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Reviews, Small Business

Swift Capital Small Business Loan 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.

Swift Capital Small Business Loan Review

Swift Capital offers small businesses a simple and affordable way to borrow money quickly. It can wire $5,000 to $10,000 to a small business account within an hour. And it’ll lend up to $500,000 within 1 business days.

Swift Capital takes into account business cash flow to review applicants instead of relying solely on credit history to make a decision. If your business is in need of extra funds fast this is an option to consider because of the flexible eligibility requirements and easy application process. Here we’ll dive into the details of this loan and compare it to two other small business loan products. 

Swift Capital Business Funding at a Glance

To qualify for Swift Capital you must have at least a 500 credit score. In addition, your business must be at least a year old with a minimum of $100,000 in annual revenue. According to Swift Capital, 4 out of 5 applicants are approved for funding so you have a good chance of borrowing money if you meet the basic requirements.

Loan terms are available for 3 to 12 months. Rates at Swift Capital start at 9.90% and are charged as a one-time fixed fee and applied to the funding advance. The lowest rate is only offered to businesses with superior credit. Once the loan is funded, payments are taken from your business checking account daily. Some businesses may qualify for a weekly payment plan. You can speak with an agent during the application process to discuss your payment options.

Swift Capital funding is backed by a Best Price Guarantee. If you receive a better offer with comparable terms from another lender before the loan is funded, Swift Capital will beat the other offer or pay you $500. 

Fees and Gotchas

There’s no loan application fee, but there’s an origination fee of 2.5% that’s deducted from the loan amount before it’s deposited into your account. You won’t be penalized with a fee if you prepay the loan. However, Swift Capital also charges a minimum 9.9% premium fee upfront. So, prepaying the loan early may not negate the interest accruing during the loan.

Swift Capital promises access to $10,000 within an hour, but that’s after you turn in all of your paperwork including bank statements. Make sure you get your information in fast if you need money right away. The application process requires a hard pull. Consider how that will impact your credit score before requesting a quote.

Pros and Cons

So what are the pros and cons of Swift Capital funding?

If your business brings in steady income you can qualify even with a below average credit score. And as mentioned you can get both a small and large sum of money within a few days.

Payments are drafted from your business account each day, which is good for business cash flow according to Swift Capital. And although Swift Capital charges a closing fee of 2.5%, its fees are less than some of the other business loans on the market (we’ll discuss that later in this post).

The main downside of Swift Capital is its rate structure. There is an origination fee. While it’s great there isn’t a pre-payment penalty, you still get hit with a fee. And although the starting rate (9.9%) is reasonable, it’s quite possible that your rate will be much higher than that if you only meet the minimum eligibility requirements. 

swift-logo

Alternatives to Swift Capital Funding

Swift Capital funding has comparable terms to other small business loan products offered by Accion and LendingClub. But overall Swift Capital may charge you less in fees and offer quicker access to cash.

Accion will offer existing businesses between $500 and $50,000. Interest rates start at 8.99% with loan terms available from 6 to 60 months. Closing costs are between 3% to 5%. There’s also a $135 processing fee.

To qualify for an Accion loan you must have a credit score of 525 or above and have enough cash flow to make payments. Once you apply for an Accion loan you’ll receive a call to move forward with the application in 2 to 3 days. So you’ll likely get faster cash if you borrow from Swift Capital.

accion logo

Lending Club offers rates as low as 5.90% on its business loans if you have excellent credit. You can borrow up to $300,000 for 1 to 5 years. The origination fee is 0.99% to 5.99%. Like Swift Capital your money from Lending Club can be deposited into your bank within a few days. In order to qualify for Lending Club your business must be at least two years old and have annual sales above $75,000.

LendingClub

Who Will Benefit Most from a Swift Capital Loan?

You’ll benefit from Swift Capital if you’re running a new business and you need a small amount of cash quickly. If your business is more mature, you have higher monthly sales and excellent credit, Lending Club is worth checking out or a variety of other loan providers.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews, Strategies to Save

BB&T CD Rates and 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.

Trying to find BB&T CD rates
Source: iStock

As you may know if you’ve done a search for BB&T CD rates, their website is not a helpful place to turn for information. Beyond a basic overview of their CDs on their website stating that they have CDs with terms ranging from seven days to five years, they do not give details on their current rates. BB&T did not respond to email and phone inquiries from MagnifyMoney asking why the bank does not publish its CD rates online.

When we called their customer service number, a representative said BB&T’s CD rates change on a daily basis and said the best way to learn about CD rates is to call or visit a local branch.

So that’s what we did.

We called BB&T branches on Sept. 5 and, on the same day, compared their CD rates to other banks and the national averages. After conducting this research, it’s not surprising BB&T makes their CD rates hard to find — they’re terrible.

BB&T CD rates and products

BB&T offers CD terms ranging from as short as seven days to as long as five years. They have eight CD options, each with different investment goals.

7-day to 60-month

For short-term investments, BB&T offers CDs ranging from seven days to 60 months. These personal CDs offer a fixed rate of return along with the flexibility to focus on developing either a short- or long-term investment.

BB&T CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

3 Months

0.03%

$2,500

6 Months

0.05%

$2,500

1 Year

0.10%

$1,000

18 Months

0.15%

$1,000

2 years

0.20%

$1,000

3 Years

0.40%

$1,000

4 Years

0.45%

$1,000

5 Years

0.50%

$1,000

Rates as of Sept. 5, 2017

Not only can you find better CD rates at other banks and credit unions for each of the terms BB&T offers, you can get those better rates with smaller minimum deposits. BB&T’s offerings are far from the best in every term length above — you can see some of the top options in our monthly roundup of the best CD rates.

With the seven-day to 60-month BB&T CDs, there are no penalty-free options for withdrawing your funds prior to the CD reaching maturity. The early withdrawal penalty is the lesser of $25 or 12 months of interest for longer-term CDs. So with smaller initial deposits, early withdrawal penalties will negate any interest you may have earned.

Can’t Lose

As the name of this CD implies, whether rates go up or down, you can’t lose. Well, actually, you can: The APY is so low, you’re almost certainly going to lose money to inflation.

At the 12-month mark of the CD’s term, you may make one withdrawal without paying any fees. So if the market rate is higher than what you’re currently getting, simply withdraw the money and reinvest at the higher rate.

If, however, the interest rate you’re receiving is better than what’s currently available, you also have the option of making a second deposit into the Can’t Lose CD, up to $10,000. This locks in the rate for the new investment amount for the remainder of the term. So whether rates go up or down, you’ll lock in the higher rate.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

30-month "Can't Lose"

0.25

$1,000

No penalty for one
withdrawal after 12 months

As of Sept. 5, 2017

Still, you can find many CDs with better APYs than BB&T’s Can’t Lose, whether you’re looking for a 12-month investment or longer.

Stepped Rate

Laddering is a way to stagger your CD investments so you’re able to take advantage of increasing rates. With the Stepped Rate option from BB&T, laddering is built into the CD product. The initial CD starts out at a lower rate and increases each year. For example:

Months

APY

12

0.30%

24

0.40%

36

0.55%

48

0.75%

As of Sept. 5, 2017

This product also allows you to make an additional deposit each year (up to $10,000). So if the interest rate you’re receiving is better than the market, you can invest more money into your existing CD to make a higher return. But if the current CD market is offering better rates than your existing CD, you can simply take advantage of that offer and still make a higher return.

In addition, you may make a withdrawal from what you initially deposited into your Stepped Rate CD after two years. So, again, if the market changes dramatically, you may withdraw your money with no penalty and reinvest in a better option.

Or you could create a CD ladder on your own, choosing CDs with better rates than BB&T’s — higher rates are certainly available.

