22 Alternative Uses for Baking Soda

A gentle swap for scouring powder

The best thing about scouring powder is its abrasive action. The worst is the harsh chemical smell. To get all the benefits without the caustic chemicals, use baking soda instead. In most instances, baking soda will work just as well as scouring powder.

Simply clean tiles

For an easy, natural tile cleaner, mix together ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon warm water. Scrub with a sponge or mop, then rinse. For tough stains, wait 10 to 15 before rinsing.

Love your grout again

Is there anything more satisfying than nice, clean grout? A simple paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water is all you need. Make a new batch each time you plan to attack the space between your tiles.

Remove scuffs

To get rid of scuff marks left on vinyl flooring by dark-soled shoes, rub some baking soda into the spot with a wet rag. The marks will disappear.

Show off crystal-clean crystal

To clean your cut crystal, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with warm water, then dab it onto the crystal with a soft rag. Rinse with water, and buff with a dry, soft cloth.

Supercharge your detergent

To boost the power of your dishwasher detergent, sprinkle a little baking soda in the dishwasher every time you run it. It will also help fight foul odors before they start.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 12 Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

Know this skillet saver

The teriyaki chicken you made for dinner was delicious, but the sweet sauce left terrible black burns on the bottom of your frying pan. To clean it, first sprinkle the pan with ¼ to ½ cup baking soda, and fill the pan halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil, and the burned pieces should start to release. When most of the pieces are removed, turn off the heat, dump the water, and wash as usual.

As the water boils, you may want to use a spatula to help the process along. 

Get better-tasting coffee

The secret many of us miss: Make sure you clean your coffee maker regularly. Just add several tablespoons of baking soda to your pot, fill it with water, and run it as usual. Then repeat using only water.

Tackle tough appliances

If you haven’t had time to clean up and now there’s dried-on food stuck in the blades of your blender or food processor, bring baking soda to the rescue. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda along with 1 cup warm water to the bowl, put the lid on, and let it blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Wash as usual.

Perk up your plastic

Have plastic storage containers with lingering odors? Wash them with hot water plus 2 tablespoons baking soda.

I can’t even count how many times our boys have left something to fester in a water bottle or thermos! Simply fill the container with hot water and ½ cup baking soda, then let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse well and it should be as good as new.

The brightest white cabinets

White kitchen cabinets can be beautiful, but they can also show grease, dust, and dirt more than their darker counterparts. To keep them looking their best, add water to a small amount of baking soda until it’s a runny paste. Scrub the mixture on the cabinets, and then rinse with warm water.

Simple step to a shiny sink

For a spectacularly shiny finish on a stainless steel or aluminum sink, rub a liberal amount of baking soda in a circular motion all over its surface with a damp sponge.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's How to Clean Your Sink

Disposal smarts

Instead of throwing away baking soda when it’s finished its 30-day stint in your fridge, dump it down the garbage disposal with running water. It will keep your disposal fresh, too!

Freshen rugs and upholstery

Sprinkle rugs, couches, and upholstered chairs with baking soda and let it sit an hour before you vacuum. It will keep them cleaner and fresher over the long haul.

Sprinkle some baking soda into the bag of your vacuum cleaner to keep it smelling fresh.

Save money on delicate detergents

Use this homemade solution: Dissolve 1 cup baking soda in 1 cup warm water. Add the solution directly to your standard washing machine, or add it to the soap dispenser of a front loader. The baking soda will clean your clothes without harming their delicate fibers.

All-Natural Fabric Softener: Just add ¼ to ½ cup baking soda to the wash cycle.

Erase wall marks

What’s the easiest way to remove crayon, pencil, ink, and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces? Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge, rub clean, and rinse.

Vinyl siding super-cleaner

From bird poop to tree sap to standard weather damage, vinyl siding can get very dirty. And while brand-name cleaners will no doubt get the job done, they tend to be costly and loaded with toxic chemicals. Instead, combine baking soda with enough water to form a paste, then scrub into your siding with a damp rag until the stains lift. Rinse off with a hose and, if necessary, repeat on stubborn stains.

