Monthly Archives: February 2013

Credit Cards Could Make You Money

Compare Credit Cards

With some common sense precautions, you could earn a few extra bucks from your credit cards. Yes, the stack of plastic cards that you thought were money drainers could actually give you some extra cash every month, PROVIDED [caps intended] you approach the practice in a disciplined manner and exercise extreme due diligence all along. Done right, you could have some extra money every month but if you make mistakes you could end up losing a lot more money. Here are some ways your credit cards could make you extra money:

Interest rate differentials could earn you extra cash

If you have received an offer for a 0% APR credit card, that would be the perfect starting point. Generally, the way this process works is very simple. Let’s say you have a $5,000 credit line with 0% APR for six months. Some individuals deposit this money in an interest bearing account for the duration of six months and gain some additional cash due to the interest differential. Now, it is not as easy as it sounds.

First, you have to read your credit card provider’s terms and conditions and your state and local laws to see if the practice is prohibited. Second, getting the $5,000 into your account may cost you some money in the form of transaction costs so you will have to do the math if the overall transaction is beneficial or otherwise. Finally, the 0% APR may not be availed of for certain transactions.

You may want to read our article Credit Card Arbitrage Could Be Tricky for more details.

Cashback percentage, rewards, bonus points, miles, travel rewards, and others

Not much complexity here. In fact, this is very easy. Depending on the type of credit card you have signed up for, you could win various cashback incentives, rewards, and other bonuses. There is one catch, though, if you don’t repay your purchases in full (on time), you will incur the regular APR and that would nullify your earnings so the key is to repay in full whenever possible.

The 0% APR on purchases offer could be a money maker

If you have an introductory 0% APR on purchases credit card, it could be a source of additional income as well. Some individuals pay for their purchases using the credit card for the duration of the 0% APR offer and deposit a similar amount in their interest bearing account while repaying a minimum balance during the duration of the offer. Just before the expiration of the offer, they repay the entire amount in full to avoid incurring any interest rate charges.

Again, the same precautions apply. You need to calculate all transaction costs meticulously in order to avoid incurring unreasonable fees.

Note: If you do not adapt to the various parameters, you could end up losing much more money than you expect to make so be very careful. As always, you should seek the advice of an investment professional and an attorney.

Is A Fake Friend Lurking Around In Your Social Network?

fake_friend_alert

I love being a netpreneur. Running an online business has allowed me to explore areas I would have never considered if I had not been in this business. Then there is the other side: I come across scams and fraudulent online marketing schemes that thrive on [misplaced] trust. I am not talking about the famous “e-mail me your routing number” or “date me abroad” types. Those were perhaps at the kindergarten level in the world of sophisticated scams — maybe a training school for rookie Internet scammers.

Here, I am talking about live human viruses that may be lurking around in your social networks already. These could be individuals who have already gained your trust and are masquerading as your friends and well-wishers. From game invites to roses and funny one-liners, they adopt a wide range of strategies to gain your trust and indirectly seek your blessings to crawl their way into your friends’ networks, often at the cost of the reputation and trust you enjoy with them.

100_million_people

Unfortunately, these operations are so subtle and difficult to spot that even the savviest of social media users fall prey to some very damaging machinations. Worse, over 100 million people blindly allow strangers into their networks. Before getting into the basics about protecting yourself, you should become familiar with how these fake friends manage to get into your network in the first place.

One friend innocently opens the mythical “Pandora’s Box” and lets the flies loose

The operation invariably starts with a fake account (human or a bot). It is not that hard to get one. All you need is a valid e-mail address and voila you have your passport to officially eavesdrop on millions of social media conversations.

At the next level, the fake account makes a concerted effort to join groups, fan clubs, community and interest-themed pages, celebrity hangouts, large brands, and other areas where it is easy to connect with a large number of people. Furthermore, having a common interest makes it easy for these individuals to make more friends and initiate conversations without giving away their true intentions.

Once this background is setup (or simultaneously), the fake account starts connecting with individuals randomly or in a targeted fashion. Once they make a friend, they will slowly start sending friend requests to that individual’s network and make their way through a Web of people, often mimicking search engine robots in the process. It is not that hard to accept a request from a friend’s friend, right? You may be surprised but over ninety percent of individuals will accept a friend request if it comes from a friend’s friend. Social manners!

So, what do they do with all these connections?

A lot more than you know. At a very basic level, they could use their relationship with you to gather more “likes” or ask you or your friends to click on questionable websites and send traffic their way. Often, this viral traffic is sold or auctioned off for a profit — without your informed consent. If you receive “$5 for 1,000 friends” spam you know what I am talking about.

