6 Brand Loyalty Programs That Are Actually Worth Joining

These brand loyalty programs are worth the extra emails.

There are probably a lot of things that draw you to your favorite stores. The products, obviously, the sales and the friendly salespeople all might be part of it, but a seriously rocking loyalty or rewards program is probably not far behind. Whether a loyalty program is free or has a small fee, if the benefits are plenty, it can be worth all the extra mail and email you’ll likely receive — or even a small yearly charge. (If you tend to pay balances off in full and want to maximize your earning potential, you may want to consider a rewards credit card as well.)

Here are some of the best loyalty programs we’ve seen around.

1. CVS

If not all pharmacies are created equal, then not all pharmacy rewards programs are created equal either. CVS’ ExtraCare Rewards stands out, for starters, because it’s free. Customers earn 2% back in ExtraBuck Rewards every single time they use their ExtraCare card, and additional savings are easy to find through ExtraCare emails, the CVS Pharmacy app and the weekly ad or throughout the store. You can save paper by using the “send to card” option to send selected offers from online directly to your ExtraCare card rather than printing them off to bring to the store.

2. Barnes & Noble

Becoming a B&N member isn’t free — it’ll cost you $25 a year — but if you’re an avid reader, the fee will likely be worth it. For starters, new members receive $50 in bonus coupons for joining. (Use ‘em all and you’ve already made up your initiation fee!) Members also receive member-exclusive savings options, free express shipping online with no minimum purchase, plus 40% off the list prices of current hardcover bestsellers and 10% off the price of other eligible items.

3. PetSmart

Animal owners can join the PetSmart PetPerks rewards program to start saving more on their pet purchases. Membership is free, and members receive discounts on in-store purchases, as well as special coupons sent directly to them in the mail. For more ways to save on your furbabies, sign up for the brand’s auto-ship plan, which provides 20% off and free shipping on the first auto ship order, plus 5% off and free shipping every time after. (Some exclusions apply.)

4. Sephora

For product lovers, the Sephora Beauty Insider Program is a dream come true. Sign up for free on the Sephora site and every dollar you spend earns a point that can be put towards free beauty products. (The points you need to purchase certain products can be found online.) Members also get a birthday gift, access to free beauty classes, and for an extra $10/year members get access to flash two-day shipping on all online orders.

5. Bed Bath & Beyond

Home goods superstore BB&B doesn’t have a specific rewards program, per se, but creating a free account online and providing your home address at the store will supply you with endless coupon offers. The best part? The store usually accepts coupons even after they’ve expired — though you probably won’t need to bother since you’ll likely have a new one waiting for you in your mailbox or inbox by your next purchase, anyway.

6. Starbucks

Pricey as their drinks may be, Starbucks does have a smashing (and free) rewards program. Starbucks Rewards members earn two “stars” for every $1 spent with your registered card to put towards future drinks. There are four ways to enroll in the program (online, through the mobile app, directly from a retailer or through a business affiliate), and you can earn also stars by entering star codes found inside specially marked packaged of Starbucks products as well. Starbucks fans can find more ways to save on their daily cup of coffee (or two) here.

Remember, you don’t want the lure of rewards to lead you to overspend. High levels of debt can affect your bank account and credit score. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that prices for products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with the company directly.

Image: oneinchpunch

The post 6 Brand Loyalty Programs That Are Actually Worth Joining appeared first on Credit.com.

12 Ways to Save at DSW

For anyone with a gold medal in shoe-shopping.

If Carrie Bradshaw has a gold medal in buying shoes, I happen to know a good many other people (this writer included) who would earn a close silver. Any shoe lover is bound to have checked out designer shoe warehouse DSW for their footwear needs, but next time you find yourself feeling a little foot fancy, try these suggestions to save a bit on your haul.

Here are 12 ways to save at DSW.

1. Enroll in DSW Rewards

Membership is free, and you’ll earn 10 points for every $1 you spend at the store. You should also be on the lookout for Double Point Days and free birthday offers.

2. Become a Premier Member

Premier membership is actually based on how much you spend: DSW Rewards members who earn 6,000 qualifying points by spending $600 in a calendar year qualify for Premier membership. If that’s you, be sure to ask about the program, which offers free next-day shipping, five more points earned per every dollar spent at DSW and access to the Premier Choice Card, which earns you a Triple Points day every six months, (you get to pick the day).

