Advertiser Disclosure

Personal Loans

Getting Loans from Someone Other than a Bank

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.

Getting Loans from Other Bank

Updated November 06, 2017

Personal loans allow borrowers to have access to a fixed amount of money at a fixed interest rate, with a fixed monthly payment and you know when you’ll have completely paid off the loan. They are a great resource for someone looking to refinance debt and can’t use a balance transfer. If you need cash, personal loans are usually the best way to borrow. Personal loans tend to be much cheaper and simpler than a credit card.

How to get a personal loan?

Step 1: Check and see if you can get a loan with an Internet-only lender.

Ideally, you should start your shopping with a site like LendingTree, which lets you shop at dozens of lenders with just one simple online form (described below). LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

Step 2: Go to your local credit union and see if they can match or beat your P2P loan

Step 3: Take the loan with the lower interest rate

If you aren’t eligible for a P2P loan from an Internet-only lender then try your local credit union.

Internet-only lenders

The rise of technology allowed a new wave of lenders to offer an alternative to traditional bank loans. Peer-to-Peer lending (or P2P for short) allows borrowers to receive loans from “peers” often in the form of individual investors or hedge funds, endowments and pension funds.

Peer-to-peer loans are interesting because they were developed specifically for the digital environment. This makes them accessible with a few clicks on a computer and a relatively simple application process. Companies like Prosper, LendingClub and Upstart facilitate matching borrowers with investors. There is no need to visit a bank branch. The aim of P2P lending is to give a borrower lower interest rates while giving investors higher returns.

Interestingly, some big banks have acquired or built their own online lenders which are offering consumers even better rates. SunTrust has done that with the acquisition of LightStream, and Goldman Sachs has recently invested in building Marcus.

Step 1: Shop Online for a Personal Loan (without hurting your score)

[Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.] At LendingTreee, you can shop for a loan at dozens of lenders with just one online form (that takes less than 5 minutes to complete). LendingTree will perform a soft credit pull (with no impact to your score), and you can get real offers – including how much you can borrow and the interest rate. We think this is one of the best places to start your personal loan shopping journey.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Lending Tree’s secure website

LightStream*

Pro:

  • If you have excellent credit, LightStream offers some of the lowest interest rates in the market. Rates start as low as 2.49% (to finance an auto) and 5.49% (to refinance credit card debt).
  • You can get the money by the next business day. This is a remarkably fast process.
  • LightStream has a rate match promise: if you find a lower interest rate somewhere else, they will match it.
  • There is no pre-payment penalty and no origination fee.

Con:

  • You must have excellent credit to qualify.
  • LightStream does not have “soft pull” functionality. If you apply for a loan, there will be a hard inquiry on your credit report.

LendingClub*

Pro

  • Their interest rates are most likely lower than other loans with an APR range of 5.99% to 35.89%.
  • You can find out your interest rate without a hard inquiry on your credit score. Prosper uses a “soft pull” so there will be no point reductions on your credit score, nor an inquiry left on your report for finding out the interest rate.
  • There is no pre-payment penalty(fine if you pay off the loan early), but they won’t refund your loan fee.

Con:

  • You must have a high credit score (600 or higher) to be eligible to get a personal loan from LendingClub.
  • You probably won’t be accepted if you have a history of missed payments.
  • There is an upfront fee, but your APR will include the fee. Be sure to compare the APR and not just the interest rate when you’re shopping around.

Upstart*

People with minimal credit history can turn to Upstart for an opportunity to be eligible for a personal loan.

Upstart evaluates where you went to school, your area of study, your grades and employment history to determine your eligibility for a loan and your interest rate.

Step 2: Credit Unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that offer alternatives to traditional banks. They have more of an emphasis on serving their community than worrying about a corporation’s bottom line. Unlike banks, credit union members own the credit unions.

Credit unions do offer loans, but first you must become a member of the credit union. Some credit unions are closed. But others (like PenFed) will let you join if you make a $15 donation to a charity.

Pros

  • Loans from a credit union usually have lower interest rates than a bank, and possibly the lowest you can find.

Cons

  • You will need to join a credit union, and may not qualify for a loan so you could be out the cost to join.

PenFed offers a 9.99%-14.99% interest rate with no upfront fee for a term of five years. However, you will need to have a 700+ credit score to be competitive for this personal loan.

Non-bank lenders

OneMain is a non-bank lender owned by Citigroup. You will have to physically visit a branch to get approved. But, the process usually takes less than 30 minutes. Borrowers with high credit scores should first explore the P2P space and credit unions before turning to OneMain, because it will be a more expensive form of borrowing.

Pros:

  • If having face-to-face contact is important to you, then you can visit physical branches.
  • OneMain will approve people with credit scores as low as 550, so it is possible to get a loan when other reject you. Although expensive, OneMain will be much less expensive than payday loans or title loans.

Cons:

  • You have to visit a branch, even if you’re preapproved online. If you don’t have a branch near you, this could be a serious hassle.
  • There will be a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Likely higher interests rates (APRs) than a loan from P2P lenders like Prosper or LendingClub
  • A few complex terms and conditions

Warning:

  • Don’t bother with the insurance products they’ll try to sell you.

Step 3: Take the Lowest Interest Rate

Personal loans can be valuable tools to help pay down debt, reduce interest rates and save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. But remember; don’t rush into a personal loan just because it seems like a good deal. Take the time to do your research, shop around and ensure your getting the absolute best interest rate you can. Even the difference of .01 can make a difference in the long run.

