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Shhhh! The Credit Card Secret That Could Boost Your Credit

Even if you have a good credit score, you may still want to find a way to inch that magical number higher, especially if you are in the market for an auto loan or a mortgage in the near future. Even at a 700, an extra twenty points or so could easily bump you into a lender’s higher credit tier and net you a lower interest rate.

So, how do you get an increase when you’re already in the “good” range?

The Trick Is …

As you may already know, one of the largest factors in determining your credit scores is your credit utilization ratio, or how much debt you have compared to your credit limits. Paying attention to this aspect of your scores just might be the ticket.

No, that doesn’t mean it’s essential to carry a zero balance to have a good credit utilization ratio. In fact, credit experts recommend keeping your debt level at 30%, ideally 10%, of your total credit limit. So, how do you get your ratio in that sweet spot?

One way — often the most commonly noted way — is to only charge up to that amount before paying down your balance.

But here’s the secret: the timing of your credit card payments.

The Importance of Timing

Typically, even if you’re paying your balance every month by or on the due date, the balance shown on the statement date (also called the closing date) is the amount reported to the credit bureaus for that month, Barry Paperno, a credit expert who blogs at Speaking of Credit, said. When your credit scores are pulled, that balance, even if you have since paid it off, will still be reported and can affect your credit utilization. By adjusting when you make your payments, you’ll have more control over what effect your spending has on your credit.

Beyond that, Jeff Richardson, spokesperson for VantageScore Solutions, said that credit bureaus now compile data over time, in addition to just the snapshot.

“This new kind of data shows when you paid and how much in addition to whether it was on time so they can see if you’re a revolver (debt carrier) or a transactor (someone who pays balances off entirely),” Richardson said.

Credit scores don’t generally take that data into consideration right now. Still, “a lender or credit issuer for a mortgage or an auto loan can pull that data and use it to reward the transactors with better loan terms.” (Note: This isn’t always done, but is possible.)

As such, you may want to pay your credit card charges off as you go or at least before your credit card statement’s closing date (more on this below).

Figuring Out When to Pay 

Take a look at your last credit card statement. If your statement date is November 10, the balance on that date is likely what was reported to the credit bureaus, regardless of the payment due date. Keep this in mind as you make your payments, since it will give you a better idea of what your reports are showing as your utilization.

“To reduce that balance reported or avoid having it reported at all, don’t wait for your next statement to come,” Paperno recommended. “Instead, go online to see the up-to-date balance and you’ll know exactly what to pay before the closing date.”

What Kind of Credit Score Bump Might You See?

There certainly isn’t a guarantee that you’ll see an increase because of this payment adjustment. However, Paperno said he saw about a ten-point score difference on his already high scores, just about a month after implementing this change. Maybe ten points doesn’t seem like much, but it could bump you from a prime credit score to a super prime credit score, possibly saving you thousands of dollars in interest payments.

“This is one of the few things you can really control about credit scores so it’s worth it to take advantage of it if you can,” Paperno said.

To see how your habits are affecting your credit scores, you can take a look at two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards That Share Perks With Authorized Users

It’s common to find credit cards that reward their cardholders for adding an authorized user. Most of the time this reward is in the form of bonus points or miles. But, often times, it goes much deeper than that. Some cards will offer elite status or additional bonus points if you hit a certain amount of spend during the year. Having an authorized user can help you reach that limit a little quicker.

Something that isn’t talked about nearly as often is what is actually in it for the authorized user. Yes, being an authorized user can help someone build or repair credit, but what else can incentivize someone to become an authorized user? One answer: mutual benefits. There are several credit cards that will actually extend the benefits — or at least some of them — that come with the card to not only the primary cardholder, but also their authorized users.

Let’s take a look at a few cards and the benefits their authorized user can receive.

