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

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance?

Coronavirus hasn’t entirely ended life as we knew it, but it’s certainly caused changes, some of which are likely to be with us for a very long time.

For some the coronavirus is literally a matter of life and death, and it raises an important question: how does coronavirus affect life insurance?

No one likes to think about the possibility of losing their life, or that of a loved one to this virus, but for over 150,000 families here in the US, it has turned out to be a reality.

Let’s examine the impact it may have on your existing policies, and perhaps more importantly, how it may affect applications for new life insurance coverage.

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You Already Have?

There’s good news if you already have a life insurance policy in place. Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay a death benefit even if you die from the coronavirus. With few exceptions, life insurance policies will pay for any cause of death once the policy is in force. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as acts of war or terrorism. Pandemics are not a known exception.

If you’re feeling at all uncomfortable about how the coronavirus might impact your existing life insurance policies, contact the company for clarification. Alternatively, review your life insurance policy paying particular attention to the exclusions. If there’s nothing that looks like death due to a pandemic, you should be good to go.

But once the policy is in place, there are only a few reasons why the insurance company can deny a claim:

  • Non-payment of premiums – if you exceed the grace period for the payment, which is generally 30 or 31 days, your policy will lapse. But even if it does, you may still be able to apply for reinstatement. However, after a lapse, you won’t be covered until payment is made.
  • Providing false information on an application – if you fail to disclose certain health conditions that result in your death, the company can deny payment for insurance fraud. For example, if you’re a smoker, but check non-smoker on the application, payment of the death benefit can be denied if smoking is determined to be a contributing cause of death.
  • Death within the first two years the policy is in force – often referred to as the period of contestability, the insurance company can investigate the specific causes of death for any reason within the first two years. If it’s determined that death was caused by a pre-existing condition, the claim can be denied.

None of these are a serious factor when it comes to the coronavirus, unless you tested positive for the virus prior to application, and didn’t disclose it. But since the coronavirus can strike suddenly, it shouldn’t interfere with your death benefits if it occurs once your policy is already in force.

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You’re Applying For?

This is just a guess on my part, but I think people may be giving more thought to buying life insurance now they may have at any time in the past. The coronavirus has turned out to be a real threat to both life and health, which makes it natural to consider the worst.

But whatever you do, don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from applying for coverage. Though you may be wishing you bought a policy, or taken additional coverage, before the virus hit, now is still the very best time to apply. And that’s not a sales pitch!

No matter what’s going on in the world, the best time to apply for life insurance is always now. That’s because you’re younger and likely healthier right now than you’ll ever be again. Both conditions are major advantages when it comes to buying life insurance. If you delay applying, you’ll pay a higher premium by applying later when you’re a little bit older. But if you develop a serious health condition between now and then, not only will your premium be higher, but you may even be denied for coverage completely.

Don’t let fears of the coronavirus get in your way. If you believe you need life insurance, or more of it, apply now.

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That said, the impact of the coronavirus on new applications for life insurance is more significant than it is for existing policies.

The deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US is naturally having an effect on claims being paid by life insurance companies. While there’s been no significant across-the-board change in how most life insurance companies evaluate new applications, the situation is evolving rapidly. Exactly how that will play out going forward is anyone’s guess at the moment.

What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus

If you’re under 60 and in good or excellent health, and not currently showing signs of the virus, the likelihood of being approved for life insurance is as good as it’s ever been. You can make an application, and not concern yourself with the virus.

That said, it may be more difficult to get life insurance if you have any conditions determined to put you at risk for the coronavirus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

These include:

  • Ages 65 and older.
  • Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater.
  • Certain health conditions, including asthma, chronic kidney disease and being treated by dialysis, lung disease, diabetes, hemoglobin disorders, immunocompromised, liver disease, and serious heart conditions.
  • People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Now to be fair, each of the above conditions would require special consideration even apart from the coronavirus. But since they’re known coronavirus risk factors, the impact of each has become more important in the life insurance application process.

If any of these conditions apply to you, the best strategy is to work with insurance companies that already specialize in those categories.

