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Business credit cards

If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.

Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.

Another coronavirus complication: Scams

As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.

In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.

“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.

Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques

Bottom line

The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.

Source: creditcards.com

What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020

January 12, 2021

As the Bob Dylan song goes, the times, they are a-changin’, and that couldn’t be truer than for apartment living.

Renting used to be a lower rung on the ladder as you climb toward the American dream — owning a single-family home in the suburbs. But as homes increase in cost and competition, renting is on the rise.

According to Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies 2017 rental-market report, the number of high-income households (earning at least $100,000) renting their homes rose by 6 percent from 2005 to 2016. As a result of this increase, apartment complexes have added more amenities to appeal to the influx of renters. The same study found that in 2016, 89 percent of new apartments offered in-unit laundry and 86 percent provided swimming pool access.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Today’s apartment complexes are not what they used to be, and apartment living is significantly nicer and more desirable than it was just 10 years ago. Here’s what you can expect for modern apartment living in 2020.

1. High-end amenities

indoor pool

Forget the bare-bones coin-operated laundry room and trash dumpster in the back parking lot or basement. According to NMCH’s 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 83 percent of adult and millennial renters said it was important to have an apartment that offered convenience and flexibility. Additionally, fast internet access, technology, and green initiatives are now considered must-haves for modern apartments.

To keep up with the competitive rental market, apartment complexes are upping the ante when it comes to amenities. In-unit laundry and pool access are quickly becoming par for the course, while many luxury complexes offer trash collection and recycling programs, high-speed internet, fitness centers, eco-friendly rooftop gardens and communal spaces, such as BBQs and theater rooms. These amenities make it easier to enjoy life at home and to entertain friends and family, just as one would if they owned a single-family home.

2. Online communication with apartment management

Speaking of convenience, flexibility and technology, many modern apartment complexes simplify the tasks that were previously pain points of renting — namely, rent payments, maintenance requests and apartment management communication. A number of complexes are capitalizing on technology to streamline these tasks.

For example, rather than having to mail a check each month, platforms like RentPay allow renters to automate their rent payments and pay via credit card or electronic check. Even if a landlord doesn’t accept electronic payments, RentPay prints a physical check and mails it directly to the landlord each month.

Additionally, it’s becoming more common for larger apartment complexes to offer an online portal or website for easier communication with apartment management, from submitting maintenance requests and asking questions to renew leases and sign contracts. This saves renters significant time and money.

3. More emphasis on safety and security

keypad

In the past, one of the downsides of renting was security. With people constantly going in and out of the building or complex, it seemed as if anyone could walk in. With so many technology advances this past decade, in terms of access and price, it’s easier for complexes and renters to invest in security.

Many of today’s complexes offer gated access to the parking lot, codes for elevator access and security key fobs to all points of entrance. Some even offer enhanced security within the individual units, like video doorbells and camera security systems.

If your building doesn’t offer in-unit security features, there are multiple home security options available that are non-intrusive, as far as security deposits and installation are concerned. Simply plug in the device and monitor your apartment from your smartphone. Many systems are easy to pair with indoor security cameras and other alarms for additional safety.

4. Smaller space

While apartments are getting smaller in square footage due to space constraints and population growth, architects are getting smarter with layout designs to maximize every inch of a room. For instance, micro homes, the tiny house equivalent in apartment form, are as small as 350 square feet but make use of movable and folding furniture so it can serve as an entertaining space by day and bedroom by night.

Open floor plans are still popular and, while they can at first seem daunting to decorate, they offer the most options for room layouts. And thanks to more furniture companies starting to specialize in small home living, it’s much easier to find compact couches and dual-purpose furnishings that go beyond the futon.

Popular home stores like Pottery Barn, CB2 and IKEA offer couches, tables and other items designed specifically for small spaces. While it’s becoming harder to find spacious apartments, complexes are making up for it with communal spaces for entertaining.

Apartment living has changed for the better

If you’re looking for a place to call home, apartment living may be the perfect solution. The evolution of apartments in the past decade means they’re a favorable housing option for a variety of lifestyles — in both urban and suburban settings.

Lush amenities, online communication, security measures and optimized floorplans have helped renting become a more comparable alternative to buying. You can enjoy the in-unit laundry, entertainment amenities and peace of mind without worrying about the costs or inconvenience of maintenance tasks.

The post What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020 appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Two? Seven? Twenty? How many credit cards should I have?

January 12, 2021

It would be easy to fill up a wallet with just credit cards. A card to maximize airline miles. A card targeted at your favorite hotel chain. A card that gives you cash back on groceries. Even a card that earns you points when you spend at NFL games. So, where to begin? And where to end?

How many credit cards should I have?

The short answer: you should have at least two – ideally each from a different network (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, etc.) and each offering you different kind of rewards (cash back, miles, rewards points, etc.). How many credit cards is too many? That depends on the individual – you should never have more than you can handle.

Experts say the number of cards one should have varies according to individual and circumstance. “Generally speaking, there is no one perfect number,” said Ethan Dornhelm, a vice president at FICO.

While the number varies by generation, credit score and other factors, the average American has three credit cards and 2.4 retail store cards, according to a 2020 survey by the credit reporting agency Experian.

To ensure a mix of credit cards and keep your credit score climbing, credit expert John Ulzheimer suggests asking yourself two questions about the cards in your wallet:

  1. Do you have cards across more than one network? If you have three cards, but all of them are Mastercards, this could be a problem if you run into a merchant who only takes Visa. An example? Costco only accepts Visa now, though you can use your Mastercard on the wholesaler’s website.
  2. Do you have a low credit card utilization ratio? Your average balances across all your cards for the past 24 months “should represent no more than 10% of your overall credit limit,” Ulzheimer says.