1. The Platinum Card From American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express (see full review here) is one of the best elite travel credit cards available right now. Because of that it has an annual fee of $450 for the primary cardholder. American Express charges $175 for up to three authorized Platinum Card users and $175 for each one after that. However, the benefits can be well worth it, depending on how often that authorized user travels. Platinum Card authorized users receive everything that the primary cardholder receives except for the card’s $200 airline fee credit. That means you’ll receive access to over 1,000 airport lounges, including the American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace Lounges, and a Priority Pass membership. Authorized users will also receive Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, Hilton Honors Gold status, and a statement credit for up to $100 every five years for a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application. The Platinum Card is a charge card, which means you’re expected to pay off all your purchases in full each billing cycle, so it doesn’t carry a standard purchase annual percentage rate (APR).

2. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Just like The Platinum Card from American Express, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with a fairly high $450 annual fee. The difference is that there is no fee to add an authorized user and all authorized users will receive complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. You can even bring two guests into the lounge with you while traveling. This card carries a variable APR of 15.49%. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

3. Citi Prestige Card

Anyone with a Citi Prestige card (see full review here) can add an authorized user for a fee of $50. As an authorized user, you receive your own Priority Pass membership, which will give you and two travel companions access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. The Citi Prestige carries a variable APR of 15.49%.

4. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card From Chase

As an authorized user of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card, you will be able to use the card’s $100 Visa Infinite airline ticket discount. How this benefit works: When you purchase a domestic round-trip coach ticket for two to five people, you will receive a $100 discount. It’s important to note that the discount applies to the total cost of the itinerary, not the cost of each ticket.

Adding an Authorized User? 

Cardholder benefit statements are not always very clear on what benefits will extend to authorized users. We suggest that you always contact your card issuer to get clear direction on which benefits are included and which are excluded from authorized users.

Remember, it’s important to read the fine print of all card agreements carefully to determine if a card is right for you. You’ll also want to check you credit before applying, since you typically need a good credit score to qualify for the cards with the best bennies. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.) And, if you are opting for a rewards credit card, it’s particularly important to aim to pay your balance off in full each month; otherwise, you’ll risk losing your points, miles or cash back to your APR.

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

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

End-of-Year Portfolio Strategies

MoneyTips

The end of a year is a time to assess what happened over the past 12 months and look forward to the promise of new opportunities. That is true with most aspects of life, and your financial portfolio should be no exception. Give your holdings a year-end review and consider these strategies as you do so. Reassess Your Goals – Have your investing goals shifted over the course of the year? Perhaps you have gotten married and/or started a family, switched jobs, or considered retirement. Before making any adjustments, make sure that you account for any life changes that can alter your risk or return requirements. Review, Replace, Rebalance – Take a look at the results of your holdings over the year with respect to the overall market. Do not just assume positive growth is a sign that your investments are doing well; the overall market could be growing at an even greater rate. Ask your advisor to provide an alpha (the performance of your holdings compared to a risk-adjusted index), and look over poorer-performing individual holdings. Is there a reason to expect them to turn around in 2017? Can they be replaced by a similar holding at the same risk level? If your risk/reward needs have changed or your portfolio has drifted, now is the time to rebalance your holdings to maintain your target diversification between stocks and bonds. Seek help from your financial advisor, but do not forget to do your own homework. You should be able to assess your advisor's input and performance, and whether his or her suggestions make sense in the overall market context. Tax-Loss Harvesting – Tax-loss harvesting is taking the underperforming stocks in your portfolio and selling some of them in order to "harvest" the losses and use them to offset capital gains for tax purposes. You can neutralize up to $3,000 in capital gains, and if you have none to offset, you can take the harvested losses as a reduction of your taxable income. Be very careful when assessing your underperformers. Are they consistently underperforming? Is there a reason to expect them to improve? If any of those stocks should rebound, the "wash rule" prevents you from reinvesting in those or similar stocks within 30 days. Do not just jettison stocks based on a simple numerical return; consider each stock individually with respect to likely future performance. Dollar-Cost Averaging – If you have come out on the poor end of price volatility but want to keep investing in the same stocks, consider setting up a dollar-cost averaging approach for next year. This spreads your investments into equal purchase increments (often monthly) instead of making one large investment. This approach works well for those who prefer to "set it and forget it" and have difficulty resisting the urge to make panic moves during a sharp market drop. Charitable Contributions – Charitable contributions are not limited to donations of cash or goods you have about the home. You can also donate appreciated stock to a non-profit or 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to get a deduction based on fair market value and will not have to pay capital gains taxes on the appreciated value. The charity can choose to either sell the stock for cash or hold onto it as an investment. During this festive season, it is easy to lose sight over mundane tasks like reviewing your investments. Resist the urge to put things off until the new year. Forgetting to review your portfolio now can cost you money later. Let the free MoneyTips Retirement Planner help you calculate when you can retire without jeopardizing your lifestyle.Photo ©iStock.com/tuk69tuk