Read where to find the best personal loan rates online here.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Building Credit

The Best Options for Rebuilding Your Credit Score – November 2017

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.

The Best Options for Rebuilding Your Credit Score

A strong credit score is a vital part of your overall financial health. But rebuilding a damaged (or non-existent) credit score can feel impossible. Don’t despair. There are plenty of avenues you can take in order to rehabilitate your credit score and it all begins with identifying your starting point. 

How Bad is Your Bad Credit Score? 

Before you start to panic about rehabilitating your bad credit score, let’s determine if it’s even bad. Where do you fall in the range of FICO and VantageScores?

  • Above 750: Excellent Credit
  • 680 – 749: Good Credit
  • 620 – 679: “Near Prime” or Acceptable Credit
  • 550 – 619: Sub-prime
  • Below 550: Bad Credit or No Credit Score/Thin File

Your credit score isn’t the only thing that will keep you from being approved for credit. These factors are common reasons for being declined.

  • Your debt-to-income ratio is above 50%
  • You have no credit score
  • You have been building up a lot of debt recently
  • You are unemployed

In order to focus on rehabilitating your credit score, you’ll need to start with getting a line of credit. This may sound impossible because you’re constantly getting declined. Fortunately, there are options tailored specifically for people looking to re-establish credit.

[Read more about bad credit scores here.]

Rehabilitating a Bad Credit Score (550 and under) 

Get a Secured Card

You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit, which is often about $150 – $250. Typically, the amount of your deposit will then be your credit limit. You should make one small purchase each month and then pay it off on time and in full. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card. Read more about secured cards here.

[Check out our secured credit card database here.]

Rebuilding from a 551 – 619 score 

Apply for a Store Credit Card

You might be used to checking out at a store and being asked if you’d like to open a credit card. While these credit cards come with really high interest rates and are great tools to tempt you into buying items you don’t need, there is a big perk to store credit cards: they’re more likely to approve people with low credit scores. Just be sure to only use the card to make one small purchase a month and then pay it off on time and in full. Unsubscribe to emails about deals and don’t even carry it around everyday in your wallet if you can’t resist the desire to spend. Read more here. 

[Find all the details about how to improve your score here.]

If you’re unable to get a store credit card, you should apply for a secured card.

Rebuilding from the 620 to 650 score 

If you’re on the 620 end of the spectrum, you may want to consider applying for a store card or, if you’re rejected, a secured card. Store cards typically approve into the lower 600 range. Just be careful that you aren’t tempted into the spending traps like 30% off sales for card members. Just make one small purchase a month and pay it off on time and in full. 

650 really isn’t a terrible credit score. You’re average and even closing in on good credit, which starts at 680. Lower interest rates and better options will be available to you, which is why it’s important to get there.

If you’re looking to get a credit card with a 650 score, then you should consider checking to see if you’re pre-qualified for any cards. This will help minimize your chance of rejection upon applying.

It will be a harder to be approved with a debt-to-income ratio above 40%.

Otherwise, your goal in this bracket should be to use no more than 20% of your total available credit. Pay your bills on time and in full. And keep pumping that positive information onto your credit report until you reach the 700+ category. 

Who You Need to Avoid 

Access to credit and loans may come easier than you expect, but that should also be a danger sign. There are several lenders who are willing to provide lines of credits or loans to people with poor credit. These options are often very predatory. If you’re simply trying to rebuild your credit history and improve your credit score, then there is no need to take this offers. If you’re in desperate need of a line of credit for an emergency, but have bad credit, please email us at info@magnifymoney.com for a tailored response.

Here are the options you need to avoid when trying to rebuild credit:

1. Payday and Title Loan Lenders – There is never a need to take out a payday or title loan if you’re trying to merely rebuild or establish credit history. Most of these lenders don’t report to the bureaus and you’ll likely end up in a painful vicious cycle of borrowing and being unable to pay it down.

[How to get out of the payday loan trap.]

2. First Premier – The bank claims to want to offer people a second chance when it comes to their finances, but its fee structure and fine print prove the exact opposite. First Premier charges you a $95 processing fee just to apply for a credit card. Then it levies a $75 annual fee on the credit cards and most cards only come with a $300 limit. You’re paying $170 for a $300 credit line! The APR is a painful 36%. In year two the annual fee reduces to $45, but then you’re charged a monthly servicing fee of $6.25. And to top it all off, you’ll be charged a 25% fee if your credit limit is increased. Stay away from this card! Use the $170 it would take to open the card and get a secured card instead.

[Read more about First Premier here.]

3. Credit One – Credit One does an excellent job of confusing consumers into thinking they’re applying for a Capital One card. The logos are eerily similar and easily confused.

Creditone

Capital one

While Credit One is not as predatory as First Premier or payday loans, there is really no need to be using it to rebuild your credit score. Credit One makes it a bit tricky to get to its terms and conditions without either going through the pre-qualification process or accepting a direct mail offer. You’ll see this when clicking to look at its credit card option.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.34.54 PM

A quick Google search yielded this terms and conditions sheet, which may be slightly different than the one you’d receive if you applied for a card. According to the one we found, Credit One charges an annual membership fee from $0 to $99. Credit line minimums are between $300 and $500. So you could be paying $99 for a $300 credit limit. APR is relatively standard, but on the high side, with 16.99% to 24.99%. Given the high annual fees, we recommend saving your money and using a secured card with no annual fee to begin rebuilding your credit score.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Building Credit

Build Your Credit Score: 6 Best Secured Cards With No Annual Fees – November 2017

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.

