6 Fast and Affordable Recipes for College Students

College is expensive and so are apartments. Finding a college apartment that fits into your budget is possible with a few simple tricks.

Cooking for yourself in college can be a struggle, especially with hundreds of other things constantly on your mind. Some dorms come with kitchens, while others don’t. Some students have fridges, while others don’t. Some people love having piles of snacks in their room, while others don’t. If you want to feed yourself in a healthy and inexpensive way straight out of your dorm room, we’ve compiled a list of quick, easy recipes that require minimal equipment and, honestly, minimal cooking. If you have a mug and a microwave—or a fridge and a Tupperware container—you can make a combination of most of these recipes. Some require a little more prep than others, but all of these dishes are perfect for college.

1. Scrambled Eggs

Did you know you can make eggs in the microwave? If you have a fridge in your dorm room, you can easily go through a dozen eggs a week making just about anything. We love classic, protein-packed scrambled eggs because they’re just so easy. You’ll need all the usual ingredients—eggs, milk and cheese. Mix the milk and eggs in a microwave-safe cup and microwave in 30-second increments until the eggs are cooked. Then add the cheese and microwave a few seconds more if it doesn’t melt right away. As long as you have a mug, microwave, and fridge, you’re set for college breakfasts.

2. Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

If you have a sweet tooth, you can try this trendy breakfast idea. Overnight oats are popular right now, mostly because they’re so convenient to make and (almost surprisingly) delicious. The Minimalist Baker adds peanut butter and chia seeds to the oats to add healthy fats and protein. Use a mason jar or small Tupperware container to store this dish overnight. Rolled oats are super cheap and will last forever under your bed, just like peanut butter, so you’ll need to worry only about storing the almond milk in a fridge. If you want to save a bit more money, you can substitute almond milk for regular milk.

3. Riceless Risotto

Risotto might sound like something way out of reach for a college student, but it’s actually reasonably priced if you make it without rice in a microwave. Instead of traditional Arborio rice, Bran Appetit suggests the use of quick oats for your risotto. Oats are extremely cheap (and can also be used for the aforementioned overnight oats), so they’re a great pick for this hearty dish. You can add some vegetables, cheese, and chicken stock to finish off this rich, microwaveable dish. With minimal prep, you can wow your friends when you tell them you’re eating risotto in your college dorm room.

4. Mac and Cheese

We all know, and either love or hate, that bright orange, pre-packaged microwave mac and cheese. You can make a more natural version of this comfort food easily in the microwave, minus the packets of “cheese” powder. Made by Monique proves that a mug full of water can cook some dry pasta in just a few minutes. If you add your favorite cheeses and a little butter or onion powder, you can have your very own rich mac and cheese in under ten minutes.

5. Burrito Bowl

It can be difficult to cook chicken fully in the microwave, but if you can find some cheap precooked chicken at the grocery store, then it’s super easy to throw it on top of any microwave concoction. We’re loving burrito bowls because they’re high in protein and flavor. With a microwave-safe bowl, you can cook some minute rice and warm up some canned beans, then top with store-brand salsa, cheese, and that precooked chicken for a quick and very affordable meal. If you have a few extra bucks to spend for the week, make your own guacamole with an avocado and a little lime juice.

6. Chickpea, Avocado, and Feta Salad

Speaking of avocado, you can make some great salads in college without really cooking at all. Besides some minor prep, Two Peas & Their Pod’s version of a chickpea, avocado, and feta salad doesn’t require much work or any heat at all. If your dorm has a small kitchen, this recipe will work perfectly because you’ll need somewhere to chop the onions, cilantro, and avocado. You can also borrow a friend’s kitchen in return for feeding them some of this delectable salad.

If you’re a college student, finding easy meals to make is only part of the battle—you still have to account for buying all the ingredients. Check out our Best Student Credit Cards in America to see if there’s a card that can help you manage your weekly food costs. What are your go-to recipes for keeping your belly happy on a tight budget?

Image: Geber86

The post 6 Fast and Affordable Recipes for College Students appeared first on Credit.com.

Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Everyone who goes grocery shopping knows that buying food weekly can become fairly expensive—especially when you add in how much money we waste on food. Luckily, there are many foods that’ll last for years and save you money in the long run if you buy them in bulk and store them properly.

Check out these 12 ingredients that can help you save money on your groceries for years to come.

1. White Rice

It’s hard to find a food that’s more versatile than rice: you can eat it on its own, with vegetables or beans, in soup, with meat, in sushi, and so much more. You can even use it to help save your electronics from water damage. Plus, rice is super cheap and often comes in bulk. Even better, white rice can last more than 30 years if stored properly—in the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer—so don’t throw it out unless it has spoiled through improper storage. (Brown rice has a higher oil content, so it’ll actually spoil after six months, unfortunately.)

2. Honey

Scientists have found perfectly preserved honey in the Egyptian pyramids—even at over three thousand years old, that honey is still edible and safe to eat. Honey’s high acidity and lack of water help it last indefinitely. It may crystallize over time, but don’t worry; it is still safe to eat. You can warm it up to soften and de-crystallize it for easier consumption. Honey can be used as a sweetener, in salad dressings, in desserts, as a home remedy, and even for facials.

3. Oats

If you love breakfast foods and baking, buy bulk portions of oats to store in your pantry. Rolled and instant oats can last several years when kept in airtight containers—some estimate that oats can be safely eaten for 30 years if stored properly! Keep oats on hand and make your own flour, granola bars, or cereal whenever you want.

