The 50 Best Beaches in America

Here are some of our favorite beaches in America.

If you’re planning a beach getaway this year, you may still be wondering where you want to go and what destination will offer the most bang for your buck. Or sand for your dollars. Or just sand dollars.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 50 of our favorite destinations from all over the country. (Beaches in Arizona? You bet!) There are party beaches and remote beaches, white-sand and pebble beaches, great beaches for snorkeling and great beaches for ogling. Whatever your preference, chances are there’s a beach here for you.

Just remember, before planning any vacation, it’s a good idea to make sure it fits into your budget. There’s little worse than stressing over money the entire time you’re trying to relax and unwind. We have plenty of tips for budgeting for your next vacation, and also some comparisons of travel rewards credit cards that can help pay for your next holiday. (Pro tip: Rewards cards often require really solid credit, so check your credit scores for free on Credit.com before applying.)

Now, without further ado, here are 50 of our favorite beach destinations in America and U.S. territories, broken down by East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, freshwater and island beaches.

East Coast

With a plethora of urban and rural beaches, picking our favorite East Coast beaches was tough, but we narrowed it down to these eight.

1. Montauk, Long Island, New York

On the far end of Long Island’s South Fork sits the town of Montauk. Its numerous beaches, crystal-clear-albeit-cold waters and plenty of nearby restaurants and accommodations make it a favorite destination for New Yorkers, especially surfers. In fact, Montauk has made numerous lists as one of the best places to surf in America.

2. Fort Lauderdale Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 

This beautiful city beach is not only easy to get to (it’s right on the road), it’s relaxed and beautiful. It can get a bit crowded, but the people watching can be part of the enjoyment.

3. South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida

If laid-back isn’t quite your thing, South Beach is an endless party with endless Atlantic views. And once you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, there are trendy restaurants, shops and unique hotels to enjoy just across the street.

4. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina 

Hilton Head is a great family destination that can be very budget friendly. And don’t even get us started on the delicious low-country cuisine you’ll find here.

5. Coney Island, New York

More spectacle than beach experience, the boardwalk, pier and amusement park make for a uniquely interesting day trip if you’re visiting the New York area. The beach is typically very crowded with local New Yorkers wanting a break from the heat of the city, and the water isn’t particularly nice. In fact, it’s kind of gross. Still, if you want a memorable New York City beach experience, this is the place to do it.

6. Asbury Park, New Jersey

If you like a good boardwalk, look no farther than Asbury Park. A wide expanse of beach, plenty of people watching, shopping and eating options make this a favorite among locals and tourists.

7. The Cove, Cape May, New Jersey

Farther south on the Jersey Shore, Cape May is more quaint than Asbury Park and offers an abundance of outdoor activities like birdwatching, surfing, kayaking and more. It’s a great family-friendly option.

8. Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, Maryland

Another great spot if you love a good boardwalk, Ocean City has 10 miles of sand and plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

9. Race Point Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

As Patti Page once sang, “If you like sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there, you’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.” Situated at the very tip of the cape near Provincetown sits this lovely stretch of beach. It’s accessible by car and even bicycle, and don’t be surprised if you spot some seals or even whales in the chilly waters.

10. Ogunquit Beach, Ogunquit, Maine

Farther north, the waters get even colder, but this sandy beach is a beautiful place by the sea. In fact, that’s exactly what its name means in Algonquin, “beautiful place by the sea.” You’ll find charming villages, plenty of delicious fresh lobster and gentle rolling waves.

11. Hollywood Beach, Hollywood, Florida

Between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, you’ll find this lovely beach with a charming seawalk. It’s great for a romantic getaway and still offers plenty of nearby activities without all the hustle and bustle of, say, South Beach.

12. Virginia Beach, Virginia

A three-mile oceanfront boardwalk is one of this famed coastline’s signature draws, ideal for strolling, jogging, rollerblading and more and rife with people watching. South of the resort area, nature lovers will find Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park, while those simply looking for more seaside solace might give peaceful Sandbridge a look.

13. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Most of the beaches on the OBX are just awesome, but Cape Hatteras is special. Its famous lighthouse makes for a nice break from the sun and sand, but one of our favorite things about this stretch of beach is that beach fires are still allowed, meaning you can have that clambake if you so desire, or you can just relax with friends and family while enjoying the warm glow.

14. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Home to Apache Pier, the East Coast’s longest wooden pier, and the SkyWheel, there’s a ton of fun to be had along this 60-mile stretch of oceanfront, not to mention plenty of world-class golf.

15. Folly Beach, South Carolina

This six-mile stretch of sand offers visitors a laid-back beach experience, which is probably why it’s a favorite among local surfers.

16. Ocracoke Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina

If you want to get away from it all, Ocracoke is a great place to do it. There’s been minimal development along this part of the OBX, so the remaining wetlands are home to plenty of wildlife, including birds and turtles. Of course, that doesn’t mean the beaches are empty, though they’re certainly less crowded than more urban East Coast beaches.

Freshwater Beaches

If you live in a landlocked part of the country and don’t want to spend a fortune to get some time at the beach, these picks are for you. Hello, day trip!

17. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan National Lakeshore, Michigan

One of our favorite freshwater beaches is at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. After all, it was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America back in 2011. Lake Michigan’s beautiful clear water makes a stroll on these pristine beaches really enjoyable. And when you’re finished sunning and splashing, there are dozens of other nearby activities to enjoy.

18. Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

On the other side of Lake Michigan is Bradford Beach, a lovely local favorite considered the city’s most popular spot for swimming. There are also sand volleyball courts and plenty of food and beverage vendors to make sure you don’t go hungry.

19. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona

In the Four Corners region, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet at a single point, there are a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. And just a two-hour drive from the spot where you can stand in all four states at the same time are some seriously beautiful beaches along Lake Powell’s shores. There’s even overnight camping allowed in some areas.

20. Huntington Beach, Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland rocks, and so does Huntington Beach, where locals have been enjoying the water and views for decades. This was also the first Ohio beach to receive the Blue Wave designation from the Clean Beaches Coalition.

21. Oak Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago beaches can be crowded, especially on a gorgeous summer day, and Oak Street Beach is no exception. There are often volleyball tournaments taking place — both amateur and professional — but the people watching, cool breezes coming off of Lake Michigan and the striking Chicago skyline make it a favorite destination among locals and visitors alike.