What else could they do? A lot. Even if your privacy settings are very secure, your friends will still be privy to the information you post and share. Just by evaluating your social media habits they could paint your profile, spy on you, find your address, and do so much more damage.

Some genuinely good people see the world as being a mirror image of their own personality. They share pictures of “first paychecks,” “first credit card approvals” and even children’s information. That is a lot of ammunition for unscrupulous con artists. Seriously, just zoom the check’s image and you have the routing number, account number, and so much more. Great! Shopping spree! Let’s ship the goods to another continent.

You may have come across news stories of how houses were burglarized because the homeowner posted the family status as being at “XYZ Place” (hundred miles away from home). Perfect timing. We have two hours to swipe the house squeaky clean.

How to spot a fake friend

You could use various strategies to spot a fake friend but being vigilant to your friends’ activities is perhaps the best way to gauge their intentions. Some common threads I have discovered include:

- Huge disproportion between number of friends and other activities. This morning one of my business pages received a like from someone who had two friends and nearly 1,800 likes. Tells a story? Seriously, if you want to fake it, do it the right way. I removed him immediately. Always review your potential friend’s activity to understand what he/she is into.

- Picture-perfect models. More often than not, they will use images of picture-perfect models to either hide their nationality or give you the impression that a legitimate Greek god or goddess is interested in your friendship.

- The win-your-trust strategy. If you just posted information about a personal tragedy or an emotional roller-coaster, this is the perfect timing for them to win your trust. Be wary of strangers wanting to empathize with you.

- An unreasonably large number of photo tags. We all tag pictures but if you see a super-high number of tags, be careful.

- Super-human profile. Wide range of interests, 400-pound bench pressing skills, extra-benevolent personality … chances are the fake friend will try to charm or flirt his/her way to your friendship.

- Insufficient personal activity. If you see very few personal pictures and a large number of places or things, be alert. Red flag.

Of course, all of these could be manipulated to give you the impression that the person is real, but common sense and some basic research (Google!) should help you spot the fake. Nothing wrong in being open to friendships. Just a little discretion could go a long way toward safeguarding your own safety.

How To Cut Your Cell Phone Bill To Less Than A Dollar

As much as we love our cell phones, paying the bill is certainly something we don’t look forward to. Fortunately, there are many legitimate ways to cut your cell phone bill to literally pennies a day. We will share a few strategies that have worked in the past:

Go prepaid

If you have access to a phone at work and home, it would make a lot of sense to cut down your cell phone use. In addition to the reduction in “radiation absorption,” you will be padding your bank account with hundreds of extra dollars every year. It is much simpler than you think.

Instead of opting for a monthly contract, consider signing up for a prepaid cell phone plan. You can choose prepaid plans with a variety of options. From monthly usage plans to “pay only when you use” plans there are plenty of options, some as low as a few cents a day.

Furthermore, you pay for prepaid plans in advance so there is very little scope to go overboard. In fact, prepaid plans should be named “re-paid” plans as they are so effective in cutting cell phone bills.

Flat rate options are the best

Cell phone carriers are a competitive lot and if you follow the industry closely, you will notice that there are less than ten major carriers that control a major proportion of the market share. Often, in a bid to out-perform each other, these carriers roll out promotional plans and deep discounts that ultimately benefit consumers.

Some plans offer low cost, unlimited use plans with the option of bundling unlimited phone time, texts, and Web and data use for a low flat monthly rate.

Family plans are easy on the budget

Cell phone carriers love “volume customers”. If a family of seven signs up with a single carrier, it could be a win-win for everyone, including the carrier. Often, the savings are passed on the consumers in the form a low cost family plan. In addition to the savings, calling family members within the same network could be very cost-effective (and sometimes free) as well.

Eliminate features you don’t need

Some features are absolutely necessary whereas others are just “money makers” for cell phone companies and these are the ones you can usually do without. Go through your cell phone bill with a tooth comb and find out if you are signed up for features that you don’t really need. Eliminating just a few of these “extras” could bring your bill down significantly.

Say goodbye to apps you don’t need

Some smartphone users are charged with a heavy bill for excess data utilization. You may be surprised but a few apps could consume a lot of bandwidth and increase your monthly bill accordingly. Don’t download apps that you don’t need. Stick to the ones that truly benefit you.



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Fight Debt Like A Warrior: Simple Tips To Become Debt Free

How to become debt free

Debt is a growing problem for millions of people and getting rid of debt is on the wish list of everyone. But it is an not easy thing to do and you need lot of sacrifice and commitment to do so.