Originally Posted at: http://www.moneytips.com/end-of-year-portfolio-strategies

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End-of-Year Portfolio Strategies

MoneyTips

The end of a year is a time to assess what happened over the past 12 months and look forward to the promise of new opportunities. That is true with most aspects of life, and your financial portfolio should be no exception. Give your holdings a year-end review and consider these strategies as you do so. Reassess Your Goals – Have your investing goals shifted over the course of the year? Perhaps you have gotten married and/or started a family, switched jobs, or considered retirement. Before making any adjustments, make sure that you account for any life changes that can alter your risk or return requirements. Review, Replace, Rebalance – Take a look at the results of your holdings over the year with respect to the overall market. Do not just assume positive growth is a sign that your investments are doing well; the overall market could be growing at an even greater rate. Ask your advisor to pr...

This Student Loan Move Could Save You Thousands

There may not be a magic bullet for getting out of student loan debt, but there is a holy grail, of sorts, for some borrowers: student loan refinancing.

Here’s how it works: If you qualify, a lender will buy your existing loan, or loans, and issue a new one. Depending on your credit, you could get a lower interest rate, which would save you money in the long run.

Say, for example, you left college with a $30,000 private student loan with a 7% interest rate and a standard 10-year loan term. If you refinanced that loan right away at 3.5%, you’d save more than $6,000 in interest over the life of your loan. You could use the money to start an emergency fund, save for retirement or go on vacation.

Here’s what you need to know about refinancing your student loans.

How to qualify

In general, you’ll need three things to qualify:

  1. Solid credit score: Most lenders require a score of 700 or higher. If your score is lower, you can apply with a co-signer whose score qualifies.
  2. Low debt-to-income ratio: The lower your debt is in relation to your income, the better. Aim for a ratio that’s lower than 50%. For example, if you make $60,000 a year, your total debt should be below $30,000.
  3. Steady source of income: Borrowers with traditionally stable, high-paying careers will find it easier to qualify. Freelancers and those who are between jobs will have a harder time qualifying.
How to make it work

Refinancing is a great option for borrowers who have private loans with high interest rates. Federal loans also can be refinanced, but you’ll lose access to federal loan protections, such as income-driven repayment and forgiveness options. That’s why it’s usually best to exclude federal loans during refinancing.

Nerd Tip: If a lender offers prequalification, you might want to go through that process to get an idea of how much you could save without having a hard inquiry on your credit history, which lowers your credit score.

To determine if refinancing is a good option, compare your current loan terms against your potential loan terms. You’ll save the most money by getting your interest rate as low as possible. Consider other aspects of your loan as well to get the full picture. For example, if you have a loan with a 6% interest rate, refinancing it at 5% would make sense only if you didn’t have to extend the loan term.

Use NerdWallet’s student loan refinance calculator to estimate your potential savings and see if refinancing is right for you.