22. North Beach, Racine, Wisconsin

Another Blue Wave-certified beach on the Great Lakes, this beach also gets a big thumbs up from Dr. Beach, a renowned beach expert whose picks are certainly noteworthy. North Beach’s 2,500 feet of shoreline offers plenty of room for summertime crowds to enjoy themselves without feeling cramped.

23. Park Point Beach, Duluth, Minnesota

Yes, we’re picking a beach in Minnesota. Why? Beautiful views, soft sand and bracing dips for those hot, humid days. There’s a park and a playground, which makes it a great destination for families.

24. Grand Haven State Park, Grand Haven, Michigan

Another beauty on the shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven offers camping, picnic areas, playgrounds and plenty of recreational activities.

25. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania

There are plenty of beaches to choose from here and each has its own attraction. Some are more sheltered and quiet, while others have concessions and volleyball courts. The choices alone make it a great family getaway.

Island Beaches

You’re going to have to fly or take a boat to get to these beaches, but you won’t need your passport.

26. Hulopoe Beach, Manele Bay, Lanai, Hawaii

Considered one of the most perfect beaches in the world, Hulopoe Beach, on Lanai, offers a designated marine preserve where the snorkeling and diving are considered among the finest in the Hawaiian Islands. There are also tidal pools filled with colorful marine life.

27. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii

This somewhat isolated beach is described by beach expert Dr. Beach as a “beautiful, crescent-shaped, white-sand beach bounded by rocky anchors where good restaurants can be found.” Yes, please.

28. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Powdery sand, gentle breezes, palm trees and turquoise water make this beach the stuff of dreams. Plus it’s in a quiet residential area, so the crowds aren’t typically too bad.

29. Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 

The island’s most photographed beach is also one of its prettiest, with over a quarter mile of powdery sand, clear water and short hiking trails.

30. Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Clear, shallow water, coconut groves and sea grape trees make Lindquist Beach feel dramatic despite its relative calm on the weekdays.

31. Boquerón Beach, Puerto Rico

Frommer’s says this beautiful stretch of sand brings to mind a “tropical Cape Cod.” Its white sand, palm trees and calm waters make it a wonderful destination for families looking to snorkel, swim or even fish. Boquerón Beach also is a state-run, public beach, which means there are picnic tables, barbecue pits, lifeguards, bathrooms with showers and lockers, plus a cafeteria and a shop for necessities like sunscreen.

32. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

This two-mile-long beach in the shadow of Diamondhead is one of the most famous beaches in the world, with more than four million visitors each year. While it can get quite crowded, its breathtaking beauty is worth sharing with others.

33. Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii

Golden sands, clear blue waters and spottings of sea turtles and whales make this a favorite beach among Hawaii’s multitude of beautiful spots. In fact, TripAdvisor named it a top 25 beach in its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2017.

West Coast Beaches

34. Zuma Beach, Malibu, California 

The water may be freezing — thanks northwesterly winds — but the juxtaposition of mountains and ocean are something you rarely see here in the States. Bring a jacket and headphones so you can vibe out to one of the prettiest beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway.

35. La Jolla Cove & Shores, La Jolla, California

There’s kayaking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and communing with La Jolla’s famous sea lions and seals. What’s not to love?

36. Venice Beach, Venice, California

Like Coney Island on the East Coast, Venice Beach is more about spectacle than it is actually taking in the sand and surf. Still, it’s a great experience if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area and want to get a little salty air.

37. Coronado Municipal Beach, Coronado, California

Situated in front of the famous Hotel Del Coronado, the beach is wide and the gentle waves are perfect for swimming. It’s also a beachcomber’s paradise, with plenty of shells and sand dollars to be found.

38. Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

If you’re seeking a beach with amazing sunsets, look no further. The natural beauty of the rugged coastline makes a wonderful setting for a romantic picnic or stroll, but the rip tides and chilly water make swimming less than enjoyable.

39. Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Best known for its rocky beaches and driftwood, Rialto Beach is a part of Olympic National Park, so you’re likely to spot plenty of wildlife as you walk the shore. There are whales, otters, and even bald eagles.

40. Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon

If you want to hang out with puffins at the beach, Cannon Beach is the place to go. There’s a plethora of wildlife along this four-mile stretch of sand, but there’s still plenty of room for swimming, picnicking and just lazing about.

41. Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, California

If you’re a fan of surfing, you probably already know this beach is nicknamed Surf City, U.S.A. Known for amazing breaks, it also has good swimming and boogie boarding. You’ll also find lifeguards, food and sundry vendors, restrooms and even volleyball courts.

Gulf Coast Beaches

Last, but certainly not least, are the Gulf Coast beaches. Now, if you live on the East or West Coast, you’re probably thinking, “Eww, a Gulf Coast beach? No way.” If that’s you, you might be interested to know that the No. 1 beach in America as chosen in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards 2017 is …

42. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida

That’s right. This Gulf Coast beach was chosen as the No. 1 beach in the country. Siesta’s 99% quartz sand means your tootsies won’t burn even on the hottest days. Pair that with crystal-clear waters and warm, sunny days almost year-round, and you’ve got full-on beach bliss.

43. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida

The sand here just speaks to people. Literally. The sand is so powdery it often squeaks when you walk across it. Its beautiful waters and warm temperatures almost year-round make it a perennial favorite and a contender for most best-beaches lists.

44. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel, Florida

If you love collecting shells and other treasures from the ocean, this could be the beach for you. It has some of the best shelling in the world. On top of that, there are no high-rise hotels and the sunsets are outstanding.

45. Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida

White sand, gentle waves and turquoise waters with a lovely beach town make this a favorite for beachgoers. It’s darn near perfect.

46. Gulf State Park, Alabama

Not far from the Florida state line, this stretch of sugary white sand offers plenty of family-friendly activities to keep everyone entertained. The park offers air-conditioned restrooms, showers, a snack bar and and tables for eating.

47. South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre can get a little crazy during Spring Break, when droves of high school and college students descend on the pretty beaches here. In fact, it can be pretty crowded for most of the high season, and while you won’t get turquoise waters, there’s an abundance of birdlife, dolphins and sea turtles. There’s also plenty of fishing to be found if that’s your thing.

48. Matagorda Bay Nature Park, Matagorda Island, Texas

The water on Matagorda Island definitely seems bluer than a lot of water along the Texas coast, plus it’s not as crowded as a lot of the beaches. If you like a natural setting with plenty of birdlife, this is a relaxing spot to just chill with family and friends.

49. Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida

As the name implies, the water here is crystal clear. The sand is also powdery soft and white, making this a very popular beach. If you don’t like crowds, there’s another alternative nearby …

50. St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Florida

There are five miles of delicate sand and crystal-clear warm waters to enjoy on this beach situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast shore, so there’s a chance you won’t feel overly crowded even on busy days. You’ll find plenty of nearby activities as well, not to mention beautiful sunsets from the beach.

Trying to save up for the trip of a lifetime? Here are 50 things to stop wasting your money on now

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Does (at) Instead of @ Really Keep Spammers at Bay?

This simple trick can help reduce spam and add an additional layer of protection against phishers and identity thieves.

Have you ever been on a website and noticed the site owner or another user has written out their email address in some variation of the following?

Name (at) domain dot com

If you wondered if the person was just averse to using symbols, you may be interested to know it’s actually a decent method for reducing unwanted spam emails and protecting yourself from possible phishing scams and even identity theft.

We talked to digital security expert Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com and chairman and founder of CyberScout (formerly IDT911), to learn more about how it works.

Good ‘Cyber Hygiene’

“One way spammers harvest email addresses is by sending out bots that are instructed to look for and scrape letter strings that contain the @ symbol,” Levin said.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to practice what Levin refers to as “good cyber hygiene” when entering your email address on public sites. Writing out your email address lets you do that. (Check out our tips for keeping your email safe and secure.)

Phishers can be dangerous, especially if you wade through a tremendous amount of email each day. They create emails that closely resemble legitimate companies and entities that can be difficult to spot as phony, especially when you’re in a hurry to get through your emails.

Using “at” and “dot” makes it more difficult for spambot programs to detect and grab your email address, Levin said. That can be helpful for small business owners whose information is listed on their website, social media accounts or other digital locations.

“For hackers and fraudsters, email addresses are essential tools used to phish their target,” he said. “Because the ultimate guardian of the consumer is the consumer, this is another way to be proactive about protecting your identity and personal data.”

Over the years, some spammers have made an effort to scrape even strings containing “at” and “dot” in hopes of gaining access to email addresses, though sifting through this data to find actual addresses requires manual review and is time-consuming.

If you’re concerned about spammers getting your email information or phone number through this method, you can  create an image of this data that bots can’t read. With this method, the only way for spammers to “harvest” your information is manually, which means you’re pretty safe.

The bottom line when it comes to keeping your information safe is staying vigilant. Check your financial and digital accounts regularly. Check your credit reports for free once a year with each of the major credit bureaus. Ensure the reports are accurate and that you recognize all the accounts. If you suspect there are mistakes, reach out to the bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion).

Finally, to monitor your credit more closely, you can use a free tool like Credit.com’s Credit Report Summary for a breakdown, updated monthly, of the information in your credit report, along with free credit scores. If you see your score drop for no reason, something could be up.

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19 Travel Hacks to Make Your Next Trip the Best Yet

Here's how to get the most out of your next getaway.

Going on vacation is amazing, but sometimes the process of getting to your destination can be less than enjoyable. Traffic jams, airport security, flight delays and other annoyances can not only put you in a foul mood, but can wreck your entire trip. Sadly, you can’t control some of these things, but there are plenty of ways to ensure you arrive at your destination relaxed, prepared and ready to enjoy your getaway.

Here are 19 things to consider when planning your next big trip.

1. Get Global Entry & TSA PreCheck

Your five-year, $100 Global Entry membership means expedited processing while going through U.S. Customs. It also gives you TSA PreCheck status that can speed you through security when traveling domestically without removing your shoes, laptops, liquids, belt and light jacket. Don’t think you fly enough to warrant the fee? You could consider an opportunity to …

2. Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card

Many travel rewards credit cards cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee for as long as you carry the card. On top of that, you can earn miles to help you earn free upgrades and free travel. Many of these cards also offer perks like travel insurance, rental car insurance and assistance for health care and other emergencies while traveling. You can check out some of our favorite travel rewards credit cards here.

3. Consider Travel Insurance

Of course, travel rewards cards often require excellent credit, so you may not qualify if your credit isn’t in good standing. (Find out where you stand with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.) You can easily buy one of the perks these cards offer, though — travel insurance. If an illness, weather situation or other issue keeps you from your plans, travel insurance will make sure you don’t forfeit the cost of your plane tickets and possibly your accommodations.

4. Buy Your Ticket From the Airline

It’s tempting to buy your airline ticket from a discount website, but you can wind up at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to overbooked flights, rebooking without hefty fees and other issues. So if you think you’ll need to change your flight, or absolutely, positively must be at your destination at a specific time, buying from the airline may be worth it, even if it includes an added expense. Also consider signing up for your favorite airline’s miles program.

5. Buy Good Luggage

We’re not saying you need to spend a lot of money, but buying sturdy bags can ensure you don’t end up at your destination with your wheels having literally fallen off. Do your research and look for sales on well-reviewed bags. You may even want to splurge for a bag with a lifetime warranty on repairs. Use your travel rewards card for the purchase and you’ll earn miles toward your next trip.

6. Research Accommodations

There’s nothing worse than ending up at your hotel, hostel or home and it looks nothing at all like the photos you viewed online. Be sure to read the reviews and do lots of comparing to ensure you get a space that is in a good location for your personal tastes, is safe and is priced competitively.

7. Check Your Passport

If you’re traveling abroad, most countries require your passport to not be within 90 days of expiration while you’re in the country. Avoid being turned away at the airport and having to spend hundreds of dollars to expedite your passport renewal just so you don’t have to completely forfeit your trip. Also check the visa requirements for your destination (same goes for inoculations if needed). If you forget, the airline can typically handle it at the airport, but it’s better to square it away ahead of time to avoid potential delays.

8. Pack Snacks

Food at the airport is stupidly expensive and typically not good. Plan ahead and put together a solid meal for every 12 hours you’ll be traveling, especially if you’re not flying business or first class. Having a few of your favorite munchies can be the difference between arriving hangry or happy.

9. Carry a Water Bottle

The same goes for having adequate liquids. If you’ve ever been stuck in your seat for long periods without beverage service, you know the importance of having your own water or other hydrating beverage with you. Pack an empty water bottle at home and fill it when you’ve made it through security. It’s great to have with you on your trip as well, especially in hot climates.

10. Be Comfortable

We’re not giving you an excuse to look like a mess, but being comfortable, especially on long international flights, can make even the most cramped leg room more comfortable. Wear soft fabrics that don’t bind and try to layer so temperature fluctuations don’t leave you freezing or sweating. If your flight is super long, consider packing a comfy sleeping outfit you can change into on the plane.

