5 Credit Cards for Cost-Conscious Travelers

These low-cost cards won’t gouge you and serve as a handy travel companion.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

There’s a lot of buzz anytime a credit card company launches a new premium travel credit card. But these cards often charge annual fees of $400 or more for the privilege of accessing their benefits. (You can read more about these types of cards here.) For occasional or budget travelers who want a cost-conscious card, these high annual fees just aren’t realistic. Luckily, there are plenty of low-cost cards that won’t gouge you and serve as a great travel companion.

The way we see it, cards for the budget-conscious traveler need to meet a few requirements. Foreign transactions should be free, there should be no annual fee and the card should have some additional travel perks or incentives. With that in mind, check out our picks.

1. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% on purchases for 12 months, then variable 15.74% to 23.74%

Signup Bonus: 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

Why We Picked It: This card earns points that can help travelers get to more destinations and comes with a nice signup bonus.

Benefits: Every dollar spent on purchases earns 1.5 points that can be redeemed toward flights, hotels, cruises and other travel expenses. The signup bonus alone is worth $200 in travel credits. Bank of America customers get an extra 10% in points for every purchase.

Drawbacks: If you don’t have a Bank of America account, you won’t get the full earnings potential.

2. Discover it Miles

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: 0% on purchases for 14 months, then variable 11.74% to 23.74%

Signup Bonus: Discover will match all the miles you earn at the end of your first year.

Why We Picked It: This card racks up miles for travel, and Discover will match all earned miles after your first year. Plus, there’s flexibility to use it as a travel or cash back card.

Benefits: This card earns 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on purchases, and miles can be used to book travel with no blackout dates. Cardholders even have the option to use it as a cash back card, as you don’t lose any value when redeeming for cash. Discover’s matching offer means your first year earns double the miles. You’ll also get up to $30 of in-flight Wi-Fi credits per year.

Drawbacks: You’ll have to wait until the end of your first year to get your match bonus, while many card bonuses process after three months.

3. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, then variable 12.74% to 22.74%

Signup Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months

Why We Picked It: This card comes with a signup bonus, decent mileage return and additional perks that come standard with premium travel cards.

Benefits: The card earns 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend on purchases, and miles can be used to book travel through any website or app. Cardholders can earn a nice signup bonus worth $200. Additional travel benefits include free 24-hour concierge services and upgrades at hotels.

Drawbacks: According to Capital One, this card requires excellent credit, so you may not be able to qualify if your credit isn’t up to par. (Not sure? You can find out by taking a look at two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

4. JetBlue Card

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: Variable 12.74%, 20.74% or 25.74%, based on creditworthiness

Signup Bonus: 5,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

Why We Picked It: Loyal JetBlue customers and anyone looking for a solid airline card can appreciate this card’s rewards.

Benefits: Cardholders earn three points per dollar with JetBlue, two points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores and one point per dollar elsewhere. Points can be redeemed for any seat on JetBlue flights, with no blackout dates. You’ll also save 50% on in-flight food and drink purchases. If you fly frequently, or even occasionally, with JetBlue, this card could be worth it.

Drawbacks: You’re essentially locked into JetBlue’s program since the points aren’t transferable to other airlines.

5. USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature

Annual Fee: None

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

APR: Variable 12.65% to 26.65%, or 4% during military deployment

Signup Bonus: None

Why We Picked It: This card is a great cash back option for military members and their families, and also provides some key travel benefits.

Benefits: USAA membership is available to active and former military members, their families, cadets or midshipmen. This card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. It also includes concierge services, rental car insurance and emergency travel assistance. If you have good credit, you can qualify for a low interest rate.

Drawbacks: This card is limited to USAA members.

Choosing the Right Budget Travel Card

The right budget travel card has benefits that match your spending habits. While it’s a given that you want no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, card benefits can differ. The best cards will earn points, miles or cash back on the types of purchases you tend to make.

You’ll also want to pick a card that fits your lifestyle. If you travel infrequently but want a budget travel card just in case, you may be better off with a card that can be redeemed for travel or cash back. (You can take a look at some of the best cash back cards here.) You’ll also want a card that can help you get to your desired destination. So, for example, if JetBlue doesn’t fly to your destinations of choice, that airline’s credit card won’t be appropriate.

If you’re gunning for a signup bonus, make sure you can meet the requirements. If you can’t afford the needed spending amount, it may be better to shoot for a smaller bonus with modest requirements rather than stretch your budget trying to pass a spending threshold. After all, carrying a balance means you’ll probably lose out on the perks thanks to interest fees.

At publishing time, the Capital One VentureOne rewards card, Discover it Miles, USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature and JetBlue Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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9 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Credit Card Payment

The average American between 18 and 65 has credit card debt. Here's how to get rid of yours.

If you have a monthly credit card payment you could do without, you aren’t alone. The average American between 18 and 65 has more than $4,000 in credit card debt, and if you carry a balance from month to month, you’re automatically making a larger credit card payment than necessary.

Here are nine common-sense ways to shrink your credit card payment.

1. Make Larger Payments Now

While it may sound counterproductive, making larger credit card payments now will reduce future payments — provided you aren’t racking up too many charges and undoing your progress. By making more than the minimum payment, you can reduce your overall balance — and the amount of interest you’re accruing.

If you have disposable income, this should be an easy step. If you don’t, some budget tightening can help free up cash for a larger payment.

2. Reduce Credit Card Spending

If your purchases are affecting your ability to manage your credit card payments, it could be time to curb your spending. You can analyze your monthly credit card statement to determine what types of purchases are costing the most. For instance, if restaurants and bars make up a large portion of your credit card bill, you may want to start cooking more meals at home.

3. Stop Using Your Card Entirely

If your balance is out of control or way over the recommended credit-utilization rate, you may want to eliminate credit card spending altogether. Instead, you can use only your available funds for expenses as you work to pay down your debt. This way, you won’t add to your balance and over time your minimum payment will drop.

“For many people, the problem isn’t that they aren’t paying money toward their balance but that they keep charging more to it,” said Brian Davis, cofounder of SparkRental.com. “In that case, they should leave their credit card at home, in a drawer, and only spend cash until they’ve paid off their credit card debt. Spending cash feels quite different than swiping plastic — people intuitively track their spending and how much cash is left in their wallet, because it’s real and tangible.”

