Capital One’s New Dining Credit Card: Should You Apply?

Here's a solid rewards card made for people who love food.

Capital One just launched a brand new cash-back credit card with a big focus on food. The Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One card offers cash back rewards for all transactions, with extra incentives for dining and grocery purchases. If you’re frequently spending at restaurants, bars and grocery stores to get your grub on, this card might be right for you.

What Perks Does the New Capital One Card Provide?

The new Premier Dining card is a cash back card with competitive rewards rates. Cardholders earn 3% cash back on all dining purchases, 2% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cash back rewards are unlimited and have no expiration date, and they’re redeemed in the form of statement credits or checks.

Right now, Capital One is offering a $100 cash-back bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months of becoming a cardmember, which should be pretty easy to do if you’re frequently dining out.

The card comes with a number of other benefits. There are 24/7 concierge services to assist with travel bookings, reservations and shopping. Capital One even provides travel perks that can include free room upgrades and early check-in or late check-out times at eligible hotels.

Plus, they cover up to $1,500 in travel reimbursements if your trip is cancelled or cut short, and they provide price protection for eligible items if you find a lower price within 60 days of the date of purchase.

What Will the Card Cost Me?

The Premier Dining card has no annual fee. The annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers is a variable 15.24%, 20.24% or 24.24% based on creditworthiness. There’s also no balance transfer fee or foreign transaction fee.

It should be noted that this card is intended for people with excellent credit, so if you don’t know where your credit stands, you’ll want to check before applying. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, here on Credit.com.

Consumers who can qualify for the lowest available APR will be getting a decent interest rate.

Why Should You Apply for This Card?

If the majority of your credit card spending occurs at bars, restaurants and grocery stores, this card is a great option. While we’ve seen higher cash back rates on dining, they often apply to rotating spending categories that don’t last forever. The 3% cash back is a great permanent cash back rate for dining, and the 2% cash back for groceries is a decent supplement.

If you pay your balance off in full each month, this card will deliver its best value. There’s no annual fee, so if you can successfully avoid interest charges, you’re essentially earning money back on your purchases.

It’s also a good card for balance transfers and foreign transactions, as both will incur no additional fees.

Why Shouldn’t You Apply for This Card?

If you spend more on other purchase types than you do on dining and groceries, you may be leaving cash on the table by choosing this card. Many other cash-back rewards cards offer greater rewards for all purchases, and if your spending is more diverse, you’ll likely earn more by choosing a card with a better overall rewards rate.

You’ll also want to avoid this card if you’re looking for a great signup bonus. The $100 cash back bonus isn’t very exciting, and a consumer with excellent credit should be able to qualify for cards with far better signup offers.

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

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Can I Pay My Taxes With a Credit Card?

Tax season is upon us, and many people are discovering they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). (Still haven’t filed? You may want to read these 50 things to know if you haven’t done your taxes yet.)

This year, you have until April 18 to figure out how to pay taxes — April 15 falls on a Saturday, so taxes aren’t officially due until the following Tuesday. While there really isn’t a way to lower your tax bill at this point, although proper planning could lower it for next year, you may be wondering if you charge the bill to your credit card.

The short answer is yes, you can pay your taxes with a credit card. In fact, doing so may actually benefit you, if you’re using a rewards card. But there’s a lot to consider before doing you go this route.

Should You Use a Credit Card to Pay Your Taxes?

The answer here is maybe. If you have the means to pay your taxes in cash but are looking to earn some rewards, then a big tax bill is certainly a good opportunity to do that (assuming you pay the card off in full and don’t lose rewards to interest fees — more on that in a bit). But if you’re considering using your credit card to pay your taxes simply because you can’t afford them right now, the more prudent financial decision is very likely to talk to the IRS about a payment plan. Whatever you do, don’t avoid paying your taxes. It can have lasting ramifications for your finances, including your credit. You can see how your financial choices are affecting your credit by taking a look at your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Remember: There Are Fees

The IRS is contracted with three different companies to collect payments. These companies impose convenience fees that range from 1.87% to 2%. (You can read more about how to pay your taxes with a credit card here.) In order to profit by paying your taxes with a credit card, you have to earn more than the fees they are charging you.

