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10 Best Apps for Splitting the Check, Group Trips and Rent in 2018

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

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We’ve all been there: The group decides to “evenly” split the dinner bill, and you’re stuck paying for someone else’s steak and margaritas even though you only had water and an appetizer. There are plenty of ways for you and your supper pals to send or request money using peer-to-peer payment apps such as Venmo or Apple Pay Cash, but few of these help you with the math.

We’ve rounded up the best apps for splitting bills, from rent to dinners out, so you only pay what you owe — resentment avoided, friendships saved. For each category, we give you our top pick, plus a runner-up or two.

For group dinners: Tab

Tab, free on iOS and Android, makes paying for dinner easy. Take a picture of an itemized receipt and select which items are yours. If your fellow diners have Tab, share a code with them so they can join the bill and select what they paid for, too. Shared that appetizer? Multiple people can select the same items. The tax and tip are calculated for you. Venmo is integrated into the app for easy payment, or you can record that you made a cash payment to settle your portion of the bill.

Source: iTunes

Divvy ($1.99) — Like Tab, take a picture of your receipt and Divvy automatically splits the tip and tax proportionately. Thanks to a drag-and-drop feature, you never have to type in anything. The simplicity just might make the app worth paying for.

Source: iTunes

Plates by Splitwise (Free) — Splitwise (more on it in a minute) created Plates by Splitwise specifically for splitting the tab at group dinners. Drag items to an individual’s plate or split shared items among multiple people. The app splits the tip and tax and offers multiple tipping percentage options. It even has a “split the rest” feature that lets you save time if you only want to allocate a few dishes and split the remaining bill between the group. Unlike some other bill-splitting options, this app limits group splitting to 10 people.

Source: iTunes

For splitting the check: Splitwise

With Splitwise, free on iOS and Google Play, keep a running tab of who owes money without having to send over the cash right away. Settle requests at the end of the month — or anytime — with a PayPal or Venmo transfer. You can even bill an entire group, splitting costs evenly among its members. The app sends reminders to all parties when it’s time to pay up.

Source: iTunes

Settle Up ($1.99) — Even though this app, available on iOS and Android, isn’t free, it keeps a running tab of money owed in multiple currencies, a nice perk for frequent overseas travelers. It supports 20 different languages and works offline, which may come in handy if wi-fi is spotty in exotic locales.

Source: iTunes

For group trips: Splittr

Splittr is designed to ease the stress of splitting costs during group vacations. The app is free on iOS and Android; you don’t need to be registered to use it, although you will need to download it. Add expenses as you go and Splittr tells you who should pay next — maybe it’s your turn to pick up the dinner tab — and keeps track of how much each person owes and to whom. Manage multiple groups at once, including your roommates back home and your group trip to Dubai. All major currencies are covered and expenses can be split unevenly, if needed.

Source: iTunes

TriCount (Free) — Although this app, available on iOS and Android, has many of the same features as Splittr, you don’t need to download TriCount to participate. Once one person creates a Tricount account, they can share the link with friends for everyone to see group expenses. Friends who have the link can add their own expenses or see your updates. At the end of the day or week, TriCount lets you know what everyone owes to settle the tab.

Source: iTunes

Trip Splitter ($1.99) — Trip Splitter isn’t free, but it offers some nice perks similar apps do not: Add an unlimited number of participants and multiple trips; send an email with a detailed list of spending to all participants; and view your spending by geography, in case you want to see where you were when you paid for someone’s dinner bill.

Source: iTunes

For roommates: Zently

Last, but not least, when it comes to splitting bills is sharing costs with someone who lives under your same roof. Keep in touch with your landlord, pay rent and split costs with roommates using Zently, a free app for iOS and Android. It can connect to your credit or debit card and find bills you need to split with roommates. Round up your roomies’ money and send it to the landlord free with an electronic transfer, assuming everyone is using the app. If so, you can also use Zently to submit and track repair requests.

Source: iTunes

RentShare (Free) — Like Zently, RentShare only works if everyone is using the app for sending or receiving payments, but that’s about all these apps have in common. With RentShare, set the amount each roommate pays and each person takes care of paying their share directly to the landlord. The app can help work around issues with roommates who aren’t always on time with their half of the rent or utility bill. Users can pay with a credit or debit card or by bank account. You can set up autopay and monthly reminders to help make sure you pay your rent on time.

Source: iTunes

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

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

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Strategies to Save

How to Save at Disney: Families Who Go Every Year Give Their Best Tips

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.

Going on a family vacation to “the most magical place on earth” costs a pretty penny for families, and the price has gone up yet again. This year, Disney increased the price of admission into its U.S. theme parks by about 9% on average. Forbes reports that Disney increased prices “to help regulate crowd sizes throughout the year in hopes of reducing the wait at the parks,” which are the most highly attended theme parks in the world.

They are also among the most expensive theme parks to visit in the U.S. A five-day trip for a family of four could easily cost $4,000, including park admission, lodging and food — and that’s without any travel costs or extras, like souvenirs.

In contrast, American vacationers planned to spend an average of $2,936 on their summer trips, according to our 2017 survey. But the high costs don’t keep the Disney faithful away, and many Disney enthusiasts have devised savings strategies when making the trip to Disney World in Orlando every year. We spoke to some of these families to get their best savings tips with us for anyone planning a Disney World vacation.

Top savings strategies

  • Use points to book flights or use a rewards credit card
  • Book your next stay before you leave or keep an eye out for hotel promotions
  • Wait to buy souvenirs
  • Split meals or find other ways to save on food
  • Use discounted gift cards

Christine & John Meade

Long Island, N.Y., couple Christine Meade, 35, and her husband John, 38, have already taken their 18-month-old son, Mason, to Disney World twice and have plans to take their next trip for his second birthday. Christine has visited Disney World every year — sometimes twice a year — since 2005.

“Before we had [Mason] we loved going. It’s a lot more than just a kid vacation,” says Christine, adding that there are “so many things to do” at Disney World. “It’s just an escape from everyday life. Now that we have the baby its almost like a natural thing to take him.”

“Now it’s like a different kind of fun. Watching him enjoy all of these things and experience all of these things is a different kind of experience,” says Christine.

Saving with Swagbucks

The trips aren’t cheap for Christine, who works as a waitress, and John, an installation technician with a home security company. Christine says the family now spends a little more than $3,000 for the entire vacation — travel and food included. Mason is still younger than 3 years old, so he doesn’t need a child pass.

Now with a toddler to budget for, Christine has been trying out apps that help her save money, like Ibotta, and earning money through side gigs like mystery shopping. She credits websites like Swagbucks, among others, and says she finds them helpful towards earning some extra income.

“I’m always making the extra money with going to Disney in mind,” says Christine.

Since November 2017, when she began using the app, the couple has earned more than $2,000 between their Swagbucks accounts. You can redeem Swagbucks for prizes, PayPal cash or Mastercard gift cards that you can use just about anywhere. This year, the couple may have enough money from Swagbucks to cover all the costs of their trip, except airfare to Orlando.

Use points on flights

But, they likely won’t pay for flights either, because they’ve earned plenty of points using their Jetblue Rewards Mastercard. They got the card about two years ago and earned enough points to entirely cover their last two round-trip tickets to Orlando.

To make sure the rewards program is worthwhile, Christine generally pays off the card’s balance weekly to avoid interest charges. She also tracks flight prices to make sure the couple makes the most of their points.

Book with a bounceback offer

The couple books their next Disney vacation before they leave the Disney hotel. Their proactiveness generally earns them a discount, called a bounceback offer. On their last trip in November 2017, they booked the day they were checking out and saved 25% on their room for their next vacation, Christine tells MagnifyMoney.

The bounceback promotions fluctuate. Sometimes it’s a different discount, or a free dining plan, which the couple has received in the past. If it’s not offered to them, the couple says there is sometimes a pamphlet left in the hotel room with information about a bounce back offer or you can dial x8844 from your hotel room to find out about the bounceback offer.

Split a Memory Maker

A final tip: Christine tells MagnifyMoney they may also search Facebook for another family going to Disney World around the same time and agree to split the cost of a Disney Memory Maker. The Memory Maker costs $169 for the length of your trip and gives you unlimited downloads of all your Disney PhotoPass photos and video taken by Disney’s photographers.

Other savings

The couple finds additional savings by using perks that come with staying at a Disney hotel, like free transport to and from the airport, extra FastPasses (for shorter wait times at the parks), MagicBands (radio-frequency enabled bracelets that serves as your park pass, hotel key and more) and extended park hours, called Magic Hours. They also have a Disney Premier Chase Visa credit card that grants entry to opportunities to meet and take photos with Disney or Star Wars characters and 10% off some merchandise and dining purchases, in addition to other savings.

Cora & Benson Helton

Cora Helton, 33, and her husband Benson, 30, of Columbus, Ohio, have gone to Disney World at least once a year since 2014.

In 2017 they went four times, and three times in 2016, and in 2018, Cora says she thinks they’ll go twice because Benson has to do some continuing education for his work as a web developer. They say they love Disney in part because has so much to offer adults.

“You are in what we call the Disney bubble,” says Cora, a voice-over artist. “You’re not checking your Facebook, you’re not watching the news, all of this turmoil and political upheaval. You are completely in this magical world of Disney.”

Use discounted Disney gift cards

She says her main savings hack is the “gift card hack,” where she purchases Disney gift cards at a discount to pay for her trip.

“You can plan your whole trip in advance and pay it all off with gift cards,” says Cora.

Several retailers sell discounted Disney gift cards. At Sam’s Club, for example, Disney gift cards valued at $500 are often sold at a discount. Target, too offers a 5% discount on Disney gift cards for its REDcard holders.

“The better option is to get them at my local grocery store, Kroger, because they have a fuel perks program,” says Cora.

Shopping with a Kroger Plus Card, Kroger’s free membership program, you earn 1 fuel point for every dollar you spend. Sometimes Kroger does a special where they offer four times the fuel points per purchase — that’s when Cora stocks up on gift cards.

