If You’re a Tech Nerd, You’ll Love These 4 Credit Cards

Whether you’re building a top-notch gaming PC or itching for the latest smartphone, there are credit cards that can help tech nerds.

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

It’s easy to love technology these days, as gadgets and tech are ubiquitous. There’s an app for nearly everything. According to Pew Research, more than three-quarters of Americans have smartphones. But true tech enthusiasts take it up a notch, following the industry to learn the latest developments and to hunt down the best hardware and software.

Whether you’re building a top-notch gaming PC or itching for the latest smartphone, there are credit cards that can help tech fanatics.

1. My Best Buy Visa Card

Rewards: 5% back on Best Buy purchases (6% for Elite Plus members), 3% back on gas, air travel and ground transportation through September 2017, 2% back on dining and grocery purchases, 1% back on everything else
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 26.24%
Why We Picked It: This card earns rewards for Best Buy purchases.
Tech Benefits: All purchases earn rewards, with strong extra incentives for Best Buy purchases and other spending types. Earned rewards can be used toward future Best Buy purchases.
Drawbacks: If you don’t spend a lot at Best Buy, this card isn’t a good fit. The APR is high.

2. Discover it Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on rotating purchase categories, 1% cash back on other purchases
Signup Bonus: Discover will match all cash back earned in the first year.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 11.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: The upcoming spending category can help you save big on gadgets, and you can link your card to mobile pay.
Tech Benefits: Discover offers 5% cash back on spending categories that rotate each quarter. From October to December this year, the spending category is Amazon.com purchases, which means you’ll save big on any gadgets ordered with the online retail giant. Plus, if you prefer to pay by mobile wallet, you can link your Discover card and earn cash back that way.
Drawbacks: Spending categories won’t always be tech-friendly, and purchases outside those categories only earn 1% cash back.

3. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Signup Bonus: $200 bonus cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 25.99%
Why We Picked It: There’s a strong incentive for mobile pay and you get great cell phone protection.
Tech Benefits: All purchases earn 1.5% cash back. For one year, you’ll get a special 1.8% cash back rate on mobile wallet purchases when you link your card to an Android Pay or Apple Pay account. Plus, the card comes with cell phone protection on up to four lines, for up to $600 per occurrence and $1,200 in total coverage each year.
Drawbacks: Cell phone protection is only available if you use your credit card to pay your cellular bill.

4. AT&T Access Card From Citi

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent online at retail and travel websites, two points per dollar spent on products and services purchased from AT&T, one point per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 10,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: Variable 14.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: If you’re constantly shopping online or updating your gadgets and smartphones with AT&T, you can easily rack up rewards points. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Tech Benefits: You’ll earn two points per dollar for online retail and travel purchases and AT&T purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points are redeemable for electronics, gift cards, travel and more. Plus, with Citi Price Rewind, Citi will automatically search for lower prices on registered purchases. If they find a lower price within 60 days of your purchase, you can receive a reimbursement on the difference.
Drawbacks: If you aren’t an AT&T customer, this card won’t offer as much value.

How to Choose a Card for Your Tech Spending

Many credit cards have features with obvious ties to tech, including strong purchase protections, extended warranties or cash back at specific retailers. You should consider your specific tech needs before choosing a card. If you’re hard on your gadgets, you may want a credit card with strong product protection policies. If you tend to buy electronics as soon as they come out, price protection can help you save cash if the item in question goes on sale.

You’ll also want to consider where you tend to make your tech purchases. If you’re loyal to one store, you may want to see if they have a branded credit card. If you’re agnostic, you’ll want a card that can reward you no matter where you get your gadgets.

However, if you need a card for more than just tech, you may want one that rewards your overall spending habits. For instance, a card with a strong flat cash back rate on all purchases can help you earn cash at the electronics store and at the supermarket.

What Is Required to Get a Credit Card for Tech Purchases?