There are a lot of rewards cards out there that offer 1.5% to 2% cash back on purchases.  But if you’re paying 1.87% and earning 2% you aren’t profiting much (on a $5,000 tax bill, you earn $6.50).

Paying With an Existing Card

If you don’t want a new card, or think you won’t qualify for a rewards card, it can still be advantageous to use your existing card can have advantages over paying your taxes through your bank account, even if it doesn’t have cash back. Credit cards give you a grace period from when you charge, to when you have to pay. Let’s suppose your card cycles on the eleventh of the month, so you pay your taxes on April 12. The next cycle ends on May 11 and your payment is due on June 11. That’s two extra months to hang onto your money and not incur any interest.

Considering a New Card Instead?

There are a lot of options out there, so you’ll want to think about which one would be most financially beneficial. Here’s an example: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card (read our review here) offers a 50,000 point signup bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

So, let’s suppose you have a $5,000 tax bill. After factoring in the fee, you spent $5,093.50, and you have 55,093 points available. If you cash out your points, you earn $550.93, a profit of $457.43. Not bad for a bill you were required to pay anyway. (It’s worth noting that this particular card does have a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.)

If you plan to travel, then your rewards could be redeemed for a bit more. When you use your Chase rewards points to book airfare, hotels, car rentals or a handful of other travel expenses, you get a 25% bonus. So that $550.93 actually turns into $688.66 toward travel expenses booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. In other words, you’ve just paid for a plane ticket to just about anywhere in the U.S. (Have a Chase rewards card? Check out these three hacks for using the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.)

Can’t Pay the Card Off Right Away?

Now, if you can’t afford to pay off the balance of your tax bill right away, the above is moot. Here’s why: There’s no introductory 0% APR on balance transfers or new purchases with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or many cards like it, so unless you can pay it off right away, you’re going to incur interest on that balance. This particular Chase card comes with a variable APR of 16.49% to 23.49% based on your creditworthiness, which would quickly offset any rewards you may earn.

If you can’t afford to pay your taxes right away, but you’re set on using your tax bill to net some nice rewards, there are some cards that offer a 0% APR on new purchases that can also give you some nice rewards, like the Discover it card.

The Discover it card (read our review here) comes with an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months. After the introductory period is over the APR will change to a variable 11.49% to 23.49%. When you use the Discover it card to pay your taxes, you will receive 1% cash back. Additionally, Discover will match all cash back earned for the first 12 months. That means, sticking with the $5,000 tax bill, the overall cost would be $5,093.50. Including the cash back match, you would earn $100 in cash back, making your overall profit $6.50. While this isn’t a lot of money, you were also given up to 14 months to pay off your bill without accruing interest, which may be an even bigger reward for some people.

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

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4 Ways Your Credit Card Can Help You Build Credit (For Real)

build_credit_credit_card

For plenty of people — and millennials especially — a credit card is a scary prospect. And we get why: Phenomenal spending power plus itty-bitty charging restrictions equals a major opportunity to go into debt.

But if you’re foregoing credit cards completely, you could be making it harder on yourself when it comes to another important facet of your finances: building a solid credit score. That’s because credit cards are fairly easy to qualify for — there’s actually a whole category of them designed specifically for people who need to build or rebuild. (You can monitor your progress by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Plus, while installment loans (think auto loan or mortgage) come with an automatic price tag and, more often than not, automatic interest, you don’t need to take on debt to build credit with a credit card. That’s actually a common misconception, but, trust us, no balance here required.

To help you how to best leverage your plastic, here are four ways a credit card can help you build credit.