3. Apply for a DSW Rewards Visa

Only Rewards members can apply for the DSW Rewards Visa, but once you do, you can really start racking up the savings. You’ll earn 20 points for every $1 you spend at DSW, two points for every $1 you spend outside of DSW, and when you reach 1,500 points you’ll earn a $10 Rewards certificate. You also get free return shipping, a one-time $25 offer when you spend $500 outside of DSW within 90 days of your first purchase and a $25 application offer when your card arrives in the mail. Just be sure not to revolve a balance — otherwise, you’ll lose those points to interest. (You can see how your credit card use if affecting your credit by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

4. Use a Rewards Credit Card

A general purpose rewards credit card can also give you some kickback on your kicks. Here are some of our favs for shoppers.

5. Search the Site for Bonus Point Offers

Scroll through the entire homepage of the site to be sure and catch any additional rewards or bonus offers that might be hiding throughout. For example, ahead of Father’s Day, DSW was offering 25% off men’s dress socks with purchase of any men’s footwear.

6. Shop the Clearance Section

Don’t forget to check out the online clearance section frequently for new markdowns available online.

7. Sign Up for Email Newsletters

For exclusive offers and news sent directly to your inbox, enter your email address in the box at the bottom of any page on the site.

8. Search for Coupons

Besides your inbox and mailbox, search online at places like Coupons.com, RetailMeNot and Groupon for additional promo codes to use when shopping.

9. Follow Them on Social

As with most brands, DSW loves to engage with its customers, and one way they do so is by making sure their social media followers are up-to-date on the latest deals and special offers. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the know.

10. Go Where the Dots Are

The best way to save some cash when shopping in-store is to know what you’re looking for. At DSW, keep your eyes peeled for colorful dots that show up on clearance shoes — find them and you could score an extra percentage off the already marked down price. For example, a purple dot signifies 20% off, red is 30%, blue is 50% and green is 70%.

11. Ask for a Discount

Customers have also claimed success at saving by simply asking for a discount, especially on purchases with small defects. Why not give it a try — if nothing else it’ll help you practice your haggling skills.

12. Return Your Online Purchases in the Store

If you aren’t a rewards member, you’ll pay $8.50 in shipping to return (not exchange) purchases made online — unless you do it directly in the store, so skip the charge by hitting the streets.

Want more brand hacks? We’ve got you covered. Here are 19 ways to save at Target

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: oneinchpunch

The post 12 Ways to Save at DSW appeared first on Credit.com.

The Best Investment for Your Lump Sum

Whether your lump sum arrived as a tax return, a bonus, an inheritance or a larger-than-expected gift, here are some suggestions for what to do with it.

Money doesn’t usually come out of nowhere, but when it does, it’s nice to have some idea of how to use it. Whether your lump sum arrived as a tax return, a bonus, an inheritance or a larger-than-expected gift from a family member, Shelly-Ann Eweka, a Denver-based financial adviser with TIAA, has suggestions on what to do with it, depending on the amount and how much money you’ve already saved.

Her suggestions apply to two different scenarios: One, if you haven’t maxed out your savings potential and are carrying around some debt and two, if you’re debt-free and have managed to shore up adequate savings. Experts suggest tucking away enough to cover three to six months of expenses in case of emergency, as well as approximately 10% to 15% of your income in retirement savings. So if you’re behind, now’s the time to get started.

If You’re Trying to Save & Have Debt

Here’s how Eweka suggested investing various dollar amounts if you’re behind on your savings and carry debt:

$100

If you have no savings at all, Eweka said to either open an account using the lump sum or split it between a savings account and your favorite charity. Even $50 in an account will start you down the road to saving — sometimes all you need is a push. Be sure the charity is a 501(c)(3) for potential tax benefits, she said.

$500

To grow that $500, Eweka suggested opening an IRA. “Talk to a financial adviser about the benefits and whether your qualify for a Roth and traditional IRA,” she said. “An IRA can offer a great way to help build additional savings for retirement.” If you don’t have a financial adviser, you can learn more about IRAs here.

$1,000

This amount can go a long way when it comes to debt, so Eweka said to focus on that. “Allocate any extra cash directly toward paying down debt, whether from credit cards or student loans,” she said. “Paying down debt as quickly as possible, while also saving for retirement, is critical to avoid high interest.” (Paying down debt can also improve your credit standing. You can see how by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

$10,000

If you have no savings, plunking the full $10,000 into an account will make a great start. “To be safe, you should have enough money in your emergency fund to cover all your necessary expenses for [at least] three months,” Eweka said. “That amount will vary from person to person, but you should have enough saved up to cover your necessities in case of a financial catastrophe.”

If You Already Have Savings 

If you’ve maxed out your savings and retirement options, you have more flexibility. Eweka suggested putting the money toward things that will advance your career.