There are insurance companies that take a more favorable view of people with any of the following conditions:

  • Over 65
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain lung diseases, including Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Certain heart conditions

More Specific Application Factors

But even with insurance companies that specialize in providing coverage for people with certain health conditions, some have introduced new restrictions in light of the coronavirus.

For example, if you have a significant health condition and you’re over 65, you may find fewer companies willing to provide coverage.

The insurance company may also check your records for previous coronavirus episodes or exposures. Expect additional testing to determine if you’re currently infected. Most likely, the application process will be delayed until the condition clears, unless it has resulted in long-term complications.

Travel is another factor being closely examined. The CDC maintains an updated list of travel recommendations by country. If you’ve recently traveled to a high-risk country, or you plan to do so in the near future, you may be considered at higher risk for the coronavirus. How each insurance company handles this situation will vary. But your application may be delayed until you’ve completed a recommended quarantine period.

Other Financial Areas to Consider that May be Affected

Since the coronavirus is still very much active in the US and around the world, financial considerations are in a constant state of flux. If you’re concerned at all about the impact of the virus on other insurance types, you should contact your providers for more information.

Other insurance policies that my warrant special consideration are:

  • Employer-sponsored life insurance. There’s not much to worry about here, since these are group plans. Your acceptance is guaranteed upon employment. The policy will almost certainly pay the death benefit, even if your cause of death is related to the virus.
  • Health insurance. There’s been no media coverage of health insurance companies refusing to pay medical claims resulting from the coronavirus. But if you’re concerned, contact your health insurance company for clarification.

Action Steps to Take in the Age of the Coronavirus

Many have been gripped by fear in the face of the coronavirus, which is mostly a fear of the unknown. But the best way to overcome fear is through positive action.

I recommend the following:

1. Be proactive about your health.

Since there is a connection between poor health and the virus, commit to improving your health. Maintain a proper diet, get regular exercise, and follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines on how to protect yourself.

2. If you need life insurance, buy it now.

Don’t wait for a bout with the virus to take this step. It’s important for a number of reasons and the consequences of not having it can be severe. Compare the best life insurance companies to get started.

3. Consider no medical exam life insurance.

If you don’t have the virus, and you want to do a policy as quickly as possible, no medical exam life insurance will be a way to get coverage almost immediately.

4. Look for the lowest cost life insurance providers.

Low cost means you can buy a larger policy. With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, having enough life insurance is almost as important as having a policy at all. Look into cheap term life insurance to learn more about what you can afford.

5. Keep a healthy credit score.

Did you know that your credit score is a factor in setting the premium on your life insurance policy? If so, you have one more reason to maintain a healthy credit score. One of the best ways to do it is by regularly monitoring your credit and credit score. There are plenty of services available to help you monitor your credit.

6. Make paying your life insurance premiums a priority

This action step rates a special discussion. When times get tough, and money is in short supply, people often cancel or reduce their insurance coverage. That includes life insurance. But that can be a major mistake in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus means that maintaining your current life insurance policies must be a high priority.

The virus and the uncertainty it’s generating in the economy and the job market are making finances less stable than they’ve been in years. You’ll need to be intentional about maintaining financial buffers.

7. Start an emergency fund.

If you don’t already have one place, start building one today. If you already have one up and running, make a plan to increase it regularly.

You should also do what you can to maximize the interest you’re earning on your emergency fund. You should park your fund in a high-interest savings account, some of which are paying interest that’s more than 20 times the national bank average.

8. Get Better Control of Your Debts

In another direction, be purposeful about paying down your debt. Lower debt levels translate into lower monthly payments, and that improves your cash flow.

If you don’t have the funds to pay down your debts, there are ways you can make them more manageable.

For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, there are balance transfer credit cards that provide a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months. By eliminating the interest for that length of time, you’ll be able to dedicate more of each payment toward principal reduction.

Still another strategy for lowering your debts is to do a debt consolidation using a low interest personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured loans that have a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, as well as a specific loan term. You can consolidate several loans and credit cards into a single personal loan for up to $40,000, with interest rates starting as low as 5.99%.

