Best of, Earning Cashback

7 Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Dining Out in 2017

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

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Getting a deal at your favorite restaurant doesn’t have to be restricted to happy hour or an early bird special. Thanks to certain credit cards rewarding restaurant spending, foodies can enjoy a good meal while cashing in on cash back anytime.

Even better, rewards earned can be redeemed for cash value so that you can enjoy your bonuses however you like- whether that’s with more restaurant spending, traveling the world, or simply paying off your every day expenses

After scouring our database of some 2,000 credit cards, here are Magnify Money’s top picks for best restaurant cash back rewards cards in 2017. 

Unlimited Cash Back 

Chase AARP Visa – 3% Cash Back
Get 3 percent cash back on all restaurant purchases with the Chase AARP Visa. While you must be 50 or over to enjoy most benefits of AARP membership, this cash back card is available to anyone who meets the credit score and qualification criteria (age not being one of them). The 3 percent cash back bonus applies to gas as well as restaurant spending, with all other purchases earning 1 percent cash back. There are no cash back limits and is no annual fee, so this card tops the list when it comes to restaurant rewards.

The information related to AARP Visa credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Sam’s Club Mastercard – 3% Cash Back

You get (almost) unlimited 3% dining cash back with the Sam’s Club Mastercard. The catch is you can earn a maximum of $5,000 in cash back rewards a year, but that’s a huge amount. You’d have to spend over $160,000 on the card in a year to hit that cap, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to worry about the maximum.

The card also earns 3% cash back on travel and 5% cash back on gas, though that’s capped on the first $6,000 in gas purchases a year. And while there’s no annual fee for the card, you do need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Costco Anywhere Visa – 3% Cash back

costcoanywhereLike the Sam’s Club card, you can get a full 3% cash back on restaurant purchases with the Costco Anywhere Visa. The card also earns 3% back on travel purchases, 2% on Costco purchases, and 4% on gas for the first $7,000 in purchases a year.

There’s no annual fee for the card, but you need to be a Costco member to hold the card, so if you don’t have a membership already, you’ll be paying extra to get this card.

Cash Back with Limits

Huntington Voice Credit Card – 3% Cash Back

You can earn 3 percent cash back, up to $2,000 every quarter, on a spending category of your choice with the Huntington Voice Credit Card. If you know you want indulge in dining out next quarter, just select “restaurants” to activate your bonus cash back. You’ll still earn 1 percent cash back on all other spending and not have to worry about an annual fee.

SimplyCash Business Credit Card from American Express – 3% Cash Back

Like the Huntington Voice card, the SimplyCash Business Credit Card allows users to choose their 3 percent cash back category. Additionally, card members get 5 percent cash back at office supply stores and wireless telephone service providers and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Bonus cash back is automatically credited to cardholder’s statements and capped at $25,000 annually. The card has no annual fee.

Santander Bravo MasterCard – 3% Cash Back

Earn 3 points (up to 15,000 points per quarter) for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on all other spending with the Santander Bravo MasterCard. Points can be redeemed for airline tickets or gift cards. 10,000 points= $100 gift card, which means cash back bonus categories are capped at $5,000 worth of spending per quarter. This card comes with an annual fee of $49.

Quarterly Cash Back

Discover it® Cashback Match(TM)  – up to 5% Cash Back

Discover it cash back credit cardIn addition to 1 percent cash back on every day spending, the Discover It card comes with quarterly 5 percent cash back bonus categories. From January until March 2017, the bonus categories are gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs. However, restaurants have been a category in the past, and it is highly likely that it could be a category in the future. You must opt in to receive the quarterly cash back bonus boost. Earned cash back can then be redeemed as a statement credit, a deposit in your bank account, shopping on Amazon or even as a gift card to a large number of retailers. This card has no annual fee.

Chase Freedom

Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. 

Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. There is a $0 annual fee. 

Nusenda Cash Rewards – 5 % Cash Back

platinum rewads card by nusendaThe New Mexico Educators Cash Rewards card is offered by Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) and provides 1 percent cash back on all purchases with no limit and 5 percent cash back on rotating categories each quarter, which includes restaurants from April to June and October to December of 2017. The bonus in rotating cash back categories is limited to $1,5000 in purchases per quarter. This card has no annual fee.

Are these deals the best for you?

Cash back rewards should only be pursued by responsible credit users who have no trouble paying off their balance on time and in full each and every month. If you’re a credit all-star who also has an affinity for dining out, these cash back cards will provide the best perks. If you carry a balance, check out our other picks for the best credit cards that can help you pay it down faster.

As always, check the fine print on each card before signing up, making special note of any fees. With those things in mind, decide which rewards structure best serves your typical spending activity and enjoy the benefit of cash back on all your restaurant spending.

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Strategies to Save

Should You Chase The Highest Savings Rates?