4. Hot Sauce

From eggs to salads to pizza, anything can benefit from some added spice. Whether you’re a Tabasco or Tapatío fan, your favorite hot sauce can last for three to five years thanks to its high vinegar content and the capsaicin found in chili peppers. Just make sure you follow proper storage directions, and keep in mind that the taste will change as time passes. The sauce may even get hotter as the peppers age! Buy a large bottle on sale and keep it for years—or until you run out.

5. Dried Beans

You can find a great source of protein in beans, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Flavored and canned beans will last you a while, but dried beans can last for up to 30 years. They do begin to lose their moisture after a few years, so cooking times may vary depending on how long you have been storing them. If you love black beans in homemade burritos or homemade barbecue chili, keep bags of dried beans in your pantry—they’re super affordable and go with pretty much anything.

6. Quinoa

Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is a seed not a grain, so it actually keeps two to three years past the expiration date. Though it lasts several years, you do need to keep quinoa in a cool, dry area or it could grow mold—and you should never eat quinoa that has grown mold. Quinoa is super filling and can be used in tons of dishes in place of less-healthy carbs. Make soups, salads, or protein bowls with this superfood.

7. Pure Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract will last you a while if you’re in a pinch (about two to four years), but we highly recommend finding a big bottle of pure vanilla extract. The high alcohol content of the extract makes it stay good indefinitely—just keep it away from heat and light and keep the cap tightly closed when not in use—so it’ll always be ready to use when you’re baking or cooking.

8. Soy Sauce

If you’re a fan of Asian food, don’t throw out your open bottles of soy sauce. Due to the large amounts of sodium, soy sauce can last over three years when stored properly. It keeps its flavor and freshness better when stored in the refrigerator, but it is safe to keep in the pantry as well. Save money on takeout by making your own stir-fry, Chinese chicken salad, or noodle dishes with your long-lasting soy sauce.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Due to its high acidity, apple cider vinegar can last for up to five years when stored in a cool, dry place (in the pantry or in the fridge) with the lid tightly closed. If you see a dark, cloudy substance in the bottom of your bottle, don’t worry—that’s just the “mother,” formed by naturally occurring pectin. The mother is actually the most nutritious part of the cider, so feel free to consume it! Add apple cider vinegar to soups and salad dressings for an acidic finish.

10. Dried Ramen

It might seem obvious, but dried ramen noodles will last for many years in your pantry, though the taste is best if consumed within a few years. The noodles are extremely dehydrated, so they don’t usually spoil. Use this cheap staple to make soup or cold noodle bowls.

11. Pure Maple Syrup

Unopened, pure maple syrup will last indefinitely if stored in the freezer (it won’t freeze solid) and up to several years if kept in the refrigerator. Syrup lacks water and is relatively acidic, which contributes to its long shelf life—though it can develop mold, in which case you should not consume it.

12. Baking Soda

One of the most versatile ingredients you can buy in bulk is baking soda. While not super exciting, this extremely cheap ingredient is perfect for making homemade toothpaste, freshening up your fridge, leavening anything you bake, washing your counters, and removing stains from your clothes. Stock up on baking soda and don’t throw it away because it will last you multiple years without going bad. You can test your baking soda to determine whether it’s still good: just add a few drops of vinegar to your baking soda and see if it bubbles.

Whether you’re a cash-strapped college student or just a conscious spender, every little bit helps. Buy these ingredients in bulk and enjoy them for years.

As with all food, check to make sure these ingredients haven’t spoiled before you eat them, and never eat food that has not been stored properly.

Image: RoBeDeRo

The post Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years appeared first on Credit.com.

Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money

College is even better with the right credit cards. Don't miss out on deals and cash back!

Whether you’re spending your Freshman year in off-campus housing or you just left a dorm—and meal plan—behind, one big change is on the horizon this school year: you need to make food for yourself with your own kitchen, two hands, and brain. And that means besides making time in your busy schedule to cook, you’ll also have to budget for the shopping as well, which can be tough on a college student income.

While it might seem overwhelming to feed and shop for yourself, you’ve totally got this. Let us help you put your money worries to rest with these grocery shopping tips. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to go somewhere else for help with calculus.)

1. Check Student-Friendly Stores

The easiest way to save money while shopping is to frequent local markets that offer student discounts. Usually, stores close to campus know they’ll get more customers if they offer a 5%–10% discount for those with university ID cards. Buying your weekly groceries from these shops at a discounted price is perfect for sticking to your budget.

2. Buy Generic or Store Brand Products

Most supermarket chains offer generic packaged products. These store brand products are usually cheaper than brand name products, even though they’re virtually the same. To save some cash, switch to store brand whenever possible.

3. Shop (Mostly) Vegetarian

Besides being bad for the environment, meat is pretty expensive. So whether you plan for Meatless Mondays or go completely vegetarian, you’ll definitely save money. And if you do buy a little meat, avoid steak and expensive seafood entirely, as those purchases will take up a lot of your budget.

4. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Perusing the produce section might be fun, but buying frozen vegetables is often the best way to go. Bags of frozen veggies are cheap, and as a busy student, you’ll save time by not having to chop and prep anything. Frozen vegetables still have lots of nutrients, so you can easily eat healthy with minimal effort.

