Tag: CREDIT CARDS

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – March 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.

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3 to 4% fee just to make a transfer, and that can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

ChaseSlateScreenThis deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. 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.

You can get this offer if you complete the balance transfer within 60 days of opening the account. So it’s worth a shot to see how big of a credit line you get. If it’s not enough, move on to the other options below.

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2. Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

This card is available if you have excellent credit. Be aware that you have 45 days to complete this transfer after opening the account.

You can also nominate and vote on charity partners to donate card profits each year and there are no foreign transaction fees if you use the card abroad.

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Tip: The remaining no fee cards on this list are deals for 12 months or less. You might be better off paying a standard 3% fee for a longer deal, like 0% for 18 months from the Discover It, one of the better deals with a fee of 3% or less.

3. Alliant Credit Union Credit Cards – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Alliant is an easy credit union to work with because you don’t have to be a Alliant Visa Platinum Credit Cardsmember to apply and find out if you qualify for the 0% APR deal.

Just choose ‘not a member’ when you apply and if you are approved you’ll then be able to become a member of the credit union to finish opening your account.

Alliant Credit Union

Anyone can become a member of Alliant by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If your credit isn’t great, you might not get a 0% rate – rates for transfers are as high as 5.99%, so make sure you double check the rate you receive before opening the account, and they might ask for additional documents like your pay stubs to verify the information on your application.

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4. Edward Jones World MasterCard – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

edwardjonesYou’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs.

But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 30 days to complete your transfer to lock in the 0% rate. This deal expires 5/5/2017.

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5. First Tech Choice Rewards – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

firsttechrewardsAnyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. This introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers with no fee deal is for the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard, and you also get 10,000 points after you spend $2,000 on the card in your first 3 months. The points don’t expire as long as you have the card, and 6,000 points is enough for $50 cash back, while 11,000 points is enough for $100 cash back, which can help you pay down your card.

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6. La Capitol Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

La Capitol Federal Credit UnionAnyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Prime Plus card.

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7. Quorum Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Quorum Federal Credit UnionQuorum is a New York based credit union anyone can join by joining the Select Savers Club during the application process – just choose ”I would like to join through an association” on the application page. All of Quorum’s credit cards offer the 0% for 12 months with no fee deal.

Just be aware the 12 months starts from when your account opens, not when you make the transfer, so if you wait a month to do the transfer, you’ll only get the zero deal for 11 months.

And the 0% deal isn’t prominent on the Quorum site, you’ll see it buried in the fine print. Look for the sentence “The introductory purchase and balance transfer APR is 0% for 12 months from account opening and applies to ALL Quorum MasterCard credit cards” at the very bottom of their page.

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8. Purdue Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

purdue-credit-union-visaThe Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University. Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The minimum credit line on the Visa Signature card offering 0% is $5,000, so if approved the $50 would be like a transfer fee of 1% or less. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

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9. Fort Knox Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

This deal is only good for transfers made before March 31, 2017, so make sure you apply for the card with enough time to be able to get the transfer done. The offer is available on all Fort Knox Visa cards, except the student card. This includes the ‘Classic’ Visa which may be available to you with less than perfect credit, though limits on that card are $5,000 or less.

Anyone can join Fort Knox Federal Credit by joining the American Consumer Council for $5. Click on ‘balance transfer’ after you follow the link below to see the details.

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10. Logix Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months , NO FEE

If you live in AZ, CA, DC, MA, MD, ME, NH, NV, or VA you can join Logix Credit Union and apply for this deal. Some applicants have reported credit lines of $15,000 or more for balance transfers, so if you have excellent credit, good income, but a large amount to pay off (like a home equity line), this could be a good option.

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11. First Tennessee Bank Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

If you want to apply online for this deal, you’ll need to live in a state where First Tennessee Bank Credit CardFirst Tennessee has a branch though. Those states are: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

You need to have an existing First Tennessee account to apply online, but if you don’t have one, you can print out an application and mail it into their office to get a decision. You’ll find a link to the paper application when the online form asks you whether you have an account or not.

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12. Andigo Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Andigo Visa Platinum, Platinum Rewards, or Platinum Cash Back. The Platinum without rewards has a lower ongoing APR, starting as low as 10.15%, compared to 12.15% for the Platinum Rewards card, so if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months the Platinum without rewards is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

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13. Aspire Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You don’t have to be a member to apply and get a decision from Aspire. Once youAspire Credit Union Credit Card do, Aspire is easy to join – just check that you want to join the American Consumer Council (free) while filling out your membership application online.

Make sure you apply for the regular ‘Platinum’ card, and not the ‘Platinum Rewards’ card, which doesn’t offer the introductory deal. Aspire says people with fair credit can apply for its card.

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14. Elements Financial Credit Card – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Elements Financial Credit CardTo become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process.

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15. Justice Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Justice Federal Credit UnionIf you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that its Student credit card is also eligible for the 0% no fee deal, so if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option.

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16. Xcel Platinum Visa – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Xcel Platinum Visa credit cardAnyone can join Xcel by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council, and you can apply for the card as a non-member of the credit union, but not everyone who is approved for the card will get the low intro rate. Xcel advises you contact them to get as sense of whether your income, credit history, and employment history will qualify for the intro rate.

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Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase Freedom with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.

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Credit Cards

Review: PenFed Launches 1.5% – 2% Power Cash Rewards Credit Card

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.

PenFed, a credit union that anyone can join (more on that later) has just introduced a new cash back rewards credit card. The card pays a high, flat cash back rate and brings a credit union approach to fees (low and not many of them) and simplicity. Here are the details on the cash back that you can earn:

  • Anyone with military service earns 2% cash back on all spending, with no limits or restrictions. That is the highest flat cash back rate in the market.
  • Anyone with a PenFed checking account (restrictions apply) earns 2% cash back on all spending, with no limits or restrictions. (If you keep $500 in the checking account, there is no fee and you earn 0.20% APY on the money).
  • If you do not have military service or a checking account, you can earn 1.5% unlimited cash back. At 1.5%, the card matches Chase Freedom Unlimited or Capital One Quicksilver, but it is still beat by Citibank’s Double Cash.
  • There is a minimum redemption amount of $5 for the cash back that you have earned.
  • There is a bonus offer: get $100 of cash if you spend $1,500 during the first 90 days.

In addition to the cash back, here are some additional features:

  • Chip with pin functionality: if you travel overseas, you might find chip + signature limiting. For example, trying to use a card with only signature functionality at kiosks across Europe (like the London Underground) can be challenging.
  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
  • Variable APR range of 9.24% – 17.99%. If you have excellent credit, the lowest APR at Citi (on the Double Cash product) is 13.49%. For people who revolve occasionally, this could be a better option. (Although our advice remains to pay your balance in full and on time. If you need to borrow money, personal loans and balance transfers remain cheaper options).

Our Verdict

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Military: 2% is the gold standard for a flat rate cash back credit card, and PenFed delivers for men and women who have served. This is better than any competing flat-rate cash back credit cards because of the lower APR and lack of foreign transaction fees.

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Spending Abroad: If you use Citi Double Cash, you would be hit with a foreign transaction fee of 3%. So, you would earn 2% but be forced to pay 3% in fees. Before this card, Capital One Quicksilver was our top choice because of a 1.5% earn rate and no foreign transaction fees. PenFed’s card now wins because (a) if you put $500 into a PenFed checking account you can earn 2% on this card, and (b) the card offers chip and pin functionality. If you spend $1,000 overseas this year, you would pay $10 to Citi, (2% cash back – 3% fees = -1%), would earn $15 with Capital One and would earn $20 with PenFed.