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

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Savings accounts aren’t meant to serve as moneymaking tools, but they are supposed to store your funds safely. According to CNN money, the average savings account returned just 0.06% APY last year, failing to keep pace with inflation and deteriorating the value of deposited savings – not exactly safe storage.

While rates have remained painfully low since the financial crisis, with many of the nations biggest banks offering returns as low as 0.01%, attractive alternatives in the form of high-yield savings accounts have grown increasingly popular – boasting far superior rates near, at or greater than 1% APY.

That’s the difference between earning $1 per year and $100 per year on a $10,000 savings balance.

If your current savings rate is hovering around the national average, searching for a better rate may be worth your while. You can calculate just how much you stand to earn using MagnifyMoney’s free savings account comparison tool. Enter your zip code and how much you have available to deposit to find the best savings options for you.

But what should you do when the great rate on your new savings account gets bested by the competition? Change accounts again and chase higher returns? As interest rates rise and fall in and among banking industry competitors, should you continually pursue the best APY or just keep your savings put?

The Case for Chasing The Best Savings Rate

A standard savings account typically comes packaged or suggested with your bank checking account. This default option doesn’t usually offer top rates, which is why shopping around and exploring the alternatives is almost always best practice when starting out.

Not only do higher yield savings options come with better returns, they tend to come with more favorable fine print as well – low account minimums, low fees, etc. When switching savings accounts, you’ll have the opportunity to not only to secure a higher rate, but choose a bank with features that best serve your lifestyle needs – easy mobile access, a vast ATM network, etc.

The more money you keep in savings, the stronger the argument for chasing top returns. For example, if you have $10,000 in savings and stand to earn $100 per year in interest, the time it takes to change accounts is minimal compared to the potential return. If you have a smaller balance of $1,000 and only stand to earn $10 per year, the hassle of additional paperwork and time spent changing money around may not be worth the additional amounts earned. 

The Case Against Chasing The Best Savings Rate

Online banking and applications make opening new accounts easier and more accessible than ever, but continually changing savings vehicles and chasing higher returns can prove more complicated than the seemingly simple ten-minute online application process.

For one, you’ll need to cancel bills and automatic transfers that pull from your current savings account and change them over to your new bank. It can take several business days to get all of your information verified and accounts appropriately connected.

You’ll also need to link your checking account to your new savings account so that you don’t end up accidentally transferring money to or from a closed account. If your savings account is at a different bank, expect transactions and transfers between checking and savings to take additional time.

You may also want to allow some extra time before closing out or liquidating old savings accounts in the event that bills or forgotten checks hit your account – have enough cash deposited to cover any additional amounts owed.

Some banks may also charge a fee for closing your account, so factor that cost into your calculations too.

In short, opening up a new savings account typically takes more than filling out a simple application – it can require a complete reconfiguration of your financial life. Should you fail to account for every transactional detail, the price of an oversight – a bounced check, an overdraft fee, etc – can easily wind up negating the potential gain of switching savings accounts in the first place.

Another consideration when chasing higher savings returns is the affect on your credit. If you’re getting a savings account bundled with other products that include a line of credit, the bank may run your credit report. This would result in a hard inquiry on your credit report and a temporary drop in your credit score.

If you’re just applying for a savings account, many banks will still pull your credit report for fraud prevention purposes. However, this usually does not count as an inquiry and therefore doesn’t hurt your credit score.

Before you avidly churn savings accounts, just be sure to read the fine print. It’s still okay to switch banks, but you want to be aware of any potential hits on your credit report and score too.

In Summary

All of that is not to say you should resign yourself to earning low interest on your savings while the alternatives continually grow and outpace your returns, but you should consider your approach thoughtfully and comprehensively, assessing potential costs and gains before making any major changes.

Be on the lookout for top rates and switch when a combination of greater returns and favorable terms and conditions make it truly worth your while – allowing for plenty of time for bills and automatic transfers to reroute to your new and improved savings account.

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College Students and Recent Grads, Life Events

Crowdfunding Your Student Loan Debt

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

Students throwing graduation hats

While the standard repayment plan for federal student loans puts borrowers on a 10-year timeline to pay off their debt, research shows a far more drawn out repayment reality – with the average bachelor’s degree holder needing 21 years to pay off his or her loans.

Meanwhile, actor/director Zach Braff, who raked in enough per episode of the hit series “Scrubs” to cover the entire cost of tuition at a four-year private college, raised two million dollars in a mere 48 hours for his passion project, “Wish I Was Here” using Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform.

College grads struggling to pay their way out of debt, deferring their own passion projects just to keep up with payments, are now turning to similar platforms. With the rate of student loan delinquencies rising to 11.3 percent in the final quarter of 2014, the number of borrowers rising 92 percent in the last ten years, and the average student loan balance up 74 percent, relief, in whatever form it takes, is welcome.