Cards that provide spending rewards and strong purchase protection policies usually require good to excellent credit. You should be confident in your credit before you apply, because a hard credit inquiry initiated by a credit card application can lower your credit score. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Discover it and Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa credit cards 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.

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Mortgages Are Bad for the Environment. Here’s What Can You Do About It.

Just how much paperwork is consumed annually by Americans buying homes may come as a bit of a surprise.

It’s no secret that the mortgage process is paper intensive. But exactly how much paperwork Americans buying homes consume annually may come as a surprise.

A report from the mortgage education website FreeandClear revealed that about 2.2 billion sheets of paper are used each year in this country for mortgages. That translates into 264,000 trees felled to print mortgage documentation. Beyond wood usage, “paper production involves considerable energy and water consumption, and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions and waste,” noted the report.

The company’s report is based in part on data from a 2016 Federal Reserve Bulletin, which said an average of 7.8 million mortgages are processed each year in this country. When that figure is multiplied by the approximately 280 sheets of paper FreeandClear said are used in an individual mortgage, you arrive at 2.2 billion.

To further quantify the environmental impact of this paper usage, FreeandClear tapped Environmental Paper Network, a nonprofit focused on issues surrounding paper production and consumption.

EPN used its “paper calculator” to determine the number of trees required for a year’s worth of mortgage paperwork. Their estimate of 264,000 is based on a calculation involving the total reams of paper required for 2.2 billion sheets of paper and the specific tonnage of trees necessary to produce those reams.

So what can be done about the paper intensive mortgage process?

Florida-based Digital Risk LLC is developing products to allow more of the process to be conducted via digital technology. Over the next several years, there will likely be a shift to greater usage of paper-free technology like e-signatures and the ability to review documents online or on your phone, said Digital Risk vice president Leo Loomie.

“A lot of strides have been made within the last year to move away from the historically paper intensive process,” said Loomie. “The technology is already there. It really just comes down to adoption.”

Here are some actions you can take to help reduce the amount of paper used when buying a home.

Do Your Research 

Though it only represents a small fraction of the process, many mortgage lenders have already switched to online loan applications.

“These lenders are beginning to make the transition to a paperless system,” said Tim Milauskas, a loan originator at First Home Mortgage in Maryland. “In many cases, borrowers can now create a secure online portal and upload their documentation directly to the lender rather than print out documents and hand-deliver them.”

Capstone Direct Mortgage Financing, in Thousand Oaks, California, is one such example. Over the past several years, the company has made a concerted effort to use less paper.

“We offer the ability to take your application online, save a pre-approval online and upload all of your paperwork to our (electronic document) system,” said Capstone founder Mike Wise. “We are trying to minimize any paper we use in our office and what we get from the borrower.”

Also on the horizon, said Milauskas, are automated systems that allow lenders to go directly to third parties to obtain financial information required from the borrower. One example includes lenders being able to access an applicant’s bank statements directly from the bank, rather than the applicant providing copies. (Here’s what you need to get a home loan fully approved, including your credit score. You can see where your credit stands for free on Credit.com.)

Ask Questions When Shopping Around

As you’re hunting around for the best mortgage rate and for the lender that best fits your needs, you can also obtain information about how technologically advanced a lender may be.

“Say to them, ‘I want this to be a streamlined, paperless process, do you offer that?’ ” said Loomie. “Ask them, ‘If it’s not entirely paperless, is it mostly paperless?’ ”

Many lenders and brokers allow loan applications to be completed electronically, but the vast majority of the paperwork associated with a mortgage comes at the closing, where wet signatures are still the standard. (Here’s how to plan for closing costs.)

Don’t Ignore Surveys 

Surveys represent an opportunity to weigh in on the mortgage process and effect change.

“A lot of folks look at surveys and say it’s not worth my time,” said Loomie. “I can say unequivocally that’s not the case, particularly in the mortgage industry. The surveys are very influential. Both large and small financial institutions put a lot of weight on the customer experience, they read your responses and deeply analyze and track customer feedback.”