11. Wear Slip-On Shoes

Slip-on-shoes are one step further on your road to comfort. Not only do they help you pass through security (if you didn’t get your TSA PreCheck), but you can easily kick off your shoes and get comfy on the plane.

12. Take Soothing Socks

Once you slip off those shoes, you’ll want something to make you feel cozy and cuddly. Some fluffy, cushy socks can do the trick. Try to find some with rubberized feet so you don’t have to change when you head to the restroom.

13. Pack a Refresh Kit

This has gotten me through many an international flight. If you’re not flying business or first class where they provide a comfort kit, packing a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb or hairbrush, change of underwear, a washcloth, moisturizer, lotion, lip balm and even a refreshing herbal mist can make all the difference in how you feel once you reach your destination.

14. Pack a Cozy Wrap or Sweater

Planes frequently get cold, so a sweater, light jacket, shawl or scarf can help, especially if the airline doesn’t offer blankets or runs out.

15. Know the Language

If you’re headed to a country where they speak a different language, try to know a few simple phrases so you aren’t constantly using the translation app on your phone.

16. Get an International Calling Plan …

Speaking of your phone, see if your carrier offers an international plan on a temporary basis. It can help you keep in touch without racking up a huge bill.

17. … Or a Temporary Phone

If not, there are plenty of places that offer simple and inexpensive phones with prepaid calling plans that will let you at least text and talk, if not check your email and play with your favorite apps.

18. Have Walking-Around Money

You may be planning to use your credit card exclusively while traveling, but it’s good to have money in your pocket, especially in foreign countries. Exchange your money at the airport or make a withdrawal at a local ATM. You may want to research if any local banks are affiliated with your bank back home, as they can often charge lower ATM transaction fees.

19. Make Note of Your Accommodation Details

Putting your local address into your phone can save you serious headaches, especially if you’ve been out having a bit too much fun and can’t remember. If you’re in a hotel, include the phone number so you can call for assistance if necessary.

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50 Ways to Honor the True Meaning of Memorial Day

It's more than hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. Here's how you can celebrate the lives of the men and women who died serving their country.

If you’ve had a loved one die in military service, you especially understand the importance of Memorial Day, which honors the fallen men and women who served the United States. Whether you’ve lost a loved one or not, doing something to recognize the sacrifices of our fallen heroes this year can be a wonderful way to say thank you. We’ve rounded up a list of 50 ways you can honor the true spirit of Memorial Day.

1. Volunteer to Raise & Lower Cemetery Flags …

It may seem like a simple thing, but reaching out to your local cemetery, especially a veterans cemetery, can make a big difference, particularly in rural areas where there may be fewer family members of the men and women buried there living nearby and available to volunteer.

2. … Or to Help Maintain Cemetery Grounds

The same goes for cemetery maintenance. Helping to maintain the final resting place of fallen troops by volunteering to prune trees, mend cemetery flags, repair cemetery benches or pull weeds can make a big difference to visiting family members.

3. … Or to Greet Cemetery Visitors

The Department of Veterans Affairs suggests one way to make a difference this Memorial Day is to volunteer to greet families at special services at veterans cemeteries. Your thanks for their sacrifice can go a long way.

4. … Or to Play Taps

If you’re a bugler, you can also volunteer to play taps live for Memorial Day or even at veterans’ funerals throughout the year. Congress passed a law in 2000 to allow a recorded version of taps to be played at these funerals since there are more veterans funerals than buglers the military can provide. But many families prefer a live bugler, so there is still significant demand for your talents.

5. … Or to Clean Up a Grave Site

You’ve seen them — the untended graves of fallen veterans who have no family remaining. You can volunteer to keep these grave sites free of weeds and the headstones cleaned of dirt and debris. You can also volunteer to …

6. Place Flowers & Flags on Graves

Sure, there are veterans groups and others who do this, but you can always help them or make this simple gesture on your own.

7. Adopt a Grave Site

You can also make maintenance of a specific grave site official through the Adopt a Grave program. Volunteers take care of the graves of the fallen soldiers, keeping them debris-free and decorating them with flowers. Check with your local cemetery to see if they support the program.

8. Share Your Story

Whether it’s a post on social media, a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or a piece you wish to publish in a magazine or on a website, sharing your personal story of loss and remembrance is a wonderful way to memorialize your fallen veteran.

9. Share a Veteran’s Story

Likewise, telling another person’s story can be a wonderful way to recognize their sacrifice. Did your grandfather die in combat? A friend? A member of your community? Telling their story, especially when you can include photographs, can be a lovely reminder of what Memorial Day is all about.

10. Make a Recording for NPR’s StoryCorps

If your story is especially compelling, you may want to consider recording it. NPR’s StoryCorps stories are stored in the Library of Congress. You can learn more about StoryCorps here.

11. Join the Memorial Day Facebook Page

You can share stories and photos of your fallen hero here, plus see the posts of other military family members.

12. Donate Your Time …

There are literally dozens of volunteer opportunities to help veterans and military families. Check your local organizations today to see what you can do in your community.

13. … Or Your Money

The same goes for monetary donations. There are many worthy organizations. As you research which is right for you, you may come across some organizations which which you are unfamiliar. The site Charity Navigator provides information on how much of your donation will benefit that organization’s particular cause, rather than administrative costs, so you can be sure your money is making an impact.

14. … Or Your Blood

Your donation could be the difference in a family remembering their service member on Memorial Day, or thanking them personally on Veterans Day.

15. Make a Memorial Donation

If you have a fallen loved one, you can make your donation in their name.

16. Help a Surviving Family

If you’d like to help by providing support for families of the fallen, both the USO and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offer financial and emotional support to bereaved spouses and children of troops who have died serving their country.

17. Send Flowers

If you live in the New York metro area, you may want to consider sending a thank-you bouquet through the National Memorial Day Foundation, which will be placed at the New York City war memorials.

18. Help Out Living Service Members

Donating time or resources to a veterans organization, like the Wounded Warrior Project, can make a huge difference in the lives of surviving service members wounded during duty.

19. Write a Letter to an Active Duty Service Member

Writing letters to active duty military members is a time-honored tradition. It can mean a lot to the men and women far from their homes and families. There are several resources online to help you get your letter to service member.

20. Invite a Service Member Over for Your Cookout

Want to thank a service member in person? Why not have him or her over for your Memorial Day barbecue?

