Reviews

RushCard Review: Heavy on Fees and Expensive to Reload

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The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

RushCard Review

The RushCard is a prepaid debit card you can load and reload with cash to make purchases, pay bills or withdraw cash at certain ATMs. Unlike a typical debit card, RushCard isn’t attached to a checking account and doesn’t require a credit or banking history check for account approval. It also has no minimum account balance.

Generally, prepaid card companies market to consumers who can’t qualify for a checking account because of a poor banking history. In that regard, they are a popular substitute for traditional debit cards, giving consumers the freedom to use them to pay bills, shop for groceries or deposit their paycheck like anyone else.

But these benefits can come at a steep price, usually in the form of various fees.

In this post, we took a closer look at the RushCard. We analyzed the fine print to out what the card has to offer and what red flags consumers should watch out for.

We’ll cover:

  • The RushCard basics
  • How to deposit, withdraw and transfer cash with a RushCard
  • The fine print and fees
  • How the RushCard protects your money
  • The pros and cons

How much it costs to use the RushCard

  1. There’s a one-time card fee of $3.95 or $9.95.

RushCard offers a variety of different personalized card styles. Depending on the style you choose, the one-time card fee can vary. Most of the cards cost $3.95. The fancier designs cost $9.95. The company is running a promotion now that will refund this fee if you meet certain qualifications: you have to apply for a card before Aug. 31, make a cash deposit, and activate the card before Sept. 30.

  1. The Rush Unlimited Plan costs $5.95 or $7.95 per month.  

Once you’ve set up your RushCard account, you can choose from two membership plans: Rush Unlimited or Pay As You Go.

Rush Unlimited Plan: $5.95 per month with direct deposit; $7.95 without direct deposit

Once you pay the upfront monthly fee, you are able to make unlimited purchases with your card without paying additional transaction fees.

Pay As You Go Plan: There is no monthly fee, but you must pay $1.00 per transaction. If you make more than a few purchases with your card each month, this plan can quickly become more expensive than the Rush Unlimited Plan. On the bright side, both the Rush Unlimited Plan and Pay As You Go Plan have a transaction and international fee cap of $10 per calendar month.

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The best RushCard perk

Access your deposits two days early

One of RushCard’s major selling points is how quickly users can access their funds when they are deposited. By signing up for direct deposit, RushCard may credit those types of deposits two days earlier than most traditional banks would process them.

This is a huge boon for customers who live paycheck to paycheck and often have trouble stretching out their funds. However, RushCard’s fine print warns that early deposits of your paycheck are available on a case by case basis. It largely depends on how your employer processes your payroll.

If you direct deposit your tax refund onto the card, you may also be able to get your money as much as two weeks sooner than you would with a paper check.

But this perk comes with an obvious downside: Usage fees. Depending on which RushCard plan you sign up for, you will likely run into fees that can eat away at any funds that are deposited early.

Depositing, withdrawing, and transferring cash with a RushCard

Setting up direct deposit on RushCard is free and the best way to avoid some of the card’s more onerous fees. Besides direct deposit, you can load money onto the card by transferring funds from an existing checking or savings account.

You can also make or request RushCard-to-RushCard transfers to send and receive money from other RushCard customers. There’s no fee to transfer money between your own RushCards and you can use up to four cards at the same time.

Additionally, you can add cash to your account via PayPal or at participating retailers. You’ll pay hefty fees for this service, however, which we explain in the next section. Participating retailers include:

  • MoneyPak
  • Ace Cash Express
  • CVS
  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • MoneyGram
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

To deposit checks, you can use the RushCard mobile app. Again, you’ll pay a fee for this service (1% to 4% per deposit). Another option is to deposit checks at Walmart, but again, there will be a fee. At the Walmart register, you’ll have to cash the check first (which can cost $3 to $6) and then add the cash to your card.

To withdraw cash or to check your account balance, you can visit any MoneyPass in-network ATM for free. Using an out-of-network ATM will cost you $2.50 per transaction and $0.50 per balance check on top of the fee charged by the ATM operator.

The RushCard bill pay service is free.

The fine print and fees

We’ve touched on a few of the RushCard fees, but let’s dive further into some of the details of the fine print.

Reloading fees

One area that deserves attention is the cost of loading cash on to your RushCard with the third-party merchants that we discussed above. It can get expensive if you go to these third-parties every time you need to refill a card. The fees range from $3.74 on the low end and go as high as $5.95.

Here’s a fee breakdown for a few of the merchants we discussed above:

  • MoneyPak: $5.95
  • Walmart: up to $3.74
  • MoneyGram: up to $4.95
  • Western Union: $3.95

Check deposit fees

Remote check deposits from the app aren’t free either, unless you don’t mind a 10-day wait to access your deposit. Ingo Money handles remote check deposits for the RushCard. If you want your funds immediately (within an hour), you will be charged from 1-4% of the check’s value.

There is no fee if you opt to wait 10 days to access your funds.

Other sneaky fees

RushCard charges fees for inactivity, international transactions, and currency exchanges. The fees vary depending on your plan.

Pay As You Go Plan: If you don’t use your RushCard for 90 consecutive days, there’s a $1.95 maintenance fee per month until you use the card again. It’s also a pretty terrible deal if you plan on using your card abroad. The plan carries a $2.00 international transaction fee and a currency conversion fee of 3%.

Rush Unlimited Plan: No international transaction or maintenance fees. However, there’s a currency conversion fee of 3%.

RushGoals

RushGoals is an optional account offered by RushCard as an option for saving toward certain financial goals.

This account may sound like an online savings account, but it really isn’t. In fact, the RushCard website takes care to avoid referring to RushGoals as a savings account. Unlike most savings accounts, these accounts earn no interest at all and they are not FDIC-insured, which means any funds set aside there will not be protected in the event of a loss.

The main perk of RushGoals is a break on RushCard fees. So long as you keep an average $500 balance in the account, you will receive $24 per year ($2 per month) as a refund for your RushCard fees. Considering it can cost about $3 to $6 just to reload your card and $2.50 to use an out-of-network ATM (on top of the ATM surcharge), the $2 per month earned is unlikely to make a remarkable dent in your card fees.

Ultimately, RushGoals is not the best option if you’re looking for a place to keep your savings. If you start off with a balance below $500 in your account, you won’t see a benefit at all.

There are far better ways to save than with RushGoals. For a list of high-interest online savings account alternatives that don’t require a minimum balance, check out this post.

How RushCard protects your money

Are prepaid cards like RushCard a safe place to store your money?

You may have noticed RushCard in the news recently. Last October, thousands of RushCard members were unable to access money on their RushCard for several days due to a system upgrade glitch. Social media erupted with complaints from cardholders unable to pay bills or access to their money. The debacle led customers to file a class action lawsuit against UniRush (the parent company of RushCard).

The suit has now been settled. RushCard founder Russell Simmons apologized to users publicly, although UniRush admitted no wrongdoing. All of this brings to light how important it is to make sure your money is safe with your financial institution. After all, anything can happen.

An issuer of a prepaid card may not be a bank or an FDIC-insured company. If you lose money with a company that’s not FDIC-insured, you may not get all of your money back. Fortunately, the RushCard is FDIC-insured through MetaBank. So, if UniRush went out of business, up to $250,000 of your money on the RushCard would be insured.