Tie: Best Flat-Rate Cash Back Credit Card: With both Citi Double Cash and PenFed you can earn up to 2%. Each card has its own unique differences, which is why they are tied for best flat-rate card in the market.

  • PenFed: You need to join the credit union, open a checking account and fund the account with $500 (or sign up for direct deposit) to ensure you get the full 2% and avoid fees. Financially it will make sense, but there are a number of obstacles to get the full rewards (unless you are military).
  • Citi Double Cash: It is easy to apply and get the card (no credit union membership or Citi checking account required). However, the card is actually 1% as you earn and 1% as you pay, so it takes longer to get the full 2%. The interest rates are higher and there is a foreign transaction fee.

There are still options to earn higher cash back rates in certain categories. You can find the best cash back credit cards by every category here. For example, you can earn 5% unlimited on gas with Fort Knox Credit Union or 6% (with limitations) on groceries at American Express.

If you want to learn more or apply, you can visit PenFed’s website.

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Requirements To Earn 2%

Here are the details on how to ensure you get the full 2% earn rate:

Military: You are eligible to earn 2% if the primary or joint applicant is in military service, the National Guard, the Reserves, an honorary discharged veteran or retired from the United States military. Military members receive the 2% upon completion of the application – no further action is required.

Checking Account: If you do not meet the military requirements, you would need to open a checking account with PenFed. The account is called the “AccessAmerica Checking Account.” There are some decent benefits to the account (you can earn 0.20% APY interest on balances up to $20,000 and 0.50% APY on balances between $20,000 and $50,000). If you shift your monthly direct deposit of at least $500 to this account, you will not have a monthly fee. However, if you do not want to shift your direct deposit, you can deposit $500 and keep it there to meet the required minimum balance. This is actually the easiest way to earn the 2%, cash back rate and, given the 0.20% interest on the checking account, it can be financially worthwhile.

Join the Credit Union: There are multiple ways to join the credit union. If you are active or retired military, you are eligible to join for free. If you work for the US government or are a relative of a member, you can also join for free. But don’t worry if you are unable to meet those requirements. You might belong to an eligible organization (check here). You can also join an organization to become eligible for credit union membership. You can pay $17.00 (one time and non-refundable) to join Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association. By supporting a good cause, you become eligible for credit union membership. In addition to the credit card, PenFed is known for low rates on auto loans and mortgages.

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Balance Transfer

Chase Slate® Review: Is this Legit? An Introductory $0 Fee Balance Transfer?

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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.

Chase Slate Review

Updated January 13, 2017

Chase slateDo you have credit card debt that you can’t afford to pay off? Do you feel depressed watching all of your payment going towards interest? Are you afraid that you will be in debt for the next 30 years? Don’t just sit at home and worry: take action by transferring your debt from a high interest rate to a low interest rate with a balance transfer.

Chase Slate® has a very popular introductory 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.

The savings can be astonishingly high, and you can take years off your debt repayment. But some people worry that the offer is too good to be true. So long as you do the following 3 things, it really is a free balance transfer:

  1. Complete the balance transfer within 60 days of opening the account. Otherwise, you lose the offer and standard balance transfer fees and rates would apply.
  2. Always pay on time. If you are just one day late, you will be charged a hefty late fee. And, if you are 60 days late, you will lose the promotional interest rate.
  3. Only transfer debt from another bank. You can not use this offer to transfer debt from another Chase credit card – and that includes co-brands (like United Airlines and Southwest Airlines credit cards).

The application process is easy, and will only take a few minutes.

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The interest rates on credit cards are shockingly high, especially those store credit cards that you were tempted with during holiday shopping. Most store cards have interest rates higher than 20%, and here are some examples of particularly expensive cards:

  • Macy’s: 24.5%
  • Wal-Mart: 22.9%
  • Target: 22.9%

Store cards are obscenely expensive, but ordinary credit cards also carry a hefty interest rate. Most people who have a balance on a credit card are paying more than 15% on that debt.

If you wake up one morning with a debt hangover, you shouldn’t think of your high interest rate as a life sentence. Your debt does not need to stay on that high interest rate credit card: you can move it to a lower interest rate with an intro balance transfer. And, one of the best balance transfer credit cards out there is the Chase Slate®.

In this article, we will explain:

  • What is a balance transfer
  • How to qualify for a balance transfer credit card
  • Why Chase Slate® is an almost-perfect introductory balance transfer
  • How to complete a balance transfer with Chase
  • What to do once the balance transfer is complete

If you have any questions about this card, you can always send us an email at info@magnifymoney.com, and we would be happy to help answer any questions you might have. We always respond to emails within 24 hours, and are usually quicker than that.

What is a Balance Transfer

You have probably received many of these offers in your mail: a credit card company offers you a 0% interest rate if you transfer your existing credit card debt from another credit card company to the one offering the 0% deal.

A balance transfer is exactly what it sounds like: you can transfer your debt from Bank A to Bank B. Bank B wants your business, so they will “steal” your debt from their competition by offering a great interest rate for a fixed period of time (the promotional period). Often, a bank will charge a fee for the balance transfer. Given how high interest rates are on store cards and credit cards, the fee usually pays for itself within 3-6 months. If you can pay off your debt in fewer than 6 months, a balance transfer is not worthwhile. However, if it will take you longer than 6 months, you will almost always save money.

Banks want to steal your business from other banks: that is why the offers are only available for debt with another credit card issuer. For example, Chase is happy to take over debt from Citibank, Wells Fargo or Target. But, if you just want to transfer debt from one Chase credit card to another, you will be rejected.

Just think of cable/internet/telephone companies. They regularly give you amazing deals for the first year if you sign up for a bundle. After the year is over, the rate goes up. This is exactly the same idea: banks are competing for your debt.

How to Qualify for a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Banks will only offer balance transfers to people with good or excellent credit. That typically means that you will require:

  • A credit score of 680 or higher (700 preferred)
  • A debt burden (explained below) of less than 50% (40% or lower preferred)
  • Very few, if any, accounts that are currently delinquent

A debt burden is calculated by adding up your monthly fixed expenses and dividing that by your monthly income. The expenses should include: monthly rent or mortgage payment, auto payment, student loan payments and the monthly payment on any other credit cards or loans that appear on your credit bureau.

If your total payments are more than 50%, you will likely be declined. If it is less than 50%, you have a chance. However, banks typically want to see debt burdens below 40% (and you will likely get approved at higher debt burdens only if you have a very high credit score).

Banks do not share their underwriting criteria: instead, they keep them as carefully guarded secrets. Life would be a lot easier if they just told us what they wanted! However, at MagnifyMoney, we have done our best to reverse-engineer the underwriting criteria. If you meet the criteria above but are rejected, please let us know!

If you don’t qualify for a balance transfer, you may want to consider a personal loan. The concept is the same: you can take out a loan and use the proceeds to pay off existing credit card debt. But, unlike the credit card balance transfer market, personal loan companies tend to approve much riskier people. Just make sure the interest rate on your new loan is lower than the interest rate on your credit card before proceeding.

If you want to compare the cost of a balance transfer to the cost of a personal loan, you can do that with our balance transfer and personal loan calculator.

Customize your balance transfer offers with Magnifymoney tool

Why Chase Slate® is Almost Perfect

There are two key features of a balance transfer: the balance transfer fee (charged as a percent of the balance that is transferred, and added to your bill upon completion of the transfer), and the duration of the balance transfer (number of months at the promotional rate).

Chase does not charge a balance transfer fee for the intro offer. It is absolutely free to move your debt from another credit card issuer to Chase and it’s 0% intro APR for 15 months.