While policy makers argue over the sustainability of the current model of higher education, graduates are taking matters into their own hands, implementing new strategies to avoid default and the negative consequences that follow.

Understanding Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the practice of financing a project or cause through contributions, often small, from a large number of people. Typically, funds are raised through online platforms, giving individuals the opportunity to reach a wide audience and connect with those beyond their immediate network. While crowdfunding initially gained popularity funding entrepreneurial and artistic endeavors, offshoots have come to specialize in backing everything from charitable causes to personal goals to education.

Crowdfunding platforms specific to student loan debt are still fairly new, but the practice of asking for outside assistance in reducing personal education costs is on the rise. GoFundMe, a crowdfunding site that allows individuals to fundraise for various personal causes, reports the number of campaigns specifically mentioning “tuition”, rising 4,547 percent from 2011 to 2014.

It should be noted however, that not all crowdfunding platforms operate using the same model. Just like choosing an investment platform or a bank account, it’s important to fully understand the fine print before signing up.

Popular Crowdfunding Platforms for Student Loan Debt

Piglt, founded in 2012, is a crowdfunding platform specifically for education-related causes, be they on the front end- raising money for schooling costs – or after the fact- tackling student loan debt. At the end of a campaign, money raised goes directly to the loan servicer or educational institution.

Fees: Piglt takes a cut of 5 percent for successful campaigns and 8 percent for those that fall short of funding goals (though individuals raising money for their debt still benefit from whatever is raised, even if they fall short).

Zerobound, founded in 2012, is a crowdfunding platform for student loan debt that operates on a barter-like system. Individuals volunteer their skills and education in exchange for payment assistance from organizations and sponsors to tackle their loan balances.

Fees: In addition to the 5 percent cut Zerobound takes on successful campaigns and the 8 percent they take on those that fall short, their payment processor, Stripe, takes an additional 0.29 percent processing fee and a 0.30 fee on all transactions.

GoFundMe, founded in 2010, is a general crowdfunding site, but immensely popular in funding personal education costs. The site reports that in 2014, it hosted almost 107,000 education-related campaigns grossing more than $13 million.

Fees: GoFundMe charges a fee of 7.9 percent and 0.30 per donation.

Successfully Crowdfunding Student Loan Debt

After choosing a platform and launching a campaign, grads should be prepared to follow up with marketing and outreach efforts to build interest and circulate their campaign page beyond their immediate circles of friends and family.

Only 44 percent of all campaigns created through Kickstarter, one of the top crowdfunding sites, get fully funded. To enjoy the benefit of a successful campaign, grads can implement the following strategies.

Develop a Platform

Create an online presence beyond your campaign page. A blog, videos or hashtag associated with your fundraising efforts can draw increased interest, engaging the community and increasing your chances of getting funded.

Set a Realistic Goal

It might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re goal seems too far out of reach, people may be less inclined to contribute. Having a strong support group of core donors ready to give in the first week of the campaign can illustrate early success, breeding subsequent success.

Follow Up

Consistency is key. Track progress of the campaign and share updates often. The more reason you give people to return to your page, the more chances you get to have them contribute while they’re there.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Too long a timeline will give people an excuse to hold off on contributing, which too often results in not contributing at all. Limit your campaign to four to six weeks.

Crowdfunding for Good

Whatever your opinions on crowdfunding, it is an attractive alternative to twenty years of interest bearing student loan payments. Not only does crowdfunding student loan debt give grads the opportunity to start their careers in a better place, it gives community members a chance to give back to the causes and individuals they believe in too.

Not everyone may be on board with crowdfunding just yet, but using generosity and community support to help grads escape student debt certainly seems more practical than other gifting traditions… like bridal registries.

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College Students and Recent Grads, Life Events

The Danger in Outsourcing Your Finances

Advertiser Disclosure

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

Businessman Holding Document At Desk

Miles Teller, the 28-year-old star of the 2014 hit movie “Whiplash”, has a net worth estimated around $2 million. With two major franchise films in the works for 2015, there doesn’t appear to be any imminent threat to the young star’s cash flow. And yet, in a recent interview with Vulture, Teller admits to not having paid off his NYU student loans. His reasoning- “My business manager says the interest is so low, there’s no sense in paying them off.”

While investing in place of debt payoff may make sense when investment returns beat out interest payments, I wonder whether Teller has seen the statements verifying such returns. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a direct unsubsidized loan taken out between 2006-2013 runs at 6.8 percent interest. With the market performance of the last few years, a return greater than 6.8 percent is actually quite feasible, but is it sustainable and perhaps, more importantly- is Teller asking himself these questions?

The people we trust with our money, “business managers” or otherwise, may not necessarily have our best interests at heart. In the case of Teller, his manager may get a commission on investments, making them a more attractive option for him personally than debt pay off, regardless of the relative costs and returns for Teller.

