What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It?

Foreign transaction fees are irritating little charges that every traveler has faced, and most credit card users have questioned. They are the bane of a frequent flyer’s life and if not managed carefully, could result in some serious charges. But what are these charges, why do they exist, what’s the average fee, and how can you avoid them?

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge levied every time you make a payment in a foreign currency or transfer money through a foreign bank. These fees are charged by credit card networks and issuers, often totaling around 3%.

For example, imagine that you’re on holiday in the United Kingdom, where all transactions occur in Pound Sterling. You go out for a meal and use your credit card to pay a bill of £150. Your credit card issuer first converts this sum into US Dollars and then charges a foreign transaction fee, after which the network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) will do the same.

If we assume that £150 equates to exactly $200, this will show on your credit card statement first followed by a separate foreign transaction fee of $6.

When Will You Pay Foreign Transaction Fees?

If you’re moving money from a US bank account to an international account in a different currency, there’s a good chance you will be hit with foreign transaction fees and may also be charged additional transfer fees. More commonly, these fees are charged every time you make a payment in a foreign currency.

Many years ago, foreign transaction fees were limited to purchases made in other currencies, but they are now charged for online purchases as well. If the site you’re using is based in another country, there’s a good chance you’ll face these charges.

It isn’t always easy to know in advance whether these fees will be charged or not. Many foreign based sites use software that automatically detects your location and changes the currency as soon as you visit. To you, it seems like everything is listed in dollars, but you may actually be paying in a foreign currency.

Other Issues that American Travelers Face 

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only issue you will encounter when trying to use American reward credit cards abroad. If we return to the previous example of a holiday in the UK, you may discover that the restaurant doesn’t accept your credit card at all.

In the UK, as in the US, Visa and MasterCard are the two most common credit card networks and are accepted anywhere you can use a credit or debit card. However, while Discover is the third most common network in the US, it’s all but non-existent in the UK. 

Discover has claimed that the card has “moderate” acceptance in the UK, but this is a generous description and unless you’re shopping in locations that tailor for many tourists and American tourists in particular, it likely won’t be accepted.

There are similar issues with American Express, albeit to a lesser extent. AMEX is the third most common provider in the UK, but finding a retailer that actually accepts this card is very hit and miss.

Do Foreign Transaction Fees Count Towards Credit Card Rewards?

Foreign transaction fees, and all other bank and credit card fees, do not count towards your rewards total but the initial charge does. If we return to the previous example of a $200 restaurant payment, you will earn reward points on that $200 but not on the additional $6 that you pay in fees.

How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge them. Some premium cards and reward cards will absorb the fee charged for these transactions, which means you can take your credit card with you when you travel and don’t have to worry about extra charges.

This is key, because simply converting your dollars to your target currency isn’t the best way to avoid foreign transaction fees. A currency conversion will come with its own fees and it’s also very risky to carry large sums of cash with you when you’re on vacation. 

Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

All credit card offers are required to clearly state a host of basic features, including interest rates, reward schemes, and annual fees. However, you may need to do a little digging to learn about foreign transaction fees. These fees can be found in the credit card’s terms and conditions, which should be listed in full on the provider’s website.

To get you started, here are a few credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees:

  1. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: A high-reward and low-fee credit card backed by the Bank of America.
  2. Capital One: All Capital One cards are free of foreign transaction fees, including their reward cards, such as the Venture card.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred: A premium rewards card aimed at big spenders. There is an annual fee, but not foreign transaction fees.
  4. Citi Prestige: One of several Citi cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the best one in terms of rewards. 
  5. Discover It: A solid all-round credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, as noted above, the Discover network is rare outside of the United States.
  6. Wells Fargo Propel World: An American Express credit card with good rewards and low fees, including no foreign transaction fees.

Summary: One of Many Fees

Foreign transaction fees are just some of the many fees you could be paying every month. Credit cards work on a system of rewards and penalties; you’re rewarded when you make qualifying purchases and penalized when you make payments in foreign currencies and in casinos, and when you use your card to withdraw cash.

Many of these fees are fixed as a percentage of your total spend, but some also charge interest and you will pay this even if you clear your balance in full every month. To avoid being hit with these fees, pay attention to the terms and conditions and look for cards that won’t punish you for the things you do regularly.

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Before you make any big financial decision, it’s crucial to learn how it may affect your credit score. If you’re looking to refinance, it’s natural to wonder if it might hurt your credit.

Typically, your credit health will not be strongly affected by refinancing, but the answer isn’t always black and white. Whether you’re still considering your options or already made your choice, we’ve outlined what you need to know about refinancing below.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing is defined by taking on a new loan to pay off the balance of your existing loan balance. How you approach a refinancing decision depends on whether it’s for a home, car, student loan, or personal loan. Since refinancing is essentially replacing an existing debt obligation with another debt obligation under different terms, it’s not a decision to take lightly.

If you’re worried about how refinancing will affect your credit health, remember that there are multiple factors that play into whether or not it hurts your credit score, but the top three factors are:

1) Having a Solid Credit Score

You won’t be in a strong position to negotiate refinancing terms without decent credit.

2) Earning Sufficient Income

If you can’t prove that you can keep up with loan payments after refinancing, it won’t be possible.

3) Proving Sufficient Equity

You’ll also need to provide assurance that the payments will still be made if your income can’t cover the cost. It’s recommended that you should have at least a 20 percent equity in a property when refinancing a home.