1. You’ll Establish a Payment History

And that’s the number one most important factor when it comes to credit scores. Of course, to build good credit, you’ll want to make all of your credit card payments on-time. (One misstep can really cost you and your score.) To avoid any blemishes, set up alerts that reminds you when your due date approaches or even consider setting up auto-payments each month. Just be sure to keep an eye on your statements for any errors or fraudulent charges.

2. Its Limit Can Bolster Your Credit Utilization Rate

That’s how much debt you’re carrying versus your total credit. Experts generally recommend keeping your credit utilization below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your total available limit(s) — which is easier to do when you have a credit card you’re consistently paying off in full.

3. Your Credit Will Start to Age

And that’s a good thing because length of credit history accounts for about 15% of your credit scores. Length of credit history, also referred to as the age of your credit, is essentially how long you’ve had your credit lines. When it comes to building credit in this category, there’s little credit newbies can do, except, you know, wait. But because a credit card represents one of the easier points of entry into the financing world, that plastic in your wallet can help you get started.

4. You Could Be Rewarded for Having a Mix of Accounts

Credit scoring models like to see that you can manage different types of credit. So, if you’ve got an installment loan on your file — like, say, that student loan you took out to pay for college — adding a revolving line of credit, like a credit card or home equity line of credit, could improve your performance in this key credit category. Mix of accounts, or credit mix, accounts for roughly 10% of the points in your credit score.

Of course, there are ways to build credit outside of simply using your own credit card. That includes looking into credit-builder loans at your local bank or credit union or becoming an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card. (The account will appear on your credit file and bolster your performance in the aforementioned credit scoring categories, but you won’t be liable for the charges.) And if your credit is kind of shoddy, you can try disputing any errors on your credit report, limiting credit inquiries and addressing accounts in default. You can find a full 11 ways to improve your credit scores here.

Got a credit score question? Ask away in the comments section and one of our experts will try to help!

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Review: PenFed Launches 1.5% – 2% Power Cash Rewards Credit Card

PenFed, a credit union that anyone can join (more on that later) has just introduced a new cash back rewards credit card. The card pays a high, flat cash back rate and brings a credit union approach to fees (low and not many of them) and simplicity. Here are the details on the cash back that you can earn:

  • Anyone with military service earns 2% cash back on all spending, with no limits or restrictions. That is the highest flat cash back rate in the market.
  • Anyone with a PenFed checking account (restrictions apply) earns 2% cash back on all spending, with no limits or restrictions. (If you keep $500 in the checking account, there is no fee and you earn 0.20% APY on the money).
  • If you do not have military service or a checking account, you can earn 1.5% unlimited cash back. At 1.5%, the card matches Chase Freedom Unlimited or Capital One Quicksilver, but it is still beat by Citibank’s Double Cash.
  • There is a minimum redemption amount of $5 for the cash back that you have earned.
  • There is a bonus offer: get $100 of cash if you spend $1,500 during the first 90 days.

In addition to the cash back, here are some additional features:

  • Chip with pin functionality: if you travel overseas, you might find chip + signature limiting. For example, trying to use a card with only signature functionality at kiosks across Europe (like the London Underground) can be challenging.
  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
  • Variable APR range of 9.24% – 17.99%. If you have excellent credit, the lowest APR at Citi (on the Double Cash product) is 13.49%. For people who revolve occasionally, this could be a better option. (Although our advice remains to pay your balance in full and on time. If you need to borrow money, personal loans and balance transfers remain cheaper options).

Our Verdict

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Military: 2% is the gold standard for a flat rate cash back credit card, and PenFed delivers for men and women who have served. This is better than any competing flat-rate cash back credit cards because of the lower APR and lack of foreign transaction fees.