4. Negotiate Lower Interest Rates

One of the simplest ways to reduce your monthly credit card payment a bit is to lower your interest rate. You can call your credit card company and ask them to adjust your annual percentage APR (more about lowering your interest rate here). If you have a long history of timely payments, they may comply without much fuss. Even if you don’t have success at first, you can keep calling to reach other representatives or ask to speak with a manager.

5. Transfer Your Balance

Balance transfers are another common way to lower interest rates. Many credit cards offer introductory periods of a 0% APR for balance transfers, which gives you an interest-free timeframe to pay down your balance. The APR will kick in when that timeframe is up, so you’ll want to choose a card with a lower APR than you currently have and/or do your very best to pay off the balance before that window is up. Keep in mind you’ll likely have to pay a one-time fee per balance transfer, which usually amounts to $5 or 3 to 5% of the transfer amount, though there are one or two cards out there that will let you avoid that fee.

“One way to lower your monthly credit card bill is to open a new card with a 0% APR for an introductory period, and transfer your existing credit card balances to it,” said Davis. “That will buy you some breathing room to pay down the balance without huge portions of the payment going toward interest.”

6. Prioritize Payments

If you’ve got multiple balances, some strategic resource allocation can help you pay them down more quickly — and ultimately lower your monthly obligations. Make sure you’re making all your minimum payments on-time, but put the most money you can toward the balance with the highest interest rate. That’ll keep that balance from burgeoning and save you more dough in the long run.

7. Ask Your Card Issuer for a Payment Plan

If you’re in serious financial trouble, you could talk to your credit card issuer about a long-term repayment plan. That’s not going to go a long-way to lowering your credit card bill in the short-term, but it can help you avoid late fees, default and bigger money woes while you work to improve your financial health.

Credit card companies sometimes offer alternative payment plans to customers experiencing financial hardship. Keep in mind these plans will differ from company to company and may require you to close your account.

8. Improve Your Credit Score

Better credit usually leads to better interest rates, which can lead to lower payments. Once you’ve significantly improved your credit, you may be able to negotiate a better rate with your current credit card issuer or qualify for other cards that have better rates. If you’re not sure where your credit stands, you can view two of your credit scores on Credit.com for free.

9. Pay Off Your Balance Each Month

Paying off your balance each month is the ideal way to use a credit card. It eliminates interest and keeps you from accruing debt. No matter your financial standing, paying off your balance in full each month should be the ultimate goal.

Trying to lower all your monthly bills? You can find a full 13 ways to lower your car insurance premium here. And if there’s a bill you just can’t seem to get down, let us know in the comments section below and we’ll get an expert to provide some suggestions!

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What’s Up With All These $400 Annual Fee Credit Cards — & Should I Get One?

Here's what's behind the elite credit card surge — and how to decide if you should sign up for one.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

A $1,500 signup bonus. Five times the points at your favorite hotel chain. Up to $200 in annual Uber credits … on top of a $200 annual credit for airline fees. VIP gifts delivered directly to your door.

Chances are, at least one of these credit card offers (or an equally flashy one) has caught your eye in recent months. Elite credit cards — perk-laden plastic touting major travel rewards and super-swanky privileges — are getting a lot of press these days. But if you’ve paid attention to the fine news print, you’ve likely noticed these cards have something else in common: a hefty annual fee, usually at least $400 … or more. And while mega-miles, generous airport lounge access and complimentary hotel room upgrades certainly have mass appeal, that yearly price tag isn’t for everybody.

Here’s what’s behind the elite credit card surge — and how to decide if you should sign up for one.

What’s an Elite Credit Card? 

Elite credit cards, also known as premium, premier or luxury credit cards, offer a wide range of tempting benefits. The details vary from card to card, but there are a few categories that tend to be a focus.

  • Earned Points: Most elite credit cards earn points redeemable for rewards such as travel credits, gift cards and cash back. These cards often earn one point per dollar spent on most purchases and multiple points per dollar spent on certain spending categories, typically related to travel, like dining or airfare. Frequently, there are big signup bonuses (think tens of thousands of points) for meeting certain spending requirements or adding authorized users (though that’ll usually cost an annual fee, too).
  • Travel Perks: Perks for the frequent traveler can include hundreds of dollars in annual travel credits and reimbursements, airport lounge access, hotel upgrades and even VIP treatment at hotel properties and car rental agencies.
  • Concierge Services: Many elite credit cards offer 24/7 concierge services that can help members book travel, get event tickets and even shop for rare merchandise.
  • VIP Experiences: Select cards provide access to exclusive experiences like dining, fashion or sporting events available only to cardholders.
  • Made of Metal: Premium plastic is passé. Elite credit cards are now coming in metal, giving them a distinct “plunk” factor.

Plastic with these kinds of perks isn’t exactly new. Premium travel credit cards geared to frequent fliers (or big spenders) have been on the market for years, but the majority of plunky products were reserved for the rich and famous — and you needed an invite to apply. (See American Express’ near-mythical Centurion Card, a perennial celebrity wallet-stuffer made of anodized titanium, laden with perks and carrying a $7,500 initiation fee/$2,500 annual fee.) The new wave of elite credit cards may not be as VIP as the still-existent invitation-only cards, but their perks are certainly eye-popping — and, $400-plus annual fees aside, anyone can apply.

Open to the Public 

These days, it seems like there are more elite credit cards on the market than you can shake a stick at.

Chalk the boom up to two major factors, said Richard Crone, CEO of Crone Consulting LLC, an independent advisory company that specializes in payments and advises some of the biggest players in the financial sector.

First, there was the Durbin Amendment, part of the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 as a response to the conditions that led to the 2008 recession. This amendment capped the amount debit card issuers could charge merchants in interchange fees (also known as swipe fees) for every transaction.

But “these regulations were not applied to credit card transactions,” Crone said. “The focus was then shifted to credit,” with financial institutions throwing considerable weight behind designing and marketing credit cards that could extract more revenue in swipe fees.

Second, issuers saw a big opportunity in millennials, who have been wary of credit and preferred debit cards following the recession. Credit card use is still low among millennials, but that attitude may slowly be changing as the economy rebounds.