Add-on

The Add-on CD option from BB&T offers a 12-month CD at 0.10% and an opening deposit of $100. You’ll need a BB&T checking account and a $50/month automatic deposit from your checking account into the CD. To get a personal account, you’ll just need to set up direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

12-month Add-on

0.10%

$100

Greater of $25 or
6 months’ interest

As of Sept. 5, 2017

Home Saver

If you’re in the market for a new home, and you want to earn a little more interest on the money you’re saving, consider the Home Saver CD. Starting with as little as $100, you’ll be able to deposit money earmarked for your new home every month and earn 0.40% APY. With this CD, as long as you’re withdrawing the money for use toward the purchase of your new home, you won’t pay any penalties for the withdrawal. But you will need a BB&T checking account set up for a monthly deposit of $50 into your Home Saver CD.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month Home Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
home purchase

As of Sept. 5, 2017

College Saver

Similar to the Home Saver CD, the College Saver CD is meant for parents or students saving for college. It offers the benefit of starting at a higher APY (0.40%) with the flexibility of withdrawing the money up to four times per year to pay for the cost of attending school. As with the Home Saver, you’ll need to have a BB&T checking account with an automatic monthly deposit of $50. The College Saver offers terms of 36, 48, and 60 months.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month College Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

48-month College Saver

0.45%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

60-month College Saver

0.50%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

As of Sept. 5, 2017

Treasury

This CD offers the ability to make additional deposits of at least $100 into your CD at any time and one monthly withdrawal without penalty. The CD has a six-month term with a variable interest rate tied to the U.S. Treasury Bill — if the rate goes up, you’ll make more money, but if the rate declines, you’ll make less. Right now, rates start at 0.05% and adjust quarterly. Throughout 2016, Treasury Bill rates increased almost every month and have continued to rise in 2017, reaching 1.035% in August. So this is a great option if you have the $5,000 minimum deposit amount and want a short-term investment with the option to add or remove funds from the CD.

CDARS

CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service and protects your principal and interest by making sure your money is placed into multiple CDs across a network of banks to keep your CDs insured by the FDIC (maximum limit for each CD is $250,000).

Other things to know about BB&T CDs

Does BB&T allow customers to take advantage of rising rates once they’ve opened a CD?

BB&T has two CD options that allow you to take advantage of rising rates: the 30-month Can’t Lose CD and the 48-month Stepped Rate CD. Both allow you to make a withdrawal before the CD comes to maturity in case rates increase (terms apply). They also allow additional deposits in case rates drop and you want to invest more at the existing rate of your CD. However, the current rates on those products are very low, negating the value of their flexibility.

About BB&T

BB&T (Branch Banking and Trust Co.) is a North Carolina-based bank with locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

BB&T offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android. While their website is easy enough to use, finding specific information, particularly about rates, is impossible. Their customer service number isn’t much help in that regard either, with most questions answered with a suggestion to visit a branch location. As a result, if you don’t live in an area with a branch, we don’t recommend using BB&T’s CDs. To find the BB&T branch closest to you, use their branch locator.

Pros and cons of CDs

A certificate of deposit (CD) may offer a higher return than you’ll get with your savings accounts, without the risk of loss that accompanies other investment options with higher return rates. The drawbacks associated with CDs are the inability to access your funds during the term of the investment without suffering a penalty and the risk of interest rates increasing while your money is locked into a CD for a specified term.

The bottom line: Are BB&T CDs right for you?

BB&T does offer some flexible deals to its customers, but in general, better CD rates can be found at both banks and credit unions with comparable terms. You can find them on our list of the best CD rates, which we update every month.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

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Credit Cards, Reviews

PayPal Launches a 2% Cash Back Rewards Card: Double is the New Rewards Standard

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.

Source: iStock

PayPal’s new Cashback Mastercard, launched Aug. 30, is packed with features that pin it head to head with the current highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market.

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is a no-fee rewards card that offers users a flat 2 percent cash back upfront on all eligible purchases made using the credit card. The offer is a step up from the current leading cash back card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, which credits 1 percent upfront and another 1 percent on what cardholders pay off each billing cycle.

The digital and mobile payment company partnered with Synchrony Bank to launch the Cashback Mastercard, which grants users benefits exclusive to PayPal and Mastercard members.

Although it boasts a generous cash back offer, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® has its drawbacks.

“The 2 percent cash back rate is a solid offer. But the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® falls short in three main ways: no sign-up bonus, high APR and no 0% introductory period,” says Chris Mettler, president of our sister site CompareCards.com.

How the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® works

PayPal is clearly targeting PayPal users with this new cash back rewards card. The application for PayPal’s new credit card is only open to existing PayPal customers. Access to the application is granted after users submit a username and password to log in to a PayPal account.

They are then redirected to an application on the Synchrony Bank website. After filling in sensitive information, applicants have the option to set the card as a default payment option in their PayPal wallet and purchase Synchrony Bank’s card security program before submitting the form.

If approved, customers are charged one of three variable interest rates — 16.99%, 24.99% or 27.99% — based on creditworthiness and other factors like income. PayPal doesn’t charge cardholders an annual fee.

Cardholders can earn an unlimited, flat 2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases made using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®. The cash back rewards are credited directly to the user’s digital wallet on PayPal. The money stored on PayPal wallet can be used to make purchases where PayPal is accepted, sent to peers, or cashed out to a bank account.

Cardholders don’t need to wait for a physical card to show up in the mail before they can start earning rewards. Users have immediate access to the line of credit through their PayPal account. PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard will show up right away in their PayPal wallet, where it can be used to make purchases or pay bills online.

How to qualify for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores are most likely to qualify for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard, but those working to better a poor credit score may qualify for a card, too.

Applicants are approved for one of three interest rates, based on creditworthiness and other factors. The lowest rate, 16.99%, is offered to applicants with the best scores, whereas the highest rate, 27.99%, is reserved for applicants who are a greater credit risk.There is a 24.99% APR that’s likely to go to anyone that falls in between.

What we like about the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases

PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard® is now the highest, no-fee rewards card on the market. The 2 percent cash back feature is the greatest value to credit card users who want a simple, straightforward way to earn rewards. This cash back card is ideal for users who make most of their everyday purchases on a credit card and pay off the card’s balance each month.

Cardholders will get 2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases made at Paypal.com, eBay.com and anywhere Mastercard is accepted using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®.

Automatically added to PayPal Wallet

The credit card is automatically linked and added to the PayPal wallet, a digital wallet that lets users pay for purchases online with linked bank accounts, credit and debit cards, or money on the account balance. That means users opening the card to make a purchase can gain access to the line of credit and earn rewards for spending right away.

Redeem cash rewards to PayPal balance

To use any cash back earned, users must transfer the money to their PayPal balance. Once in the digital wallet, that money can be used to complete online purchases, pay bills, or send money to peers all over the world.

No cash back restrictions

PayPal doesn’t cap the amount of cash back users can earn or set a minimum on the amount of cash back a user can redeem. Plus, cash back rewards won’t expire, so users aren’t pressured to use the money or lose it by a certain date.

Mastercard benefits

PayPal Cashback Mastercard® users also gain exclusive Mastercard cardholder benefits. They include doubling the length of warranty coverage on purchases up to one year, 60-day price protection, and Mastercard’s identity theft protection service.

What we don’t like about the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

For PayPal customers only

You must have a PayPal account in order to apply for a PayPal Cashback Mastercard® account and keep the account open to maintain the credit account.

If your PayPal account is closed, or you unlink the card from your PayPal account, your card account will be closed. If you have cash back available, you won’t be able to redeem those awards, and they will be forfeited.

If your PayPal account is suspended for any reason, you won’t be able to redeem cash back to your PayPal balance until the account is back in good standing.