$100

Consider having your resume professionally written and critiqued. Getting ahead in your career is a way to jump-start your personal wealth, and creating the best resume possible can help you climb the corporate ladder.

$500

Use your $500 to have a professional photograph taken, especially if you have a professional website, use social media or need to submit your bio and photo for business purposes, .

$1,000

Most people could stand to make updates to their wardrobe. If you’ve received a $1,000 lump sum, go through your closet and donate anything that no longer fits, is outdated or you haven’t worn in more than a year. Throw out things that are beyond repair or stained. Then use your lump sum to restock with clothing and accessories for a more polished and professional look.

$10,000

Enroll in research classes or certificate programs to enhance your career options. These will help you keep up with your skill set and look fantastic on your resume.

Image: StockRocket

The post The Best Investment for Your Lump Sum appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Things to Do Before Your Maternity Leave Ends

From one new mom to another.

No matter how much time you have home with baby before returning to work, it’s important to get as much out of your maternity leave as possible. Of course, maximum cuddle time is high on that list (along with napping as much as possible while baby is sleeping). However, there are a few other things you might want to add to your final to-do list to really maximize your time and feel ready to head to back to work.

1. Consider a Trip (Just a Little One)

While the idea of packing up your newborn and hitting the open road might seem silly, hear me out. The truth is, taking a trip, even a super-short one, will never be as easy as it is right now. For starters, you aren’t working, so you won’t have to ask for time off and be at the mercy of other colleagues’ vacations. Of course, your significant other is another story, but at least that’s just one person jockeying for time, not two.

Plus, newborns are the best travelers. They sleep most of the time, they ride for free on planes, and you won’t have to worry about keeping up with a crawling, walking, running toddler. (Of course, no matter where you plan to travel, run it by your kid’s pediatrician first.) If you can manage to pick a place that won’t stress you out, it’s a great time to start making family travel memories. Just plan for something low-key and relaxing. Bungee-jumping is probably off the menu.

2. Put Together Those Newborn Albums & Keepsakes

You probably think you’re too tired to spend hours on Shutterfly sorting through the hundreds of photos you take of your child a day to put together an album (speaking of which, we’ve got some ways to save on that here) — and you’re likely right. But consider how much more tired you’ll be when you go back to work. Plus, all those newborn memories are fresh in your mind, since you spend 24/7 with your bundle of joy, so you can write the most sentimental and memorable captions to go along with those tons of photos.

3. Figure Out Childcare

If you haven’t already, now would be the time to figure out who will watch your baby when you go back to work. In all honesty I waited too long — we didn’t post our ad seeking a nanny until three weeks before I was going to start working again. Finding the right provider for your child, or the right daycare setting, takes time, so if you haven’t started looking before baby was born, try to start as soon as you can once they arrive.

4. Take Time for Yourself

It’s great to have some plans for your maternity leave, but if nothing happens at all other than feed, burp, pump, rest, repeat, that’s more than OK. Some moms have plenty of extra energy to fill their days with closet reorganizations and daily park visits, while others feel more tired and are happy to just relax during any down time.

If you can muster even just a little extra energy though, it might be worth leaving baby with someone for just a couple hours at some point for some alone time. Go for a drive. Get your nails done. Grab a coffee and sit in the park. Whatever you decide to do and for however long you can, taking a little bit of time to rest and recharge by yourself will likely do your whole family a world of good.

5. Reassess How it All Went

Were you using your maternity leave as a way of helping you decide whether or not you would return to work once it was over? If so, be gentle with yourself if it didn’t go exactly according to plan. Taking care of a newborn is no joke, and doing it 24/7 is more than a full-time job, often filled with days where your only adult conversations are in the morning and/or at night when your significant other gets home from work. If you decide that staying home full-time really isn’t for you and heading back to work will provide you with the mental stimulation and creativity you crave, that’s totally fine.

Alternately, if you decide you will stay home, be sure to reassess what a new budget would look like without your pay, including things like where your health insurance will come from and how you’ll save for retirement. (You can get an idea of where your finances stand and how much debt you’re carrying by viewing your free credit report on Credit.com.)

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

The post 5 Things to Do Before Your Maternity Leave Ends appeared first on Credit.com.

The Best Ways to Handle Your Money When Traveling

Here are some of the more common options, along with their pros and cons.

So you’ve picked your destination, booked your flights and packed your bags. Planning a trip is always equal parts exciting and stressful as you figure out the logistics. One thing many people fail to look into is how they’ll handle their money when they’re away. Whether you’re traveling abroad or one state over, you need to figure out the best way to make purchases during your trip. Here are some of the more common options, along with their pros and cons.