“They’re entering prime purchase years, and so issuers took notice and fine-tuned promotions and cards to create packages that attracted millennials,” Crone said — and noted that this demographic loves perceived deals and will pay high rates to get them.

These factors combined caused the elite credit card market to heat up in several ways.

New Players Emerged

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (full review right here) caused a big splash last year when it launched with a massive signup bonus (worth $1,500 in travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards), annual travel credits and a metal design. Despite the $450 annual fee, the new card was so popular Chase initially ran out of the metal to manufacture it.

“Conventional wisdom has been that only high-spend travelers would invest in a premium card,” Eric Lindeen, credit card industry expert and vice president of Marketing at ID Analytics, said. “The success of the Chase Sapphire [Reserve] card came as a surprise … The most important lesson is there are more consumers willing to spend $500 on a card than anyone expected, as long as there is value to justify the spend.”

A Chase spokesperson said the bank saw a gap in the premium credit card category, specifically for modern travelers that needed flexibility in how they earned and redeemed rewards. Half of the initial applicants for the Chase Sapphire Reserve were millennials, who, according to Chase, tend to value experiences over things and appreciate a card with flexibility.

Reimagined Premium Offerings

Even well-established premium cards like Luxury Card’s MasterCard Black Card have seen recent redesigns. In early 2016, Luxury Card added the Gold Card and Titanium Card to their Luxury Card portfolio. The new cards serve as higher-tier and lower-tier alternatives, respectively, to the flagship product. (The Black Card has a $495 annual fee and offers rewards, concierge services, surprise gifts, VIP treatment at many hotel properties and other luxury perks.)

The additions show there’s faith in the potential for a greater customer base.

“Our MasterCard Black Card has been very successful, and so we launched two additional tiers,” Marina Kissam, vice president of customer experience at Luxury Card, said. “We were able to construct benefits that effectively segmented the luxury experience into tiers.”

Those tiers potentially open the Luxury Card up to a wider range of cardholders.

Expanded Benefits

Issuers long in the luxury market have also sweetened their deals, adding new perks and expanding existing benefits.

The Platinum Card from American Express is the most notable example. Back in October, the issuer added five times the points on airfare booked directly with airlines or through its travel portal in addition to the one point per dollar they earn on all other purchases. And in late March, the Platinum Card (full review here) underwent a more dramatic makeover.

Cardholders now earn five times the points on hotels and airfare booked through AmexTravel.com or directly with an airline carrier (they still earn one point per dollar elsewhere). The issuer also increased airport lounge access, added a Global Dining program, expanded their VIP By Invitation Only Program and, for the cherry on top, added up to $200 in annual Uber credits ($15 per month, plus a $20 bonus in December). It also increased the card’s annual fee from $450 to $550.

According to American Express, the modifications to the Platinum’s benefits were a response to the changing preferences of their members. Of course, it’s worth noting the changes come at a time of increased market pressure.

What’s Next? 

While it may be too early to tell, its possible a premium credit card arms race is unfolding, and consumers may be able to pick from an even greater variety of options going forward. There are a few possible trends we could see in coming years, experts say.

New card offerings will continue to pop up, whether in an attempt to disrupt the industry or simply to grab some market share.

“It’s fairly easy to stand up new card products, so I expect to see a continuing flow,” Lindeen said. “Many will be look-a-likes that fade away, but some will resonate. We definitely won’t see the market settle down anytime soon … We may see banks and issuers with smaller card volumes introduce a luxury card to increase the appeal of their branded cards and defend against national brands.”

In fact, U.S. Bank just launched its own premium travel credit card — the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite — touting a 50,000 point signup bonus (if you spend $4,500 in your first 90 days), $325 in annual statement credits and a $400 annual fee.

“We introduced U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve in response to customer feedback and the evolving marketplace for premium reward cards,” Bob Daly, senior vice president of Retail Payment Solutions at U.S. Bank, said in a statement.

A noteworthy caveat? The card, made of metal, is only available to U.S. Bank customers. (You have to have an “eligible consumer U.S. Bank account relationship” for a minimum of 35 days prior to submitting an application, per the bank’s website.)

When it comes to expanding benefits, card issuers are just getting started, experts say, and the market will continue to see expanded and more unique benefits. These perks could come in many forms, but they’ll likely strike a balance between providing value to the consumer and profit to the issuer.

“What’s in play now is attracting first-time credit users. So what would appear to be expensive bounties [is] market acquisition,” Crone said. “There’s a lot of wiggle room for more benefits to come.”

The challenge will be creating benefits that don’t eat into the profitability of the card. Card issuers may also have to move beyond massive signup bonuses, which encourages a lot of upfront demand but could result in declining activity after the first year.

Right on Target

To capture niche markets and to further differentiate themselves from the competition, issuers may need to innovate by designing cards that appeal to highly specific buyer profiles and provide custom experiences.

“There is a commoditization of luxury cards, so differentiating for smaller segments will become more critical,” Lindeen said. “Benefits will shift to local benefits, like Uber, spa, winery, brewery and dining credits. These are areas where vendors will be willing to cost-share the benefit and different consumers will find the offer appealing. Unique benefits with specific appeal will be increasingly important.”

Luxury Card also believes in the value of specificity, and has been focusing on custom experiences in a different way. Kissam believes their customer base is motivated in part by custom experiences and one-on-one service, and notes that their concierge generates high levels of engagement.

Bottomline: Card providers will likely move to demonstrate value that is highly specific to a consumer’s needs.

So Should I Get an Elite Credit Card?

First things first: To land a premium card, you’ll likely need excellent credit, so if your scores are less than stellar, hold off on filling out that application. (You can see where your credit stands by viewing two of your credit scores, along with tips for what you can do to improve on them, for free on Credit.com.)

Keep in mind, these are not credit cards for people prone to carrying a balance. You’ll just wind up losing precious points, miles or credits to interest.

Now, if you can afford the annual fee and find a card that provides a return on your investment, an elite credit card could make a good addition to your wallet. The value of many premium credit cards can be supercharged by frequent use of benefits and exploitation of the card’s quirks — and may even exceed the hefty annual fee.

But you’ll have to look forward: Picking a card with a big signup bonus can help mitigate much of the cost the first year, but will you travel or spend enough the second year to recoup those dollars?