Build Your Credit Score

Applying for a secured card is a simple way to begin building (or rebuilding) your credit history. Secured cards are a way to prove to a lender you can be responsible without a lender having to take much risk. When you open a secured card, you put down a deposit and the lender gives you a line of credit. Typically, your line of credit matches the amount of your deposit. But just like credit cards, not all secured cards are created equal. Below are the five secured cards that don’t charge an annual fee, thus save you money as you build credit history.

Our #1 Pick from Discover

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee Discover offers our favorite secured credit card. Unlike most credit card companies, Discover is ensuring that benefits and rewards traditionally associated only with unsecured credit cards will be available on the secured card. This card is best for people with no credit, or with scores of 670 or less. Here are the reasons why this card is our favorite:

No annual fee: There is no annual fee on this card. You do need to make a security deposit of $200 or more to establish your credit line. If you want a bigger limit, you will have to make a bigger deposit.

Bankruptcy? No problem: If you have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the past, you can still qualify for this card. It is a great way for people to rehabilitate their credit.

Automatic monthly reviews: Discover will start automatic monthly reviews at month 8. If you qualify, you could be transitioned to an account with no security deposit. Even better, you could potentially be eligible for a bigger credit limit. This feature really sets Discover apart from the competition – and your goal should be to get back your deposit as quickly as possible through responsible credit behavior.

Earn cash back: Most secured credit cards do not offer any rewards. With Discover it®, you have the opportunity to earn cash back while earning rewards. You can earn 2% at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 of spend each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. Earning cash back is not the primary reason to select a secured credit card, but it is a nice option to have available.

Free FICO Credit Score: Discover will provide you with a copy of your official FICO credit score. If you use a secured credit card properly, you should expect to see your score increase over time. And by providing your FICO score for free, you will be able to watch your improvement.

You can learn more and apply by clicking on the link below:

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover’s secure website

Citi® Secured MasterCard with $0 Annual Fee

Citi® Secured MasterCard® - No Annual Fee

Citi® Secured MasterCard<sup>®</sup> Citibank has just eliminated the annual fee on its secured credit card. If you are declined by Discover, this could be a good back-up option. In order to qualify, you cannot have filed for bankruptcy in the last two years. Citi will hold onto your deposit for 18 months. Unlike Discover, there is no cash back available and Citi will not perform annual eligibility checks to see if you can be approved for a standard card. Here are the key facts:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Provide a security deposit between $200 and $2,500. Your credit limit will be equal to the amount of the security deposit you’ve submitted.
  • 23.49% Variable APR

Option Two – Your Local Credit Union

If you belong to a credit union, go there and ask. They probably have a no annual fee option and could set you up right away. It doesn’t hurt to ask a bank either, but they are less likely to have a no annual fee option.

Option Three – Credit Unions “Anyone Can Join”

If you don’t belong to a credit union, or don’t like the secured card options your bank offers, below are three no fee cards from credit unions anyone can join. While it may cost as much as an annual fee to join the credit union, there is also an added benefit of being a credit union member for life.

These are ranked by lowest to highest minimum deposit

Visa Classic Secured Card from Justice FCU
Justice Federal: Visa Classic Secured Credit Card

  • Cost to join – $5 to join JFCU or $43 if you need to join another organization to become eligible
  • Minimum deposit – $110

Eligibility

Unfortunately, not everyone can easily join Justice Federal Credit Union. JFCU provides financial services to employees of Justice, Homeland Security and the Law Enforcement Community, as well as their family members. If you believe you may qualify, then check the credit union’s member eligibility page. Those who qualify, will need a five dollar deposit and to fund their account.
However, there is a loophole.

One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Sheriff’s Association. It costs $38 to join the NSA as an auxiliary member or student. By joining the NSA first, anyone can then become a member of the Justice Federal Credit Union. This brings the cost of membership to $43.

The Secured Card

Visa Classic Secured Credit Card
  • No annual fee
  • 16.90% APR non-variable

Credit limits ranging from $100 up to 110% of pledged shares

Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal

  • Cost to join – $1 to join the credit union (which the SDFCU usually covers) + $5 (or $15) to join American Consumer Council, if you don’t work for the Department of State.
  • Minimum deposit – $250

Eligibility

You are eligible to join the SDFCU if you’re an employee of the Department of State or one of the extensive organizations with ties to the credit union (all listed here under “who can join”). If you don’t work for the Department of State, you may also be eligible through the American Consumer Council. You can join the ACC for only $5 if you’ve used any major consumer product or service within the past 12 months – and you probably have.

The Secured Card

EMV Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
  • 7.99% APR
  • No annual fee
  • Minimum deposit –$250 

DCU Visa Platinum Secured from Digital FCU
Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU)

  • Cost to join – $5 to join DCU + membership costs to join eligible organization if you aren’t eligible
  • Minimum deposit – $500

Eligibility

You must be a member of DCU in order to apply for the secured card. You can be eligible to join DCU if a relative is already member, if your employer offers membership or your community is included within field of membership. If none of these apply, you can join an organization with member privileges. Joining these organizations range in membership cost from $25 to $120. Once you join DCU, you have a lifelong membership, so you could cancel a membership with the other organization after joining.

The Secured Card 

Visa Platinum Secured Card
  • No annual fee
  • 12.50% variable APR (18% penalty APR)
  • Minimum deposit – $300

Option Four – Banks

If you don’t want to join a credit union, banks offer instant online applications with no annual fee.

Capital One® Secured Mastercard

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
If you currently can’t afford the $110 – $500 deposit, consider the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® with a $49 minimum deposit for a $200 line of credit with an annual fee of $0.