Cash

Arguably the easiest way to pay for things while traveling, cash also has drawbacks.

Pros — If you’re good at estimating how much you spend on travel, cash might not be such a bad idea. If you can make one trip to the ATM and be done, that’s probably the fastest and least obtrusive way to deal with money when traveling.

Cons — Taking out a wad of cash isn’t the best idea, for safety reasons. It’s probably better to make multiple trips and carry only as much as you need in case it gets lost or stolen. Remember, if you’ll need foreign currency, your bank may charge you a foreign transaction fee to take out cash. There may be additional fees associated with taking cash out at foreign ATMs as well. Check with your bank before taking money out and learn some credit and debit card tips for overseas travelers.

Credit Cards

Credit cards offer a fairly stress-free way to deal with your finances when traveling — but beware user fees.

Pros — Paying with a credit card means never having to worry if you have enough money for goods or services. Paying with your credit card also usually offers you a level of protection that cash doesn’t. Check with your provider to determine their policy on trip insurance or if they have any travel discounts. If your card is lost or stolen, you won’t be responsible for charges you didn’t make. If your card has a good rewards program, you’ll earn those rewards with every purchase you make. (Be sure to keep an eye on your credit score for any unexpected changes. They could be a sign of identity theft. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.)

Cons — Even if you plan to make credit cards your go-to payment method during your trip, it’s a good idea to have a little cash, for things like cab rides and tips. The other downside of credit cards: foreign transaction fees. Many credit card companies charge fees for every swipe in a foreign country, which can add up. Check with your bank for specifics. (Here’s how to avoid currency conversion fees.) You might also want to look into the best overall travel credit cards of 2017, as well as the best international travel credit cards, if you travel abroad frequently.

Prepaid Travel Cards

Prepaid travel cards may not be as popular as other payment methods, but they’re becoming widespread and may be worth looking into for your next trip.

Pros — Details vary based on the issuing bank, but in general, these cards all work the same way. You can purchase your prepaid travel card online or at your bank. Activate and register your card, then load it with whatever amount of money you want. You can add more later online in most cases, assuming your card is reloadable. Be sure to ask, as prepaid travel cards carry limits. Most prepaid travel cards come with additional perks. Check with the bank to see yours. They also typically carry the same protections as your regular credit card like zero-liability protection.

Cons — You need to track of how much you spend on your prepaid travel card since it comes preloaded with a set amount of money — a good thing for big spenders. Also, unlike a regular credit card, you need to reload your card with money when you run out. You’ll likely incur foreign transaction fees, and some companies charge higher fees for prepaid travel cards.

Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks work in a similar way to cash, but offer more protections.

Pros — Unlike cash, identification and signature verification are required to cash traveler’s checks, and if they’re lost or stolen, the issuer will usually replace them without a problem.

Cons — You may pay a small transaction fee to pick up your traveler’s checks, but in most instances if you’re getting them from your normal bank, they will be free. As with cash, you must make an educated guess on how many you’ll need for your trip. Additionally, while travelers checks are accepted at the same rate of exchange as cash, not all places accept them. Do your research before you decide to use this method of payment. It likely won’t be the only one you’ll need on your trip.

Image: RossHelen

The post The Best Ways to Handle Your Money When Traveling appeared first on Credit.com.

19 Ways to Save at Nordstrom

save_at_nordstrom

A staple when it comes to department stores, Nordstrom is known for offering top brand options in apparel, shoes, handbags, beauty and more. It’s also known for providing plenty of ways to drive down the costs of those luxury goods.

If you’re a frequent Nordstrom shopper, here are 19 ways to save at Nordstrom.

1. Shop the Sales

Take stock of all the goodies available in the sales section of the Nordstrom site before clicking on anything else. You’ll find great deals on stuff for men, women and kids, not to mention home and trend goods.

2. Make the Most of Free Samples

Stock up on free samples of the products you’re dying to try before dishing out lots of cash for the whole item. Each online or in-store beauty or grooming purchase comes with three free samples, so pick wisely.

3. Apply for a Nordstrom Debit Card or Nordstrom Retail Card

Get the Nordstrom store credit card or debit card and earn two points per every dollar spent online or in stores, plus a $20 bonus note when you spend $100 at Nordstrom with your card the day you’re approved. There is no annual fee, but be sure to check out the APR information and read all the fine print before applying. Be sure to check your credit, too, so you know whether you can handle an inquiry. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

4. Apply for the Nordstrom Visa Platinum or Visa Signature Card 

The Nordstrom Visa Platinum and Visa Signature cards provide all the same benefits as the regular Nordstrom retail card, but you’ll also earn one point per every dollar spend everywhere else that Visa credit cards are accepted. You can find a full review of Nordstrom’s credit card right here.