5. Plan Your Meals (and Stick to That Plan)

One of the most important things you should do before grocery shopping is plan out your meals for the week. A meal plan will help you stay on track and (hopefully) under budget when shopping because you’ll know exactly what you need. You can save a lot of money—and start to drop that Freshman 15—by skipping over those impulse buys like Cheez-Its and Oreos.

6. Use Coupons—Seriously

While it might seem silly to pick up a newspaper or coupon booklet, you should make the effort to clip coupons before shopping. You can plan your meals around items that are on sale, and you might even end up trying a new food or recipe. The cents and dollars you save will really add up. Plus, even if you’re against wasting paper or money on newspapers, you can still find plenty of coupons online.

7. Save Money on Bags

Some states have implemented bag taxes to reduce waste, meaning plastic bags at the grocery store cost money. Bring your own bag (any free bag from a college club will do) to both save the environment and save money. Those few cents would make a dent in your wallet after a few weeks.

8. Eat Before You Shop

Studies indicate that being hungry while looking at food only leads to greater perceived hunger—which could lead to more impulsive thoughts about food. Make sure to grab a snack at home or have a friend grab you something from the dining hall before you head to the store. That way, you can avoid spending more on things that excite your hungry stomach.

9. Use Technology to Your Advantage

These days, there’s an app for everything. Grocery shopping is no different. As a tech-savvy college student, you can easily download several apps that help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, budget effectively, or eat healthier. There are quite a few different apps out there, so give several a try to find out which ones make your shopping experience easier.

10. Don’t Waste Anything

Along similar lines, you should use Supercook.com to turn whatever’s left in your fridge and pantry into a meal. All you have to do is plug in what you have, and then your edible odds and ends can be used instead of thrown away. It’s easier than you’d expect to make food—even older food—taste good.

11. Check Out the Dollar Store

Surprisingly enough, you can actually find plenty of affordable groceries at the dollar store. If there’s one near campus, make sure to frequent it to get great deals on basic necessities like bread, milk, and peanut butter. If there isn’t a dollar store nearby, make a trip every once in a while to stock up on shelf-stable food items like pasta or canned goods.

12. Shop Alone

Going shopping with friends can be fun, but shopping on a budget is not a social activity. If you’re serious about saving some cash, hang out with your friends another time. Shopping with others will increase the number of unplanned purchases you make, whether that’s desserts, extra snacks, or weird produce they want you to try on a dare.

13. Buy What’s in Season

Produce that’s out of season can be unreasonably expensive, so you might not want to buy strawberries year-round. Instead, check out the USDA’s website to see when your favorite produce buys are in season.

14. Freeze Anything and Everything

Yogurt, bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, you name it—almost everything lasts longer when you throw it in the freezer. Freezing leftovers from meals works great, too. Put some individual servings in the freezer to eat when you have to cram instead of cook.

15. Be Alert at the Cash Register

Make sure all the sale items you purchase are sold to you at the correct price. Be attentive when you’re checking out, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. After all, everyone knows college students work with slim budgets. If a can of beans or a bag of frozen chicken rings up incorrectly, simply ask the cashier to double check the price.

16. Avoid Perishable Bulk Item Deals

While some deals might seem really tempting, it’s not worth it for a college student with limited space and money to buy four gallons of milk, 10 pineapples, or seven cucumbers just to get a cheaper price per unit. The food will definitely go bad before you use it up, and then you didn’t really save money at all. If you want to buy in bulk, opt for nonperishable items like oats or rice.

If you’ve used all these steps and are still worried about your food budget each month, a credit card—used responsibly—could be the answer. Many cards offer rewards for groceries, which could help you earn a bit of cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Read our guide on Credit Cards for Students, and don’t forget to check your credit report for free at Credit.com before applying.

Image: Mixmike

The post Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money appeared first on Credit.com.

Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money

College is even better with the right credit cards. Don't miss out on deals and cash back!

Whether you’re spending your Freshman year in off-campus housing or you just left a dorm—and meal plan—behind, one big change is on the horizon this school year: you need to make food for yourself with your own kitchen, two hands, and brain. And that means besides making time in your busy schedule to cook, you’ll also have to budget for the shopping as well, which can be tough on a college student income.

While it might seem overwhelming to feed and shop for yourself, you’ve totally got this. Let us help you put your money worries to rest with these grocery shopping tips. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to go somewhere else for help with calculus.)

1. Check Student-Friendly Stores

The easiest way to save money while shopping is to frequent local markets that offer student discounts. Usually, stores close to campus know they’ll get more customers if they offer a 5%–10% discount for those with university ID cards. Buying your weekly groceries from these shops at a discounted price is perfect for sticking to your budget.

2. Buy Generic or Store Brand Products

Most supermarket chains offer generic packaged products. These store brand products are usually cheaper than brand name products, even though they’re virtually the same. To save some cash, switch to store brand whenever possible.

3. Shop (Mostly) Vegetarian

Besides being bad for the environment, meat is pretty expensive. So whether you plan for Meatless Mondays or go completely vegetarian, you’ll definitely save money. And if you do buy a little meat, avoid steak and expensive seafood entirely, as those purchases will take up a lot of your budget.

4. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Perusing the produce section might be fun, but buying frozen vegetables is often the best way to go. Bags of frozen veggies are cheap, and as a busy student, you’ll save time by not having to chop and prep anything. Frozen vegetables still have lots of nutrients, so you can easily eat healthy with minimal effort.