How Can I Find the Best Elite Credit Card for Me?

If you do decide an elite credit card is worth your while, be sure read card agreements closely to find the one that’s best for you.

Compare benefits to see which card provides the greatest potential value. Look at the flashy perks and the more standard policies and programs, like price protection or trip cancellation insurance. And, even if you’re not known to carry a balance, be sure to compare costs, like annual fees, annual percentage rates and other charges. (A big item to note: foreign transaction fees, which are waived by the better travel credit cards on the market.)

It’s also important to choose a card that offers benefits you’ll frequently use, as that’s the best way to ensure value. For instance, if you often stay at Ritz-Carlton properties, the Ritz Carlton credit card from Chase may provide the best return. If you’re a frequent traveler with no loyalties to specific airlines or hotels, a flexible elite credit card, like the Citi Prestige, might be appropriate. Picking a card that fits your lifestyle will help you get the most bang for your buck. [Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.]

Finally, if you’re on the fence, see if a prospective card provider will sweeten their offer.

“Card issuers are banking on the fact that people won’t use the benefits,” said Crone, but notes that some are able to take advantage by frequently using the benefits and negotiating better terms. “Don’t simply follow the script … it’s all negotiable.”

And, if you determine that an elite credit card isn’t right for you, don’t sweat it. There are plenty of fee-free credit cards out there that can help you rack up rewards. (You can find our favorite cash back credit cards right here.)

At publishing time, the MasterCard Black, MasterCard Gold, MasterCard Titanium, Platinum Card from American Express and Citi Prestige credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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13 Ways to Drive Down Your Car Insurance Premium

If you have a car, paying for insurance is a necessary evil. But you don't need to pay as much as you are now.

Paying for car insurance is a necessary evil. It helps protect you and your property from the cost of accidents. Unfortunately, it can cost a bunch to insure yourself against the unpredictable conditions of the open road.

There are several ways to reduce the cost of your car insurance premium, letting you cruise past high payments. Here are 13 ways to reduce your car insurance premium:

1. Choose the Right Car

In part, your car insurance premiums are calculated using the risk and cost associated with your vehicle. That means the price, the potential cost of repairs, the odds of theft and the safety features of your specific car impact your cost of insurance. Insuring a sports car won’t cost the same as insuring a family sedan. When you’re car shopping, consider the cost of insurance for specific vehicles. (Taking out an auto loan? Brush up on the lingo here.)

2. Maintain Good Credit

In most states, your credit score helps determine your premium. Those with excellent credit can access the best rates, while those with poor credit see higher costs. You get a snapshot of your credit report free on Credit.com.

“The insurance company may not necessarily pull a credit score or credit report, but they will use some type of insurance score that is based on one’s credit score. This varies from one state to another, but generally speaking, the better your credit score, the better your car insurance rate,” said Joel Ohman, certified financial planner and founder of CarInsuranceComparison.com.

3. Install Anti-Theft Devices

Most insurers offer discounts for a having an anti-theft device, which can prevent theft or identify and locate stolen vehicles. You’ll have to purchase the device, but it may save you money in the long run.

“Almost any insurance company approved anti-theft device will result in a discount of anywhere from 5% to 25%,” said Ohman. “For details about whether or not a particular device will result in a discount, it’s always best to verify directly with the insurance company.”

4. Get a Good Driver Discount

Good driver discounts are available at many insurance companies. Each insurer may define good drivers differently, but if you successfully avoid causing accidents and moving violations, you may qualify. Check with your insurer to find eligibility requirements for good driver programs.

5. Choose Higher Deductibles

You can lower your premium by signing up for higher deductibles, which means you’ll pay more out of pocket for repairs before your insurer steps in to cover the rest. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you can afford to cover the deductible before you take this route.

“The fastest way to lower your monthly auto insurance premium … is to increase deductibles. Changing deductibles from $500 to $1,000 saves about $150 annually,” said Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent at The Zebra.

6. Bundle Insurance Plans

Bundling your car insurance with other types of coverage can save money. For instance, you could bundle your car insurance with homeowners insurance from the same provider.

“Drivers who bundle homeowners insurance save about $110 annually on their auto policies, and even bundling renters coverage saves drivers about $72 each year,” said Richardson.

7. Sign Up for Group Insurance

Many employers, universities and organizations offer group insurance plans from certain providers, which may offer cheaper rates. Check with your employer, current or former educators and any other official groups you’re a part of to see if they offer group insurance.

8. Find High-Risk Auto Insurers

If you have a poor driving or financial history, you may be considered a high-risk customer. Some insurers offer better rates for high-risk drivers than others.

“Certain auto insurance companies specialize in higher-risk drivers. This means that if one has a DUI in their history, many accidents or even poor credit … it becomes all the more important to shop around and compare rates from many different car insurance companies,” said Ohman.

9. Sign Up for Automatic Payments

Like many service providers, some insurers offer discounts when payments are automatically withdrawn from your account every month. As a bonus, you’ll avoid missing payments.

10. Make Bulk Payments

Insurers may offer discounted rates for paying your premium in bulk instead of month-to-month. In this scenario, you’d have to pay your premium for a longer time frame — for instance, six months or a year — to receive a discount. This could save you anywhere from 5% to 11%, according to DMV.org.

11. Eliminate Unnecessary Features

When you first signed up for car insurance, you may have opted for features that are no longer necessary. For instance, many insurance providers offer roadside assistance, but if you’ve since become a member of AAA, which provides roadside assistance, you no longer need the service from your insurer. You can regularly review your plan to make sure you’re only paying for what you need.

12. Find Other Discounts

Car insurance providers offer various discounts, which may include usage-based driving discounts, defensive driver courses for the elderly, mileage-based discounts and student discounts. The odds are good there is a discount available if you hunt around. You can call your insurance provider to find available discounts or look for competing offers. Which brings us to our next point:

13. Shop Around

Many people may sign up for an insurance plan and never revisit their options. But shopping around with providers is the best way to ensure you’re getting a good rate, and there are many online resources available to help with your search.

“Every six months or year, consider shopping around with as many companies as possible,” said Richardson. “Since each insurance company weights rating factors differently (and these change as your coverage needs or lifestyle changes), you won’t truly know if you’re getting the best rate until you check with multiple providers.”