Money managers, advisors, websites, banks, etc., all stand to benefit from the choices we make with our finances. While we’ll ultimately choose someone to store, grow and help manage our funds- never should we surrender complete control of our finances or agree to a strategy with blind trust.

How to Use and Choose a Financial Planner

Not only should you look for a financial planner whose expertise align with your unique needs and goals, you should also look into their background, know their standards of compliance and understand their fee structure.

Background Check. Verify the credentials of your advisor and check for a clean compliance background with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Standard. Ask what standard of compliance your prospective financial professional adheres to- fiduciary or suitability? Advisors under the fiduciary standard are legally bound to do what’s best for you, putting you first in their planning and selection of strategy. Planners who use the suitability standard are required to provide “suitable” financial solutions, but not necessarily those that are best.

Fee Structure. Know which fee structure your planner is using. Commission-based advisors get paid when buying or selling a stock or other form of investment on behalf of a client. These advisors may have a bias as they profit from advising you to choose particular products. Fee-based planners only make money when you pay them for their counsel- they don’t get a cut from fund companies or insurers.

Ultimately, your financial advisor should be a tool in your money management arsenal- a source of information and sounding board for insight, not the sole, unchecked manager of all your assets.

How to Choose Financial Products 

Like financial advisors, not all financial products are created equally. Take the time to shop around before handing all your valuable personal information over to any financial services company. According to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s National Survey, nearly two-thirds of all credit card holders reported that they did not compare offers to find the best rates or conditions. This kind of comparison and examination of the fine print however is essential to finding the best financial products to fulfill your needs.

Where to Compare. Marketing material, even third party websites often have a bias when recommending products as they stand to benefit from you choosing one product or service over another. Use tools like those at MagnifyMoney that aggregate information- yields, terms, costs, etc.- on various financial products without bias.

How to Read Fine Print. Neutral review sites can help distill the most important fine print points into an easily digestible format. It also helps to know what fine print you should be looking for- fees, conditions, flexibility, risks, etc.

Beef Up Your Own Knowledge 

Finally, don’t forget to foster your own financial education. By understanding the basics of financial fundamentals- credit, debt, savings, and investments- you’ll know which questions are important to ask when making financial decisions.

If you find yourself making justifications or explanations of your financial strategy along the lines of , “My business manager (or advisor or banker) says….”, it’s probably a sign that you’ve outsourced too many of your financial interests.

At the end of the day, you and you alone have the most to gain or lose from your personal finances. While seeking the help of a professional may seem like the responsible thing to do, having a basic understanding of personal finance and wealth management principles can help you better choose the people and products with your best interests at heart and oversee their performance.

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Balance Transfer, Pay Down My Debt, Reviews

Santander Bravo MasterCard Balance Transfer Review

Advertiser Disclosure

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

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Enjoy a long introductory rate of zero percent APR on balance transfers for the first 18 billing cycles with the Santander Bravo MasterCard. If you’re looking to buy some time to pay off your high interest debt, transferring the balance to the Santander Bravo MasterCard can give you an extra year and a half to pay it off without accruing interest- all for a nominal 3 percent (or $10 minimum) fee.

In addition to the attractive introductory APR, the Santander Bravo MasterCard also comes with rewards- offering 3 percent cash back on gas, groceries, and restaurants on up to $5,000 worth of qualified purchases each quarter. Unlike other rewards cards, you don’t have to keep track of rotating cash back categories to enjoy the high reward rate. With gas, grocery, and restaurant spending always earning 3 points for every $1 spent (up to the $5,000 cap), and all other purchases rewarded with 1 point per dollar spent, this card offers a convenient way to leverage your day to day spending while also paying down your existing debt.

Santander Bravo MasterCard Pros

  • Get 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers.
  • Enjoy a top rewards rate on gas, groceries, and restaurants with simple redemption and no expiration dates.
  • Sign up bonus: Get 10,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on new net retail purchases during the first 90 days of opening your account- a $100 value.
  • World MasterCard perks: travel benefits and concierge services.
  • Price protection and extended warranty coverage.

However, we don’t encourage you to be spending on your balance transfer card. It’s best to transfer the balance and then lock it away until you’ve paid down as much of the debt as possible.

Santander Bravo MasterCard Cons

  • $49 annual fee (waived for the first year).
  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent (minimum of $10).
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3 percent.
  • Caps on bonus cash back- 15,000 points per quarter.

What Do I Need To Qualify?

  • Excellent credit required.

Who Is It Best For?

The Santander Bravo MasterCard is best for those with a strong credit history looking to buy some extra time to fulfill their consumer debt obligations. While the zero percent intro APR period lasts for a full 18 months, the annual fee of $49 is only waived for the first year. If you can’t get your debt paid off before the 12-month mark, sticking with the card through the $49 fee may not be worthwhile.