5. Plan Your Meals (and Stick to That Plan)

One of the most important things you should do before grocery shopping is plan out your meals for the week. A meal plan will help you stay on track and (hopefully) under budget when shopping because you’ll know exactly what you need. You can save a lot of money—and start to drop that Freshman 15—by skipping over those impulse buys like Cheez-Its and Oreos.

6. Use Coupons—Seriously

While it might seem silly to pick up a newspaper or coupon booklet, you should make the effort to clip coupons before shopping. You can plan your meals around items that are on sale, and you might even end up trying a new food or recipe. The cents and dollars you save will really add up. Plus, even if you’re against wasting paper or money on newspapers, you can still find plenty of coupons online.

7. Save Money on Bags

Some states have implemented bag taxes to reduce waste, meaning plastic bags at the grocery store cost money. Bring your own bag (any free bag from a college club will do) to both save the environment and save money. Those few cents would make a dent in your wallet after a few weeks.

8. Eat Before You Shop

Studies indicate that being hungry while looking at food only leads to greater perceived hunger—which could lead to more impulsive thoughts about food. Make sure to grab a snack at home or have a friend grab you something from the dining hall before you head to the store. That way, you can avoid spending more on things that excite your hungry stomach.

9. Use Technology to Your Advantage

These days, there’s an app for everything. Grocery shopping is no different. As a tech-savvy college student, you can easily download several apps that help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, budget effectively, or eat healthier. There are quite a few different apps out there, so give several a try to find out which ones make your shopping experience easier.

10. Don’t Waste Anything

Along similar lines, you should use Supercook.com to turn whatever’s left in your fridge and pantry into a meal. All you have to do is plug in what you have, and then your edible odds and ends can be used instead of thrown away. It’s easier than you’d expect to make food—even older food—taste good.

11. Check Out the Dollar Store

Surprisingly enough, you can actually find plenty of affordable groceries at the dollar store. If there’s one near campus, make sure to frequent it to get great deals on basic necessities like bread, milk, and peanut butter. If there isn’t a dollar store nearby, make a trip every once in a while to stock up on shelf-stable food items like pasta or canned goods.

12. Shop Alone

Going shopping with friends can be fun, but shopping on a budget is not a social activity. If you’re serious about saving some cash, hang out with your friends another time. Shopping with others will increase the number of unplanned purchases you make, whether that’s desserts, extra snacks, or weird produce they want you to try on a dare.

13. Buy What’s in Season

Produce that’s out of season can be unreasonably expensive, so you might not want to buy strawberries year-round. Instead, check out the USDA’s website to see when your favorite produce buys are in season.

14. Freeze Anything and Everything

Yogurt, bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, you name it—almost everything lasts longer when you throw it in the freezer. Freezing leftovers from meals works great, too. Put some individual servings in the freezer to eat when you have to cram instead of cook.

15. Be Alert at the Cash Register

Make sure all the sale items you purchase are sold to you at the correct price. Be attentive when you’re checking out, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. After all, everyone knows college students work with slim budgets. If a can of beans or a bag of frozen chicken rings up incorrectly, simply ask the cashier to double check the price.

16. Avoid Perishable Bulk Item Deals

While some deals might seem really tempting, it’s not worth it for a college student with limited space and money to buy four gallons of milk, 10 pineapples, or seven cucumbers just to get a cheaper price per unit. The food will definitely go bad before you use it up, and then you didn’t really save money at all. If you want to buy in bulk, opt for nonperishable items like oats or rice.

If you’ve used all these steps and are still worried about your food budget each month, a credit card—used responsibly—could be the answer. Many cards offer rewards for groceries, which could help you earn a bit of cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Read our guide on Credit Cards for Students, and don’t forget to check your credit report for free at Credit.com before applying.

Image: Mixmike

The post Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Credit Cards for College Commuters

A long commute to college isn't fun, unless you have a credit card that rewards you for driving and spending money on gas.

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

Waking up early to rush to class is never fun, and having to commute to school doesn’t make mornings any easier. Whether you live 15 minutes from campus or more than an hour away, every minute and mile counts. Being a few minutes late can ruin your performance on an exam, and having to drive a few extra miles can wreck your wallet.

While the first rings of an alarm clock might never get less jarring, having a credit card made for commuters can ease your mind during your morning commute. All of these cards offer great perks as well as gas-focused rewards that’ll turn every commute into an opportunity to rack up cash. (It’s a good idea to check your credit before applying for a new card. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual spending at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then a $95 annual fee.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are focused on gas and groceries, plus the APR can be low depending on your credit.
For College Commuters: You’ll save on gas in the long run, and buying snacks for your afternoon commute is more appetizing when you realize how much cash back you earn.
Drawbacks: If you constantly frequent gas stations, you may prefer a card with slightly better rewards on gas.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on gas purchases, 3% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: $100 Statement Credit when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%.
Why We Picked It: This card features unlimited rewards and a solid APR, alongside 1% cash back on everything.
For College Commuters: If you have a long commute that requires a lot of gas, this is a great card for racking up gas rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. BankAmericard Cash Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. These rewards are capped at $2,500.
Signup Bonus: $150 cash rewards bonus online after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% APR for a year on purchases, and on balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% will apply.
Why We Picked It: Your rewards never expire and they’re capped at a decent level if you’re not a large spender.
For College Commuters: If you have a shorter commute or very fuel efficient car, this card is for you because it has decent rewards up to a certain point.
Drawbacks: If you drive very often you might use up your rewards quickly.

4. Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% on groceries and 1% back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points if you use your card to make $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, variable APR will be 13.99% to 25.99%.
Why We Picked It: Your points last five years and there’s no annual fee.
For College Commuters: You can trade your points for cash, which is perfect for buying snacks, car chargers and more for your commute. Or, if your car breaks down during a drive, you can use your points for a rental car.
Drawbacks: The points eventually expire and the APR is on the higher side.

5. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases up to $7,000 per year. Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and travel, 2% back on Costco purchases and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0 (you will need a paid Costco membership)
APR: 0% APR on purchases for seven months, after that, variable 16.24% APR
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and heavily focus on gas. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
For College Commuters: This card is great for those who are near a Costco during their commute and often get their gas there.
Drawbacks: This card is only available to those with an active Costco membership.

6. Marathon Credit Card by Visa

Rewards: Receive $0.25 rebate per each gallon of gas you purchase when you charge at least $1,000 that month, $0.15 rebate per gallon if you spend at least $500 that month and $0.05 rebate per gallon if you spend less than $500.
Signup Bonus: Receive up to $0.50 per gallon for the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
APR: For purchases, 25.99%, 21.99%, or 17.99% when you open your account, based on your creditworthiness. For, balance transfers and cash advances, 26.99%.
Why We Picked It: This credit card focuses on gas and features great rewards.
For College Commuters: Living in the Midwest or Southeast has its perks if you have Marathon gas stations nearby. Whether you’re buying gas frequently for a long commute or only buying it occasionally, you’re still earning rewards.
Drawbacks: The APR for this card is really high. The rebates can only be redeemed as $25 Marathon cash cards that expire after 24 months. This card is only worth it if you frequently go to Marathon for gas.

Image: Georgijevic

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card and Costco Anywhere Visa® Card 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.

The post 6 Credit Cards for College Commuters appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs

Gourmet chefs who love cooking elevated cuisine at home should consider these money-saving credit cards that offer great food-related rewards.

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

Cooking at home is a way to hone your skills and try new dishes without having to shell out big bucks at a fancy restaurant. When making gourmet cuisine from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of ways to save money on quality ingredients. Cooking every day can end up being expensive, especially if you’re making food that’s organic or exotic.

All of your grocery shopping and driving expenses can add up, so if you’re someone who loves to cook elevated food at home, you’ll want a credit card that rewards you for your spending. Read on for our picks for the best credit cards for at-home gourmet chefs. (If you plan to apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at the supermarket on up to $6,000 of purchases per year. Any purchases over your $6,000 limit will still earn you 1% cash back. Additionally, there are 3% cash back rewards on gas.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a year, and then variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and the APR can be relatively low, depending on your creditworthiness.
For Gourmet Chefs: This card is perfect for someone who spends ample time grocery shopping and cooking to their heart’s desire. The gas rewards are great if you’re someone who loves to scour faraway, specialty markets for the most authentic tahini paste.
Drawbacks: If you prefer to shop for ingredients online instead of spending at supermarkets and gas stations, this card won’t hold as much value for you.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: You’ll get 3% back on all supermarket purchases, 5% back on gas purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.
Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%. 9.74% to 19.99% on purchases.
Why We Picked It: The intro APR (for balance transfers) period is long and the rewards are extremely good, plus there’s no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: With all the points you earn, you can redeem rewards like dining gift cards and trips to food destinations, so this card is perfect for any foodie looking to spend on food in order to receive amazing food-related rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases per quarter for rotating spending categories, unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening. Also earn a $25 bonus after adding an authorized user and making your first purchase within the same three month period.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Then, variable 15.99% to 24.74%.
Why We Picked It: There’s no annual fee and the rotating reward categories are beneficial for those who like to spread out their rewards.
For Gourmet Chefs: The rewards categories vary from gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants so this card is perfect for a chef who likes to explore and try new foods. You’ll get 1% back on cookware and cookbooks, too.
Drawbacks: The APR is relatively high, and you don’t get to pick your own rewards categories. They’re selected each quarter by Chase.

4. Golden 1 Platinum Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant spending, plus 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 7.79% to 13.79%.
Why We Picked It: There are solid rewards and low rates, and no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: Considering all the groceries you’ll be buying, you might as well save money while you expand your culinary repertoire at home. Plus, California is a large state — if you find yourself driving great lengths for food then this card is for you.
Drawbacks: You have to live in California to apply for this credit card, and there’s also no introductory APR period.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Chase Freedom card 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.

The post 4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Choose Your First Credit Card

Picking your first credit card can seem overwhelming, but by keeping in mind a few key tips, you'll be able to make the right decision with confidence.

Whether you’re a teenager without credit history or an adult who’s familiar with loans and debit cards, choosing your first credit card can be tough. The prospect of finding a card may seem overwhelming, but with the right knowledge, you’ll be able to choose the right card and begin building your credit. Here are several things to consider when choosing your first credit card.

1. Do Your Research

Be aware of what getting a credit card entails, especially because credit mistakes can negatively affect your life and financial standings for a long time. Whether you’re scouring the Internet, speaking with a credit expert or reading our site, it’s important to learn as much as you can before taking the plunge. Being well-versed in the process of applying for and using credit cards will benefit you in the long run. Don’t skimp on research.