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Premium Plastic Wars: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex’s Platinum

U.S. Bank's new travel card may make you think twice about applying for Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum cards.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

U.S. Bank just launched a new premium travel card that joins the league of travel cards with big rewards and high annual fees. Available only to U.S. Bank customers, the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite is for frequent travelers with disposable income who want spending incentives.

The Altitude Reserve’s design puts it in direct competition with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (see review here) and the Platinum Card from American Express (see review here). So how does the Altitude Reserve measure up to these premium kingpins? Here’s a closer look.

Earning & Redeeming Points

Each card rewards points for spending, but comes with its quirks. The Altitude Reserve earns three points for every dollar on travel purchases, including those made with mobile wallets. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Right now, U.S. Bank is offering 50,000 bonus points (up to a $750 value) when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns three points for every dollar on travel and dining, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Right now, Chase is offering 50,000 bonus points (up to a $750 value) when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

The Platinum Card earns five points for every dollar on flights booked directly or through American Express and eligible hotels booked through Amextravel.com. You’ll get one point for every dollar on all other purchases. American Express is offering 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Each card offers a variety of ways to redeem points, including gift cards, travel and merchandise. Chase and U.S. Bank reserve the most valuable redemption options for travel purchases.

Travel Credits

Each card credits $85 to your TSA Pre-Check application or $100 to your Global Entry application. Beyond that, travel credits vary. The Altitude Reserve offers $325 in automatic statement credits when you make qualifying purchases on airlines, hotels, car rentals, cruises and taxis. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an annual $300 statement credit for similar purchases. The Platinum Card provides up to $200 in annual Uber savings and a $200 airline fee credit.

Other Travel Benefits

Each card touts a wealth of additional benefits, including airline, car rental and hotel perks.

The Altitude Reserve provides 12 Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes each year and a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership; members must pay $27 for subsequent visits. They’ll also receive a 15% discount and a one-time $30 credit at GroundLink Black Car Service. The card provides complimentary breakfast at Relais & Châteaux Boutique Luxury Hotels.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership after a one-time activation. Cardholders will also receive perks like free Wi-Fi at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties.

The Platinum Card offers benefits at more than 975 properties worldwide. These include late checkout, free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Cardholders also have access to more than 1,000 airport lounges, room upgrades and car-rental privileges.

Each card offers its own concierge and protections, including car rental and trip cancellation insurance.

Annual Fees

The Altitude Reserve carries a $400 annual fee and its APR is a variable 16.49%. You’ll also need to be a U.S. Bank customer, although you can apply for the card 35 days after opening an account. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 and a variable APR between 16.74% and 23.74%. The Platinum Card has an annual fee of $550. It has no APR, as it’s a charge card that requires members to pay their balance in full every month. None of these cards charge foreign transaction fees.

Should I Apply for One of These Travel Cards?

These cards are intended for frequent travelers with disposable income and require good-to-excellent credit. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) If that’s not you, you should look elsewhere. You’ll also need to be comfortable with paying a $400-plus annual fee.

If you’re in the market for a premium travel card and are a U.S. Bank customer, the Altitude Reserve is an attractive option. If you’re not a U.S. Bank customer and have no need for another loan or bank account, another card may be better.

Remember, points that reward your spending habits offer the most value. For instance, the Altitude Reserve offers three points for mobile wallet purchases, but if you don’t use a mobile wallet, you may be better off with a card that rewards other types of transactions.

As the travel credits can earn back a good deal of the annual fee, you’ll want a card with travel credits you can fully exploit. If you don’t use services like Uber or incur many airline fees, American Express’ Platinum Card may not be the best option, even though its annual credits offer the greatest monetary value.

You’ll also want to look at the additional benefits that come with each card and decide if you’ll use them. Apply for the card that rewards your lifestyle and spending habits, rather than chasing benefits with the most monetary value.

Keep in mind, too, a rewards credit card, premium or otherwise, is only truly rewarding if you pay your balances off in full. Otherwise, you’re just losing perks to interest. If you’re prone to carrying a balance, you’re better off looking into a low-interest or balance transfer credit card. You can find some of a list of some of the best balance transfer credit cards right here.

At publishing time, the Platinum card from American Express is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: andresr

The post Premium Plastic Wars: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex’s Platinum appeared first on Credit.com.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Student Loan Debt

Free yourself from student loan debt faster with these tips.

Student loans are an enormous economic burden for Americans, coming in right behind mortgages as the largest kind of consumer debt. And although student debt is often used as a political talking point, you can rest assured that for now, your student loans aren’t going away.

There are, however, some ways you can reduce the burden of your student loan debt by pursuing better loan terms, shorter repayment periods or lower monthly payments. Here are 10 potential ways to improve your student debt scenario:

1. Ask for Employer Assistance

Government employers have long offered loan repayment assistance or tuition reimbursement programs. But more private companies are now initiating student loan assistance policies, in part to attract millennial talent.

If you’re hunting for a job, pay attention to the benefits offered by potential employers. Some offer student loan assistance as part of their benefits package. If you’re already employed, double check with your current employer on the possibility you’re missing out on a valuable policy.

2. Consolidate Your Loans

Most federal student loans are eligible for consolidation, a process in which multiple student loans are combined into one loan. The interest rate is then calculated using a weighted average of the collective interest rates. While this won’t necessarily save you money on interest, it can simplify your repayment by consolidating them into one bill.

Consolidation could alter your monthly payments by changing your repayment period. Choosing a longer repayment period would lower your monthly payment but increase the overall amount of money you repay. Choosing a 10-year standard repayment plan would result in the highest possible monthly payment but minimizes the time and money required to pay off your loan.

You may also become eligible for alternative repayment plans and potential loan forgiveness that may have been unavailable before consolidation (more on those in a minute).

3. Pay Ahead of Time

Some federal student loans, like Perkins Loans, do not accrue interest while you’re enrolled in school and during the grace period after graduation. If you start making payments before interest kicks in, you can reduce the overall interest you’ll pay. And while it may be extremely difficult to do, paying the balance in full ahead of time will render your loan interest-free.

4. Pay Extra

In the same vein, paying down the principle on your loan by paying extra each month will reduce your balance faster and save you money.