Take a look at your balance and make an assessment of your estimated debt pay off timeline, the potential savings, and the potential costs. The rewards of the Santander Bravo MasterCard can provide some additional allure, but staying focused on the primary objective of reducing amounts owed can help ensure that value assessments remain objective and grounded in the ultimate goal of getting to zero balance.

[Use our debt repayment calculator.]

Looking Out for the Fine Print

  • Balance transfers must be completed within the first 90 days to benefit from the 18 month zero percent APR offer.
  • The balance transfer fee is 3 percent (or a minimum of $10).
  • After the introductory 0 percent APR period, purchases are subject to variable APR from 15.99 percent to 24.99 percent based on creditworthiness.
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99 percent.
  • There is no grace period on balance transfers, so if you take the balance transfer offer and fail to pay the balance in full by the payment due date, you will have to pay interest on new purchases from the date of purchase.
  • Cash advance APR: 24.99 percent.
  • Cash advance fee: 5 percent ($10 minimum).
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3 percent.
  • Annual fee: $49 (waived for the first year). You can continue to waive the annual fee after the first year by maintaining a Santander Select Checking account. Note that this checking account comes with its own set of fine print fees.

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How It Compares to the Competition

While 18 months to benefit from 0 percent APR is a nice long time to enjoy interest free debt payoff, the annual fee that kicks in at the 12 month mark and a balance transfer fee of 3 percent are reason alone to consider fee free alternatives to the Santander Bravo MasterCard.

Chase Slate® is MagnifyMoney’s favorite balance transfer offer. You can save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

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If you want to stay with Santander or prefer the flexibility of a longer interest free debt payoff period, consider the Santander Sphere credit card. There is no annual fee charged to benefit from the Santander Sphere’s zero percent APR on balance transfers for a lengthy 24 billing cycles.

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An introductory balance transfer offer paired with a decent rewards program is admittedly hard to come by, but when trying to buy time to get to zero balance, your focus should remain on that top priority. Don’t get stuck paying for the privilege of additional spending rewards when what you really need is to be from debt. With that objective in mind, the Santander Bravo MasterCard may not be your best option.

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Balance Transfer, Pay Down My Debt, Reviews

Citi Diamond Preferred Balance Transfer Review

Advertiser Disclosure

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

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A balance transfer is an excellent way to begin digging out of high-interest credit card debt, as long as you can use it responsibly. These deals should only be utilized if you’re going to be aggressively paying off existing debt and not charging new purchases to the card.

The Offer

The Citi Diamond Preferred balance transfer offer is 0% interest for 21 months. It comes with a balance transfer fee of 3 percent (or $ 5 minimum).

Pros

  • No Annual Fee
  • 0% APR for 21 months: The long zero percent introductory APR period paired with no annual fee is by far the biggest selling point of the Citi Diamond Preferred card. Without the power of compounding interest working against you, getting your principal debt balance down becomes much more manageable.
  • The card also comes with Citi Identity Theft Solutions, which offers protection from fraud with zero liability on any unauthorized purchases.

Cons

  • Balance Transfer Fee: But before you discount this offer due to the fee, do the math. Often times you’ll still end up saving hundreds or thousands even with a balance transfer fee.
  • Limited Rewards Program: The additional perks associated with the Citi Diamond Preferred Card are limited. The primary purpose of the card however is to utilize the promotional intro rate to save on interest, not to cash in on extras.
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: Use your Citi Diamond Preferred Card outside the US and you’ll get hit with a hefty three percent fee on every purchase.

What Do I Need to Qualify?

First, you need to be rolling your existing credit card debt from a non-Citi card. This option is not eligible for people who already have debt with a Citibank credit card.

In general, people with credit scores of 700 or higher stand the best chance of being approved for a credit card. There are other factors that go into the decision-making process, so a 700 score or higher doesn’t guarantee you a spot. However, you can check to see if you’re pre-qualified for Citi cards to minimize your chance of rejection. You can do this without affecting your credit score by going to this site.

Who is it best for?

If you’re currently carrying debt on cards with high APRs or if your introductory zero percent rate is about to expire, the Citi Diamond Preferred card can provide a solution for extended interest free debt repayment.

Looking Out for the Fine Print 

  • 3 percent fee (or $5 minimum) on balance transfers
  • Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening to benefit from intro APR promo
  • 29.99 percent penalty APR
  • Late/ Returned Payment Fee: Up the $35
  • Cash Advance Rate: Up to 25.74%
  • Cash Advance Fee: 5% ($10 minimum)

Cardholders should note that late, missed, or returned payments, even in the introductory promotional period, can result in a penalty APR of up to 29.99 percent effective immediately. In other words, one payment error can cost you to lose the promotional rate and stick you with a high APR indefinitely.