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Spending Abroad: If you use Citi Double Cash, you would be hit with a foreign transaction fee of 3%. So, you would earn 2% but be forced to pay 3% in fees. Before this card, Capital One Quicksilver was our top choice because of a 1.5% earn rate and no foreign transaction fees. PenFed’s card now wins because (a) if you put $500 into a PenFed checking account you can earn 2% on this card, and (b) the card offers chip and pin functionality. If you spend $1,000 overseas this year, you would pay $10 to Citi, (2% cash back – 3% fees = -1%), would earn $15 with Capital One and would earn $20 with PenFed.

Tie: Best Flat-Rate Cash Back Credit Card: With both Citi Double Cash and PenFed you can earn up to 2%. Each card has its own unique differences, which is why they are tied for best flat-rate card in the market.

  • PenFed: You need to join the credit union, open a checking account and fund the account with $500 (or sign up for direct deposit) to ensure you get the full 2% and avoid fees. Financially it will make sense, but there are a number of obstacles to get the full rewards (unless you are military).
  • Citi Double Cash: It is easy to apply and get the card (no credit union membership or Citi checking account required). However, the card is actually 1% as you earn and 1% as you pay, so it takes longer to get the full 2%. The interest rates are higher and there is a foreign transaction fee.

There are still options to earn higher cash back rates in certain categories. You can find the best cash back credit cards by every category here. For example, you can earn 5% unlimited on gas with Fort Knox Credit Union or 6% (with limitations) on groceries at American Express.

If you want to learn more or apply, you can visit PenFed’s website.

LearnMore

Requirements To Earn 2%

Here are the details on how to ensure you get the full 2% earn rate:

Military: You are eligible to earn 2% if the primary or joint applicant is in military service, the National Guard, the Reserves, an honorary discharged veteran or retired from the United States military. Military members receive the 2% upon completion of the application – no further action is required.

Checking Account: If you do not meet the military requirements, you would need to open a checking account with PenFed. The account is called the “AccessAmerica Checking Account.” There are some decent benefits to the account (you can earn 0.20% APY interest on balances up to $20,000 and 0.50% APY on balances between $20,000 and $50,000). If you shift your monthly direct deposit of at least $500 to this account, you will not have a monthly fee. However, if you do not want to shift your direct deposit, you can deposit $500 and keep it there to meet the required minimum balance. This is actually the easiest way to earn the 2%, cash back rate and, given the 0.20% interest on the checking account, it can be financially worthwhile.

Join the Credit Union: There are multiple ways to join the credit union. If you are active or retired military, you are eligible to join for free. If you work for the US government or are a relative of a member, you can also join for free. But don’t worry if you are unable to meet those requirements. You might belong to an eligible organization (check here). You can also join an organization to become eligible for credit union membership. You can pay $17.00 (one time and non-refundable) to join Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association. By supporting a good cause, you become eligible for credit union membership. In addition to the credit card, PenFed is known for low rates on auto loans and mortgages.

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These 5 Credit Cards Can Help You Reach Your 2017 Money Goals

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a new credit card may actually help you meet your 2017 money goals.

You start out every new year with the best of intentions — This is the year you’re going to go to the gym more, start eating better and finally pay off your credit card debt. Sound familiar?

It’s great to aspire to these big changes, but sometimes lofty goals can be hard to keep. After all, even if your goal is to shed a couple pounds, who can turn down the friend who brings cookies right out of the oven?

We can’t quite help you fit into your skinny jeans, but what if we told you it’s possible to achieve the financial successes you’re hoping for in 2017 without feeling like it’s an uphill battle? You may not believe this, but a credit card, so long as it’s used responsibly, can help. These pieces of plastic can make it easier for you to stick to your goals — maybe even surpass them — all while spending the way you usually would.

Remember, part of qualifying for new plastic is your credit score. So the first step in your journey is to find out where your credit stands. You can do this by taking a look at two of your free credit scores on Credit.com. Once you know what types of cards you’re eligible for, you can take the next step in the process of achieving your goal.

