Surviving the Crisis

By now, many who’ve been laid off, furloughed, had our hours cut, or worse, are really running tight on cash, even as the pandemic rages on.  While both federal and state governments have promised quick access to unemployment funds, stimulus checks, and other forms of help, these things take time.  Time that you may no longer have.  So, what are your options?

If you’re fortunate enough to have credit available, you may want to consider using your credit cards to get you through the immediate cash crunch.  However, you’ll definitely want to sit down and consider all of your options first.  If you’re already in too deep with credit cards, racking up more debt might not be the best thing to do, especially if you don’t have a plan to repay the debt once you get back on your feet financially.

But, if you do expect your cash flow shortage to be temporary, and you do have a plan to pay off the debt you incur, then you may be able to utilize your credit cards to get through it.  By using your credit cards to pay when you can, you can save cash to pay for things like your mortgage, car payment, certain utilities, etc.  This one move can give you the time you need to get through a cash crunch, whether that means going back to work, getting your stimulus check, or starting up unemployment.



Summer Vacation is Looming!

Summer is almost here! 

Are you planning a vacation?  Or are you still trying to figure out how you’ll afford to take even a small vacation?

You know, one of the easiest ways to save money (and be able to afford that vacation) is to cut expenses, and the easiest way to cut expenses is to cut something that you won’t miss.  Like credit card interest charges!   Think about it… you’re already spending the money, but if you were able to cut out that monthly interest, what would you miss?  The answer is absolutely nothing!  Not only would you have to do without something, but you’d have more money each month.  Money that you could save for that summer vacation!  Or use to pay off your credit card early, or use to buy something that you really need, or any one of a hundred other things!  Who wouldn’t want to save money that way?

Of course, if you’ve already paid your credit cards down, and you’re actually planning to use them to take your summer vacation, then that opens up even more possibilities.  Have you figured out which credit card you’ll use?  Have you looked at the interest rate you’ll pay?  Does it have travel rewards or cash back rewards?

Would you benefit by getting a different credit card that better suited your needs?

And, don’t forget your credit score! If your credit score has improved over the past few months, or years, depending on how often you review your credit cards, then you definitely need to make sure you’re carrying the right card before you ever leave the driveway this summer!

It’s October!

Well, it’s October, and you know what that means? Yes, your mailbox is likely filled with all sorts of offers… credit cards with no interest, catalogs with pre-approved lines of credit, and personal loan offers! Some of them look pretty tempting, don’t they? But, should you fill any of them out and return them? Should you complete the application online? Should you even consider the offers at all?

Honestly, yes and no to all of these questions. While the offers are definitely worth considering, you also need to do your research before applying for ANY credit card, catalog card, or personal loan.

First and foremost, check your credit score! Most of the mailers that you receive are based on the demographics of your state, city, town, or even your specific neighborhood, and not necessarily on your specific credit profile, so checking your credit first gives you the basic information that you need to start with before you even consider a single offer. If the offer is for a credit score that’s much higher than yours, you are likely to be rejected, which definitely hurts your credit score. And if the offer is for a credit score that’s much lower than yours, you will most certainly pay a higher interest rate, additional fees, and lose out on the perks that come with a credit card for better credit. So, start with your credit score.

Once you have your credit score in hand, you’re ready to move on to the next step. Consider each offer carefully! Remember, these are bulk rate mailers, and they’re not necessarily tailored to your specific needs, so what looks good at first may not compare to other options that you most likely have with other credit card, catalog, or personal loan vendors.

The best place to start is the individual credit vendor’s website. Are they legitimate? Are the terms that you see in your offer the same as you find online? Are they typically for individuals with credit scores in the same range as your credit score? Remember, these days, everything and anything is fair game to scammers out there trying to steal your money, your identity, or worse, and as such, you must consider everything and anything as suspect.

Once you’ve determined that the offer is legitimate, then it’s time to compare the offer in your hands to other offers that are out there. Are you getting the best interest rate? Are you getting the best rewards? Would you be paying fees? Is there a better option for you?

Unless you do the research, you can and you will lose out on the best credit card offers, and that will most certainly cost you more in the long run. So, do the research first, and then enjoy the benefits of those credit offers!

Here’s a good place to start:

Is a Personal Loan Right for You?

Credit cards are a great way to build credit, buy things, and earn rewards, but using a credit card can get pretty costly over time, especially if you carry large balances, or if you’re forced to use the cards to cover big ticket emergency expenses or things that you can’t pay off right away.  That’s where personal loans come in.

You see, a personal loan, which is defined as an unsecured installment loan, typically has a much lower, fixed interest rate than credit cards and a set monthly payment, so you know when it will be paid off.  And it usually takes a lot less time to pay off a personal loan than just making minimum payments on your credit card, so you’ll save lots of money on interest, especially if you have good to excellent credit.   (Even those of us with less than perfect credit will normally still save money with a personal loan vs. a credit card, especially since credit card interest rates for fair to bad credit are still significantly higher than most personal loan rates for the same credit range.)

Not sure how to go about getting that personal loan?  The first thing you’ll want to do is to figure out exactly how much you want to borrow, then check your credit score so you’ll know up front what kind of rate to expect when you apply.  Next, you’ll want to start your search for the right personal loan for you – you can start with your bank, but don’t overlook online lenders, as they may offer better interest rates, with different qualifiers, so it may be easier to get the personal loan that you need.  (And don’t be afraid to ask questions of the lenders you’re considering, compare their rates with those of other lenders, or even negotiate a little on the terms – the personal loan business is highly competitive and you can use this to your advantage!)