In other words, use the survey to tell the mortgage industry you’d like it to use less paper.

“You can say, ‘If I knew how much paper was going to be used, I would have gone to a different lender,’” said Loomie. “And that sort of thing can be done throughout the process. Ask questions all along the way. Say, ‘Hey, why did you make me fax this when I know there are institutions that allow me to directly integrate this information online?’ The customer feedback will drive the adoption. They known being green is very important to customers.”

Lobby for Change

Customer service surveys are not the only place to voice your opinion. Reach out to officials at all levels — brokers, banks, regulators, elected officials and more, said Kim Porter of Environmental Paper Network.

“One of the positives about FreeandClear making this known is a greater awareness among people who want to see less waste,” Porter said. “People can start talking to companies and elected officials, and they can use their dollars wisely, choosing to work with companies who are advocating for less wasteful practices.”

Image: Weekend Images Inc. 

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The Back-to-School Item That’s Becoming Less Popular

back_to_school_gadgets

Tablet sales have been shrinking for some time, but there’s fresh evidence that the market for the devices is in distress: Shoppers spending big on back-to-school gadgets expect to buy more external hard drives than new tablets, according to a new survey. And even while spending on back-to-school tech is expected to surge, spending on tablets for school is falling.

Back-to-school is the second-most important season for gadget sellers behind the end-of-year holidays. The survey, by the Consumer Technology Association, found that consumers expect to spend $18.5 billion this year on calculators, laptops, and other gadgets, outpacing last year by 6.2%.

Practicality seems to be the driving factor behind the most-desired gadgets, with 71% of consumers saying they will buy portable memory, and 55% saying they will buy a calculator.

Overall, the optimism bodes well for tech makers and sellers, the CTA says.

“Early back-to-school promotions are building interest and momentum for the second-largest shopping event of the year,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for CTA, in a prepared statement. “Deals on the tech items for back-to-school including 2-1 laptops, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, tablets and more are creating excitement among consumers. This consumer enthusiasm also bodes well for tech sales across the second half of the year.”

On the other hand, while 44% say they’ll buy a new laptop, only half that number, 22%, will buy a tablet.

Here’s the CTA’s list of top 10 gadgets that back-to-school shoppers expect to buy.

  1. Portable memory (71%)
  2. Basic calculator (55%)
  3. Headphones (52%)
  4. Scientific/graphing calculator (51%)
  5. Carrying or protective case (48%)
  6. Laptop (44%)
  7. Software for computer (39%)
  8. External hard drive (23%)
  9. Tablet (22%)
  10. Product subscription service (22%)

The poor tablet results square with sales figures from market researcher IDC, which has reported tablets falling out of favor for more than a year. In its latest research, IDC said that tablet shipments fell 12% compared to the same quarter last year. Only tablets that mimic laptops — sometimes called detachables — saw growth, but those still represent a small portion of the tablet market.

“The market has spoken as consumers and enterprises seek more productive form factors and operating systems — it’s the reason we’re seeing continued growth in detachables,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC, said in a report.

In the end, tablets have struggled to find a place as a third gadget in consumers’ lives, alongside personal computers and mobile phones. In addition, larger phones that can do almost everything tablets can have squeezed out tablets. Also, when tablet sales first started to slump back in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that upgrade cycles for tablets had been longer than expected, and definitely longer than cell phones. Consumers who bought one tablet didn’t see the need to upgrade.

Still overall, both Synchrony Financial and the Consumer Technology Association predict brisk tech sales this August. Synchrony, which predicted an overall sales increase of 2.7%-3.7%, said spending on tech will rival spending on new clothes.

Remember, if you’re looking to buy new gadgets this school year, it’s important to stay on budget. High credit card balances and other debts can damage your credit. To see how your debts and spending habits are affecting your finances, you can view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com. And, if you’ve already overspent, you can read this guide for tips on getting out of debt.

Image: Massimo Merlini

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