 

criteria-for-being-able-to-refinance-successfully

 

How Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Refinancing might seem like a good option, but exactly how does refinancing hurt your credit? In short, refinancing may temporarily lower your credit score. As a reminder, the main loan-related factors that affect credit scores are credit inquiries and changes to loan balances and terms.

Credit Inquiries

Whenever you refinance, lenders run a hard credit inquiry to verify your credit score. Hard credit inquiries typically lower your credit scores by a few points. Try to avoid incurring several new inquiries by using smart rate shopping tactics. It also helps to get all your applications in during a 14–45 day window.

Keep in mind that credit inquiries made during a 14–45 day period could count as one inquiry when your scores are calculated, depending on the type of loan and its scoring model. Regardless, your credit won’t be permanently damaged because the impact of a hard inquiry on your credit decreases over time anyway.

Changes to Loan Balances and Terms

How much your credit score is impacted by changes to loan balances and terms depends on whether your refinanced loan is reported to the credit bureaus. Lenders may report it as the same loan with changes or as an entirely new loan with a new open date.

If your loan from refinancing is reported as a new loan, your credit score could be more prominently affected. This is because a new or recent open date usually means that it is a new credit obligation, therefore influencing the score more than if the terms of the existing loan are simply changed.

How Do Common Types of Refinancing Affect Your Credit?

Refinancing could help you pay off your loans quicker, which could actually improve your credit. However, there are multiple factors to keep in mind when refinancing different types of loans.

 

main-types-of-refinancing-that-can-affect-your-credit

 

Refinancing a Mortgage

Refinancing a mortgage has the biggest potential impact on your credit health, and it can definitely affect your FICO score. How can you prevent refinancing from hurting your credit too much? Try concentrating your credit inquiries when you shop mortgage rates to a 14–45 day window — this will help prevent multiple hard inquiries. Also, you can work with your lenders to avoid having them all run your credit, which could risk lowering your credit score.

If you’re unsure about when to refinance your mortgage, do your research to capitalize on the best timing. For example, refinancing your mortgage while rates are low could be a viable option for you — but it depends on your situation. Keep in mind that losing your record of paying an old mortgage on time could be harmful to your credit score. A cash-out refinance could be detrimental, too.

Refinancing an Auto Loan

As you figure out if refinancing your auto loan is worth it, be sure to do your due diligence. When refinancing an auto loan, you’re taking out a second loan to pay off your existing car debt. In some cases, refinancing a car loan could be a wise move that could reduce your interest rate or monthly payments. For example, if you’re dealing with an upside-down auto loan, you might consider refinancing.

However, there are many factors to consider before making an auto loan refinancing decision. If the loan with a lower monthly payment has a longer term agreement, will you be comfortable with that? After all, the longer it takes to pay off your car, the more likely it is to depreciate in value.

Refinancing Student Loans

When it comes to student loan refinancing, a lower interest rate could lead to major savings. Whether you’ve built up your own strong credit history or benefit from a cosigner, refinancing can be rewarding.

Usually, you can refinance both your federal and private student loans. Generally speaking, refinancing your student loans shouldn’t be detrimental in the grand scheme of your financial future. However, be aware that refinancing from a federal loan to a private loan will have an impact on the repayment options available to you. Since federal loans can offer significantly better repayment options than private loans, keep that in mind before making your decision.

Pros Cons
If the cost of borrowing is low, securing a lower interest rate is possible Credit scores can drop due to credit checks from lenders
If your credit score greatly improved, you can refinance to get a better rate Credit history can be negatively affected by closing a previous loan to refinance
Refinancing a loan can help you lower expenses in both the short term and long term Refinancing can involve fees, so be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis

How to Prevent Refinancing from Hurting Your Credit

By planning ahead, you can put yourself in a position to not let refinancing negatively affect your credit and overall financial health.

Try to prepare by reading your credit reports closely, making sure there are no errors that could keep your credit application from being approved at the best possible rate. Stay one step ahead of any errors so you still have time to dispute them. As long as you take preventative measures in the refinancing process to save yourself time and money, you shouldn’t find yourself struggling with the refinancing.

If refinancing makes sense for your situation, you shouldn’t be concerned about it hurting your credit. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it’s extremely common and typically relatively easy for your credit score to bounce back.

If you notice that your new loan from refinancing causes alarming changes when you check your credit score, be sure to reach out to your creditor or consider filing a dispute. As long as you’re prioritizing your overall financial health through smart decision making and budgeting, refinancing shouldn’t adversely hurt your credit in the long run.

 

 

 

The post Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Best cards for food delivery and meal kit subscriptions

Credit cards for foodies are the latest trend, with more and more rewards programs and additional card benefits catering to both dining in and eating out. Restaurant and grocery bonus categories are becoming commonplace – letting cardholders rack up a few extra points or cash back on those purchases.

But what about those who prefer to order delivery? If you like to take advantage of popular food delivery services like DoorDash or Uber Eats or simplify cooking with a meal kit subscription, there are plenty of credit card rewards and benefits you can leverage to save a little money.

Finding the best card for your favorite services

Finding the best card for your favorite food delivery or meal kit service depends on a variety of factors, including the card’s yearly credits, special perks or rewards rate. For example, many dining cards offer bonuses that are tailored to a specific delivery service, as a monthly Uber credit.

See related: Food delivery perks on luxury travel cards

For meal kit services, matching rewards is a little more complicated. You could opt for a rewarding grocery card, as many meal kit brands are now partnered with major supermarkets – so you can buy them in the store.

Alternatively, a card that earns rewards on dining or online shopping can help you get rewards on both food delivery and meal kits. Earning dining rewards can be complicated, as not all delivery services have a merchant category code that qualifies for a point or cash back bonus. You can test it by making a small charge to your card and seeing what rewards you earn.