Buying a $500 gift card, Cora says she can earn 2,000 fuel points, which earns her $2 off per gallon of gas, up to 35 gallons. She goes a step further to maximize her savings by making the purchase with a 3% cash back credit card; she calculates her savings at $85 with this method.

Try a Disney travel agent

The Coras also use a Disney travel agent to make the most of their trip. It generally won’t cost you any additional fee to book a Disney vacation through a certified Disney travel agent, as Disney compensates them for their work.

“It saves money because they know all of the best bargains,” says Cora. “They know when the best deals will drop; they can be up at midnight when the FastPasses become available.”

Having another set of eyes looking out for deals can be helpful as FastPasses, dining reservations and discount resort rooms go fast.

“You can tell them tell them what you want to do in advance and they do all of the hard work and you don’t have to do anything,” says Cora.

Become an annual passholder

The Heltons have annual passes, which they say helps them save money.

There are two tiers of annual passes for access to Walt Disney World’s four main parks: the Disney Platinum Pass ($849 per person) and the Disney Platinum Plus Pass ($949 per person). The Platinum Pass offers a 20% discount on some dining and merchandise purchases. It also rolls in things like a park hopper pass, which allows you to go visit multiple parks in a day, and rolls in Disney photopass downloads.

“Do the math on how much value it would be for the number of times you would go a year and the amount the discount will save you,” advises Cora.

Plan and split meals

Cora recommends choosing your restaurants carefully at Disney World and sharing meals when you can. She tells MagnifyMoney there are a couple of different places in the park that they know are inexpensive and can feed them both.

Cora says she and Benson go through the entire menus of their restaurant options while they are at the park and choose what they’d like before they decide to go. You can start even farther ahead — during your planning. You can preview Disney World dining options online and you can filter the restaurants by park. Disney also provides each restaurant’s menu online and you can filter this search by price-per-person for an easier time budgeting for food.

Andrea & Brian Tucker

Baltimore residents Andrea Tucker, 48, and her husband, Brian, 49, go to Disney World once a year with their two daughters, ages 12 and 13.

Their whole family adheres to a gluten-free diet, and Disney is one of the easiest places for them to vacation with their dietary restrictions. Andrea, a health educator and the owner of Baltimore Gluten Free, is strictly gluten free for an autoimmune disease. Her youngest daughter has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack the small intestine after ingesting gluten.

“We go to Disney so frequently because it is the safest place for us to go to eat and it really is a true vacation because of that,” says Andrea. “They are just really great with dietary restrictions and lots of dining options everywhere.”

Use a rewards card to save

Andrea says her family finds their main savings through cashback earned using their Disney Premier Visa Card on all of their purchases throughout the year. She says it helped them to save more than $1,000 on their last trip.

The card charges a $49 annual fee. It earns 2% cash back on purchases made at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations, and 1% back on all other purchases. An introductory bonus offers a $200 statement credit after the cardholder spends $500 within the first three months of opening the card.

Book Disney hotel rooms on promotion

Their family likes to stay at the three Disney resort locations closest to the theme parks, which are slightly more expensive than Disney’s other options, so Andrea is always on the lookout for a hotel room promotion.

“We wait for that sale to come up. It requires a bit of checking and vigilance to get those rooms when they go on sale because when it does, it goes fast,” says Andrea. “It’s important to be ready to act on it because there are only a limited number or rooms and people are waiting on it.”

You can find Disney’s current hotel rates and discounts on the company’s website. Andrea says that ideally she looks for a 30% room discount and generally sees discounts crop up in the early spring, for example. As of this writing, Disney is offering 20% to 25% discounts.

Save on food and drink where you can

Because they splurge on dining at Disney, the family cuts spending on food in a handful of other ways throughout the day.

They cut spending on one meal a day by getting groceries and eating breakfast in their hotel room. Andrea says they use a delivery service to order food ahead of time and have it delivered to their room, and they get staple items like cheese sticks, milk, yogurt, bananas, water and things they can heat up in a microwave in their hotel room.

The family also brings a free carry-on bag on their flight filled with their favorite snacks to eat throughout the trip. They bring water bottles to fill up at the parks to drink throughout the day.

Wait until the last day to buy souvenirs

One lesson the family learned on their first trip to Disney World: Only buy souvenirs after you’ve seen all of your options.

“Especially when my kids were younger, you’d go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so cool,’” says Andrea, who says they wasted some money on souvenirs early on. The next day, they’d inevitably see something they wanted more than what they’d already purchased.

Now, they buy souvenirs only after visiting all of the parks. They use a park hopper pass so they can visit the same park multiple times.

“We kind of just remind everybody before the trip that it’s going to be exciting and so many cool things and we have time to look around and think about the best options,” says Andrea.

Bottom line

These tips can help you save some money on your trip if you use them, but at the end of the day, it’s your vacation. Getting a good sense of what you want from your trip before you book will help you save overall.

For example, none of these families would consider staying off-site, in a hotel near the park but not a Disney Resort hotel, although it’s an easy savings option.

“We have stayed off property in the past. You do save, but it’s just not the same,” says Christine.
“I like the magic of staying on property. You walk into that world of Disney, it’s fun and happy and everyone is in a good mood.”

But if staying on Disney property isn’t important to you, you can save — and use your savings on things you’d personally value more.

The lowest rates for a standard room for two adults at one of Disney’s value stay resorts from Aug. 5 to 11, 2018 are, as of this writing, selling at $120.53 a night, on a 20% discount promotion. That’s a premium to pay for the full Disney experience, even at a discount, compared to a room that costs less $100 a night at a nearby hotel with a free shuttle to the Disney theme parks and free breakfast, which the Disney resorts do not provide.

Ticket prices also vary by day and theme park, so if it’s not important to you to go during peak times (which you can see when buying tickets online), visit all of the parks or upgrade to park hopper passes, you can save there, too. When it comes to saving at Disney, all about setting your priorities and doing research in advance.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

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

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5 Things to Look at the Next Time You Log Into Your 401(k) Account

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

You’re a hard-working millennial in your 20s or 30s and you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan going, so you are saving for retirement. Well done!

Imagine this common scenario: Just after orientation with your human resources department, you decided to log into that fancy retirement account. But, after you set your contribution, the rest of the stuff was … overwhelming. Terms like “employer match” and “target-date fund” didn’t fully make sense to you. So, you may have made a mental note to Google them and said you’d get back to it, eventually.

Well, eventually has finally arrived. It’s great to have some kind of retirement game plan going — especially when you’re just getting started in your career — but to make the most of the money you’re stashing away for your gray days, you’ll need to fully comprehend what’s going on with your investments.

What to look at when you log into your retirement account

Everyone reading this may see something different when they log into their retirement account, and that’s totally okay, as these tips generally apply to all retirement accounts accessible to customers via an online portal.

“Every provider has a different website and some of them are very easy to navigate and some of them you kind of have to dig around a lot,” said Crystal Rau, a certified financial planner with Beyond Balanced Financial in Midland, Texas.

You may immediately see a landing page with all of your information and an easy-to-adjust contribution scale. Or, it may be like navigating a labyrinth.

Your contribution rate

First thing’s first, see what you’re working with. Check your contribution rate so that you’re clear on what’s being put into the account in the first place.

Your contribution rate is the percentage of your salary that goes toward your retirement account. The more you contribute, the more you will (hopefully) have in retirement, but you’ll have less money per paycheck to play with today.

It’s important to know how much money you are currently contributing so you can set it to match your savings goals or make adjustments as necessary.

How much you should be contributing: 10% … or more.

General rule-of-thumb advice is to aim to put 10% of your income toward retirement. But you can be more aggressive than that. Rau says you should aim to put 15% to 20% of your income into the retirement account, especially when you are young.

“If you learn to live on less in the beginning, as your salary grows over the years, you’re going to be used to living with that percentage gone already because you’re used to saving it,” explained Rau.

Justin Harvey, founder of Quantifi Planning, a Philadelphia-based financial planning company says “Ten percent is a good savings rate … but if you can save 20%, 30%, I’d say do it because the more you can save and the quicker you can do it, the quicker you won’t be beholden to an employer.”

The best strategy for maximizing your retirement account, he suggests, is to pick a number as high as you can stand that would allow you to still pay your bills every month.

Your employer match

Always look to see if your employer will match the amount you place into your retirement account.

“I always say as a general rule of thumb try to max out at least what the employer will match,” said Reshell Smith, a certified financial planner for AMES Financial Solutions, a virtual financial planning company based in Orlando, Fla. “Anytime you have an employer match and you are not getting it, that’s like leaving free money on the table.”

If an employer match is not shown on the website, Smith recommends checking your monthly statement for the information, or simply asking the person in charge of benefits in your company’s human resources department.

To make sure you don’t leave any free money on the table, use the matching point as a gauge to set your contribution level. Make sure you are at least contributing the amount you’d need to take full advantage of the match.

For example, some companies may match something like 50% of your contribution up to 5% of what you contribute from your salary. So in that case, you would want to set your contribution at 5%, to get the entire employer match.

“Those are free dollars that are essentially equivalent to earning 100% in the stock market. As you know you, can’t really buy a stock and guarantee a 100% return,” said Harvey.

After that’s accomplished, work upward in your budget from the match point to see how much more you could be putting toward your golden days.

Investor or asset allocation quiz

Sometimes, your provider’s website will offer employee resources like a risk tolerance or asset allocation quiz, says Rau. You can take the provider’s quiz or others provided online like this one from Vanguard, or read this guide from Principal to get an idea of how your cash should be distributed among different types of investments available to you. This is also known as your asset allocation

Source: Sample asset allocation quiz from Principal

How risky should I be?

Your risk tolerance in investing refers to the degree of variability in investment returns you are able to withstand. Younger investors generally have a higher risk tolerance level because they have more time to absorb volatility in the market, so they may be more aggressive investors, whereas older investors may want to practice more conservative investing to protect their retirement funds.

But, that’s generally speaking. Depending on your personality, investment experience, time horizon and financial situation you may be more or less risky of an investor. Choose allocations based on what’s best for your needs.