“I began a very aggressive savings fund to pay down my loans,” said Katrina McGhee, Life and Budget Coach at Katrina McGhee, LLC. “Pre-paying your principle on a loan is a great approach if you are able to make it work for you … Reducing your balance saves you a lot of interest in the long run.”

If you have multiple loans to pay, you may want to pay more money toward your higher-interest loans first to get them out of the way.

5. Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you work for a government organization or a qualifying not-for-profit, you may be eligible for public service loan forgiveness. You will have to be employed full time and have the right kind of loans and payment type. Under this program, your student loan will be forgiven after a certain amount of payments. (You can read more about how to get student loan forgiveness here.)

“This plan enables those in public service … to potentially get forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments,” said Robert Farrington, Founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com. “There are restrictions, so educate yourself, but that program can get you tax-free loan forgiveness after essentially 10 years.”

6. Sign Up for Auto Pay

You could get a small reduction in your loan interest rate by signing up for online statements and electronic payments, where your lenders will automatically deduct your monthly payment from your checking or savings account.

“Many lenders and loan servicers will offer an interest rate discount of 0.25% for signing up for direct debit and/or online statements. This is an easy way to save a little on interest over the course of your loan,” said Farrington.

7. Roll Student Loan Into Your HELOC

If you have a mortgage with some available equity, you could roll your student loan into your home equity line of credit (HELOC). This could reduce your interest rate and result in tax benefits.

“With $40,000 left to pay off on my MBA loan, I decided to roll my student loan into my HELOC,” said McGhee. “This had two big benefits: it reduced my interest rate from 8% down to just 3% and it also meant any interest I paid was now tax deductible.” (Student loan interest is also tax deductible, as long as your income is below a certain threshold.)

8. Pick a Different Repayment Plan

There are many repayment plans available to borrowers, including income-based repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) and income-contingent repayment (ICR). These plans will adjust your payment amount based on your income. Here’s what you need to know about some drawbacks to some income-based repayment plans.

“There are several different types of plans … but they all cap your monthly payment at a certain percentage of your discretionary income,” said Farrington.

There are also repayment plans that will adjust the repayment period (for instance, extend the lifetime of the loan) or restructure your payments (for instance, increase monthly payments over time).

Federal borrowers can change repayment plans at any time for free.

9. Apply for Deferment or Forbearance

Student loan deferments and forbearance let you temporarily pause or reduce your monthly payments. Deferment stops interest from accruing on certain types of loans during the deferment period, while loans in forbearance always continue to accrue interest.

You’ll have to work directly with your loan servicer to access these options. There are strict eligibility requirements, but they are wide ranging and could include financial hardship, unemployment, changing jobs, being deployed in the military or having medical expenses. Here’s a quick rundown on how deferment or forbearance can affect your credit.

10. Refinance Your Loan

You can refinance your federal student loans with a private lender to get a better interest rate, which could save you thousands of dollars in interest in the long run. To get the best interest rate, you’ll need good credit. Don’t know where your credit stands? You can check using Credit.com’s absolutely free credit report summary.

You’ll also probably want stable employment and financial security. That’s because refinancing to a private lender eliminates the access to federal repayment options like income-based repayment, deferment or forbearance and public service loan forgiveness. To give up these options, you should be reasonably confident you won’t lose your job or need access to alternative plans.

Here are some tips and guidance for refinancing your student loans.

Image: Jacob Wackerhausen

The post 10 Ways to Reduce Your Student Loan Debt appeared first on Credit.com.

Want More Memes for Less Money? Here’s 9 Ways to Lower Your Internet Bill

Here are 9 ways to lower your internet bill.

The internet is a mainstay of modern life that has transformed the way we work, play and experience the world. But just like “traditional” media such as cable television, internet access can come at a high monthly cost. (You can’t get all the cat memes you want for nothing, you know.)

Still, you may be paying more than necessary for internet access and there are many ways to slash the cost. Here are nine ways to hack your way to a lower monthly internet bill.

1. Bundle Services

Many internet service providers (ISPs) will bundle services such as phone and TV, which can lower the cost of each individual service. Bundling services may not cut costs if you have no need for cable TV or a landline, but if you do, find out what bundles your ISP offers.

2. Apply for a Subsidy

There are several government and ISP subsidy programs that serve to close the “digital divide” — the disproportional burden placed on low-income families that need internet. You may qualify for many subsidized internet programs if you meet certain eligibility requirements, which may include your state of residence and income.

For example, the federal Lifeline program (which is still in effect despite recent rollbacks) provides qualifying households a $9.25 monthly credit for internet. There are other programs available as well, and a site like non-profit EveryoneOn can help connect you with low-cost internet offers.

3. Negotiate Your Plan

In many regions, ISPs have stiff competition. They may be willing to negotiate to keep you as a customer. You can call your ISP to tell them your bill is too high and you’re considering switching. It may help to have competing offers available for extra leverage, and a long history of timely payments can also bolster your bargaining power.

4. Improve Your Credit 

One way to get better offers — boost your credit score. ISPs are known to pull credit and to offer less favorable terms to prospective customers with poor scores. You can see where your credit stands by viewing your free credit report summary on Credit.com and you can go here to learn what you can do generally to improve your standing. (You can get started by paying down high credit card balances, disputing errors on your credit report and limiting new credit inquires.)

5. Purchase Your Own Router

Many ISPs will install their routers in your home and charge you a monthly rental fee for the length of your contract. But router rental fees can quickly eclipse the cost of buying your own router, which you can then use for years.

Note: You may have to install your router yourself and you’ll want to make sure you get one that works with your ISP.

6. Downgrade Your Internet Speed

The faster your internet, the more you’ll pay. But you may be paying for internet speeds that exceed your requirements. If you only use the internet to check email and pay bills, you won’t need the same speed as someone who’s constantly streaming videos or uploading content. You can call your ISP and ask for the budget plan or describe your normal internet usage and see if they can recommend a downgrade.

7. Check Competing Offers

Pay close attention to any competing offers from other ISPs. Unless you’re unusually loyal to your companies, you should feel no obligation to stay with a more expensive provider. Feel free to switch to a competitor if the price is right.

8. Take Advantage of New Customer Promotions

ISPs often save their best promotions and deals for new customers — which, again, is why it can pay to shop around.