2. Ensure You Have Steady Income

Credit card issuers typically require a verifiable income when someone is looking to apply for their first credit card. After all, being able to repay your balance is the key to getting approved for a credit card. Lenders need to know that you’ll pay them back and that they can trust you. Federal law requires that adults under age 21 have income before they can be approved for a credit card without a cosigner. So if you’re a young adult, consider getting a part-time job so you don’t have to find someone to cosign.

3. Choose Wisely

There are plenty of credit cards to choose from. It can be overwhelming to sort the possibilities. While searching, focus on your main concerns and struggles. Are you worried about paying bills on time? Consider a card with a low annual percentage rate. Aren’t sure you’ll have enough self-control for a credit card? A secured credit card could be a great option. There’s a credit card that works for everyone. Don’t choose a credit card because of a cool design or dreamy rewards without checking all of the details.

4. Read the Fine Print

Before you choose your first credit card, make sure you’ve read the terms and checked the fees, rewards and interest rates. A bad combination of card features could come back to bite you if you aren’t careful when signing up for a card. 

5. Consider a Secured Credit Card

Speaking of secured cards, they’re a great option for your first card for several reasons. (Not sure what a secured card is? This article explains it all.) As long as you pay responsibly, your score goes up, and you can switch to an unsecured, card. Some secured cards give you cash back, or offer no annual fees. Your deposit acts as your credit limit, so if you can only pay a security deposit of $200, you’ll have a $200 limit. Having a lower limit shouldn’t be an issue, though, because you’re just starting out with credit. 

Barry Paperno, a credit expert who writes for Speaking of Credit, says a secured card is the way to go for first-time credit card owners. “You can build a really good credit score with just a secured card,” Paperno said. “Plus, because of the security deposit, you won’t have an unpaid charge-off at the end.”

6. Avoid Cards That Require Excellent Credit

Being denied credit doesn’t affect your credit score, but your score is still affected by lenders looking into your credit history. If you apply for your first credit card and it’s out of reach, you’ll end up stuck in a loop of hard inquiries and rejections. “Most card lenders won’t even give you an unsecured card if you have no history,” Paperno said. If you’re not sure where your credit stands, check out your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

7. Use Loans to Your Advantage

Essentially, a positive loan history can show card issuers that you’re low risk and are capable of paying them back on time. Loans count as credit, so if you pay them back responsibly that positive information will remain on your credit report for 10 years after being closed. Conversely, a negative loan history will stay on your report for seven years. A loan that’s closed won’t help generate a credit score, but it still looks good to lenders on your report. (For more on loans and their connection to credit, visit our Loan Learning Center.)

8. Become an Authorized User 

A great way to get your first credit card while limiting the responsibility and pressure is by becoming an authorized user. Paperno recommends this as a simple way to build your credit score. This way, you can have a credit score without actually having your own credit card. If you eventually want your own card, being an authorized user makes your score and report look significantly better to lenders.

But remember — if the person whose card you’re becoming an authorized user on falls behind on payments your credit will be impacted as well. Choose someone you trust with a good credit history.

Ultimately, choosing your first credit card is a big decision but an important one. Remember to take the time to research and find which option is best for you when opening your first credit card and every card that follows.

Image: PeopleImages

The post How to Choose Your First Credit Card appeared first on Credit.com.

5 No-Heat Meals That Will Save You Money This Summer

It’s hard to justify using heat to cook when it only makes you lose money, and time, so read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

This summer, try preparing no-heat meals to save money on air conditioning and expensive foods that require heat. Using your stove and oven in the summer can release extra heat into your home — the last thing you want during the warmest months. This extra heat means turning up your air conditioning, resulting in extra expenses. Even when grilling, the cost of coals or fuel can quickly add up.

If you want to avoid using heat to cook because it cuts into your comfort or your budget, read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

1. Barbecue Chicken Sandwich

If you can’t stay away from meat, opt for a previously cooked option like rotisserie chicken because it’s easy to pick up from your local store. You can slice, pull or shred it to add protein to any no-heat dish. Additionally, a rotisserie chicken can serve four to five people for only $5. You can make a barbecue chicken sandwich using rotisserie chicken, store-bought barbecue sauce and pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, to create a hearty meal perfect for a quick dinner or lunch in the summer. Even if barbecue isn’t your thing, food website Delish has plenty of sandwich recipes that use rotisserie chicken. Bonus: All the components can be prepared ahead of time, making them perfect for picnics or travel.

2. Tomato Gazpacho

Summer is tomato harvesting season, so take advantage of the cheaper produce offerings with a refreshing tomato gazpacho. This cold soup is perfect because it’s vegetarian, low-calorie and has 10 or fewer ingredients. RealSimple.com has a version of gazpacho that features corn and cucumbers, two more staple summer vegetables. If you like, you can serve the gazpacho with garlic-rubbed crostini to add an element with contrasting texture.

3. Vegetable Salad With Peanut Butter Dressing

Salads are a great healthy option and the slightly decadent peanut butter dressing adds just the right amount of sweetness and richness to the dish. The Kitchn has a recipe for tofu and broccoli salad that also uses peanut butter dressing. The salad is so fun and colorful it might help persuade your kids to eat their vegetables. Some recipes call for baked tofu, but for a no-heat version of this dish you can use raw tofu. Opting for vegetarian meals will also help you cut costs, as tofu is cheaper than meat and just as versatile.