Your investment or asset allocation

If you see a pie chart or some other chart with categories, take a look at it. It may give you an idea of your current asset allocation. The allocations you see will likely be a mix of equity (or stock) and fixed assets (bonds and cash). The pie chart won’t get into much detail beyond the general labels, but it will show a general breakdown of where your assets are sitting at the moment.

“Look at your pie chart or your breakdown and just make sure the allocation is appropriate for your risk [tolerance] level,” said Smith.

Why should you care about your asset allocation?

Your asset allocation is a window into how aggressive or how conservative you are being with your investments. If you’re heavily invested in stocks and you’re nearing retirement, you’re probably taking on too much risk and should shift more of your savings into conservative investments like bonds. If you’re young, however, you’ve got decades ahead of you to take risks and it’s typically advised that younger workers take an aggressive, stock-heavy approach to their allocation.

If you’ve never touched your retirement account, but you’re contributing, you may be surprised to find your funds may not be growing as you believed they were.

“More than likely, the contributions are going to default to a money market account, which is basically like a savings account,” said Rau. “There’s zero growth and so not taking action and choosing investments, you’re basically just putting your money in a glorified savings account.”

In some cases, retirement funds will automatically put you into a target-date fund, which is actually a nice way to start investing, especially if you’re not confident in choosing your own asset allocation yet.

A target-date fund is a mutual fund comprised of mixed investments you choose based on your age or the year you intend to retire. If you’re not familiar with investing or how to choose investments, a target-date fund may be a good option for you.

“The target-date funds are the easiest because the investments are chosen for you. They are rebalanced for you so that is the easiest way,” said Smith.

As you age, the fund’s assets will automatically be rebalanced to become more and more conservative.

Not sure what your ideal mix of stocks versus bonds is? Take your age and subtract it from 100 (or 110 if you’re more aggressive). The bigger number is how much you should allocate to stocks. The smaller is how much you should allocate to bonds.

If you take the asset allocation quiz, you may have a better understanding of the right mix of investments for you.

Fees on your investments

Investing isn’t free, because there are massive investment firms behind them pulling the strings. Some do more pulling than others, and they charge for that extra management. On the other hand, passively managed funds can be much less expensive.

The different investment options you’ll see in your 401(k) plan page each should come with information about fees. The key fee to look at is your expense ratio — the annual fee funds charge their shareholders to operate the mutual fund.

“Anyone that has a computer they should get into a website like Yahoo! Finance and type in that fund name and one of the first thing that pops up is an expense ratio,” says Rau. “Anything over 1% is more on the expensive side. Really expensive would be over 1.5%.”

Rau says the expense ratio isn’t the most important thing for new investors to pay attention to, but it’s something new investors should be aware of since it could cut into their overall return.

If you pay a 1% annual fee on your return and your fund averages 7% a year, for example, you would technically earn only a 6% return overall, instead of 7% because you’re having to account for those fees. She recommends choosing a fund with an expense ratio below 1%, closer to 0.7 or 0.8%.

You can get much lower fees that even that by choosing low-cost mutual funds, which aren’t actively managed by an investment firm and are much less fee-heavy.

Do an annual checkup

Don’t let this be the last time you check your retirement account until you either retire or leave your current employer. Check up on your funds at least once a year to see how it’s performing and consider rebalancing your allocations.

“If you’re in anything other than a target date fund whatever allocation that you set I would revisit it once or twice a year and rebalance back to that original allocation that you had,” said Rau.

For example, she added, “Over six months to a year if your stocks performed really well, your new allocation may be 90% stocks and maybe 10% bonds.”

Rau advises revisiting your account once or twice a year so that you’re not taking on more risk than you originally intended.

But, avoid rebalancing too much.

“There is an illusion that when you are trading stuff you’re going to increase your performance, which is false, says Harvey. “The stock market is going to do what it’s going to do. Look at it periodically, check your quarterly statements, if you’ve got a good strategy stick to the strategy.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

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

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News

Here’s the Right Way to Close Your Expensive Rewards 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.

Springtime is almost like the second coming of the new year — the weather is warmer, resolutions are renewed with new vigor and every other article is sharing advice with you about decluttering your life. Purging unneeded or expensive credit cards is common advice when spring cleaning your finances. Some credit cards, like rewards cards, involve a little more care and tact than closing any old regular credit card.

Rewards credit cards are, generally speaking, the most expensive credit cards to keep open, so they may be on your purge list if you’re not using them enough to make the associated costs worth it.

As a recent MagnifyMoney study found, the sign-up bonuses many reward cards offer come at a steep cost to consumers. The average annual fee on a card with a bonus offer is $120, up 62% from 2008. However, in the lenders’ defense, they’ve also bulked up rewards offerings on new credit cards in the time. A separate 2017 MagnifyMoney study found, since 2010, what banks spend to support credit card rewards has more than doubled, from $10.6 billion to $22.6 billion.

If you’re ready to ditch your rewards card, you’ll want to make sure it’s done with your best interest in mind — a minimal loss of rewards and a minimal change to your credit score. Here are a few tips on the right way to close a rewards card when the cost isn’t worth the benefit.

When it makes sense to cancel a rewards credit card

When the rewards stop being worth the fee. Generally speaking, you should do a cost-benefit analysis in any situation to determine if keeping a credit card open is worth the fees associated if it charges any.

Todd Ossenfort, chief operating officer of Rapid City, S.D.-based Pioneer Credit Counseling, says to cancel the rewards card if it’s not getting used and you don’t take advantage of the rewards they offer. Most rewards cards charge a fee, so check to see if you’re paying one before you ditch your bank.

If you like earning rewards, sans the annual fee, there are rewards cards that don’t charge an annual fee but offer lucrative cash back rewards like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, which offers 1% cash back when you buy and 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases or the Uber Visa Card which rewards spending in certain categories. The Uber cards award cardholders 4% back on dining, 3% on hotels and airfare, and 2% on online purchases and 1% on most other purchases.

If rewards are reduced or terms are changed by the issuer. Another thing that may alert you to close a rewards card is changing terms that may reduce the overall benefit of keeping the card open.

“Look for things like a sharp increase in the card’s interest rate, cutting back on benefits like auto insurance or trip protection or downgrades of ways you can earn points and miles,” says Benet J. Wilson, associate credit cards editor for CompareCards.com, another LendingTree-owned site.

Remember, companies generally reserve the right to alter the card’s terms at any point.

“Credit card holders always have boilerplate language that covers them if or when they decide to change benefits, but when it happens, it should always serve as a warning flag,” says Wilson.

Follow these tips to close a rewards card the right way

Closing a rewards credit card can be a bit more nuanced than closing any regular old credit card. Here are a few tips you can use to make sure the process is smooth sailing.

Reach out to the bank before they charge your annual fee

Plan to close the card a few months ahead of the date the annual fee will be charged to the account. Otherwise, you may find yourself paying for another year of rewards you may not benefit from.

“Be proactive and call the creditor,” says Ossenfort. “Don’t put the card in the drawer and forget about it until they charge the annual fee and then try to cancel. More than likely they will cancel the card and still have you pay the fee.”

Still carrying a fee? Pay it down or transfer the balance to a new card

You’ll need to zero out any balance on the account before you’ll be permitted to close the card. To do this, you’ll need to pay any balance in full or have it transferred to another card.

If you transfer, you’ll ideally want to move the balance to a card that won’t charge you a higher interest rate on the balance you transfer. Here are some balance transfer options to consider in case you need to use one.

Use your rewards before you lose them

Use up any existing rewards you’ve accumulated on the card before you close the account if you can — after all, you’ve earned them.

You may decide to cash out any cash back rewards to your bank account or choose to apply them to your statement credit. If you can apply rewards to purchase gift cards or other items in a marketplace, that may also be an option. If you have a partner who is enrolled in the same rewards program with the bank, you may have the option to transfer your points to your partner’s account before you close the card.

If the card is co-branded with an airline, hotel or another company, like Uber, and you’ve accumulated miles or points in an associated account, those will likely stay available to you to use after closing until the miles or points expire. However, if it’s a bank, like Chase or Capital One, you’ll generally lose the points if you close the account and have no other cards linked to the program.

One big thing to watch out for here is not incurring extra debt in the process, says Ossenfort.

“I wouldn’t recommend using 5,000 points towards any trip if it’s going to cost you another $1,000 just because [you don’t want to lose the points],” says Ossenfort.

Prepare for a drop in your credit score for 30-90 days

A common warning you’ll get if you talk about closing a credit card is that it can hurt your credit. Sometimes, that ding to your score could be worth the temporary pain if it means saving you money in the long run.

Closing a credit card could reduce your overall available credit limit, resulting in an increase in your utilization ratio — a factor that contributes to about 30% of your credit score. The ratio is your total used credit in relation to your total available credit. The higher your utilization ratio, the more it can negatively affect your FICO score.

Don’t close a card and think that it will help your credit score, because it doesn’t,” at least in the short term, says Wilson. “By closing an old or unused card, you are essentially wiping away some of your available credit and thereby increasing your credit [utilization ratio].”

She recommends you check the total balances on all your credit cards and run the numbers before you decide to close one down. Use a credit score simulator tool like this one from Credit Karma or this one from Chase (for Chase customers) to estimate the damage to your score if you close a certain card.

The age of the card is also a major factor to consider, as closing a credit card with a long history or could drop your score by a few points. The effect could be more severe if your other cards are significantly younger than the card you’re looking to close. You can see the possible impact, again, by using one of the credit score simulator tools we linked to above.

“If it’s the oldest credit line and it’s closed your credit score will take a hit,” says Ossenfort. However, he says most can expect the dip to be minor and temporary, about 30 to 90 days.

Consider downgrading the card rather than closing it to avoid credit score damage

You may be able to preserve your rewards — and your credit limit — and simply ask your credit issuer you can downgrade to a card that doesn’t charge as high of an annual fee. If you can’t afford the $450 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, you may choose to downgrade to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, that charges a lower $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95.

Monitor the card for at least two months to avoid fees after closing

After you cancel the rewards card, Oliver recommends you keep an eye on the account for about two months, in case any fees are charged to the account after closing.

“A fee may have come between the closing of the billing cycle and when you closed the account,” says Oliver. This may be in the form of an interest charge for purchases made during your last month the card was open. You may have paid the balance down, but the interest won’t be charged to the card until the next billing cycle.