However, the fine print states the RushGoals offer is not a product of or endorsed by MetaBank, meaning those funds will not be covered by FDIC insurance in the event of a loss. That’s one more reason to skip RushGoals and try opening a savings account elsewhere.

Pros and cons

Con: The one-time card fee and monthly fees. You need to pay $3.95 or $9.95 just to get the card. Then you’ll fork over at least $5.95 monthly or $1.00 each time you swipe it until you reach the $10 cap.

Pro: You can get paychecks from your job direct deposited two days early. You may or may not qualify for this benefit depending on when your employer reports payments. According to the RushCard terms, it’s possible to get your money up to two days earlier based on a review of how traditional banks typically handle authorizing deposits from employers. Early deposits seem to happen on a case by case basis.

Con: The service fees to load money on the card. If you add cash to the card at stores you can expect to pay for it.

Pro: No international transaction fees for the Rush Unlimited Plan. This isn’t a reason to go out and sign up for the card, but it is one of the better terms.

Con: The remote deposit fine print. The convenience of remote deposit is made inconvenient by the amount of time you have to wait for funds unless you pay a fee.

Pro: Free bill pay. RushCard does offer a bill pay service that is free. You can also use bill pay for free.

Con: The RushGoals account. Using an account for savings that just earns credits for your prepaid card isn’t the best option for long-term savings.

Who will benefit most from the RushCard?

The RushCard and other prepaid cards are closest that customers with poor banking histories can get to a traditional bank account. But you shouldn’t fall back on prepaid cards unless you’ve considered other products first.

For instance, the Opportunity Checking account from Wells Fargo gives customers with a bad banking history a second chance. BBVA Compass Bank also has a second chance banking product. Find out more about second chance banking products here.

If you must use the RushCard, enroll in the Rush Unlimited Plan, sign up for direct deposit to fund your account, stick to in-network ATMs, and use bill pay to avoid unnecessary fees.

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College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt

19 Options to Refinance Student Loans – Get Your Lowest Rate

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The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

19 Options to Refinance Student Loans - Get Your Lowest Rate

Updated: August 26, 2016

Are you tired of paying a high interest rate on your student loan debt? Are you looking for ways to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate, but don’t know where to turn? We have created the most complete list of lenders currently willing to refinance student loan debt.

You should always shop around for the best rate. Don’t worry about the impact on your credit score of applying to multiple lenders: so long as you complete all of your applications within 14 days, it will only count as one inquiry on your credit score. You can see the full list of 19+ lenders below, but we recommend you start here, and check rates from the top 5 national lenders offering the lowest interest rates. We update this list daily:

LenderTransparency ScoreMax TermFixed APRVariable APRMax Loan Amount 
SoFiA+

20


Years

3.50% - 7.74%


Fixed Rate

2.20% - 6.00%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
earnestA+

20


Years

3.50% - 7.45%


Fixed Rate

2.20% - 5.80%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
commonbondA+

20


Years

3.50% - 7.74%


Fixed Rate

2.20% - 5.94%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
lendkeyA+

20


Years

3.25% - 8.22%


Fixed Rate

2.14% - 6.92%


Variable Rate

$125k / $175k


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
PurefyA+

20


Years

3.95% - 6.75%


Fixed Rate

3% - 4.95%


Variable Rate

$350k / $350k


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now

We have also created:

But before you refinance, read on to see if you are ready to refinance your student loans.

Can I Get Approved?

Loan approval rules vary by lender. However, all of the lenders will want:

  • Proof that you can afford your payments. That means you have a job with income that is sufficient to cover your student loans and all of your other expenses.
  • Proof that you are a responsible borrower, with a demonstrated record of on-time payments. For some lenders, that means that they use the traditional FICO, requiring a good score. For other lenders, they may just have some basic rules, like no missed payments, or a certain number of on-time payments required to prove that you are responsible.

If you are in financial difficulty and can’t afford your monthly payments, a refinance is not the solution. Instead, you should look at options to avoid a default on student loan debt.

This is particularly important if you have Federal loans.

Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.

If you can afford your monthly payment, but you have been a sloppy payer, then you will likely need to demonstrate responsibility before applying for a refinance.

But, if you can afford your current monthly payment and have been responsible with those payments, then a refinance could be possible and help you pay the debt off sooner.

Is it worth it? 

Like any form of debt, your goal with a student loan should be to pay as low an interest rate as possible. Other than a mortgage, you will likely never have a debt as large as your student loan.

If you are able to reduce the interest rate by re-financing, then you should consider the transaction. However, make sure you include the following in any decision:

Is there an origination fee?

Many lenders have no fee, which is great news. If there is an origination fee, you need to make sure that it is worth paying. If you plan on paying off your loan very quickly, then you may not want to pay a fee. But, if you are going to be paying your loan for a long time, a fee may be worth paying.

Is the interest rate fixed or variable?

Variable interest rates will almost always be lower than fixed interest rates. But there is a reason: you end up taking all of the interest rate risk. We are currently at all-time low interest rates. So, we know that interest rates will go up, we just don’t know when.

This is a judgment call. Just remember, when rates go up, so do your payments. And, in a higher rate environment, you will not be able to refinance to a better option (because all rates will be going up).

We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.

Places to Consider a Refinance

If you go to other sites they may claim to compare several student loan offers in one step. Just beware that they might only show you deals that pay them a referral fee, so you could miss out on lenders ready to give you better terms. Below is what we believe is the most comprehensive list of current student loan refinancing lenders.

You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.

Here are more details on the 5 lenders offering the lowest interest rates:

1. SoFi*: Variable Rates from 2.20% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)

SofiLogoSoFi (read our full SoFi review) was one of the first lenders to start offering student loan refinancing products. More MagnifyMoney readers have chosen SoFi than any other lender. Although SoFi initially targeted a very select group of universities (it started with Stanford), now almost anyone can apply, including if you graduated from a trade school. The only requirement is that you graduated from a Title IV school. You need to have a degree, a good job and good income in order to  qualify. SoFi wants to be more than just a lender. If you lose your job, SoFi will  help you find a new one. If you need a mortgage for a first home, they are there  to help. And, surprisingly, they also want to get you a date. SoFi is famous for  hosting parties for customers across the country, and creating a dating app to  match borrowers with each other.

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2. Earnest*: Variable Rates from 2.20% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)

earnest1Earnest (read our full Earnest review) offers fixed interest rates starting at 3.50% and variable rates starting at 2.20%. Unlike any of the other lenders, you can switch between fixed and variable rates throughout the life of your loan. You can do that one time every six months until the loan is paid off. That means you can take advantage of the low variable interest rates now, and then lock in a higher fixed rate later. You can choose your own monthly payment, based upon what you can afford (to the penny). Earnest also offers bi-weekly payments and “skip a payment” if you run into difficulty.

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3. CommonBond*: Variable Rates from 2.20% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)

Commonbond1CommonBond (read our full CommonBond review) started out lending exclusively to graduate students. They initially targeted doctors with more than $100,000 of debt. Over time, CommonBond has expanded and now offers student loan refinancing options to graduates of almost any university (graduate and undergraduate). In addition (and we think this is pretty cool), CommonBond will fund the education of someone in need in an emerging market for every loan that closes. So not only will you save money, but someone in need will get access to an education.