4. Unicorn Summer Rolls

One of the hottest trends right now is rainbow, or unicorn, food. From bagels to sushi to cake, people are making all their favorite foods colorful. No-heat unicorn summer rolls are perfect to make to keep up with trends while maintaining a budget. Today.com has a great version of this easy recipe. Fresh, seasonal produce can be inexpensive, and it’s easy to chop and shred everything on your own. Plus, a key ingredient, rice paper wrappers, are only 10 cents each. With their color and veggies, these rolls are fun for everyone and filling enough for an affordable summer lunch.

5. Picnic in a Glass

One of the greatest summer pastimes is having a picnic. Nothing beats heading to the beach or park with friends to enjoy fresh air and a flavorful meal. A “Picnic in a Glass” is an ideal no-heat dish to bring to a real picnic, or enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Made in a mason jar, this dish is convenient and pre-portioned, which makes serving and cleanup a breeze. If you’re looking for a recipe, MyRecipes.com has an easy one. A tangy yogurt dressing adds dimension to leftover or store-bought shredded chicken. Load the jar up with vegetables to complete your no-heat meal.

While shopping for ingredients for these no-bake summer meals, consider using rewards cards for extra value. There are plenty of great grocery store rewards cards but they often require decent credit. Before applying, see where you stand. You can check two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: Geber86

The post 5 No-Heat Meals That Will Save You Money This Summer appeared first on Credit.com.

Mochi, Poke, Burgers, and More! How to Take Advantage of the New Options at Whole Foods

If you haven't been inside of Whole Foods lately, you'll be amazed by the new options they're offering — from mochi to fresh juice, they've got everything.

If you haven’t been to a Whole Foods recently, you may be surprised by the changes happening in some of their larger stores. Many stores have changed their look and moved toward a business model that keeps customers in the store longer whether they’re eating, hanging out or shopping. Several of the new changes have gotten some attention online, like their mochi station and wine bar. (These updated Whole Foods features aren’t in every store, so check your local Whole Foods store to see which perks are available.) Here’s a look at some of these new features.

Do-It-Yourself Food Stations

Mochi Bar

This newest addition to Whole Foods has gone viral on Instagram and Facebook. People are obsessed with mochi, a delectable handheld Japanese ice cream. Some Whole Foods stores now have a mochi bar where you can mix and match your favorite flavors of mochi, and take them home in a to-go container.

Trail Mix Station

The bulk section of a grocery store is anything but novel, but Whole Foods takes the personalization factor to the next level. Their new “Make Your Own Trail Mix” station features every trail mix staple imaginable. It’s easy to grab a container and create the trail mix of your dreams.

Bakery

Instead of waiting in line for a busy bakery assistant to help you at a counter, you can now grab a variety of Whole Foods baked goods yourself. From brownies to cookies to doughnuts, you can pick up whatever you want.

Gelato Counter

At Whole Foods, an employee can serve you smooth, rich gelato made in-house daily. This creamy treat will keep you happy as you peruse the rest of the store’s pickings. Gelato flavors include banana pudding, double dutch chocolate, pomegranate, and more. They also have vegan options such as berry sorbets.

In-Store Restaurants

Custom Poke Bowls

Poke, raw fish salad hailing from Hawaii, is a big food craze right now. The salad can be light and healthy depending on which toppings you add. Whole Foods sells custom Poke bowls, so essentially you choose your fish, sauce and toppings and an employee prepares it for you. A bowl costs $9 to $14 depending on the ingredients.

Diner

You don’t need to leave Whole Foods to find a diner with a classic, old-timey feel. With the exception of booth seating with red upholstery, this diner has much of the fare you’d expect. They have milkshakes and any type of burger you could want — including a vegan option. Some locations also offer poutine, a Canadian staple made of french fries, cheese curds and gravy.

Smokehouse

If you’re a meat lover, you’ll appreciate the new Smokehouse addition to Whole Foods stores. They have classic barbecue picks as well as rotisserie options, so there’s something for everyone. Their almost life-changing brisket burnt ends are must-tries. (While you’re at it, check out 50 things you must eat before you die!)

Taqueria

If you live in or near El Segundo, California you’re lucky enough to have the Korean-Mexican fusion spot, Kogi Taqueria, inside your Whole Foods Store store. Their specialties include short rib tacos, kimchi quesadillas, and classic burritos. They also have Korean hot wings. Outside of El Segundo, several stores have traditional taquerias with classic rice, beans, and other authentic Mexican picks.

Pizzeria

The smell of fresh pizza is always enticing, so the Whole Foods pizzeria definitely wins with their pies featuring delicious toppings. You can order your favorite pizza by the slice or a whole pizza to go. The pizza is made fresh.

Juice Bar

Whole Foods focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle, so the addition of a juice bar aligns with their brand. You can choose a juice from their menu that’s made to order, or buy premade options for a cleansing experience or quick snack.

Wine Bar

If you want the advice of a sommelier without having to fly to France or Napa, look no further than your neighborhood Whole Foods. After scouring the wine selection, you can pick a wine and pour a few glasses to enjoy in the store before bringing the rest of the bottle home. Don’t want the whole bottle? You can also order a glass or two per recommendation of the staff. They also have charcuterie boards and cheese plates to accompany your wine choices.