Part of that due diligence is getting it in writing that you’ve closed the account, in case you aren’t aware of any fees charged and it shows up later in collections.

You can ask the representative to send you an email or letter to your address confirming the account has been closed. If issues arise later, its best to try to resolve them directly with the creditor, says Oliver. But if that doesn’t work, you’ll already have the account closing in writing so that you can file a stronger dispute.

Unlink bills and autopay accounts

You don’t run into any hiccups with your bills, so you want to make sure the newly-canceled card account is no longer linked to any current bills.

Follow up on any of the accounts or bills the card was linked to and unlink the canceled card. While you’re there, don’t forget to update your billing information to a new card or alternative payment option.

Be firm with sales representatives if they try to keep your business

The Federal Reserve reports that total outstanding revolving consumer debt stands at $1.03 trillion as of January 2018.

“That’s a lot of money on the table, and companies are understandably reluctant to lose it,” says Wilson.

If you’ve considered other credit options with the same card issuer ahead of time, prepare yourself by researching your options to know what’s available.

“They will try anything, including raising your credit limit, waiving annual fees and offering bonus points/miles to get you to stay,” says Wilson. She adds you may use the opportunity to negotiate better terms for your credit card — if they can’t make it worth your while, go ahead and walk away.

If the salesperson is particularly aggressive, advises Wilson, be firm and persistent. If they are particularly pushy, ask to speak with a supervisor. If they refuse, end the call, then call back and immediately ask to speak to a supervisor.

“It may take some persistence, but it can be done,” says Wilson.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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

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Survey: People Are More Concerned About Equifax Data Breach Than Facebook Scandal

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 Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is certainly the bigger headline grabber these days, but in a new survey by MagnifyMoney, we found more than half of Americans — 54%— are more concerned about the September 2017 Equifax breach than the social media snafu.

Based on our survey, which polled 1,000 U.S. adults, the knowledge that information like your Social Security Number and past addresses are in the hands of hackers is slightly more disconcerting than the idea of a political consulting firm using your Facebook data to influence an election. The survey was conducted March 27-28, just days after news broke about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and several months since the Equifax breach was first made public.

Despite these concerns, half of Americans have taken NO action to protect their data since the the Equifax breach.

As far as the Equifax scandal is concerned, 50% of Americans say they haven’t taken any action to protect their sensitive information in the months since the September 2017 breach. The most reported action was simply checking one’s credit report for shady activity, which only 22% of respondents reported having done. Ten percent have closed unused credit accounts, frozen or locked their credit files (8%) or changed their ATM PIN information (7%).

1 in 4 people are considering no longer using the internet or apps to access bank/financial accounts:

Among those who currently access accounts online, about a quarter of respondents said they are considering no longer accessing their bank and financial accounts with mobile apps or via the internet. To get an idea of what kind of impact that may make, in 2016, the Federal Reserve reported 43% of all mobile phone owners with a bank account had used mobile banking. That figure jumps up to 53% among smartphone owners with a bank account.

Facebook could lose a substantial portion of its fan base

1 in 5 Americans surveyed are considering deleting their Facebook account post-data scandal. The remainder said they would take other precautions, such as using the social media platform less often, using the “share” button less and removing things they have “liked” in the past.

Facebook and Equifax scandals: A quick primer

Facebook: In the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, a Russian-American developer, Aleksandr Kogan, built a Facebook quiz that was able to exploit a loophole in Facebook’s app interface. The loophole helped to gather information on not only the 250,000+ people who took the quiz, but on all their friends, too — without their knowledge. Cambridge Analytica obtained that data and sold it to Strategic Communication Laboratories, a British consulting firm that worked on the Trump campaign, although the data’s sale was prohibited by Facebook. SCL group touts it’s an expert in “psychological warfare” and “influence operations.” The main issue here is the loophole that led to the initial access to users’ friends’ Facebook data. As of this writing, Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is said to testify before Congress regarding the data scandal on April 10th.

Equifax breach: In September 2017, Equifax, one of three major credit reporting agencies, announced hackers obtained the sensitive data of about 143 million Americans, or about 44% of the population. The stolen information was sensitive information like names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers that thieves can use to commit identity and financial fraud. Equifax later announced about 2.5 million additional U.S. consumers were potentially impacted. Then in March 2018, it announced an additional 2.4 million people were impacted by the cybersecurity breach, bringing the total about 148 million people, or roughly 45% of the American population.

What to do to protect your data

Although the survey reports 54% of respondents were more concerned about their data being stolen in the Equifax breach, the same survey shows many Americans have taken little to no precautions to protect themselves from said identity thieves.

You are your first line of defense against identity theft. If you want to make sure you’ve done your part to protect your sensitive data and avoid the hassle of dealing with the aftermath of identity theft, you may consider taking at least one of the following precautions:

Sign up for credit monitoring

Credit monitoring services can let you easily see the information on your credit report so you can look out for any shady activity. Several free and paid services exist to help you keep tabs on your credit report. Free options include credit monitoring offered through LendingTree (the parent company of MagnifyMoney), Credit Karma, Discover, Mint, Wells Fargo and Capital One®. Some identity theft protection services like the ones offered through myFICO charge a monthly fee to monitor your credit year-round and provide identity theft insurance.

Temporarily lock your credit report with a credit lock

You can use a credit lock to restrict access to your credit report, making it difficult for other new credit accounts to open in your name. You can lock your credit for free with two of the three major credit reporting bureaus. TransUnion offers TrueID which lets you instantly lock and unlock your report online or via a mobile app. It also offers free credit monitoring. Equifax’s Lock & Alert does the same thing. Experian’s CreditLock service acts similarly but it is not free. It’s included in the agency’s $24.99 a month CreditWorks Premium service.

Freeze your credit report with a credit freeze

A credit freeze does the same thing as a credit lock does as it prevents anyone from applying for credit in your name until the freeze is removed. A credit freeze is different from a credit lock in that it’s not a company product, but a feature the credit bureaus are required to offer by law. In some states, you will need to pay a fee to freeze or unfreeze your credit report. Because the service is guaranteed by law, it may give consumers more rights in the event that fraud happens after a freeze is put in place. However, it can be much more difficult to remove a freeze. You can thaw a freeze if you need to apply for credit, for example, but in some cases, the credit bureau may ask you to mail them a letter requesting a thaw, which can take days to arrive. A credit lock requires less hassle.

Make a plan to respond to identity theft

Make sure you know what to do in the event your identity is stolen. Having a plan in play may help you notice the theft sooner, and minimize the damage and stress it can cause. Credit monitoring can help you find out about theft sooner rather than later. Here’s a guide on identity theft resolution, so you know what to do in case you see anything suspicious.

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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

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The Ultimate Guide to Saving on Summer Music Festival Tickets, Food and Travel

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: Kellye Greene

Spring marks a time for many music and arts fans to prepare for the summer festival season. As they should. Music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man and Electric Zoo are famously possible among young people all over the world, but they are also infamous for being ridiculously expensive. Without proper planning, you could easily find yourself in a mountain of debt to see your favorite artists.

A general admission pass to three days at Coachella in 2018, for example goes for $429, plus any applicable taxes and fees. VIP passes start at $999. That’s before figuring out the cost of food and drinks while at the festival, getting there and where you’ll stay … but we will get to those figures later on.

For the average American, struggling to save $400 — in an emergency fund — let alone spend close to $1,000 to attend a music festival when it’s all said and done isn’t feasible. For the young person saddled with sky-high rent, low-paying jobs and student loan debt, seeing their favorite musician at a music festival can seem like only a dream funded by credit cards or very generous benefactors (read: parents).

“It’s not even the tickets to the festivals that gets expensive, it’s everything else.” said Kellye Greene, 30, a freelance software engineer in New York. “After college, I was not working the best job because of the recession back in 2009. I had to find a way to have these experiences or do these things. Finding all of these little hacks help me offset the cost of participating.”

MagnifyMoney spoke with Greene and a few regular festival goers to learn their best tips for saving money and still having a good time.

The tickets

Source: Kellye Greene

Volunteer

If you are willing and able to work for your entrance, volunteering at a festival is a great way to save money on tickets. There are dozens of different organizations you can volunteer with and various things you could do as a volunteer. You’d work a number or shifts in exchange for entrance to the event and still get to enjoy the festival.

Greene, also the regional director and president of New York chapter of DanceSafe, has been to about 36 festivals over the past eight years. At many of them, she volunteers with DanceSafe, a nonprofit organization focused on harm reduction at nightlife events and music festivals by passing out free condoms, ear plugs and information on alcohol and other drugs.

Greene usually has her entrance covered, and if she needs to travel she may get a travel stipend in exchange for working a number of shifts at the event. For example, when she went to Shambala in Canada, Greene says she worked a minimum two shifts and those guaranteed her ticket would be covered for the four-day event. This year’s pass runs around $325.

Like Greene, you could do something you’re passionate about. For example, an organization called Headcount requests volunteers to help register people to vote at music events, or you could volunteer as an ambassador with Paradocs, a service that brings in doctors, nurses, EMTs and paramedics, and offers free health care at events.

Or you could simply volunteer to help out. This year, Bonnaroo requires its volunteers, called C’roo members, to work three six-hour shifts. In exchange, they get a T-shirt, free showers, a meal token for every shift they work and access to enjoy the festival when they’re not working. That’s a decent trade-off, as a four-day general admission pass to the festival runs $325 plus taxes and fees.  You’ll want to sign up to volunteer as soon as you hear the opportunity is available, as volunteer opportunities may go quickly.

Work for pay

In a few cases, you could work for the festival for pay and get to enjoy some of the main event. Festivals generally hire a crew of workers to help on the day of the event. You may work the ticketing gates, security or possibly be part of the cleanup crew. These positions are hard to come by and generally require you to directly contact the festival coordinators to ask about work opportunities or apply online.

Events promotions company, Live Nation, generally posts paid positions available at its events on its website and other job sites. As of this writing, there’s an open ground control festival team member application listed on Glassdoor for Electric Forest 2018, hosted by Live Nation in Rothbury, Mich. The festival kicks off June 21.