No sign-up bonus

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® misses an opportunity to offer users even more value by omitting a sign-up bonus. If users are looking to earn a boost in credit rewards after a few months of use, they may have more luck with a cash back card like Chase Freedom®, which offers 1 percent back on all purchases and a $150 signing bonus after cardholders spend $500 in the first three months the account is open.

No interest-free period

The card’s benefits also exclude an interest-free period. So while users can make a purchase with the line of credit immediately after opening the account using the PayPal wallet, they should avoid making large purchases as interest will begin to accrue right away.

Credit users should instead use a credit card with an interest-free period like the Discover it Cash Back® credit card, so they have more time to pay off the balance of the purchase before interest kicks in. The card offers an 0% introductory APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers.

A high APR

Cardholders should be careful not to carry a balance on this card to avoid getting hit with interest charges. For borrowers with a poor credit rating, the card charges a super high 27.99% APR, which trumps any 2 percent cash back earned that period. To avoid paying interest and make the most of the Cashback Mastercard, cardholders should make sure to pay off the card balance each period.

3 percent foreign transaction fee

It costs cardholders 3 percent to swipe the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® overseas. Even with 2 percent cash back, users end up paying 1 percent to make foreign purchases.

Who the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is best for

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is best for existing PayPal customers who want a straightforward way to earn cashback on all of their everyday purchases.

If a cardholder is a heavy online shopper, the Cashback Mastercard may also be a good choice because they can easily earn cash back from using the card as a payment option when they pay online using PayPal, then credit the cash back to their PayPal balance for future purchases.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard<sup>®</sup>

LEARN MORE Secured

on PayPal’s secure website

Alternatives to the PayPal Cashback Mastercard

PayPal Extras MasterCard

If you prefer to earn credit card rewards in points instead of cash back, you can apply for PayPal’s other no-fee credit rewards option, the PayPal Extras MasterCard®. This card has a traditional points reward structure. It awards cardholders three times points on each dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants, double points on purchases made through PayPal or eBay, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else.

Unlike the cash back card, rewards earned on the PayPal Extras Mastercard expire® within two years if unused or if no purchases are made using the card for one year.

Citi® Double Cash Card

PayPal’s 2 percent Cashback Mastercard is only for PayPal account holders. If the benefits and 2 percent cash back upfront aren’t enough to rope you into creating a PayPal account, the Citi Double Cash Card® is a good alternative.

The card rewards 2 percent cash back on all purchases, but not all at once like PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard® does. Cardholders earn 1 percent cash back when they spend, and then 1 percent cash back when they pay, instead of awarding the entire 2 percent upfront. The Citi® Double Cash Card also omits an interest-free period for purchases and a sign-on bonus. However, it does offer a 0% introductory 18-month balance transfer.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard® FAQ

Cardholders receive 2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases made at Paypal.com, eBay.com and anywhere Mastercard is accepted using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®.

No, cash back rewards don’t expire and can be redeemed to your PayPal balance at any time.

If you are unable to pay off your statement balance in full, you will be charged a variable interest rate of either 16.99%, 24.99% or 27.99% on purchases made in the billing period and be required to make a minimum payment.

Cardholders can redeem cash back by transferring the cash back balance to their PayPal account balance. The funds can then be used to make purchases anywhere PayPal is accepted or transfer money to peers using PayPal.

Use a cash back credit card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, pay your bill in full each month, and spend only what you can afford to pay off.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

What You Should Know Before Using CareCredit to Pay for Medical Expenses

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.

Source: iStock

It’s no secret that medical expenses can be very costly in the United States. Since 2011, average family insurance premiums, even for people with employer-provided plans, have increased by 20 percent.

With out-of-pocket health care costs and insurance premiums skyrocketing, many people are turning to credit cards designated for medical expenses like CareCredit to help them pay for health care expenses over time.

But before you sign up for CareCredit to cover your next medical bill, here’s what you need to know.

A warning about those 0% financing offers

CareCredit is a credit card you can use at any of more than 200,000 health and wellness providers in the United States — from doctor’s offices to drugstores like Rite Aid.

Why turn to CareCredit instead of a regular credit card for medical expenses?

The biggest draw is the company’s frequent 0% financing specials for six to 24 months on qualifying purchases $200 or more, when you make the minimum monthly payments and pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period.

The opportunity to put approved medical expenses on a 0% credit card and breathe easy for up to two years has huge appeal. But there’s one big caveat everyone should understand when it comes to CareCredit — deferred interest.

When you sign up for the CareCredit financing on a purchase of $200 to $999, deferred interest rate applies. This means that if you don’t have the full purchase paid off by the end of the promotional period, you will be charged retroactive interest at an APR of 26.99% from the date of your original purchase on the card. (We give an example of how the math works out below.)

Unfortunately, this is something customers could easily forget about, and it doesn’t help that the minimum monthly payment shown on your statement isn’t necessarily enough to get the entire balance paid off on or before the end of the special financing period. You should do the math yourself to make sure you’re paying enough each month to make the most of interest-free financing.

How CareCredit works

Now that you understand the risk that comes with a CareCredit account, let’s cover some of the details of what the company offers.

For larger purchases of $1,000 or more, CareCredit offers terms of up to 60 months with a reduced APR and fixed monthly payments until paid in full.

$200 to $999: Borrow at 0% for 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Variable rate of 26.99% applies after promotional period ends.

$1,000 to $2,499: Borrow at 0% for 24, 36, or 48 months with an APR of 14.9%.

$2,500 and up: Borrow at 0% for 24, 36, 48, or 60 months with an APR of 16.9%.

How to apply

You can apply online on the CareCredit website or by phone at 1-800-677-0718. You can also apply at most health care providers’ offices if they are part of the network that accepts CareCredit to pay for services.

Like most credit card applications, you will need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, net income and housing information. But unlike most credit card applications, you will also need to specify your doctor’s name and how you plan to use your CareCredit credit card if you aren’t applying in a doctor’s office. Once approved, you can use your CareCredit credit card again and again at participating health care providers.

CareCredit approvals are usually immediate, so you can find out right away if you can pay for your medical services with CareCredit. Synchrony, the bank that issues CareCredit, did not respond to phone and email requests for information on the credit standing needed to qualify for CareCredit.

What can CareCredit be used for?

As mentioned earlier, there are more than 200,000 enrolled providers that accept CareCredit in the United States. These include many different types of medical and health care providers and procedures, such as:

  • Chiropractic
  • Cosmetic
  • Dentistry
  • Hearing
  • LASIK and Vision
  • Primary and Urgent Care
  • Weight Loss
  • Health Care Specialists

You might even be able to use CareCredit to pay for veterinary care for your four-legged family members, if your veterinarian participates and accepts CareCredit in their office.

Fine print alert

While there’s no application fee or fee for using the special financing offered by CareCredit, there are still some things you need to watch out for.

The first, which we covered previously, is the high interest rate charged if you don’t pay your balance off in full by the end of the promotional period. The interest rate of 26.99% is very high, and as mentioned, it will be charged in arrears from the time you made your purchase.

For example, if you charge $1,200 to your CareCredit at 0% for six months and only pay the minimum payment each month (between $39 and $33), your balance will be $982 at the end of the six-month period, plus accrued interest of $152, totaling $1,134. If you continue making only the minimum payment, it will take you 96 months (eight years) to pay off your balance and cost you $2,693. However, if you paid $200 a month, you’d pay off the $1,200 bill within six months at no extra cost.

Source: CareCredit

The late payment fee for CareCredit can be up to $38. Plus, paying late even once may result in you losing your promotional 0% interest rate.

Who is CareCredit best for?

Because of the fact that CareCredit will charge interest from the time of your purchase if your balance is not paid in full by the end of a promotional period, the only time you should use CareCredit to finance your medical costs is if you are 100 percent certain you can pay it off within or before the end of that time frame.

