencies.

Of course, you’ll need to make on-time payments to all of your creditors and keep your balances low relative to credit limits. You can keep track of how your credit scores are improving by getting your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com. It’s also a good idea to pull your free credit reports, which you can do every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Image: guruXOOX

The post RushCard’s New Security Features: What You Need to Know appeared first on Credit.com.

Your Visa Card Can Now Earn Points Toward Your Uber Rides

uber-and-visa

This week the ride-hailing app, Uber, announced a partnership with Visa that allows users to earn free rides by swiping the Visa card tied to their Uber account. It’s called Local Offers, and here’s how the system works.

Customers can simply “enroll” in any of the participating businesses that interest them on Uber’s app. Then, each time they spend a dollar at one of the related businesses on their Visa-branded debit or credit card, they’ll earn one Uber point toward a free ride. Rack up 100 points, and they could score a free lift worth up to $10.

Local Offers has already been integrated into Uber’s app, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a list of places to patronize. And because there are no codes or coupons to manage, the site says, all you’ll need to do is make sure you have your Visa card on hand to pay — that is, at a participating business. You can watch the points add up in the Uber app as riders’ point balances increase upon swiping.

For now, Local Offers is only available in California — it’s rolling out namely in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Playing It Safe 

Remember, it’s one thing to score a free ride by doing what you’d normally do with a credit card. But the last thing you want to do is tank your credit by going overboard. If you weren’t planning to visit Barcito or Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que — two restaurants on Uber’s list of participating businesses — you probably shouldn’t go just to get the free Uber points. (Then again, barbecue is never a bad decision, if you ask us.)

Remember to read the terms and conditions of any rewards program carefully so you understand exactly what you’re signing up for. You can see how your spending habits are affecting your finances by viewing two of your free credit scores on Credit.com. Carrying debt? Try playing with this credit card payoff calculator to see how long it will take to pay off.

Image: Isfendiyara

The post Your Visa Card Can Now Earn Points Toward Your Uber Rides appeared first on Credit.com.

Your Visa Card Can Now Earn Points Toward Your Uber Rides

uber-and-visa

This week the ride-hailing app, Uber, announced a partnership with Visa that allows users to earn free rides by swiping the Visa card tied to their Uber account. It’s called Local Offers, and here’s how the system works.

Customers can simply “enroll” in any of the participating businesses that interest them on Uber’s app. Then, each time they spend a dollar at one of the related businesses on their Visa-branded debit or credit card, they’ll earn one Uber point toward a free ride. Rack up 100 points, and they could score a free lift worth up to $10.

Local Offers has already been integrated into Uber’s app, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a list of places to patronize. And because there are no codes or coupons to manage, the site says, all you’ll need to do is make sure you have your Visa card on hand to pay — that is, at a participating business. You can watch the points add up in the Uber app as riders’ point balances increase upon swiping.

For now, Local Offers is only available in California — it’s rolling out namely in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Playing It Safe 

Remember, it’s one thing to score a free ride by doing what you’d normally do with a credit card. But the last thing you want to do is tank your credit by going overboard. If you weren’t planning to visit Barcito or Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que — two restaurants on Uber’s list of participating businesses — you probably shouldn’t go just to get the free Uber points. (Then again, barbecue is never a bad decision, if you ask us.)

Remember to read the terms and conditions of any rewards program carefully so you understand exactly what you’re signing up for. You can see how your spending habits are affecting your finances by viewing two of your free credit scores on Credit.com. Carrying debt? Try playing with this credit card payoff calculator to see how long it will take to pay off.

Image: Isfendiyara

The post Your Visa Card Can Now Earn Points Toward Your Uber Rides appeared first on Credit.com.