Credit Cards, Reviews

How to Earn and Redeem Rewards with Chase Ultimate Rewards

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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.

How to Earn and Redeem Rewards with Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase has an impressive list of credit card products that reward you for everyday spending. However, just five of the Chase rewards cards are currently part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

These credit cards include:

  • Chase Freedom
    • 5% cash back in revolving categories with a $1,500 cap
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
    • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Ink Business
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent at office supply stores, and on cell phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Ink Plus
    • 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent at office supply stores, and on cell phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
    • 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent at gas stations and on hotel accommodations
    • 1 point per $1 on all the purchases
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
    • 2 points per $1 on travel and dining
    • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

If you have one (or several) of these cards in your wallet, the Ultimate Rewards website is a one-stop-shop where you can manage, combine, and redeem points earned.

Since choosing a credit card rewards program without digging into the product can be difficult, we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at what Ultimate Rewards has to offer cardholders.

In this post we’ll touch on:

  • Accessing Ultimate Rewards
  • Navigating the Ultimate Rewards portal
  • How much Ultimate Rewards points are worth
  • How to redeem Ultimate Rewards points

How to Access Chase Ultimate Rewards

Where the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal shines is how easy it is to manage your points. There are two simple ways to review the points you’ve earned. First, you can log into your Chase credit card account. There you’ll find your point balance alongside your credit card statement summary.

Or you can go straight to the Ultimate Rewards website and log in. To make your life easy, the credentials you use to log into your credit card account are the same credentials you need to access the Ultimate Rewards dashboard.

Chase Ultimate 1

The Chase Ultimate Rewards Homepage

The bar at the top of the homepage shows the card that you’re currently managing on the left and your point balance on the right.

Chase Ultimate 2

Further down the page, there’s a detailed record of the points available to you now and how many points you’ve earned so far toward your next billing statement.

For cards that earn cash back (like the Chase Freedom shown here), the Ultimate Rewards dashboard includes your point balance and what it equals in cold-hard cash back. We’ll discuss the points to cash conversion later in this post.

Chase Ultimate 3

You’ll also see the progress of your spending within the categories of each card on the right-hand side of the homepage. In our example photo, the Chase Freedom Ultimate Rewards page shows combined purchases for the revolving category which is currently restaurants and wholesale clubs. This is also where you would go quarterly to activate the category.

How to Earn an Extra Bonus

Besides earning from everyday spending, Chase Ultimate Rewards gives you an opportunity to earn a bonus when you shop online with participating retailers.

Chase Ultimate 4

We’re reviewing Ultimate Rewards using a Chase Freedom credit card, so the store bonuses appear in cash back. Credit cards that earn points rather than cash back will show bonus points for each online store instead.

Some cash back highlights on the online shopping list are:

  • Apple: 2% cash back
  • Macy’s: 3% cash back
  • Groupon: 4% cash back
  • Sears: 3% cash back

How Much Points Are Worth

Here’s where things get interesting. The Ultimate Rewards program uses a point system to keep track of earnings even for cash back cards. The redemption value of Ultimate Rewards points is:

  • 1 point equals 1 cent, or
  • 100 points equals 1 dollar

Now, taking a look at the point summary from above, you can see how 493 points earned equals $4.93 in cash back. You can expect this redemption value for cash back, gift cards, products, and travel unless you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus cards.

Both of these cards give you a little more value for your points when you redeem for travel. It comes in the form of an additional 20% off when you make bookings through Ultimate Rewards. This translates into a point value of 1.25 cents per 1 point or $1.25 per 100 points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders are able to transfer points to participating travel programs point for point as well. These travel programs include:

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Plus cards are the only two that earn Ultimate Rewards points with a $95 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred does waive the annual fee for the first year. For either of these cards to be worthwhile, you need to make sure the value of your rewards will surpass the fee.

For a quick example, you would need to spend $4,750 in the 2X category with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card to repay the $95 fee with a statement credit. For the Chase Ink Plus, you would need to spend $1,900 in the 5X category.

How to Redeem Ultimate Rewards Points

As mentioned, Ultimate Rewards members can redeem points for cash back, gift cards, products, and travel.
Cash Back

You can request a deposit into a checking and savings account or redeem for statement credit once your point balance reaches 2,000. Unfortunately, 493 is not quite enough to meet the threshold.

Chase Ultimate 5

Gift Cards

If you prefer gift cards, some cards you can obtain with a point balance as low as 500. There are over 70 different stores and restaurants you can choose gift cards from including Starbucks, P.F. Chang’s, Gap, Amazon, and more.

Ultimate 6

Amazon Products

Amazon shoppers can link a Chase card to the site and use points to buy products.

Chase Ultimate 7


For cards other than the Chase Ink Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get the basic 1 cent per 1 point redemption value for travel.

Chase Ultimate 8

The good news is you can combine Ultimate Rewards balances to increase the buying power of your points. Keep in mind; you can only transfer points to another Chase card that belongs to you or someone in your household.

Chase Ultimate 9

For big travelers, partnering your Chase Sapphire Preferred card with the Chase Freedom can help you maximize the Ultimate Rewards program. With this hack you can earn as much as you can from multiple categories. Then move your points over to the Chase Sapphire Preferred to get a higher redemption value on travel. Or you can transfer your points to another travel loyalty program altogether.

Final Word

The Chase Ultimate Rewards dashboard is easy to use and gives you many options for point redemption. Although activating a category or shopping within constraints can be a hassle, the Ultimate Rewards dashboard makes it easy to subscribe to bonus categories and keep track of your progress.

Even if you’re not ready to make the leap to a rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred with an annual fee, you can still get more value from your points by shopping online with participating retailers.