This might be a good idea if you have already saved up the cash for a medical procedure and you can continue earning interest on it in your savings account. By earning interest on your savings and paying 0% interest with CareCredit, you can actually save money on your medical bill. This could still be risky: You never know if something might happen that could cause you to no longer be able to afford to pay off your CareCredit balance as you had planned.

Alternatives to CareCredit

Ask the billing department for a payment plan

Many health care providers offer patients no-interest payment plans, but you may not know about it unless you ask. Tell the billing department what you can afford to pay monthly and see what your options are for spreading out the cost of your treatment.

Use your emergency fund

If you know you incur a lot of medical bills or don’t want to rely on credit when they come around, make saving for medical expenses or adding to your emergency fund part of your regular budget. That way, if an emergency happens, you’re much less likely to go into debt paying for it.

Open a credit card with 0% financing for purchases or balance transfers

There are many credit cards available with 0% interest rates from six months to 21 months that don’t require you to pay off your purchase in full to avoid interest from back when you first made the purchase. Even if you can’t pay off the entire purchase before the end of the 0% interest period, you could try doing a balance transfer to keep your interest rate low, but even if you leave your balance on that credit card, it probably has a lower interest rate than the 26.99% offered by CareCredit. Here are some of your best options for a 0% credit card.

Take out a personal loan

If you can qualify for a personal loan with a low interest rate, you’ll have fixed monthly payments, and you may be able to extend them longer than the terms offered by CareCredit. We’ve rounded up some of the places you can get the best personal loan rates online, and you can read about them here.

Don’t get caught at the checkout counter at your doctor’s office and end up making the wrong decision. Make sure you’ve carefully considered your options before you decide if you want to sign up for CareCredit to pay for your medical costs.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance Loan 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.

CommonBond Grad Student Loan Refinance Loan Review

Updated September 7, 2017

CommonBond was founded by three Wharton MBAs who felt the sting of student loans after they graduated. The founders decided to provide a better solution for graduates, as they thought the student loan system was broken and in need of reform. As a result, they strive to make the refinance (and borrowing) process as simple and straightforward for graduates as possible.

CommonBond* began by servicing students from just one school, and has rapidly expanded. Today, CommonBond loans are available to graduates of over 2,000 schools nationwide. Although the company traditionally offered loan refinancing to undergraduate and graduate students, CommonBond recently started offering loans for current students as well (both undergraduates and graduates).

CommonBond is one of the top four lenders identified by MagnifyMoney to refinance student loans.

As you might be able to tell by the name, CommonBond thinks of its community as family. There is a network of alumni and professionals within the community that want to help borrowers. This alone sets it apart from other lenders, as members often meet for events.

While these are all great things, we know you’re more interested in how CommonBond might be able to help you make your student loans more affordable. Let’s take a look at what terms and rates they offer, eligibility requirements, and how they compare against other lenders.

Refinance Terms Offered

CommonBond offers low variable and fixed rate loans. Variable rates range from 2.81% – 6.74% APR, and fixed rates range from 3.35% – 7.12% APR.

Note that these rates take a 0.25% auto pay discount into consideration.

There is no maximum loan amount. CommonBond will lend what you can afford to repay. CommonBond offers fixed and variable rates with terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years.

The hybrid loan is only offered on a 10 year term – the first 5 years will have a fixed rate, and the 5 years after that will have a variable rate.

CommonBond has a great chart listing repayment examples based off of borrowing $10,000, which can be found on its rates and terms page.

To pull an example from that, if you borrow $10,000 at a fixed 4.74% APR on a 10 year term, your monthly payment will be $104.80. The total amount you will pay over the 10 year period will be $12,575.90.

The Pros and Cons

CommonBond is available to graduates of 2,000 universities. While that is a very long list, not all colleges and universities are included.

One pro to consider is the hybrid loan option available. It might seem a little confusing at first – why would someone want a variable rate down the road?

If you’re confident you’ll be able to make extra payments on your loan and pay it off before the 5 years are up, you might be better off going with the hybrid option (if you can get a better interest rate on it).

This is because you’ll end up paying less over the life of the loan with a lower interest rate. If you were offered a 10 year loan with a fixed rate of 6.49% APR, and a hybrid loan with a beginning rate of 5.64%, the hybrid option would be the better deal if you’re intent on paying it off quickly.

What You Need to Qualify

CommonBond doesn’t list many eligibility requirements on its website, aside from the following:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • You must have graduated

CommonBond doesn’t specify a minimum credit score needed, but based on the requirements of other lenders, we recommend having a score of 660+, though you should be aiming for 700+. The good news is CommonBond lets you apply with a cosigner in case your credit isn’t good enough.

Documents and Information Needed to Apply

CommonBond’s application process is very simple – it says it takes as little as 2 minutes to complete. Initially, you’ll be asked for basic information such as your name, address, and school.

Once you complete this part, CommonBond will perform a soft credit pull to estimate your rates and terms.

If you want to move forward with the rates and terms offered, you’ll be required to submit documentation and a hard credit inquiry will be conducted. CommonBond lists the following as required:

  • Pay stubs or tax returns (proof of employment)
  • Diploma or transcript (proof of graduation)
  • Student loan bank statement
  • ID, utility bills, lease agreement (proof of residency)

CommonBond also notes it can take up to 5 business days to verify documents submitted, so the loan doesn’t happen instantaneously.

Once your documents are approved, you electronically sign for the loan, and CommonBond will begin the process of paying off your previous lenders. It notes this can take up to two weeks from the time the loan is accepted.

Who Benefits the Most from Refinancing Student Loans with CommonBond?

Borrowers who are looking to refinance a large amount of student loan debt will benefit the most from refinancing with them.

Keeping an Eye on the Fine Print

CommonBond does not have a prepayment penalty, and there are no origination fees nor application fees associated with refinancing.

As with other lenders, there is a late payment fee. This is 5% of the unpaid amount of the payment due, or $10, whichever is less.

If a payment fails to go through, you’ll be charged a $15 fee.

It’s also noted that failure to make payments may result in the loss of the 0.25% interest rate deduction from auto pay.

Transparency Score

Getting in touch with a representative is simple and there is a chat and call option right on the homepage. Some lenders have this hidden at the bottom, or they don’t offer a chat option at all.

CommonBond also lets borrowers know they can shop around within a 30 day period to lessen the impact on their credit.

It does not list its late fees on its website, unlike other lenders. However, after making a chat inquiry, the question was answered promptly.

CommonBond does offer a cosigner release and is ranked with a A+ transparency score.

Alternative Student Loan Refinancing Lenders

The student loan refinancing market continues to get more competitive, and it makes sense to shop around for the best deal.

One of the market leaders is SoFi. It’s always worth taking a look to see if SoFi* offers a better interest rate.

The two lenders are very similar – CommonBond offers “CommonBridge,” a service that helps you find a new job in the event you lose yours. SoFi offers a similar service called Unemployment Protection.

SoFi’s variable rates are currently 2.815% – 6.740% APR with autopay, and its fixed rates are currently 3.35% – 7.125% APR, which is in line with what CommonBond is offering.

SoFi also doesn’t have a limit on how much you can refinance with them.

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Another lender to consider is Earnest. There is no maximum loan amount, and Earnest has a very slick application process. Interest rates start as low as 2.65% (variable) and 3.20% (fixed).

Lastly, you could check out LendKey. It offers student loan refinancing through credit unions and community banks, but only offers variable rates in most states and fixed rates in a select few. The maximum amount to refinance with an undergraduate degree is $125,000, and the maximum amount to refinance with a graduate degree is $175,000.

All three of these options provide forbearance in case of economic hardship and offer similar loan options (5, 10, 15 year terms).

Don’t Forget to Shop Around

As CommonBond initially conducts a soft pull on your credit, you’re free to continue to shop around for the best rates if you’re not happy with the rates it can provide. As the lender states on its website, if you apply for loans within a 30 day period, your credit won’t be affected as much.