Lift oil stains

Cleaning oil spots off the driveway is difficult, and the cleaners can be quite expensive. Instead, sprinkle baking soda over the stains, then rub with a wet scrub brush soaked with hot water. The baking soda breaks apart oil particles, so with a little elbow grease, you can have your driveway looking new in no time.

Clean battery leaks

If battery acid leaks inside the compartments of your appliances, there’s no need to throw them away. Simply take a few spoonfuls of baking soda and add water until it’s the consistency of toothpaste. Spread it on your battery terminals, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wipe clean. The acid should come off easily.

Must-try for musty books

Place the books in a paper grocery bag with an open box of baking soda. Fold over the bag, staple it shut, and let it sit for a week or two. Your books should smell considerably better when you take them out.

Refresh suitcases

Is your suitcase a bit musty? The night before packing, pour a cup of baking soda in it, close it, and shake. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda and the smell should be gone.

Get gloves on more easily

Sprinkle a little baking soda into each of your latex gloves, and they’ll stick less when you’re putting them on and taking them off.

If you have kids, you’ve had to clean up vomit. Baking soda can make the job a little less gross if you sprinkle some on top as soon as possible. It will soak up some of the mess and make the smell easier to deal with when you have to go at it with the paper towels.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Different Types of Debt

Debt comes in all shapes and sizes. You can owe money to utility companies, banks, credit card providers, and the government. There’s student loan debt, credit card debt, mortgage debt, and much more. But what are the official categories of debt and how do the payoff strategies for these debts differ?

Categories of Debt

Debt is generally categorized into two simple forms: Secured and Unsecured. The former is secured against an asset, such as a car or loan, and means the lender can seize the asset if you fail to meet your obligations. Unsecured is not secured against anything, reducing the creditor’s control and limiting their options if the repayment terms are not met.

A secured debt provides the lender with some assurances and collateral, which means they are often prepared to provide better interest rates and terms. This is one of the reasons you’re charged astronomical rates for credit cards and short-term loans but are generally offered very favorable rates for home loans and car loans.

If the debtor fails to make payments on an unsecured debt, such as a credit card, then the debtor may file a judgment with the courts or sell it to a collection agency. In the first instance, it’s a lot of hassle without any guarantee. In the second, they’re selling the debts for cents on the dollar and losing a lot of money. In either case, it’s not ideal, and to offset this they charge much higher interest rates and these rates climb for debtors with a poorer track record.

There is also something known as revolving debt, which can be both unsecured and secured. Revolving debt is anything that offers a continuous cycle of credit and repayment, such as a credit card or a home equity line of credit. 

Mortgages and federal student loans may also be grouped into separate debts. In the case of mortgages, these are substantial secured loans that use the purchase as collateral. As for federal student loans, they are provided by the government to fund education. They are unsecured and there are many forgiveness programs and options to clear them before the repayment date.

What is a Collection Account?

As discussed above, if payments are missed for several months then the account may be sold to a debt collection agency. This agency will then assume control of the debt, contacting the debtor to try and settle for as much as they can. At this point, the debt can often be settled for a fraction of the amount, as the collection agency likely bought it very cheaply and will make a profit even if it is sold for 30% of its original balance.

Debt collectors are persistent as that’s their job. They will do everything in their power to collect, whether that means contacting you at work or contacting your family. There are cases when they are not allowed to do this, but in the first instance, they can, especially if they’re using these methods to track you down and they don’t discuss your debts with anyone else.

No one wants the debt collectors after them, but generally, you have more power than they do and unless they sue you, there’s very little they can do. If this happens to you, we recommend discussing the debts with them and trying to come to an arrangement. Assuming, that is, the debt has not passed the statute of limitations. If it has, then negotiating with them could invalidate that and make you legally responsible for the debt all over again.

Take a look at our guide to the statute of limitations in your state to learn more.