5. Use Your Nordstrom Card at Affiliate Stores

You’ll earn two points per every dollar spent online when you use your Nordstrom card at Nordstrom Rack, HauteLook and Trunk Club, as well.

6. Wait for the Anniversary Sale

Nordstrom’s biggest sale of the year is their Anniversary Sale, and it generally kicks off every July. If you can wait, you’ll score major deals on all kinds of goodies, and Nordstrom cardholders get early access before it opens to the public.

7. Become a Nordstrom Rewards Member

Join the Nordstrom Rewards program for free by providing your name, email and phone number and you’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack and HauteLook. You’ll earn extra points by shopping on bonus days, too, and for every 2,000 points you earn, you’ll receive a $20 Nordstrom Note, good to spend on absolutely anything.

8. Sign up for Nordstrom Emails

Provide your info to receive Nordstrom emails and you’ll never miss another upcoming sale.

9. Shop at Nordstrom Rack

Skip the regular Nordstrom store and site and head over to Nordstrom Rack, where you’ll find many of the same great items at deep discounts every day.

10. Shop the Nordstrom Rack Sales

Check out Nordstrom Rack’s clearance section for even more savings on the already marked-down items.

11. Shop at HauteLook

HauteLook is another Nordstrom property, with luxury brands available at up to 70% off retail.

12. Get the Nordstrom Apps on Your Phone

View your Nordstrom Rewards points and use your Nordstrom Notes anytime directly from the free Nordstrom app for iPhone, iPad and Android, and load the Nordstrom Rack app on your phone as well for access to the newest markdowns and clearance items. HauteLook also has an app that’ll help you shop exclusive, limited-time sale events from anywhere.

13. Search for Nordstrom Coupons Online

Do a quick Google search or use sites like Retail Me Not, Groupon and Coupons.com to find promo codes to use when shopping at Nordstrom.com.

14. Follow Nordstrom on Social

Catch up on all the sales and promotions when you follow Nordstrom on their social sites, like Facebook and Twitter. (Follow Nordstrom Rack and HauteLook as well, to be sure you really get access to all the sales that Nordstrom has to offer!)

15. Purchase Discount Gift Cards

Use sites like Gift Card Granny to score Nordstrom gift cards at major discounts.

16. Refer a Friend 

Nordstrom offers $20 in rewards when you refer a friend who then opens a credit or debit account with them.

17. Write a Review Online

Check back with Nordstrom.com for opportunities to win gift cards or discounts when you leave product reviews on the site.

18. Ask for a Price Match

Nordstrom offers a price match guarantee when you find the same item in stock for cheaper at a competing store.

19. Ask for a Sales Adjustment

Nordstrom will adjust the price for you on items that go on sale within two weeks of your order date. You can find more about the price-match and sales adjustment policies here.

Want more brand hacks? No problem! We’ve got 17 ways to save at Sephora here

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: RiverNorthPhotography

The post 19 Ways to Save at Nordstrom appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Money Questions to Ask Before Having a Baby

Almost nothing else in life will have as much of a financial impact, so make sure you get on the same page before baby comes.

There are plenty of times when discussing finances with our significant others is a good idea. Before moving in together or getting married, or before a big move or a new job, are all good examples.

Another important time to talk about finances is before you have a baby. Almost nothing else in life will have as much of a financial impact, so making sure you’re on the same page before baby comes is a smart move. If you’re stumped on where to start, consider asking your partner the following questions.

1. Who Will Stay Home With Baby? 

Perhaps the biggest financial conversation you’ll have with your significant other is whether one of you will stay home with baby, even if only for a limited time. According to recent statistics from Childcare Aware of America, “the cost of child care in every state rivals families’ annual expenditures on housing, transportation and the cost of tuition at a four-year, public university.” Plus, the study added, “in 38 states, the cost of infant care exceeds 10% of the state’s median income for a two-parent family.”

Childcare is expensive, but quitting to stay home with a baby means potentially losing healthcare options, access to retirement accounts and matches, paid vacation and sick days, not to mention the mental stimulation and social advantages many get from their jobs. These are all important things to discuss.

2. How Will Our Lifestyle Change? 

People make life with a baby work in many scenarios, and what you’re comfortable with will be up to you, but it should be discussed. If you’re in a one-bedroom city apartment and think you can make it work, try it. If an upgrade is in the near future, or you’d like to start putting away money to purchase a house, that’s a conversation to have.