So, if you move your debt from your store card and pay it off by month 15, you will not pay a dime to Chase. It will have been completely free. If you do have a balance remaining at the end of the 15 month promotional period, you will not be charged interest retroactively. In other words, the interest that would have been charged during the 15 month promotional period has been waived completely. From month 16, interest would be charged on a go forward basis.

The balance transfer offer is almost perfect. Just be careful of the following:

  • You can only transfer debt from a bank other than Chase. That includes Chase co-branded credit cards, like United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Marriott and others. Because Chase is the #1 credit card issuer in the country, it is possible that some or all of your debt is already with Chase.
  • The go-to interest rate (after month 15) will depend upon your credit score. It will be 15.49% – 24.24% Variable.

Chase has invested in one of the best introductory balance transfer offers out there. If you use the intro offer responsibly, you can have no interest and fees for 15 months. You should take advantage of the offer and reduce your debt as much as possible.

Chase slate

Learn more

If all of your debt is with Chase, you can find plenty of other offers on our balance transfer marketplace. Just input how much debt you have and how much you can pay each month, and we will show you the offers (updated daily) and how much you will save with each transfer. There are plenty of options out there, so there is no reason to ever pay a high interest rate on your debt.

How to Complete a Balance Transfer with Chase

Make sure you complete your balance transfer as soon as you receive your card. The introductory offer is from when you opened the card, not the date you transfer the debt. So, every month you wait is a month of a promotional balance interest wasted.

It is incredibly easy to complete the balance transfer once you receive your credit card. You can always call them. The call center employees typically receive incentives to complete balance transfers, so it is highly likely that they will want to help you.

But, you don’t need to call them. You can complete the balance transfer online. We have put together a step-by-step guide. It should take you fewer than 5 minutes. All you need is the credit card number of the account that you want to pay off.

Warning: it can take up to 2 weeks for the payment from Chase to reach your bank. Make sure you continue to make payments on your old card until you receive confirmation that the old balance is paid off.

What to Do Once the Balance Transfer is Complete

Once you complete the balance transfer, your goal is to pay off your debt as quickly as possible. In a best case scenario, you divide the total balance by 15 months, and make sure you pay that amount each month. That way, you know that you will be debt free by the time the promotional period expires.

During the promotional period, make sure you:

  • Try to avoid spending on the credit card. Remember: the purpose of this 0% is to help you pay off your debt faster, not to get into more debt.
  • Make sure you make your payments on time, every month. If you pay late, you will be charged late fees. If you are 30 days late, it will hurt your credit score. And, at 60 days late, you will lose your 0% interest rate – and could be charged the penalty interest rate

At the end of the promotional period, don’t close the credit card. Closing credit cards can hurt your score, and Chase Slate® does not have an annual fee. So, it is a nice card to keep.

If you have debt sitting at a high interest rate, you should move it now. There is no reason to drown in high interest rate debt, and there is no reason to work hard only to pay interest to the bank.

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Best of, Earning Cashback

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in 2017

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.

credit card and dollar close-up

MagnifyMoney keeps a database of over 2,000 credit cards and their features, including cash back cards you can compare with our tool. We used it to find the absolute highest cash back rewards you can earn in each category, more than the standard 1-2% you usually see.

If you’re ready for cash back there are over 25 categories where you can earn 3% or more in pure cash back on your credit card purchases.

Scroll down and you’ll find links to the best cash back credit cards we’ve found that earn more than 2% cash back in special categories. These are cards that let you get pure cash value, not complicated points that can be used only for travel.

Before you dig into categories, every cash rewards wallet should have one of these two no fee cards, with double cash back on everything you spend:

Fidelity Rewards Visa721_card.Citi_double

 

 

 

Once you have the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Visa, you can add other cards that earn more than 2% in special categories to really boost your cash rewards.

The best cash back credit cards with no limit rewards

Maybe you don’t want to mess with rotating categories or remembering limits on cash back. If that’s you, there are only a handful of cards that you need to carry to get the most in totally unlimited cash back.

As you’ll learn below, you may be leaving about $500 a year or more on the table by not holding at least some of these cards.

They are all no annual fee cards, and they ensure you will earn more than 2% cash back on your total spending with absolutely no limits. Some cards have higher cash back rates with limits, and you can see those below this list in our review of cards for each category

378_card.378_card.PenFed_Premium_Travel_Rewards_American_Express_CardAirfare: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards – 4.25%

This card advertises 5x points on airfare, but there is a bit of a catch. When you redeem the points it earns for the closest thing to cash, a prepaid Visa card, your points are worth about 0.8 cents each, so that 5x points is really about 4.25% cash back on your airfare spending.

Travel: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3%

While the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards wins for airfare spending, the AAA Member Rewards Visa offers 3% back on airfare, plus  all kinds of travel, including hotels, car rentals, and cruises. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

349_card.349_card.PenFed_Platinum_Rewards_Visa_Signature_CardSupermarkets: PenFed Platinum Rewards – 2.55%

The card earns 3x points on supermarkets, but the points are worth about 0.85 cents each when you redeem them for a prepaid Visa gift card, so the real unlimited cash back rate is about 2.55%.

If you spend less than $6,000 a year ($500 a month) on groceries, then the Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% back on the first $6,000 each year. The $95 annual fee on this card is a better deal vs the PenFed Card if you spend about $3,000 a year in groceries (about $250 a month).

Note that if you live in California, you may earn 3% unlimited cash back on groceries with the Platinum Rewards card from Golden 1 Credit Union.

Gas: Fort Knox Credit Union Platinum Visa – 5%

You might not have heard of this credit union, but anyone can join. You just need to pay $5 to join the American Consumer Council / Kentucky and you’re    eligible.

The PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa also offers 5% unlimited at the pump, but you have to have a qualifying account like a checking account with direct deposit or mortgage to get the 5% rate.

1167_card.AARP_ChaseDining: Chase AARP Visa – 3%

You don’t have to be 55+ to hold this card, it’s available to anyone who is interested and meets the credit standards. So you can enjoy your ‘senior discount’ on dining any time.

(The information related to the AARP Visa and Chase Ink Cash Business credit cards has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.)

Everything else: Citi Double Cash (up to  1% + 1%) or Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa (2%) 

If you have a military affiliation, USAA offers some members the USAA Limitless cash back card, with 2.5% unlimited cash back if you make $1,000 a month in direct deposits to USAA. This card is only targeted to select members, so you won’t see it advertised on their website and no guarantees you will be offered the card.

Or if you live in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card gives you 3% cash back on all purchases beyond $3,000 in yearly spending.

Just mark each of the cards you pick in your wallet with a sticker for each category so you remember which to use, and you’ll rack up lots of cash with minimal hassle. And afraid to have more than one card? Well if you’re responsible with credit, a few additional inquiries might have less of an impact than you think. See our experience with scores and getting several cards for the rewards.

For unlimited retailer-specific discounts, also consider:

If you want to maximize absolutely everything, read on…

We’ve organized cash back cards for each of the over 25 spending categories that are currently eligible for more than 2% in cash back rewards.

They include both year round and quarterly rotating categories like those on the Discover It. Pick the categories that matter most to you, and you’ll see the opportunities you have to earn 3-5% if you’re willing to keep track of some limits and quarterly changes.

Remember, these are all cards that let you earn cash value rewards, with no restriction on where you spend the rewards, unlike travel points.