Since CommonBond does have strict underwriting criteria, you should continue to shop around and don’t be discouraged if you are not approved. The market continues to get more competitive, and a number of good options are out there.

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Erin Millard
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Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Reviews, Student Loan ReFi

SoFi Parent PLUS Loan Refinance 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.

Senior Couple Talking To Financial Advisor At Home

Updated August 21, 2017

Are you a parent who wanted to help your child finance his or her education, and ended up taking out more loans than anticipated? Many parents find themselves in a precarious situation as they try to plan for retirement and while balancing student loan debt.

If you’re looking to save on the amount of interest you’re paying, SoFi’s Parent PLUS loan refinance program may be right for you.

Details of the Parent PLUS Loan

You can refinance a minimum of $5,000 under SoFi. Fixed rates range from 3.35% to 6.75% APR and variable rates range from 2.815% – 6.490% APR (these rates assume you enroll in autopayment).

Terms of 5, 7, 10, and 15 years are available. Variable rates on terms of 5, 7, and 10 years are capped at 8.95%, while the 15 year term is capped at 9.95%.

An example payment looks like this: if you refinance $10,000 on a 5 year term with a fixed APR of 5.49%, your monthly payment will be $190.97 and you’ll pay a total of $11,457.93 over the life of the loan. If you refinance $10,000 on a 5 year term with a variable APR of 4.2%, your monthly payment will be $185.07 and you’ll pay a total of $11,104.43.

How Does the Parent PLUS Loan From SoFi Compare to a Federal PLUS Loan?

The interest rate for Federal Direct PLUS Loans disbursed on or after July 1st, 2015 and before July 1st, 2016 is 6.84%. During much of the 2000s, interest rates were higher. Currently, interest rates are fixed – variable rates are unavailable.

Most people are looking to refinance to save money, and SoFi offers very competitive rates compared with the Direct PLUS Loan, especially on variable rates.

While there are no fees to refinance, you should calculate your estimated savings before going through the process. Be aware if you do refinance, you’ll lose out on certain benefits that come with having Federal student loans, such as deferment, forbearance, and various repayment options.

PLUS loans made to parents are eligible for the Graduated or Extended Repayment Plans, and Direct PLUS loans are also eligible for forgiveness. In some cases, PLUS loans can be discharged due to the death of the borrower (or student).

Private loans often don’t extend these same benefits. In fact, SoFi explicitly states on its legal page that this loan “is not discharged in the event of death or permanent disability of the borrower or student on whose behalf the loan is taken out.”

Eligibility Requirements

You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and employed to be approved. SoFi is unable to lend in Nevada, and variable rates aren’t offered in Illinois, Ohio, or Tennessee. The loans must have been used to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree with an eligible school as well.

There are no specific credit score requirements as SoFi tries to take a broader view of borrowers. It focuses on income and credit history instead.

Application Process and Documents Needed

The application process to refinance a PLUS Loan with SoFi is easy and can be done completely online. The application takes around 15 minutes to complete, and you’ll know whether or not you qualify by going through the pre-approval process first. During this portion of the application, a soft credit inquiry is used. If you decide to move forward with the loan offered to you, a hard credit inquiry will be used.

You’ll be asked to upload a few documents, so it’s a good idea to have the following ready to go:

  • Proof of residence – ID with matching address, otherwise a utility bill dated within the last 60 days is okay
  • Proof of income – most recent pay stubs
  • Proof of citizenship – a passport or birth certificate can be provided
  • Verification of loans – most recent loan statements for the loans you’re refinancing

Once you submit this documentation, SoFi’s review team gets to work on evaluating your loan. If no other documentation is needed, reviews can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

The Fine Print

There isn’t an origination fee or application fee, and there are no prepayment penalties. Rates are determined on a number of factors, including the term you choose, your income, and your credit history.

There are late fees associated with the loan. The Parent PLUS Refinance program is currently offered through SoFi’s lending partner, Mohela, and it assesses any fees owed. When you receive the paperwork for the loan, the fees can be found under the disclosures.

Repayment Assistance Options

If you’re struggling to repay the loan after refinancing with SoFi, we recommend you contact a representative and make them aware of the situation. The worst thing you can do with any loan is not make a payment.

SoFi offers unemployment protection on a case-by-case basis, during which payments can be paused for a period of 3 to 12 months.

Pros and Cons of SoFi Parent PLUS Loan

Pro: SoFi offers much better rates than the 6.84% fixed rate that comes with Direct PLUS loans. If you have a higher interest rate – around 8% – you’ll stand to benefit even more.

Con: As we mentioned, refinancing means losing out on benefits associated with Federal student loans. If you’re not as concerned about needing repayment assistance, the savings might be enough to make refinancing worthwhile.

Pro: SoFi also offers variable interest rates, whereas the most recent Direct PLUS loans don’t. Variable rates can be tricky, though – SoFi says rates may change on a monthly basis. If you value stability and peace of mind, variable rates may not be for you. If you’re trying to pay off your balance quicker, and a lower interest rate would help, then it might be worth considering this option. 

Con: You may have to extend the repayment term to get a lower monthly payment, as SoFi offers terms up to 15 years. Unfortunately, this increases the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan. It’s important to use a calculator to estimate how much your savings will be to make sure refinancing is worth it. For example, if you have less than 5 years remaining on your loan, refinancing may not save you a lot of money.

Pro: SoFi offers unemployment protection, and you can also take advantage of SoFi’s career assistance program. If you or your child is experiencing trouble finding employment, it will connect you with its network of alumni and give you tools and tips to succeed in your job search.

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Other Parent PLUS Refinance Alternative

If you don’t qualify with SoFi, you can try these lenders that also offer refinancing options:

 CommonBond: Fixed APRs range from 3.35% to 7.12%, and variable APRs range start at 2.81%, and terms offered are 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. CommonBond also has hybrid APRs. Only a 10 year term is offered with this choice; it starts off as fixed for 5 years, and changes over to variable for 5 years. There are no origination fees or application fees, no prepayment penalty, and CommonBond actually allows you to transfer your loan to your child (which isn’t allowed with Federal loans). You can borrow a maximum of $110,000.

CommondBondbank

Citizens Bank: Citizens Bank refinances Parent PLUS and Direct PLUS loans through its Education Refinance program. The minimum amount you can refinance is $10,000 and up to $90,000 for Bachelor’s degrees and below, $130,000 for graduate and doctoral degrees, and $170,000 for professional degrees. For a Bachelor’s degree and above, you must have made 3 consecutive monthly payments to refinance. For anything less than a Bachelor’s degree, you must have made 12 consecutive monthly payments. The loan you’re refinancing must be in repayment status and can’t be enrolled in an Income-Based Repayment plan. Fixed APRs start at 6.24%. Terms of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years are offered. You need a minimum income of $24,000 to qualify.

citizens-bank

Be sure to shop around as there are other lenders out there that will refinance PLUS loans – you want to make sure you’re getting the best rates and terms available to you so you can save the most. Shopping around within 30 days will only count as one credit inquiry, so your credit won’t get penalized heavily. Take advantage of this and lessen the burden of student loan payments so you can focus on saving for your future.

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Erin Millard
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Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Reviews

FS Build Card Review: Build Credit With This Payday Loan Alternative

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.

Source: iStock

Credit cards for people with poor credit scores are few and far between, but FS Card is looking to change that with its first product, the Build Card, an unsecured credit card designed specifically for borrowers with subprime credit scores.

If you’re in need of a couple of hundred dollars and your credit score falls below 600, you’re not likely to get approved for an unsecured credit card. You’re considered a subprime borrower — a lending risk to banks, who worry they won’t get their money back.