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. But that’s because the coronavirus comes close to being an all-encompassing crisis. It’s been said the coronavirus is both a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It requires strategies on multiple fronts, including protecting your health, your finances, and your family’s finances when you’re no longer around to provide for them.

That’s where life insurance comes into the picture. The basic process hasn’t changed much from the coronavirus, at least not up to this point. But that’s why it’s so important to apply for coverage now, before major changes are put into effect.

The post How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

The Shame of Debt

Money doesn’t make you happy. That’s how the saying goes, and you can’t deny that there’s some truth to it. However, while having lots of money won’t make you happy, having very little is more likely to make you stressed and depressed. 

The less you have, the more likely you are to stress over the smallest of things, and if debt is forcing that poverty on you, hanging a dark cloud of uncertainty over your head, that stress and that depression will increase.

Psychological Cost of Debt

Debt has a massive psychological cost and a lot of that boils down to shame. Debt stress and debt shame are more common than ever in the United States, as debtors seek to hide their troubles from their families and loved ones. There is an unmistakable link between debt and an increased suicide risk.

A student conducted several years ago looked at the finances of people who had committed suicide and found they were significantly more likely to have massive debts (student loan debt, credit card debt). Similar studies have been conducted on mental health, noting that people are more likely to suffer from debilitating depression, stress, and anxiety when they have problems with debt.

And it’s easy to see why. Not only do many debtors choose to keep their problems to themselves, feeling an immense shame that stops them from telling even their closest friends and family, but debt can also lead to anxieties about debt collectors, foreclosures, repossessions, bankruptcy, and more. 

How to Overcome the Shame of Debt

To improve your mental health, you need to fight debt stress and shame. That’s easier said than done, but there are a few things that you can do:

Understand Where the Shame Comes From

The first step is to understand why you feel the way that you feel. This might not fix your debt shame, but it will help you to understand it more.

There is no single, overriding cause of debt shame. Some debtors feel shame because they see themselves as the breadwinner, the provider, and if they have debt it means they have failed. Others feel shame because they come from frugal backgrounds and have been wasteful or because their debt is the result of a drug, alcohol or gambling problem.

Whatever the reason, you need to find it, address it, and fix it. Get help for that gambling or drug addiction, get advice from that frugal family.

Admit Your Fault

Debt doesn’t mean that you’re a bad or useless person. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your family. It’s not a character flaw tied to your personality, it’s a behavioral issue tied to impulsivity and even mental health issues. It’s still your fault, but it’s easily fixed and doesn’t make you a bad person.

Understanding this can help you to get rid of that shame and deal with your stress and mental health issues.

Improve Your Financial Knowledge

Researchers have found a direct correlation between debt and financial knowledge; the more you have of the former, the less likely you are to be competent in the latter.

Fortunately, it has never been easier to educate yourself. Take a look at the many guides here on Pocket your Dollars, spanning everything from pay off strategies for credit card debt to money-making ideas, recommendations for loans and credit cards, and more.

Get Credit Counseling

Credit counseling exists for a reason and can help you in your time of need. They’re not mental health counselors, they can’t prescribe you medication and they can’t help with your insomnia and anxiety. However, they have worked with countless debtors, many of which have anxiety and depression, and they understand what it’s like to be in your shoes.

They can help you to assess and manage your debts before advising on the right course of action. A financial therapist can also provide assistance with any relationship issues, counseling you on who you should tell, how you should tell them, and what sort of reaction to expect.

The problem that many debtors have is that they think they know everything. They won’t speak to a counsellor because they’re convinced they know what the counsellor will say. But let’s be honest, if you’re struggling with debt, there’s a good chance you’re not a financial wizard and even if you are, it always helps to speak with an expert, voicing your concerns out loud and bouncing some ideas around.

Stop Spending

We spend when we’re depressed, get depressed because we’re in debt and are in debt because we spend too much. It’s a cycle that’s keeping your favorite retailer in profit and doing untold damage to your finances. To get out of debt, you need to accept that this cycle exists and that the only way to escape is to stop that spending immediately.