Online shopping rewards, on the other hand, are much more flexible. They apply to both web and app purchases, so whether your order from your phone or computer, you can rack up bonus points or cash back.

Best cards by delivery service or meal kit subscription

With all this in mind, here are some of our favorite cards for some of the most popular food delivery and meal kit subscription services.

Delivery service Card Rewards rate Why we like it
DoorDash Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
  • 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • Generous rate on dining purchases
  • Receive a yearly statement credit for DoorDash purchases ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021)
  • Get at least one free year of DashPass when you enroll with your card (activate by Dec. 31, 2021)
Uber Eats The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months of card membership
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 5 points per dollar on eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Get up to $200 in Uber credits per year ($15 per month, plus an extra $20 in December), which can be applied to Uber Eats
  • Up to 12 months of complimentary Uber Eats Pass when you enroll before Dec. 31, 2021
  • Automatic Uber VIP membership (where available) without ride requirements
Instacart Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • 8% cash back on Vivid Seats tickets (through January 2022)
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Top-tier cash back on restaurant delivery, including most delivery services
  • Grocery bonus category includes eligible grocery delivery services, including Instacart
  • As a Mastercard, offers complimentary a 2-month Instacart Express membership if enrolled before March 31, 2021
Grubhub/Seamless/Boxed/Instacart/Uber Eats American Express® Gold Card
  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, including Uber Eats orders
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Enroll to receive up to $10 in statement credits per month (up to $120 per year) to use at participating restaurants, including Grubhub, Seamless and Boxed
  • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month), which can be applied to U.S. Uber Eats orders (Gold card must be added to the Uber app)
  • Up to 12 months of complimentary Uber Eats Pass when you enroll before Dec. 31, 2021 (Uber Eats Pass will auto-bill starting 12 months from initial enrollment in this offer, at then-current monthly rate)
  • Excellent rewards on grocery delivery services, such as Instacart
HelloFresh Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%)
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit purchases
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Generous rate on U.S. supermarket purchases (HelloFresh meal kits are sold in supermarkets such as H-E-B and Giant Food) and eligible grocery delivery services, such as Instacart
  • Unlimited 3% cash back on delivery purchases from ride-share services, like Uber and Lyft
Home Chef Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back general purchases
  • Terms apply
  • Generous rate on U.S. supermarket purchases (Home Chef meal kits are sold in select Kroger locations)
Other delivery services Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
  • 3% cash back on a category of choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • $2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Generous rate on online shopping purchases (if you select it as your 3% category) and good rate at grocery stores
  • Can swap choice 3% category monthly to account for different delivery services. For instance, the dining category rewards Grubhub purchases and the travel category rewards ride share purchases from services like Uber

If you don’t have a delivery service you prefer – or if you like to switch back and forth based on restaurant availability – a card with rewards on online shopping is your best bet.

Bottom line

Ordering food can be expensive, but using the right rewards card can help you alleviate some of that cost by racking up points or cash back. With some cards, you might even get a few extras that cover your next couple of meals.

Source: creditcards.com

Mortgage Rate vs. APR: What to Watch For

It’s time for another mortgage match-up: “Mortgage rate vs. APR.” If you’re shopping for real estate or looking to refinance, and you’ve seen a certain mortgage rate advertised, you may have noticed a second, similar percentage adjacent to or below that interest rate, possibly in smaller, fine print. But why? Well, one is the mortgage [&hellip

The post Mortgage Rate vs. APR: What to Watch For first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

10 Things to Know About Living in Las Vegas

When we think of Las Vegas, it often has a connotation of big parties, gambling and expensive fun. Most people who go to the Entertainment Capital of the World are there for a good time and want to experience the food, shows and casinos. But what’s it like for the locals who are working and living in Las Vegas?

It’s a fairly big city, and residents have access to all of the fun and excitement as other out-of-town visitors. But every day isn’t a party when you’re living there — people have homes, families and careers to think about.

There are lots of surprising aspects of living in Sin City, and it just might be the kind of scene you’re looking for.

1. Get ready for discounts

In the Entertainment Capital of the World, many hotels, casinos and even restaurants give discounts to those who live locally. That means you’ll get discounts on Las Vegas attractions, spas and even shows, such as Cirque du Soleil, so you can enjoy the perks of the city without draining your bank account.

2. There are lots of pools — and you’ll be grateful for them

pool

Since it can get pretty hot and be fairly warm for eight or nine months out of the year, many residents in Las Vegas have pools. Most apartment complexes have pools, but if yours doesn’t have one, you’ll inevitably have friends with access to a pool. Or, you can head to one of the hotels with a luxury pool for a little weekend staycation.

Whatever pools you can access, you’ll be glad you have them. There are plenty of days when it’s too hot to do much else outdoors and slipping into the cool water might be the only thing that keeps you sane.

3. The heat is extreme

Most people haven’t experienced Vegas-style heat — we’re talking 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more on some days during the summer. That might sound bearable when you can hang out in the pool all day, but at temperatures climb that high, even a pool will feel like a hot tub.

When it gets unbearably hot, you can plan on hanging out inside with the air conditioner cranked up and eating popsicles all day long to stay cool.

4. Grocery stores are extra convenient

Being known as one of the cities that never sleeps, most Las Vegas grocery and convenience stores are open 24/7, so you can head out and get what you need without checking the time and worrying that stores will be closed. Plus, wine, beer and spirits are sold in the majority of grocery stores.