Again, in this situation, you would work a few hours and generally be able to enjoy some of the music while you’re working or be let go early enough to enjoy some of the festival when you’re finished. In addition, you’d get a check in the mail in a few weeks that may ultimately offset auxiliary costs like food and lodging.

Buy your tickets early

Most festivals release a limited number of “early bird” tickets first that are generally priced lower than the regular ticket prices.

“If you plan ahead, the same ticket will cost less than if you wait until the last minute,” said Tucker Gumber, 30, aka The Festival Guy and founder of FestEvo, a company that creates tools for festival goers. Gumber has been to more than 130 festivals over the past seven years. He authored The Festival Goer’s Guide, and says early bird tickets are a simple way to save.

Beware: Some popular festivals may allow early-bird ticket purchases before releasing their lineup or the names of the headliners, so you may not yet know who you’re paying to see. For example, early bird tickets for The Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa., went for $99. Early bird tickets went on sale Dec. 21, 2018, before the initial lineup was released in January 2018.

“If the event has been running for multiple years you can look at previous years to see what kinds of bands have performed before,” said Greene. “You can save 100s of dollars. And if you decide you don’t want to go, you can resell the ticket.”

Festivals may also tier their ticket pricing based on the number of tickets already sold or certain cutoff dates for pricing. For the Peach Festival, there was a second tier of limited early bird passes that went for $135. After that, there are three tiers of regular advance passes at $165, $190 and $210. There is a final tier of passes, a last chance ticket for late birds, is priced at $245.

If you’re a loyal attendee, some festivals even offer early access to cheaper tickets if you’ve gone to a previous year’s festival. Again, they may be limited and may come out before the lineup is announced.

Wait for single-day tickets to go on sale

If you can’t swing the cost to attend all of the days a festival is held, you may be able to save by only paying to attend the days that have the artists you are truly dying to see and getting single-day tickets.

For example, a one-day pass to Panorama (plus fees) in 2018 is $125, a two-day pass is $215 and a pass for all three days of the music festival is $295.

Single-day passes are generally cheaper than purchasing passes for the entire duration of the festival, but they may not go on sale until later. As of this writing, four-day passes to Lollapalooza are available for $335, but single-day tickets are not yet on sale.

If there are only one or two artists in the lineup you’re dying to see, single-day tickets may be worth the wait.

Use the payment plan

You may not have the cash on hand to pay for a full-priced ticket when tickets come out. But you don’t want to run the risk of saving up only to watch tickets sell out. Most events offer payment plans for these cases. The plans allow you to break up the full cost of the ticket into more affordable payments.

For example, if you want to purchase a ticket to Governors Ball 2018, hosted by Front Gate Tickets, you would need to make a minimum purchase of $71 to qualify for the layaway plan. Passes start at $115 for the event, plus $20 fee, plus $15 in shipping which comes up to $150, so that’s easy to make.

The Governors Ball plan splits your payment into two. You’d pay 50% of your package and all fees associated, then have the other half automatically deducted from your account in April, two months before the event kicks off on June 1. If you miss the second payment, your Layaway Plan will be canceled, and you’ll be refunded all but the fees associated with your purchase, according to a Front Gate Tickets representative. For a $350 three-day pass, that’s $30 in applicable fees.

Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., has a similar payment plan option but only offers weekend passes. General admission weekend passes for the event beginning on June 14 start at $329, plus $29.99 in fees. Firefly’s EZ Pay payment plans are available for up to 7 months and you are automatically charged the same day as your original purchase date each month. The number of payments you are allowed will depend on how many months in advance you make your initial payment. If you bought a ticket in March, you’d get a two-part payment plan. So, you’d pay $179.50, and be charged the other half in April.

Travel and Lodging

Source: Joe DeIuliis

Stay with friends or family

You could save on lodging just by knowing someone in the area and asking if you could stay with them during the event.

“I very rarely have to worry about lodging because I try to go places where I know people,” said Greene. “If I don’t know people, I try to make friends.”

She says having friends nearby can make traveling alone a much better experience. Use your connections.

“Every single time I go to another city, I find another harm reduction group and befriend them. Most of the time I end up going to festivals I didn’t plan on going to,” said Greene. She linked with one group while visiting Amsterdam one year. “I just showed up and they provided me lunch, and I could hang out at the festival.”

You may also elect to use a peer-to-peer service like Airbnb if it’s a more affordable alternative compared with a hotel stay.

Use credit card rewards programs

If you’re savvy and budget-conscious, you could cover most of your travel and lodging expenses with rewards credit cards, like Joe DeIuliis, 28, in New Haven, Conn. DeIuliis has been attending about three to four festivals a year for nearly 10 years. At first, he was spending a lot of money.

“I was living at home and spending all of my money on just like traveling and going to festivals,” said DeIuliis, who was a student at the University of Pittsburgh at the time. After school, he moved away from home, got married and accepted a job in the pulmonary research lab at Yale.

“When I moved and accrued all of these other bills that real adults have, I had to figure out a way to still do this. I thought there has to be an easier cheaper way to do this,” said DeIuliis.

So he started reading up on how he could use airline miles and credit card rewards to pay for all of the auxiliary costs around the festivals to cut down the overall cost of the events.

Now, DeIuliis uses credit card rewards points to cover hotel stays, rental cars, flights and most other transportation expenses for both him and his wife, Rachel, to attend festivals like The Dirtybird Campout and Holy Ship! He’s been doing so for about four years and says he now pays for maybe 10% of their transportation cost out of pocket. They use their savings to have a better festival experience, overall.

“Camping is fun and if you have friends there you can stay with them but the comfort of being able to get in a rental car, and go to the hotel and get a hot shower is great,” said DeIuliis.

If you try this tip, make sure your bill is paid in full each month, otherwise high interest rates can offset any rewards you earn. You can use an online budgeting tool like Mint or You Need A Budget to stay on top of your bills. In addition, you should avoid opening cards for the bonus points only to cancel the cards later, as that could harm your credit score.

Camp (if it’s cheaper)

“A lot of times your cheapest option for lodging will be to camp,” said Greene, as its usually cheaper than a hotel or Airbnb.

Weekend (Thurs.- Mon.) car camping and tent camping passes at Coachella each run $113, for instance. As of this writing, hotel rates for the second weekend of Coachella (April 19-23) range from around $410 to more than $500 per night per room to accommodate two adults, according to Google Maps.

“It’s a cheap option but it’s not luxurious in any kind of way,” said Greene. She says to avoid festivals in remote areas if you’re not a camping kind of person. “If its way in the middle of nowhere you’re not gonna have many hotel options.”

Generally, campgrounds will have some amenities like public showers, charging stations and lounges with Wi-Fi. Sometimes festivals will provide “glamping” options like a cabin or tents for you.

Glamping (glamorous + camping) is a little fancier. They are pre-made camping options with some amenities, depending on how much you pay. Coachella’s glamping options started around $2,458 for two, plus two general admission tickets. A four-person tent with 4 VIP passes cost $5,600.

Plan to go with a group

You could roll solo to a festival and have a great time making new friends, but it may be more cost-effective to go with a group.

“Try to reduce the amount of money it costs to get to the venue by carpooling,” advised Gumber.

Not only would you cut your overall cost in gas, but you may save on lodging, too. To purchase a single-car camping pass for Bonnaroo 2018, you’d pay $59.75 per car, not per person, so you may be able to split the cost among a car pool of friends.

If you don’t happen to know enough people to form a group and are open to meeting new people, you may be able to find a Facebook group of fans planning to attend the festival, and coordinate with some folks to go together.

Choose a festival nearby

You don’t have to cross the country for the festival experience. There are so, so many music and arts festivals that there is likely one in your state or region of the country.

Choose a festival that will require you to travel the least to help save some money on travel. The Music Festival Wizard website has an interactive map you can use to check for festivals nearest  you.

If you live in New York City, for example, the map shows five music festivals within the five boroughs. You’ll likely be able to take public transit and walk to most festivals in the Big Apple.

Food and Drink

Source: Joe DeIuliis

Festival food is notoriously pricey and festivals typically start around noon and end after midnight, according to Greene.

“It’s harder to avoid eating inside when you are at most non-camping festivals because they don’t allow re-entry so you can’t leave for food,” said Greene. “Save a lot of money or at least be prepared to deal with the eating situation.”

Vendors know your options are limited, too. You may be there for 12 hours and if re-entry isn’t allowed or the line is very long, you may not want to leave and waste some of your expensive ticket.

“Put money aside to feed yourself. If you’re at a festival and you’re going to be purchasing food it’s not going to be cheap,” said Collin Molina, a 25-year old aspiring musician in Philadelphia.

If you have some time between purchasing your ticket and going to the festival, do your best to set aside money to buy food at the event. Molina says budgeting to spend about $20 per meal should be sufficient.

Compare options and make sure you know what you’re eating, Molina advises. He says to try to get something filling, like a high-protein meal that will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you don’t have to buy too many meals.

Always bring a water bottle (and snacks, if you can)

Most festivals allow you to bring in an empty, reusable water bottle and provide free water refill stations. Take advantage of that perk and always bring a water bottle so you can keep yourself hydrated for free and have something to drink with meals.

Many non-camping festivals don’t allow you to bring in food, but If you are allowed to take snacks into the festival with you, you should bring some.

Eat something before you get in

“Eat before you get into the venue and pre-plan your meals to save money on concessions,” said Gumber.

Greene says she also would boil eggs to eat just before she walked into the festival. You can help keep hunger at bay by keeping yourself well hydrated throughout the day or using stimulants, too.

“Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks will suppress your appetite as well. Some people are smokers so nicotine does that, too,” said Greene.

Plan out your meals

Planning your meals can help you shave down some of your cost regardless of whether you’re camping and bringing your own food, or planning to purchase food from vendors on festival grounds.

If you’re camping, you’ll generally be able to cook and leave and return to the festival, so that may help cut the cost to feed yourself while there.

“We would just make a trip to the grocery store and figure out what would be good to cook,” said Molina of the times he would camp at festivals.