9. Use a Mobile Hotspot

If you’re desperate to save and don’t have excessive internet requirements at home, a mobile hotspot could do the trick. A mobile hotspot is a physical device (such as a smartphone or USB stick) that shares Wi-Fi with other devices, including computers, tablets and other phones. These devices usually come with low monthly data caps, so if you’re constantly downloading or streaming content, a hotspot probably isn’t the best option.

But if you have don’t have heavy online requirements, a hotspot could do the trick. You’ll have to buy the device, but monthly costs are comparatively cheap and can save you big money in the long run.

Looking to save on other monthly payments? We’ve got 11 ways to lower your water bill right here

Image: julief514

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Water Bill Drowning You? Here Are 11 Ways to Lower It

There are plenty of ways to save on your water bill. Check out these 11 ideas.

If you feel like you’re being soaked by utility bills, you may be looking for ways to cut your monthly costs. While utilities like internet and cable TV may seem like obvious targets, your water bill can also run much higher than necessary.

Missing water bill payments could eventually hurt your credit. While most utilities don’t report on-time payments to the to credit bureaus, many will report accounts that go into default or collections, which will cause your scores to take a hit. (Want to see where yours stand? Take a look at two of your credit scores free on Credit.com.)

There’s no shortage of common sense methods to cut your water usage and lower your bill. Here are 11 options.

1. Fix Leaky Faucets

Leaky faucets may not seem like obvious culprits — after all, they’re only losing water a drop at a time. But as months go by, those drips add up.

A single drop per second from a leaky faucet can lead to 2,082 gallons of waste water each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. All you need to do is head to your local hardware store for a repair kit and that repair could save you a lot over time.

2. Run Full Loads of Laundry

You may want to avoid running your washing machine just to clean a few T-shirts and a pair of socks. Not only does that waste water, it puts unnecessary wear and tear on your washer. Only wash full loads of laundry to reduce the number of times you have to run your machine.

3. Limit Your Showers

Showers account for 17% of home water use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That long, luxurious shower feels good in the moment, but it drives up your water bill. Try to limit your showers to five minutes or less or cut back on the frequency.

4. Adjust Water Temperature Away From the Sink

If you run your cooking water or drinking water straight from the faucet, you may be wasting water as you wait for it to heat up or cool down. Instead, you can heat cool water on the stove and keep drinking water in a container in the fridge.

5. Wash Dishes Efficiently

Running your dishwasher uses less water than hand-washing your dishes, according to the EPA. If you don’t have a dishwasher, try stopping the drain and filling the sink with soapy water rather than letting the water run.

6. Install Efficient Showerheads

If your showerheads are inefficient, or if you’ve never replaced them, you may want to invest in a low-flow or high-efficiency showerhead. Showerheads today must have a flow rate no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, as specified by the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992.

“Showerheads made before that typically spit out five or more gallons per minute,” said Karen Hoxmeier, Founder of MyBargainBuddy.com. “Switching will save about 136 gallons of water per shower. A water-efficient showerhead will pay for itself after only a few months.”

While you’re making upgrades, here are 17 things homeowners should make sure to do each year.

7. Water Your Lawn at the Right Time

Watering your lawn at the right time of day can reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.

“Water evaporates quickly into the air during the hottest times of the day, so if you have a lawn or garden that needs watering we suggest doing so in the morning or evening to cut down on water evaporation waste,” said Rob Caiello, vice president of marketing at Allconnect, a company that helps connect consumers with utility providers.

8. Collect Rain Water

You can use a water cistern or any large container to capture rainwater and use that water to hydrate your lawn and garden.

9. Don’t Let the Bathroom Faucet Run

Letting the faucet run while you shave or brush your teeth is wasteful, as most of that water isn’t being used. Fill the sink before shaving and shut off the water as you brush your teeth to reduce waste.

10. Install Faucet Aerators

Faucet aerators limit the water that flows through your faucets, cutting water usage and the energy required to heat hot water. Installing aerators on every faucet in your home can dramatically reduce the water used in your sinks.

11. Install Water-Efficient Toilets

Modern, efficient toilets can use less than 1.3 gallons per flush, according to the EPA. And while low-flow toilets got a bad rap in their infancy, today’s toilets have corrected the poor performance issues that plagued early models. If your toilet is due for an upgrade, a low-flow model can help slash that water bill.

Want more bill reducing hacks? We have 11 ways to save on your electric bill right here. Have other bills you’d like ideas for on how to save? Let us know in the comments!

Image: PeopleImages 

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Alliant Credit Union Introduced a Cash-Back Card: Here’s What You Need to Know

There’s another new cash back credit card to choose from.

There’s another credit card available for cash-back enthusiasts, as Alliant Credit Union just introduced their Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card. It seems like everyone is joining the cash-back card game lately — from Amazon’s new 5% cash-back card to PenFed’s cash-back card — and now Alliant has joined the bunch.

This new plastic from Alliant offers cardholders 3% cash back for the first year, a competitive reward. The cash-back rate decreases to 2.5% back after the first year, but that’s still a decent offer.

So how do you decide if this new plastic is something you want to add to your wallet? It depends on what you want from a new rewards credit card and if you can afford any additional fees (think annual fees, foreign transaction fees and interest charges). It also depends on whether you want to become an Alliant member if you’re not already.

What Is Alliant?

Alliant is a member-based credit union, headquartered in Chicago, that provides banking, loans, investment services, insurance and credit cards to its members. To get this new cash-back card, which is part of the Visa Signature family, you’ll need to be an Alliant member. (You can read about what you get with Visa Signature cards here.)

To qualify to become an Alliant member, you must be one of the following:

  • An employee or retiree of one of Alliant’s employee affiliates
  • A resident of a qualifying Chicago-area community
  • A member of a qualifying organization (such as select unions and associations)
  • An immediate family member of an existing member
  • A contributor to Foster Care to Success

What Does the Card Offer?

As we mentioned, cardholders earn 3% cash back on all purchases for the first year of having the card, which dips to 2.5% in subsequent years. There are no limits to cash-back rewards and no foreign transaction fees associated with this card. It also comes with additional car-rental insurance, advanced security features and extended warranties for qualifying purchases.