As scary as it can be to have an account in collections, it’s also common. A few years ago, a study found that there are over 70 million accounts in collections, with an average balance of just over $5,000.

Can Bankruptcy Discharge all Debts?

Bankruptcy can help you if you have more debts than you can repay. But it’s not as all-encompassing as many debtors believe.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy will discharge most of your debts, but it won’t touch child support, alimony or tax debt. It also won’t help you with secured debts as the lender will simply repossess or foreclose, taking back their money by cashing in the collateral. Chapter 13 bankruptcy works a little differently and is geared towards repayment as opposed to discharge. You get to keep more of your assets and in exchange you agree to a payment plan that repays your creditors over 3 to 5 years.

However, as with Chapter 7, you can’t clear tax debts and you will still need to pay child support and alimony. Most debts, including private student loans, credit card debt, and unsecured loan debt will be discharged with bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy can seriously reduce your credit score in the short term and can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. Your case will also be dismissed if you can’t show that you have exhausted all other options.

Differences in Reducing Each Type of Debt

The United States has some of the highest consumer debt in the world. It has become a common part of modern life, but at the same time, we have better options for credit and debt relief, which helps to balance things out a little. Some of the debt relief options at your disposal have been discussed below in relation to each particular type of long-term debt.

The Best Methods for Reducing Loans

If you’re struggling with high-interest loans, debt consolidation can help. A debt consolidation company will provide you with a loan large enough to cover all your debts and in return, they will give you a single long-term debt. This will often have a smaller interest rate and a lower monthly payment, but the term will be much longer, which means you’ll pay much more interest overall.

Debt management works in a similar way, only you work directly with a credit union or credit counseling agency and they do all the work for you, before accepting your money and then distributing it to your creditors.

Both forms of debt relief can also help with other unsecured debts. They bring down your debt-to-income ratio, leave you with more disposable income, and allow you to restructure your finances and get your life back on track.

The Best Methods for Reducing Credit Cards

Debt settlement is the ultimate debt relief option and can help you clear all unsecured debt, with many companies specializing in credit card debt. 

Debt settlement works best when you have lots of derogatory marks and collections, as this is when creditors are more likely to settle. They can negotiate with your creditors for you and clear your debts by an average of 40% to 60%. You just need to pay the full settlement amount and the debt will clear, with the debt settlement company not taking their cut until the entire process has been finalized.

A balance transfer can also help with credit card debt. A balance transfer credit card gives you a 0% APR on all transfers for between 6 and 18 months. Simply move all of your credit card balances into a new balance transfer card and then every cent of your monthly payment will go towards the principal.

The Best Methods for Reducing Secured Debts

Secured debt is a different beast, as your lender can seize the asset if they want to. This makes them much less susceptible to settlement offers and refinancing. However, they will still be keen to avoid the costly foreclosure/repossession process, so contact them as soon as you’re struggling and see if they can offer you anything by way of a grace period or reduced payment.

Most lenders have some form of hardship program and are willing to be flexible if it increases their chances of being repaid in full.

Different Types of Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

One of the lessons I’ve learned as I continue to work my way out of debt is that you need to treat yourself and celebrate your little successes along the way so you can avoid debt fatigue down the road. Celebrating small milestones, like getting another $1,000 knocked off your debt total, starting to put money aside for retirement or paying off a credit card balance, is important for both your sanity and your family’s sanity.

Find out now: How much money do I need to save for retirement?

I don’t have kids, but several of my personal finance blogger friends do, and they have talked about how kids don’t always understand how they can contribute to the family financial goals since they don’t earn any money. Plus, sometimes kids don’t understand why there is a sudden need to cut back on expenses they have come to know as normal- things like going out to eat or having a night out at the movies with friends. Allowing yourself and your family to celebrate your financial wins as you work your way out of debt will help them understand that while your family is now living on a different budget, it’s still okay to enjoy the present.

With that in mind, here are five frugal ways you can celebrate your financial successes, so you don’t erase all your progress!