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4. LendKey*: Variable Rates from 2.14% and Fixed Rates from 3.25% (with AutoPay)

Lendkey1LendKey (read our full LendKey review) works with community banks and credit unions across the country. Although you apply with LendKey, your loan will be with a community bank. If you like the idea of working with a credit union or community bank, LendKey could be a great option. Over the past year, LendKey has become increasingly competitive on pricing, and frequently has a better rate than some of the more famous marketplace lenders.

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5. purefy: Variable Rates from 3% and Fixed Rates from 3.95% 

purefy

Purefy (read our full purefy review) was formerly known as CordiaGrad. The founder of purefy used to work for a big bank, and decided to buy a small bank and use it as a platform to grow. Purefy will refinance undergraduate and graduate loans.

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In addition to the Top 5 (ranked by interest rate), there are many more lenders offering to refinance student loans. Below is a listing of all providers we have found so far. This list includes credit unions that may have limited membership. We will continue to update this list as we find more lenders. This list is ordered alphabetically:

  • Alliant Credit Union: In order to qualify, you need to have a bachelor’s degree. The minimum credit score is 680, and you need two years of employment and a minimum income of $40,000. Interest rates start as low as 3.75%. Anyone can join this credit union by making a $10 donation to Foster Care for Success.
  • Citizens Bank: To get the best deal, you should have at least a bachelor’s degree. They will look at your credit history, and want to make sure that at least the last three payments on your student loans have been made on time. If you don’t have your degree, you need to have made the last 12 payments (principal and interest) on time. You must make at least $24,000 per year. They offer fixed rates starting at 4.74% and variable rates start from 2.19%.
  • College Avenue: College Avenue offers fixed rates starting at 4.74% and variable at 2.50%, and only offers 15 year terms.
  • CommonWealth One Federal Credit Union: Variable interest rates start at 3.36%. You can borrow up to $75,000 and need to be a member of the credit union in order to qualify.
  • Credit Union Student Choice: This is a tool offered by credit unions. The criteria and pricing vary by credit union. The credit unions have restricted membership, but you can find out if you qualify on this site.
  • DRB Student Loan*: They will refinance undergraduate, Parent PLUS and graduate loans including MBA, Law, Medical/Dental (Post Residency), Physician Assistant, Advanced Degree Nursing, Anesthetist, Pharmacist, Engineering, Computer Science and more degrees. Variable rates as low as 3.64% and 4.20% fixed.
  • Eastman Credit Union: They don’t share much of their criteria publicly. Fixed rates start at 6.5% and you must be a member of the credit union. Credit union membership is not available to everyone.
  • Education Success Loans: You must be out of school for at least 30 months, and you must have a degree. You also need a good credit score, with on-time payment behavior. Variable and fixed loan options are available, with rates starting at 4.99%.
  • EdVest: They offer refinancing options for private loans used to finance attendance at a Title IV, degree-granting institution. If the loan balance is below $100,000 you need to make at least $30,000 a year. If your balance is above $100,000 you need to make at least $50,000. Variable rates start at 3.180%, and fixed rates start at 4.740%.
  • First Republic Eagle Gold. It’s hard to beat these rates – starting at 1.95% fixed and 1.87% variable. But you need to go in person to a First Republic branch to complete your account opening. They are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich, and New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000 and you need a 750 or higher credit score with 24 months experience in your current industry.
  • IHelp: This service will find a community bank. Community banks can actually be expensive. You need to have 2 years of good credit history, with a DTI (debt-to-income) of less than 45% and annual income of at least $24,000. Fixed rates are available, starting at 4.65% fixed, and 3.21% variable.
  • Mayo Employees Credit Union: You need at least $2,000 of monthly income and a good credit history. Variable rates are available, starting at 5.15% and you would need to join the credit union.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: This credit union offers limited membership. For men and women who serve, the credit union can offer excellent rates and specialized underwriting. Variable interest rates start at 2.89%.
  • RISLA: You need at least a 680 credit score, and can find fixed interest rates starting at 4.49% if you use a co-signer.
  • UW Credit Union: $25,000 minimum income required, with at least 5 years of credit history and a good repayment record. Fixed and variable interest rates are available, with variable rates starting at 2.23% and fixed rates starting at 4.04%. You need to join the credit union in order to refinance your loans.
  • Wells Fargo: As a traditional lender, Wells Fargo will look at credit score and debt burden. They offer both fixed and variable loans, with variable rates starting at 3.74% and fixed rates starting at 6.24%. Wells Fargo does not have a tradition of being a low cost lender.

You can also compare all of these loan options in one chart with our comparison tool. It lists the rates, loan amounts, and kinds of loans each lender is willing to refinance. You can also email us with any questions at info@magnifymoney.com.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @Magnify_Money and on Facebook.

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*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

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College Students and Recent Grads

8 Student Loan Repayment Options if You Join the Military

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Student Loan Repayment Options

Several military programs offer scholarships and grants in exchange for your prior military service, or a promise of service in the future. But, what if you already have a degree and are working to pay off your student loans? You may want to consider one of the military’s student loan repayment programs.

In 2013, CNN reported on Thomas McGregor, an attorney who enlisted in the Army to help pay off his $108,000 student loan debt. Between his income and a loan-assistance program, he was student loan free within four years.

Military service isn’t for everyone, and you should seriously consider the potential impact of signing up for a multi-year commitment. It was a good fit for McGregor, who decided to stay on after his three-year service ended. However, he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and some of his friends were injured or died in combat.

If you decide joining the military is a good choice for you and are paying down student loans, the loan assistance programs could guide your decision to choose one branch over another. While the different programs sometimes share similar names, the qualifications, requirements, and award amounts can vary from one branch’s program to another.

Make sure the loan-repayment guarantee is in your contract before enlisting and double-check your loan’s eligibility for repayment through the program. For example, a program may pay off some types of federal student loans, but not state or private loans. Restrictions also apply based on which position you enlist in, your length of service, and whether or not you have prior military experience. In some cases, the loan payments count as income for tax purposes.

The military’s loan repayment programs and offers can change based on government funding and a branch’s need for new recruits. You can find an overview of the programs below, and you should follow-up with a local recruiter to clarify specifics and find out whether or not you’ll qualify.

Air Force

  • JAG Corps Student Loan Repayment ProgramEligible attorneys can receive up to $65,000 in student loan repayments, payable over three years following the completion of your first year of service. The payments can go towards undergraduate, graduate, or law school loans and payments will go directly to your lender. If you stay on past four years, then you can qualify for a $60,000 in cash bonuses: $20,000 for two more years of service and another $40,000 for four more. That’s not specifically earmarked for your loans, but you can use them to pay off your debt. That would be $125,000 over 8 years, in addition to your salary and other benefits.

Army

  • Healthcare Loan Repayment ProgramsThe Army offers special pay and incentives to doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals. Depending on your profession and specialty, you may be eligible for up to $120,000 in student loan repayments over three years of active-duty service in addition to salary, bonuses and special pay. Reserve-duty servicemembers may receive up to $50,000 for three years of service for loans.
  • College Loan Repayment ProgramThe Army also offers some highly qualified Military Occupational Specialists (MOSs) student loan assistance if they enlist for at least three years of service. At the end of each of the three years, you’ll receive the greater of $1,500 or 33.33 percent of your outstanding principal loan balance, less taxes. There’s a maximum potential payout of $65,000.