5. It’s surprisingly affordable

Most larger, well-known cities are quite expensive when you take housing, transportation and food into account. But living in Las Vegas is surprisingly affordable — it’s actually one of the most inexpensive places to live in Nevada. The cost of living in most categories is quite close to the national average, which is surprising for a larger city.

It has a thriving housing market, where there are plenty of homes available for fairly reasonable prices, and rent isn’t sky-high. The average rent in 2020 for a one-bedroom apartment is a little more than $1,200 a month — well below the national average of $1,600. And because there are plenty of quiet suburbs outside of the Strip and downtown areas, there are lots of supermarkets, restaurants and shopping malls readily available.

Most of the expensive places, whether they’re high-end stores or five-star restaurants, are located on the Strip or in downtown Vegas. Outside of that, most stores and restaurants in the valley are affordable and easily accessible to the locals.

You’ll rarely have to pay for parking, which is uncommon in a big city. Since hotels often have stores and attractions within them and casinos want people to come inside and play, they often will have free parking garages to attract potential customers.

6. There’s unique outdoor recreation

valley of fire

Las Vegas isn’t usually known for its camping and hiking scene, but there are some fun and different places to explore in the area. Some of the best spots are Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. You can even go skiing during the winter months at Mt. Charleston, which is a reasonably short drive from the city.

And if that’s not enough for you, you’ll only be a few hours away from the state and national parks of Utah and California.

7. It’s best to have a car

In many bigger cities, there’s great public transportation, and it’s often preferred by the locals because of high parking costs and traffic congestion. But most Las Vegas residents don’t rely on public transportation to get around, and many people own cars.

Although there’s some public transportation, it’s mostly buses — the city is quite sprawling, making public transportation an extremely time-consuming option, especially if you’re going from one end to the other.

As far as driving goes, the most traffic-heavy places in the city are downtown and the Strip, and most other places aren’t too bad. Just beware of the Spaghetti Bowl, which is where multiple freeways merge together near downtown — traffic can get pretty congested there during rush hour.

8. No more state income tax

Unless you’re moving to Las Vegas from one of the other few states that doesn’t have an income tax, this will be a happy surprise. Nevada doesn’t have a personal income tax or corporate income tax.

9. Major league sports are coming in hot

In just the last few years, Sin City has become home to two major-league sports teams. The Raiders football team relocated there from Oakland earlier this year, giving residents something to be happy about, despite the other events of 2020.

But perhaps the most exciting thing was the creation of the Golden Knights, an NHL team that now plays in Vegas. When the team was first created, many people had low expectations — but the team ended up getting within only a few games of winning the Stanley Cup in its very first season. So, even if you’re not a hockey fan now, you’ll definitely become one when you move to Vegas.

10. Watch out for desert critters

scorpion

Most of us have had spiders or ants get in the house — that’s going to happen no matter where you live in the U.S. But have you dealt with cockroaches, lizards and scorpions?

While scorpions aren’t an everyday thing, you should still be aware of them and know that they could show up in your yard. And although most of the lizards are harmless, it can still be unsettling to see them basking in the sun all over the rocks around your home. But the cockroaches are something else. You’ll want to invest in good pest control because they’ll find a way to sneak into your bathroom and kitchen, even if you live on the fifth floor of a building.

If you have a pet, keep in mind that their food will attract more roaches, so keep their bowl in a high-traffic area of your house to ward off the pesky little critters. And make sure you seal the excess food in a container or bag so you don’t reach in and scoop up a handful of cockroaches when your pet is hungry.

Living in Las Vegas is full of surprises

In spite of its nickname being “Sin City,” living in Las Vegas can be a great experience. It’s a diverse place and contains all of the perks of a big city without the cost and without feeling like such a busy, overcrowded place all the time. The longer you live in Vegas, the more the city will surprise you.

The post 10 Things to Know About Living in Las Vegas appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

7 Key Home-Buying Numbers to Know When Shopping for a House

There’s a lot that goes into buying a new home, starting with finding the right one all the way down to finalizing the paperwork. Somewhere in that process, you’ll likely find yourself trying to decipher myriad new terms and figuring out what they mean for you.

We’ve compiled this list of seven key numbers you’ll need to know when buying a home — plus the details on how understanding these terms can help you land your dream home.

Here are seven all-important home-buying numbers to know.

1. Cost per Square Foot

One of the first numbers you’ll encounter when shopping for homes is cost per square foot. While this number is based on a relatively simple calculation, it’s an important one to understand since ultimately it helps you determine how much house you’re getting for your money.

“Cost per square foot is simply the list price divided by the number of livable square feet,” said Tyler Forte, founder & CEO of Felix Homes. “This number is important because it allows a homeowner to compare the relative price of homes that are different sizes.”

But there’s more to consider, he said. “While cost per square foot is an important metric, you should also consider the layout of the home. In many cases, a home with an open floor-plan may seem larger even if it has a smaller livable square footage.”

Forte defines livable square footage as any interior space that’s heated and cooled, which is why a garage wouldn’t necessarily fit the bill. One of the best ways to understand how much home you can afford is to break it down by cost per square foot, which will vary from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.

Work with your real estate agent to understand the differences in cost for various properties to map out what areas and homes are within budget.

2. Earnest Money Deposit

Once you’ve found a home you like enough to bid on, you’ll quickly start hearing about something called an earnest money deposit (EMD). This is a type of security deposit made from the buyer to the seller as a gesture of good faith.

The amount of the EMD is set by the seller, typically running anywhere from 1% to 2% of the home’s purchase price. The key thing to keep in mind about EMDs is that they represent your commitment to buying the home, and can be useful in making a compelling offer in a competitive sellers’ market.