It is stated that the average American family caries a credit card debt of about $15,000 besides car and mortgage payments. With average 15% rate means that the debt of almost $15,000 will add up annually and the debt will keep on increasing if some drastic measures are not taken. If you choose to pay off minimum payments then it will take you almost ten years to clear the debts.

The following steps will help you pay off the debts:

The first step is to believe in yourself that you will pay all your debts. Once you have that belief then take a piece of paper and write down all the debts in the order of highest interest rates first.

Then make another list which should include all your financial commitments and necessities like rent, gas, food, utilities, clothing, entertainment and all other expenses. Add all of these expenses.

Next step is to calculate your net income from all sources. Deduct the expenses from the net income. The figure that comes out at the end is called discretionary income. This amount will be paid to pay your debt. If the figure is too small then what you will need to do is cut down on your expenses in order to generate funds to pay debts or secure a second source of income, if possible.

You can also sell some of your assets and use their proceeds to pay the unsecured debt having the highest interest rate. We hate this, though.

The unsecured debts with highest interest rates should be your priority and most of your discretionary income should be spent to get rid of them and use much smaller portion for all other debts. Keep doing this until all of your unsecured debts are paid off and then pay secured debts like car payments.

Debt settlement

If you have other investments in the shape of bonds and stocks, then decide which savings you are willing to sacrifice in order to pay down the debt. Add these proceeds with the sale of your unnecessary assets.

Now the most important step is to contact your creditors with highest interest rates first. Then negotiate with their supervisor and ask him to give you a total which will be acceptable to you in order to make a full payment. Ask for a letter from your creditor mentioning that total payment after which you will be free of their debt. Remember that settling for less money than you owe is possible only if you are more than three months behind your payments. Furthermore, you should make certain that this step will benefit your credit score. Clarify this point. It is always preferred to seek legal counsel.

Finally, pay your creditors as promised in full and ask for confirmation letter that all the debt has been paid in full.

After paying off one creditor, use that payment to settle the debt from another creditor with highest interest rate and so on.

Highly Effective Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

These days, credit score is of vital importance if you need to rent an apartment, buy a house, a car, or  even get a job. Yes, if you will be dealing with sensitive financial information or hold a position of accountability, your employer may check your credit score. Now the million dollar question is how can you improve your credit score? Although, there is no magic required to improve your credit score but some self-discipline, motivation and proper planning can help you raise your credit score.

It’s a marathon, not a 100-meter race

Just remember that you will be able to improve your credit score over a period of time. So be patient and start working gradually. You might be able to raise credit score up to 200 points within three years if you take the right steps. Of course, it is possible that some people will not achieve this number. It is entirely in your hands.

Pay monthly bills on time

In order to maintain a good credit score, what you need to do is pay monthly bills on time. Even a slight delay can cause a few points to be deducted from your credit score. That’s why it is important that as soon as your bill reaches your mailbox, pay it immediately. If possible, you can also register for automatic recurring payments.

Don’t charge over 25% of your credit limit

In case you are just about to start and have a meagre credit report, think about opening one or more credit accounts. Don’t go above 25% of the credit limit and always try to pay your balance in full, if possible. It is not required that you overdo it but it is a healthy habit to maintain accounts which will later on help you build a higher score.

Keep balances low                                 

Just keep your balances low at all times and keep within the 25% range, if possible. In case it goes over this limit, then stop charging and try to pay off your debt first.

Negotiate a lower APR

If you are a regular and a loyal customer for some time then you can ask the customer service to negotiate a lower APR. This may take some effort and persistence but is theoretically possible.

Check your credit reports

Carefully study the credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion and check each and every entry on the report. If you find any inconsistencies, then go ahead and dispute them. Once it gets fixed, you will be delivered an updated report.

Don’t close all your paid accounts

There is some debate on this one and we have heard different opinions. It is not necessary that you close all the accounts that you are not using. Keep the ones which you have had the longest. Its advantage is that it will make you more credit worthy because the duration of credit history plays an important role in credit score.

How To Cut Your Long Distance Phone Bill

Due to rising utility prices, there is a lot of focus on savings. Whether it is water, Internet or any other expenditure, slashing bills is always high on priority. Long distance phone calls are often very expensive and you can reduce these bills dramatically by taking small steps. Both landline and mobile rates can be reduced by a little bit of planning.