Building Credit, Credit Cards, Earning Cashback

The new Discover it Secured Credit Card wins: No fee, Free FICO and up to 2% cash back

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Discover it Secured Credit Card Review

Updated July 31, 2016

Discover has just launched a new product, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card – No Annual Fee . Secured credit cards are an excellent way to build or rebuild your credit history. With this product launch, Discover has created one of the best secured cards on the market. You do need to make a deposit of at least $200 to open the account. If you are unable to afford the $200 deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard, which only requires a $49 deposit. But if you can afford the $200 deposit, this new card is clearly one of the best no fee secured credit cards available.

Discover it

Learn More

Key Product Features

Here are the key product features:

No annual fee: There is no annual fee on this card. You do need to make a deposit of at least $200, and your credit limit will be based upon the amount of your deposit. If you want a bigger limit, you will have to make a bigger deposit.

NEW – Eligible for an upgrade in just 7 months: After just seven months, Discover will start monthly automatic reviews of your account. Once you qualify for a standard credit card, you will be upgraded. At the time of the upgrade to a standard card, you can expect to have your deposit refunded. Even better, you could be eligible for a bigger credit limit. When the product first launched, you had to wait a full year. With a 7-month review, Discover has one of the best upgrade policies in the market.

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

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

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


How to Use a Secured Credit Card

A secured credit card is an excellent way to build or rebuild your credit history. In order to gain the most number of points in the shortest amount of time, you need to have a strategy. We recommend the following strategy (and describe how it helped someone build an excellent score in one year here):

  1. Avoid spending more than 10% – 15% of your available credit limit. Yes, that means if your credit limit is only $200, you should not spend more than $20 – $30 a month. Utilization is a very important part of your credit score. To calculate utilization, divide your statement balance by your available credit. People with the best credit scores have utilization well below 20%. Because you want to build an excellent credit score, you should keep your utilization low.
  2. Pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. To ensure your payments are made on time every month, you should consider automating the monthly payments. At the Discover website, you can sign up to have your monthly payment debited automatically from your checking account.
  3. Just continue to repeat Step #1 and Step #2. Your credit score should improve over time, which will help you qualify for a standard credit card.

If you have less than perfect credit and need to borrow money, you should consider shopping for a personal loan.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

According to disclosures on the Discover website, you are eligible to apply if:

  • You are at least 18 years old.
  • You have a Social Security Number.
  • You have an address in the United States.
  • You have a bank account in the United States. Note: You will need to provide your routing number and account number when you apply. If your account is overdrawn, it is highly unlikely that you will be approved.

Your credit history will be reviewed, and not all applications will be approved.

The Application Process

You can apply online and Discover usually provides a decision instantly. You will need to make your security deposit as part of the application, which is why Discover asks for the routing number and account number of your bank.

Please remember that when you apply for the secured credit card, you will have an inquiry on your credit report just like an application for a normal credit card.

The Fine Print

There are some additional fees and terms that you should understand.

  • If you take out a cash advance, you would be charged a fee of 5% or $10, whichever is greater. The APR for cash advances is 25.49%, and there is no grace period.
  • The card offers balance transfers. If you transfer a balance by May 10, 2016 you will be charged a 6 month intro APR of 10.99%. After the intro expires, and for any transfer completed after May 10, 2016, the balance transfer rate is 23.49%. A balance transfer fee of 3% will always be charged.
  • The first late payment fee is waived. But, afterwards, you would be charged $37. Returned payments also cost $37.

Alternate Secured Credit Cards

Discover it has one of the strongest offerings in the market. However, it might not be right for everyone. Here are some other good options.

If you cannot afford the $200 minimum deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard. There is no annual fee and a minimum deposit of $49. You will also be able to receive your FICO score for free. Capital One is known for accepting people with more adverse credit histories. So, if you are rejected by Discover, you might want to consider trying Capital One instead.

Capital One Secured MasterCard

Go to site

You should also consider a secured credit card from your local credit union. MagnifyMoney has a list of some of the best no fee secured credit cards offered by credit unions here.

Build Your Score, Not Your Balance

Secured credit cards are a great way to build your credit score. And, with this product launch, Discover has created an excellent tool. Just make sure you don’t use your credit card to build a balance and borrow money. Keep your balance well below 20% of your available credit, and pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. If you do that, you should start to see real improvement in your score.

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Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan


Won’t impact your credit score

Building Credit, Credit Cards

How (and why) to Request a Credit Limit Increase with Barclaycard

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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 Limit Increase with Barclaycard

Credit card companies don’t usually ask your permission to increase your credit limit. Instead, you’ll get an email, letter in the mail or an alert the next time you log into your account stating your limit is going up. This often comes as a reward for your months or years of healthy credit behavior (like paying your card on time and not maxing it out). However, the real reason credit card companies want to increase your credit limit is to try to lure you into overspending, which of course means you won’t be making those payments in full anymore and will then start owing interest. So why would anyone choose to request a credit limit increase? There is one good reason.

How to increase your credit limit with American Express and Capital One

Why increase your credit limit?

The best reason to increase you credit limit is so you can lower your credit utilization ratio and improve your credit score. This only works if you don’t increase your spending habits to match your credit limit increase. Remember, you don’t want to spend more than 30% of your total available credit limit. So, maybe you’re still fairly new to credit and your first credit card has a $1,000 credit limit. You probably spend more than $300 a month for regular expenses, so requesting a credit limit increase would be helpful. You wouldn’t change your spending habits, but it would allow you to put more on your credit card without having high utilization.

Another reason to ask for a credit limit increase is to help you cover a planned expense, like purchasing a washing machine for your home, that would otherwise put you near your credit limit.

Lower utilization correlates to a higher credit score

Utilization is the second largest factor that’s used in determining your credit score. First is payment history at 35% and then utilization at 30%. That means 65% of your score is determined by just two of the five total factors – the other three being: diversity of credit, length of credit history and new credit.