21. Observe a Moment of Silence

There’s an official National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, but you can take a moment from your weekend activities whenever the time is right for you to reflect on the sacrifices of our fallen heroes.

22. Say a Prayer

If you’re religious, take time to say thanks for our fallen veterans.

23. Carry the Load

The Dallas Memorial March by “Carry the Load” is the organization’s flagship event, occurring over two days and honoring service members and their families for the sacrifices they make. Participants join in the Memorial March at any time during the two days and walk, even for just a few minutes.

24. Fly Your Flag – But Do So Properly

Proper flag etiquette prescribes that the Stars and Stripes be raised at half staff from sunrise until noon on Memorial Day, and then raised to full staff for the rest of the day.

25. Watch the National Memorial Day Concert …

This annual concert will be televised live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Sunday, May 28 at 8 p.m. EDT.

26. … Or Find a Concert Near You

Lots of cities and towns have their own musical remembrance for Memorial Day. Check your local listings to find what’s available in your area.

27. Join the Parade

Attend the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., or find a local parade nearer to you.

28. Join the Rolling Thunder ‘Ride For Freedom’

If you love motorcycles, you may want to consider joining this giant biker brigade honoring our fallen veterans.

29. Attend a Memorial Day Service …

Check your local listings for services in your area.

30. … Or the National Service at Flanders Field

If you live in the D.C. metro area, you may wish to attend the national Memorial Day service.

31. … Or a Memorial Day Service Overseas

If you’re overseas, you don’t have to skip honoring our fallen veterans. There are dozens of American cemeteries around the world where fallen military members have been laid to rest. Many of these have Memorial Day services that are free and open to the public.

32. Buy a Buddy Poppy

Call your nearest Veterans of Foreign Wars post to find out where to purchase their handmade poppies. Your purchase provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home For Children.

33. Make a Patriotic Playlist

Don’t overlook your Memorial Day soundtrack. Here are several ideas to get you started:

  • America the Beautiful
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • The Army Goes Rolling Along
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • Columbia the Gem of the Ocean
  • Fanfare for the Common Man
  • God Bless America
  • Hail Columbia
  • Library of Congress March
  • Marines’ Hymn

34. Watch a Military Movie

Why not watch a movie this Memorial Day that symbolizes exactly what the day is about — duty, sacrifice and grief. There are lots of recommendation lists online, but some of our favorites include Hamburger Hill, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.

35. Make Some Red, White & Blue Food

Just because you’re honoring the dead doesn’t mean you can’t have some tasty food as well. Check out Foodie Crush’s roundup of 50 patriotic treats that will be sure to make your guests remember the day’s focus.

36. Buy American

Do your part to support American businesses (many small businesses are owned by veterans) and buy American, especially on Memorial Day.

37. Get Active in Local Politics

Honoring the men and women who died for this country is wonderful, but civic responsibility helps ensure their sacrifice wasn’t in vain. Get involved in your local city or town council by running for office or attending open meetings. But don’t stop there. Do the same at the county or parish and even state levels.

38. Read About the History of Memorial Day

Sure, you know it’s about honoring our fallen veterans, but do you know the history of Memorial Day?

39. Read Aloud Logan’s General Order No. 11

If you want to make your Memorial Day moment of silence especially poignant, try reading the original order to recognize the dead afterward.

40. Teach Your Children About the Meaning of Memorial Day

Reminding your children of what the day is all about can help them appreciate the sacrifices made by our fallen veterans.

41. Read Memorial Day Speeches, Poems & More …

There are some amazing words written about our fallen heroes. If you want a few somber moments to reflect on their sacrifice, some of these pieces can help you do just that.

42. … Or Write Your Own

If you have any articles, essays, lyrics, poems, prayers or speeches relating to Memorial Day, consider donating a copy to be posted on usmemorialday.org.

43. Visit a National Military Park

Is there a historic battle site near you? Consider making a day trip to learn more about the battle and the sacrifices made there.

44. Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

If you’re near Washington, D.C., you could consider visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

45. Visit the Alamo

The site of one of the most famous battles on American soil is a true testament to sacrifice.

46. Visit Pearl Harbor

If you’re in Hawaii, pay your respects at the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

47. Visit Military Memorials in Washington, D.C.

A day at these somber sites is a wonderful way to reflect on the sacrifices of our fallen veterans.

48. Visit the Flight 93 Memorial

The passengers on Flight 93 weren’t members of the military, but these ordinary citizens and crew members joined together in an extraordinary act of selflessness, giving their lives for their country and saving potentially thousands of others on Sept. 11. If you’re near the site in Pennsylvania, it can be a wonderful way to reflect on self-sacrifice for the greater good.

49. Visit Nearby Historical Markers

If you can’t make it to a battleground, monument or other historic site, consider a simple road trip to read some of the historical markers in your area. Many of them are about battles lost and won right here on American soil.

50. Join the Military

If service to your country is important to you, consider enlisting in one of the four main branches of the military, in the Coast Guard or joining the Army National Guard.

Image: gjohnstonphoto

The post 50 Ways to Honor the True Meaning of Memorial Day appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Have Fun After College Without Going Broke

You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun.

If money’s tight, you may think it’s hurting your social life, especially if you’re turning down invitations because you can’t seem to make ends meet.

This scenario is all-too-prevalent among recent college grads, and no wonder. Student loan repayments, rent, car payments, a wardrobe for work and other bills can add up. (Here are tips on how to pinch those pennies without feeling deprived.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun.

While you may not be able to drop serious cash every weekend going out to clubs, or even to the movies for that matter, your tight finances don’t mean nights alone on the sofa binging the latest Netflix series.

Here are some ideas for you and your friends to enjoy time together without going broke.

Throw a Viewing Party

When it’s time for the latest season of your favorite series, invite your friends over to watch. Ask everyone to bring a snack or beverages, and you’ve got a full-on party in the works.

Have a Potluck Dinner …

You don’t have to put together a four-course meal for your friends just to have them over. Instead, provide the main dish and ask everyone to bring sides. It’s cheaper on everyone and just as fun. You can even make it a supper club, rotating each month to everyone’s place, if you’re so inclined.

… Or a Potluck Picnic

If the weather’s beautiful, take it outside. Have everyone bring the yummies, plus Frisbees, kites and whatever will keep the fun going, and enjoy your day outdoors together.

Start a Book Club

Love to read? Have friends who love to read? No further explanation needed. Just add wine and cheese.