This penalty policy is not unique to the Citi Diamond Preferred card. Late and missed payments should be avoided regardless of which credit tool you utilize as the consequences are expensive and cost you the entire benefit of the introductory promotional APR you signed up for in the first place. On top of all of that, late and returned payments are subject to fees of up to $35. Pay on time and in full to avoid those high costs.

The grace period on the Citi Diamond Preferred Card is 23 days – even after the promo APR expires; that means you have 23 days to pay down your balance to avoid accruing any interest. The only exceptions to the grace period are balances transfers performed after the first four months of account opening and cash advances, which begin accruing interest from the date of the transaction. The APR for cash advances is currently 25.74 percent.

In addition to higher APR, cash advances are subject to a fee of either $10 or 5 percent of the cash advance, whichever is greater. Balance transfer fees are $5 or 3 percent of each transfer, depending on which is greater; and foreign transaction fees come in at 3 percent of each purchase transaction (in US dollars).

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How it Compares to the Competition

While a 21-month promo period is appealing, a three percent balance transfer fee on a large amount of debt can present a significant cost. If you were to roll over $10,000, you’d pay a $300 fee. Keep in mind, if you left $10,000 on a card at a 15 percent and paid $300 a month, it would cost you $3,016 in interest alone and it would take 44 months to pay off.

Put $10,000 at a balance transfer card at 0 percent for 21 months with a 3 percent fee, and you’d only pay $614 in interest and fees. The debt would be paid off in 36 months.

[Use this calculator to compare your options.]

Chase Slate® has a very popular balance transfer offer – and it is our favorite. Save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

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If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and would prefer a longer promo period, consider the Santander Sphere card. While the balance transfer fee is a higher 4 percent, the zero percent APR lasts for a full two years.

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Citi Diamond is Competitive, But Not the Best Offer

The Citi Diamond Preferred Card presents a low cost solution for those looking to pay down debt in a 21-month time frame. The rewards are limited and fees on foreign transactions and cash advances are less than ideal, but for the primary purpose of the card, paying down debt without crushing interest, the Citi Diamond Preferred card offers a good deal with a long, leisurely time frame.

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Eliminating Fees, Reviews

Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Review

Advertiser Disclosure

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

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When I initially signed onto Bank5 Connect to check out account options, I was met with a pleasant surprise. In big bold font right next to “High-Interest Checking” was a nice number- 0.76 percent APY. I figured I must’ve been reading it wrong. An interest rate of 0.76 percent seemed like an impossibly good deal. Surely there had to be a catch.

CheckingBut Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest Checking holds up to its advertisement. The only requirement is to keep a $100 balance, but no stress if you fall below that amount – with no minimum balance requirements or sneaky fees, Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking is a safe bet.

Like other online only banks Bank5 Connect doesn’t have to shoulder the expense of pricey real estate, live teller salaries, and other brick and mortar banking expenses – which means more savings and perks passed on to you, the user.

You can open a High-Interest Checking account through the Bank5 Connect website or by calling the customer service number, 1-855-522-2655. The minimum opening deposit requirement is just $10 and can be funded through an online transfer from an external checking account, direct deposit, mobile deposit, check, or credit card.

Pros

Though you need $10 to open account you will not be penalized if your balance falls below. Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest Checking is among the top fee-free accounts.

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No fees at domestic SUM Network ATMs
  • Reimbursement up to $15 for out of network ATM fees
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No early closure fee
  • Free first order of checks
  • Free cashiers checks
  • Free incoming wires

The account also comes with a debit card with a sweet perk of its own- a debit rewards program. Earn 1 point for every $2 spent using Bank5’s UChoose debit card and redeem points for various items online- vacation packages, gift cards, electronics, etc. The daily purchase limit on the card is $1,000.

Finally, the Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking account comes with all the staples of online banking convenience- online bill pay, e-statements, e-check deposit, mobile banking, and quick person-to-person payment options.

Bank5 Connect also earned an “A” Transparency Score for creating a simple product with partial ATM reimbursement, disclosure of fees, no minimum requirements and real overdraft protection.

Cons

While you can avoid ATM charges by using your UChoose debit card at any ATM within the SUM Network, you are responsible for fees charged by ATMs outside that network should you exceed the $15 monthly fee reimbursement allowance. The bonus reimbursement ATM coverage is also limited to domestic ATMs. Travel internationally and you’ll be on the hook for all fees.

In addition to checking, Bank5 Connect offers a savings account that can be linked for free overdraft protection. If you find yourself in a position of non-sufficient funds however, you’ll be responsible for the $15 overdraft fee.

High interest and low fees make Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest checking account a top option. Thanks to those features, it is consistently ranked among the best accounts. But further research into the customer experience suggests reason for concern.

Despite an absence of physical branches, many online only banks have exceptionally high rated customer service. I had a hard time finding similarly complimentary reviews of Bank5 Connect, so I called in to customer service to check it out for myself.