However, this deposit is based on what Capital One deems as “creditworthy.” It is possible it will ask for a deposit of $99 or $200.

Understand how to use your secured card properly

Once you’re approved, be sure to use your secured card responsibly. You can find more tips on how to use a secured card and build your credit history here.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer

Discover It Balance Transfer Review

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.

Balance Transfer Review

Updated July 5, 2017

Credit card debt is a burden weighing down the budgets of many Americans. If you’re motivated to unlock the shackles of consumer debt, then a balance transfer may be right for you. But finding the right one can be overwhelming. ” Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer” is an excellent option for people with debt. You will have an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months, with a 3% balance transfer fee.

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover’s secure website

Key Credit Card Features

For people with credit card debt, the most important feature is the generous balance transfer offer. If you transfer debt from any other credit card company, you will pay a one-time fee of 3% of the amount transferred. But you will then pay no interest for 18 months. You could save hundreds of dollars (and potentially more) during the interest-free period. Just make sure you get your transfer completed as soon as the account is opened and that you make your monthly payments on time. 0% for 18 months is one of the best balance transfer credit cards on the market today.

In addition to charging no interest on balance transfers for 18 months, the card charges 0% interest on purchases during the first six months. You will be able to earn cash back on your purchases as well. However, we strongly recommend using a balance transfer credit cards only for balance transfers so that you can get out of debt faster.

Discover also offers your free FICO Credit Score on monthly statements and free Social Security Number monitoring. Checking your credit score will help you keep tabs on your credit. Discover will monitor your Social Security Number and alert you if they find your Social Security Number on any of thousands of risky websites. This is a great feature that will help alert you of possible fraud.

Do You Need a Balance Transfer?

Most people who are paying down credit card are subjected to interest rates north of 15%. Reducing interest rates on debt with a balance transfer can slash both the time and money it takes to pay it all down.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, a balance transfer isn’t right for everyone.

[Find out how much you’ll pay in interest on credit card debt here.]

How Do You Qualify For a Balance Transfer?

Banks will only offer balance transfers to people with good or excellent credit. Typically, the ideal candidate will have:

  • A good or excellent credit score. Your score does not have to be perfect, but your chances are much better if you have a good score.
  • Your debt burden will be considered, and the lower the better. If you are having difficulties making monthly payments, a balance transfer is not for you.

Note: Your debt burden is calculated by adding up your monthly fixed expenses and dividing that by your monthly income. The expenses should include your monthly rent or mortgage payment, auto payment, student loan payments and the monthly payment on any other credit cards or loans that appear on your credit bureau. The higher that number, the more likely that lenders will not approve your application.

Also take into consideration why you’re in debt. Don’t get another credit card if you’re swipe happy and won’t be able to help but spend on the new credit card.

Is Discover It the Balance Transfer Right for You?

promo-balancetransfer-halfThe Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is only right for you if your credit card debt is with another bank. You cannot do a balance transfer from one card to another within the same bank.

Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer currently offers an introductory 0% APR balance transfer for 18 months. There is a 3% balance transfer fee, but the fee often pays for itself — depending on your balance.

If you were approved for a balance transfer of $5,000, a 3% fee would equal $150. That shouldn’t sound like a lot, because leaving $5,000 at a 17% interest rate (with a payment of $250 a month), you’d pay the bank $153.16 of interest in just four months.

The Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer would save you $741, including interest and fees.

Should the Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer be Your First Balance Transfer Card?

While Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer does offer a competitive balance transfer, there are other options out there.

The Chase Slate® credit card has an excellent balance transfer offer. You can save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening and get 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and a $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard for free.

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

The higher the debt, the more attractive Discover’s longer balance transfer offer becomes. But for smaller balances, the no fee Ring offer is a better deal.

Fine Print Alert: What to Watch Out For 

If you do complete a balance transfer with Discover, make sure that you:

  1. Complete your balance transfer as soon as possible. If you wait too long, you can lose the offer.
  2. Continue to pay on your old credit card until you see that the balance transfer has been completed. It can take two to three weeks for the balance transfer to complete, and you don’t want to be hit with late fees on your old credit card while waiting for the transfer.
  3. You can only move debt to Discover from another bank. You cannot transfer debt between two credit cards with Discover.
  4. Make your payments on time, every month. They charge a late fee of up to $37. Discover does state they waive your first late payment fee on the Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer card, but that isn’t a benefit you should plan on using.

How to Complete a Balance Transfer with Discover

We’ve created an entirely separate post featuring screenshots and explanations on how to complete a balance transfer with Discover. You can find it here.

If you run into road blocks or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via email (info@magnifymoney.com) or on Twitter @Magnify_Money.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback

How to Earn and Receive Cashback with Discover

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.

How to Earn and Receive Cashback with Discover

Discover has a wide range of credit card options, including student cards, travel cards, secured cards, and cashback cards. When it comes to its cashback card, Discover offers some special features for cardholders looking to cash in on rewards.

For starters, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card has no annual fee, 5% cashback in select, rotating categories, and 1% cashback on all other purchases. Cardholders can also redeem their cashback at any time.

If you have the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card in your wallet, the Discover website is the one-stop shop for managing your credit card and checking on your cashback and redeeming it.

In this article, we’ll touch on:

  • How to earn cashback with your Discover it® card
  • Navigating the Discovercard.com portal
  • How to redeem your cashback

How to Earn CashBack with Discover

It’s easy to earn cashback with your Discover it® Cashback Match™, which can make it a top contender when choosing which card you’ll use to make everyday purchases.