3. Will We Save for Our Child’s Education? 

Not everyone can afford to save for their child’s college, and that’s fine. But if it’s something you’d like to consider, start discussing it now. Because of compound interest, the earlier you start saving for your goal, the more you’ll have for your child when they turn 18.

It’s not just whether you’ll save but how much you want to save that should be discussed. Will you save enough money to cover the full cost of tuition at a private college? How about at an Ivy League school? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to chat with your partner so you can figure out what additional monthly savings would mean for your monthly budget. (Chatting with a financial adviser about your financial picture might be smart as well. Remember, experts say not to save for your child’s education if it means having to curb your retirement savings.)

4. Do We Need a Bigger Car or a Second One? 

My husband and I managed to live together for eight years before we bought a second car. (In fact, for six of those years we had no car, since we lived in Manhattan and didn’t need one.) We realized, however, that with a baby on the way it was important for us to be able to hop in a car at a moment’s notice, so we decided to lease one. Whether to lease or buy was a big discussion, as was how much car we could afford and what safety features were most important to us, particularly in rugged Colorado.

If you and your significant other have two cars, it’s worth discussing their safety and if it might be time to upgrade now that you’ll be driving a little one around.

5. How Much Can We Budget for Baby? 

For many young families, most of the basics are supplied by loving friends and family at a baby shower. Soon, however, your child will grow, and when she does, you’ll need lots of new stuff.

Before baby arrives, sit down and have an overall budget chat so you can determine what wiggle room you have to devote to baby. Even if you don’t end up spending that cash in the first couple of months, try putting it in a special savings account labeled “For Baby” so you have a cushion to fall back on once those new expenses start piling up. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

6. Are the Proper Insurance Policies in Place?

With baby on the way, it might be a good time to start thinking about certain policies to put in place. Short-term disability, for example, is important, should one of you become unable to work for a period of time. (Be sure to check with your employer to find out your options.) Creating a will and naming guardians is important as well, and you’ll want to set up a life insurance policy for both parents.

Image: Pekic

The post 6 Money Questions to Ask Before Having a Baby appeared first on Credit.com.

14 Ways to Save at Starbucks

Just in case caffeine rules everything around you.

Caffeine lovers who have heard over and over again that they could be saving so much money if only they’d cut back on their daily Starbucks latte can now rejoice. So long as your coffee habit isn’t putting you in debt, there’s no pressing need to give up that jolt. Instead, try putting some of our trusty brand hacks to work.

Here are 14 ways to save at Starbucks.

1. Shop the Site

If you’re looking to stock up on at-home Starbucks goodies, it never hurts to start at Starbucks.com. Often the company offers coupon codes and discounts for online orders (check the top banner). They also advertise any discounts and savings deals directly on the homepage or via member emails, which brings us to our next point …

2. Join Starbucks Rewards

Join the Starbucks Rewards program and start earning “Stars” that can be redeemed for Starbucks Rewards benefits. You’ll earn two stars for every $1 you spend using your registered card. Check out more about the two reward level options and what you can get with them right here.

3. Get Your Birthday Drink on the House

Register your birthday when you join the Starbucks Rewards program and you’ll be gifted a free beverage or treat through the Starbucks app on your birthday.

4. Bring Your Own Cup

Some Starbucks chains offer a $0.10 discount on your drink when you bring in your own reusable cup to drink from.

5. Go Easy on the Ice

Iced drinks are great, but all that icy goodness takes up a lot of room in your cup. Ask for your ice on the side to ensure your drinking cup is full to the max with your actual drink of choice.

6. Skip the Bottled Water

The water at Starbucks is filtered to ensure your coffee retains its flavor, so skip the pricey bottled water and go for free cup of tap water instead.

7. Split a Venti

The 20-ounce Venti cup (or 24-ounce Venti Iced) is certainly large enough to split with a friend, and you’ll essentially be getting two tall-size drinks for less than you’d pay if you ordered one outright.

8. DIY Your Own Chai Latte

With a little ingenuity you can DIY your own chai latte using Starbucks ingredients, but for a cheaper price. Just order a cup of hot water with a chai tea bag and add your own milk from the condiments bar.

9. Order Gift Cards for Less

Visit sites like Gift Card Granny or Raise.com to purchase Starbucks gift cards for less than face value.

10. Follow Starbucks on Social Media

Check out Starbucks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to be sure you catch all their recent deals.

11. Ask for a ‘Short’

While it’s not listed in most stores, a short size (8 ounces) does exist, and it’s cheaper than the tall if you’re only looking for a little caffeine buzz.