While the wait time was minimal, my representative wasn’t particularly well informed. She had a hard time recounting some of the most basic account features I had been reading about online. Her responses to my questions were so dubious and unsure that I actually called back later with the hope of being connected to a more authoritative source. My second representative proved a better experience, but I can still see why Bank5 Connect might not be winning a people’s choice award winner any time soon.

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Bank5 Connect High Yield Checking vs. Simple

Though the interest rate on Bank5 Connect’s High Yield Checking Account blows Simple’s out of the water (with Simple coming in at a weak 0.01 percent), Simple has the top-notch money management tools and excellent customer service representatives noticeably absent at Bank5 Connect. Where Simple provides a user-friendly experience, Bank5 Connect provides yield. Both options are first-rate on the debatably most important checking account features though- freedom from fees and transparency.

Bank5 Connect High Yield Checking vs. Ally Bank Checking

Ally Bank is another online only option boasting low fees. Interest rates on checking start at 0.10 percent, an improvement from those at Simple but a far cry from those at Bank5 Connect. For users with a balance greater than $15,000, the rate jumps to 0.60 percent, but that’s a pretty major requirement considering the small $100 balance required at Bank5 Connect.

Ally customer service is also well rated. Though Ally’s money management tools are not as comprehensive as Simple’s, for basic checking account needs, Ally is consistently a top contender in ratings and customer reviews.

Should You Use Bank5 Connect High Yield Checking?

A minimal fee structure paired with shockingly high interest makes Bank5 Connect High Yield Checking an option worth considering, but I would recommend taking customer service for a test run before singing up. Even when you bank online, you need to feel secure in where and with whom you leave your money.

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Building Credit, Pay Down My Debt

Handling Your Credit Score After Divorce

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

Divorce Decree

Divorce can wreak havoc on your life both emotionally and financially. To move forward in a position of power, start with a focus on credit. A good credit score is an essential tool for rebuilding your independence, financial and otherwise. A strong history of responsible credit use will make the process of moving on easier when it comes time to purchasing a new home or submitting a rental application or applying for new insurance.

Unfortunately, divorce often leaves individual credit in a sorry state. For example, if your ex was responsible for paying your joint bills and made a habit of missing payments or submitting them past due, you too will be a victim of the credit consequences. If you never had your own credit accounts or were not listed on joint accounts, you could also be in a bind with no credit history to qualify for future credit independently of your spouse.

Take Inventory 

Regardless of where you think you stand credit-wise, pull a copy of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) at www.annualcreditreport.com. By federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of each report on an annual basis. Carefully review all information on each report for accuracy. If you spot any mistakes, fill out the dispute form for the appropriate credit bureau to have them corrected ASAP. Follow up until all errors have been resolved.

Regularly keeping tabs on your credit score can be helpful. We keep an extensive list of places to find your credit score for free. Once you have a clear picture of your credit laid out in front of you, you can begin the process of moving forward.

Make a Plan For Joint Debts

Both parties are liable for total amounts of debt on all joint accounts. Work with your ex to decide on how those debts will be handled. If you are struggling to come to a resolution, call the issuer and put a freeze on the account until you agree on who owes what. Keep making minimum payments though so your score doesn’t suffer.

Refinance, balance transfers, and consolidation are all options for restructuring your debts so they end up in the proper person’s name. In the meantime, keep those minimum payments going. Even if the judge declared your spouse responsible, as long as you’re still listed on the account, missed payments can adversely affect your credit.

While you undoubtedly want to break free of your former spouse entirely, old credit accounts in good standing actually help your credit score. Closing a joint account could wipe out a whole lot of valuable credit history. Call the bank and see if they’ll let you change from a joint account to an individual account. The bank may not go for it, but it’s certainly worth asking. If it’s a no go, go ahead and close those joint accounts so that you don’t become liable for any new debt your former spouse racks up post-divorce. If you fail to separate yourself financially, your ex’s actions – or non-actions – can continue affecting your credit score long after the divorce papers are finalized. 

Build Your Own Credit

Open up new accounts in your name and get a credit card that belongs to you and you alone. If you don’t have much credit history or your score is in a sad state, you may have difficulty qualifying for traditional, unsecured credit. In which case, you can work to build up your credit history with a secured credit card.

A secured credit card is easier to get because a cash deposit you put down serves as collateral. Typically, the deposit you put down is the amount the lender gives you as a credit limit. Make sure to choose a secured card that reports your activity to the credit bureaus so you get credit for all your use.

Prove your credit worthiness by using your secured credit card responsibly – making all payments on time and in full. While secured credit cards are useful tools in building and rebuilding credit, they can come with fees. The sooner you can rebuild and switch to a regular, unsecured credit card, the better.

[Check out secured cards options here.]