If Your Goal Is to Save for a Dream Vacation: Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card really captured everyone’s attention when it was announced last fall, thanks to its 100,000-point signup bonus. While that offer is no longer available online (you have until March 12 to apply in person at a branch), new card members can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. This equals $750 in travel rewards (like airfare or hotel rooms, for example) when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Best of all, there’s a $300 annual travel credit each year. Cardholders earn 3x the points on travel and dining. Just make sure your budget can handle the card before you apply: There’s a $450 annual fee and a 16.49% to 23.49% variable annual percentage rate (APR), depending on your creditworthiness.

If that $450 annual fee is a bit much for your budget, you may want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card (find the full review here). You’ll get two times the points on travel and at restaurants but only get hit with a $95 annual fee (waved the first year). 

If Your Goal Is to Put More Money Aside for Retirement: Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card

Sure, you can put money in your company 401K plan (which is a really smart idea, especially if your company matches your contributions). But you can take it one step further and use the spending you’re doing now to benefit you down the road. With the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature credit card, you’ll get 2% cash back on every net purchase deposited into your eligible Fidelity account. Best of all, there are no limits and no annual fee with this card. The variable APR for purchases is 14.49%.

If Your Goal Is to Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt: Citi Simplicity

Wait — are we really suggesting you get another credit card when you’re already carrying credit card debt? Yes. Well, sort of. First, you have to make sure you look at your budget and have a plan in place if you’re going to use a balance transfer credit card, as these cards can be really effective but come with a time limit.

Here’s what we mean: When you transfer your credit card balance to the Citi Simplicity credit card (full review here), you will enjoy 21 months with no interest charges. (Full Disclosure: Citibank, as well as Chase, Visa and Discover advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) That gives you almost two years to focus on paying down your balance without tacking on additional charges. (Note: After the introductory APR expires, the variable APR will be 13.49% to 23.49%, depending on creditworthiness.) You won’t be paying an annual fee with this card either.

Not sure how long it will take you to pay down your balance or how much you should be aiming to pay each month? Consider playing around with our credit card payoff calculator tool to see different possibilities.

If Your Goal Is to Develop Better Financial Habits: Citi Double Cash

Do you have a habit of missing deadlines, one of which includes paying your bills on time? Hey, we get it — life gets busy and the statement that came in the mail gets buried under other things on your kitchen counter. But paying your bills on time not only helps you avoid late fees, but will also have a positive effect on your credit scores (payment history is the largest influencer of your scores).

Even with all that said, sometimes a little extra motivation can help. Enter the Citi Double Cash credit card (read our review here). You’ll get 1% cash back on all your purchases, but there’s incentive to pay your statement off because, when you do, you earn another 1% cash back. That’s like being handed money for being responsible. These cash back rewards are unlimited, with no caps or category restrictions, and you can redeem them for statement credits, gift cards or checks. And if you do slip up again, you won’t get a late fee the first time it happens. There is no annual fee and your variable APR is 13.49% to 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. 

If Your Goal Is to Build Up Your Emergency Fund: Discover it Card

There are a lot of cash back cards on the market, all with different tiers and offerings. But one that is going to offer some of the biggest kickbacks is the Discover it credit card (you can read our review here).

Each quarter, there are new reward categories that offer you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases — through March this includes gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs — and an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Discover will match whatever cash back you’ve earned at the end of the first year. There’s no limit, no expiration date and no annual fees with this card, either. So as long as you’re paying on time so you don’t pay interest (there’s a variable 11.49% to 23.49% APR, after the 14-month 0% introductory rate expires) you’ll really be able to increase your rainy day savings.

At publishing time, the Citi Simplicity, Citi Double Cash card and Discover it cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuers. Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuers.

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

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4 Credit Card Terms You Can Totally Negotiate

There are some terms that won't change with your credit card, but there are also some things you may be able to negotiate with your credit card provider.

If you’re looking at a new credit card, you may have noticed that there are a lot of rules and restrictions that come with these pieces of plastic. Of course, there are some things that have to remain that way, but you may be surprised to know there are also some items you may not be beholden to if you simply ask. If you want to negotiate, however, you can’t expect your credit card company to come to you. You’ll need to bring your requests to the issuer along with reasons they should work with you on the matter. 