You’ll find three flavors of cash back rewards, in the order of hassle factor:

  • Unlimited cash back – This is the simplest form. You usually won’t find the very highest 5%+ rewards this way, but we’ve found some great cards that get you 3% or more in some popular categories.
  • Cash back with limits – This is where a card limits the cash back you earn by putting a cap on the spending which earns the cash back in the specific category, on a combination of categories, or the card as a whole.
  • Quarterly rotating categories – These are the cards with the big headline 5% rates. Don’t be fooled. While you can earn the 5% rate, you may have to opt in to categories each quarter manually and be hit with caps on how much you can earn.

Advertising Services

With Limits

3%: SimplyCash Business Credit Card from American Express – up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3% – Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Amazon.com

Unlimited

5% Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – dates to be determined

Book stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

Cell phone

With limits

Cable / Satellite / Landline Phone / Internet

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Quarterly category in 2017

Department Stores

Unlimited

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Discount stores

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Drug stores

With limits

Education

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – July – Sept – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: (Best Buy only) Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Furniture

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Grocery Stores

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Gyms

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Home improvement

No limits

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – April – June – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Home Depot only) Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)
  • 5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – July – September

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5% – New Mexico Educators Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Hilton Hotels only) Citi Dividend – July – September – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Movie Theaters

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly category in 2017

Office Supply Stores

With limits

Online Retail

Unlimited

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Shipping

Sports

With limits

Target

Unlimited

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Walmart

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Warehouse Clubs

 

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Featured, Pay Down My Debt

Research Proves This is The Best Method to Pay Down 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.

Research Proves This is The Best Method to Pay Down Debt

If you’re struggling to pay off several debts at once, a group of researchers may have found the best strategy for success.

In the study, which was highlighted in the Harvard Business Review in December, researchers found people who concentrated on paying off just one of several debts before moving on to the others repaid their debt 15% faster than people who consolidated their debts and tackled them all at once.

The researchers, who hailed from Boston University, University of Alberta, University of Manitoba, and Georgetown University, collected anonymous data from more than 6,000 HelloWallet users over 36 months. HelloWallet is an online financial program that allows employees to make financial goals and track their spending and debt payments.

By analyzing the methods HelloWallet users used to pay off their debt — focusing on one small debt at a time or paying all debts at once — the researchers could tell which method worked best.

“Our research suggests that people are more motivated to get out of debt not only by concentrating on one account but also by beginning with the smallest,” Boston University professor Remi Trudel, co-author of the report, told the HBR.

If this strategy sounds familiar, it should. It’s exactly how the popular “debt snowball” strategy works. In this method, the key lies in building momentum early on by achieving small “wins,” paying off tiny debts first and working your way up to larger debts.

When you pay off your first  $200 account balance, you’re more likely to be excited to tackle the credit card with $500 on it, then the card with a $1,500 balance, and so on. Likewise, by focusing on smaller debts, consumers are doing the crucial work of building good financial habits at an early stage. Once those habits become ingrained in their financial picture, they are more likely to keep them up, even as they take on larger debts.

If anything, Havard’s research simply supports why the snowball method is so popular — it really works.

Of course, if you are a fan of the other popular debt payoff methods like the debt avalanche or debt consolidation, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on a path to failure. If you have the option to consolidate all of your debts into one single loan at a lower rate (for example, by taking advantage of a balance transfer), math is on your side. By consolidating your debts at a lower interest rate, you will spend less money on interest over time.

However, if your high interest debts also happen to be the largest of your debt balances, you run the risk of getting discouraged early on and losing momentum because it will take so much more time to pay them off. If you are not confident that you’ll be motivated to pay off one large debt balance, you might be better off — as the Harvard study shows — working on your smallest debt first, even if it means paying more interest in the long run.

If you’re still interested in exploring different debt paydown methods, here’s a quick recap of the debt snowball vs. debt avalanche.

The snowball

When you snowball debt, you order all of your debts by balance and prioritize paying off the account with the lowest amount first. The method was made popular by Dave Ramsey and is the approach many use when tackling debt. The hope is that paying off lower balance loans will motivate you to pay off the remainder of the debt.

The avalanche

Mathematicians would likely argue in favor of the debt avalanche method. The avalanche approach has you order your debt by interest rate in order of the balance. Then, you prioritize paying off the account balance with the highest interest rate and attack the rest of your debt that way. The argument for this method is that it saves you money in the long run since you can avoid paying the most interest and will likely address the principal of your debt faster.

If your account with the highest interest rate is also your highest or one of your highest accounts by amount, the “avalanche” could have the opposite effect of the snowball method. It can be difficult to stay motivated if you don’t feel as if you are making much progress, and you could be discouraged early on.

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Building Credit, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards, Featured

Here’s the Right Way to Use a Student Credit Card

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Here's the Right Way to Use a Student Credit Card

Credit cards can be a great way to build your credit while in college. But if you aren’t careful, they can quickly turn into a seductive debt trap, sending you down a path to poor credit.

If you are an inexperienced borrower, you could easily spend more than you are able to comfortably pay back each month and end up in delinquency or being hounded by debt collectors. You also run the risk of ruining your credit score before you really need it for important purchases after college.

If you’re ready to start building your credit, then that’s great. Before you do, you should get a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into before you apply for a credit card.

What Is a Student Credit Card?

A student card is a credit card specially designed by a lender to get college students started with credit. It helps them build a relationship with customers early on and helps you build your credit score.

The major difference between a student credit card and a regular credit card is that the student card will likely have a higher interest rate. That’s because the bank has no way to prove you are a reliable borrower yet since you have little to no credit history. Regular cards tend to average about 15% annual interest. In a recent MagnifyMoney study, we found the average student credit card carries an interest rate of 21.4%.

Why Should I get a Student Credit Card?

Your goal with your student credit card is to build your credit so that by the time you graduate, you have a healthy credit score in the high 600s to mid 700s. That way, when you graduate, you’ll be in a great position to make larger purchases like a new car or your first home. At that point you may actually want to earn rewards, and you’ll qualify for the best cards because you have a great score.

Many people look to credit when they need extra money.

However, you should only get a credit card if you want to build your credit score, not because you need extra money to make ends meet. This is important, so we’re going to repeat it again: You should only get a credit card if you want to build your credit score, not because you need extra cash to make ends meet.

If you can’t afford your monthly expenses as it is, a credit card might only make things worse. When you take out a credit card, you are paying a company to lend you money for a short while. If you can’t afford to pay the full balance on your card before your bill is due, the bank or credit card company will charge you interest.

Let’s say you charged $300 to your student card for books at the start of the semester. If you made a minimum monthly payment of $9, it would take four years and four months to pay off a card with a 21.4% annual percentage rate (APR). At that point you would have paid a total of $460, assuming your books were your first and only charge on the card.

Choosing Your First Credit Card Wisely

Because you likely have little or no credit history, your main goal with a credit card should be to build your credit score. There are two main criteria you should look for when shopping for your first credit card:

  1. No annual fee

Choose a card that has no annual fee, first and foremost. You shouldn’t worry about finding a card with the best rewards or even the best interest rate. You’re not getting a card for the perks, and since you don’t have much credit history, a low APR isn’t really an option for you right now.

You just need to make sure that the card won’t cost you anything annually to build your credit. Carefully read the fine print. Some lenders may waive the fee for a period, then start charging you.

  1. Easy to set up auto-pay

This next point is almost as important: look for a card that has an online platform that makes it easy to set up automatic payments. This will make it easy to make sure you pay your bill each month.

Three no fee options with well rated smartphone apps for easy payments are the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students, and Capital One Journey.

Your limit may not be very high as a student, but that’s fine because this card is for practice and to build your score. Your limit will likely land somewhere between $500 and $2,000.

The key is to make all your payments on time, and in full each month, which is why having a reliable smartphone app from your credit card provider is so important. Otherwise, penalty interest rates on these card are 29% or more.