In order to take advantage of the 5% cashback offer year-round, you’ll need to spend in certain rotating categories throughout the year.

The current spending category for October – December is Amazon.com and Target.

With Discover’s 5% cashback, there’s a spending cap of $1,500 each quarter, meaning you can earn a maximum of $75 in cashback each quarter or $300 per year.

However, you can also earn at least 1% cashback on all your other purchases, and there’s no cap on how much you can spend or how much cashback you can receive, so if you want to maximize cashback rewards, you could possibly earn more than $300 per year.

Don’t Forget …

Discover cardholders have to “opt in” each quarter to start receiving 5% cashback when spending in the rotating spending categories. This is important to remember and easy to do by simply following the prompts in Discover’s reminder email or logging on to your account.

Cashback also doesn’t expire as long as your account is in good standing, so you can stack up your rewards over time if you forget.

New customers may receive special offers like cashback matching, which is when Discover it® matches all the cashback you earn dollar for dollar at the end of your first year. The double cashback will be applied to your account balance after the end of the twelfth billing cycle.

How to Access Cashback Rewards

When you start earning cashback with your Discover it® card, you can check your available Cashback Bonus right on Discover’s online portal, which is called the Account Center.

Go to Discover.com and type in your login information. Make sure the drop-down menu below the password field says “credit card” so you can access your online account for your Discover it credit card.

discover cash back 1

After you log in, you should see a screen similar to the one shown below. Below you can see the Cashback Bonus available is clearly displayed on this first page along with information about the current quarter’s spending categories and a link to the Cashback Bonus calendar, which provides more information about each 5% cashback spending category.

discover cash back 2

You can click on the button underneath your cashback rewards summary to see a more detailed page, which should look similar to the one below.

Here, you can learn more about earning cashback and redeeming your Cashback Bonus.

discover cash back 3

 

Options for Redemption

Discover it® cardholders can redeem their Cashback Bonus at any time, and you have a variety of options to choose from.

Amazon Products

You can use your cashback to pay for online purchases on Amazon.com. This can give your wallet a rest when you’re shopping online and can come in handy around the holidays.

discover cash bank 4

Gift Cards and E-Certificates

You can also redeem your Cashback Bonus for gift cards and e-certificates (digital gift cards for online shopping) at over 100 popular retailers and restaurants. Right now, Discover is offering a $25 gift card for cardholders who want to redeem $20 in cashback. You can also find other incentive offers to use gift cards or e-certificates, such as $80 of cashback for a $100 e-certificate to Banana Republic. Using gift cards or e-certificates could help your cashback stretch further.

discover cash bank 5

 

Donation, Cash, and Statement Credit

Finally, Discover it® cardholders can donate their cashback rewards, or redeem the cash by applying it to their credit card statement to partially cover existing charges or by transferring it to their bank account.

discover cash bank 6

Transferring Cashback to Your Bank

To redeem your cashback rewards for cash, you’ll have to click on the “Redeem For Cash” button after scrolling down to view your redemption options for your credit card account on Discover’s Account Center portal.

When you see a screen similar to the one shown below, enter the amount of cashback you’d like to redeem and click the option that says “Direct deposit to your bank account” if you want to receive the cash instead of applying it to your credit card balance.

Your checking account that you use to pay your credit card bill each month should already be connected to your Discover it®.

account, so you can select it from the drop-down menu below. For the time being, Discover, won’t let you add another account to transfer your Cashback Bonus to.

discover cash bank 7

When you’ve selected the amount you’d like to redeem and the account you’d like to transfer it to, click “Continue” and approve and confirm the transaction.

If you don’t want to use Discover’s online portal, you’ll have to call 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683) to redeem your Cashback Bonus.

After you redeem your Cashback Bonus, the time it takes to receive your reward can vary based on the redemption method you chose.

  • Partner gift cards will be mailed to your billing address within 10 business days
  • Electronic deposits will appear in your bank account within 72 hours
  • Account credits will post to your account within 2 business days

Final Word

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ card is a great option for people who like to earn cashback, thanks to its 5% cashback rewards and no annual fee, and it also provides a flexible range of redemption options.

Whether you want to apply your Cashback Bonus to your current balance, use it to shop online or at your favorite department store, or deposit the cash straight to your checking account so you can spend it however you please, you can do all of that and more.

The Account Center portal is also very user friendly and easy to navigate when trying to redeem cashback.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Cards

How to Make a Payment on Your Citi Costco Credit Card

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.

Citi Costco Card

Confused about how to set up online payments for your Citi Costco credit card? You may be on a wrong, and confusing, landing page when trying to set up your online profile.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your new Citi Costco card account:

If you’re Googling the term “Pay my Citi credit card”, or something similar, you could be inclined to click on the link for “Citibank®: Online Bill Payment”.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 1.43.43 PM

This is NOT the right page. This will take you to Citi’s option to sign up for Online Bill Payment or eBills. This is a separate service and not actually where you sign up to pay your Citi credit card online.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-18-at-1.38.00-PM

Here’s what the right landing page looks like:

Click the button that says “REGISTER”. You’ll be prompted to enter your card info and set up your account.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-18-at-5.40.13-PM

 

Next: Set up your payment account

Once you’ve registered, click ahead to your account page. There, you can set up a payment account from the options on the left.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 1.52.52 PM

From there, it’s easy to link a checking or savings account to the account in order make your payment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 1.52.57 PM

Now you’re ready to pay off your credit card!

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Pay Down My Debt

Home Equity Loan or Personal Loan: How to Choose the Right Fit for You

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.