If you don’t qualify

You can use a co-signer if your own credit score isn’t 700 or above. But if you’d rather refinance on your own, focus on paying your bills on time and reducing any credit card debt to boost your credit score before applying.

Check your credit score here.

If refinancing makes sense and you’re willing to make the effort, it could help you save thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of your loan. That’s at least worth considering.

Devon Delfino is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ddelfino@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @devondelfino.

QVC 101

MoneyTips

The shopping channel QVC was born in 1986 and has been a staple of cable television packages for many years. Named as an acronym for Quality, Value, Convenience, QVC has continued to thrive even though cable subscriptions are declining and cord cutting is gaining in popularity. How have they managed to sustain their success? One reason is an "E" that should be in their name, for Entertainment. QVC has always had well-known host personalities such as Kathy Levine and Lisa Robertson who have bonded with the public and generated fans of their own. Their techniques such as countdowns on deals and effective peer pressure from satisfied shoppers who are interviewed on air appeal to a mostly female demographic that views shopping as entertainment — a demographic that also has the money and the desire to follow through with purchases. As a result, QVC has accumulated quite a loyal following over time. 90% of QVC's business is via repeat shoppers and the average QVC shopper buys between 22 and 25 items a year. Meanwhile, QVC has adapted very well to digital shopping and the use of online and mobile apps, helping it to gain a presence beyond its cable base. QVC has been well positioned for this strategy from the beginning. It has always kept real time information on sales to implement their countdowns and pressure tactics ("Only two left in Size 5!") and thus has excellent information on what will sell and which sales techniques are effective. QVC now has a significant Internet presence as well as a mobile app that allows shoppers to "multi-screen," or use computers or mobile apps to order what they are seeing on the screen in real time. Thanks to this strategy, QVC's online sales have grown from 29% of total US sales at the end of 2009 to 51% in the second quarter of 2016. Internet Retailer notes that QVC has risen to fifth place in sales for mobile commerce retailers, and their mobile sales income this year is expected to rival that of WalMart. QVC is great about getting people to shop not just online, but also to follow through with purchases. Their methods of real time purchases are now supplemented by a platform that allows shoppers to buy items that are not currently on the TV screen. Unbelievably, between 60% and 70% of orders placed via desktops and tablets are for items that have not been shown on TV in that same day. Their cable base is still quite substantial, as QVC is currently available in over 98 million homes in the US. However, with the apps and online ordering infrastructure in place, QVC is well positioned to take advantage of a shift. The demand for QVC means that some cord-cutting group will offer them as part of whatever replaces cable, whether it is a streaming service or some technology yet to be invented. Just as Internet ordering replaces the telephone-ordering element, a new visual method of reaching their audience will eventually replace QVC's cable method of reaching their customers. QVC also has an international presence, with approximately one-third of its revenue coming from seven countries beyond the US market. They already enjoy a relatively mature presence in Japan and entered the market in China last year — perfect timing as China shifts toward a consumer-based economy. Expect QVC to survive and thrive well into the future for two main reasons: their ability to adapt to circumstances and their methods of growing and maintaining a loyal customer base. That is a great formula for success in any industry. Photo ©QVC Headquarters

Originally Posted at: http://www.moneytips.com/qvc-101

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QVC 101

MoneyTips

The shopping channel QVC was born in 1986 and has been a staple of cable television packages for many years. Named as an acronym for Quality, Value, Convenience, QVC has continued to thrive even though cable subscriptions are declining and cord cutting is gaining in popularity. How have they managed to sustain their success? One reason is an "E" that should be in their name, for Entertainment. QVC has always had well-known host personalities such as Kathy Levine and Lisa Robertson who have bonded with the public and generated fans of their own. Their techniques such as countdowns on deals and effective peer pressure from satisfied shoppers who are interviewed on air appeal to a mostly female demographic that views shopping as entertainment — a demographic that also has the money and the desire to follow through with purchases. As a result, QVC has accumulated quite a loyal following ov...