But when banks refuse to lend to risky borrowers, those consumers turn to more expensive short-term borrowing options like payday loans, auto title loans, and pawn products. Annual interest rates on those products often exceed 300%, according to research from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Paying a high interest rate and a number of additional fees attached to those short-term products can trap consumers in a cycle of debt.

What is FS Card?

FS Card was founded by former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Assistant Director of Card and Payment Markets Marla Blow in 2014 to fill what she says was a gap in the credit card industry. Blow says she began FS Card when she noticed — after the housing market crashed in 2008 — banks began “pulling back from subprime consumers in a very directed way,” because they were wary of tougher regulations on the financial industry. As a result, those consumers turned to more expensive products like payday loans, she says.

“I wanted to be able to put that consumer into a place where, rather than having to go out and get a payday loan, they could use a credit card,” Blow says. She designed the Build Card to offer subprime consumers access to something that “a lot of our economy assumes is already present” — a rotating line of credit.

Build Card overview

The Build Card is an unsecured credit card for borrowers with subprime FICO credit scores in the 550 to 600 range (on a scale of 300 to 850). The invite-only card charges a variable 29.9% APR. The rate is high for a credit card but about 10 times less expensive than some payday loans. However, it’s not a card you’d want to open unless you are seriously in need of the funds and are looking to build your credit score.

What we like about the Build Card

Payday loan alternative

Ideally, a payday loan is used to meet short-term borrowing needs — to hold you over until you receive your next paycheck. However, Pew research shows the average borrower uses them for five months at a time on average and has to pay an average $55 fee ($95 online) each time they extend the loan, which is what makes these loans so expensive. That’s $275 spent renewing a loan that’s on average $375. Furthermore, Pew research found seven in 10 borrowers use them for everyday expenses like groceries, rent, and utilities.

With access to a rotating line of credit, borrowers can extend the amount of time they have to repay borrowed money without having to pay renewal fees for a payday loan.

Unsecured credit card for subprime consumers

The Build Card is a rare unsecured credit card for those with poor credit scores. Most cards you can qualify for with a score lower than 600 are secured cards, which require a deposit to secure a credit line. For people who have a few hundred dollars on hand, a secured card is a great way to get access to credit, but many low-income Americans are not in a position to spend that kind of money.

Build your credit score

FS Card reports your activity to national credit bureau TransUnion so you can use the Build Card to improve your credit score if you maintain good credit management habits. Negative activity — like late payments and high credit card balances — will also be reported, so be sure to pay your balance on time and in full each month for best results.

Quick and easy approval process

Because you must be invited to apply for the Build Card, you are prequalified for approval. There is an excellent chance you will be approved for the Build Card, unless something on your credit report has drastically changed between the time FS Card mailed your invitation and when you apply.

No foreign transaction fees

The Build Card doesn’t charge you for using it overseas, so you don’t need to worry about racking up fees for swiping your credit card on vacation.

What we don’t like about the Build Card

Invite-only

As of this writing, the Build Card is invitation only and has more than 50,000 cardholders, Blow says. You’ll have to wait to receive a code in the mail before you can apply for the card online, which is unfortunate for anyone who is in need of short-term funds now.

FS Card selects borrowers using an algorithm to prequalify borrowers with subprime credit scores and sends invitations to potential customers monthly. The algorithm sifts through consumer credit reporting data to identify consumers who have recently done something that reflects better borrowing habits like paying off a payday loan or an account in collections.

Blow tells MagnifyMoney FS Card will offer an open application for Build Card in 2018.

Many fees

This card carries a lot of fees. If you’re trying to build your credit and have the funds to get a secured credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee or has an interest-free period, you’re better off going that route, as it will be significantly less expensive.

  • Startup & membership fees: It costs Build Card customers $125 simply to open the account. FS Card charges the initial start-up fee ($53) and annual membership fee ($72) on your first statement. Although the card begins accruing interest immediately, Blow tells MagnifyMoney FS Card does not charge Build Card users interest on the start-up fees assessed to the credit card.After the first year, the annual membership is paid in $6 monthly installments, charged to the Build Card.
  • Authorized user fee: If you authorize another person to use your Build Card, you’ll be charged a $12 fee per authorized user.
  • Late/returned payment fee: Don’t miss a payment on this credit card, or you’ll be charged a whopping $35 fee.
  • Cash advance fee: Try your best not to take cash from this credit line — in addition to paying 29.9% interest, you’ll be charged the greater of $10 or 3% of the amount you take.

A $500 limit

If you need to borrow more than $500, you’re out of luck with this card. Everyone who opens a Build Card account starts off with a $500 limit. But remember, that limit is immediately reduced to $375 once you open the card and are charged $125 in fees. That also doesn’t leave you a lot of room to spend, considering it’s bad for your credit score to carry a balance close to your credit limit. Blow says the company may soon offer starting lines above and below $500.

Right now, FS Card checks every month to see if you’re managing the card wisely (read: making payments on time). If you are, you could qualify for a credit line increase to $750 in as soon as seven months. Blow says 59% of Build Card customers have gotten increases so far.

No 0% interest period

This card doesn’t come with an interest-free grace period. It will begin charging a 29.9% APR to your purchases immediately.

No balance transfer

The Build Card doesn’t come with a balance transfer offer, so you won’t be able to use the card as a debt consolidation tool. If you are in a large amount of credit card debt, you could try applying for a personal loan through online lenders like Lending Club or Prosper, which offer personal loans to people with credit scores below 600.

Who is the Build Card best for?

The Build Card is worth opening if you:

  • have a credit score between 550 and 600,
  • are ready to start rebuilding your credit score, and
  • want an alternative to payday loans in the event of an emergency but don’t have the cash on hand to open a secured credit card.

Beware: If your poor credit history resulted from poor spending habits like spending more than you could afford or making late payments, ask yourself if you’re ready to make a change. Opening this credit line won’t help your credit score any in the long run if you don’t.

How to apply for Build Card

You must be selected to apply for the Build Card. When you receive your invitation to apply, you’ll be given an offer code and application ID to enter into the application form on the Build Card website. Enter that information, your ZIP code, and the last four digits of your Social Security number to apply for approval. You should know if you’re approved or not within a few minutes.

Source: thebuildcard.com

Alternatives to the Build Card

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Reviews

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: Is the Annual Fee Worth It?

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.

Looking for a travel rewards card with a big bang for your buck? Chase Sapphire Reserve may be right for you.It comes with a litany of benefits for frequent travelers including:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on anything else.
  • Your points are worth 50% more when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Ability to transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to major airline and hotel rewards programs.
  • $100 statement credit after you pay for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application.
  • The first $300 you spend on travel during each 12-month period measured by your sign-up date will be automatically reimbursed through statement credits.
  • Currently, you can get 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within three months of opening your card.

These benefits do come at a cost. The card has a $450 annual fee — and it is not waived in the first year. While the benefits are top-notch, they’re only accessible to those who can float the $450 in upfront costs.

 Chase Sapphire Reserve<sup>SM</sup>

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Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

Annual fee
$450 For First Year
$450 Ongoing
Rewards
3X points on travel and dining, 1 point on everything else
APR
16.99%-23.99%
Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent


The information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred has been collected independently by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

How to earn points

The best way to earn points with Chase Sapphire Reserve is by placing all of your travel and dining purchases on this card exclusively. These purchases will get you 3 points for every dollar spent on travel or restaurant dining, while all other purchases will get you a less competitive return of 1 point per every dollar spent.

What, exactly, qualifies as a travel purchase? The obvious things, like hotels and car rentals, are included. But don’t forget merchants like Airbnb, Expedia, or even your state DOT when you drive on toll roads.

Certain travel-related expenses do not count as travel purchases. Amusement park tickets, excursions purchased directly through tour companies, and that Starbucks latte you purchased at the airport will not be counted as a 3-point-per-dollar travel expense, for example.