Find the Free …

Summer especially is great for free events, so check your local listings for what’s going on in your community. There’s lots to do …

… Like Concerts

Many cities offer free music events, particularly in public spaces like parks.

… & Movies

Likewise, there are lots of cities, and even apartment complexes, bars and restaurants, that offer free viewings of older movies. Just remember to arrive early, as these things are often crowded.

… & Lectures

Universities, museums and other entities often hold free lecture series where the famous and not-so-famous offer insights on a broad array of topics.

… & Classes

Same goes for extended learning. Want to learn to throw pottery? Write a screenplay? Repair a bicycle? Gather your friends and do it together.

Buy a Groupon Together

You can make it cheaper by buying a Groupon or similar discount together. Learn to ski or go to the spa without paying full price.

Hit Restaurant Week

Most major cities have a week or two every year when higher end restaurants offer a deeply discounted prix fixe menu. It’s a great opportunity to check out swanky spots without dropping a wad of cash.

Hit Happy Hour

Many bars and restaurants offer not just discount drinks but also food. Sometimes, there are even free nibbles, so do your research and find the place that can give you the best bang for your buck.

Go Backpacking or Hiking

If you already have the gear, this is a no-brainer. But even if you don’t, outfitters like REI offer inexpensive gear rentals on things like backpacks, tents and camping stoves that make getting out of town and on the trail easy.

Join an Interest Group

Many churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have young adult groups that provide free or inexpensive gatherings and outings for members. There are also groups for non-religious interests like running and cycling, chess, kickball and ultimate Frisbee. Find your people and get out there.

Become a Volunteer 

If you love giving back, joining a volunteer organization is a great way to spend your free time in a positive way. It’s also an opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Best of all, it’s free.

Remember, if you’re a recent college grad, it’s probably going to take you a few years to find your financial footing, and saving money is important in making that happen. Stay focused on setting aside for retirement (here are 50 ways you can start saving for retirement right now) but also saving for that inevitable rainy day. And make sure you’re keeping track of your credit. A solid credit score can save you a ton of money over your lifetime. You can check your credit scores regularly using Credit.com’s completely free Credit Report Summary.

Image: oneinchpunch

The post How to Have Fun After College Without Going Broke appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Set Up Your First 401K

There's a lot to consider when saving for retirement. Here's what you need to know to get started with a 401K.

So you’ve decided to save for your retirement using your company’s 401K plan. Congratulations! It’s a great way to save. But now what? Which funds do you choose? How much should you contribute? Are there limits? How do your employer’s matching funds actually work? Can you access the money if you need it before retirement?

Obviously, there are a lot of questions that can arise when it comes time to set up your retirement savings, but we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to know to set up your 401K.

What Is a 401K?

The section of the U.S. tax code that describes these retirement savings plans is Section 401(k), thus the name. These plans let you invest pre-tax dollars directly from your salary, along with any additional investment made by your employer. Unlike an Investment Retirement Account (IRA), 401Ks are sponsored by employers, and, if offered at all, they must be made available to all employees of the company sponsoring the 401K.

Your employer does have the right to impose a couple of restrictions, however. 1. They can require that you work full-time for a period of time before eligibility, and 2., can also stipulate that you be at least 21 years old before enrolling. That’s why it’s always good to ask about eligibility when interviewing for a new job.

You Choose Your Investments

Most 401Ks are self-directed. That means you choose where to put your money from a list of funds made available through your 401K plan provider (Vanguard and Fidelity are two of the larger firms providing 401K funds). This can get tricky. Do you choose the safest investments that offer little risk but less reward? Do you opt for high growth? Targeted funds? Emerging market funds? What about bonds?

Obviously, you’re going to want to do some research, perhaps even talk to someone with some expertise. Most plan providers share details about the individual funds they offer on their websites, or at least have links to more details. Some even offer tools to help you choose which funds fit your needs, while others make real live people available for limited consultations. Seek out the assistance you need to fully understand what you’re doing with your savings.

You Also Choose How Much to Save …

There’s really no correct answer when it comes to how much to save, but certainly, saving as much as you can for retirement is a good idea. And if your employer offers matching funds (free money!) for your investments, you’ll at least want to invest the full amount they match. So, for example, if your employer matches up to 3% of your salary, you’ll want to invest at least 3%, though certainly you can invest more. Here are some tips on how to maximize your 401K.

… But There Are Limits

Federal law allows investors to put up to $18,000 into a 401K each year unless you’re over age 50, when you’re allowed to make an additional $6,000 in “catch-up” contributions.

If you’re in the lucky position of being able to save more than these limits, there are investing alternatives to your 401K that you may want to consider. These include IRAs, certificates of deposit (CDs) and even individual stocks if you’re familiar enough with the markets.

You Can’t Use Your Money …

Keep in mind that a 401K isn’t like a savings account. But for a few exceptions, you can’t withdraw your money before age 59½ without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. You can take a loan against your 401K if your employer’s plan allows for that, but only for specific purposes like education, medical reasons or first-time home purchases. Your repayments will come right out of your paycheck, making the process simple, but there are some dangers you’ll want to consider before borrowing against your 401K.

If you’re just starting out in the investing/saving world, you may want to consider putting a portion of your income toward an emergency fund that is easily accessed, carries no penalties and can get you out of a jam, like a giant car repair bill, when you need it.

… But You Can Take It With You

To another job, that is. When you leave, you won’t lose your investments, though you could lose contributions made by your employer. That’s because some employers require a “vesting period” for their contributions to your 401K. Essentially, it means you have to work for the company for a predetermined period of time before you can claim what they’ve given you.

When you leave, you simply set up a rollover IRA with your plan provider. Those funds can then either stay put in the IRA or be rolled over to your 401K with your new employer. You’ll want to compare the income history for the funds before deciding where the money will best serve you.

Retirement may feel eons away, but it pays (quite literally) to start early. Fortunately, we’ve got a full list of 50 things millennials can do now to retire at 65.  

Image: AJ_Watt

The post How to Set Up Your First 401K appeared first on Credit.com.

Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program?

Here's what you get when you enroll in the Trump Hotels Privileges Program.

If you didn’t already know, yes, it’s true. Like most major hotel brands, Trump Hotels has a loyalty program that rewards frequent guests. The Trump Privileges Program is a little different, however.