Anything that isn’t an absolute necessity can be left for another day, preferably one when you actually have money to spend. Limit your spending to clothes, food, rent, utility bills, medical bills, and everything else that allows you to continue living comfortably from day to day, but give the alcohol, cigarettes, vacations, and other luxuries a miss.

How to Take Control of Your Debt

The best way to avoid the shame and stress of debt is to get rid of it. Studies on debtors have found that at least 9 out of 10 believe they will be much happier if they didn’t have debt. These beliefs have been confirmed by individuals who successfully pay off debt, claiming = they are much happier than they ever were.

There are many ways you can pay off debt and we’ll look at a few of these options below, but generally speaking, you need to:

  • Assess your financial situation
  • Check your credit report and credit score
  • Get help from a credit counselor or financial therapist
  • If your debt-to-income ratio is low, budget better and pay off more with a debt payoff strategy
  • If your debt-to-income ratio is high, try debt relief
  • Create an emergency fund to prevent future issues

Best Ways to Get out of Debt

There is no debt shame if there is no debt. As discussed above, debt is not something you should be ashamed of, but it’s also not something you should cling onto. It can cause you a great deal of stress, placing strain on your relationships and generally making life very difficult for you.

So, while it’s important to face the truth of the situation and dispel those feelings of shame, it’s just as important to fight your debt and get your head above water. Here are a few debt relief options and debt payoff strategies that can help. For more information, including expensive guides and recommendations on each of these options, take a look at the relevant sections on Pocket Your Dollars.

Snowball and Avalanche Methods

The debt snowball and debt avalanche methods are two of the most popular debt payoff strategies, and ones that we have discussed at great length before (see debt snowball vs debt avalanche). They can make the process more systematic, which, in turn, may provide you with the support and the structure you need to get your debts in order. 

In both cases, you need to make a list of all your debts, covering things such as Balance, Monthly Payment, and Interest Rate. For debt snowball, sort the list by balance and go from the smallest to the largest. For debt avalanche, focus on the debts that have the highest interest rate and get those out of the way first. With both methods, you need to keep meeting your monthly payment obligations, before putting any extra money you have towards your chosen debt.

Debt avalanche provides the most practical benefits as it clears the problematic debts first, thus reducing the total interest. Debt snowball provides more of a psychological boost, giving you motivation as you steadily clear your debts.

Major Sacrifices

The biggest issue with any debt payoff strategy is that it isn’t easy to get the extra money you need to make those additional payments and clear your debts early. However, many debtors are trapped in a cycle of debt not because they can’t scrape the cents together no matter how hard they try, but because they struggle to budget properly and make the necessary sacrifices.

The average American debtor spends thousands of dollars every year on uneaten groceries, lottery tickets, and media subscriptions. They drop hundreds of dollars on luxuries they don’t really need and spend over $3,500 a year eating out. If debt is dragging you down then it’s imperative that you clear it, which means making some sacrifices and getting your priorities in check.

If you genuinely can’t spare a dime and don’t waste money on unnecessary expenses, then look into some of the options below.

Debt Settlement

Debt settlement is tailor-made for unsecured debt and works especially well for clearing credit card debt, as well as private students. Debt settlement companies often request that you stop meeting your monthly payment obligations, which puts the accounts into doubt and means your creditors are more likely to accept a settlement.

This settlement will clear the entirety of the debt for a fraction of the price, often around 50%. This means that a credit card debt of $10,000 would be cleared for $5,000, providing you with some big savings even after the settlement fees have been taken into account.

Debt Consolidation

A consolidation loan is a large loan that pays off all of your debt at a reduced interest rate and for a reduced monthly payment. The loan is often extended by several years, which means you pay more in the long-term, but the reduced monthly payments alleviate some of the burden and make the debt more manageable.

Debt Management

Debt management provides debtors with a debt repayment strategy, with all funds funneled through the debt management plan and then distributed to creditors. This service is often provided by credit counseling agencies and credit unions, who begin the process by negotiating with creditors and then assuming control of all debts.

These companies often ask that the debtors cancel all but one credit card, which can reduce the debtor’s credit score by impacting their credit utilization ratio.