“An earnest money deposit is very important because it’s the skin in the game from the home buyer,” said Realtor Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “If a home buyer is up against other offers, the EMD can make or break them getting the home.”

“I’ve seen lower offers won due to a higher EMD amount, because sellers view the higher EMD as a more serious buyer,” he added.

The money you put toward your EMD comes off the purchase price for the home, so there’s no reason to be stingy. If you really love the house and have the available cash, you might even consider offering more than the deposit amount your seller is asking. Either way, be sure to start saving up for your EMD early and factor it into any other cash you set aside for your down payment.

3. Interest Rates

Since most home purchases involve a mortgage, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with current interest rates. Interest rates dictate how much you’ll pay your lender every year to borrow the amount of your mortgage, so you’ll want to shop around for the best deal.

“Your interest rate is the annual percentage rate you will be charged by the lender, and the lower the rate you receive, the lower your monthly payment,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development. “You should speak with a handful of lenders when starting the process and get a rate quote from each one.”

While interest rates are mostly determined by your creditworthiness (aka credit score) and the type of loan you’re getting, they’ll still vary between lenders. Even a half-point difference in rates can amount to a big difference in your monthly mortgage payment — as well as the grand total you pay for your house.

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4. Credit Score

Speaking of credit scores, you’ll want to know yours before you get serious about buying a home. Since your credit score helps determine the type of mortgage (and mortgage rate) you qualify for, you need to meet the basic minimum credit score requirements before diving headlong into buying a home.

Forte broke down the term a little more: “A credit score is the numerical grade a rating agency assigns to you,” he says. “Commonly referred to as a FICO score, this grade is made up of many factors such as credit utilization, and the length of your credit history.”

If your credit score is low (under 600), spend some time figuring out why and how you can boost it. Just remember, the better your credit score, the better your interest rate — and the more money you’ll save in the long run.

5. Debt-to-Income Ratio

Another personal finance term that comes into play when buying a home is your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Much like creditworthiness, this number is used by lenders to determine how much of a loan you qualify for and at what rate.

“When looking to get approved for a mortgage, a buyer should know what their debt-to-income ratio is,” said Gelios. “This is the amount of debt you owe per month as compared to your gross monthly income.”

For example, if you earn $6,000 per month but have to pay $3,000 in bills, this would be a debt-to-income ratio of 50%. Gelios says lenders typically view any DTI above 40% as high risk, and with good reason. If over half of your income is accounted for in bills, that would make it significantly harder to make a big mortgage payment every month.

Understanding your DTI isn’t just good for lenders, it also helps put your personal finances in perspective when deciding how much house you can afford.

6. Down Payment

The all-important down payment: Many homebuyers use this number to help them determine when they’re actually “ready” to buy a home — based on how much of a down payment they have saved up.

“A down payment is the amount you contribute to the transaction in cash,” said Forte. “Most home purchases are a combination of cash in the form of a down payment and a loan from a mortgage company.”

The old rule of thumb on home purchases was to put down 20%. If that sounds like a lot of money, it is. (Home price $250,000, time 20% = $50,000. Ouch.) For many buyers, a 20% down payment just isn’t feasible — and that’s okay. Forte said the down payment can be as low as 3% of the sales price with a conventional loan, although 10% is more typical.

Remember that any amount you pay up front will ultimately save you money in interest on your mortgage — and putting more money down will lower your monthly payment. Take some time to calculate what your monthly mortgage payment will be based on various down payments. That way you’ll know exactly what to expect and how much of a down payment you should aim to save up.

Pro Tip

Keep in mind that for any down payment of less than 20%, you may be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), another expense that adds to your monthly payment. 

7. Property Taxes & Other Expenses

Long before you close on a home, you need to be ready for ongoing expenses such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and any potential HOA fees. These expenses tend to slip through the cracks, but it’s important to know about them before you become a homeowner.

“One of the most overlooked and underestimated numbers when buyers actually locate a home and win an offer on it is the tax amount,” said Gelios. “Too many times, I’ve seen real estate agents list what the seller is paying in taxes at that time. If time allows, a home buyer should contact the municipality and ask for a rough estimate as to what the taxes will be if they closed on the home in X month.”

Since taxes almost always increase when homes change ownership, it’s good to get an updated quote before those payments become your responsibility.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance

A lot of us don’t like to think about this, but inevitably there will come a time where we will all need help taking care of ourselves. So how can we start preparing for this financially?

Many people opt to purchase long-term care insurance in advance as a way to prepare for their golden years. Long-term care insurance includes services relating to day-to-day activities such as help with taking baths, getting dressed and getting around the house. Most long-term care insurance policies will front the fees for this type of care if you are suffering from a chronic illness, injury or disability, like Alzheimer’s disease, for example. 

If this is something you think you’ll need later on, it’s crucial that you don’t wait until you’re sick to apply. If you apply for long-term care insurance after becoming ill or disabled, you will not qualify. Most people apply around the ages of 50-60 years old. 

In this article, we will discuss long-term care insurance, how it works and why you might consider getting it.   

How long-term care insurance works

The process of applying for long-term care insurance is pretty straight forward. Generally, you will have to fill out an application and then you’ll have to answer a series of questions about your health. During this point in the process, you may or may not have to submit medical records or other documents proving the status of your health. 

With most long-term care policies, you will get to choose between different plans depending on the amount of coverage you want. 