Credit utilization – how much credit you’re using each month, on average, of all the credit available to you from all your cards combined – accounts for 30% of your credit score under FICO’s traditional model.

If you can add another credit card while keeping your overall spending the same, you’ll lower this ratio – and boost your score.

See related: What is a good credit utilization ratio?

Two? Twenty? The answer is personal

That former number sounds about right to John Corcoran, a hotel industry executive in Aspen, Colorado.

He’s got two for personal use – both airline mileage cards – and a third for work. He added the second mileage card solely for the points bonus, and is thinking about dropping it before the $90 annual fee comes due. “I don’t like credit cards,” he said. “I don’t like debt.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Naomi Sachs, an international business executive in San Rafael, California. Sachs estimates she has 20 or 30 cards “sitting in a sock drawer, unused” – generally retail cards she signed up for to lower the cost of a purchase at that store or credit cards she acquired for the points boost.

Sachs is carrying around in her wallet about 10 more cards, of which she uses two or three with regularity. As for cash? Maybe there’s a $20 bill in there somewhere. Debit? “I don’t put anything on debit, ever, ever,” she said.

Instead, she charges strategically, and checks her card balances a few times a week to stay on top of her finances. “I aggressively try to maximize my spend, for almost every single dollar, every single time,” she said.

Credit expert John Ulzheimer suggests two things that can help you determine the number of cards that is right for you. Always keep your overall credit card utilization low, and secure access to more than one credit card network.

While merchants in the U.S. accept the big four card networks – especially Mastercard and Visa, and, to a lesser extent, American Express and Discover – you can still find places where some of them are not accepted. Costco is one example. The warehouse club switched in 2016 from American Express as its card partner to Citi, so now the only card Costco accepts in-store is Visa.

And if you travel abroad, you should pack credit cards from a variety of card networks. While Visa and Mastercard are most universally accepted, and American Express signs are increasingly common in store windows across the globe, you will inevitably wind up in a place that doesn’t accept the type of credit card you have with you.

Beyond those two key elements, Ulzheimer explains, many approaches are valid, so long as they work for you.

See related: How to use your credit card wisely

How many cards should you have if…

Want to get more specific? Here’s a list of some particular situations you may find yourself in, and some experts’ thoughts on how that might affect what kinds of cards, and how many, you may want to carry in your wallet:

You’re new to credit cards, or just recovering from a bankruptcy or other bad credit incident

Start with one card, a secured card if necessary, then add a second card when you can prove to yourself that you are making your payments on time and paying your bill off in full each month, says Netiva Heard, a credit counselor in Chicago.

“It’s a learning period,” she said. “That’s why you start with just one card first, to get adjusted to those good habits.”

You want to take advantage of rewards programs

Cards that don’t offer rewards “are a complete waste of your time,” Heard says. She recommends thinking about what rewards would benefit you the most, and whether you want to pay an annual fee to get them.

Cards that don’t charge an annual fee generally come with lower introductory bonuses than cards that do and may not be as generous with rewards points on day-to-day spending. But be careful that you don’t sign up for more rewards cards than you can manage to juggle.

Heard advises most people to keep no more than three to five credit cards total in their wallets. Ulzheimer said two rewards cards seems like more than enough – one for airline points and one for cash back.

You plan to buy a new house or car soon

You should stick to the number of cards you already have, at least temporarily. Don’t open even one new credit card within at least six months of applying for a so-called installment loan. Opening a new card will lower your score by a few points due to the hard inquiry on your credit, “and you want it to be in the best shape possible when you go out to get that expensive loan,” Ulzheimer said.

That said, he added, installment lenders will pay the most attention to whether you’ve had a mortgage or auto loan before, if you paid it off on time and whether you tend to pay off your bills in general on time.

You want to improve your credit score

This is not a reason to get a new credit card, Ulzheimer said. “Opening a new card can actually backfire,” he said, because it will, at least initially, lower your score.

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer pulls your credit report, which triggers a hard inquiry. A hard inquiry can lower your score by five points, but it only affects your credit score for one year. After two years, the inquiry falls off your credit report. Note that applying for multiple credit cards at once can exacerbate the negative credit score impact of inquiries, at least in the short term.

A new credit card can also reduce your length of credit history, a key credit scoring factor that considers the average age of all your credit accounts. While length of credit history only counts for 15% of your FICO score, the effect can be significant if you only have one or two existing credit accounts.

On the other hand, if your new credit card has a high credit limit and you keep your balance low, the card can eventually boost your credit score by increasing your overall available credit.

debit card, or cash, Ulzheimer said.

If you need to close your credit cards to avoid using them, then do it, but know that every time you close a credit card, it can lower your score, he said – because it may reduce your available credit, thus increasing your aforementioned credit utilization ratio.

Divorce hits women harder financially: Here’s how to survive it

Bottom line

So, whether you have two or 20 cards doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that your cards give you access to more than one network and offer you the rewards that best meet your needs (which can change over your lifetime).

And, of course, you need to be sure you’re not juggling so many cards that you can’t keep track of all the payment due dates The whole point of having two to 20 or more credit cards is earning points or cash back on your everyday spending that you pay off every month. All the while, keep your credit utilization low so that your credit score climbs.

Source: creditcards.com

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