Balance Transfer

A balance transfer credit card lets you move all your credit card balances onto a single card, one that offers a 0% APR for the first 6, 12 or 18 months, allowing you to pay down debt without interest, thus reducing compounded interest and clearing the debt quickly.

This method works with all credit card debt and you can typically move between 1 and 5 balances onto a new credit card, providing that card isn’t offered by the same company.

The Shame of Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Financial Advice Keeping You Broke & In Debt

The post Financial Advice Keeping You Broke & In Debt appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Financial advice is great – when it is the right type of advice.  There are tips and strategies that can make you money.  However, there is also a lot of advice that will do nothing but keep you broke and in debt.  These are things you don’t want to listen to.

I remember when I was younger, my mom told me that I had to get a credit card because it would be important for any emergencies which came my way.  I followed her advice and got a credit card. And, wouldn’t you know it, the first time I used it was for an emergency. Or, what I thought was an emergency.

I woke one snowy morning and someone had hit my car — and fled. No note on my windshield.  Just a dented door with green paint. I was devastated.  I had worked so hard to afford that car.  Now, here I was having to pay money to get it back to the condition it once was.  Since I was broke, I followed my mom’s advice.  I used my credit card.

I remember watching it go through the reader.  I signed my name and I was done.   When the bill came the following month, I paid that minimum payment. I decided that credit cards were pretty slick!  They were simple to use and it was the way to get what I wanted now and I could just pay for it later.

In hindsight, my mom would have been better to teach me the importance of saving.  That way, I would have cash on hand to cover my emergencies and not rely on plastic.

Sadly, this is the way many people live their financial life. The take the advice of friends and family and follow it rather than listening to financial experts.  Here are some common financial advice myths.

 

BAD FINANCIAL ADVICE YOU MAY BELIEVE

1. Some debt is good to have

I hear time and time again that you have to have debt in order to have a good credit score.  That type of financial advice is pure nonsense.

There is no such thing as “good debt.” Debt is money you owe someone and it is never a good thing. It is, however, sometimes necessary in order to purchase a house or a vehicle.  While not what one would call good debt, it may be a debt you need to have in order to live.

The type of debt no one should have is credit card debt.  Ever.  There should never be any instance where you owe more on your credit card in any given month than the amount of money you have in the bank to pay it in full.

Continuing to accrue debt that you can not pay in full each month makes no sense at all.

 

2. You need a credit card for an emergency

My story above is all too common for many.  The opposite is true.  You can have a credit card, but should not use it only for an emergency.  However, if that is how you plan to pay for emergencies, you are setting yourself up for financial trouble.

We all know that emergencies will happen.  There is nothing we can do to prevent them.  However, the smart thing to do is to plan ahead for the unknown.  This is why a fully funded emergency account makes more sense than a credit card.

If you think about it, having to deal with the stress of the situation is bad enough.  Add to it the thought of increasing your debt in order to deal with it just makes the situation a work.  Now, you not only had to deal with the broken furnace but now, you will have to find a way to pay for it as your monthly bills just went up.

Your emergency fund will come to your rescue when it is needed.  Knowing the funds are there to help cover those expenses will instantly make you feel better when dealing with a stressful situation.

 

3.  Leasing a vehicle is better

This is the one that makes me scratch my head.  When you lease a vehicle, you never own it.   Instead, you are stuck in perpetual car payments. How does that make any sense at all?

The common reason many say they lease is that they don’t have to worry about having an older vehicle.  They know that they are driving a new vehicle every few years.  The truth is, if you take care of your car, your vehicle can last you for years.  I drove our minivan for more than 13 years!  And, when I was ready for an upgrade, my vehicle was 3 years old.  Nothing new here!

If you lease a vehicle for 3 years at $300 a month, you will pay nearly $11,000 to drive the vehicle.  At the end of 3 years, you give it back. You have nothing to show for it.  You have just thrown away $11,000.  Now, you have to either lease again or decide to purchase your vehicle.  You are starting over on those payments.

However, had you purchased a vehicle that would offer you the same monthly payment of $300 for 3 (or even 4) years, you would own your car.  You now have $300 a month income freed up to do with what you wish.