Army National Guard and Reserves 

  • College Loan Repayment Program The Army National Guard and Army Reserves have similar student loan payments for some highly qualified Military Occupational Specialists (MOSs). You could receive the greater of $1,500 or 15 percent of your outstanding loan principal at the end of each year of service, up to a maximum of $20,000. To qualify, you must enlist and serve for at least six years. Parent PLUS loans can be covered. 

Coast Guard

  • College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative Student Loan Repayment ProgramThe Coast Guard offers recent college graduates who are 19- to 27-year-olds up to $10,000 per year, for six years, in student loan aid. The program requires candidates to complete a series of trainings, including basic training and leadership training, and enlist for five years as a commissioned officer. There are some interesting catches: you can’t have more than two dependents and if you’re single, you can’t have sole or primary custody of dependents. Online degrees also don’t qualify.

Navy

  • Health Professions Loan Repayment ProgramThe Navy pays select health care professionals up to $40,000, minus approximately 25% for federal income tax, in student loan payments each year in exchange for agreeing to continue, or begin, active duty service. The hefty tax portion will be taken out prior to sending the payment along to your lender.
  • College Loan Repayment Program Pays up to $65,000 in student loan payments if you’re serving in your first enlistment.

National Guard

  • Student Loan Repayment ProgramYou could receive the greater of $500 or 15 percent of your initially disbursed loan amount each year, with a maximum $50,000 payout and minimum six-year service agreement. You must have at least one disbursed Title IV federal loan.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program isn’t military specific, instead it’s a federal loan-forgiveness program contingent on your employment with a qualified government or non-profit organization. Only federal student loan that are part of the Direct Loan program qualify for PSLF. However, you may be able to consolidate non-qualifying federal loans (such as a Perkins loan) into a qualified Direct Consolidation Loan.

With PSLF, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments (10 years’ worth) while employed full-time. The 120 payments don’t need to be consecutive, and some, or all, of the employment, could be within the military. You currently won’t have to pay income taxes on the forgiven amount.

Additional Military Benefits

In addition to the loan repayment programs, your federal student loans may be eligible for a capped 6-percent interest rate during active duty, and up to five years of no interest if you’re serving in qualified hostile areas. You may also be able to postpone payments during active duty, but the loans will still accrue interest.

Bottom line

The military’s student loan forgiveness programs may be able to help repay your loans, but don’t take the decision to enlist lightly. Other employers offer loan repayment programs, and potentially less-dangerous jobs qualify for the PSLF. If you do decide to enlist, compare the loan repayment programs and be sure to get the loan repayment included in your contract.

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Credit Cards, Reviews

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Travel Rewards for a Hefty Fee

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Premier Rewards Gold Card is an upgraded American Express charge card without a pre-set spending limit. It’s also a card that rewards cardholders with American Express Membership Rewards points for airfare, dining, gas, and grocery spending.

A charge card is one that you need to pay off completely each billing cycle, so there’s no interest. However, since there’s no pre-set spending limit either, you need to keep an eagle eye on spending activity to make sure you can pay off the statement in full at month’s end. Making a late payment can cause you to forfeit Membership Reward points earned during that billing cycle.

In this post, we’ll discuss the Premier Rewards Gold Card terms and how to redeem points. Keep reading for an overview on:

  • The Premier Rewards Gold Card basics
  • How to redeem Membership Rewards points earned
  • The fine print details
  • The benefits and protections
  • The pros and cons

The basics of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

3X points per dollar on airfare.

Earn 3X points per dollar when you make airfare purchases directly from an airline.

2X points per dollar at restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets in the U.S.

Earn 2X points per dollar at U.S. restaurants excluding restaurants in other establishments. For instance, a restaurant in a department store or casino will not earn you 2X points unless it has a qualifying restaurant merchant code.

To earn 2X points per dollar on gas, you need to use the pump at gas stations and not warehouses or superstores. Same goes for grocery shopping; warehouse and superstore spending will not qualify for 2X points per dollar.

1X point per dollar on all other purchases.When you shop for eligible products and services outside of the 3X and 2X categories, you’ll earn 1X points per dollar. Transactions that are not eligible for points include credit card fees, cash advances, traveler’s checks, and reloading of prepaid cards.

$100 airline incidental fee credit.

You can get up to $100 credited to your statement each calendar year to cover incidentals charged by an airline of your choosing. Qualifying incidentals are charges separate from your airline ticket like baggage fees and not ticket upgrades.

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How to redeem Membership Rewards points earned

Through Membership Rewards, cardholders can transfer points to participating travel and lodging loyalty programs or redeem points for travel bookings, gift cards, statement credits, and other rewards. The value of your points varies depending on how you choose to use them.

Flights, hotels, and vacations

You can pay with points for flights, hotels, and vacations on the American Express Travel site. Using points for flights will offer the most value.

Here’s the point value breakdown on travel and accommodations:

  • Flights: $10 per 1,000 points
  • Hotels, cruises, and vacation packages: $7 per 1,000 points

(Another benefit of American Express Travel is you earn 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar when you make a booking with your Premier Rewards Gold Card.)

Transferring your membership points

If you choose to transfer your points to another program, generally, 1,000 Membership Rewards points will transfer as 1,000 miles, points, or credits.

However, transfers that have a different value include:

  • British Airways and Iberia: 250 Membership Rewards points = 200 Avios
  • El AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 20 Matmid points
  • Hilton: 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 1,500 HHonors points
  • JetBlue Airways: 250 Membership Rewards points = 200 JetBlue TrueBlue points
  • Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 333 Starpoints
  • Virgin America: 200 Membership Rewards points = 100 Elevate points

Occasionally, there are transfer specials for participating loyalty programs. For example, until Oct. 10, you can get 50% more Avios points during a transfer which means 300 Avios equals 250 Membership Rewards points for a limited time.

Statement credit and gift cards

Using points to put a dent in your credit card bill won’t be the best use of your points. 1,000 points equals just $6 in a statement credit.

Several of the gift cards through Membership Rewards will give you more in cash value. For example, 1,000 points can get you a $10 gift card at restaurants, retail stores, and hotels including:

  • Hyatt Hotels and Resorts
  • Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy
  • Seasons 52
  • Banana Republic
  • Crate and Barrel

There’s an entire list of the redemption values for gift cards on the Membership Rewards site.

Other rewards

Using points for shopping, charitable donations, and entertainment are other redemption options. But, again, these options won’t give you as much value for your points as redeeming for flights and gift cards.

The value of 1,000 points ranges from $5 to $7 when shopping at retailers through Membership Rewards or at Ticketmaster, Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, or Newegg.com.

The fine print

We can’t talk about fine print without putting a major emphasis on the annual fee. The Premier Rewards Gold Card costs $195 per year. For a statement credit, you would need to rack up 32,500 points to cover it annually. The break even point for flights is a little better. You need to redeem about 20,000 points on airfare to cover the annual cost.

There is one other sneaky fee to watch out for.  When you transfer points to a U.S. frequent flyer program, there’s a $0.0006 fee charged per point to compensate for the federal excise tax. Although this fee has a lot of zeros in it, the cost may still be impactful if you’re transferring a lot of points. For instance, 100,000 points transferred will cost you $60.

On the plus side, this card has no foreign transaction fee.

Benefits and protections

Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance

If you pay for a qualifying car rental with your Premier Rewards Gold Card, the rental car is covered against damage and theft. Rentals that won’t qualify for coverage are trucks, off-road vehicles, full-size sport vehicles, and exotic cars.