If you’re making a big purchase, but you’re not sure if it will qualify as a travel expense, it’s worth it to call the company you will be purchasing from. You want to find out how they are coded to credit card companies. Do they come through as “travel” or is the business classified into another category? Finding the answer to this question can help you decide if you should make the purchase on your Chase Sapphire Reserve or if you should charge it somewhere else where you’ll get more than one measly point per dollar.

Best ways to redeem points

Whether you’re purchasing a plane ticket for a work trip or booking your next family vacation, you want to make sure you’re maximizing all those points you’ve earned.

One of the best ways to redeem your points at booking is by using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Here, you’ll be able to find flights, hotels, and more with no blackout dates. Because you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve holder, your points will be worth 50% more here. That means that instead of your 50,000-point bonus being worth $500, it will actually be worth $750.

Another potentially great way to book is by transferring your points to one of Chase’s partner airline or hotel rewards programs. This can be done in real time on a 1:1 basis. Sometimes, it may even be a better deal than booking through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.

For example, a flight from New York City to Tokyo may run you $1,200. If you booked within the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, that would cost you 80,000 points.

However, if you transferred your points to United MileagePlus miles, you could score a flight for 70,000 points if you booked at the “Saver Award” level in economy class. There is limited seating at this award level, so you would want to book far ahead, but doing so would save you 10,000 points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has several transfer partners aside from United. The full list includes:

  • British Airways Avios
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Korean Airlines Skypass
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards/Ritz Carlton Rewards

How to qualify

Those with the best chance of qualifying for Chase Sapphire Reserve will have a credit score of 700 or above without a history of chronically late payments. Those with a credit score below 650 are unlikely to qualify.

This card is only for people with excellent credit. In general, that means your score should be above 700. In addition, Chase (and other credit card issuers) have been cracking down on people who go from one bonus offer to the next. If you apply for a lot of credit cards, don’t be surprised if you are declined.

What we like about the card

There are a lot of reasons to love Chase Sapphire Reserve if you’re big on travel.

The bonus is nothing to laugh at.

Fifty thousand points is on the high end of standard spending bonuses for credit cards, but when you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal, Chase’s offer is even more stellar.

Your annual fee is effectively lowered to $150 every year.

Because you will receive up to $300 in statement credits for travel reimbursements per year, the $450 annual fee is effectively lowered to $150 — as long as you actually spend $300 on travel.

Rewards points are generous on dining and travel purchases.

Three points per dollar is a large multiplier in the world of travel rewards credit cards.

No foreign transaction fees.

When you’re traveling, the last thing you want to deal with is foreign transaction fees. They can quickly eat away at any value you’re getting with your rewards points, so we’re glad to see that this card doesn’t have any.

Additional $100 statement credit specifically for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Both of these programs can save you a ton of time and hassle, especially if you travel frequently. The $100 statement credit reduces or even eliminates the application fees, depending on which product you pursue.

Plentiful travel protection benefits. When you book your travel with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you automatically have a lot of coverage as long as 100% of the purchase goes on the card. Coverage includes:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver. You won’t have to purchase collision insurance from your rental company as physical damages to the vehicle will be covered by this waiver provided via Chase.
  • Roadside assistance. You’re covered up to $50, four times per year. Covered services include locksmiths, tows, tire changes, jump-starts, and gas.
  • Baggage delay insurance. If the airline has issues locating your luggage at your destination airport for six hours or more, this insurance policy will reimburse you for essential purchases, like shampoo or slacks. The policy maxes out at $100 per day over the course of five days.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement. What if the airport never finds your bag? Or damages your belongings? Chase will reimburse the value of your belongings up to $3,000.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance. Certain emergencies, such as severe weather or illness, will merit a reimbursement of up to $10,000 if they force you to cancel or cut your trip short.
  • Trip delay reimbursement. If your flight is delayed for over six hours and the airline is offering little to nothing in the way of reimbursement, Chase will pay you back $500 per ticket to cover things like food and hotel stays.
  • Emergency coverages. Chase provides coverage for emergency evacuations, emergency medical and dental services, and accidental death or dismemberment while you’re on a trip that you’ve paid for 100% with your Chase Sapphire Rewards card.

What we don’t like about the card

While Chase Sapphire Reserve’s rewards are out of this world, they do come at a steep price.

The annual fee is colossal.

A $450 annual fee is huge—especially since it is not waived in the first year. This limits the number of people who will even be able to afford to open a card, nonetheless justify the expense.

Rewards points are scant on everyday purchases.

While this card is generous with rewards points for dining and travel, purchases in every other category only earn 1 point per dollar. Even when you account for the 50% bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal, it would be wise to put these purchases on one of many other cards on the market that will earn you more points.

Travel hackers will have a hard time qualifying.

Banks (and not just Chase) are making it more difficult for people to jump from bonus offer to bonus offer. If that sounds like you, it will probably be difficult to get approved.

Who the Chase Sapphire Reserve best for

Those who travel frequently, spending a good portion of their budget on related purchases including dining, will benefit most from this card. These applicants have a solid credit history and score and are more likely to have a higher income as they have the funds available to front the $450 annual fee without hurting their budget. Their travels enable them to get the most out of not only the rewards points but also the statement credits that make this offer so attractive.

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you have the $450 to spend up front, and know that you will be able to take advantage of the annual $300 travel reimbursement, Chase Sapphire Reserve is likely a better card for you than the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

While the Preferred’s annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year, in subsequent years its annual fee is only $55 less than the Reserve’s effective $150 fee after travel reimbursements.

For an additional $55, your Reserve points are worth 1.5 points each when you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal versus the Preferred’s 1.25 points. Let’s look back at our trip from New York City to Tokyo. With the Reserve, you would need 80,000 points to book your $1,200 flight. With the Preferred, you would need 96,000 points. That’s a 16,000-point difference. In order to make up the difference, you’d have to spend $6,400 on travel or dining on your Preferred card.

Fifty-five dollars starts to look like a deal.

You also earn 3 points instead of the Preferred rate of 2 points on each dollar you spend on travel and dining.

Given the increased point values, making up the $55 difference is easy. Having the income to support opening the Reserve in the first place is the challenge. Not only do you need to have $450 on hand up front, but you’ll also need to have an income that justifies a credit line of $10,000+. If you will have trouble achieving either of these things, the Preferred may be a better card for you.

Alternatives

While Chase Sapphire Reserve offers fantastic benefits, it’s not for everyone. If you want a credit card that offers travel rewards without such large impositions, you do have other options.

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$95 Ongoing

Rewards

2 points on travel and dining, 1 point on all other spending

APR

16.99%-23.99%

Variable

Chase Sapphire Preferred is much like the Reserve option, except its $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. It doesn’t have all the same perks, but it does offer 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel while offering 1 point on all other purchases. When you redeem points in the Ultimate Rewards portal, they’ll be worth 25% more instead of Reserve’s 50% incentive.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$89 Ongoing

Rewards

2X miles on all purchases

APR

16.99%-23.99%

Variable

While the bonus in the Ultimate Rewards portal is attractive, earning 1 point per dollar spent on everyday purchases is not. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard offers 2 miles per dollar spent on any purchase, which may make it more valuable for those planning one or two trips per year rather than getting away every other month for work or leisure. The annual fee is waived in the first year, and it currently comes with a 50,000-mile bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Barclaycard also gives you back 5% of the miles you redeem. For example, if you redeem 50,000 miles, you’ll get 2,500 back.