“It’s a different kind of shopping, almost like survival shopping,” Molina added. He recommends trying to get things that are simple, easy to make and filling.

General Tips

Learn to budget

If you know ahead of time that you’re planning to attend a festival on a tight budget, you can plan to save money ahead of the event. Do the math, and budget set aside some money each paycheck to cover the cost of the event .

The last thing you want to do is rack up debt attending a music and arts festival because you didn’t take care to do at least a little financial planning. MagnifyMoney has a wealth of articles on budgeting you can use to help plan attending your next festival.

Really, don’t break the bank to go to a music festival

This tip may be a tough one to swallow, but it needs to be said because at the end of the day, you have got to look yourself in the mirror and be honest.

“Abstaining is the top way to save money. If you really can’t afford it, don’t stretch your budget,” said Molina. He says he knows he’ll likely get another chance to see most of the performers and acts that he wants to see later on. Sooner or later they will return to the venue, festival or city, and you will get another chance.

The Festival Guy signs off on this tip, too.

“If you’re not in the right place to go to the festival financially, sit this one out and plan ahead for the next one,” said Gumber. He advises anyone who loves the festival experience not to let FOMO (fear of missing out) drive them into debt or worse.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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

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The Fed Raises Rates Again — Here’s What It Means for Your Savings, Mortgage and Credit

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

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The Federal Reserve board announced another rate hike today in a widely predicted move.  The new benchmark Federal Funds Rate has been raised to a target range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent.

What happens when the Fed raises rates?

Consumers should be aware of the rate hike for a simple reason: Lenders and banks base their interest rates on the federal funds rate, so when the benchmark increases or decreases, it can impact rates on products like credit cards, savings accounts, auto loans, mortgage rates, and more.

Here’s a quick explainer:

Mortgage Rates

Rising rates do not bode well for homebuyers or homeowners looking to refinance. The higher your mortgage rate is, the more expensive it is to borrow and the less sense it makes for someone to refinance in order to lock in a lower rate.

“Higher rates are decreasing housing affordability and removing the incentive to refinance for millions of borrowers,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief mortgage economist at LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney. “They also add to the supply problem in the housing market as homeowners with low-fixed rates are less likely to put their homes on the market.”

If you are shopping for a new mortgage now, rising rates can easily make you feel pressured to move quickly. At a minimum, you should be comparing rates online and shopping with multiple lenders before making a final decision to ensure you’re getting the best rate possible.

If you are already in the loan shopping process and you’ve found a lender that you want, you might consider locking in your rate as soon as possible.
“If you are getting your first house, don’t drag your heels so that you can lock in the low rate right now,” said David Demming, CEO of Demming Financial Services in Aurora, Ohio.

Just make sure you time your rate lock right. Mortgage rate locks tend to expire after 30 or 45 days in most cases, and it can cost you dearly to pay the lender to extend the rate lock.

Ultimately, you can’t control mortgage rates and you shouldn’t let rising rates be the only reason you’re jumping into a mortgage application. But it’s wise to keep an eye toward the rate environment if you’re in the market for a new mortgage or refi, because it does have a potentially huge impact on your borrowing costs long term.

Home equity loans also get more expensive when mortgage rates rise.

Those who have a balance on a home equity line of credit, or HELOC loan, may want to make some aggressive payments now, advises Marguerita Cheng, the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Rockville, Md.

“When the prime rate goes up, the interest rate on a home equity line of credit will float up,” said Cheng.

Credit cards

Expect credit card debt to immediately become more expensive when the Fed raises rates, warns Kapfidze. Credit cards carry variable APRs that can fluctuate any time rates rise and fall.

“If the Fed follows through on 3 quarter-point rate hikes this year, consumers could be liable for almost $6 billion in extra credit card interest per year on $1 trillion in outstanding credit card debt, and over $15 billion compared to when the Fed started raising rates in late 2015,” Kapfidze said.

We may also see fewer banks roll out generous 0% balance transfer intro offers, or shorten the duration of these offers, he adds.

Credit card rewards could be at risk, too, in the long term. The higher rates get, the less profit credit card companies stand to gain from credit rewards.

“As transactors become less profitable, credit card issuers will start to think about how lucrative they want their rewards schemes to be,” Kapfidze said.

Savings and deposit accounts

For savers, however, a rate hike could be good news. You might start to earn more on the cash you have stashed in savings accounts, money market funds and CDs. Rates on these products are much lower than prior to the recession but a fed rate hike might make them a little bit more lucrative.

We’ve already seen banks, especially online lenders that typically offer higher rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks, react swiftly to rising rates by hiking up rates on their deposit account products.

Expect that trend to continue, says Ken Tumin, editor of DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree-owned site and one of the biggest deposit account comparison destinations on the web.

“If savers want to see the benefit of the Fed rate hikes, they would be wise to move their money from brick-and-mortar savings accounts to internet savings accounts,” Tumin told MagnifyMoney. “If savers prefer to stay with brick-and-mortar banks, they will likely see the most rate increases on shorter-term CDs.”

In 2017, we saw the largest rate increases on internet savings accounts and 1-year CDs, which saw yield increases of 26% year over year, according to Tumin.

Auto Loans

Car loans are one of those short-term loans you can expect to be influenced by a rise in the funds rate, but borrowers likely won’t feel much of a sting.
To get the best rate on a car loan, you should shop around for a low rate first, then make sure to negotiate the price of the vehicle. Interest rates on car loans are fixed, so if you do that, you’ll be set for a while. Heads up: the current average rate on a 60-month auto loan for a new car is 4.27 percent.

Investments

Bonds react inversely to the federal funds rate. When interest rates go up, the price of a bond goes down.

“To what degree, we don’t know,” Cheng said. “But that’s why it’s important to be prepared and have diversified investments.”

Don’t panic just because some of your bonds could lose value, adds Kristi Sullivan, the CEO of Sullivan Financial Planning. It’s all part of the cycle.

The Bottom Line

As the Fed looks to raise rates each quarter this year, you should think about your entire financial picture before letting rate behavior sway you in any one direction. The general expectation is that rates will continue to increase as the economy strengthens. Keep an eye on your interest rates and maintain a diverse portfolio, and you should be prepared for whatever happens.

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

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

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Mandi Woodruff |

Mandi Woodruff is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Mandi at mandi@magnifymoney.com

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Education Department Tells States to Get off Student Loan Servicers’ Backs

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

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The U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, on March 12 formally announced its intention to prevent state governments from regulating student loan servicers.

In the statement, published in the Federal Register, the Education Department says states do not have the authority to regulate loan servicers. Specifically, they cannot enforce regulations on the federal agency’s loan servicers that undermine “uniform administration of the program.”  Some states make servicers comply with state licensing laws in order to collect debts from the state’s citizens and impose deadlines on servicers for responding to borrower inquiries.

The same day, the National Governors Association (NGA) issued a statement against the rule, saying, “States have stepped up to fill the void left, we believe, by the absence of federal protections for student loan borrowers, from potential abusive practices by companies servicing student loans.”

Meanwhile, the Student Loan Servicing Alliance (SLSA) released a statement in support of the Education Department’s announcement. Trade organizations like SLSA have lobbied the federal government for protection against state’s efforts to impose rules and regulations on the industry.

For example, in July 2017 the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER), a trade group representing student loan servicers and debt collectors, sent a letter to the Education Department claiming state rules make it more difficult and expensive for loan servicers to collect on loans across the country.

The Education Department currently has nine companies on its roster of loan servicers: Navient, Nelnet, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), MOHELA, HESC/EdFinancial, CornerStone, Granite State, OSLA Servicing and Debt Management and Collections System. The U.S. government hires loan servicers to manage nearly $1.4 trillion in federal student loan debt for roughly 43 million consumers.

Why issue the statement?

The move comes after the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in August filed a lawsuit against PHEAA, which does business as FedLoan Servicing. The complaint alleges PHEAA violated state and federal laws as its servicing failures prevented students from qualifying for discharge under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant programs.

The complaint also alleges PHEAA overcharged student borrowers and prevented them from staying on track with income-driven repayment plans that may make borrowers’ monthly payments more affordable.

The Massachusetts lawsuit caused a bit of a stir. In January, the U.S. Justice Department filed papers saying the Massachusetts attorney general could not pursue the claims. However, a Massachusetts state court on March 1 ruled Healey could move forward with the lawsuit against FedLoan Servicing.

But in Monday’s statement, the Education Department said federal law preempts Massachusetts’ claims.

States are fighting a battle on two fronts

In October 2017, 25 state attorneys general sent a letter to DeVos asking the Education Department to reject the loan servicers’ efforts to “dismantle state oversight of the student loan industry.”

In the letter, the attorneys general claim the servicers’ request for the federal government to preempt state oversight would “defy the well-established role of states in protecting their residents from fraudulent and abusive practices, plainly exceed the scope of the Department’s lawful administrative authority, and would needlessly harm the students and borrowers at the core of the Department’s mission.”

Other lawsuits have been filed against the loan servicers, the Education Department and DeVos.

  • Healy in December 2017 sued DeVos for “failing to provide federal loan discharges for students victimized by Corinthian Colleges.” The attorneys general of Illinois and New York joined the complaint. The complaint was filed in parallel with a separate lawsuit by the California attorney general with similar allegations.
  • The Pennsylvania attorney general in October 2017 filed a lawsuit against student loan servicer Navient “over widespread abuses in their student loan origination and servicing businesses.”
  • In January 2017, under the leadership of former director Richard Cordray, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the states of Washington and Illinois sued Navient, for allegedly cheating borrowers out of their right to lower repayments. It’s unclear at this time whether new CFPB leadership will continue to pursue the lawsuit. However, Propublica reports that CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney’s team “recently asked enforcement lawyers to prepare for a potential settlement of its lawsuit alleging that Navient, the gigantic student-loan servicer, abused borrowers, according to a high-level CFPB official.”
  • In September 2017, NPR reports, the Education Department cut ties with the CFPB, leaving borrowers without the federal financial regulator’s oversight over loan servicers.

Those are only a few of many lawsuits and settlements between states, federal agencies and loan servicers in recent years.