Remove added services

Focus on analyzing your billing statement. Never toss your phone bills aside like a piece of paper; instead, read it carefully. Start by checking any added services that are a part of your total bill. Ask yourself how many times you have used these add-on services and if you feel you can do without them then it will save you some cash. You can get rid of them by simply calling your phone company and request a termination of such services which you don’t require.

Make long distance calls through cell phone only

Using cell phones for making long distance phone calls is much more economical than your landline. It doesn’t matter if you are calling your mother in San Francisco or your best friend in Boston, always use a cell phone and you will save lot of money.

Paperless billing statements

Many phone companies charge a small fee to their customers for paper billing statements. There is a cheaper and simpler way of checking bills if you ask your phone company to send all the statements electronically. It will also benefit the environment.

Use VoIP

These days, technology in mobiles and landline phones is such that you can call anyone using VoIP services. These services not only provide you a much cheaper alternative but some of these services enable you to call absolutely free of cost and in the process save you tons of money. Using VoIP applications you can call all over the world through the Internet. Some of these services also let you make a video call using a camera. But it requires a super-fast Internet connection.

Buy a phone card for long distance calls

If you rarely make a long distance phone call then it is better to purchase a prepaid telephone card for long distance calls. Also, ask your phone service to cut the option of long distance calls, when it’s done you will be able to receive a long distance calls only. One important thing to remember about calling cards is that, once used it has an expiry date. So try to use all the credit before it expires.

Trends

Today, more and more people are relying on mobile phones and eliminating the landline entirely. Both have their pros and cons. The only drawback of mobile phones (as the only source of calling) is its battery life. Most mobile phones batteries don’t last more than a day or two. So don’t forget to keep it charged, as you might need it in case of an emergency.

Innovative Ways To Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates as Much as 50%

How to lower your credit card interest rates

The biggest fear for any debtor is the spiralling cost of interest rates by their credit card companies on their present debt balances. Sometimes, these rates can even rise to a massive 30% APR. All such companies take our signature on a legal document which authorises them to push increases in interest rates, subject, of course, to legal restrictions imposed by local, state, and federal governments.

For those credit card users who wish to maintain a zero balance all the time will not be bothered by rate changes. But others who maintain a revolving balance will struggle to reduce their debt. For that reason, this article will focus on various techniques that will help with management of revolving debt and also lower card rates.

Three effective techniques to lower your credit card interest rates

1. Hardship Program

If you are struggling with your debt then the best thing you can do is to ask your creditors whether they have any “hardship program”.  Not all the companies offer this option but many do. Usually these programs last no more than three to twelve months.

Usually, for the first six months the creditor manages to cut down existing interest rates in half or even down to 0%. Its only disadvantage is that you won’t be able to use your credit card during that period. This is in fact a blessing in disguise if you want to get rid of your debt.

2. Get used to cards that maintain relatively lower rates

First step is to compare interest rates of various credit cards. Standard cards usually have basic features but offer lowest rates. People often buy them for their regular APR, which is considerably lower than those of rewards and travel cards. But lookout for the rates after the promotional period gets expired, anything below 10% is considered to be on the lower range.

3. Transfer balance to a low interest rate credit card.

There is another way to lower your credit rate. It can be done by transferring a balance transfer to a card which has low interest rate. For this reason choose 0% APR credit cards, such cards will help you reducing your debt.

There are two key points which should be kept in mind while moving your balance successfully:

a)      Stop racking up balance on cleared card

Many people made the cardinal mistake of pilling up debt again on the cards whose debt have been shifted on to low interest rate card.

b)      Read the fine Print

Make it your habit to read all the terms and conditions and know well in advance the balance transfer fees on the new card. You should know how long will you be paying the low interest  rate and when that period expires what will be the regular rate applicable on your debt.

Cut Your Insurance Bill Aggressively

Nobody likes to overpay for insurance. So before talking to the insurance companies it is a good to know in advance what types of coverage you need, otherwise you might end up paying much more than required. In order to avoid falling prey to such companies you should follow these three easy steps to cut your insurance bill.

Get membership in professional organizations and associations

It is commonly observed that memberships can be very beneficial, as you can get discounts on various restaurants, airfare, and other services. There are also many employers who offer memberships to their employees and help reduce the amount of the insurance bill. Contact your insurance firm and talk to your employer. It is beneficial to both the employer and the employees to participate in such money-saving programs.

Bundle insurance needs

This method has got many advantages. Besides the usual reduction in auto insurance costs, the overall insurance bill is lowered significantly. Having several insurance policies with different companies is not recommended at all, as combining all of these services with one company will lower the rate appreciably. As you will become a major client, the company will reward you with one low rate.