Here are four things you may be able to negotiate with your credit card company.

1. Payment Date

Your payment due date is typically set when you first receive your card. But if you need to change this date along the way, many credit card providers will be happy to do so. When you go to the issuer, it’s a good idea to have a date in mind you’d like to change to. For example, if you know you get paid on certain days of the month, you may want to change the due date to being around one of these times so you’ll be more likely to have the funds to make your payment.

Remember: Having a strong payment history will not only make you appear as a better customer to your issuer, but also help improve your credit scores (which may even make you eligible for better interest rates). Which brings us to our next point …

2. Interest Rates

If you’ve had your credit card for a few years and have spent that time improving your credit and managing your card responsibly, you may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate. Credit card companies want to keep you as an active customer, so they might renegotiate your interest rate if you mention your upstanding history … and some better offers you’ve found elsewhere.

3. Late Fees

If you typically make timely payments but missed one, your credit card company might waive the fee if you promptly make the payment and call to request the fee be waived. While they have no obligation to do so, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some cards even come with one-time or recurring late fee forgiveness, so be sure to check if that’s a feature with your card.

4. Credit Limit

Raising your credit limit increases your available card balance and can improve your credit scores because it improves your credit utilization rate. So even if you don’t plan to use the increased credit limit, it’s worth a request. (Just be aware, sometimes a request for a higher credit limit results in a credit pull and a credit inquiry on your credit report.)

Note: Just because you have a higher limit doesn’t mean you should be increasing your spending. Experts recommend keeping your debt levels at 30%, ideally 10%, of your credit limit. You can see how your credit card usage may be affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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9 Ways to Protect Your Credit While Holiday Shopping

Here are nine ways to protect yourself while shopping this holiday season.

The holiday shopping season isn’t just a favorite time for retailers, but also for scammers who are hoping to take advantage of all that extra spending you’re doing.

That’s why I want to urge you to use caution this year. It’s easy to be focused on trying to find everything on your list and miss some of the risky behaviors you might be engaging in.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself this holiday season.

1. Carry just one credit card with you and leave the rest at home. That way, you’ll minimize the risk if your wallet or purse is stolen.

2. Only shop at well-known stores. “Pop-up” stores are becoming increasingly popular, especially in major urban centers, but these stores may not always be legitimate, or they may not have the best payment security.

3. Cover your PIN when paying with your card so others can’t see it.

4. If shopping online, make sure the website is secure and provides a level of security and authenticity for your purchases.

5. Don’t lend your credit card to a family or friend. You may trust them, but you lose control of your card and if it’s stolen, it will be YOUR credit that could be affected.

6. Review charges while still in a store. It’s so easy to accidentally turn a $10.00 charge into a $100.00 charge.

7. Be cautious when filling out forms, such as those for home delivery, extended warranties, rain checks, etc. These forms contain a lot of personal information that can easily be used by a scammer or identity thief. Ensure that the form is received by a store employee.

8. Keep all receipts for every purchase you make. When your credit card statement arrives, sit down and go line by line through each purchase, comparing the purchase on the statement with your receipts. This seemingly daunting task will not take as long as you think it will, and your credit will benefit, since too much debt can hurt your credit scores.

9. Never spend more than you can immediately pay back. Even if the deal is really good, you’ll lose the benefit of the discount if you can’t pay off your credit card before you are charged interest, so set a budget.

The holidays can be a lot of fun and a good opportunity to get some deals, but make sure to follow these tips so you come out ahead and your credit is protected.

[Editor’s note: Regularly checking your credit scores can help you recognize quickly if you’ve been a victim of fraud. That’s because your scores can be vulnerable to major spending changes. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.]