When Your Kid Is a Financial Train Wreck

Parents want to help their kids — it’s what we do. When those kids are adults, though, our help can hurt.

Financial planners and credit counselors see plenty of examples. The grown son who lost a job, moved home and stopped looking for work. The daughter who constantly mismanaged her checking account — and turned to payday lenders when parents stopped covering her overdrafts. The father working into his 70s to support spendthrift children in their 40s and 50s.

Kristi Sullivan, a certified financial planner in Denver, once worked with an elderly couple whose offspring constantly turned to them for help.

“The clients couldn’t understand why their grandchildren had all the latest iPads and phones, but when a car or home repair came up, their adult children always had to ask them for money,” Sullivan said.

Giving adult children money is the norm in the U.S. Six out of 10 parents with adult children said they had given those children financial help in the previous 12 months, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey.

Parents usually give because it feels good. Eight out of 10 parents who help adult children — with money, child care, housework or home repairs — said doing so was rewarding, Pew found.

But the toll can be steep, advisors say. Supporting able-bodied children or repeatedly bailing them out of debt creates dependency when parents should help them become self-sufficient. The unwise spending also can:

  • Delay or derail the parents’ retirement.
  • Fuel sibling resentment and family discord.
  • Enable dangerous behavior, including addiction or untreated mental illness.

The “just say no” advice doesn’t get far with parents stuck in these patterns, advisors say. Many parents don’t understand the harm they’re doing, and the children certainly have no incentive to change, said Bruce McClary, a former credit counselor and spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

Change is possible, though, when parents set limits and communicate those limits to their kids. Here’s what planners advise:

Figure out what you can afford: Delia Fernandez , a CFP in Los Alamitos, California, uses retirement planning software to show what happens if clients continue spending on their kids at their current level. Often, the results are eye-opening. “They’ll say, ‘Why is the chart turning red?’” Fernandez says. “They thought they’d be retiring at 62, but now they’re looking at 66 or later.” If parents can’t agree on a figure, a third party such as a planner, accountant or even a therapist may be able to help. (Run the numbers on your own retirement.)

Set expectations: Many parents who support adult kids have never talked about money with those children, planners say. Parents should be clear about when they will and won’t help. If the children aren’t trying to be self-sufficient, any help should have an expiration date. If the offspring needs basic budgeting help, credit counselors can offer advice, classes or debt-management plans.

Plan for ‘emergencies:’ The financially irresponsible limp from crisis to crisis, so parents who set boundaries should expect to get pleas for emergency help. If possible, avoid knee-jerk responses, planners say. Parents who decide to step in should set and communicate limits, Fernandez says. For example, they can offer to pay one or two months’ rent to stave off an eviction, but tell the offspring to find affordable shelter after that. (One parent I know keeps a list of emergency social services — shelters, mass transit, food banks — handy. The United Way’s 2-1-1 program might be a good place to start.)

Target your help: Very wealthy parents may hand over annual checks as a way to reduce their estates and avoid future estate taxes. But giving cash to irresponsible adult children is a bad idea. Instead, parents should direct the money toward something specific, such as paying the mechanic for a car repair or taking over certain bills, planners say.

Consider your other kids: Money shouldn’t equal love, but it often does in the siblings’ minds when financial help is doled out unequally, says Laura Scharr-Bykowsky, a CFP in Columbia, South Carolina.

Siblings also may worry they’ll have to support the parents or the financially irresponsible child someday, which adds to their resentment. Knowing the parents have a plan to wean that person, or some kind of “stop loss” figure where they’ll stop giving, can ease the situation.

Parents may not be able to treat their children equally in life, but Scharr-Bykowsky encourages her clients to at least do so in death by dividing their estate equally — assuming, of course, that there’s anything left.

Treating children unequally “is a very hurtful thing,” Scharr-Bykowski says. “And the parents don’t see it.”

Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and columnist at NerdWallet, a personal finance website, and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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