The lower your utilization, the better it looks. Even though credit card companies may be trying to lure you into overspending, other lenders don’t want to see that you always max out every line of credit extended to you. This is why it’s important to try to keep your utilization ratio (the amount of credit you actually use compared to the amount available) at 30% or less. Yes, that means utilization counts for 30% of your credit score and you should keep your utilization ratio at 30% or less.

What makes a bank decide to increase your credit limit?

You can’t just magically increase your limit without the approval of your credit card company. The bank will take some time to check your past use of existing credit, see if you still have a clean credit report and ask for your annual income. Sometimes the bank does check this information proactively (minus asking for your annual income) and decides to just increase your limit on its own. If that hasn’t happened, here’s how you can request a credit limit with a Barclaycard.

How to request a credit limit increase from Barclaycard

Most credit card companies allow you to request a credit limit increase online, such as American Express (Chase does require a phone call). This article will overview how to request a credit limit increase from Barclays in just a few simple steps after you login to your account at BarclaycardUS.com.

Step 1

After you’ve logged in, click on “Services”.



Step 2

Next, click on “Request credit line increase” within the pop-up menu.


Step 3

Once the new page loads, select “Request a credit line increase” from the menu.


Step 4

You’ll be taken to a page where you need to fill in your information to request a credit line increase. You’ll have to enter the additional credit you desire along with information about your occupation, employer, employment history, and income. You’ll also have to verify your phone number at the bottom before submitting your request. Verifying your phone number gives Barclaycard permission to contact you via phone at the number you verified.


If you’re not tech savvy, you can also request a credit limit increase by calling Barclaycard’s customer service at 1-866-603-7217.

  • Don’t spend more than 30% of your total available (new) credit limit.
  • You won’t be able to increase it again for 3 months or 6 months if you asked for a credit limit decrease.
  • You can try again in a month if you were rejected for a requested limit.

Your credit limit was increased. Now what?

Now that your limit was successfully increased it’s more important than ever to be diligent about your spending. Keep that that utilization ratio at 30% or less and always pay your card on time and in full.


Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan


Won’t impact your credit score

Best of

20 Credit Cards with No Cash Advance Fees

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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 Cards with No Cash Advance Fees

If you have a credit card, your financial institution has likely mailed you checks for cash advance purposes. Understanding this aspect of your available credit is incredibly important, as it can be much more expensive than simply making a purchase.

Taking a cash advance gives you money now in cases where you can’t use a credit card (perhaps paying rent), or have otherwise maxed out your purchasing power. Many financial institutions will charge you a fee between 1% and 5% just for making this transaction.

But some cards have no fees for cash advances.

The catch is, interest starts accruing immediately on cash advances, meaning that even if you pay your statement balance in full by the due date, you will still incur interest charges in the interim. So if you do a cash advance, try to pay it off as quickly as possible, even before the due date, to minimize the interest you pay.

Best Cards with No Cash Advance Fees

These credit unions offer no cash advance fees on all their credit cards. While you’ll pay interest from the day you take out the cash, as a last resort it’s a better bet than paying an upfront fee. These are all credit unions anyone can join, but many of them require excellent credit to qualify for a card.

PenFed Credit Union

PenfedBankLogo (1)Pentagon Federal Credit Union, commonly known as PenFed, offers five different credit cards with no cash advance fees. None of them charge a foreign transaction fee, and all interest rates are the same for purchases and cash advances.

Anyone can join PenFed Credit Union simply by making a one-time donation of $14 to Voices for America’s Troops, or a one-time $15 donation to the National Military Family Association.

  • PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
  • PenFed Promise Visa Card
  • PenFed Gold Visa Card
  • PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card
  • PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa

American 1 Credit Union

American 1American 1 Credit Union offers four different credit cards with no cash advance fees. Interest rates on purchases and cash advances are the same, though there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%.

Anyone can join American 1 Credit Union by joining Community 1 Cooperative. You pay $3 for membership, which includes a litany of discounts on consumer products and services across an array of industries.

  • American 1 In-House Visa

CapEd Federal Credit Union

CapEdCapEd Federal Credit Union offers one card with no cash advance fees. It also carries the same interest rate for purchases and cash advances, but does have a foreign transaction fee that varies depending on if the transaction is in USD or requires conversion into a foreign currency.

To join CapEd, all you have to do is make a one-time $20 donation to the Idaho CapEd Foundation.

  • Visa Platinum Card by CapEd Federal Credit Union

First Tech Federal Credit Union

FT_logo_rebrandFirst Tech Federal Credit Union offers three different cards that come with no cash advance fees. The interest rates on these transactions will be higher than the interest rates on regular purchases, however. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Anyone can join First Tech through membership in the Financial Fitness Association, which costs $8 per year, or a digital membership to the Computer History Museum, which will run you $15 per year.

  • Odyssey Rewards World Elite MasterCard
  • Platinum Rewards MasterCard
  • Choice Rewards World MasterCard
  • Platinum Secured MasterCard

ISU Credit Union

ISU credit unionISU Credit Union offers two cards that have zero cash advance fees. Interest rates on cash advances are higher than those on regular purchases for the first year only, and there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%.

To join ISU Credit Union if you don’t live, work or study in Southeastern Idaho, you can qualify through paid membership at a number of Southeastern Idaho organizations including humane societies and educational cause groups.

  • Platinum MasterCard by ISU Credit Union
  • Platinum Plus MasterCard by ISU Credit Union

Mid-Illini Credit Union

Mid-Illini Credit UnionMid Illini Credit Union offers two different cards that come with no cash advance fees. Interest rates for purchases and cash advances are identical, and there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%.

Anyone can join Mid Illini Credit Union by making a one-time $1 donation to Dollars for Scholars, an organization that provides scholarships to students of McLean County, Illinois.

  • Visa Classic Card by Mid Illini Credit Union
  • Visa Platinum Card by Mid Illini Credit Union

Stanford Federal Credit Union

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.34.35 PMStanford Federal Credit Union offers a singular card with no cash advance fees for which the general public qualifies. There are no foreign transaction fees, and rates are the same for purchases and cash advances.