You may also want to check with your parent’s credit union to see if they have a student credit card. The mobile apps aren’t always as easy to use for payments, but they can have lower rates in case things go wrong and many credit unions allow parents to cosign for students under 21.

Justice Federal Credit Union’s student card has a 0% rate for 6 months, and a  fixed 16.9% APR afterward with no annual fee. It allows parents to co-sign and anyone can join Justice credit union by becoming a member of the Native Law Enforcement Association for $15. You can apply for the card before you take care of membership formalities.

Since the implementation of the Credit CARD Act in 2010, lenders have been barred from promoting student credit cards on college campuses. As a result, the number of student credit card accounts have fallen by more than 60%. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found in its 2016 Campus Banking Report that lenders and institutions have shifted their partnerships to checking accounts or prepaid debit cards loaded with fees instead.

Using Your First Credit Card

Focus on making consistent, on-time payments, and keeping your credit utilization — that’s how much of your total credit limit you use — as low as possible. You should aim to use no more than 20% of your total limit. For example, if you have a credit card limit of $500, you should never charge more than $100 at a time to your card.

On-time payments and utilization make up 60% of your credit score, so it’s a big deal to miss a payment or max out your card.

Automation makes it very, very easy to achieve both these goals.

  1. When you get your card, figure out what 20% of your credit limit is. Example: 20% of $200 is $40.
  2. Find something that you pay for each month that costs less than that. This might be a payment for a streaming service such as Hulu, Netflix, or Spotify.
  3. Set up your account to take the payment from your credit card each month.
  4. Set up your checking account to pay your credit card balance each month.

After you set up all of the payments, you can forget about using your credit card. The automation is doing all of the work for you. Stash it somewhere safe (not your wallet) so that you won’t be tempted to use it.

Sit back and watch your score grow with free tools such as Credit Karma or the Discover Credit Scorecard. By the time you graduate, you should easily see your credit score in the high 600s or mid-700s.You’ll also have demonstrated your self-discipline and responsibility to banks, and will have an easier time getting a loan for a car or mortgage.

5 Other Ways to Build Your Credit Score

There are plenty of other ways to build your credit score if you aren’t quite ready to take on the responsibility of a credit card.

Become an authorized user on your parent’s credit card

Ask your parent to add you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards. If you are an authorized user, the behavior on that card (spending, payments, etc.) will be reported on your credit report as if it were your own, helping you build your credit. This strategy could also backfire. If your parents don’t use credit responsibly, it could hurt your credit score in turn. Negative behavior — even if it isn’t yours — will be reported as if it were yours as well.

Get a secured credit card

A secured card is a simple way to start building your credit history. This card can help prove to lenders you can be responsible without a lender having to take much risk. You’ll put down a deposit, and the lender will give you a line of credit. Typically, your line of credit will equal the amount of your deposit.

Get a co-signer

If for any reason you don’t qualify for a credit card on your own, you might be able to ask someone to co-sign the agreement with you. Big banks generally don’t offer this, but some credit unions like the Fort Knox Credit Union allow parents to cosign for students under age 21.

That means that they will be responsible for the payments if you can’t pay them. If you go this route, you’ll need to be very careful to only charge what you can afford to pay off each month. If you miss payments, it will negatively affect both of your credit scores.

Get a credit-builder loan

A credit-builder loan is similar to a secured credit card, but it requires no down payment. These loans are typically only offered by community banks and credit unions. When you are approved, the bank will deposit your loan in a savings account for you. You can’t access it until you’ve paid the loan back, however.

Build credit with rent payment

Paying your rent on time can help you build your credit score if it’s reported to the bureaus. Ask your property management company or landlord if they report rental payment data to Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax rental bureaus.

If they don’t, you can ask them to either start reporting or you can sign up for a rent payment service like PayLease or RentTrack that will let you pay for your rent online and give you the option to report your payments to the bureaus. The rent payment information will be included on your standard credit report and can help you build a score without a credit card.

A Final Word of Advice

We had to add this, because we know you just love it when a professor keeps talking after the lesson is over. But really, this is important so pay attention.

If you don’t think you have the self-discipline to handle a credit card right now, then don’t get one. College is full of opportunities to be a present hedonist — to say YOLO — and having a credit card can make it tempting to spend money you don’t really have.

Rebuilding your credit takes a long time and can get very expensive. It’s not worth ruining your credit score, and it will make it a lot harder to make those larger purchases when you graduate. If you can’t be disciplined enough to keep your utilization low and make your payments on time, then don’t get a credit card. You will have plenty of opportunities to build your credit after college.

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Best of, Reviews

10 Best NO FEE Rewards Credit Cards of 2017

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.

There are an abundance of no fee rewards credit cards available, so how do you best determine which one to keep in your wallet? Most earn a measly 1% on your spending, while others have no rewards at all. To help, we’ve dug deep into our database of thousands of rewards cards to find the very best no annual fee rewards credit cards of 2016 for each category.

While you might find rewards credit cards with an annual fee can give you the best rewards, we’re sticking to no fee cards that are available even if you don’t have truly excellent credit (good credit should be fine for most of these).

The first cards we list here offer unlimited double rewards on everything you purchase, while the remaining offer 3% or better rewards on spending in popular categories so you can mix and match to maximize your rewards, or they offer the chance for better earning if you use your rewards for travel.

1. Double Rewards on Everything, NO FEE – Citi Double Cash

721_card.Citi_doubleCiti offers you rewards twice. First, you get 1% cash back when you make a purchase. Then, you get another 1% cash back as you pay it off. All with no annual fee and no spending cap. If you pay off in full each month, you’ll get both rewards at the same time. That lets you earn rewards twice as good as standard reward cards.

If you like to maximize things and want to earn more rewards in special spending categories, consider pairing this with one of the no fee cards we list below.

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2. Honorable Mention: 2% Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature, NO FEE

fidelityrewardsvisaFidelity provides no annual fee 2% cash rewards on purchases if you deposit the cash you earn into a Fidelity account. But you don’t need to have any stocks or investments to have an account. Fidelity has no fee cash accounts where you can deposit your rewards, then withdrawal when you’re ready to spend. Be aware this card is designed for people with Excellent credit, while the Citi Double Cash might be easier to get.

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Both cards offer you the flexibility to earn double rewards on anything you purchase; so either one of these is a nice addition to a rewards strategy. The advantage of the Fidelity card over the Citi Double Cash is that its foreign transaction fees are just 1% versus 3% for the Double Cash. But setting up the Fidelity card and rewards is more cumbersome than the dead simple Citi Double Cash.

If you want to earn more than 2% rewards here’s a rundown of the best no fee rewards credit cards that earn 3% or more in the most popular categories. You can click on each category for our take and details:

And if you’re interested in traveling, here are the best no fee rewards credit card deals:

If you like to dig, we also have a complete (and long) list of cards that earn more than 3% on purchases in many more special categories, including cards with an annual fee.

3. Restaurant Spending: Chase AARP Visa – 3% Rewards, NO FEE

1167_cardAARPBychaseAlthough AARP is known for serving Baby Boomers, foodies of any age can sign up for this card – AARP membership not required. You get 3% cash rewards at restaurants as well as gas stations. You also earn 1% rewards on all other purchases.

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.

Learn more at AARP.org

4. Travel Spending: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3% Rewards, NO FEE

340_card.340_card.AAA_Member_Rewards_Visa_Signature_CardNo need to be an AAA member to take advantage of this rewards card. You earn cash back when you shop at travel merchants including airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies. Along with the 3% cash rewards for travel, you earn 2% cash rewards on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. On everything else you get 1% rewards.