And More!

Some of the larger Whole Foods stores also have Allegro Coffee Bars, cocktail bars, ramen stations, and more. If you live near one of these deluxe Whole Foods stores, be sure to explore those options even we haven’t tried yet. (And, while you’re there, remember to stick to your budget!)

Natural Skin Care

Whole Foods is primarily a grocery store, but they sell more than food. Some stores offer clothing and bags made of natural materials. Whole Foods holds its skin care products to high standards. On the Whole Foods website there’s a list of more than 75 ingredients that aren’t allowed in the skin care products they sell. Most of what they sell is plant-based and natural, which appealing to anyone trying to lead a more organic lifestyle. Whole Foods doesn’t support products tested on animals and they even feature numerous vegan product lines. The products they sell vary from makeup to hair care to facial and body soaps.

Cooking Classes

While some Whole Foods stores have had cooking classes for a while, several stores have recently started hosting classes. Their classes are aimed at beginner or intermediate home cooks, and some are even open to teenagers. If you love shopping at Whole Foods but don’t know how to cook many dishes, these classes are perfect, as they feature ingredients from the store and focus on easy-to-replicate dishes. You can also save on the ingredients by using our tips for saving money at Whole Foods. Good luck becoming a master of local, organic cuisine!

When shopping at Whole Foods and indulging in all of these fun perks, remember to stay on budget! There are a lot of great rewards credit cards that give you cash back when spending on groceries. These cards often require decent credit, so before applying check your credit score to see if you qualify. You can get two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: krblokhin

The post Mochi, Poke, Burgers, and More! How to Take Advantage of the New Options at Whole Foods appeared first on Credit.com.

8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

Do you have a credit card in your wallet? Chances are, you do. And if you’re one of these plastic carriers, you probably want to be using that card the best possible way, right? Well, you may be making some mistakes without even realizing it. To help, we’ve rounded up eight common mistakes to help you discover if you have one of these habits and ultimately correct it.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

“What can do you the most harm is paying late, or not paying at all,” credit score expert Barry Paperno said.

Late payments affect your credit score, plus the late fees and interest quickly add up. Besides all of the effects that hit you right away, Paperno said it can take years to recover from numerous late payments. And if you let it go too long, you could be hit with a charge-off (the point, usually after six months without payment, at which the lender writes your account off as a loss), which stays on your credit report for seven years.

2. Closing a Card You Don’t Really Use

Despite the fact that you never use a particular credit card, closing that card isn’t necessarily the answer. When you close cards, you affect your credit history, usually negatively.

“Don’t make the mistake of closing cards,” Paperno said. “Especially if you think it will help your score, because that will never raise your score.”

When you decrease the amount of credit available to you, you end up increasing your credit utilization ratio, which can hurt your credit. Instead of closing a card, consider simply using it every so often and keep the account active. There are times when closing the card may make sense, like if it carries an annual fee that is hurting your budget, but you’ll want to think about it carefully before making a decision.

3. Not Requesting Changes to Your Terms

While card issuers might seem intimidating, you could be making a mistake by not attempting to change your terms. You could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate or annual fee, helping out your budget in the process. If you’re trying to rid yourself of a balance quickly, call your credit card company. They may help you get a lower interest rate if you just ask.

4. Spending Money Just to Get Rewards

If you find yourself using your credit card unnecessarily to earn rewards, it could be costing you. Rewards are fantastic, but altering your spending habits just to get free stuff isn’t going to be as beneficial as it may sound. If you overspend and carry a balance, you’ll likely lose all those rewards to interest charges.

5. Not Knowing Your Credit Score

If you don’t check your credit score regularly, you’re not educating yourself as much as you could be. Your credit is considered in a lot of situations, from when you apply for a mortgage or car loan to a version of your credit reports being reviewed by a potential employer as part of the application process. Haven’t checked yours in a while? You can see your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

6. Only Paying the Minimum Balance

If you only pay your minimum balance each month, you’ll likely end up having to pay more interest down the line. While it might seem like a quick fix to save your money and pay the minimum, in reality you’re dragging out how long it’ll take to pay your entire balance. Keep avoiding those late fees, but if you can, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum.

7. Applying for Out-of-Reach Credit Cards

“Another common credit card mistake is probably applying for too many cards, the wrong cards, or both,” Paperno said.

By applying for a card you aren’t qualified for, you end up without a card and with a “hard inquiry on your report for the next two years,” he added.

While your credit score isn’t directly affected by being denied credit, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more dings you’ll see to your scores. Make sure you are a good candidate before applying for any type of credit card.

8. Spending More Money Than You Actually Have

Having a credit card often allows people to make the mistake of overspending. It’s a mistake to charge your credit cards close to their limit, Paperno said. Just as closing a card will raise your credit utilization, so will coming close to your credit limit. Either move can hurt your credit score.

Making Positive Credit Choices

To avoid these eight mistakes from the start, make sure you educate yourself. You don’t have to know everything, but you should be aware of how to be responsible with your credit cards. When a car, house or student loan is on the line, you should be knowledgeable and ready, not hurting from your previous credit card mistakes.

“If you pay on time, keep your balances low and apply for new credit only when you need it,” you’ll be in good shape, Paperno said.

Image: Peopleimages

The post 8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making appeared first on Credit.com.