1. Go out for Dessert

As a kid, whenever we’d go out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, it felt like a real fancy treat. Now I know that this was mom and dad’s way of having a celebration without spending a lot of money on paying for a whole meal.

2. Rent a Movie

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

This may not seem like a treat if you rent movies all the time, but if you are living on a very strict budget and don’t often rent movies, this could be a treat for you and your family. Make it the full experience – popcorn, candy, etc. Renting a movie and making popcorn at home is a fun way to celebrate, and it’s still a lot cheaper than going to the theater.

12 Affordable Ways to Have Fun on a Tight Budget

3. Hit a Matinee

Wait, didn’t I just say to avoid the theater to save money? Yes, but sometimes movie theaters offer cheaper matinee movies earlier in the day. Often showings before noon can be as little as half price. This is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy a new movie.

4. Buy a Book or Magazine

One of the first things that got cut from my budget when I started focusing on financial goals was my magazine subscription. Most of the time I don’t miss it as I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but sometimes it’s nice to somewhat mindlessly flip through a magazine in the evenings. Buying yourself a new book – maybe one of these investing books – or magazine is a fairly cheap way to entertain yourself and if it’s a rare occasion, it can serve as a reward too.

Frugal Summer Fun for Adults

5. Go on a Day Trip

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

If you aren’t traveling too far, the most expensive part of the trip is usually the overnight accommodations. By taking a day trip instead to the beach or somewhere else, you can get out of town and away from the norm without having to shell out for an expensive hotel room.

What other frugal ways can you think of to celebrate your debt successes?

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/andresr, Â©iStock.com/sdominick, Â©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

The post 5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

10 At-Home Date Night Ideas, Whether You’re Together or Apart

The coronavirus pandemic put a halt on a whole lot of awesome things, including date night. If you’ve been with your sweetie for years, it can be tough to find something special to do when you’re spending most of your time at home together. And if you were just getting started dating, it’s hard to establish a connection when you’re apart.

But there are still free and low-cost ways to keep up the date night tradition.

Although they’ve been married for over a decade, Kenny and Celina Beaumont have always realized the importance of romance — especially after having kids.

“If we’re not happy and having fun,” Celina told us in an interview, “our household’s not going to be happy and having fun.”

So they’ve kept their long-standing date night tradition alive through the pandemic with some pretty adorable dates — one of which you may even have seen a glimpse of on John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” (Look for the fine dining experience around 7:55!)

But dinner dates are just the beginning. Here are some of our favorite at-home date night ideas.

A couple hold hands as they enjoy dinner in their backyard.

Date Nights if You’re at Home Together

If you were already cohabitating, there are plenty of ways to set aside some special time for each other.

1. Fine Dining

You can definitely recreate the restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and being waited on. That’s exactly what the Beaumonts did. According to Celina, Kenny and the kids had been conspiring about the idea for several days before surprising her.

They printed real menus, got dressed up and dined al fresco on a three-course meal at “Jack & Olivia’s” — so named for their kids. Kenny cooked up the steaks, while the kids made the salad and dessert.

2. Ballroom (or Any Other Kind of) Dancing

You might not make it out to your local Arthur Murray studio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to dance. Some couples’ counselors suggest that a tango or two can be as good for your relationship as it is fun.

Crank up a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a whirl. After all, nobody except your SO — and maybe the cat — is watching.

3. Game Night

It might not sound like the peak of romance to some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Chess together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. If you’re really geeky, you might even take on a match or four of Magic: The Gathering.

We recommend adding fancy duds to the equation to make it feel even more date-y.

4. Virtual Hometown Tours

If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your SO, and you’ve yet to show them around in person, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity: a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places.

Even if you hail from the same place (or have already gone home to meet the parents), you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

5. At-Home Spa Services

Treat yourself — and your beau — to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be a whole lot more affordable (and considerably more fun) than it would be in a salon. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

Tips for Successful At-Home Date Nights

Even with the best of intentions and lots of planning, it’s easy for an at-home date night to feel like … well, just another night at home.