 

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5. Gas Spending: Fort Knox Credit Union Visa Platinum – 5% Rewards

fort-knox-visa-platinumSpend a lot of cash at the pump? The Fort Knox Credit Union Visa Platinum offers 5% cash back for gas. On all other retail purchases, you get 1% cash back. Anyone can join the Fort Knox Credit Union by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council for $5.

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6. Grocery Spending: Blue Cash Everyday from American Express – 3% Rewards

381_card.205_card.blue_Cash_Everyday_Card_from_American_ExpressThe Blue Cash Everyday from American Express offers 3% cash rewards on grocery store purchases up to $6,000 per year. You also get 2% rewards at gas stations and select department stores. On everything else you earn 1% rewards.

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7. Honorable Mention: Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards – Unlimited 3% Grocery Rewards

If you live in California, the Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards card will give ygolden1ou 3% cash rewards for purchases on groceries without the caps on the Blue Cash Everyday, along with gas and restaurants and 1% rewards on all other purchases. Also in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card offers unlimited 3% cash rewards on all purchases after your first $3,000 in spending each year. The catch is there’s a $15 annual fee on the card.

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5% Cash Rewards in Rotating Categories: NO FEE

Cards with a rotating reward program can give you 5% cash rewards with no annual fee, but you’re limited to spending in special categories each quarter and there’s a cap on how much spending earns the 5%. You also have to opt into the 5% cash back rewards program each quarter.

8. Chase Freedom – 5% in rotating categories, $0 ANNUAL FEE

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.

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9. Discover it® Cashback Match™ – 5% in rotating categories, NO FEE

With Discover, you earn 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter up
to the quarterly maximum (up to $1,500 of combined purchases) when you sign up. You also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can redeem your cash back for any amount at any time. And your cash back never expires. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year on the credit card – only for new cardmembers.

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10. Platinum Cash Rewards Visa from the Nusenda Credit Union – 5% in rotating categories, NO FEE

nusenda_logo5% cash rewards on groceries, gas expenses, movies, restaurants, home improvement, education and travel. This quarter, cardholders will earn cash back on restaurants, hotels and airfare purchases. There’s a cash back cap of $1,500 per quarter. Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union by donating $10 to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance; contact a customer representative for details. The advantage of this card is that its categories tend to be more broad, and not store-specific like those on the Chase Freedom and Discover It, so it’s a great way to get you closer to 5% rewards on everything you spend.

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If you’re going to go through the effort of enrolling in a rewards program, consider all three cards to see which categories will benefit you the most. But, if you’re looking for freedom to spend without restrictions, sticking with the Citi Double Cash card may be your best simple bet.

Honorable mentions for travelers

No foreign transaction fees with plain cash back: Quicksilver from Capital One – 1.5% Rewards

Capital One's QuicksilverCapital One’s Quicksilver gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. And like all Capital One credit cards, there are no foreign transaction fees. Even though you earn less rewards than the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity American Express, this card is a better option for your international spending, since you avoid fees of 1 to 3%.

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Real airline miles: Amex EveryDay Card

The Amex Everyday Card is a no annual fee rewards credit card that earns Amex Membership Rewards points, which you can turn into real amexeverydayairline miles with several airlines, including Delta SkyMiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, JetBlue True Blue, and Virgin America Elevate. It’s the only no annual fee card you can apply for online that can net you real Delta SkyMiles. When you want to convert points to Delta miles, just go to the Amex site, and transfer your points to Delta or the other participating airline programs any time.

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Points for travel on any airline: Bank of America Travel Rewards

bankofamericatravelrewardsThe Bank of America Travel Rewards card earns a base 1.5x points per dollar you spend, and you can use the points to erase travel purchases from your statement. Every 10,000 points is worth $100 when you use them for travel, so each point is worth one cent. Where the card gets interesting is if you’re a Bank of America customer with a checking, savings, or IRA account. If you are, you’ll get a 10% bonus on what you earn each year, so the card effectively earns you 1.65x points per dollar. Even better, if you’re a Platinum level member of Bank of America Preferred Rewards (which you get by keeping a lot of your money with them), you can earn up to 2.625x points per dollar, which is an incredible deal. There are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

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How can you get the most value from a rewards credit card?

In order to best benefit from no annual fee rewards credit cards, follow these tips:

  • Narrow your focus: Before choosing a no annual fee rewards credit card (or cards), take a look at your budget and several months’ worth of bank statements. Then, pick cards that’ll offer you the most cash back for things you already buy. You shouldn’t change your spending habits to match a rewards program.
  • Give your rewards cards a job: Don’t spread out your spending onto too many cards without a purpose or you risk making less cash back overall. Choose a few cards and assign them a job so you know what purchases to make on each one to maximize your cash back.
  • Don’t get overzealous: Rewards shouldn’t justify overspending, especially if you’re struggling with debt. It’s a reward for making legitimate purchases. After all, you won’t make enough back to put a big dent in your monthly statement. For instance, $2,500 spent on the Fidelity American Express card equals a $50 deposit. It’s a great perk, but it shouldn’t be your sole reason for buying something.
  • Read the fine print: Understand the implications of each rewards program. For the rotating category cards, you get a huge amount of cash back, but you’ll have to strategize your spending each quarter to earn it. And you have to enroll into the program by the deadline to qualify. Set a reminder on your smartphone or calendar if necessary. You don’t want to miss out on a cash back category for an entire quarter.

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The Unfulfilled Promise of ‘Smart’ Credit Cards

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plastc card

The idea seemed brilliant in its simplicity: Combine all the credit cards in your wallet into one slick, card-sized gadget with a chameleon-like magnetic stripe that could be swiped anywhere. All-in-one cards promised the end of bulging wallets forever.

Coin, the first well-funded entrant into the category, made a huge first impression thanks to a slick social media campaign and viral videos — one was seen 10.2 million times on YouTube. Imitators like Plastc and Swyp jumped in on the excitement and into the fray.

Frank Barbieri, a tech enthusiast and investor, was among the first to spot and share an ad for Coin.

“I was excited about the promise,” said Barbieri, who paid $50 on the spot to get in line to be among the first Coin customers.

The company said it wanted to raise $50,000 via pre-orders when it opened the doors on Nov. 13, 2013.  It reached that goal — theoretically, 1,000 orders — within 47 minutes.

But minutes have turned into hours, days, and years … and those early enthusiasts are still waiting for their one card to rule them all. Coin has come and gone. Its wearable payments technology was sold to FitBit in May, and the company stopped producing its flagship product. What’s left of the category seems little more than Facebook pages where frustrated consumers beg for the status of their pre-orders.

Failure to Launch

 

Plastc, which was considered a close competitor to Coin when it launched in October 2014, is currently taking orders for its $155 product but has yet to ship a product. The company says it has 80,000 pre-orders and has raised $9 million in revenue since its launch. But it has repeatedly disappointed consumers with delays. Earlier this year, the ship date was bumped from April to August or September, according to a message attributed to CEO Ryan Marquis and posted on several online venues, including Reddit. The message offered consumers an opportunity to get a refund, but Marquis urged folks to be patient.

Graphic For Story Card

 

“I hope you stick around. Plastc Card is going to be an AWESOME product,” he wrote.

In July, the company announced another delay, blaming a typhoon that wreaked havoc with its parts suppliers in Asia. The release date was pushed into the fourth quarter of 2016.

When we reached out to Plastc, the firm said it was shipping orders “in late Q4 (Nov/Dec) of this year.”   But separately, CEO Ryan Marquis said on a Facebook video released in late September that only a small group of buyers would receive their cards this year, as part of a test group, and the rest wouldn’t be shipped until next year.