To start with, membership is free and signing up on the Trump Hotels website takes only a moment. Right away, the program offers members the ability to customize their stays beyond just requesting a high floor or a room near the elevator. Preferences such as specific turn-down times, room temperatures, choice of pillow sizes and fillings (there are 11 different options), and even preferred snacks in the mini bar also are available. There are also members-only offers, welcome amenities upon arrival, plus prioritized early check-in and late check out.

“The Trump Card Privileges Program is our way of saying thank you,” the firm says on its website. “Knowing that no stay should feel like the first, we aim to ensure your experience is as personalized as you want it to be.”

Once members reach Exclusive Gold status (earned through 10 stays or 25 nights), they also bump up to guaranteed late checkout at 2 p.m., complimentary category upgrades (based on availability) and a $10 mini-bar credit. Exclusive Platinum members (earned through 25 stays or 50 nights) receive a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, complimentary suite upgrades (based on availability) and a $15 mini-bar credit on top of the standard membership perks.

When it comes to earning free stays, the Trump Privileges Program is pretty comparable to other luxury hotels. As is standard, frequent guests pile up points that can used on costlier benefits, such as free rooms. With these, the devil is always in the details, and in the math.

Here’s one example: Standard members get 10 points per stay. (Those who have reached status levels get bonus points.) Free nights cost between 150 to 300 points, based on location (rooms start at around $350 per night in some locations based upon our research). That means you’ll have stay 15 to 30 nights in a Trump hotel before earning a free room.

By comparison, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while using different numbers, boils down to something similar. There, standard members earn two points for each dollar spent. Free rooms we checked out in New York City cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points. So roughly, 20 stays at $300 a night gets a free Starwood room in Manhattan.

Of course, value hotel loyalty programs are a bit more generous, but the luxurious amenities are nowhere to be found. At La Quinta, for example, guests earn 10 points per dollar spent, so roughly 1,000 points per stay. Free rooms can often be had for 8,000 to 12,000 points, or eight to 12 stays. (Please note: Points program math has many permutations — bonus points! blackout dates! — so these are merely examples.)

Earning points through the Privileges Program is likely to become easier in the near future as the brand expands and opens new properties. Trump Hotels has announced plans to open less-pricey properties under the brand name Scion, which will cost $200 to $300 per night. No word yet on how many points will be earned for stays.

If you’re looking to boost your hotel rewards earning power, you may want to consider a rewards credit card affiliated with your favorite hotel brand. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best hotel rewards credit cards available today. If you’re loyal to a brand like Trump that doesn’t have an affiliated credit card, you can always look at improving your rewards with a cash back rewards card. You can compare some of the best cash back rewards cards here.

Remember, you’re going to need good credit to qualify for most rewards credit cards. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can get your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Bob Sullivan contributed to this article.

Image: wingedwolf

The post Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program? appeared first on Credit.com.

Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program?

Here's what you get when you enroll in the Trump Hotels Privileges Program.

If you didn’t already know, yes, it’s true. Like most major hotel brands, Trump Hotels has a loyalty program that rewards frequent guests. The Trump Privileges Program is a little different, however.

To start with, membership is free and signing up on the Trump Hotels website takes only a moment. Right away, the program offers members the ability to customize their stays beyond just requesting a high floor or a room near the elevator. Preferences such as specific turn-down times, room temperatures, choice of pillow sizes and fillings (there are 11 different options), and even preferred snacks in the mini bar also are available. There are also members-only offers, welcome amenities upon arrival, plus prioritized early check-in and late check out.

“The Trump Card Privileges Program is our way of saying thank you,” the firm says on its website. “Knowing that no stay should feel like the first, we aim to ensure your experience is as personalized as you want it to be.”

Once members reach Exclusive Gold status (earned through 10 stays or 25 nights), they also bump up to guaranteed late checkout at 2 p.m., complimentary category upgrades (based on availability) and a $10 mini-bar credit. Exclusive Platinum members (earned through 25 stays or 50 nights) receive a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, complimentary suite upgrades (based on availability) and a $15 mini-bar credit on top of the standard membership perks.

When it comes to earning free stays, the Trump Privileges Program is pretty comparable to other luxury hotels. As is standard, frequent guests pile up points that can used on costlier benefits, such as free rooms. With these, the devil is always in the details, and in the math.

Here’s one example: Standard members get 10 points per stay. (Those who have reached status levels get bonus points.) Free nights cost between 150 to 300 points, based on location (rooms start at around $350 per night in some locations based upon our research). That means you’ll have stay 15 to 30 nights in a Trump hotel before earning a free room.

By comparison, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while using different numbers, boils down to something similar. There, standard members earn two points for each dollar spent. Free rooms we checked out in New York City cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points. So roughly, 20 stays at $300 a night gets a free Starwood room in Manhattan.

Of course, value hotel loyalty programs are a bit more generous, but the luxurious amenities are nowhere to be found. At La Quinta, for example, guests earn 10 points per dollar spent, so roughly 1,000 points per stay. Free rooms can often be had for 8,000 to 12,000 points, or eight to 12 stays. (Please note: Points program math has many permutations — bonus points! blackout dates! — so these are merely examples.)

Earning points through the Privileges Program is likely to become easier in the near future as the brand expands and opens new properties. Trump Hotels has announced plans to open less-pricey properties under the brand name Scion, which will cost $200 to $300 per night. No word yet on how many points will be earned for stays.

If you’re looking to boost your hotel rewards earning power, you may want to consider a rewards credit card affiliated with your favorite hotel brand. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best hotel rewards credit cards available today. If you’re loyal to a brand like Trump that doesn’t have an affiliated credit card, you can always look at improving your rewards with a cash back rewards card. You can compare some of the best cash back rewards cards here.

Remember, you’re going to need good credit to qualify for most rewards credit cards. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can get your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Bob Sullivan contributed to this article.

Image: wingedwolf

The post Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program? appeared first on Credit.com.

Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program?

Here's what you get when you enroll in the Trump Hotels Privileges Program.

If you didn’t already know, yes, it’s true. Like most major hotel brands, Trump Hotels has a loyalty program that rewards frequent guests. The Trump Privileges Program is a little different, however.

To start with, membership is free and signing up on the Trump Hotels website takes only a moment. Right away, the program offers members the ability to customize their stays beyond just requesting a high floor or a room near the elevator. Preferences such as specific turn-down times, room temperatures, choice of pillow sizes and fillings (there are 11 different options), and even preferred snacks in the mini bar also are available. There are also members-only offers, welcome amenities upon arrival, plus prioritized early check-in and late check out.