The best possible way to bundle your services is when you speak to an authorized person from the company who can sanction the required changes to your policy. See what rates that company is prepared to offer to you and then visit other insurance companies and compare these rates with what they are offering. Tell other insurance providers what rates your company is providing and you will be surprised to see that these companies will go all the way in order to compete with your current insurance company. This way you can effortlessly reduce insurance rates.

Assume more risk (or go for a higher deductible)

The simple strategy of opting for a higher deductible could lower your insurance rates by double digit percentages. The savings in premium amounts may offset the higher deductible option over a course of time and if you manage your insurance program carefully, it could actually save you more money.

0 Card Credit Introductory Offer

It is evident that the modern day credit card companies and banks are taking this age-old adage to heart. Why else would they come up with something like a 0 card credit introductory offer?

Introductory offers by these banks and companies are meant to make an excellent first impression upon the consumers. Who would be able to resist a tempting 0 card credit introductory offer, after all? Would you say no if you were offered an introductory offer of 0% interest rate on your new credit card?

How does a “0 card credit introductory offer” work?

0 card credit introductory offer is an unusual coinage of the term but denotes the fact that APR rates are 0% or nil on that credit card, at least for a specified period of time. Since it is an introductory offer, it implies that it is meant to promote the credit card and the offer will be for a short term. Usually, the duration of the offer is anywhere between six to eighteen months.

The 0% interest is mostly limited to the balance amount transferred to the new credit card, which means that no interest will be charged if you want to repay the balance that is outstanding on the new credit card. But this does not apply to any new debt taken against the new credit card. Taking a cash advance on the new credit card will cost you very high interest rates and this will not be covered by the 0 card credit introductory offer.

What is the best use of a 0 card credit introductory offer?

Intelligent credit card consumers tend to look upon a 0 card credit introductory offer as a fabulous opportunity to repay their debts that are outstanding on their old credit cards. There are many savvy credit card users who are constantly on the lookout for such offers and will not waste any more money in paying interest on their old outstanding balances.

For instance, let us suppose that the first credit card charges 18 % interest on the outstanding balance. Now if this credit card user comes across a 0 card credit introductory offer, he / she can save a lot of money that was supposed to be paid as interest in the process. This is the best way to make the most of such a magnificent offer. But this tactic will work only if the outstanding balance is paid before the 0 % interest offer ends.

If you ever you come across a 0 card credit introductory offer you should not let it go, especially if you are carrying an outstanding balance on your old credit card. Credit card companies and banks use these kinds of offers to entice new customers and that is why they extend the 0% interest rate offers for six to eighteen months at a time. It is up to the consumers to make the best of such limited time duration offers and save a considerable amount of money in the process.

How To Make A List of Credit Cards And Get The Best Out Of It?

With each day, newer banks and credit card companies are coming out with credit cards in the market. A person who wishes to apply for a credit card is often bewildered by the host of choices and fails to come to a conclusion when making a decision as to which credit card is the best for him/her.

How to make a good list of credit cards?

The best way to make a good choice when it comes to credit card selection is to prepare a list of credit cards. Instead of making a random list, you can use certain criteria to make this credit cards list. The criteria for selection should be according to your personal preference of credit cards. For instance, if you are interested in credit cards that give cash back, then you need to make a list of credit cards that belong to this category.

Or if you want a credit card that will help you save some money on your balance transfer, you can make a list of credit cards that offer low or zero interest rates on balance transfer. Similarly, you could make lists of credit cards that offer air travel miles, bonuses or zero APR.

How to use this list of credit cards?

Making the list is the first step, and you can use the criteria mentioned in the previous section to prepare it. You can do some research online to find out which cards to include in your list. There is no need to include a lot of credit cards in each of your list of credit cards. The five topmost or five most popular credit cards are all that are needed.

After the list prepared, you can use the information on the credit card review sites to compare between the cards and find out which one is the best suited for your needs.

When to make a list of credit cards?

You can make a list of credit cards whenever you want to make an informed decision between the numerous credit cards that are available in the market. This applies to people who are applying for credit cards for the first time and also for those who are trying for a second or the next credit card.

It is better to make such a list every time you need to choose a new credit card. Credit card offers keep changing all the time and new banks and credit card companies keep entering the market regularly. So try to use an updated list of credit cards each time, no matter how recently you had created the previous list.

A list of credit cards will always come in handy when choosing a good credit card for your needs. Just make sure that you use the right criteria to create this list. Also be prepared to do some amount of market research to find the best performing credit cards at that point of time.