Here are some tips to keep it feeling romantic.

  • Put away your phone. Celina and Kenny say they make a point of putting their screens down during dates.
  • Wait until after bedtime. It’s fun to get the kids in on the action — but if they go to bed earlier than you do, those couple hours of quiet can be a great time to rekindle your connection.
  • Look for the silver linings. Although staying home is hard in a whole lot of ways, it also offers a lot of opportunity for closeness, especially in a world where we’re usually running all over the place.

“We never get to spend this much time with each other,” Celina said of her family. Try to look at your at-home dates as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy yourselves.

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Date Night Ideas if You’re Apart

Thanks to technology, there are some ways to recreate a date experience even if you’re miles apart.

6. Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails)

Video call applications like Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic low-stakes, first-date ideas like grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee.

7. Reading to Each Other

This one’s super romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same place, you can read to each other over video chat or over the plain-old phone.

The options are endless: You could pick a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

8. Live Streaming Concerts and Events

From superstars to local up-and-comers, lots of entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services. Many are free, though it’s nice to drop a tip for these struggling artists.

Re-create the concert experience at home with a cocktail and maybe a band T-shirt, and enjoy unlimited bathroom breaks without having to snake through a pushy crowd.

9. Virtual Movie Nights

There’s nothing quite as cozy as snuggling up with your sweetheart for a movie, whether at the theater or on the couch at home. But even if you’re stuck apart, you can spend time in front of the silver screen together.

A browser extension called Teleparty easily syncs Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO videos for multiple parties while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen.

If your movie or TV show is on another service — or if, quaintly and adorably enough, you’re going to watch the same DVD in separate houses at the same time — you can always hop on the phone and queue up the video. Don’t forget the popcorn!

10. Art Therapy

A seriously romantic idea for the bold: re-create each other’s likenesses while on a video chatting application like FaceTime.

If that’s a little too intimate, you could simply spend time together being creative, whether that means knitting, cross-stitching, painting or something else entirely. You could even make plans to gift each other the products of your art therapy session.

Tips for Successful Date Nights Spent Apart

A woman FaceTimes with her boyfriend.

Here are some tips to make it feel more like you’re actually together.

  • Get dressed. It’s all too easy to lie around the house in pajamas all day… and even attend your dates that way. Wearing real clothes can make you feel more like you’re on a real date.
  • Connect often. If you can’t be with each other in person, spending digital time together is extra important. Maybe try to move your date night tradition from one night a week to two or three.
  • Remember: It’s only temporary. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although we don’t know when this pandemic is going to end, end it shall.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.

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

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

[YMMV] American Express Blue Business Plus 30,000 Points Signup Bonus With $5,000 Spend Pre-approval Offer

Update 2/9/21: More people targeted. Hat tip to MtM

The Offer

Direct link to offer (keep in mind, this won’t work for everyone)

  • Some people are getting a pre-approval offer on the American Express Blue Business Plus card with a signup bonus of 30,000 points after $5,000 in spend within the first three months of card ownership.

Card Details

  • 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases for the first $50,000 per calendar year
  • 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No lifetime language
  • 0% APR for first 15 months

Our Verdict

Not sure how widely available this offer is, likely very targeted. Lately they had a weird $300-credits signup bonus, but the standard has been either zero or 10,000 points since launch. We have seen targeted offers as high as 25,000 before, but never 30,000.

It’s not necessarily the best offer as you can technically get a referral from someone who will earn up to 30,000 points, in addition to the 10,000 points signup offer the new cardmember gets. That said, this is quite a good deal given the potential tax implications of referral bonuses whereas signup bonuses are not taxable. 

If you have any questions about American Express cards, read this first as it addresses the common questions.

Hat tip to manageroftheyear

Post history:

  • Update 12/9/20: More targeted. Hat tip to reader Bob
  • Update 11/17/20: More people targeted

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Fall in Love with Your Credit Score

Close up image of pink, white, and red felt hearts

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you’re probably thinking about your plans for the big day. Whether you’re celebrating with your significant other or friends, love is definitely in the air. But do you feel that love for your credit score? That’s right—it’s time for you to fall in love with your credit score. And we’re here to help. 