Many long-term care policies will deem you eligible for benefits once you are unable to do certain activities on your own. These activities are called “activities of daily living” or ADLs:

  • Bathing
  • Incontinence assistance
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Getting off and/or on the toilet
  • Getting in and out of a bed or other furniture

In most cases, you must be incapable of performing at least two of these activities on your own in order to qualify for long-term care. When it’s time for you to start receiving care, you will need to file a claim. Your insurer will review your application, records and make contact with your doctor to find out more about your condition. In some cases, the insurer will send a nurse to evaluate you before your claim gets approved. 

It’s very common for insurers to require an “elimination period” before they start reimbursing you for your care. What this means is that after you have been approved for benefits and started receiving regular care, you will need to pay out of pocket for your treatments for a period of anywhere from 30-90 days. After this period, you will get reimbursed for your out-of-pocket expenses and from there.

Who should consider long-term care insurance

Unfortunately, the statistics are against our odds when it comes to whether or not we will eventually need some type of long-term care. Approximately half of people in the U.S. at the age of 65 will eventually acquire a disability where they will need to receive long-term care insurance.  Of course, the problem is, long-term care can be really expensive. Unless you have insurance, you’ll be paying for your long-term care completely out-of-pocket should you ever need it.

Your standard health insurance plan, including Medicare, will not cover your long-term care. The benefits of buying long-term care insurance are that:

  • You can hold on to your savings: Many uninsured seniors have to dip into their savings account in order to pay for their long-term care. Because it’s not cheap, many of them drain their life savings just to be able to pay for it.

 

  • You’ll be able to choose from a larger variety of options: Being insured gives you the benefit of being able to choose the quality of care that you prefer. Just like with anything else, you get what you pay for when it comes to healthcare. Medicaid offers some help with long-term care, but you’ll end up in a government-funded nursing home. 

 

How to buy long-term care insurance

If you’ve recently started thinking about shopping for long term-care insurance, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Do you mind being insured on a policy with an elimination period?
  • Can you afford all of the costs including living adjustments?
  • Are you interested in a policy that covers both you and your spouse, otherwise known as “shared care”?

There are a few different ways to go about getting long-term care benefits. You can either buy a policy from an insurance broker, an individual insurance company, or in some cases, your employer. Obtaining long-term care insurance through your employer is probably going to be cheaper than getting it as an individual. Ask your employer if it’s included in your benefits. 

Many people also opt to shop for hybrid benefits insurance policies. This is when a long-term care policy is packaged in with a standard life insurance policy. This is becoming a lot more common in the world of insurance. Keep in mind that the approval process may be slightly different for a hybrid insurance policy than of that of a stand-alone long-term care insurance policy. Make sure to ask about the requirements before you apply. 

Best long-term care insurance packages

There are not very many long-term care insurance companies that exist as there once was. It’s hard to wrap our heads around purchasing something that we don’t yet need. However, here are a few examples of companies that offer competitive long-term care packages:

 

  • Mutual of Omaha: This company offers benefits of anywhere between $1,500 and $10,000. While the main disadvantage of this company’s packages is that they do not cover doctor’s charges, transportation, personal expense, lab charges, or prescriptions, you CAN choose to receive cash benefits instead of reimbursements. This company also offers discounts for things like good health and marital status. This company’s insurance policies offer a wide range of options and add-ons so you can make sure that all your bases are covered.

 

 

  • Transamerica: This company’s long-term policy, TransCare III, is good if you don’t want to hassle with an elimination period. If you live in California, this may not be the best choice for you because California’s rates are a lot higher than the rates in other states. Your maximum daily benefit can be up to $500 with this program, with a total of anywhere between $18,250-$1,095,000. 

 

 

  • MassMutual: Popular for their SignatureCare 500 policy which comes in both base and comprehensive packages, is a long-term care and life insurance hybrid. This is very appealing to many seniors wanting to kill two birds with one stone. This company also has a 6-year period as one of their term options, which is pretty high.

  • Nationwide: This program sets itself apart from many other programs available because it allows you to have informal caregivers like family, friends, or neighbors. You will receive your entire cash benefit every month and it is up to you to disperse the funds as you would like. Currently, this company does not have their pricing available online, so you will need to speak with an agent to discuss prices.

 

Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Touring Remotely? Questions to Ask During Virtual Apartment Tour

Whether you’re apartment shopping in a different city or doing your own remote research at home, virtual tours can come in handy. These allow possible renters to scope out living spaces with more comfort and convenience than ever. But with all the perks that this virtual advantage brings, it can still present some drawbacks compared […]

The post Touring Remotely? Questions to Ask During Virtual Apartment Tour appeared first on Apartment Life.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have

The post How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

So, you want to stop spending money.  That might be easier said than done.  When it comes to managing your money, there are things you need to do.  You know you need to budget, try to get out of debt and control your spending.

stop spending money

 

The issue is not necessarily that you are spending money on things you don’t have; you just aren’t spending it in the right way.  The issue is not that you don’t make enough money, it is just not having a plan on how to use it once you get it.

That’s what happened to me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for my money.  That lead me down a path I did not like.

After years of working without a plan, I found myself on the steps of a courthouse declaring bankruptcy. And, because I did not learn how to make the right changes in managing my money, my husband and I found ourselves in debt a few years later.

The difference with the second time I had debt was that I took responsibility for it.  I owned what happened, and he and I worked together to make changes to not only pay off our debt but never go down that same road again.

If you find yourself in the same situation, you need to make big changes.  To start, you have to stop spending money you don’t have.  Plain and simple.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE OVERSPENDING?