Baggage Insurance

If your baggage is lost or stolen during travel, it may be covered by the American Express Baggage Insurance Plan. However, there are some limits to this as well. You’re covered up to $1,250 for a carry-on and up to $500 for checked bags.

Purchase Protection and Return Protection

If an item you purchase is lost, stolen, or damaged within 90 days of purchase, you may be reimbursed for it. And if you try to return an item that a merchant won’t take back within 90 days, the Return Protection benefit may reimburse you up to $300 per item.

Pros and cons

Pro: 3X points on travel. If you fly often for work or play, this card rewards you well each time you use it.

Con: The fee. The biggest con here is the annual fee. But, since there are several ways you can earn points in the 3X and 2X categories, you may be able to easily cover this fee throughout the year.

Pro: Membership Rewards. This card is enrolled in the Membership Rewards program and gives you many options for point redemption. The Membership Rewards site is also incredibly easy to navigate, and there’s no ambiguity in point value. The rewards portal shows examples of exactly what your points are worth for each redemption option.

Con: The fee to transfer points. The ability to transfer points to another program is a pro, but being charged for U.S. frequent flyer program transfers is a tiny gotcha in the fine print.

Pro: No foreign transaction fees. One area in the fees where you do catch a break is with foreign transaction fees. This aspect of the card is fitting since it’s one that rewards you for planning travel.

Who will benefit most from the Premier Rewards Gold Card?

Your ability to earn enough points to surpass the fee will determine whether this is a good card for you.

And if you’re shopping around for a rewards program that will give you the most value for travel, Chase Ultimate Rewards is an option you should compare to American Express Membership Rewards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, in particular, is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and allows you to transfer points to other travel partners as well. Plus, it has an offer that gives 1.25 cents per point for travel. This is slightly more value than what you get for flights with American Express Membership Rewards since 1,000 points per $10 works out to 1 cent per point.

Before signing up for any rewards card, you should do this type of comparison shopping to figure out which offer will give you the most value for your spending habits.

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Life Events

Confessions of a House Flipper: Our Biggest Wins and Epic Disasters

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The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Illustrations by Kelsey Wroten

House flipping has never been hotter.

There was a 20% surge in the number of homes flipped in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2016, according to RealtyTrac. Profits on flips soared to a gross average of $58,250, the highest level in more than a decade.

To qualify as a true flip, a buyer must sell a home within 12 months of purchasing it. If the property needs heavy repairs or upgrades before going back on the market, house flipping can easily become a full-time job. And what those RealtyTrac numbers don’t show is the net profit — how much flippers actually earn after pouring thousands of dollars and hours of labor into each home. Every day on a new project can present challenges that chip away at profit margins. 

“First-time flippers should be prepared [to be] over-budget and behind schedule,” says Matt Forcum, a realtor and auctioneer with Century 21 Realty Concepts. “Sometimes, no matter how good an inspection is, problems like property line disputes, environmental hazards or other undisclosed or undiscovered issues can result in a problem that derails the whole process.”

We asked a battle-worn group of real estate investors to open up about the highs and lows of house flipping. Here are their stories:

Mark Ferguson
Realtor and founder of Invest Four More

Mark

How long have you been flipping houses?

I started in 2001 and have flipped more than 100 homes.

What was your best flipping experience?

I bought a country property in Platteville, Colo. from an online auction site. The house was about 10 years old with 2 acres and a 3-car garage. It had a very low starting list price, and I knew the website would eventually list a ‘buy it now’ price, where they post a price and any buyer can accept that price and end the auction right then. I checked the site every couple hours for days to see if that price had been listed, and once it was — for about $215,000 — I accepted as soon as I possibly could. After paying the buyers’ premium and other costs, the sale price was $228,000, but I knew the home was worth over $300,000 and needed minimal work. We spent $15,000 to replace granite in the kitchen, paint and landscape. Four months after we bought the house we sold it for $349,900. We made about $100,000 after the carrying costs, financing costs, buying and selling costs.

Have you ever been burned by a flip?

The worst flip happened this year. I bought an old house from the 1800s that needed a lot of work, and I had a project manager/contractor working for me who said it wouldn’t be too big of a job to add an addition. He ended up tearing off the back of the home, gutting the interior, adding stairs that were not up to code … and then quit. After spending $25,000 on his work, the house was worth less than I bought it for.

I had 10 flips going on at the same time and decided to dump this house instead of spending another $100,000 to fix it. Luckily, our market improved greatly and I was able to sell it for $15,000 more than I bought it for, but I took a $20,000 loss after carrying, financing and selling costs. Obviously this contractor never worked for me again.

What are some of the hidden costs of flipping that no one thinks about?

  1. Buying costs, including closing fees, recording fees, title insurance in some cases, and inspections
  2. Financing costs, like origination fees, appraisals and interest every month
  3. Carrying costs, like yard maintenance, utilities, insurance, property taxes and HOA fees
  4. Selling costs (if that’s your goal), like agent commissions, title insurance, closing fees, buyers’ closing costs, inspection repairs, low appraisals and appraisal repairs
  5. Repairs, since they are almost always more than you think. I always recommend assuming the final repair bills will be 20% more than you think.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about flipping?

It will take longer than you think. Most people feel they can get in and make changes in a couple months, but it takes time to find a contractor, get the work done, go back and correct things that were not done right the first time, clean the home, and then, if you’re flipping it, get it listed, get a contract and close on the home.

What areas of the home have proved to be the biggest money sucks?

  1. The foundation. This can be a huge cost if it needs to be repaired or redone, generally between $5,000 and $20,000. (Note: This cost and all the following ones are based on a home of approximately 1,000 to 2,000 square feet — costs would increase for larger homes.)
  2. Electrical. Re-wiring a house can be expensive (between $2,500 and $10,000), but you also have to account for tearing up the walls to get to the wiring.
  3. Plumbing. Galvanized plumbing — or pipes that have slowly deteriorated to contaminate the water — is common in old homes and needs to be replaced. This can cost thousands of dollars and the house may also need to be torn up to get to it.
  4. Siding/paint. Many old houses have lead-based paint and possibly asbestos siding. If you disturb the lead-based paint or the asbestos, the work needs to be done by a certified company and it can run you between $5,000 and $15,000.
  5. Plaster/drywall repair. Older houses were built with plaster, which deteriorates over time. There are very few contractors who work with plaster, and it’s best to use sheetrock to replace it. This can get very expensive as well, generally between $2,500 and $15,000.

Mindy Jensen
Community Manager for BiggerPockets.com
Licensed real estate agent in Colorado.

Mindy

How long have you been flipping houses?

I purchased my first home in 1998 and it was ugly, so I upgraded the flooring, painted every inch of the walls and ceilings, and then lived there until I got married four years later. I sold it for 50% more than I paid for it, and was hooked on flipping. Together with my husband, I have flipped eight houses.

What was your best flipping experience?

My current home started out as a flip, but we decided to live here forever after falling in love with the neighborhood. We bought it for $176,000 as a 2-bedroom, 1-bath home with ugly everything. The market was just starting to heat up — it’s red-hot in almost the entire state of Colorado, but the Denver area just overtook San Francisco as the hottest real estate market in the nation — and this was a Fannie Mae HomePath foreclosure. Fannie Mae wants to put owner-occupants into homes as much as possible, so they accepted our offer over an investor’s offer because we were going to live here. We put about $75,000 into the property, adding a second story and remodeling the first floor to create a total of four bedrooms and three bathrooms, new landscaping, siding, windows, doors, wood floors, natural stone tile and upgraded electrical service. 