The smart move would be to save that $300 monthly amount so that in 8, 9 or even 10 years when you need a new car, you can pay for it in cash.  This money will also more than cover some of the repairs that may be needed as your vehicle ages.

 

4.  Renting is throwing your money away

If you rent, you probably this financial advice frequently.  It is common for people to feel that it makes more sense to buy a house as your money is going to build up equity in your property.  And, truthfully, for some people renting is a waste of money.

But not for all.

There are situations where you do not have the funds for your down payment.  It could also be a time in your life when you know there will be the potential for relocating to a new city or venturing down a new career path.

By renting, you also avoid the additional costs of home maintenance, insurance, and other expenses which go with owning a home.

The best way to know this one is to look carefully at your own budget and personal situation. If renting works for you, then that is the path you should follow.

 

5.  You should always buy a new car

Turn on any television program and you will see ads sharing low-interest rate payments to lure you into wanting that new car.  These ads make it sound extremely affordable and tempting.  But don’t fall for it.

The truth is that when you purchase a new car, it will depreciate most quickly in the first few years you own it.  In fact, most cars will lose half their value every four years.  For instance, if your car is $25,000 brand new, in just four years it will be worth $12,000.  Add another four years and now the car is worth just $6,000.

You should not be a car that is too old.  Instead, purchase a late model car with lower miles. It will cost less to operate and will more quickly pay for itself.

 

6.  You must go to college

Many high school students believe that they must go to college when they graduate. However, that is not necessarily the right decision for everyone.  Not all careers or jobs will require a college education.  And, if you do not have the funds to pay for it, you can certainly rack up quite a bit of student loan debt.

If you happen to select a career that requires a secondary education, then it can be worth the cost. But, make certain you have the passion needed to carry you through.  Otherwise, you may find yourself amongst the nearly 60% who drop out, you will find yourself left with a mountain of student loan debt and nothing to show for it.

Rather than attend a college, consider a trade school instead.  Or, if you know for sure you do want to go to school, spend some time trying different jobs to figure out where your passion lies.  There is no rule that says you have to start college immediately after you finish high school.  Know what you want to do and then decide where to go for your education.

Getting financial advice from family and friends, be it solicited or not, can be helpful.  However, just make sure that what they say makes sense and do your homework.  Following what they say can often lead you down a path of increased debt and unhappiness.

Please note that I am not a certified financial advisor and the information shared on this site is based on my personal experiences.   It is important you consult with a tax or financial professional for assistance for your financial situation.

The post Financial Advice Keeping You Broke & In Debt appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Escape Debt in 2016

How to Escape Debt in 2016

The new year is right around the corner and if you’re like most people, you’ve probably got a running list of resolutions to achieve and milestones to reach. If getting out of debt ranks near the top, now’s the time to starting thinking about how you’re going to hit your goal. Developing a clear-cut action plan can get you that much closer to debt-free status in 2016.

1. Add up Your Debt

You can’t start attacking your debt until you know exactly how much you owe. The first step to paying down your debt is sitting down with all of your statements and adding up every penny that’s still outstanding. Once you know how deep in debt you are, you can move on to the next step.

2. Review Your Budget

A budget is a plan that sets limits on how you spend your money. If you don’t have one, it’s a good idea to put a budget together as soon as possible. If you do have a budget, you can go over it line by line to find costs you can cut out. By eliminating fees and unnecessary expenses like cable subscriptions, you’ll be able to use the money you save to pay off your debt.

3. Set Your Goals

How to Escape Debt in 2016

At this point in the process, you should have two numbers: the total amount of money you owe and the amount you can put toward your debt payments each month. Using those two figures, you should be able determine how long it’s going to take you to pay off your mortgage, student loans, personal loans and credit card debt.

Let’s say you owe your credit card issuer $25,000. If you have $500 in your budget that you can use to pay off that debt each month, you’ll be able to knock $6,000 off your card balance in a year. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll still need to factor in interest to get an accurate idea of how the balance will shrink from one year to the next.

4. Lower Your Interest Rates

Interest is a major obstacle when you’re trying to get out of debt. If you want to speed up the payment process, you can look for ways to shave down your rates. If you have high-interest credit card debt, for instance, transferring the balances to a card with a 0% promotional period can save you some money and reduce the amount of time it’ll take to get rid of your debt.