12. Check Your Target Receipts

It might seem odd, but if your Target happens to have a Starbucks, be sure to check your receipt after making a purchase. Sometimes a discount or BOGO offer for Starbucks will be attached. (Speaking of Target, we’ve got a review of its RedCard, which can earn frequent shoppers 5% off eligible purchases, right here.)

13. Make the Most of Free Refills

Pay with your Starbucks card or through your mobile app for your initial purchase and you’ll be rewarded with all the free refills of brewed coffee or tea you like.

14. Avoid Leaving Room for Milk & Ask for a Larger Cup

Instead of opting to have your barista leave you extra room in your tall cup for milk (read: less coffee), ask for your tall beverage in a grande cup instead. Voila! Appropriate amount of beverage with room to spare for milk.

Do you have a thing for java in general? Here are four credit cards that can help coffee lovers reap rewards on their daily brew.

Image: vgajic

The post 14 Ways to Save at Starbucks appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Ways to Save on Flights & Hotels This Summer

When it comes to the most expensive costs associated with traveling, it’s always the big three — hotels, rental cars and flights.

You’ve scrimped and saved to treat your family to a nice vacation this summer, but now that you’ve started to research how much it would actually cost to book airfare and hotels, you’re having second thoughts.

When it comes to the most expensive costs associated with traveling, it’s always the big three, says Travis Katz, co-founder and CEO of Trip.com — hotels, rental cars and flights. The good news is that with a little planning, most of these costs can be pared down. The following are Katz’s five biggest tips to help families save a little cash when booking flights and airfare this summer.

1. Think Outside the Box

Up-and-coming places are less crowded, and activities, hotels and restaurants tend to be cheaper (with better service!) because they’re eager to welcome you back, says Katz. He says his site has seen an uptick in travelers flocking to places like Hot Springs, Arkansas, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Santa Fe, New Mexico, to name a few.

2. Take the Right Flights

If you can hack it, taking the red-eye roundtrip could save you a night (or two!) on accommodation. As an added bonus, your kids might sleep through the trip. If you don’t want to over-night it, consider at least traveling on off-peak days, like Tuesday to Thursday, when airfare is generally cheaper.

3. Haggle for Your Hotel

Pricing for hotels and other types of lodging is not set in stone. Katz suggests asking nicely at the front desk at check-in for an upgrade. “If one’s not available, hotel staff might be inspired to give a freebie or two — comped breakfast, for instance,” he says.

Bonus Tip: Home rentals on sites like Airbnb offer full kitchens, so “you can shop locally and eat simple breakfasts and lunches,” Katz adds.

4. Make the Most of Your Memberships

Your vacation discounts could already be in your wallet. Memberships to some organizations like AAA or AARP come with travel discounts, and you should always check your credit card to see if they offer discounts — or bonus rewards — when booking hotels or flights through their affiliate programs. Even your Costco membership could score you some deals. Check out the Costco Travel site for information.

5. Consider Opening a Travel Rewards Card 

Rewards credit cards, when used wisely, are a helpful way to pay for a family vacation. Just remember not to go overboard so you don’t lose your rewards to high interest, or wind up accruing unneeded debt. The last thing you want is to come home to an upsetting credit card bill.

Before you apply for one of these cards, be sure to read the terms and conditions so you know what you’re getting. Also evaluate whether you’ll actually use the rewards. A Southwest rewards credit card, for instance, won’t do you any good if you don’t fly the carrier. Research what airlines have hubs in your area —you can find a helpful list of the best credit cards to use in every major U.S. airport here. If you don’t think you’ll frequently fly with a specific carrier, consider a general purpose low-annual-fee travel rewards credit card.

Just be sure you know where your credit stands so you’re certain you’re able to qualify. Travel credit cards generally require good credit. You can view two of your credit scores, free of charge, on Credit.com.

Bonus tip: Travel rewards credit cards generally partner with rental car companies so your plastic may qualify you for a discount — or at least earn bonus points — on that expense, too.

6. Be Loyal to a Particular Airline or Hotel Brand

Besides using your credit card rewards to fund your trip, consider becoming loyal to a particular hotel or airline to cash in on some of their loyalty programs. Become a member of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Program, for example, and you’ll earn points for every dollar you spend that you can put toward a free flight sometime in the future.

Bonus tip: See if you can pool your credit card rewards with the points or miles you earn through a travel provider’s loyalty program to qualify for a free night or award flight faster.

Note: It’s important to remember that prices for products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with the company directly.

Image: baona

The post 6 Ways to Save on Flights & Hotels This Summer appeared first on Credit.com.