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Move Over Black Friday: Holiday Retail Activity Expands Beyond the Day After Thanksgiving

If you can believe, the holiday shopping season is officially under way and with seasonal decorations appearing in some stores as early as October, we all feel like it starts earlier ever year.  Equifax was curious to know just when the holiday season starts and decided to look at  four years of data around consumer debt to understand consumer behaviors during the holiday season.

So what did they learn? First, consumers are continuing to focus their shopping around the days before and after Black Friday, although the day after Thanksgiving does continue to be a highly active. In fact, for the past four years, the Sundays before and after Black Friday have seen a fairly consistent 50 percent increase in the opening of retail credit card accounts over an average day in November or December. New retail credit card openings peak on Black Friday, when consumers on the average have continued to open nearly 3 times more retail credit card accounts.

They also found learned that since 2012, on the average, in November and December, furniture stores have been the top issuer of store credit ($851M), followed by department stores ($790M), jewelry ($451M), electronics ($365M) and clothing ($241M).

Gunnar Blix, Equifax Deputy Chief Economist, says that furniture stores tend to have high-value incentives linked to store credit which drive purchases and this likely accounts for their leading position in terms of credit issuance in the retail credit space.

He also points out that even with compelling incentives across all the shopping categories, since 2012 Equifax has been noticing a modest trend toward consumers showing more restraint in credit card usage.

To view an infographic with the full analysis, visit: Black Friday Historical Trends

How Long Might it Take for Credit Behaviors to Impact Your Credit Score?

If you’ve put a lot of work into establishing good credit habits—you’ve been making sure to pay every bill on time and you’ve been paying down your credit card debt—you might be wondering just how long it’ll be before you see these actions reflected in your credit score. The time between when you exhibit positive credit behavior and when credit for that behavior shows up on your report depends on many factors.

While there are some basic timelines for certain items on your credit report, every consumer’s experience is different. What follows are some things to think about if you’re wondering how long it might take to see your actions impact your credit score, and how long certain items might remain on your report.

Understanding your credit behavior

“Establishing a timeline will be unique to each consumer and dependent on what shape their credit report is in,” says Jo Kerstetter, spokesperson for Money Management International.

The reason behind this individual variation lies with your lenders—the credit card companies, banks, and mortgage companies who report your data to the CRAs. Lenders track and share your payment history, including a record of whether your payments were made in full and on time, but there is no universal date for when they share this information with the CRAs. Additionally, while some lenders may report behavior to all of the CRAs, others will report to only one CRA or to none at all, which accounts for the variations seen between your three credit scores.

Tom Coates, director of Consumer Credit of Des Moines, agrees. “Nothing significant is going to help you overnight,” he says, but adds that positive behaviors may add up over time.

Regularly reviewing your credit report may help you gain a better understanding of your past and current behavior and how your payment history may already be impacting your score. You are entitled to one annual free copy of your credit report from each of the three major CRAs. To request a copy of your report, visit Annualcreditreport.com.

Healthy credit habits

Your credit score may change daily, weekly, or only a few times throughout the month depending on how often your lenders report data to the CRAs. The important thing is to make sure you have been consistent in meeting payments.

“The key is to pay your bills on time every month,” says Kerstetter. Your payment history accounts for around 35 percent of your credit and is the largest factor in determining your score. While there are many factors that determine your score, one of the most important things to consider is to pay your bills on time, everytime.

“Positive information usually stays on your record as long as the accounts are open and in good standing,” Kerstetter says.

The next biggest contributing factor to determining your score is the amount owed across each of your accounts. Amounts owed account for about 30 percent of your score, which means that paying down a debt or carrying a lower total balance on your various lines of credit may also impact your score.