Home Equity Loan or Personal Loan

One of the most important things you can do when making any personal finance decision is to remember that it’s called personal finance for a reason. We all have different financial circumstances, priorities, and goals, and what’s right for one person – or even what’s right for most people – may not be right for you. Such is the case with choosing between a home equity loan and a personal loan. As with most important financial decisions, especially those that involve borrowing money, there is no “right” answer, only the right answer for you.

Before determining what’s right for you, let’s first take a look at what each option entails and examine the key differences between the two.

Home equity loans

A home equity loan is fixed amount of money borrowed against the equity in your home. So, for example, if you owe $300,000 on a home valued at $500,000, a home equity loan enables you to borrow against that $200,000 in equity. Home equity loans are fixed-rate installment loans, meaning they’re repaid in equal monthly payments over a fixed period of time – usually in the neighborhood of 15 years. While they’re commonly used to finance home improvement projects, borrowers are free to spend the money on whatever they choose, including education costs and debt consolidation.

In many ways, a home equity loan functions similarly to your original mortgage loan, and is often referred to as a second mortgage. Like a mortgage, home equity loans are secured against the borrower’s home. You can apply for and receive a home equity loan from most banks, mortgage companies and credit unions. Many apply for a home equity loan from the same lender that provided their mortgage, but you’re free to shop around for the best offer.

Remember, too, that a home equity loan is not to be confused with a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. Though a HELOC is likewise money borrowed against the equity in your home, it functions as a revolving line of credit, much the way a credit card does. Your lender sets a credit limit based on the equity in your home, and you can borrow against that limit at any point while the line of credit it still open. Because it’s a revolving line of credit and not an installment loan like home equity and personal loans, let’s set HELOCs aside for this comparison.

Personal loans

Rapidly emerging as an alternative to home equity loans, personal loans are direct-to-borrower loans that are not secured by collateral such as a home or automobile. Often referred to as unsecured loans, personal loans are typically fixed-rate loans, and, like home equity loans, involve borrowing a lump sum of money to be used at the borrower’s discretion and repaid in equal installments over a defined period of time. Interest rates on personal loans are typically determined by a borrower’s credit score and history. Some traditional financial establishments such as banks and credit unions offer personal loans, but there’s also a growing market of non-traditional personal loan providers such as online and peer-to-peer lenders.

Understanding the differences and trade-offs

Though they share some similarities, there are key differences between home equity loans and personal loans. As noted earlier, home equity loans are secured against the borrower’s home, so, just as is the case with your mortgage, if you default on your home equity loan, your lender can foreclosure on your home. Personal loans, on the other hand, are usually unsecured, so, while failure to make your payments on time will adversely impact your credit, none of your personal property is at risk.

Because they’re secured against your home, however, home equity loans usually feature lower interest rates and longer loan terms than personal loans. In addition, provided you have the necessary equity, you can usually borrow more money with a home equity loan than you can with a personal loan. Personal loan amounts tend to cap out in the neighborhood of $100,000, whereas home equity loan amounts are limited only by the available equity in your home. In other words, the trade-off for the peace of mind that comes with unsecured debt is usually a smaller loan amount and a larger monthly payment.

Speaking of trade-offs, though home equity loans may deliver lower interest rates, (generally starting slightly north of the going mortgage rate), the application process is typically far more arduous than that of a personal loan. For starters, you’ll need to arrange and pay for an appraisal of your home to determine the available equity. That won’t be the only upfront cost either, as you’ll incur a variety of application costs and processing fees, just as you would with a traditional mortgage. It all adds up not only to higher upfront costs, but a longer process and thus a longer wait for your money. From start to finish, the process of securing a home equity loan can take weeks or longer. By comparison, some personal loans process in days or less.

Advantages to each

So, to recap, the typical advantages of a home equity loan include lower interest rates, longer loan terms, lower monthly payments, and, provided you have necessary equity, the ability to borrow larger amounts of money.

Personal loans, on the other hand, have advantages of their own, including what is usually a faster and less stressful application process, lower – if any – upfront application costs or fees, and the peace of mind that comes with not having to put your home up as collateral.

The verdict

If you have significant equity in your home, have the cash needed to pay upfront fees, and are willing to navigate a longer and more tedious loan process, a home equity loan is likely your best choice, as it will usually yield a lower interest rate, longer loan term, and lower monthly payment. Likewise, if you need a sizable amount of cash (think north of $100,000) and have the requisite equity, a home equity loan is probably the way to go.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t have equity in your home, or you just don’t want to drain the equity you do have. Maybe you’re not interested in having another lien against your home. Maybe you need the money fast, in days as opposed to weeks. Or maybe you just plain don’t want to deal with the hassles of a more traditional loan process. If any of those things apply to you, then a personal loan might be just what you need, especially if you have excellent credit and can score an interest rate comparable to what you would get with a home equity loan.

All of which to brings us back to where we started, for the verdict really is that most boring of answers: it depends. Fortunately, it depends on something you know better than anyone else – you. Focus on what’s right for you, based on your specific situation, and the “right” answer is sure to follow.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , ,

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Consumer Watchdog

Consumer Watchdog: The IRS Reveals Dirty Dozen Tax Scams

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.

The IRS Reveals Dirty Dozen Tax Scams

Updated for 2016

Tax time is high season for scams and identity theft. In fact, tax-refund fraud is expected to hit $21 billion this year. We’ve alerted you to some of the tactics crooks use during tax season like pretending to call as an IRS agent demanding payment, email scams saying your tax payment got rejected or that you owe back taxes, or simply stealing your W2 then filing your tax return and routing your refund to another bank account. The IRS also has its own list of 12 scams used to part you with your hard-earned money (or that they think you might be tempted to do).