Have you ever been burned by a flip?

In 2006 we failed to accurately gauge the market — we had made so much money from past flips that we didn’t pay much attention to the housing market during our rehab. We continued to make improvements to the home, anticipating that the $100,000 we put into it would grow exponentially. We ended up selling it for $200,000 less than we would have had the market not dropped in 2008-2012. We still made a profit, but it was much leaner than we had expected.

How have you saved money on your flips? 

We do much of the work ourselves, which allows us to save a lot of money. We even live in the homes during the flips to avoid capital gains taxes. We’re finished with the home we live in now and could easily sell it today for $400,000.

In your experience, what are some of the biggest mistakes people make when buying fixer uppers?

  1. Paying too much for the property in the first place. You have to analyze each deal. If the numbers work at $X, then $X is your highest offer. If you pay anything more than that, your numbers get thrown out of whack.
  2. Not accurately budgeting expenses. If you’re remodeling a kitchen, it’s tempting to get a quote for cabinets, countertops, flooring and appliances — but what about lighting, plumbing and electricity? A ton of little things add up quickly.
  3. Pricing the home too high. If you’re planning to flip, you may be tempted to price the home as high as you can to get the most money out of it. However, by pricing it at or even slightly below retail, you will get a faster sale — and can even generate a bidding war to end up with the higher sales price. Pricing too high can have the opposite effect. The home will sit on the market and become stale. You get discouraged and drop the price, but then buyers wonder what’s wrong with the home that it sat for so long. Many times you’ll get less than you would have had you just listed realistically in the first place.

In your experience, what is the No. 1 thing people should keep in mind if they’re looking at buying a fixer-upper for the first time?

Even if you aren’t doing any of the work yourself, you will still have to manage the people who are doing the work. Stay on top of them, because time is money. You need to treat it like a business.

What are the first places you inspect when you’re sizing up a new home? 

  1. The bathroom: Check for soft spots near the corners of the tub, which is a sure sign that someone didn’t tuck the shower curtain into the tub and water spilled out. The water damage can rot the subfloor. Yes, the repair could be small (subfloor rot can be just a small corner that requires very little repair, while damage to the entire floor would require removal of the tub and an entire replacement), but you still need to budget for it. The same goes for around the toilet.
  2. The kitchen: Is the current layout the best option, or does it need to be reconfigured for better use? Reconfiguring can involve moving gas/electric/water lines, which is expensive.
  3. In the bedrooms: Determine the state of the flooring — does it need to be replaced?
  4. Cracks can be cosmetic or a very big deal. Horizontal cracks — running from wall-to-wall rather than floor-to-ceiling — are far more concerning than the vertical ones. That’s not to say that a vertical crack is nothing, but the horizontal cracks should give you pause since they can often be an indication of a more serious foundation issue, and they’ll require further inspection.
  5. Aluminum wiring requires complete replacement. Get a quote from a licensed electrician. If the home doesn’t have 200-amp service — which means you can run your large appliances without having to worry about blowing a circuit — I’d recommend upgrading it, which will require a licensed electrician, as well.
  6. Cast iron pipes rot from the inside out, so one day they may look fine on the outside, and the next your basement is filled with raw sewage. Get pipes scoped by a licensed plumber, which can range from about $150 to $250 and gives you an idea of the overall state of your pipes. To compare, replacing an entire broken sewer line could start at $7,000.
  7. Mold. Perhaps the tiny bit of mold that you see is the extent of it, but perhaps it’s just the tip of the iceberg and the backside of the drywall is completely covered. Be wary when you see mold, as it can eat up quite a bit of your budget if you aren’t prepared for it.

Corey J. DeHeer
Realtor, Property Manager and House Flipper

Corey

How long have you been flipping houses?

I’ve been involved in real estate for 10 years, and I’ve been flipping for four years.

What was your best flipping experience?

I bought a five-level, split house and started renovating in late 2015. I bought it for $79,5000 and sold it for $172,000, and only put about $35,000 into the renovations. 

Have you ever been burned by a flip?

I haven’t had a flip that I lost money on, but I have had a couple that didn’t return what was budgeted. The lesson learned was it’s better to be aggressive on getting the home sold, as the holding costs — things like property taxes, interest on the mortgage, utilities, insurance and sometimes HOA fees — really will eat into your profits.

In your experience, what are some of the biggest mistakes people make when buying fixer uppers?

Sometimes there aren’t a lot of deals our there, and I’ve seen people buy a house that didn’t meet their criteria. Most of the time, it’s better to wait until the right deal comes along. There’s always another house out there.

What is the No. 1 thing first-time flippers should do to prepare?

Create a detailed budget for expenses, holding costs and time. Try to stick to your numbers and also, if you’re flipping, after the flip go through and evaluate how you did on the money and time aspects.

What are the areas you pay closest attention to on a flip?

  1. Location. No matter what you do to the house, you can’t fix location.
  2. I check the electrical, roof and HVAC systems to make sure they are all updated and in good condition.
  3. A deal breaker can be structural issues. For example: Does the floor have a slope in it? If so, get a structural engineer’s opinion.
  4. The other thing I look at is the layout and size of the kitchen, master bedroom and bathroom. It’s easy to renovate these areas, but hard and costly to try to make them larger. This is where most buyers make their decision on whether it’s worth the purchase.

If you’re still in the beginning phases of looking for a new place, check out some of the other resources we have regarding home buying, like why you shouldn’t buy a house before you’re 30, when it’s best to apply for a mortgage without your spouse, and what to know before getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

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News

These Books Will Teach You Everything You Need to Know About Money

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The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

We’d all love to have our own personal financial expert at our beck and call, but not everyone can afford to keep a Certified Financial Planner on the payroll. Books, on the other hand, can be an excellent — and affordable — alternative if you’re looking for ways to improve your wealth, find success, and learn how to invest. Lucky for you, we’ve reached out to the experts themselves to find out which personal finance books they always keep handy.

The Expert: Kevin Smith, founding partner of wealth advisory group Smith, Mayor & Liddle

His favorite books: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

babylon millionairenextdoor

Why he recommends them:

“Understanding investments and having a quality portfolio are of little benefit to investors if it’s not accompanied by wise investment practices and disciplined financial habits. Both of these recommended books emphasize the latter, and avoid the technical descriptions and potentially confusing explanations that most financial books entail.”

The Richest Man in Babylon covers the perks of thriftiness, financial planning and personal wealth, offering timeless principles that can benefit readers for years to come. “I’d recommend it to anyone,” says Smith,” but particularly those of a younger age who have time on their side and can more easily benefit from compounding [interest].”

The Millionaire Next Door, on the other hand, emphasizes the ease with which anyone can become wealthy, and discusses how the typical millionaire is often much different than perceived.

“Those who have become millionaires are generally not those who own the biggest homes or drive the fanciest cars, but rather they’re common, everyday citizens who saved regularly, invested wisely, lived within their means and developed sound spending and investment habits at an early age,” he says. “It gives hope to anyone who might otherwise believe that the rich are only those with the highest paying jobs or beneficiaries of good fortune.”