These perks come at a price. The card has an annual fee of $59, which is waived the first year. Balance transfers incur a fee of 3% of the amount of each transfer. The annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers is a variable 10.74% to 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness so those who can qualify for the lowest available APR will get a very attractive rate if they have to carry a balance. To give context in relation to another cash-back card, the Discover it card (read our review here) comes with a variable APR of 11.74% to 23.74%.

Finding the Right Cash-Back Card for You

According to Alliant, the card was designed for high spenders. Michelle Goeppner, Alliant’s senior manager of credit product strategy, said, Alliant had conversations with Alliant members and nonmembers that led to the card’s simple cash-back policy.

“You earn the same high cash-back rate on all purchases, taking the guesswork out of using this card,” Goeppner said in a press release.

There are a lot of cash-back cards on the market, so you’ll want to compare them all so you get a good idea of which card may be right for you. They all come with their own perks and costs so it’s important to do your research.

Make Sure You Know Your Score 

This new Alliant card is intended for consumers with excellent credit. If you’re not sure about your credit, you should check before applying. (You can get two free credit scores on Credit.com.) After all, you don’t want to apply for the card, get the hard inquiry on your credit (and subsequent ding to your scores) just to be denied. If you discover your score isn’t where it needs to be to qualify for this cash-back card, you can take steps — like paying down debt and remedying any errors on your credit report — to improve your score before you apply for it.

Image: Mikolette

At publishing time, the Discover it card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

The post Alliant Credit Union Introduced a Cash-Back Card: Here’s What You Need to Know appeared first on Credit.com.

11 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

You can stop paying too much for your cellular phone service today.

Cell phone bills can be expensive, on par with the monthly costs of powering your home or keeping your car gassed up. Of course, your cell phone can help you build your credit, but only if you aren’t strapping yourself with too large a bill every month.

So if you’re sick of shelling out a small ransom to call, text and watch YouTube cat videos on your smartphone, you should know there are ways to cut your bill. Here are 11 options:

1. Choose the Right Plan

If you’re signing up for a new cell phone plan, make sure you’re only paying for the plan you need. Unlimited texting, calling and data plans are nice, but you may use your phone less than you think.

Take a look at your phone usage over the past few months to determine if average usage is way under the allowances you’re paying for. If so, you can save some money by switching to a downgraded plan.

2. Keep Your Phone Longer

Many wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T dangle the carrot of a new phone upgrade every year or so. Of course, you like new devices, but you might end up shelling out hundreds for a new phone or rolling the cost into your wireless bill, which sounds tempting in the store but will add to your monthly cost.

If your current phone works, hold onto it to save money.

3. Skip the Insurance

Device insurance sounds appealing when you’re about to drop hundreds on a new phone. But in many cases, it isn’t worth the cost.

“At $11 per month from Verizon, you’d still need to cough up an additional $50 to $200 for the deductible, depending on your device. It’s more cost-effective to invest in a sturdy, protective case and screen cover and treat your device with care,” said Kendal Perez, Savings Expert at CouponSherpa.com.

It’s also worth checking with your credit card issuer to see what, if any, kind of extended warranty options they offer on new purchases made with your card, or if you pay your cellular bill with your credit card. Learn more about your options with this handy guide to getting your money back when you break or lose your phone.

4. Use Family Plans

If you need more than one phone line on your plan, you may want to check if your wireless carrier offers family plans. Family plans offer savings for additional phone lines, decreasing the average cost of each line. In some instances you may even be able to split the costs with a friend or family member you trust.

5. Don’t Surpass Your Data Limit

Seriously, don’t do it. Wireless carriers often impose steep fees when you surpass your data limit, so if you’re regularly bumping up against your limit, you may want to comparison shop for an unlimited plan. It could end up being cheaper than going over your limit several times.

6. Reduce Data Usage

If that’s not an option, consider reducing your data usage. Use secure Wi-Fi wherever available, especially when you’re engaging in data-heavy activity like downloading podcasts or watching videos. If you can reduce your data, you can potentially switch to a plan that charges less.

“Unlimited data plans are making a comeback … however, it’s better to track your usage and pay for the data you actually use. Compare plans between carriers and read the fine print,” said Perez.

7. Do a Bill Audit

Many providers charge for things you’ll never use or already have, such as emergency roadside assistance or 411. Next time you get your bill, go through every fee and charge to make sure you know what you’re paying for. Some unused services could be removed from your bill.

8. Look for Employee Discounts

Many employers and jobs have discounts available with major wireless carriers. Examples may include active-duty military members or state government employees. Find out if your employer or wireless carrier participate in such plans.

“If your employer has a business plan with a carrier, employees are typically eligible for a discount,” says Perez. “Ask your supervisor or HR department about this benefit and the amount of the discount.”

9. Make It Tax Deductible

If you have a home business and use your phone to conduct business calls and emails, you can deduct some or all of the cost of your wireless plan at tax time. This will indirectly reduce the cost of your cell phone bill.

10. Cost Share with An Employer

You also may conduct business on your personal phone for your employer. This could include phone calls, email and any other work activity. Ask your employer if they participate in phone reimbursement or cost-sharing policies.

11. Negotiate With Your Provider

Like many other service providers, wireless carriers face stiff competition from other wireless giants and smaller providers. As a result, they may be willing to negotiate to keep your business. Call your wireless carrier, tell them your bill is too high and that you’re thinking of switching to another provider. You may want to be ready with offers from other wireless carriers, and you’ll have some negotiation power if you’re a long-time customer and always pay your bill on time.

Also, keep in mind, the better your payment history, the better chance you have of negotiating, so don’t wait until you’re making late payments to begin talking. If you’ve already made some late payments, for your phone or other bills, you can see how they’re affecting your credit scores by reviewing your free credit report summary, right here on Credit.com.

Switch Wireless Carriers

Competing wireless carriers are constantly trying to lure customers away from each other. If you can find a better offer from another carrier that provides the service you need, you have a compelling reason to switch. You can even look for budget alternatives, such as prepaid plans.

“Prepaid, no-contract plans from Boost, Virgin Mobile, Ting and Page Plus are all cheap alternatives to big-carrier plans … compare costs between big carriers and no-contract providers before you buy.”

Image: filadendron

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