Refinancing might be worth considering if you have student loans, car loans or a mortgage. Just remember that completing a balance transfer or refinancing your debt isn’t necessarily free. Credit card companies typically charge a 3% fee for balance transfers and if you’re taking out a refinance loan, you might be on the hook for origination fees and other closing costs.

5. Increase Your Income

How to Escape Debt in 2016

Keeping a tight rein on your budget can go a long way. But that’s not the only way to escape debt. Pumping up your paycheck in the new year can also help you pay off your loans and increase your disposable income.

Asking your boss for a raise will directly increase your earnings, but there’s no guarantee that your supervisor will agree to your request. If you’re paid by the hour, you can always take on more hours at your current job. And if all else fails, you can start a side gig to bring in more money.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Having a plan to get out of debt in the new year won’t get you very far if you’re not 100% committed. Checking your progress regularly is a must, as is reviewing your budget and goals to make sure you’re staying on track.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/BsWei, ©iStock.com/marekuliasz, ©iStock.com/DragonImages

The post How to Escape Debt in 2016 appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much?

Most Americans have credit card debt and will die with credit card debt. It’s one of the most accessible types of credit there is, becoming available as soon as you’re financially independent. It’s also one of the most damaging, as too much credit card debt could hurt your credit report, reduce your credit score, and cost you thousands of dollars in interest payments.

But how much debt is too much? What is the average total debt for American consumers and households and when do you know if you have crossed a line?

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much?

The average credit card debt in the United States is around $5,000 to $6,000 per consumer. However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture as these figures don’t differentiate rolling balances. In other words, even if you repay your balance in full every month, that balance will still be recorded as debt until it is repaid.

For many consumers, $6,000 is not “too much”. It’s a manageable sum that they can afford to clear. However, if you’re out of work, relying on government handouts and have no money to your name, that $6,000 can seem like an unscalable mountain. And that’s an important point to note, because everything is relative.

To the average American, unsecured debt of $50,000 is catastrophic. It’s the sort of debt that will cause you to lose sleep, stress every minute of the day, and panic every time your lender sends you a letter. To a multi-millionaire homeowner who runs several successful businesses, it’s nothing, an insignificant debt they could repay in full without a second thought.

One man’s pocket change is another man’s fortune, so we can’t place an actual figure on what constitutes “too much debt”. However, this is something that credit reporting agencies, creditors, and lenders already take into consideration and to get around this issue, they use something known as a debt-to-income ratio.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Your DTI can tell you whether you have too much debt, and this is true for credit card debt and all other forms of debt (student loans, car loans, personal loans, and even mortgages). 

DTI is not used to calculate your credit score and won’t appear on your credit report, but it is used by mortgage lenders and other big lenders to determine your creditworthiness and if you don’t past the test then you won’t get the money.

To calculate your DTI, simply calculate the amount of debt payments that you have and compare this to your gross monthly income. For instance, let’s imagine that you make $400 in credit card payments and $600 in auto loan payments, creating a total debt payment of $1,000. Your gross monthly income is $4,000 and you don’t have any investments.

In this scenario, your DTI would be 25%. as your monthly debt payments ($1,000) are 25% of your monthly income. If you have a $1,000 mortgage payment to make every month, your obligations increase and your DTI hits 50%, which is when you should start being concerned.

Many lenders will not accept you if you have a DTI greater than 50%, because they are not convinced you will make your payments. $2,000 may seem like a lot of money to have leftover at the end of the month, but not when you factor tax, insurance, food, bills, and everyday expenses into the equation.

If your DTI is below 50%, you may be safe, but it all depends on those additional expenses.

How to Tell If You’ve Borrowed Too Much

Your debt-to-income ratio is a good starting point to determine if you have borrowed too much, and if it’s higher than 50%, there’s a good chance you have borrowed more than you should or, at the very least, you are teetering on the edge. However, even if your DTI is above 30%, which many consider the ideal limit, you may have too much credit card debt.