To join Stanford Federal Credit Union, you can become a member at the Museum of American Heritage or join Friends of the Palo Alto Library.

  • Visa Platinum Cash Back Rewards Card by Stanford Federal Credit Union

Digital Credit Union

DCU_Banking2Digital Credit Union offers two cards with no cash advance fees. While interest rates are the same for both cash advances and regular purchases, foreign transaction fees will vary based on the need for currency conversion.

You can join Digital Credit Union by donating to any number of organizations that match your interests. The most common organization new members choose is Reach Out for Schools, which only requires a one-year membership at the cost of $10.

  • Visa Platinum Card by Digital Credit Union
  • Visa Platinum Rewards Card by Digital Credit Union


Alternatives to Cash Advances

While cards that offer no fees on cash advances are cheaper, that does not mean these transactions are cheap. You should only take a cash advance as a last resort in a true emergency. In order to avoid becoming one of the American households that can’t cover $400 financial hardships, start building an emergency fund today. When you withdraw money from your own savings account, you have to pay zero interest and zero fees.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, but you do have a credit card, it is wiser to charge emergency expenses as a purchase rather than taking money out as a cash advance if at all possible. Even when interest rates are identical for these two different types of transactions, cash advances will start charging you those rates immediately, while purchases won’t require you to pay interest until after the first statement is issued.

Foreign travelers will also want to charge purchases whenever possible for this same reason. If you must use cash, a cash advance is a safer alternative to withdrawing money from your bank account abroad, but it is also wise to pay it off using your financial institution’s online services as soon as possible to avoid paying more interest than you have to.

Cash advances aren’t ideal, so if you can avoid them you should. However, they are a much better option than turning to the alternative lending industry where you’ll find predators and payday loans.

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Credit Cards

New Costco Credit Card Not Working? Here’s What to Do:

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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.

New Costco Credit CardFlickr/Mujitra

Costco found itself in hot water with customers this week over issues with its new Citibank-backed rewards credit card. 

Even for one of the largest retailers in the country, breakups can be messy. After successfully divorcing itself from longtime credit card partner American Express, Costco was prepared to start fresh with Citibank this week. As of Monday, Costco officially stopped accepting all Amex cards, which meant replacing its Costco True Earnings Card from American Express with a new Costco Anywhere Visa credit card from Citibank.

Some 11 million shoppers who previously owned Costco’s Amex credit card should have received the new Citi card sometime in May or June and could use them beginning June 20. Folks were probably eager to use the new card, which boasted better cashback rewards than Amex’s previous offering.

That’s not exactly how things went down. By mid-week, complaints had flooded Costco’s social media pages, with customers airing one of two main grievances: they either didn’t receive their new Citi card or their new card wasn’t working. The company’s customer service lines were overwhelmed by the number of calls, resulting in frustrating delays, although a spokesperson said Thursday that call volume was slowly returning back to normal.

Bill Bauman of Phoenix, Ariz. was among hundreds of customers who took to Costco’s Facebook page to complain Thursday when he was unable to use his Citi card. A Costco agent told him to call American Express, he said, but the American Express agent he spoke with gave him conflicting information about when he would have full access to his new Citi account.

“I have been told it should be fixed by today, be fixed by Friday or be fixed in early August,” Beauman said in his post. “I was also told by an AMEX supervisor my account would never be transferred but another one insists my account is in transition and will process by August.”

It’s unclear what exactly went wrong. MagnifyMoney has reached out to Citi, Costco and Visa and has not received a response yet. American Express spokesperson Elizabeth Crosta told MagnifyMoney in an email that the problems are not related to any work on their end.

“Given the change in card issuer, we successfully migrated all of the customer data to Citibank to meet the June 20 conversion date,” she said. “Any conversion related issues are not American Express issues.”

What to do if you’re unable to use your new Costco Citi card:

Use any other Visa-backed credit card in your wallet. Costco now accepts any Visa card, so save yourself a headache and don’t touch your new Citi card until these issues are squared away. We’ve done the hard work for you and found out which rewards card is best to use at Costco.

Email is better than phone. Costco recommends emailing them at costcocare@costco.com with your 12-digit membership number, your phone number and an brief explanation of the issues you’re having.

Use social media. If all else fails, companies are quite good about responding to complaints on Twitter and Facebook. @AskCiti @AskAmex @AskVisa You’ll have to go to Costco’s Facebook page and leave a comment, as they have no active Twitter account.

What to do about your old Amex account:

For starters, take a look at the FAQ page for Costco users on American Express’ website.

Any rewards you earned should be transferred over to your new Citi account. Your remaining balances should be transferred over as well. If you have received a bill statement from American Express, then you should pay that bill directly to American Express. If there are any charges on your old Amex card that you wanted to dispute, you’ll have to call the number on the back of your new Citi card.

Have a question for us? E-mail us at info@magnifymoney.com 

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Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Unlimited Review: 1.5% Cash Back

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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 Freedom Unlimited Review

The information related to the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.

The cash back credit card market continues to heat up with the introduction of the Chase Freedom UnlimitedSM credit card. In the race to acquire new customers, banks are introducing increasingly lucrative products. Cash back credit cards can be an excellent way to put some extra money in your pocket, so long as you don’t give into temptation and spend more than you should.

With Freedom Unlimited, you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The card does not charge an annual fee and there is no minimum redemption amount for the cash back: you can redeem at any time and for any amount. You can also earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

We like the simplicity of this product. There are no caps, opt-in requirements or minimum redemption rules. If you want a good return and little hassle, this could be a good addition to your wallet.