“The Trump Card Privileges Program is our way of saying thank you,” the firm says on its website. “Knowing that no stay should feel like the first, we aim to ensure your experience is as personalized as you want it to be.”

Once members reach Exclusive Gold status (earned through 10 stays or 25 nights), they also bump up to guaranteed late checkout at 2 p.m., complimentary category upgrades (based on availability) and a $10 mini-bar credit. Exclusive Platinum members (earned through 25 stays or 50 nights) receive a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, complimentary suite upgrades (based on availability) and a $15 mini-bar credit on top of the standard membership perks.

When it comes to earning free stays, the Trump Privileges Program is pretty comparable to other luxury hotels. As is standard, frequent guests pile up points that can used on costlier benefits, such as free rooms. With these, the devil is always in the details, and in the math.

Here’s one example: Standard members get 10 points per stay. (Those who have reached status levels get bonus points.) Free nights cost between 150 to 300 points, based on location (rooms start at around $350 per night in some locations based upon our research). That means you’ll have stay 15 to 30 nights in a Trump hotel before earning a free room.

By comparison, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while using different numbers, boils down to something similar. There, standard members earn two points for each dollar spent. Free rooms we checked out in New York City cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points. So roughly, 20 stays at $300 a night gets a free Starwood room in Manhattan.

Of course, value hotel loyalty programs are a bit more generous, but the luxurious amenities are nowhere to be found. At La Quinta, for example, guests earn 10 points per dollar spent, so roughly 1,000 points per stay. Free rooms can often be had for 8,000 to 12,000 points, or eight to 12 stays. (Please note: Points program math has many permutations — bonus points! blackout dates! — so these are merely examples.)

Earning points through the Privileges Program is likely to become easier in the near future as the brand expands and opens new properties. Trump Hotels has announced plans to open less-pricey properties under the brand name Scion, which will cost $200 to $300 per night. No word yet on how many points will be earned for stays.

If you’re looking to boost your hotel rewards earning power, you may want to consider a rewards credit card affiliated with your favorite hotel brand. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best hotel rewards credit cards available today. If you’re loyal to a brand like Trump that doesn’t have an affiliated credit card, you can always look at improving your rewards with a cash back rewards card. You can compare some of the best cash back rewards cards here.

Remember, you’re going to need good credit to qualify for most rewards credit cards. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can get your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Bob Sullivan contributed to this article.

Image: wingedwolf

The post Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program? appeared first on Credit.com.

How New Parents Can Budget For Child Care

Plan ahead as much as possible.

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

Having a new baby on the way is an incredibly joyous time for most families, but it can also be stressful. After all, babies require a lot of care — they need to be fed and changed, and then there’s the diapers, clothes, bedding, car seats, toys, healthcare … it can be overwhelming, both emotionally and financially.

Add to that the tremendous childcare expense — the average annual cost for child care in the United States is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition — and it can feel downright impossible, especially if your finances are already tight.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you budget for child care. We talked to Katie Bugbee, senior managing editor of Care.com, a website dedicated to helping families and caregivers connect in a reliable and easy way. She shared some ideas on how to start saving at every stage.

“Obviously, the earlier people can start saving the better,” Bugbee said. “When you have babies on the brain is a good time to start cutting back. As much as you want to celebrate the last few years without kids and enjoy them, you should also really make sure that you have enough money moving forward to live as comfortably as possible with the additional expenses.”

Before Baby Comes

There are a multitude of things you can do to save money before you have a baby on the way. From cutting back on your daily $3 coffee to skipping that new outfit for work and even buying used items instead of new.

You can also save money by using a cash-back credit card for your everyday purchases. Some of the best cash-back cards can help you earn rewards on pretty much everything you buy. Of course, most of these cards require you have good credit. But, if you don’t, it’s good to keep in mind there are credit cards for bad credit and some — like the Discover it Secured card or the Capital One Secured MasterCard — even offer cash back rewards. Even better, they’ll help you build and improve your credit if managed properly. You can see what your credit situation is by reviewing your free credit report snapshot from Credit.com, which updates monthly.

Of course, you can also save in larger ways. Instead of moving into a bigger, nicer apartment or house, stay where you are for now. That way, you keep your housing budget reigned in while you put more money into savings for your new baby.

If you have the cash flow, set up a savings account especially for baby, and consider skipping that fabulous week long vacation to St. Lucia and opt instead for a long weekend visiting friends. Here are 7 other money moves to make before baby arrives.

When Baby Is On the Way

When you know your baby is on the way, it’s time to really get busy with the saving, especially if you didn’t so earlier. One option is to see if your employer offers flexible spending accounts that cover child care. If so, it could be worth setting up and reaping the tax benefits it will provide. You can also ask if there’s a child care subsidy available, or if there is in-office child care.

Now is also a good time to talk to your accountant or financial adviser about how best to plan for your new family addition. Are there additional tax breaks to consider?

You might also want to begin researching child care options in your neighborhood. There’s a lot to consider, and your financial situation will likely dictate what choices you make. Will you want at-home care? If so, a nanny share can be a great way to cut your costs. Will you opt for a family day care center instead? Are there any in your neighborhood that offer a sliding pay scale that fits your financial situation?

“Going and getting the best care for the most affordable option is what you need to charge yourself with,” Bugbee said. “I strongly recommend using message boards for that, because you probably don’t even know half the daycare or nanny options in your area.”

She suggested trying out sites like Bigtent.com to find child care options near your home. These are closed groups that will want to verify you live in the area, but once that hurdle is out of the way, they can be incredibly helpful, Bugbee said.

You may also want to consider Facebook groups for parents, which can also be very helpful in finding affordable child care services through people who have already used them, she said.

When Baby Arrives & Every Day After

Now is the time to start looking for ways to save money on baby gear itself.

“The only new things you really need are cribs and car seats,” Bugbee said, adding that pretty much everything else can be bought used. Be sure to check for recalls on used products, however, as well as expiration dates where applicable. The money you save can be used toward child care.

Bugbee also suggested using Amazon Mom to help save money on things like diapers, sippy cups, bottles and more.And remember that cash-back rewards credit card we mentioned earlier? Putting it to use on essential purchases can help you save even more. (As far as shopping on Amazon goes, you may find a lot of value in their credit card, which we reviewed here.)

At the end of the day, you want what is best for your child. Saving money wherever you can help you provide a better life for them now and in the future. And teaching them to do the same can help them be financially secure even when you aren’t around to watch after them.

At publishing time, the Discover it Secured and the Capital One Secured MasterCard are 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: DragonImages

 

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