Once you’ve determined where you want to apply, you’ll need to fill out an application for the loan, but the process has been somewhat streamlined over the years, so it won’t take long to complete the application, provide proof of income, and assuming you’re approved, have the money deposited directly into your checking or savings account.  (Most of the time, the entire process takes a few hours to a couple of days.)

Think a personal loan might be something that would work for you?

Here are a few lenders you might want to consider:

Don’t Close That Credit Card Account!

You’ve finally paid off one of your credit cards…the balance is zero and you don’t plan to use it again.  Should you close the account so you won’t even be tempted to use it again?

While closing the account might seem like the smart thing to do at first, the truth is, you really need to think about it before you close ANY of your credit cards.  Why?  Closing an account will cause your total available credit to go down  and if your total available credit goes down, then your credit utilization percentage will likely go up, and this can cause your credit score to drop.  Leaving the account open with a zero balance gives you a 0% credit utilization rate on the credit card.  And this can balance out your overall credit utilization, helping you to keep it at or below the 30% that lenders look for when considering you for a loan of any kind.

And, as if that’s not enough, closing an account can also affect your payment history (another 35% of your score), especially if you’ve held the card for a long time (and you’ve kept your payments current).  Closing a card like this can take years of good payments off your credit history, making lenders think twice when they’re thinking about extending more credit to you.

So, what’s the best thing to do with those credit cards?

The truth is, if there’s no annual fee, no monthly “maintenance” fee, etc., attached to the credit card, it may be in your best interest to keep the credit card and use it once or twice a year just to keep the account (and payment history) current.  If you don’t feel comfortable keeping it in your wallet, simply put it away somewhere safe at home.  That way, you’ll have to think twice about using it impulsively!

The Best Way to Free Up Some Cash

Monthly credit card bills eating up all your cash?

Even if you’ve got reasonably good credit, you can still find yourself with too many credit card bills, and those bills can ruin your budget, cause you to be short on cash, and they can even cause you to go deeper into debt.  That’s right, too many bills can actually drag you deeper into debt, even as hard as you’re working to pay them off!

How many times have you paid all your bills and then had to use a credit card to pay for groceries because you’re short on cash?

That kind of defeats the purpose of paying extra on your credit cards, doesn’t it?  But, if you keep only paying the minimum payments, it can take years to pay off those credit cards, and you can’t afford to be strapped forever, can you?  And you don’t want to risk ruining your credit with the traditional “debt consolidation” companies out there, so what do you do?

If you’ve got good credit, the best way to free up cash in your monthly budget without ruining your credit score is to take out a personal loan to pay off those high interest credit cards.  Then, instead of having to pay a bunch of different sized payments every month, you’ll simply make one payment (typically a lot less than you’re paying now), once a month.  Terms for personal loans range from 36 months to 60 months.  That’s far less than the 7-10 years that it takes to pay off credit cards if you only make the monthly payment.

Think a personal loan might be the right choice for you?

If you’re serious about freeing up some cash AND getting out of debt sooner rather than later, one of the best options is a personal loan. With a personal loan, you’ll finally be able to pay off your credit cards, free up extra cash in your monthly budget, and start paying off all your debt. And you’ll probably save a lot of money while you do it!

The average personal loan saves the borrower hundreds, if not thousands, over the course of the loan. Money that you could use elsewhere. So, go ahead, apply for your personal loan today, and plan what you’ll do with the extra money in your budget tomorrow!

Applying is free, easy, and fast!

4 Things to Know About Digital Wallets

The digital wallet in your smartphone may soon replace credit and debit cards as the benefits and simplicity of paying with your phone make reaching for plastic or cash inconvenient.

A digital wallet — often called a mobile wallet — is accessed through an app on your smartphone or other mobile device and enables you to digitally store and access items typically found in a physical wallet.

The term “digital wallet,” however, can cause confusion, since multiple types of digital wallets may be found on your mobile device. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Your smartphone includes a digital wallet app for organizing credit and debit cards, as well as other digitalized items depending on the app, making it easier to service cards in one spot and make purchases using your phone.
  2. Samsung Pay is the newest addition to USAA’s mobile payment lineup. It’s accepted almost anywhere you can swipe or tap a card because it uses both magnetic secure transmission technology and newer near-field communication (NFC) to transmit payment data.
  3. By assigning virtual device account numbers to cards, mobile payments are secure and do not use actual debit or credit card numbers when making a purchase. Fingerprint or passcode authentication adds an extra security layer.
  4. USAA’s digital wallet, within USAA Mobile App, creates easy access to card services such as blocking a card, reporting a card lost or stolen, replacement card ordering, checking for unauthorized transactions or copying a card number when making in-app or online purchases. It allows members the ability to enroll in Samsung Pay, Apple Pay™ and Android Pay™. Members can also use USAA’s digital wallet to send money and view special USAA offers and discounts that may apply to debit or credit card purchases.

Pypper Namikas, product management director at USAA, believes the USAA digital wallet enhances members’ overall shopping, banking and insurance experiences.

“The wallet makes life easier for our members,” Namikas says. “Information is literally at your fingertips.”



02-20-2017 07:40 AM

Content provided courtesy of USAA.