There are opportunities to get even more from this new credit card if you can use it in combination with your existing Chase Freedom or Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards. Just beware, the card does charge a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. In this review, we will explain:

  • The key features
  • The best ways to use the card
  • How the card stacks up versus the competition
  • Our Final Verdict

Key Features


Here are the key features of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it’s automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Redeem for cash – any amount, anytime
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

Here is an example of how the cash back can add up. If you are able to spend $1,000 a month on your credit card ($12,000 a year), you could earn:

  • During the first year: A $150 bonus offer (for spending $500 in the first three months) and $180 of cash back (1.5% of your annual spend). That is $330 of cash back in the first year.  
  • Thereafter: After the first year, you would continue to earn $180 of cash back every year.

Best Ways to Use The Card

The best part of Chase Freedom Unlimited is its simplicity. Some people are willing to work hard for a deal. They will carry multiple credit cards to maximize the cash back that they earn. They eagerly opt-in to bonus offers and even create spreadsheets to keep track of their rewards. If that sounds exhausting, Chase Freedom Unlimited could be a better option for you. There are no rotating categories, no caps and no requirements on your end. You will earn a solid 1.5% cash back on all of your spending all of the time. And you don’t have to do anything other than carry this card in your wallet and use it for all of your purchases.

But there are some ways to get even more from this credit card with a little extra work. If you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, you will have more redemption opportunities with the Freedom Unlimited card. Why? If you have a Sapphire Preferred card, it means that the 1.5% you earn will turn into 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 you spend on your credit card. Those points can be combined with the points that you earn on your Sapphire Preferred credit card. Even better, you can use those points in the following additional ways:

  • Redeem for travel: Chase offers 20% off travel when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Imagine you want to buy a $300 airplane ticket. That would require 24,000 Ultimate Reward Points. With a Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card, it would take $16,000 of spend to earn enough points for the ticket. By using your Ultimate Rewards points for travel, you are actually earning 1.9%.
  • Transfer to an Airline or Hotel Partner: With Ultimate Rewards, you have great flexibility. You can transfer points to your frequent flier account with airlines (including United Airlines and Southwest Airlines) and hotels (including Marriott and Hyatt). If you do a lot of business travel already, this is a nice way to top up your account.

If you already have and use the Sapphire Preferred card, Freedom Unlimited could be a great addition. With Sapphire Preferred, you earn 2x points for every $1 spent on dining and travel, and you earn 1x point for $1 spent in all other categories. You can boost all other categories to 1.5 points per $1 with Chase Freedom Unlimited.

If you already have the original Chase Freedom credit card, you do not have to give it up. You are allowed to keep both. You can continue to enjoy the bonus categories of Chase Freedom in addition to the unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase of Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Freedom Unlimited versus the Competition

The best part of Chase Freedom Unlimited is its simplicity. But here are a few places where the card loses out to competition.

If you want to avoid foreign transaction fees: Chase Freedom Unlimited charges foreign transaction fees. If you plan on traveling abroad, you might want to consider the Capital One Quicksilver card. With Quicksilver, you can also earn 1.5% cash back, but there are no foreign transaction fees.

If you spend a lot in one category: you might find a better deal with a different credit card. For example, Fort Knox Credit Union offers a credit card that pays 5% on gas. PenFed offers a credit card that pays 4.25% on airfare. You can find the cards that pay the highest bonus rates here.

If you want to earn 2%: With Freedom Unlimited you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back. Citi Double Cash currently offers 1% + 1%. You earn 1% when you spend and 1% when you make a payment. If you take the redemption as a deposit into your checking account and pay the balance in full and on time every month, you would be earning 2%. The downside is that Citi Double Cash has a higher minimum redemption requirement of $25 and no sign-on bonus. Chase Freedom Unlimited has a nice $150 bonus. In our earlier example (with the person spending $1,000 a month), you would earn $330 on Chase Freedom Unlimited in Year 1 compared to only $240 on the Citi Double Cash credit card.

Our Final Verdict

Chase Freedom Unlimited is simple, transparent and easy to use. You will earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it’s automatic! If you already have a Sapphire Preferred or the original Freedom credit card, adding this no fee card to your wallet is a no brainer.

If you want a solid credit card to earn good returns, this is a good option. Its biggest competition is Citi Double Cash, which can generate 2% cash back when used properly. However, Citi offers no sign-on bonus and has a higher minimum redemption requirement. In the first year, you will likely be better off with Chase Freedom Unlimited. And we have doubts about the ability of Citi to continue to pay 2% cash back. Given the bonus, long-term sustainability of the product and ability to leverage Ultimate Rewards, we believe Chase Freedom Unlimited could be a solid choice.


Building Credit

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Updated May 24, 2016

In 2008 (bad timing), I moved to the US with my wife, Margarita, after living in Moscow, Russia working for Citibank.  She was not a US citizen, and had no credit history or credit score.  Being without a credit score in the US basically means you don’t exist!  So, we had to fix that fast. Within 12 months, she had a very good credit score. And within 18 months, she had an excellent credit score. In this post, I will explain:

  • How Margarita (and you) can open a secured credit card
  • How to use a secured credit card (to maximize the boost in your score)
  • How to select the best secured credit card

How To Open A Secured Credit Card

Opening a secured credit card is relatively easy. You have to provide the bank with a deposit, which is typically $200 or more. The bank will keep the deposit as collateral and will provide you with a credit limit equal to your deposit. In Margarita’s example, she gave the bank a $500 deposit and received a $500 credit limit.

Once open, the credit card works like any other. Your credit limit, balance and payment information is reported to the credit bureau. The only difference: if you fail to pay your credit card on time, the bank can take your deposit and apply it towards the debt.

So – the bank has a guarantee that they won’t lose money. And you have the opportunity to prove that you will use your credit wisely.

How To Use A Secured Credit Card

Given that I was a bank credit risk manager at the time, I knew a bit about credit scoring.  So, I made sure Margarita followed this strategy:

  • She used the card every month, but for a very small amount. Her typical monthly bill would be around $10.

  • She made sure that she paid the balance in full and on time every month by signing up for automatic payments.