We want you to be aware of every way a thief might try to take advantage of you during the often frustrating and trying time of filing taxes.

Here are the Dirty Dozen tax scams from the IRS:

1. Phone Scams

This scam is the most prevalent way a crook will try to use tax time to get your money. A fraudster will call you impersonating an IRS officer claiming you owe more money (or back taxes) and need to pay it now or risk being arrested, deported, getting your driver’s license revoked or whatever clever scare tactic he can come up with. Stay calm, never give out personal information and immediately hang up and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484 and file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant (choose “Other” and then “Impostor Scams”).

[Learn how to protect yourself from tax scams here.]

2. Phishing

If it smells fishy, it probably is! The IRS won’t send you an email out of the blue about a refund or back taxes. In fact, first contact from the IRS almost always still comes via snail mail and not email or phone. If you get an email claiming to be from the IRS, don’t click any links until you contact the IRS directly to confirm it’s valid. The crooks are looking to steal your personal information.

[Read more about how to protect against Phishing Scams here.]

3. Identity Theft

Getting your identity stolen at any point during the year is a major hassle and could be costly. But getting your identity stolen at tax time is probably because a crook is filing for a tax return using your name and getting your refund first (or a fake version of your refund). One of the best ways to defend against this is to file your taxes as early as possible. Also be sure to track all your W2 or 1099 forms and reach out to an employer immediately if you haven’t received your forms by early February. Crooks are not above stealing your tax forms and using them to file.

[Learn how to prevent and deal with identity theft here.]

4. Return Preparer Fraud

Looking for a good deal is great, but don’t go to cheap tax preparer (accountant) if he or she isn’t credible. Do your due diligence before giving over all your personal information to an accountant. Unfortunately, some of them use tax season as a chance to steal people’s identities.

5. Offshore Tax Avoidance

This one is on you. Don’t hide your money offshore, because you’ll be paying big time when Uncle Sam tracks it down. You can voluntarily admit to having an offshore account (even if you had one by accident – perhaps while working internationally) through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

6. Inflated Refund Claims

It’s fine if a tax prep software company promises the biggest return compared to competitors, but don’t trust anyone claiming to get you an inflated refund. Never sign a blank return and be wary of anyone promising a big return without even looking at your information. Also, don’t agree to pay fees based on a percentage of a refund. This scam is typically perpetuated via word of mouth, flyers in storefronts and targets community and church groups.

7. Fake Charities

Check out any charity before donating. This is good practice year-round, but fake charities become especially popular during tax season to prey on people receiving refunds. Use tools like GuideStar.org to see if a charity is legit.

8. Hiding Income with Fake Documents

Much like hiding money offshore – this tax scam is on you to avoid. Don’t attempt to fake taxable income by filing false Form 1099s or other documents to inflate your tax refund. You are legally responsible for what is on your returns, regardless of who prepares them.

9. Abusive Tax Shelters

The IRS is committed to cracking down on abusive tax structures/ tax avoidance schemes and persecuting people who create and sell them. Be wary of anyone pushing tax shelters that sound like a great deal.

10. Falsifying Income to Claim Credits

Just report what you’ve earned. It’s really basic. Falsifying your income in anyway will not end well for you, no matter what a con artist tells you.

11. Excessive Claims for Fuel Tax Credits

Some prepares may try to talk you into making a fuel tax credit claim on your return. Be wary! The fuel tax credit is generally limited to off-highway business use, typically for farming. If you aren’t a farmer, it’s doubtful this tax credit is for you.

12. Frivolous Tax Arguments

Yes, you have the right to contest your tax liabilities in court. But don’t let a scam artist sell you snake oil. Often times frivolous tax arguments not only fail to hold up in court but filing a frivolous tax return results in a penalty of $5,000.

Be sure to check out the Dirty Dozen tax scams directly on IRS.gov and contact the IRS and FTC directly if you believe you’ve been a victim of a tax scam.

Think You’re a Victim of a Tax Scam?

Scams need to be reported immediately to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also hear an example of a scam IRS call here.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Consumer Watchdog

Protect Yourself from Tax Scams

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.

 

Tax return check

Updated for 2016

Tax time is coming which means crooks are looking to part you and your money. There are a myriad of tax scams, but two of the most common right now are early filing and fraudulent calls.

File Early to Protect Yourself

Consider this scenario: you put off filing your taxes until April. You go through filling out all the information with your preferred tax filing software and as you click the final submit button a screen tells you that you’ve already filed and received your refund.

There is a rise of scammers using personal information to file early and steal refunds. In fact, it’s predicted tax-refund scams will net $21 billion by this year.

The best way to prevent your return from being stolen is to file as soon as your tax documents arrive.

Decoding a Fake Call Scam

Another common scam comes in the form of fake calls or threatening text messages claiming to be the IRS. Often, the caller/texter will demand the taxpayer makes a payment to the IRS or face being arrested, deported, or suspension of a driver’s license.

Crooks ask for money to be sent via wire transfer or a pre-paid card. This money is nearly impossible to recover once it’s sent, so victims who do give into the demands are likely to never see the money again.

The IRS issued a statement in 2013 stating the agency never asks for credit card numbers over the phone nor requests pre-paid debit card or wire transfers. In fact, the first communication about a tax-related issue is through the mail.