17 Ways to Save at Amazon

Because, face it, we can all use 'em.

For whatever your little heart may desire, retail behemoth Amazon is likely the place that will have it. For any room in your house to the outside of your house to your personal, beauty and baby needs, the list of Amazon purchasing options goes on and on and on. If you’re worried that clicking away on tempting items online might lead you to go into debt, try using some of these tactics the next time you’re shopping on the site.

Here are 17 ways to save at Amazon.

1. Check Out Today’s Deals

The Today’s Deals section on the Amazon site is loaded with savings options. From coupons and 24-hour deals to open box and used items, as well as their online outlet store, the savings are endless. Make this your first stop any time Amazon is on your brain (and browser).

2. Sign up for Subscribe & Save

For those things you purchase regularly, it might be worth signing up for the Subscribe & Save program. You can save up to 15% on these items, set up a regular schedule for receiving them and get free shipping.

3. Get Amazon Prime

If you shop on Amazon enough, the $99 yearly fee to subscribe to Amazon Prime might be worth it. You’ll earn rewards with your purchases and get free two-day shipping on some items. You’ll also have access to a selection of streaming TV shows and movies, additional coupons and a free two-month trial on the family plan of Amazon Music Unlimited, plus a discount on full membership if you end up joining. Still not sure it’s for you? Sign up for a free 30-day trial and cancel it before the month is out if it doesn’t work out.

4. Join Prime Student

If you’re a student with a valid .edu email address, sign up for Prime Student. You’ll get a free six-month trial, after which you’ll upgrade to standard Prime for 50% off. Prime Student comes with free two-day shipping, access to video streaming and thousands of books and magazines and early access to select Amazon Lightning Deals, among other things.

5. Look Into Amazon Family

If you’re a Prime member, signing up for Amazon Family gets you access to exclusive family-oriented offers like coupons, 20% diaper subscriptions and a 15% Baby Registry completion discount.

6. Consider an Amazon Store Credit Card …

The retail giant’s standard store credit card is strictly no-frills — unless you have a Prime membership, then you’ll get a full 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, which can really add up for frequent shoppers.

7. … its Prime Rewards Visa …

Amazon also offers a traditional credit card that touts the same 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, but can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. As an added bonus, you’ll also earn 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% cash back everywhere else. We’ve got more on the card here.

8. … or Your Current Rewards Credit Card

If you’re not interested in new plastic, get some kickback on your purchases by using a rewards credit card that’s already in your wallet. Just be careful not to spend more than you’ll be able to pay off in full. Otherwise, your points, miles or cash back will be lost to interest. Plus, high credit card balances can hurt your credit. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

9. Shop With Rewards

On the flip side, Amazon partners with quite a few credit card issuers so you can pay for purchases using your points or cash back — and not the hard-earned funds in your bank account.

10. Buy at the Right Time

Amazon price tracker site camelcamelcamel.com monitors millions of products on Amazon and alerts you when the price drops on the items you want, making your price-savings scouting just a little bit easier.

11. Shop Around for Lower Prices

Use price comparison sites like PriceBlink.com to find lower prices and coupons. While you’re viewing a product, the site scans more than 4,000 additional merchants for lower prices elsewhere so you know you’re always making the most informed purchase.

12. Get Paid to Shop Online

Sign up for a MyPoints accounts and you’ll earn points for every dollar you spend when you click to the retail site from the MyPoints page. Plus, you’ll earn a $10 Amazon card with your first qualified purchase.

13. Do Some Digging

If you’re searching for a specific product on Amazon, don’t always think the first item that pops up will be the cheapest. In fact, if you’re in the market for a specific product, it pays to always dig deeper than just typing in the object name in the search bar and putting the first thing that appears in your cart. Check out the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” carousel below the item for products that are likely to be very similar to what you’re looking for — but potentially much cheaper.

14. Install a Coupon Aggregator on Your Computer

Rather than searching around for Amazon coupons yourself, install a coupon aggregator like Honey on your computer and let it do the searching for you at checkout.

15. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Check out sites like Raise.com and Gift Card Granny to score Amazon gift cards at less than face value.

16. Trade in Your Old Items

Use the Amazon Trade-In program to earn gift cards on items you no longer use.

17. Turn Off One-Click

OK, this move won’t net you a discount, but it may stop you from going overboard and busting your budget.

Love brand hacks? We’ve got plenty. You can find a full 19 ways to save at Target here. Have another brand you’d like us to tackle? Let us know in the comments. 

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 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: Petar Chernaev

The post 17 Ways to Save at Amazon appeared first on Credit.com.