What happens now for borrowers

It’s unclear how borrowers in states with consumer protections for student loan borrowers will be affected by the Education Department’s interpretation of the law, but if it legally preempts state regulations, borrowers may be negatively affected.

“If states are prevented or discouraged from overseeing education loan servicers, borrowers may be left with virtually no protections against harmful practices that can push them deeper in debt,” says Suzanne Martindale, senior attorney for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm for Consumer Reports, in a statement issued soon after the Education Department’s notice.

But policy and legal expert say borrowers may not have much to worry about, as the current administration’s interpretation may not be enforceable.

“The Trump Administration’s action is legally dubious and should be ignored by state regulators working to protect millions of Americans who deserve honest and fair treatment from debt collectors,” says Christopher Peterson, senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America, in a statement responding to the announcement.

In the statement, Peterson cites past instruction from the Department of Education regarding state regulation of servicers to support his claim.

“The long-standing view of both federal and state governments has been that the Higher Education Act does not override state laws that provide additional protection to student loan borrowers, as long as those laws do not actually conflict with federal law,” says Peterson.

It may ultimately be up to the courts to decide how borrowers will be affected.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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

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These Are the Best U.S. Cities for Working Women in 2018

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.

One could say today’s American woman is a working woman. In 2016, 57% of women participated in the workforce, up from 43.3% in 1970. Additionally, 42% of mothers were the primary breadwinners for their families, meaning they brought in at least half of their family’s earnings, according to a 2015 report from the Center for American Progress.

Although more women are in the workforce and supporting their families, women’s earnings have historically lagged against that of men. In 1987, the average working woman earned about 70% of a man’s income. In 2016, the gap narrowed, with women earning 82% of the average man’s earnings. But broad research doesn’t always paint the clearest picture. For example, more detailed wage gap analyses have found the wage gap is much worse among minority women, while the gap is slightly better for today’s younger women.

Despite these advances, women in the aggregate earn less money, cover more child care costs, hold fewer leadership positions and suffer more in earnings and work penalties related to maternity and parenthood than men do. Factors like median earnings and women in leadership contribute to a woman’s ability to progress in her earnings and career throughout her life.

With these factors in mind, MagnifyMoney analyzed and ranked the largest 50 U.S. metros to determine where the average working woman might have the best shot at equal pay and advancement in the workplace.

How we chose the best cities for working women

To see where working women seem to fare better, we took the 50 biggest metros in America and graded them based on the following factors:

  • The rate of women who are unemployed.
  • The rate of businesses with employees that are owned, either equally or entirely, by women.
  • The rate of people in management occupations who are women.
  • The percentage gap between median earnings for women and men (i.e. the wage gap).
  • The rate of women between the ages of 18 and 64 who have employer-based health insurance.
  • The percentage of median income required to pay for day care, because access to child care is essential for the ability to work outside of the home.
  • The percentage of the state’s legislature (or the District Council, in the case of Washington, D.C.) who are women.
  • The protections offered by states to pregnant women and working parents, such as state-funded paid parental leave, protection for taking off time to attend school events and mandated accommodations for pregnant women.

Key findings:

Washington, D.C., is the best metro for working women.
The nation’s capital earned the top spot in our ranking, with a final score of 72.8. It has a relatively narrow wage gap compared with the nation as a whole (15.4% vs. 20.4%), one-third of the district’s legislators are women and it ranked highest out of all 50 metros for the rate of women (43.6%) who hold management occupations in the workforce.

Detroit is the worst metro for working women.
Detroit scored a 33.9 on our index, indicating the metro isn’t the best place for a working woman’s earnings and career advancement. At 25.4%, Detroit ranks in 46th place in the rate of businesses owned by women and 46th place in the gender wage gap rankings. Detroit women earn at least 25% less than men on the dollar. However, the metro’s 6% unemployment rate for women is among the highest in our survey.

L.A. has the lowest wage gap. Los Angeles has the lowest wage gap of all 50 metros, at 10.1%. That’s compared to an average of 19.0% across all 50 metros. It’s followed by Tampa, Fla. (10.6%); Miami (12.7%); Denver (12.8%); and San Antonio (13.7%).

Seattle has the highest share of women-owned businesses, at 39.8%. It was followed behind by Phoenix (38.4%); Portland, Ore. (37.3%); Miami (36.2%) and Riverside, Calif. (35.4%). Across all 50 metros we studied, we found an average of just 31.2% of businesses are owned by women.

More women in management occupations may bode well for gender wage gaps.
Generally speaking, we found a metro’s earnings gap was narrower in metros with a relatively high number of women in management occupations. A good example of this phenomenon can be seen in our number one ranked city, Washington, D.C. We found 43.6% of managers in Washington are women, ranking it No. 1 in that category. And it scored the 10th lowest wage gap out of the 50 metros analyzed. Likewise, Sacramento (ranked No. 3 overall) had the 3rd highest proportion of women who are in management occupations, and the 7th lowest earnings gap, we found. Denver bucks the trend, however. It was among the worst ranking cities for women in management occupations (39 out of 50), but had the 4th smallest gender wage gap.

More than half of the states had no parental or pregnancy protections in place. We scored features like whether or not there was a law in place, the length of coverage the law allowed, if the law was limited by the size of the employer and if women had to jump through hoops like bring a doctor’s note to gain access to pregnancy protections. In addition to the four states that currently offer workers paid family leave, both Washington state and the District of Columbia enacted paid parental leave coverage in 2017, which will go into effect in 2020. Washington, D.C., will provide eight weeks of parental coverage and Washington state will offer 12, with up to an additional six weeks for a serious maternal health condition. New York state will also increase the length of their paid leave from the current eight weeks now, to 10 weeks in 2019, and 12 weeks in 2021.

California has the best parental and pregnancy protections. After evaluating all 50 largest metro areas, none of them scored a perfect 100, but California scored the highest at 57.

Download the complete findings here.

The 10 best U.S. metros for working women

(All metros were given a score out of 100)

1 — Washington, D.C.

Score: 72.8

The nation’s capital earned the top spot in the Best Cities for Working Women ranking, with a final score of 72.8. The capital ranks first out of all 50 cities when it comes to the percentage of managers who are women, with 43.6% of its management occupations filled by women.

What the Federal City does well

Overall, women earn about 15.4% less than men on the dollar, making the Federal City the 10th best in our wage gap rankings.

Health care for women in D.C. is comparatively better than in the majority of other major U.S. cities, too. Nearly seven in 10 women have employer-based health insurance — placing it 5th in that category overall — and the metro’s pregnancy and parental workplace protections earned it a score of 30. Overall, D.C. ranks 10th in pregnancy and parental workplace protections.

The district ranked 3rd in earnings for child care when compared with the other metro areas, as it takes one-fifth of a woman’s median earnings to cover day care costs.

D.C. ranks 24th overall in percentage of women who are unemployed. The Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey reports a 4.9% unemployment rate for women in the District of Columbia, significantly lower than the national 2016 rate for all U.S. women, 6.7%.

Where D.C. could use some improvement

Those strong characteristics make D.C. the best city overall for the working woman, but the city has a shortfall. D.C. lands in the middle of the rankings in women-owned businesses at No. 24. Women own about 32.4% of businesses in the nation’s capital.

2 — Minneapolis

Score: 66.4

With an overall score of 66.4, the larger of the twin cities, Minneapolis, is the second-best metro area in the nation for working women.

What Minneapolis does well

The city’s health care climate for women and its unemployment rate helped pushed it to the top of our rankings. It also benefited from the fact that the state of Minnesota has a high rate of women legislators. Nearly one-third (32.8%) of state legislators are women.

Good news for the working woman who considers having children one day: Minneapolis placed 11th overall based on state legislation in place for parental and pregnancy protection. Falling just behind D.C., it earned a parental and pregnancy workplace protection score of 29. If a woman has a day care-aged child, it would take about 23.1% of her median earnings to pay for day care in Minneapolis (No. 29).

The Mill City also has the lowest unemployment figures for women. With 2.9% of women unemployed, Minneapolis ties with Buffalo, N.Y., for lowest unemployment among all cities in the analysis.

Where Minneapolis could use some improvement

The City of Lakes generally ranks in the middle for women in business leadership, as 31.5% of women own businesses (No. 28) and 40.8% of its managers are women (No. 17). Possibly a reflection of fewer women in leadership, Minneapolis has a 19.7% gender wage gap, placing it 31st out of the 50 metro areas in that particular category.

3 — Sacramento, Calif.

Score: 66.2

California currently has the best coverage laws for mothers and pregnant women, boosting the Sacramento, Calif., metro area up on our list to No. 3 overall.

What Sacramento does well

The city’s parental and pregnancy workplace protections earned it a score of 57 according to MagnifyMoney’s index, the best of all cities in the data set. No state had a program that scored a perfect 100. The city falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to day care costs. Women in Sacramento would need to spend about 22.2% of their median earnings to put children in day care so they can get to work.

The City of Trees ranked third in the percentage of managers who are women (43.4%) and 11th overall in the percentage of women-owned businesses. Generally on track with people in management occupations, the median earnings gender wage gap in Sacramento is 14.6%.

The unemployment rate for women in Sacramento is 5.7%, according to 2016 five-year ACS estimates. That’s an entire point lower than the nation’s 6.7% unemployment rate for women.

Where Sacramento could use some improvement

Sacramento lands in the middle of the index — No. 24 — in its rate of women legislators, 22.5% of whom are women.

The city landed on the lower end of the spectrum for the percentage of women with employer-provided health insurance. About 61.4% of women in Sacramento obtain health insurance through their workplace (No. 34), which is slightly less than the group average of 63.1%.

4 — Denver

Score: 65.8

What Denver does well

The city boasts the 4th lowest gender wage gap at 12.8%. That’s significantly lower than not just the national average (20.4%) but across the 50 metros we analyzed (19%).

Nearly 40% of state legislators in Colorado are women, helping boost Denver to No. 2 in that category. Denver ranks 10th for women-owned businesses, as about 35% of businesses are owned by women.