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Reassess Your Financial Reality

Paying your bills on time and in full is the most important part of rebuilding your credit history. In order to do that successfully, you’ll need to keep your expenses low enough and your income high enough to meet your monthly financial needs.

Another factor that influences to your credit is utilization ratio. Try not to rack up a balance of more than 30 percent of your total available credit. This will help in boosting your score while maintaining clear parameters on your spending.

Be honest with yourself about your financial realities post-divorce and scale your budget to live within your new means. Only use your card to buy what you would be willing to pay for an item in cash.

Adjusting to your post-divorce means as you rebuild your credit will allow you to build a new independent life that is sustainable, happy, and thriving.

You don’t have to deal with debt alone. Download our free guide and set up a FREE consultation call.

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Life Events, Strategies to Save

How to Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes as a Freelancer

Advertiser Disclosure

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

Tax return check

Transitioning to self-employment and a full-time freelance workload has been liberating. No more rushed mornings or pushing through crowds on the AM commute. I leisurely roll out of bed, brew my coffee, and sit down at my desk- slowly waking up as I browse through the top stories of the day.

As much as I love the perks of working on my own terms, self-employment doesn’t come without its own set of headaches. Not only am I responsible for the projects I’ve been hired to complete, I’m also my own support system – marketing, HR, and accounting all rolled into one. That means keeping track of folders full of contracts, updating spreadsheets with invoices and payments, and of course, taking care of my own tax liability.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor

Employees have the luxury of having their taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks. As sad as it is to see $1,000 gross dwindle down to around $700 in take home pay, at least it’s done. As long as all of your income comes from W2 work, you’re pretty much free from having to stress over your taxes – beyond filing your return each year.

As an independent contractor or someone who is self-employed however, you don’t have the luxury of that same kind of hands-off, once a year approach. As great as it is to bill someone for a $1,000 and actually get the full $1,000, it’s kind of a tease. You’re still responsible for paying taxes on that income, but you’re the one who has to set it aside and make the requisite contributions. This is what’s called Estimated Taxes, and it is due each quarter.

Do You Owe Estimated Taxes?

Even if you get paid a consistent, regular income, if you are not an employee (and if you didn’t fill out a W-4, you’re probably not), you must take responsibility for your own tax payments. If you’re working under a 1099-MISC, if you get cash from one-time gigs like babysitting, if you side hustle online, if you get prize money from a game show, if you receive investment gains- pretty much any income that doesn’t already have taxes taken out becomes part of your quarterly estimated tax responsibility.

If you owe more than $1,000 and fail to file quarterly, the IRS can hit you with penalties and interest. Waiting to cover your annual tax liability in one lump sum can also present other challenges, like not having enough to cover your total amount owed. Know what your quarterly responsibilities are and stay on top of them to avoid a real IRS headache.

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Quarterly Tax Deadlines 

For income received January 1st through March 31st, estimated tax is due April 15th.

For income received April 1st through May 31st, estimated tax is due June 15th.

For income received June 1st through August 31st, estimated tax is due September 15th.

For income received September 1st through December 31st, estimated tax is due January 15th.

How Much Should You Pay?

Calculating your quarterly estimated taxes means figuring out your expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, deductions, and credits for the year. The more organized you are, the easier this will be. Keeping separate spreadsheets, even separate accounts and credit cards for all business and freelance income and expenses can simplify the process when it comes time to file.

Form 1040-ES. The Form 1040-ES, used to pay estimated taxes, can also help in calculating your quarterly estimated payments. The form includes a worksheet to give you a clear picture of how much you owe.

Use Historical Reference Points. If you’ve been running your own business for a while, you can also reference your tax returns from previous years to estimate projected income and deductions for the current year and your respective tax liability.

What Forms Do You Need?

Unfortunately, paying your quarterly estimated taxes isn’t as simple as a few clicks on Venmo or a swipe of your credit card. You’ll need to send in a Form 1040-ES, which includes quarterly payment vouchers to accompany your payment. In addition to estimated federal taxes, you’ll also need to pay your quarterly estimated state income taxes, getting the appropriate forms from your states’ tax office. 

Storing Your Temporary Savings

Once you get a handle on the basics- filing deadlines, forms needed, and organizational systems to help you streamline the process – the biggest challenge in self – employment taxes becomes separating and saving your quarterly payments.

It’s far too easy to dip into what should be your designated tax payment if you leave all your earnings sitting in a checking account. Set up a system of transferring a portion of each paycheck into a high yield, no fee savings account. That way the money is accessible when you need it come quarterly tax time, but not so accessible that you spend it all before fulfilling your tax liability.

Check out MagnifyMoney’s savings account comparison tool to find an account with solid returns and low/no fees, maximizing your money for every penny it’s worth before turning over whatever you owe to Uncle Sam.

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