“Stop lying to your (way too) loyal customers about when this outdated product is going to ship,” wrote Steve Bierfeldt on the firm’s Facebook page. Bierfeldt, a 30-something who lives in the New York City area, told me he ordered the product more than a year ago. After this latest delay, he requested a refund.

During a Facebook Live chat on Sept. 29, 2016, Plastc CEO Ryan Marquis apologized for production delays.
Plastc CEO Ryan Marquis apologized for production delays during a Facebook Live chat on Sept. 29, 2016.

“I hope you stick around.”

“They’ve missed 3 or 4 public deadlines, and there is nothing to indicate they have a working prototype, much less a finished product,” Bierfeldt said. “It certainly seems they are stringing along customers and hoping the bottom doesn’t drop out. I hope they can pull it together because the idea of the product is a good one.”

Plenty of Plastc consumers aren’t convinced the product will ever arrive, and aren’t shy about complaining. On Plastc’s Facebook page, the firm is currently offering a T-shirt giveaway, leading another buyer to write, “Want my card not a damn T-Shirt.”

Plastc did not answer additional questions about the consumers’ frustration.

Michigan-based Stratos card got a lot of attention when it launched and began shipping some all-in-one cards in May 2015, but in another sign of how tough the market is, the firm nearly went under less than a year later. At the 11th hour, Stratos sold to Ciright One, a Pennslyvania-based firm working on a similar product. Ciright’s “One” card will pitch a slightly different angle, promising to help consumers keep track of their gift card balances, while also allowing use of credit cards.  The firm’s website says its One Card will ship in 2017.

Bad Timing and Mixed Results

Bad Timing and Mixed Results
Plastc, which is currently taking orders for its $155 product, says it has 80,000 pre-orders and has raised $9 million in revenue. But it has repeatedly disappointed consumers with delays

Why are all-in-one cards, and their elegantly simple idea, such a dud? There are plenty of reasons.

The key technology involved, which predates Coin, is called “dynamic magnetic stripe.” Installed on a gadget like Coin, it would theoretically allow consumers to load multiple cards onto the same device.  Then it would change, chameleon-like, so it would look like the original bank-issued piece of plastic to any point of sale terminal. Fine so far.

But Coin and its ilk had bad timing. Barbieri was lucky enough to get an early version of Coin, but he found he could hardly use it anywhere. Just as Coin arrived, stores began abandoning the magnetic stripe in favor of EMV chip debit and credit cards. Coin had no way to deal with that.

“So it was a complete bust. [I] had to carry cards anyway,” Barbieri said.

But the chip issue is just the beginning of the problem faced by all-in-one card makers, says James Wester, a payments analyst at IDC Financial Insights. He’s not surprised that gadget makers shipwrecked while trying to change the way consumers spend money. Many tech firms have run aground before.

“Trying to participate in the payments space is very hard,” Wester says. “A lot of folks who try, find out the hard way.”

For starters, Coin and its imitators had to do the near-impossible: compete against a product that’s free and simple. Bank plastic doesn’t cost anything and works pretty much immediately. Cards like Coin cost money and have to be loaded and maintained.

“Is [carrying too many cards] a problem worth paying $50 to solve?” Wester asks. “When your largest competitor is a free product, that’s going to be really hard.”

As is clear from the continuing angst over conversion from magnetic stripes to chips — not to mention the fits and starts suffered by giant entrants Apple Pay and Google Wallet — old consumer payment habits die very hard. People don’t want to have to think about how they spend money; they just want it to work.

Coin, which had shipped two versions of its product, gave up earlier this year and sold its technology to Fitbit. A message sent to CEO Kanishk Parashar wasn’t returned.

Silver Linings

The long-awaited Swype card shipped its first batch of cards this summer, after prolonged delays. However, the card has one major flaw: it is not EMV chip-enabled.

Swyp shipped its first batch of long-awaited cards this summer after prolonged delays. Users are already complaining about the card’s major flaw: it is not EMV chip-enabled.

Not that all all-in-ones are giving up. Swyp, which promises a similar product it calls the “smart wallet,” shipped a batch of cards this summer to consumers who pre-ordered them.  But these cards suffer from the same problem as Coin’s first batch: they only work as magnetic stripe cards, and can’t be used to complete EMV chip transactions.

Swyp is no longer taking pre-orders for them.  The firm says on its website that the cards will go on sale next year. It also says Swyp will support both EMV and NFC in the future, but doesn’t say when.

Wester, who comes across as very cynical of all-in-one cards, thinks that firms like Plastc might actually have a window of opportunity created by the current chaos in payments. Consumers are still frustrated by the clunky changeover to chip credit and debit cards, and the associated slowdowns at checkout. Adoption of mobile phone payment or other schemes using wireless Near Field Communication (NFC) tap-and-pay technology has been sluggish too.

NFC-enabled plastic allows “contactless credit cards,” which are popular in Europe, but are nearly unavailable in the U.S. And that could be an opening for a card like Plastc. (On its site, the firms says it will support NFC, but not chips, at launch). Tap-and-pay NFC transactions can be nearly instantaneous, which might attract consumers and create a value proposition, Wester said. And if they are integrated into wearable devices, which is Fitbit’s master plan, they could give runners an easy way to grab a bottled water without slowing them down.

Still, Wester repeated many times, creating a brand new form of payment is among the most challenging areas of technology innovation. It’s so challenging that he offers his entrepreneurial friends this advice:

“If you have money to burn on a smart idea, don’t go into payments,” he said. And if you have money to burn on a product, consider spending it on something other than a pre-order for a payments gadget.

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Building Credit

Minimize Rejection: Check if You’re Pre-qualified for a Credit Card

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Check if You're Pre-qualified for a Credit Card

Updated September 28, 2016

Are you avoiding a credit card application  because you’re afraid of being rejected? Want to see if you can be approved for a credit card without having an inquiry hit your credit score?

We may be able to help. Some large banks give you the chance to see if you are pre-qualified for cards before you officially apply. You give a bit of personal information (name, address, last 4 digits of your social security), and they will tell you if you are pre-qualified. There is no harm to your credit score when using this service. This is the best way to see if you can get a credit card without hurting your score.

What does pre-qualified mean?

Pre-qualification typically utilizes a soft credit inquiry with a credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). A soft inquiry does not appear on your credit report, and will not harm your credit score.

Banks also create pre-qualified lists by buying marketing lists every month from a credit bureau. They buy the names of people who would meet their credit criteria and keep that list. When you see if you are pre-qualified, the bank is just checking to see if you are on their list.

A soft inquiry provides the bank with some basic credit information, including your score. Based upon the information in the credit bureau, the bank determines whether or not you have been pre-qualified for a credit card.

If you are not pre-qualified, that does not mean you will be rejected. When they pull a full credit report or get more information, you may still be approved. But, even if you are pre-qualified, you can still be rejected. In my experience, over 80% of pre-qualified applications are approved. So, why would you be rejected?

  • When you complete a formal credit card application, you provide additional personal information, including your employment and salary. If you are unemployed, or if your salary is too low relative to your debt – you could be rejected. There are other policy reasons that can be applied as well.
  • When a full credit bureau report is pulled, the bank gets more data. Some of that incremental data may result in a rejection.
  • Timing: your information may have changed. The bank may have pre-qualified you a week ago, but since then you have missed a payment. Final decisions are always made using the most up-to-date information.

Where can I see if I have been pre-qualified?

We have put together a list of the main banks. This list is kept updated regularly.

CreditCards – CardMatch is a very good tool developed by CreditCards.com that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. This is the best first stop.