The unemployment rate for women in Denver is a low 3.6%, according to 2016 five-year ACS estimates, placing it third in the category’s rankings. The city lands in the center of the category’s rankings (24th out of 50) for the percentage of women with employer-based health insurance. Just under two-thirds (64.7%) of women in Denver have health insurance through an employer.

Denver isn’t a bad city for a working woman with children, compared with other metro areas in our data set. The city ranks 12th on our scale for parental and pregnancy protections.

Where Denver could use some improvement

On the flip side, 39% of managers in Denver are women, pushing it to 39th place in that category. Ironically, since wage gaps tend to narrow with a rise in women in management occupations, Denver has one of the lowest wage gaps. It ranks 37th when it comes to how much of a woman’s median earnings is required to afford day care at 24.4%.

5 — San Francisco, Calif.

Score: 62.6

What San Fran does well

As noted earlier when we discussed Sacramento, California is the best state for parental and pregnancy workplace protections. The state scored a 57 in that category — the highest among all metros in our analysis — out of a possible 100.

San Francisco benefited from that high score, ranking 12th in the rate of the city’s businesses owned by women (34.3%) and 8th in the percentage of managers who are women (41.8%).

San Francisco also has a relatively low unemployment rate for women compared with the other metros in the analysis, at 4.4%, landing it 12th place in that category.

Where San Fran could use improvement

Once children are of day care age, it would take about 25.1% of a woman’s median salary to afford day care in the metro area. That’s considerably higher than the 50-metro average of 23%.

San Francisco may be among the top 10 when it comes to having women in management occupations, but that doesn’t translate into a narrower median earnings gender gap. The wage gap is in the middle of our pack in the analysis, landing it 21st out of 50 metro areas. Women in the area earn about 18.7% less than men, worse than the national wage gap of 20.4%.

6 — Seattle

Score: 62.1

What the Emerald City does well

Seattle is home the highest percentage of businesses owned by women of all the cities in our data set. Close to 40% of businesses in Seattle are equally or fully owned by women. Additionally, only 4.2% of women in Seattle are unemployed, placing it 8th among all metros in the category’s rankings.

The metro also benefits from Washington state’s comparatively high rate of women legislators — 37.4% — which is good enough to place it third overall in the category.

What could use improvement

The city ranks 19th for women in management with 40.7% of women in management occupations, and has one of the highest gender wage gaps in our analysis (ranked 44th) at 23.6%.

About 67% of women in Seattle get health insurance through an employer (15th overall). The city scored 18 in parental and pregnancy workplace protection, placing it in 16th place in the category overall. It takes nearly a quarter (24.8%) of women’s median earnings to pay for day care in Seattle, 38th in the category’s rankings.

7 — Baltimore

Score: 60.8

What Baltimore does well

The city scored strongly in its rate of women with employer-based health insurance, the rate of women in management positions and benefits from Maryland’s relatively high rate of female state legislators.

Most working women in Baltimore — about 68.2% — are on an employer-based health insurance plan. The comparatively high percentage of women on employer-based health plans places Baltimore 8th overall in the analysis of U.S. metros.

More than 42% of managers in Baltimore are women, placing the city in 7th place overall among the cities in our analysis.

The gender wage gap in Baltimore is slightly worse than the national average but slightly better than the average gap found among the 50 metros we analyzed. Compared with the national wage gap of about 20.4%, women in Baltimore earn 18.8% less than men in the metro area. Among all 50 metros, the wage gap was 19%.

Child care is slightly more affordable. It would take about 21% of a woman’s median earnings to pay for day care in the Baltimore metro area, compared with a 50-metro average of 23%. About 32% of Maryland’s state legislators are women, helping boost the Baltimore metro area to 11th overall in that category.

What needs improvement in Charm City

However, Baltimore ranked 19th among other metros in the quality of its parental and pregnancy workplace laws on the books. The city scored a 12 in the category compared with an average of 15 across all 50 metros.

About 30.8% of businesses in Baltimore are owned by women, lower than the 50-metro average of 31.2%.

8 — Providence, R.I.

Score 58.2

What Providence does well

A good portion of management occupations in Providence are filled by women. The city is ranked fifth among the other metro areas in our analysis, with 42.8% of managers who are women. The state of Rhode Island has a good percentage of women in state legislature, which helped boost Providence’s score. It ranks 12th in the category, with about 31% of state legislators who are women.

Providence also ranks in the top 10 for its legal protections for expectant parents and those with day care-aged children. The metro was ranked 9th out of 50 metros with a score of 40 in parental and pregnancy workplace protections.

What could use improvement in Providence

Day care doesn’t come cheap. Providence has the 10th highest day care cost among metros. It costs a little more than a quarter of a woman’s median earnings to afford day care in Providence.

The metro falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to the rate of businesses owned by women. It ranked 29th place out of 50 with 30.8%, slightly lower than the metro average of 31.2%.

Providence’s gender wage gap also needs work. The metro is ranked 33rd when compared with other areas in our analysis as women earn 19.9% less than their male counterparts.

9 — St. Louis

Score: 56.6

What St. Louis does well

Almost a third of Missouri’s state lawmakers are women, pushing St. Louis to 8th place in this category, and 35.2% of businesses are owned, either fully or equally, by women, which is the 6th highest among the 50 metros. The unemployment rate for women in 2016 was also relatively low at 4.4% (12th lowest), which may have something to do with the high rate of employer-based insurance for women. St. Louis has the 10th highest rate of women with workplace insurance at about 68%.

St. Louis also does pretty well relative to other cities in day care costs, requiring 21.7% of the median earnings for women to pay the average costs. St. Louis is in middle of the pack when it comes to the number of women in management occupations (40.4%), ranking 23rd of the cities we reviewed.

Where St. Louis could use some improvements

Unfortunately, that good showing of women in leadership positions doesn’t translate to more equitable earnings for women. Median income for women was 22.5% lower than for men in 2016, and only six other metros in the data set has a larger wage gap. The state of Missouri scored a zero on our parental and pregnancy workplace protection index.

10 — Kansas City, Mo.

Score: 56.5

What Kansas City does well

The city’s ranking is largely helped by Missouri’s high rate of women in state legislature. In Missouri, nearly one in three members — 32.8% — of the state’s legislators are women.

About one-third (33.2%) of businesses in the metro area are owned by women, which is slightly better than other metros analyzed, which had an average of 31.2%.

The unemployment rate for women in Kansas City is lower compared with other metro areas in the data set. With an unemployment rate of 4.3%, the city ranks 10th in the rate of women who are unemployed.

Kansas City also has a decent rate of managers who are women. The metro area ranks 17th out of 50 for the percentage of managers who are women. About 40.8% of managers in Kansas City are women, right on par with a 40.2% average for all 50 metros.

Where Kansas City could use improvements

Kansas City is one of many cities that scored zero in parental and pregnancy workplace protections on the books in our analysis, thanks to a complete lack of state laws that provide these specific kinds of coverage.

Like in Seattle, ownership and workplace leadership do not seem to translate into higher wages for women in Kansas City, Mo.

The city ranks 43rd with a median earnings gender gap of 21.7%, higher than both the 50-metro average of 19% and national average of 20.4%.

The worst metros for working women

Ranking

Metro

Final score

50

Detroit

33.9

49

Memphis, Tenn.

34.2

48

Oklahoma City

34.3

47

Charlotte, N.C.

34.4

46

Birmingham, Ala.

35.3

45

Cleveland

38.2

44

Miami

38.9

43

Houston

39.2

42

Pittsburgh

39.5

41

Salt Lake City

39.9

Methodology:

Each of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) was ranked against each other, on a scale 100, on eight factors relevant to women’s ability to achieve financial and professional success in the workplace.

Each MSAs scaled result was derived from the following formula for each, individual factor: 1 x 100, and rounded to one decimal point).

The results for each factor were then added together, and the sum was divided by eight (rounded to one decimal point), for the highest possible score of 100 and the lowest possible score of 0. The actual highest score was 72.8 and the lowest 33.9.

The eight factors are:

  • Employment. The percent of women who are unemployed, as reported in the American Community Survey 2016 (five-year estimate) from the U.S. Census Bureau (“2016 ACS”).
  • Health care. The percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 (inclusive) who have employer-based health insurance, as reported by 2016 ACS.
  • Business ownership. Percent of businesses with employees that are owned, either wholly or equally, by women, derived from the 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Management positions. Percent of people in management occupations who are women, derived from 2016 ACS.
  • Wage gap. Gap, as a percent, between median earnings of men and women, derived from 2016 ACS.
  • Child care. The average cost of in-center child care, as a percent of median earnings for women. Day care costs were reported in “The Care Index” from New America and Care.com, and median earnings were reported by 2016 ACS.
  • Representation. The percent of elected state (or district) legislators who are women, as reported by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, Council of District of Columbia, and the Tennessee General Assembly legislator web pages. Since we’re working on the MSA level, which can cover multiple municipalities and counties, we opted to review women’s representation at the state level.
  • Workplace protections. State pregnancy and parental workplace protections were scored on the following bases. The highest possible score was 100 points and the lowest was zero. The highest actual score was 57 and the lowest actual score was zero.
    • Paid leave: the number of paid parental leave weeks covered by the state, divided by a maximum of 12 weeks, up to 50 points.
    • Pregnancy accommodation protections: each MSA was granted six points, for a possible total of 30 points, for the following:
      • the existence of such a law, 2) if the law covers both public and private employees,
      • if the covers all employers, regardless of size,
      • if the law doesn’t allow employers to require medical documentation for accommodations (three points were awarded if employers could not ask for documentation for some, but not all accommodations, such as bathroom and water breaks),
      • if the law doesn’t allow for an “undue hardship” exemption for employers (three points were awarded if the undue hardship exemption could not be applied to certain accommodations, such as bathroom and water breaks).
    • Allowable time off to attend school events: the number of hours spent at a child’s school, per year, for which a parent cannot be fired, divided by a maximum of 40 hours, up to 20 points.

For the sake of clarity, each metro name is the first city and state listed in the MSA title, which we understand to be the most populous component of each MSA. The Care Index (child care costs) refers Norfolk, Va., which we associate with the Virginia Beach MSA.

References:

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Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

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

Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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