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a single number that reflects the overall state of your credit history. It’s used by lenders to determine your eligibility for a loan. The score is calculated and reported by the three major credit bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Every bureau calculates its own score, so you can have a different score with each agency.

What’s an Excellent Credit Score?

Credit scores are broken into ranges. Scores in higher ranges are considered good or excellent. People with these higher scores can typically get approved for more loan options and may get better terms, interest rates, APRs, etc.

How credit scores are broken up depends on which model is used. Firstly, there’s FICO. This credit score range was developed by FICO, a company that specializes in predictive analytics. FICO uses your credit information to create your credit score, which will help lenders predict your behavior. Here’s the FICO score range:

  • 800 to 850: excellent
  • 740 to 799: very good
  • 670 to 739: good
  • 580 to 669: fair
  • 300 to 579: very poor

Then there’s VantageScore, which is a result of a joint venture from the three major credit bureaus. Here’s the VantageScore credit score range:

  • 750 to 850: excellent
  • 700 to 749: good
  • 650 to 699: fair
  • 600 to 649: poor
  • 300 to 599: bad

Don’t forget that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each have their own credit score. That’s why it’s important to check them out whenever you can! 

How to Feel the Love for Your Credit Score

You wouldn’t settle for a mediocre date, so why settle for a mediocre credit score? If you’re ready to fall head over heels for your score, it might be time to improve your credit. We’ve got some tips on how to love your credit score the right way—by treating it right. 

1. Educate Yourself About Credit

You know how people like to say “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”? That definitely doesn’t apply to your finances. Take time to educate yourself about credit—especially your credit.

First, learn about the five factors that play into your credit score:

  • Payment history: Making up 35% of your score, this refers to how often you have late payments.
  • Credit utilization: This refers to the amount of your credit that you use. Your credit utilization ratio should be less than 30%. This also makes up 30% of your credit score.
  • Average age of accounts: If you have some older accounts, it’ll show lenders that you have great financial management skills. This makes up 15% of your credit score.
  • Account types: It’s best to have a good mix of accounts, such as revolving accounts and installment accounts. This makes up 10% of your score.
  • Inquiries: When you apply for credit, it’s common for lenders to do a hard pull on your credit. This results in an inquiry on your report. Inquiries only make up 10% of your score. 

You should also learn about your own credit. Order your free credit report to see exactly where you stand so you can start improving your credit.

2. Get Organized and Pay Your Billson Time

Timely payments—which means never being late with loan payments or defaulting on loans—is the biggest factor in your credit score. This accounts for almost a third of your score.

Sure, getting organized and being on the ball financially sounds like a chore. But it also means that you’ll be caught up on all your payments. You’ll feel freedom when you know you paid all the bills for the month.

Get a month ahead on bills so you’re never rushing to pay anything. You get the added benefit of a cushion that can be helpful if emergencies do arise. Plus when you make on-time payments your, credit score could rise. 

3. Work with Professionals to Clear Up Errors

Finding an error on your credit report can feel like finding skeletons in your significant other’s closet. Are they real? Is it a false alarm? The best way to tackle an error on your credit report is to go to a professional to help clear the air. 

If you’re feeling ready to dump your credit score over a mistake, it might be time to call in the professionals. Instead of a couple’s counselor, you need a credit repair agency. Sure, they can do the things you could do yourself—but with a lot of time and effort on your part. But the professionals can intervene for you to provide experienced guidance and resources to help get errors on your credit report fixed.

Get to Know Your Credit Score Now

Every good relationship starts with getting to know each other. Before you can fall in love with your credit score, you need to get to know what’s going on with it now and understand your own goals for the future. Start by getting your free credit report card to understand your score and how you rank on each of the five factors that play into it. 

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Source: credit.com