  • She subscribed to a credit scoring service to watch her score improve over time.

It took about 6 months for Margarita’s score to cross the 600 threshold. About 18 months after starting, she had a score well above 700. At that point, she applied for a rewards credit card.  It had a great sign-on bonus and a frighteningly high $25,000 credit limit.

So, it only took a year and a half for someone to go from being a credit nobody to one of the most sought after customers in the country. What was the trick? It is actually very simple.

Once a secured credit card is open, you want to follow the three key rules:

  1. Make sure you use the credit card every month. You can only build a credit score if you have activity on your credit report.
  2. Keep your utilization low – preferably below 10%.
  3. Make sure you pay your bill in full and on time every month.

Use Your Card Every Month

In order to have a FICO score, you must have activity on your credit report in the last six months. If there is no activity on your report in the last six months, you cannot get a score.

Activity does not mean you need to go into debt. You can make a single purchase every month (even for just $1) and that is considered activity.

Keep Your Utilization Low

One of the most important components of your credit score is utilization. Your utilization is calculated by dividing your statement balance by your available credit. People with the best credit scores have utilization levels of 10% or less. That means if you have a credit limit of $1,000 you should not spend more than $100 a month.

The best strategy with a secured credit card is to select one small, recurring transaction and automate it. For example, use your secured credit card for your monthly Netflix bill.

Pay You Bill In Full And On Time Every Month

The most important part of your credit score is a history of on-time payments. Even a single missed payment can have a very negative impact on your score. The best way to ensure that you don’t miss a payment is to set up automated monthly payments.

And make sure you pay your balance in full. If you pay the balance in full, you will not have to pay interest. And there is nothing more ridiculous than  paying interest on a secured credit card. Remember: your credit limit is equal to your deposit. You are literally borrowing your own money. But if you pay interest (at a high rate), you will be paying a bank to borrow from yourself.

This is just a long way of saying that Margarita’s approach worked. If you want to use a secured credit card to build your credit score, just use it every month for a $10 charge. And pay that balance in full and on time. Your score will improve quickly.

How To Select The Best Secured Credit Card

When selecting a secured credit card, we recommend that you focus on the annual fee (you shouldn’t have to pay one). You can find our round-up of the best secured cards here. You will see that our top choice is from Discover.

Discover itDiscover’s card has no annual fee. You will have to make a deposit of at least $200, and the credit limit will be based upon your deposit. What we like most is the automated review process to upgrade your account. After just seven months, Discover will review your account every month. As soon as your credit score is good enough for a traditional card, you will be converted automatically. Discover will refund your $200 deposit and graduate you to a standard credit card.

You will also have the opportunity to earn rewards on your secured card. You will be able to earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, up to $1,000 of purchases each quarter. You will earn 1% on everything else. You can learn more and apply by clicking the link below.

Learn More

Margarita had opened a secured credit card with Bank of America. There was an annual fee, and migrating from the secured to the standard credit card was painful. But, in the end, it worked. If you use a secured credit card wisely, you will not have it for long. So even if you don’t use one of our favorites, we still highly recommend your follow our strategy on any secured credit card – and you should get a good result.

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Consumer Watchdog, Credit Cards

Warning: Even the Best Small Business Credit Cards Do This

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Best Small Business Credit Cards

If you have a small business, you might be tempted to open a small business credit card. When used properly, small business credit cards can provide you with free working capital, rewards and the ability to manage the expenses of you and your employees more easily. However, there are real risks that you need to consider.

  • You are personally liable: when you apply for a small business credit card, you are signing a credit application that makes you personally liable for any spending that happens on that card. If your company fails to reimburse you or goes bankrupt, you will still be held responsible for making payments and should expect collection activity from your credit card issuer.
  • Your personal credit report and credit score can be impacted: with most cards, the balance will not appear on your credit report so long as you are current. However, if you miss payments, many major credit card issuers will report the balance and delinquency to your credit report. And if the credit card issuer ever sells your debt to a collection agency, you can expect a collection item to hit your personal report as well.
  • Your interest rate can be increased on your existing balance: In 2009, the CARD Act was passed. The legislation made it very difficult for credit card issuers to increase rates on existing balances. However, the law only applied to consumer cards: the interest rate on your small business account can increase at any time. If you want to use your small business credit card to borrow, you will not have certainty regarding the interest rate.
  • If you give cards to your employees, you are likely personally liable. Many small business credit cards give you the option of adding credit cards for your employees. Usually that means you are adding an “authorized user” who will have the same charging privileges as you. It is like adding your husband or wife as an authorized user to your personal credit card. If your employee goes crazy at the local bar or books a flight to Tahiti, you are personally liable for the charges.
  • CARD Act protections do not extend to small business credit cards. In addition to the limitations on price increases mentioned above, none of the other CARD Act protections apply to small business credit cards. I will explain all of those protections in more detail later.

Small business credit cards can still be a great tool (I use one). Just make sure you understand the risks and the alternatives. In general, a small business card can be an excellent deal if you earn points and pay your balance in full and on time, accruing no interest. In addition, the cards can be a useful way to fund very short-term borrowing needs. However, if you need to borrow a larger amount over a longer period of time, an installment loan with a fixed interest rate from a marketplace lender or local bank would likely be a better option.

If you are shopping for a loan, you can read more about the best small business loans

I will now explain each of the potential risks in more detail below:

Personal Liability

If you have a small business and need to borrow money, you will likely need to take provide a personal guarantee, which means you would be held personally liable for repayment of the debt. This risk is not unique to small business credit cards. If you take an SBA loan, borrow from a marketplace lender or go to your local bank, you will likely need to provide a personal guarantee.  You really need to think twice before borrowing. If your business needs working capital to fund orders, make sure you pay close attention to the credit-worthiness of your customers before taking on too much debt to fund their orders. And you also need to be very honest with yourself if your business is in financial difficulty. It might be surprisingly easy to borrow money, even when your business is struggling. But if your business ultimately fails, you don’t want to create unnecessary debt that will follow you even after your business is closed.