Late payments or bankruptcy

Negative information, such as late payments or a bankruptcy, may impact your score just as often as positive items, but where positive behavior is unlikely to fall off of your credit history, negative credit behavior has the opportunity to disappear—but only after varying lengths of time:

  • Hard inquiries. Hard inquiries typically fall off of your report after two years, but it may impact your score for even less time.
  • Late payments or similar negative behaviors are likely to remain on your credit report for up to seven years. An account left in collections can stay on for even longer, usually seven years and 180 days from the start of the payment delinquency, and unpaid tax liens can remain on you report for up to fifteen years.
  • Bankruptcy, generally remains on your credit history for up to 10 years however the exact amount of time will depend on the type of bankruptcy.

While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how long it may take for certain behaviors to impact your score, by establishing positive credit habits and maintaining them consistently, you may be in a better position to better understand your entire personal financial picture.

“Sometimes people get so lost on trying to get a better score, they don’t have their basic finances and their budget where they ought to,” Coates says.

5 Credit Cards That Reward Loyal Customers

loyalty-rewards

Are you the kind of person who likes to stick with something that works? A lot of people want to find the right credit card, use it for many years, and be rewarded for their loyalty. These rewards can take many forms, including discounts, perks, and additional rewards. These aren’t the kind of benefits anyone can get just for signing up, you have to be a cardmember for at least a year, or reach a certain spending threshold on your account.

Here are five credit cards that reward your loyalty.

1. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card rewards you for your loyalty as you’ll get a companion certificate each year when you renew your card, but not initially when you sign up. This means that you get to invite someone to fly on a domestic flight with you once a year as long as you renew your card, and only have to pay for taxes. This certificate is limited to economy class flights within the contiguous 48 states.

In addition, you earn two miles for every dollar you spend directly with Delta, and one mile per dollar spent on other purchases. The annual fee for this card is $195 and there are no foreign transaction fees.

2. Hyatt Visa Signature Card From Chase

This card offers you a free night stay at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel every year if you renew your card. This card also offers Platinum status at the Hyatt, which means you get access to perks such as expedited check-in, complimentary in-room internet and a 15% point bonus on any eligible purchases. Other benefits include earning three points for every dollar spent on any Hyatt properties, double points for every dollar spent on flights, car rentals or restaurants, and one point on any other purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees for this card and the annual fee is $75.

3. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card from US Bank

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card grants you Gold Elite Status for your Club Carlson membership as soon as you activate and use your card. If you already have that status, you get 15 qualifying nights either towards getting or maintaining Elite status. And whenever you renew your card, you’ll get 40,000 bonus points.

This card also rewards those who use it often throughout the year. If you spend at least $10,000 and then renew your card, then you’ll earn a free night at any qualifying hotel. The annual fee for this card is $75 and there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

4. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card From Chase

This card rewards you for your loyalty by giving you Gold Elite Status benefits in the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program whenever you spend $10,000 or more annually. These benefits include complimentary in-room internet access and other exclusive bonuses. If you spend $75,000 or more, you get upgraded to Platinum Elite status.

This card offers five points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Hotels, double points for airline, car rental and restaurant purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Other benefits include Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and a $300 annual air travel credit.

When staying at Ritz-Carlton hotels, you will also receive three Club Level upgrades each year and a $100 hotel credit toward dining, spa or other hotel recreational activities on paid stays of two nights or longer. There’s an annual fee of $450 and no foreign transaction fees.

5. JetBlue Plus Card from Barclaycard

The JetBlue Plus card rewards loyal customers by giving them TrueBlue Mosaic benefits (JetBlue’s elite status) for a year whenever cardmembers spend at least $50,000 annually. Some of these benefits include having up to two free checked bags, priority boarding, waived cancellation fees, a dedicated check-in area, and 15,000 bonus points.

This card also offers 6x points for JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Other benefits include a 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases and 10% of your points back every time you redeem them. This card has an annual fee of $99 with no foreign transaction fees.

It’s prudent not to spend beyond your budget when using rewards credit cards. Spending too much and not paying off your credit card balances can negatively effect your credit score, which affects your ability to get lower interest loans, mortgages and other card offers.  If you’d like to see where your credit stands, you can see two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Jet Blue Plus credit card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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: Goodluz

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