In such cases, you need to look for the following warning signs:

You Can’t Pay More Than the Minimum

Minimum payments cover a substantial amount of interest and only a small amount of the actual principal. If you’re only paying the minimum, you’re barely scratching the surface and it could take years to repay the debt. If you genuinely don’t have the extra funds to pay more money, then you definitely have a debt problem.

Your Credit Card Balance Keeps Growing

The only thing worse than not being able to pay more than the balance is being forced to keep using that card, in which case the balance will keep growing and the interest charges will keep accumulating. This is a dire situation to be in and means you have far too much credit card debt.

Your Debt is Increasing as Your Take-Home Pay is Reducing

If your credit card bill seems to be going in the opposite direction as your paycheck, you could have a serious problem on your hands. You may be forced to take payday loans; in which case you’ll be stuck repaying these on top of your mounting credit card interest, reaching a point when your debt eventually exceeds your disposable income.

You Don’t Have Savings or an Emergency Fund

A savings account or emergency fund is your safety net. If you reach a point where you feel like you can no longer meet the monthly payments, you can tap into these accounts and use the funds to bail you out. If you don’t have that option, things are looking decidedly bleaker for you.

Dangers of Having Too Much Credit Card Debt

The biggest issue with excessive credit card debt is that it has a habit of sticking around for years. Many debtors only make the minimum monthly payment, either because they can’t look at the bigger picture or simply can’t afford to pay more. 

When this happens, a $1,000 debt could cost them over $2,000 to repay, which means they’ll have less money to their name. What’s more, that credit card debt could impact their credit score, thus reducing their chances of getting low-interest credit and of acquiring mortgages and auto loans.

It’s a cycle. You use a credit card to make big purchases and are hit with a high-interest rate. That interest takes your disposable income away, thus making it more likely you will need to use the card again for other big purchases. 

All the while, your credit utilization ratio (calculated by comparing available credit to total debt and used to calculate 30% of your credit score) is plummeting and your hopes of getting a lower interest rate diminish.

What to do if you Have too Much Credit Card Debt?

If you find yourself ticking off the boxes above and you have a sinking feeling as you realize that everything we’re describing perfectly represents your situation, then fear not, as there are a multitude of ways you can dig yourself out of this hole:

Seek Counseling

Credit counselors can help to find flaws in your budget and your planning and provide some much-needed insight into your situation. They are personal finance experts and have dealt with countless consumer debt issues over the years, so don’t assume they can only tell you what you already know and always look to credit counseling as a first step.

Avoid Fees

Credit card companies charge a higher annual percentage rate to consumers with poor credit scores as they are more likely to default, which means they need those extra funds to balance their accounts. Another way they do this is to charge penalty fees, penalty rates, and cash advance fees, the latter of which can be very damaging to an individual struggling with credit card debt.

Cash advance fees are charged every time you withdraw money from an ATM, and the rate is often fixed at 3% with a minimum charge of $10. This means that if you withdraw as little as $20, it’ll cost you $10 in charges, as well as additional interest fees.

If the cash flow isn’t there, this can seem like a good option, but it will only make your situation worse and should be avoided at all costs.

Use Debt Relief

Debt management, debt settlement, and debt consolidation can all help you to escape debt, creating a repayment plan and clearing everything from credit card debt to student loan debt in one fell swoop. You don’t even need an excellent credit score to do this, as many debt management and debt consolidation companies are aimed towards bad credit borrowers.

Balance Transfers

A balance transfer credit card moves all of your current credit card balances onto a new card, one with a large credit limit and a 0% introductory APR that allows you to swerve interest charges for the first 6, 12, 15 or 18 months. It’s one of the best options available, assuming you have a credit score high enough to get the limit you need.

Monitor Your Situation

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to keep a close eye on your finances to ensure this never happens again. You should never be hit with an unexpected car payment or mortgage payment, because you know those payments arrive every single month; you should never be surprised that you have interest to pay or that your credit score has taken a hit because of a new account or application. 

If you paid attention to your financial situation, you wouldn’t be surprised, you would understand where every penny goes, and as a result, you will be better equipped to deal with issues in the future.

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com