Category: Credit

4 Credit Cards That Can Help You Save on Your Summer Road Trip

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Road trips offer distinct advantages over other means of travel. You can change your itinerary at a moment’s notice, you can take in unexpected sights on the way to your destination and you don’t have to deal with airline security.

But while a road trip might seem like a budget vacation, gas purchases can make your costs skyrocket. With a credit card that rewards gas purchases, you can recoup some of that cost, making your trip more affordable.

The best cards for road trips earn rewards as you fill up at the pump, lessening the burden on your wallet. As a bonus, they may provide other road-centric perks. And because you can’t guarantee your gas station of choice will always be within reach, the best road trip cards we highlight here aren’t tied to specific gas stations.

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in spending at supermarkets, 3% cash back on gas and select department store purchases and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.74% to 24.74%
Why We Picked It: The 3% cash back rate on gas is solid, there are plenty of other ways to earn cash back rewards and as a bonus, the card provides protection policies to keep you safe on the road.
Benefits: Cardholders have a wide range of ways to earn cash back, with 3% cash back on gas. The $150 signup bonus is a nice perk. The card also includes emergency roadside assistance, additional car rental insurance and a global assistance hotline to help when you need medical, legal or financial assistance.
Drawbacks: Cardholders pay an annual fee of $95.

2. Bank Americard Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases, on up to $2,500 per quarter
Signup Bonus: $100 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Cardholders earn 3% cash back on gas and Bank of America customers get extra cash-back redemption value.
Benefits: There’s a nice mix of ways to earn cash back, with 3% earnings on gas purchases. Bank of America customers get an additional 10% value when they deposit their cash back into a Bank of America account. There’s also a $100 signup bonus, and no annual fee.
Drawbacks: If you aren’t a Bank of America customer, you won’t earn the full cash back potential.

3. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: Five points for every dollar spent on gas purchases, three points for every dollar spent at supermarkets, and one point on all other purchases
Signup Bonus: $100 in statement credits when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: None
APR: Variable 9.49% to 17.99% on purchases, 0% intro APR for 12 months for balance transfers made through June 30, then variable 9.49% to 17.99%
Why We Picked It: As you spend, your card earns points that can be redeemed toward travel purchases. Gas purchases earn five points per dollar.
Benefits: Points can be redeemed for your road trip expenses, including lodging and car rentals, and gas purchases earn the highest number of points. If you can qualify for the lower APR, you’ll get a fantastic interest rate. You’ll also get special savings and discount offers from select retailers.
Drawbacks: The card is only available to PenFed members, who include active duty military, educators, government employees and the families of members. If you can’t qualify for PenFed membership, you can’t get this card.

4. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas (up to $7,000 annually, then 1% thereafter), 3% cash back on restaurants and travel purchases, 2% cash back on Costco purchases and 1% cash back on other purchases
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None (you will need a paid Costco membership)
APR: 0% intro APR for seven months, then 15.99%
Why We Picked It: The year-round 4% cash back on gas purchases with this card is fantastic, and you can also get 3% back at car rental agencies and the diners or greasy spoons you hit on your road trip.
Benefits: The range of ways to earn cash back make this a well-rounded card. Plus, you get car rental insurance, travel accident insurance and 24/7 emergency assistance.
Drawbacks: You need a paid Costco membership to get this card.

Choosing a Card for Your Road Trip

There’s one of two ways you can use a credit card to make your road trip more affordable. You can select a points rewards card that earns points that can be redeemed for travel purchases, such as lodging and car rentals. Or, you can choose a card that earns you cash back as you spend on gas and other purchases. Either way, you’ll want a card that drives down the cost of your road trip.

If you plan to use your card outside of your road trip, you’ll probably want to pick a card that fits your spending the rest of the year. You can look at the rewards and purchase categories for each card, and choose one that will best reward your overall lifestyle outside of your road trip.