You’ve maxed out your credit cards

When there is no room to charge anything on your cards, you might have a problem.  In most cases, maxed credit cards signals you are living beyond your means.  If you have to continue to charge because you don’t have money, then you are spending too much.

 

You can’t find a home for your latest purchase

Your temptation might be electronics or handbags. No matter what you love to buy, you might notice you are running out of room to store things.  When the stuff takes over your home and is causing clutter, it is time to take a long hard look at how you spend money.

 

Your budget never works

There may be months when you don’t have enough money in your budget to cover your mortgage or food.  When you continually spend money on the wrong things, your budget will not work.

That means if you have just $50 for entertainment, do not spend $75.  That other $25 has to come from another budget line.

 

You spend more than you earn

Take a look at your credit card balances. You might be paying only the minimum balance because you can’t pay it in full. When you spend more than you make and continue to add more debt, take a look at what you are buying.  It might be time to pull back and stay out of the stores.

 

HOW TO STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY

Use a budget 

When many people hear the word budget, what they hear is “you don’t get to spend any money.”  That is the opposite of what a budget does.  Your budget is a roadmap.  It shows you where your money should go – including the fun money you want to spend!

Your budget helps you know what you need to do with your money when you get paid.  Look at every penny as an employee of yours.  You get to tell it where it needs to go.  Some of them will go to rent, others to your car payment and still others will go to the into your savings account.

The best part of a budget is that you can allow for fun.  Learn how to budget to have fun and even how to budget if your paychecks are never the same amount.

Related: How to Figure Out How Much to Budget for Groceries

 

Write down your financial goals

Successful people start planning by having the end in mind.  It may mean taking a backward approach to your finances.

Think about what you want.  Do you want to get that credit card paid off or maybe take that dream vacation?  No matter your goal, figure out what it will take to get there, and that will help you set your goal.

It may mean fewer dinners out or putting in some overtime at work.  Whatever your goal, make sure it is clearly defined and you keep it front and center.  Put it on your refrigerator.  Keep a photo of it in your wallet.  Make sure you see that budget staring you back in the face every time you even think about spending money.  That will usually stop you right in your tracks.

Related:  The Secret Trick I Use to Stick to My Budget

 

Cash is a Must so that you never overspend

If you are someone who is always saying “I can’t stop spending money,” then you need to use cash.  I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again. Using cash is one of the simplest tricks to help you stop spending money you don’t have.

It works because it gives you defined money.  If you have $100 to spend at the grocery store, there is no way you can even spend $101.  You don’t have it.  You are forced to spend wisely and think more about every purchase you make.

I know some of you are reading this saying “but if I have cash I just spend it so fast.”  That is because you are not tracking it and taking responsibility for your spending.

You need to use the cash envelope method.

If you have an envelope for groceries with $50 left in it, sure, you can dip into that and grab $20 to spend on lunch.  But, what happens when you need food for your family?  That means you’ve just $30 to buy food – which may not get you much.

Cash forces you to think about every purchase you make.

Related:  How You Can Become Accountable With Your Money

 

Stop paying for convenience

There is a quick fix for nearly everything.  You can find dinners in boxes, small pre-packaged snacks, etc.  Rather than purchase convenience items, buy the larger size snacks and then re-package yourself into smaller baggies.  You will not only get more out of a box, but you can even control how much you put into each baggie.

There are other ways we pay for convenience.  We pay for someone to iron our shirts, wash our cars and even mow our lawns.  By doing these things ourselves, we can keep much more money and easily stop overspending.

Read more:  How You are Killing Your Grocery Budget

 

Put away the credit cards to halt spending money

One of the simplest ways to stop spending money is to get out the scissors and cut up those credit cards!!  Or, if you aren’t ready to cut them up, put them on ice.  Literally.  Freeze your credit card in a block of ice.

If you keep spending, you have to cut off the source at its knees.  While I don’t think credit cards are a good fit for everyone, I know they work for some.

If you must use credit cards, never charge more than you have in the bank to pay it off.  That means you can’t charge the amount you believe you will get on your paycheck.  There is never a guarantee that your check will arrive.  Spend only the amount you have, not what you will receive.

Related:  How to Pay off Your Credit Card Debt

Pay your bills on time

We all have bills.  We know when they are due.  When you miss the payment due date, you get assessed a late charge.   Pay them on time, so you don’t pay more than you need to.

In addition to late fees, not paying your bills on time can have an adverse effect on your credit score. Learn how to organize your bills, so you never pay them late again.

 

Do not live above your means

Few of us would not love new clothes or a new car. We all would like to make more money or get the hottest new device.  The thing is, can you afford it?  Is it a want or is it a need?

If you are using credit or loans to get items that you can not afford, then you are living beyond your means and spending money you don’t have.  Scale back and make sure that you can honestly afford the house or the car and that it doesn’t ruin your budget and cost you too much.

Read more: Defining Your Wants vs. Your Needs

 

Don’t fall for impulse buys

Stores are sneaky about making us spend money.  They use signs, layout and even scents to lure you into wanting to buy more.  The thing is, if you purchase something you did not intend to, then you are already blowing your budget and probably overspending.

Another way that you are spending too much is when you plan dinner but then decide at the last minute to go out to dinner instead.  Why do that when you have food waiting for you at home (which you’ve already paid for)?

The final reason you may impulse buy is that of emotion.  If you feel a rush because of that new item, you may purchase out of impulse and emotion instead of need.

Read more:  Stopping Impulse Shopping

Plan your meals

One of the most significant changes we made was to menu plan.  It took me some time to put it all together, but now, I can plan our meals in no time at all.  I use the simple menu planning system that I’ve taken time to build over the years.