Personal Credit Report

Most small business credit cards will not report to consumer credit reporting agencies so long as your account is current. This is important, because you do not want the balance on your small business credit card to appear as personal debt. However, if you stop paying your small business credit card (and default), you can expect the negative information to end up on your personal credit report.

Many major credit card issuers will start reporting to your personal credit report as soon as you are seriously delinquent. In general, once you are 60 days past due you can expect the negative information to hit your report. The reporting will have a big negative impact on your score. Delinquencies of 60 days or more can easily take 100 points or more from a credit score.

Even if your small business credit card does not report to the credit bureau, a default can still appear on your report. Typically, credit card companies will write off the debt at 180 days past due and sell the debt to collection agencies. At that point, the collection agency registers a collection item on your credit report. And, along the way, you could also have a legal judgment.

In a best case scenario, the debt does not appear on your report. But if you miss your payments, you can expect big derogatory marks to hit your score, in addition to the collections activity.

Your Interest Rate Can Increase

If you miss a payment, even by just one day, you should expect a big increase in the interest rate on your existing balance. Even worse, your rate could be increased even while you are current. For example, if you max out your credit card you could appear riskier to the bank. Because you appear risky, the bank could increase your interest rate.

This could have a big impact. Imagine you have a $15,000 balance at a 15% interest rate. If the rate increases to 25%, you could see an increased monthly interest charge of $125. Your debt could cost you an extra $1,500 a year with no warning and no possibility to avoid the interest rate increase.

If you need to borrow money, you should consider a term loan from a marketplace lender or your community bank. With a term loan, you can get a fixed interest rate. For example, Funding Circle offers loans with an APR as low as 5.49% and LendingClub offers an APR as low as 7.77%. When you take a term loan, you are at least locking in the cost of your borrowing.

Before the CARD Act, the credit card industry was guilty of outrageous interest rate increases, especially using the vague language of “universal default.” That is why the CARD Act made such interest rate increases impossible. Unfortunately, small businesses never received that same protection and need to proceed with caution.

Note: you can use a personal credit card for business expenses. Because you are personally liable for the debt regardless, this could be a good option. The benefit is that the interest rate cannot be increased on your debt so long as you are current. (Remember that most interest rates are variable – so the rate could increase as the Prime rate increases, but you would not see an increase for punitive reasons). The risk is that you would be putting that balance on your personal credit report, which could impact your credit score and your ability to qualify for products like mortgages, because the underwriters would treat that debt as personal debt. If you want to find a consumer credit card, you can read our Best Credit Card Guide.

Employee Cards Can Make You Liable

Often you might want to give credit cards to employees so that they can make business purchases. Most credit card issuers will allow you to give supplementary credit cards to employees. There are two big benefits to this service. First, you can earn points or miles on purchases made by your employees. Second, you have complete visibility of the money being spent by your employees.

But there is a big risk. By giving a card to your employee, you are giving them access to your credit limit. It is just like a supplementary card that you give to your husband or wife. If your employee decides to have a big night out at a bar or a flight to Tahiti, you will be personally liable for the charges. Just be very careful before you agree to an arrangement like this.

Other CARD Act Protections

There were a number of consumer protections provided by the CARD Act that do not apply to small business cards. These include:

  • Penalty Fee Restrictions: penalty fees have to be “reasonable and proportional” to the relevant violation of account terms. In general, penalty fees for consumers should be restricted to $25 for a first late payment and $35 for each subsequent late payment.
  • Overlimit Fee Opt-In: issuers can only charge an overlimit fee if the customer opts in to overdraft protection.
  • Payment timing: Payments must be due on the same day of every month, reducing the risk of confusion.
  • Payment Allocation: When the payment amount exceeds the minimum due, issuers generally need to apply the amount above the minimum due to the balances with the highest interest rates first.
  • Monthly Statements: The statement needs to show how long it would take, and how much it would cost, to pay off the debt if only the minimum due is made. In addition, the statement needs to show the payment required in order to pay off the balance in three years.
  • Ability to pay: Card issuers cannot open a credit card or increase a credit line unless the ability of the consumer to repay is taken into account.

All of the protections listed above are required for consumer credit cards, but are not required for small business cards.

In many cases, credit card issuers have decided voluntarily to provide some of these protections to consumers. However, it is important to understand that these protections, when provided, are at the discretion of the bank and can be removed.

Small Business Credit Cards Can Still Provide A Valuable Service

When used properly, a small business credit card can still provide excellent value. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Small business credit cards can be a great way to manage discretionary expenses, particularly when combined with services like Expensify and integrated with QuickBooks. T&E, travel and other expenses can quickly get out of hand, and creating electronic records of every transaction can help the budgeting and management process.
  • A small business credit card is a free line of credit if you pay the balance in full and on time every month. In effect, you are being given a free working capital line of credit. For example, if you use Google AdWords to acquire customers, you can get 20 – 25 days (depending upon the length of the grace period) before you have to pay the bill. This can be very helpful for cash management purposes.
  • For short-term borrowing needs (for example, 30 days), a small business credit card could be the least bad option. Imagine you need to borrow $15,000 for 2 months until you get paid for a job. At an 18% interest rate, it would cost you about $450 of interest to borrow the money for two months. That is a lot cheaper than most merchant advance businesses, which have interest rates well above 40%.
  • You have the potential to earn rewards. It is easy to earn at least 2% on your spending, which can be serious money depending upon the spending needs of your business.
  • The debt associated with your small business will not appear on your personal credit report so long as you remain current, which can help keep your credit score up.
  • One of the greatest accounting risks faced by small businesses is that they co-mingle their personal and business accounts. By using a separate card, you can ensure you don’t mix up your personal and business expenses.