Finally, examine the additional travel benefits. Gas rewards are great, but emergency roadside assistance or additional car rental insurance can provide additional peace of mind while you’re on the road.

What Is Required to Get a Gas Rewards Card?

Cards that reward gas purchases often require good to excellent credit. If your credit doesn’t measure up, you may be better off hunting down a card with lower credit requirements. If you aren’t sure where your credit stands, you can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, 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 credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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The Best Apps on the Market to Learn About Your Credit

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Smartphones have become an absolutely critical part of our lives, allowing us to keep in touch with our friends and family and stay on top of important information such as our finances, virtually 24 hours a day.

If you’re someone who likes to keep an eye on your credit situation while you’re out shopping, traveling, or conducting business, it’s especially convenient to be able to get an instantaneous glimpse of your credit score or other pertinent credit-related data. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular apps available to allow you to be a mobile master of your credit situation. These can be useful to have on hand while working on the paperwork for a car loan or another major purchase.

Credit Karma

Acclaimed by Apple as one of the 10 best apps of 2016, Credit Karma’s redesigned mobile tool offers much of the versatility of the company’s popular credit monitoring website. Like the online service itself, the app is free to use, though its resources will only provide data from TransUnion credit reports — users of the full website are also able to compare their Equifax reports, one of the other three commercial credit bureaus. Information is updated on a weekly basis, and users are allowed as many inquiries as they wish.

Credit Karma’s app offers the ability to monitor those scores and recent activity reports, and allows users to receive alerts about changes to their report, as well as use a built-in feature to immediately submit any disputes to TransUnion. The Credit Karma app also includes educational tips and tools, as well as “approval odds” to suggest loans or credit cards users might access more easily, based on their scores.

LexingtonLaw.com

For those interested in taking a more proactive approach to their credit rating, Lexington Law provides a mobile version of its acclaimed credit monitoring and credit repair services, designed to allow clients to monitor the progress of their credit repair case, in real time.

As part of Lexington Law’s monthly package, clients have the ability to instantly access their FICO score and check for any changes, as well as getting immediate feedback on current challenges to incorrect credit data with all three credit bureaus — and see what items have been removed, and when. Lexington Law’s app also provides a comprehensive overview of current credit reports, including recent purchases and any new inquiries from creditors or lenders.

myFICO mobile

While most free-to-use credit monitoring services rely on variants of the major credit bureau’s scores, only myFICO.com’s mobile app can provide instant access to a sophisticated blending of all three plus a user’s genuine FICO scores — including the recently released FICO Score 9. The app is part of myFICO.com’s paid services, which start at $29.95 per month for quarterly updates of up to 28 different FICO scores used by major retailers and lenders.

The app allows the ability to historically track Score 8 data from all three bureaus and monitor credit reports, as well as get updates and even spot identity theft threats.

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What VantageScore 4.0 Means to You and Your Credit Report

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In early April, VantageScore Solutions, developer of VantageScore credit scores, announced that its new VantageScore 4.0 tri-bureau credit scoring model will be available to lenders in fall 2017. But this announcement doesn’t only impact lenders.

You can think of VantageScore as a competitor to the widely used FICO score used by the majority of lenders. Although FICO, created by Fair Isaac Corp., is the credit industry standard, the VantageScore model, which was created in 2006 by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, has grown significantly in the past several years. The number of VantageScores used increased 40 percent between July 2015 and June 2016, with more than 2,400 lenders and other credit industry participants using it — including 20 of the top 25 financial institutions.

So, what does VantageScore 4.0 mean to you?

VantageScore 4.0 is an update to version 3.0, and includes three important changes:

  1. Perhaps most notably, VantageScore 4.0 is the first tri-bureau credit scoring model designed to accommodate the National Consumer Assistance Plan initiative. The NCAP takes effect July 1 and, among other provisions, it will mark the end of the three reporting agencies collecting and reporting a significant amount of information pertaining to tax liens and civil judgments.