The Expert: Jim Adkins, founder and CEO of Strategic Financial Associates, LLC

His recommendations: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo

jobs

Why he recommends it: Let’s face it. One of they key components of building wealth is doing well in your career. That’s why The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is at the top of Adkins’ list. The book focuses on teaching people and public speaking skills anyone can use to achieve personal success. “The message of this book is that Jobs’ extraordinary impact is based on his authenticity and his passion for his company’s people and products,” says Adkins. “Everyone with a product or service that improves people’s lives has a story to tell and can learn from Jobs.”

The Expert: Molly Stanifer, CFP®, Old Peak Finance

commonsenseinvestmentanswer

Her recommendations: The Investment Answer by Daniel C. Goldie and Gordon S. Murray and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle

Why she recommends them: For budding investors, Stanifer says there are no better books to help explain the ins and outs of the stock market. Both books caution against pure stock picking in favor of investing in a broad array of assets. Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is practically mandatory reading for anyone wanting to learn more about the power of a diversified portfolio.

The Expert: Jeff Jones, CFP®, MS

habits9thhabite

His recommendations: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey

Why he recommends them: For books that focus on personal growth, Jones says it doesn’t get much better than these two Covey classics. “These books have stood the test of time and offer great re-readability factors,” he said.

The Expert: John Bohnsack, CFP ®, Briaud Financial Advisors

valueinvestor

His recommendations: The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment by Guy Spier

Why he recommends them: “Spier’s lessons — many of them learned the hard way — teach the reader about gratitude, surrounding yourself with the right environment and modeling the right people, his own hero being Warren Buffett,” says Bohnsack. “The book challenges the reader to become a better investor, but so much importantly to be a better version of yourself.”

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MagnifyMoney is Hiring!

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The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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About the MagnifyMoney News Team:

MagnifyMoney’s editorial team creates original content that helps shine a light on some of the murkier aspects of finance today. From helping our readers tackle medical debt to offering first-person stories of people encountering financial struggles, we strive to deliver content that people find relatable and that will encourage them to take more control of their finances. The editorial content we create is never provided by any financial institution and is never reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

About MagnifyMoney:

MagnifyMoney is a consumer financial education website that evaluates thousands of products from banks, credit unions and new entrants, offering detailed, impartial product comparisons. MagnifyMoney’s signature offering is its Magnify Transparency Score, which gives products an A,B,C or F grade, based on transparency and simplicity. MagnifyMoney’s listings and rankings let math and transparency rule. The products we feature are in no way driven by commissions or revenue we receive.

Our founders

MagnifyMoney was founded in 2014 by Nick Clements and Brian Karimzad. Nick has nearly 15 years of experience working at top banking institutions, including Citigroup and Barclaycard, where he ran the UK credit card business. MagnifyMoney.com offers consumers a powerful resource with its personalized, side-by-side comparisons of banking and credit union products in a free, unbiased and easy-to-navigate interface. MagnifyMoney is headquartered in New York, NY.

CURRENT LISTINGS: 

Personal Finance Reporter (NY, NY)

Full-time, salaried

Responsibilities:

  • Write 3 articles per week for MagnifyMoney, a leading consumer financial education website.
  • Generate ideas for headlines, graphics and visuals to accompany stories
  • Keep track of buzzy finance news online and social media
  • Create a mix of stories that cover recent news, features that follow real people facing financial struggles and service-driven stories that help people better manage their finances and get out of debt

Requirements:

  • 1-3 years of online and/or print reporting experience is a MUST
  • Must be able to generate good story ideas and find sources for stories independently
  • Must have a decent understanding of general personal finance topics, like consumer debt, credit cards, student loans, mortgage loans, and other issues that impact our wallet.
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The fun stuff

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Interested candidates should include the following to apply:

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Investigative Reporter (NY, NY)

Full-time or freelance

We’re looking for an ambitious investigative journalist to join our news team in New York City. We are looking for reporters with a proven track record of sniffing out unique stories in the world of finance.  We don’t just want to produce content that is entertaining to read. We want to produce investigative features that better educate people about their finances and help expose any businesses or industries that are working against everyday people.

We are seeking a reporter who has a deep understanding of the personal finance beat, and a keen ability to find stories that haven’t been told yet. People with experience in a variety of storytelling formats (graphics, audio, video, print) will have a major advantage.

Requirements:

  • 3-5 years of online and/or print reporting experience is a MUST
  • Must be able to generate good story ideas and find sources for stories independently
  • Must be a thoughtful communicator and eager to contribute to the team
  • Must have great attention to detail and rigorously fact-check every story

The fun stuff

  • MagnifyMoney offers competitive salaries, 100% employer-paid health benefits, a 401(k) with 4% match, and flexible vacation days.
  • You’ll get to work from our lovely Flat Iron office, however, we do allow employees to work remotely when necessary.

Interested candidates should include the following to apply:

  • Send your resume and your three best investigative writing samples to mandi@magnifymoney.com.
  • E-mail addresses for at least 2 references (previous editors or managers)

Copy Editor (U.S.)

Freelance, remote 

We are hiring a part-time copy editor with a keen eye for grammar and catching typos.

Requirements: 

  • 1-3 years experience copy editing in publishing, print or online media

Interested candidates should include the following to apply:

Contributors Editor (NY, NY)

MagnifyMoney is looking for a Contributor Editor to oversee and manage our contributor network. You’ll be responsible for day-to-day operations of the MagnifyMoney blog, with a specific focus on product reviews and how-to guides for readers. MagnifyMoney focuses on a wide-range of products including, but certainly not limited to: credit cards, student loan refinancing, auto loans, personal loans, checking accounts, savings accounts and we’re continuing to expand.

Responsibilities:

  • Oversee existing contributor network, while also continuing to find new talent
  • Create a monthly editorial calendar by generating story ideas, collecting pitches from contributors and keeping a list of team brainstormed topics
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  • Edit stories and upload new pieces at least 5 times a week
  • Stories will primarily focus on reviews and round ups of financial products as well as in-depth “how to” pieces.
  • Handle invoices and ensuring payments are delivered promptly

Applicant Requirements:

  • Minimum one-year experience working with an online publication
  • Previous managerial experience
  • Must be a thoughtful communicator and eager to contribute to the team
  • Must have great attention to detail and rigorously fact-check every story
  • Must have a decent understanding of general personal finance topics, like consumer debt, credit card, student loans, mortgage loans, and other issues that impact our wallet

The fun stuff

  • MagnifyMoney offers competitive salaries, 100% employer-paid health benefits, a 401(k) with 4% match, and flexible vacation days.
  • You’ll get to work from our lovely Flatiron office, however, we do allow employees to work remotely when necessary.

Interested candidates should include the following to apply:

  • Send your resume to mandi@magnifymoney.com.
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College Students and Recent Grads, Life Events

3 Big Money Mistakes Your Freshman is Likely to Make

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

College is a time for adventure, growth and learning, but it can also be a time for silly financial mistakes if your freshman isn’t careful. This will likely be the first time your kid is out in the world on her own, so it makes sense that she’ll want to try new things. But her actions might come with some serious and long-lasting financial consequences unless you can help point her in the right direction first.

Here are three mistakes college freshmen often make when it comes to their finances — and how you can help your child avoid them.