Just remember – if you have a longer term borrowing need, it is better to go through the process of applying for a term loan. Although the process will take a bit longer, you should be able to get a much lower, fixed interest rate.

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5 Things You Should Know About Interest Rates, According to a Former Banker

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Know About Interest Rates

Interest rates.

Whether you’re buying a big-ticket item on credit, taking out a loan or applying for a credit card, one little question can strike fear into the heart of even the most savvy of spenders: What will my interest rate be?

Whether you’ve got great credit and qualify for some of the best offers out there or your score could stand a little CPR and you can’t even think about how much you pay in interest on debts each month, there are probably at least a few facts about interest rates — and your interest rates, in particular — that you didn’t know.

Below are some of the biggest ones to be aware of, courtesy of MagnifyMoney co-founder and former banker, Nick Clements.

1. You have more than one credit card interest rate

In actuality, just one credit hard may hold multiple different rates for different things. For example, you’ll likely have different interest rates for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers, to start. “In addition, if you open a new credit card, you will likely have introductory purchase and introductory balance transfer interest rates,” says Clements. “Don’t assume that there is just one interest rate.”

You should do a little comparison-shopping to find the right interest rate for your needs, too. Check out this piece for seven low interest rate credit card options, and this one for the nine best 0% APR credit card offers.

2. Most interest rates are variable

Which the exception of introductory rates — which are usually (but not always) 0% — interest rates tend to be variable. This means that the rate is tied to the prime rate, so if the prime rate goes up, so will your interest rate.

3. Your purchase APR is usually based on your credit score

Yet another reason why your credit score is so valuable: The higher your credit score, the lower your risk to the credit card company, and the lower the interest rate you’ll pay. Your interest rate will be given to you when you open your account and will be based on your credit score at the time of your application, so it’s worth looking into your score before trying to open a card to get a feel for what you might be dealing with.

4. Your interest rate can go up for a myriad of reasons

An increase in the prime rate isn’t the only thing that will make your interest rate go up. “If you become 60 days or more delinquent, you can be charged a penalty interest rate,” says Clements. “That means your rate could become very high on your existing balances.” The bank can also arbitrarily decide to increase everyone’s interest rates. However, in this circumstance, if the bank wants to change the rate on your existing balance, you have the right to say no. “You would then close your card and just make payments on the existing balance until it’s paid in full,” explained Clements. “If you want to keep the credit line open, you would have to keep the higher rate.”

5. You can negotiate your interest rate

If you’re unhappy with how high your interest rate is, you can always call the bank and ask to get it reduced. (Here’s a script to help you negotiate credit card fees.) Believe it or not, they will often do it. That won’t be the best deal though.

“If you have credit card debt, a good credit score and are looking to pay it off quickly, there is no better deal than an introductory balance transfer offer,” says Clements. “You can get 0% for up to two years at some issuers.” Compare different balance transfer options here to find out if there’s one that will help you get out of debt.



The 4 Worst Credit Card Mistakes You Can Make, According to a Former Banker

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We all make mistakes. Whether it’s calling someone by the wrong name, blanking on essential information during a big presentation or firing off that email to the wrong person, we’ve all been there.

Unfortunately some mistakes are harder to make up for than others. When it comes to financial mistakes, the ones we make with our credit cards can haunt us for months (or even years) to come.

In order to help you avoid the same credit card missteps that so many have made, Nick Clements, former banker and co-founder of MagnifyMoney, has outlined four common ones traps people tend to fall into. Read on so you can sidestep them in the future.

Mistake 1: Signing up for auto-pay for the minimum due

Why it’s a mistake:
Your credit card specifically tells you each month the minimum amount of money that is due on it — so it must be fine to pay that amount each month, right? Unfortunately, it’s not. For far too many people, out of site means out of mind, says Clements. “If you ignore your statement and just make the minimum payment, you could be drowning in debt for 25+ years,” he said. “And you will end up spending more interest than you actually borrowed.”

What to do instead:
Setting up automatic payments isn’t a bad idea, but make sure it’s for the total balance. You can also set monthly reminders to pay your bill if you want to check for accuracy and ensure a payment won’t overdraw your account. Even if you can’t pay the entire amount, you should at least pay as much as you can above the minimum to minimize the exorbitant interest fees as much as possible.

Mistake 2: Using your credit card to borrow cash

Why it’s a mistake: Taking out a cash advance can be very expensive, since most credit card companies will charge a cash advance fee typically 3% of the amount borrowed, says Clements. “In addition, most credit card companies have a higher interest rate for cash advances, which is typically 25% or higher at most issuers,” he added. “And there is no grace period, which means interest accrues immediately.”
What to do instead: If you need cash right away and don’t have it saved in an emergency account or can’t borrow a temporary amount from a friend or family, consider a personal loan. If your credit is in good shape, there are plenty of options for low-interest personal loans that can help you in a pinch. If you’re tempted to use a payday loan, then there is a chance a cash advance makes more sense.

Mistake 3: Using a credit card overseas that charges a foreign transaction fee

Why it’s a mistake:
Paying money to take out your own money makes absolutely no sense, and with a little research, no one should have to do this.

What to do instead: These days it’s easy to find a credit card company that offers no charges on foreign transaction fees — check out this piece for some of the best options.

Mistake 4: Maxing out all of your credit cards

Why it’s a mistake:
Just because you have $10,000 to spend on four different credit cards doesn’t mean you should be spending $10,000 on four different credit cards, and in fact it’s probably safe to say you absolutely shouldn’t. One reason is that if you max out your cards, your all-important credit score will suffer. “Plus a maxed out credit card probably means that you cannot pay the balance in full and will be paying high interest rates,” Clements added.

What to do instead:
The name of the game is responsibility when it comes to credit cards, which means you should only spend on your credit card what you can afford to pay off in full. “Also, shop around for the lowest interest rate if you need to borrow,” says Clements. Check out this piece for some low interest rate credit card options.