Bank of America

Barclaycard – unfortunately Barclaycard has taken down their pre-qualification tool, but we will keep looking to see if it comes back.

Capital One (Click Credit Cards and then “See if you’re pre-qualified”)

Chase

Citibank

Credit One  – This company targets people with less than perfect credit.

Discover

U.S. Bank

American Express – this one is a little roundabout. After following the link, click ‘Your Pre-Qualified Card Offers’ on the left hand side of the page.

Consider A Personal Loan (No Hard Inquiry and Lower Rates)

If you need to borrow money, you may also want to consider a personal loan. A number of internet-only personal loan companies allow you to see if you are approved (including your interest rate and loan amount) without a hard inquiry on your credit report. Instead, they do a soft pull, which has no impact on your credit score. Personal loans also tend to have much lower interest rates than credit cards. If you need to borrow money, personal loans are usually a better option.

You can use our online tool to see if you can qualify for a loan. You only need to fill in one application, and MagnifyMoney will check your rate with multiple lenders (and without hurting your score). Check your rate without hurting your score here.

Not pre-qualified but still want to apply?

We still believe that people are too afraid of the impact of credit inquiries on their score. One inquiry will only take 5-10 points off your score.

If you pay your bills on time, do not have a ton of debt (less than $20,000) and want to apply for a new credit card, an inquiry should not scare you. The only way to know for certain if you can get approved is to do a full application.

How We Can Help

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

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on the “Apply Now” buttons in this post. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

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Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

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Won’t impact your credit score

Featured

What Happened When I Used a Credit Card for the First Time in 7 Years

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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.

Credit card fraud

The following story is an excerpt from “The Recovering Spender: How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life” by Lauren Greutman.

I decided to do a little experiment. I took myself off a budget for three months and made myself start using a credit card again. I’d been successfully budgeting for more than seven years, and had successfully paid off over $40,000 in debt and half of our mortgage.

People around me consider me very good with money, and I agree with them; I am very good with sticking to a budget. I know my boundaries and how to stay within the fence. (Remember, I wasn’t always this way.) But I wanted to see what would happen if I took myself off a budget, stopped using cash, and used a credit card instead. I haven’t owned a single credit card in years, ever since we put ours through a paper shredder. I’ve been using cash for most of the past seven years, so using a credit card again was way outside of my comfort zone.

The first thing I did was to sign up for a card that would give me a certain amount of points if I spent $3,000 in the first three months of using it. I then stopped using cash and decided to only use the credit card for those three months. My goal was to earn enough points for a free stay at a hotel for a fun vacation for my family. I wanted to see how quickly my money rules would go out the window and I would turn back into a Spender.

How bad could it be?

In the first week I did pretty well. I didn’t spend too much unnecessary money. I did try to find different ways to spend money using the credit card so that I could earn extra points. I paid a few of my bills with the card and paid them o right away online. I figured this couldn’t be bad. Two nights that week I had nightmares in which I woke up in a panic attack.

The nightmares were about moving back into our old house in South Carolina, and they were both the same: We decided to return to our old home and found it was back on the market, so we bought it again. I saw my family of six living in the same house where we had lived in during those stressful years. Not only were we back in that house, but we were also again in $40,000 worth of debt. Those dreams felt so real. They were the kind where you wake up and your heart is beating fast and you aren’t sure if you are awake or asleep. I woke up in my current house, thankful that it was only a dream. There was no way I wanted to go back to that old way of life.

Looking back, I see those dreams as a warning. Both times I woke up mid-dream in a panic attack that we were going to go back into debt. I was terrified of using the credit card again. It literally was giving me nightmares, and I found myself hating what I was doing. I could see myself going down the same path again, and I was terrified. I never want to go back to that place of no self-control, transferring balances to zero percent credit cards to stay afloat, and constantly stressed because we didn’t have the money for basic essentials.

Sticking it out

At this point, I wanted to quit my experiment; it was just too hard for me to go back to old habits. Ultimately, I decided to stick it out, because the question of whether I would fall back into my old spending habits had not been answered yet.

One day I was having a rough time with the kids. I looked at my husband, Mark, and said, “Can I just go somewhere by myself for an hour?” Being the great husband that he is, he put the kids to bed and I left the house to find something to do. I live in a small town and there isn’t much open in the evening, so I did what most people do and headed to Walmart (it would have been Target if I had one nearby). I found myself walking around the store, sick to my stomach and anxious, looking around for something to “do” and something to buy.

I picked up a York Peppermint Patty, a new curling iron, and some fake eyelashes (a total impulse purchase). I was sad, depressed, and feeling totally lost. I found myself wandering around the brightly lit store without a plan or goal. It was a very lonely feeling, but I realized that living without a budget made me depressed. I had no idea how much money was in our checking account. It felt horrible! Ironically, that feeling of depression over not knowing what was going on led to more spending because of boredom.

Three months later

At the end of my experiment, three months later, I was a complete mess. I had spent $3,000 on the credit card but paid it off in full every month. Yet I had somehow managed to spend an extra $2,000 on that card and didn’t know where the money had gone or what I had spent it on. I was anxious because I had no idea what we had in our bank account, and I was stressed out to the max. Here I was, seven years later, sitting on that same bed in our much smaller master bedroom. I knew that if I continued to use credit cards this way, I could end up dead broke again.

This was a huge milestone for me in my journey to financial independence. I realized that I will never “arrive” at being good with money. I will forever be in “recovery” as a Spender, and one of the things that I need to continue to do to keep myself in recovery is to stay within my fence.

I know that staying inside the fence works for me. I know that if I use cash and set a budget with Mark, I stick to it and feel safe. I don’t know why I always try to play with fire, but whenever I do, I certainly get burned! As a well-known expert in the field of frugal living, it’s hard to admit that I still have the ability to overspend. But how helpful would I be if I said I was perfect?

A common reason that Spenders continue to spend is that you lie to yourself—you tell yourself that you can stop spending, but the spending continues. You feel out of control, and that feeling leads you to spend more, and you continue to feel out of control.

If I were to tell you that I have it all figured out, I would be defeating the entire purpose and message of this book. I know that I will always be a Spender, but after seven years of successful budgeting and not owning a credit card, I thought I was strong enough to have one.

The reality is that I am not, and I’m not sure I ever will be. But what I do know is that if I set a budget and make sure I am safe within my fence—I do amazingly well! I got us into over $40,000 worth of debt, and I got us out of over $40,000 worth of debt. I got us in debt by using credit cards, and I got us out by not using credit cards.

Life inside the fence

I decided to run this experiment on myself to see if I am strong enough to live outside the fence, to see if so many years of good financial habits had changed me. Unfortunately, the conclusion is that despite my excellent financial habits and new ways, it’s dangerous to reintroduce some of my old temptations, because I fall right back into my old ways.

This is why this book is called The Recovering Spender and not The Recovered Spender. To be in recovery, you must constantly be trying to better yourself. If I were recovered, I would be able to use a credit card and not overspend.

I am in recovery, which means that I am in a constant state of trying to better myself and improve my spending habits. I realize that one bad turn can lead me down a road that I do not want to travel. One bad financial move can turn into a financial disaster for anyone who is a Recovering Spender like I am.

If you find something that works and helps you stay inside your fence, by all means continue doing it! Despite how much time you’ve been inside your fence, there is always danger on the other side. I much prefer to stay within my fence, stay out of debt, be happy and financially fulfilled by keeping a budget, and live the rest of my life as a Spender in recovery.

Lauren

Lauren Greutman is the frugal living expert behind the popular money saving blog laurengreutman.com (formerly iamthatlady.com).

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