These scammers sure aren’t rookies though. In 2013 the IRS reported some of the characteristics of these scams include sophisticated tactics to convince potential victims the IRS was indeed calling.

Here are some characteristics of the call scam:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim

Information found in a 2013 IRS press release

What to do if you receive an phone call from the IRS you suspect is a phony:

  • First, stay polite but firm on the phone (just in case it really is the IRS). Say you have heard IRS scams are prevalent and you’ll need to ensure this isn’t a scam by reaching out yourself to the IRS and then hang up.
  • Second, if you’re sure you don’t owe any additional taxes to the IRS, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you think you may actually owe back taxes to the IRS, call the IRS directly at 1.800.829.1040 and work with an employee to pay back what you owe.
  • Be sure to report the scam by filing a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Impostor Scams.” Be sure to note if it included an IRS impostor by writing “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Tips taken from IRS.gov.

Don’t Download Email Attachments

Stay vigilant about email scams as well. Any email that’s sent to you claiming your tax payment was rejected or you owe back taxes need to be verified before clicking on links or downloading attachments that likely contain malware. Call the IRS directly to see if the email is legitimate.

Protect Your W2

Thieves can also use mail theft to wreak havoc on your financial life. A W2 or 1099 features nearly all the information an identity thief would need to impersonate you. Social Security number, check. Address, check. Full name, check. Employer and salary, check, check.

Because of this, it’s not uncommon for thieves to pull tax forms right out of the mail.

Your employer was required by law to send you tax forms by February 1, 2016

Keep a list throughout the year of companies that should be sending you a W2 or 1099. If you don’t receive your documents by February 8, 2016 — then be sure to reach out and inquiry when you should expect your tax forms and ensure they were sent to the correct address.

If you’re concerned your identity may have been compromised, you can put a credit alert or credit freeze on your credit report with all three bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). You can also download your credit reports for free to look for any suspicious activity at annualcreditreport.com.

Don’t wait to report scams 

Scams need to be reported immediately to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also hear an example of a scam IRS call here.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

College Students and Recent Grads, News, Pay Down My Debt

REPAYE Student Loan Repayment: Is it Better and How to Qualify

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.

REPAYE Student Loan Repayment

As of December 17, 2015, student loan borrowers can apply for REPAYE consideration here. Learn more about the program and how you can become eligible below. 

The federal government just made student loan debt repayment easier for millions of Americans. The Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan lets any federal student loan borrower with a Direct Loan cap monthly loan payments at 10% of discretionary incomes. You are no longer limited by when you took out loans or your debt-to-income ratios.

Who is Eligible 

You are able to enroll if you have any Direct Loan. If you have non-Direct Loans such as a Stafford Loan or Perkins Loan, then you could consolidate the loans using the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan in order to make them eligible.

Parents who borrowed with a federal Parent PLUS loan are still not eligible.

You can compare your options between REPAYE and other income-driven repayment plans at StudentLoan.gov/IDR, or contact your servicer.

When Loans are Forgiven

Undergraduate borrowers

If you’re repaying undergraduate student loans, then you will have the remainder of your loans forgiven after 20 years of payments.

Graduate school borrowers

If you’re seeking to forgiven graduate school loans, then you will be on a slightly extended repayment program. Those loans will be forgiven after 25 years of qualifying payments instead of 20. 

How it Differs from PAYE

Like REPAYE, the existing PAYE program also allows for a monthly payment of no more than 10% of discretionary income and the difference is forgiven after 20 years. But there are some key differences:

REPAYE is available to borrowers of all years

That’s a big expansion beyond the existing Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan. That’s only available to a borrower who is new as of Oct. 1, 2007, and received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011. The PAYE plan also requires you to declare financial hardship as a reason for payments need to be lowered.

The new REPAYE plan offers the same payment level (10% of discretionary income) as PAYE, but makes many more borrowers eligible.

For married borrowers both incomes will be counted

Even if you file taxes separately, the government will add up both of your incomes to determine your monthly payment under REPAYE. Previously, under PAYE, if a borrower filed separately only one income would be used to calculate the payment, which let some borrowers enjoy a much lower payment than if they filed taxes jointly.

How to Sign Up

You can call your loan servicer for details. If you have no questions, you can proceed to studentloans.gov, log in and fill out the application for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan.

[Not sure which loan servicer you have? You can check in the National Student Loan Data System.]

The application is called the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request, which can be done all online via StudentLoans.gov or in paper form via your servicer.

Before getting started, be sure to collect the following information:

  • The income-driven repayment plan in which you want to be enrolled
  • Your income information, specifically your adjusted gross income (AGI). You can get your AGI off your most recent federal income tax return if it is not significantly different from your current income.
  • You could also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in the application to transfer income information from your federal income tax return.
  • You can find the paper copy of the application here.

While the application doesn’t take too long, it can be a few weeks before the repayment plan kicks in. Don’t forgo making payments on your plans before you’ve received confirmation that your REPAYE plan is up and running.

Learn more about setting up income-driven repayment plans here.

It Isn’t One Application and Done

Unfortunately, you can’t just apply once and just make payments until your debt is forgiven in 20 years (or 25 years for graduate students). You’ll be required to submit your proof of income on an annual basis, because as your income changes, so does your payment.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Eligibility & Lump-Sum Payments

Borrowers enrolled in REPAYE and working for the government or a non-profit job for ten years and make 120 on-time payments can have their debts forgiven in 10 years under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

All income-driven repayment plans will now allow lump-sum payments made on behalf of borrowers through student loan repayment programs administered by the Department of Defense to count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This is similar to lump-sum payments made for Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteers.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,