1. They choose a college without considering the price tag

While it’s true that going to a good college is important these days, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your kid needs to go to the most expensive college to score his dream job after school. If your kid has always dreamed of going to a specific, but expensive, school, sit down with him at least a year or two out of applying to talk about how he’ll pay for it. The U.S. government recently launched the College Scorecard, where you can easily search for a school and see how its students fare financially after graduation. It might change his mind if he sees most students graduate from his dream school with tons of student loan debt. If your kid is willing to be a little flexible, you might want to point him towards one of these 20 most rewarding colleges for student loan borrowers, which ranks the best schools for generating the highest income after accounting for loan expenses.

2. They apply for credit cards before they learn how to use them

Luckily it’s gotten much harder for banks and credit card companies to market credit cards to students on college campuses. But the temptation to apply for credit will still be there. The second your kid applies for a credit card, she starts building a credit history that will follow her for at least the next seven years. A smart way to give her experience with some supervision is to add her as an authorized user on your credit card account. You can keep track of her spending habits and she can start building credit while she’s still in school. But don’t just pay the bill off each month without question. Talk to her about her credit score, what a credit report is for and how interest works. If you think it’s a good idea for your kid to dip her toe into the credit card world independently, consider starting her out with one of these best credit card options for college students. 

3. They never learn how to budget

The road to financial security starts with one simple building block: a budget. Unfortunately, budgeting isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone — especially for college freshman who may be trying to balance a job, classes, parties, and outings with friends. While your college kid probably won’t have a ton of disposable income to work with, it’s still a good idea to talk to him ahead of time about how to set up a budget, even when it’s just a limited amount of money he’ll be dealing with. If they can stick to a budget, they can also avoid costly mistakes like overdrawing their bank account, which can lead to all kinds of painful fees. During that conversation you can discuss the importance of an emergency savings account (because even college kids need an emergency savings account), how to divvy up income into necessary expenses and fun money, as well as how, once he graduates, he’ll likely need to put some extra money aside for retirement savings, as well.

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Balance Transfer, Reviews

BankAmericard Review: 0% APR on Balance Transfers for 18 Months

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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If you’re looking for a credit card with a balance transfer deal that goes beyond a year, the BankAmericard is one to think about adding to your wallet. The BankAmericard offers 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months. After the balance transfer period ends, this card also has the lowest standard APR available of all the BankAmericard products. However, there are a few nuances to this deal you should be aware of before you sign on the dotted line.

In this BankAmericard review we’ll cover:

  • The BankAmericard basics
  • How to save the most from the balance transfer deal
  • The BankAmericard fine print, benefits and protections
  • The pros and cons

All You Need to Know About the BankAmericard

  1. 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 18 months.

If you transfer balances to your BankAmericard within 60 days of opening an account, you’ll get 0% APR on those balances for 18 billing cycles.

  1. The standard interest rate of 11.24% to 21.24% APR applies to new purchases.

There’s no break on interest for new purchases which can make or break your credit card debt repayment strategy. Adding new purchases with interest into the equation while you attempt to pay off transferred balances can negatively impact your momentum.

  1. There’s a 3% balance transfer fee.

Balance transfers with the BankAmericard aren’t free. You have to pay 3% per transfer.

How to Save the Most from a BankAmericard Balance Transfer

For a 0% APR balance transfer intro deal with a fee to be worthwhile, the interest you’ll save after transferring debt from a high-interest card must justify the fee.

Here’s a quick example:

If you have $3,000 in debt on a credit card with 20% APR, a monthly payment of $200 over 18 months will cost you about $480 in interest.

If you transfer this $3,000 balance to a new BankAmericard instead, you’ll pay just $90 (3% of $3,000) and enjoy no interest for 18 months. In this scenario, a balance transfer with the BankAmericard will likely be worthwhile since it’ll save you nearly $400 in interest.

Take the time to do this math to see if the benefit of transferring your balance will outweigh the costs especially if you have multiple balances to transfer. It’s worth noting balance transfer deals with 0% APR and no balance transfer fee do exist.

However, the BankAmericard gives you 3 more months interest-free than leading no fee balance transfer options. And the 3% balance transfer fee can still offer a reasonable amount of savings considering our example above. Don’t count out the BankAmericard balance transfer even though there’s a fee before weighing it as an option.

The second factor that will impact your interest savings from this balance transfer is whether or not you make new purchases with the card. Swiping the card while repaying your debt can easily get you off track. Remember, your mission is to pay off the balance within 18 months. If you decide to go with the BankAmericard for a balance transfer, tuck the card in the back of a drawer to avoid temptation.

(To find out more about how to get the most value from a balance transfer card, check out this post.)

BankAmericard

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The Fine Print

When it comes to fees, the BankAmericard has relatively standard terms. The fee for foreign transactions and check cash advances is 3%. If you request a cash advance at an ATM or over-the-counter, the fee is 5%. The late fee is up to $37 and returned payment fee up to $27.

One red flag to be aware of is penalty APR. If you make a late payment, penalty APR of 29.99% APR may be applied to new transactions on your account. And when penalty APR is assigned to an account, it is assigned indefinitely.

BankAmericard Benefits and Protections

Besides the 0% APR intro rate on balance transfers for 18 months, there are other perks of using a BankAmericard, including the following:

Fraud Liability

The $0 Liability Guarantee will cover fraud transactions to your account. BankAmericard will also block unusual activity and reach out to verify charges that seem suspicious.

Overdraft Protection

If you already bank with Bank of America, you can link your deposit accounts to your credit card account to avoid an overdraft, although fees will apply. Overdraft protection transfers funds into your account from your credit card in increments of $100. The fee for each transaction is $12.

Digital Wallet & Chip Technology

With Bank of America digital wallet, you can sink your credit card to Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay to make in-store or in-app purchases. For added security, the card has chip technology data encryption.

Mobile Bank, Account Alerts and Text Banking

Bank of America makes it easy to manage your credit card account. You can set up alerts to notify you of your credit card balance changes and when payments are due. Instead of logging into your account, you can also send text messages to get account information.

Pros and Cons

Pro: 0% APR for 18 months. You have over a year to pay off your debt aggressively without interest. This is one of the longest balance transfer deals available. Its main rivals are the Santander Sphere offering 24 months interest-free and Citi Simplicity offering 21 months interest-free.

Con: The balance transfer fee. Like we mentioned above, calculate your interest savings compared to what you’ll pay in balance transfer fees to make sure you’re going to benefit from the transfer.

Pro: There’s no annual fee. If you pay your bills on time and avoid extras like cash advances, international transactions or overdraft protection, this card won’t cost you any money after you transfer balances.

Con: There’s no intro deal on new purchases. Our advice is to avoid new purchases altogether to take advantage of the balance transfer special.

Pro: The Bank of America perks. Major banks come with some major conveniences. The Bank of America app and website make it easy to manage your account. Fraud coverage and data encryption are also features that can keep your money safe.

Who Will Benefit Most from the BankAmericard?

If you’re already a Bank of America account holder, the BankAmericard has a leg up on competitors because of convenience. You can connect your existing accounts to the card. If you’re not a customer of Bank of America, you can still benefit from the balance transfer since the card gives you an entire year and a half to chip away at your debt. Even after you pay off the balance transfer, the interest rate starting point (11.24% APR) for new purchases is competitive.

Whether you’re new to Bank of America or a faithful customer, when using the BankAmericard for a balance transfer commit to paying off your entire balance without new transactions to get the most from the promotion.

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