Furthermore, VantageScore 4.0 also distinguishes medical accounts that have been sent to collections from other types of collection accounts and ignores medical collections that are less than six months old in order to allow adequate time for insurance payment processing, according to VantageScore Solutions.

The new model “relies less on derogatory collections and public-records data to ensure that the model will not lose substantial predictive strength in the likely event that these records fail to meet enhanced data quality standards and are removed from consumer credit files under provisions of the NCAP program,” VantageScore Solutions said.

  1. VantageScore 4.0 will be the first credit scoring model used by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to include “trended credit data.” This essentially means the new model takes into consideration a consumer’s credit behavior over time vs. looking only at a current snapshot.
  2. The new version will accommodate consumers with limited credit histories through the use of data mining to create consumer scorecards. Through extensive data, VantageScore 4.0 identified thousands of consumer behavior combinations common to those who pay their bills on time.

Consumers and lenders stand to benefit from this new model, which promises more consistent credit scores from all three national credit reporting agencies.

If you’d like to learn more about how the new VantageScore 4.0 can impact you, or more about credit scoring and credit repair, contact Lexington Law today.

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How Different Generations Use Credit

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When it comes to credit, the way each generation uses it varies as much as the generations themselves. It’s not surprising that the generation in which you came up impacts your spending habits, and how you use and view credit.

According to 2015 data compiled by Experian, there are notable differences among Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials when it comes to card usage, card balances, and even credit scores.

Baby Boomers, generally defined as those born between 1943 and 1960, use the least amount of their available credit — just 25 percent. Boomers carry an average credit card debt of $5,603.

Gen Xers, generally defined as those born anywhere from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, carry the most credit card debt, with an average balance of $6,752. Gen Xers use 41 percent of their available credit, according to Experian.

Millennials, defined as those born after 1980, carry the lowest card balance of any generation, with an average of $3,403. Because this generation has less credit available to them, that still represents 43 percent of their available credit.

But millennials are using credit much differently than the generations that came before them. For example, they hold fewer mortgage and car loans than their older counterparts. They also hold fewer credit cards than previous generations. Their student loan, debt, however, is much higher, according to 2016 data from the Federal Reserve. In fact, when compared with American graduates in 1995, Americans under 35 have 182 percent more college loans to pay off.

Why the differences?

Boomers higher credit card usage and view of credit can largely be attributed to the job market and economy during the bulk of their working years. Most of this generation’s spending habits and view of credit was shaped during a time when the economy and job market were strong. In their younger years they were using credit to afford the luxuries they couldn’t pay for in cash and now they are using the cards to find things they want to do in their retirement years.

This generation also tended to stay in jobs longer than subsequent generations — particularly the millennial generation, for whom the average length of employment at one job is three years or less, according to results of a survey published by Forbes. While millennials may be advancing faster in terms of earnings and salaries, shorter durations of employment come at the expense of pensions and growing retirement plans — both things that can be used to pay off debt in the long run.

Gen Xers, meanwhile, were among the hardest hit by the recession that began in 2008. Many have watched their homes and retirement accounts lose significant value in the post-recession years from which they’re only beginning to recover. Therefore, whereas Boomers are using credit to afford more luxury items, Gen Xers are often using it for everyday purchases.

Millennials represent a mindset shift when it comes to credit cards usage in particular. That’s because they came of age during the recession and likely watched their parents struggle financially. In general, they take a more cautious approach when it comes to credit and debt.

“It’s pretty clear that young people are not interested in becoming indebted in the way that their parents are or were,” David Robertson, publisher of payment industry newsletter The Nilson Report, told The New York Times.

To that end, not only does this generation use credit less — with just 67 percent using cards, according to 2016 data from FICO — they also tend to pay it off sooner. In fact, many millennials use credit cards like debit cards in order to reap travel, fuel and cash back rewards from cards. And according to a recent Facebook poll, millennials put more emphasis on savings than the generations that came before them.