While this works for me, I remember when I was learning how to menu plan.  It was quite a process, and I relied upon the help of some experts in the field.   One of them I have used is Erin Chases’s $5 Meal Plan.  I loved how simple it was to create our meals each week.

Even the best menu plan won’t work if you aren’t eating what you buy.  Make sure you are not making mistakes with your grocery budget and eat what you buy.  After all, throwing food away is just money in the trash.

Related:  Money Saving Secrets Stores Won’t Tell You

 

Challenge yourself to spend less 

There is something fun about trying to beat yourself at your own game.  By this I mean, if you have $150 to spend on groceries for the week, try to spend only $130.  That gives you $20 more to spend on something else — or put towards your goal.

Related:  The Yearly Savings Challenge for Kids and Adults

 

Stay out of the stores so you don’t shop

If you can’t control your spending and continue spending money you don’t have, you have to remove the temptation.  Even something that seems harmless can result in spending money.

Related:  Fun and Frugal Date Night Ideas

 

Track the money you are spending

Keep track of your spending by adding up the amounts on your phone.  That way, you’ll have no surprises when you get to the checkout lane. You can try Shopping Calculator for Android or Total-Plus Shopping Calculator on iTunes.

When you start to see that total creep up, you realize how much you are spending. That may help you think twice about that extra box of treats you are tempted to toss into the shopping cart.

 

Use the three-day rule before you spend a dime

The three-day rule is pretty simple.  If you see something you want, wait for three days before you buy it.  Once the third day is up, ask yourself if you still feel it is something you need.

If it is, look at your budget to ensure it works with this month’s spending.  Then, double check the cash to make sure you have enough to pay for it.  If both of these work, you can consider buying it.

The funny thing is that most purchases are impulse buys and the three day waiting period helps you realize you don’t need it.  And had you purchased it, you may even have buyer’s remorse at the three-day mark.

Related:  The Trick To Make Sure You Never Overspend

 

Don’t use coupons and skip the sales

Sales are very tempting.  They lure you in and often result in making purchases you would not do otherwise.  That is why you nee your list. Stick to it and don’t fall for the sales.

You also need to put away the coupons.  Well, you can use them, but responsibly.  If you would not purchase an item at full price, you should never buy it only because there is a coupon.  A coupon is not a golden ticket to shop.

In addition to this, avoid the clearance aisles and end caps.  These are money spending traps!  You walk by, and your eye is drawn the end cap with the big SALE sign in front of it.  If you don’t need that item, don’t grab it.  Also, don’t walk by the clearance section.  It is very easy to pick up items you don’t really need.  That makes you again spend money you had not planned on.

Instead, shop the sections you need.  If you need detergent, go to that section and grab your item and then go to the next on your list.  Don’t wander through the store as you will be more likely to do “cart tossing.”   This is when you put items in your cart without noticing what you are spending.

I’m not saying not to buy anything on sale.  Just get the things you need that are on sale this week, or that you will need in the next weeks.  You probably need spaghetti noodles, but you don’t need a new pair of shoes.

Related: The Money Traps You Will Fall For

 

Never shop without a list

Never shop without a grocery list. Ever. Then, force yourself to stick to it.

Some simple ideas include using a timer to limit how long you can be in the store.  If you have only 20 minutes to shop, you will be less likely to grab the items you don’t need and stick with those that are on your list.

Another is to challenge yourself to see how fast you can finish your shopping.  If you have the list and stick to it, you’ll find you spend less time shopping and more time enjoying the things you love.

The best reason to use a list is that you don’t have to worry about forgetting that “one item” you know you need.  When you force yourself to make a shopping list and stick to it, you’ll always have everything you need on hand for dinner.

 

Keep emotion out of shopping

One tip is never to shop hungry.  When you do, your stomach controls what you buy.  The added benefit is buying the healthy foods you need.

If I am feeling bad about myself, buying something I have been wanting may end up making its way home with me. Spending money to make myself feel better never works.

There are many emotions attached to spending.  You have to identify which one(s) apply to you and find a way to fulfill that need through another method – other than spending money.

 

Define Needs vs. Wants

There are items we need.  You need food, but do you need the extra box of cookies?  Yes, the sweater is really cute but is it something you need or just something you want.  Ask yourself  “is this a need or a want” with each item you buy.  You’ll soon be on your way to less overspending.

 

Clean and declutter

When you declutter, you find all of those items you’ve spent money on and no longer need.  It makes you realize where you are spending.  You will also recall how clean your closet now is. Do you really want to fill it back up with more stuff?

The added benefit of decluttering is that it keeps your house clean and organized!  You can find what you need more easily and don’t have so much “stuff” cluttering the house.

 

Save first, spend later

It is important always to pay yourself first.  Remember that the amount you have to spend is what is left over after you pay your bills and pay yourself.

You should always tell your money where to go instead of it deciding for you.  So many do that the opposite and save after they spend.  If you still save a little, you will quickly build a nice emergency fund and can have less guilt about your spending.

 

Learn from your mistakes

The most important thing you must do is figure out where you’ve gone wrong in the past.  Your mistakes will be different from everyone else’s.  You may shop out of emotion while someone else does out of boredom.

You also need to keep in mind that you will make mistakes.  There will be months when you fall off the wagon.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Use it is a chance to learn from them and do what you can to not repeat them again.

Related:  The Mistakes You Will Make When Getting Out of Debt

Gaining control of your spending is possible.  You just need to have the desire – and the tools – to make it happen.

 

stop spending

 

The post How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com