Venture® from Capital One®

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$59 Ongoing

Rewards

2 miles per dollar spent

APR

13.99%-23.99%

Variable

Similar to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, the Capital One Venture card offers 2 miles per dollar spent on any purchase, with each mile worth one cent when redeemed against a past travel purchase. The annual fee is waived in the first year, and the current sign-up bonus is 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

FAQ

Yes, though you should keep in mind the credit requirements above. If you currently have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it’s wise to transfer them to the Reserve so you can take full advantage of the 1.5-point redemption rate in the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Yes. As long as you share the same address, you will be able to transfer points one to another instantaneously. You cannot combine or share points with a family member who lives at a different address.

No. Once you transfer points to another program, you cannot convert them back to Ultimate Rewards points. Be sure you understand the redemption process for each program before you transfer to ensure you’re getting the maximum value for your points.

No. As long as you keep your account open, your points will not expire. If you have other Chase cards that are eligible for the Ultimate Rewards program, you could close your Reserve account and transfer them to your other card, but as of today Reserve offers the best redemption rate in the Ultimate Rewards portal, so this may not be the best move.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne at brynne@magnifymoney.com

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Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Cards, Reviews

Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review: The Perfect Cash Back Card for Grocery Shoppers?

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.

If you’re looking for a cash back program that will reward you handsomely for grocery shopping, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one to check out. Although this card has an annual fee, the amount of cash back you have the potential to earn can easily cover the fee.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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on American Express’s secure website

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual fee
$95 For First Year
$95 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
6% at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 3% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 1% on other purchases
APR
13.99%-24.99%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

How to earn cash back with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card

1. Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year of purchases).

The supermarket category excludes superstores and warehouses. Specialty retailers like wine stores and convenience stores likely won’t earn 6% cash back either. The annual cap for the supermarket category is $6,000 – after you earn 1%.

2. Earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% cash back on everything else.

There’s no annual spending cap for the 3% and 1% cash back categories. The following department stores are examples of those that qualify for 3%:

  • Bealls
  • Belk
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bon-Ton Stores
  • Boscov’s
  • Century 21 Department Store
  • Dillard’s
  • JCPenney (JCP)
  • Kohl’s
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Macy’s
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sears
  • Stein Mart

3. Earn an extra introductory bonus.

You get a bonus of $150 in cash back if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of card signing.

How redeeming cash back works

Cash back earned converts into Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You can redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars for a statement credit in increments of $25.

Word of warning: A cash back statement credit does not get applied to your minimum payment. To keep your card in good standing, you need to make at least the minimum payment each month even if you redeem cash back.

Overview of card benefits

These are the American Express perks:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance. You can decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver because you’re covered if your rental car is damaged or stolen when you pay with this card, though some countries like Australia and Italy aren’t covered.
  • Global assist hotline. When traveling you get 24/7 access to legal, emergency, and financial assistance.
  • Travel accident insurance. You get coverage for accidental death or dismemberment during travel.
  • Extended warranty of up to an additional year after your manufacturer’s warranty expires.
  • Roadside assistance for emergencies if your car needs to be towed, you need to fix a flat, or you need a battery jump. Third-party service costs may apply.

What we like about this card

6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000.

Despite the annual fee and category restrictions, we’re still big fans of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. You only need to spend $1,583 per year (or $132 per month) on groceries to earn enough cash back to cover the $95 fee.

Since the supermarket spending cap is a generous $6,000 per year, you still have plenty of room to earn cash back beyond this break-even point, and if you spend a full $6,000 on groceries in a year, you’ll earn $360 in cash back before the annual fee is deducted.

Unlimited 3% cash back for gas.

You’ll be able to earn 3% cash back in the gas category without any cap, which can serve you well on your commute.

No revolving categories.

This card is simple to use. You don’t need to enroll in the bonus categories quarterly or annually. You just need to remember to pull out this card when you shop at major grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores.

What we don’t like about this card

Store restrictions in 3% and 6% categories.

Category restrictions are common for most cash back cards, but still a piece of fine print you should be aware of. American Express uses merchant codes to determine how much cash back you get on each purchase.

Stores like Amazon, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target, and Walmart won’t qualify as supermarket spending.

Furthermore, you can’t earn 3% cash back by pumping gas just anywhere. You have to buy gas at places with a gas station merchant code. Gas purchases at supermarkets or warehouse clubs will not qualify unless otherwise noted.

This restriction on gas spending may be the biggest deal-breaker for savvy gas shoppers since supermarkets and warehouses often have competitive gas prices with minimal markup.

Before you apply for the card, contact American Express if you pump at discount locations to see if the spending qualifies. American Express has a short list of example stores that fall into each cash back category here.

Who the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is best for

Whether the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is or isn’t for you will depend on how much you spend in the bonus categories.

Here’s why:

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card has a sister card that comes with no annual fee called the Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card gives:

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets
  • 2% cash back at department stores and gas stations
  • 1% cash back on everything else

Pick the Blue Cash Everyday® Card (no fee) instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee) if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries (about $300 a month).

If you spend more than $3,200 on groceries per year (about $300 a month), the Blue Cash Preferred® Card with the $95 annual fee outperforms the free Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

Another thing to consider is where you do your shopping.

If you live in a city where major groceries stores are few and far between, neither the Blue Cash Preferred® Card nor Blue Cash Everyday® Card will serve you well. You won’t get 6% for food purchases at corner markets and specialty stores.

Shoppers who stock up for groceries at warehouse or superstores like Walmart will also get less use from these American Express cash back cards since that spending doesn’t qualify.

Consumers who’ll get the most out of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card are those who spend at places that are eligible for bonus cash back like Whole Foods, Safeway, and Kroger.

Approval chances

You have the best chance of getting approved for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card with good to excellent credit (a score that’s 670 or above).

Alternatives

You can find our ultimate roundup of cash back cards for every category in this post.

Here we’ll cover four alternatives to compare against the Blue Cash Preferred® Card:

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • Chase Freedom®
  • Citi® Double Cash
  • Alliant Visa® Signature
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

13.99%-24.99%

Variable

As mentioned, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card is the free version of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. It offers:

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store spending
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Again, this is the card to go with instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries.

But, let’s be honest: $3,200 or $267 per month spent on groceries is a pretty small sum even for a one- or two-person household. For this reason, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is what we prefer of the two supermarket cards.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

15.99%-24.74%

Variable

A revolving category cash back card is an alternative if you spend pretty evenly across multiple areas. The Chase Freedom® card gives you 5% cash back in bonus categories that change quarterly.

There’s a $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5% category. You earn 1% cash back on all other spending. The bonus category for July through September this year includes restaurants and movie theaters, but categories change every quarter, and there’s no guarantee these will be a bonus category in the future.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

An unlimited flat-rate cash back card such as the Citi® Double Cash is good to pair with any of the category cards we discuss above. The Citi® Double Cash offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases with no fee, making this a great card to earn a consistent cash back rate. Citi® also does not charge an annual fee for this card.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$59 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

11.24%-24.24%

Variable

The Alliant Visa® Signature offers 3% cash back on all purchases during your first year as a cardholder. After the first year, you will earn 2.5% cash back. There is an annual fee for this card, however it is waived the first year. A good rewards strategy is partnering a high cash-back rate category card with one of these unlimited cards for non-category spending.

FAQ

The acceptance of American Express is worse than for Visa and MasterCard – especially outside of the United States. However, the network continues to expand every year, and it is much more difficult to find places in the US that don’t accept Amex.

Anything you spend over the $6,000 cap on groceries will earn only 1% cash back. Fortunately, the 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores is unlimited, so you’ll always get bonus cash back for that spending.

No, Blue Cash Rewards Dollars do not expire as long as your account remains open.

Yes, the minimum amount to redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars is $25.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars can only be redeemed for statement credit. They can’t be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars are redeemable for statement credit, while Membership Rewards® Points are redeemable for statement credit, travel, gift cards, merchandise, or entertainment. With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card you receive Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You would need a different American Express credit card, such as the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, to receive Membership Rewards® Points.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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