Interestingly, millennials also define financial success much differently than Baby Boomers and Gen X. Whereas those generations’ definitions would include income as a determining factor in success, millennials’ define it as being debt free.

In their seemingly more sensible approach to credit, millennials have the lowest credit scores among the three groups. Millennials have an average VantageScore of 625, compared to Gen Xers, who average 650. Baby boomers come in highest, with an average score of 709.

This lower score has as much to do with the fact that millennials have less credit because of their conscious avoidance of using it as it does being more maxed out on things like student loans. It’s important for this generation to remember that having little or no credit can also negatively impact credit scores.

Gen X and Baby Boomers have shown more creditworthiness, not only because they hold more credit cards, but also because of the amount of debt they’ve run up and paid off over the years. These generations understand the importance of timely payment history and they’re conscious of punctual payments. These generations also keep closer tabs on their credit report when it comes to checking it regularly.

When it comes to credit, there is one factor that bridges these generational gaps: access to to an abundance of information and resources on how credit usage impacts your score and ability to borrow.

By leveraging resources such as access to your free annual credit report and working with professionals that can help you repair your credit issues of the past, you can ensure that the way you’re using credit is working to your benefit.

If you are interested in credit repair services, contact Lexington Law. We help you understand your rights to make sure you have a fair and accurate credit report.

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Credit Checklist for Active Military Personnel

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If you’re one of the more than 1.4 million military personnel on active duty, then you probably know that deployment can impact your credit. As an active service member, a good credit rating is important, not only for military eligibility, but in all areas of life. Good credit will help you secure better rates on everything from car insurance to interest rates on car and home loans.

That’s why it’s important to manage your credit, even during deployments, to ensure that your credit score remains good and that you don’t fall victim to late payments, unauthorized credit checks, or identity fraud while you’re away.

Although trying to manage your credit during a deployment can be an additional cause of stress at an already stressful time, it doesn’t have to be. Understanding the resources and tools available to you as an active service member can alleviate that stress.

There are a number of things every active military service member should know when it comes to options for managing your credit in your absence.

Here is a checklist to help you keep your credit in order while you’re away serving your country:

  1. Take advantage of the option to place a free, one-year Active Duty Military Alert on your credit accounts.

    All active military personnel can take advantage of this option, which requires businesses to apply reasonable policies and procedures to confirm the identity of the person making a request before issuing credit. To place an Active Duty Alert on your credit report you need to contact one of the three bureaus — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — and provide proper identification to make the request.

  2. Thoroughly review your credit report.

    It’s always sensible to review your credit report regularly for any discrepancies, unwarranted lates, or potential fraud as soon as possible. This is even more important if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. You can request a free copy of your credit report once a year. That way you can review items that are one your report and address any negative items and address any inaccuracies before you’re deployed.

  3. Appoint someone to handle finances/financial decisions in your absence.

    Select a friend or family member who you trust to handle any financial issues that might arise during your deployment. If there will be significant events that will need handling in your absence you can even grant someone power of attorney. POAs can include limits on the scope of what your appointed person can (and cannot) do in your absence, and they can also be set for specific amounts of time.

  4. Take advantage of the free credit freeze that will be available to members of the United States Armed Forces in 2018.

    Within the first half of 2018, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will all begin offering the option of free security freezes on credit files for eligible members of the United States Armed Forces. The new credit freeze will allow service members to place, lift and remove a security freeze on credit files at no charge, even if you have not been a victim of fraud or identity theft. A security freeze prevents sharing of your credit information with anyone without your explicit permission.

By following this checklist you can rest assured that your credit will be one less thing to worry about during your military deployment.

If your credit has already been damaged by a previous deployment or other life circumstances, the first step in repairing it is to partner with a reliable, knowledgeable credit repair law firm. A reputable firm can help you leverage the rights to which you’re legally entitled in order to ensure that your credit report is fair and accurate.

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