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Archive for January 2013

4 credit card tricks for vacation planning

Published 1/29/13

4 credit card tricks for vacation planning By Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Instead of complaining about the overcast skies and bitter temperatures, I have spent the last week redeeming frequent flier miles and hotel points to plan our family's summer vacation to Hawaii.

While it's satisfying to harvest the perks for our past credit card spending, the best part may be knowing that this year's reward points may help finance our next trip. With a little research and legwork, credit cards can help you get more for your vacation dollar -- especially if you know a few tricks.

Here are four ways to use your credit cards to save money on your getaways.

1. Look for partnership perks

When we were looking for a rental car, my husband checked online and found that one of our credit cards was offering a discount on car rentals from a certain company.

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How to protect your credit card from emergencies

Published 1/22/13

How to protect your credit card from emergencies By Tim Sullivan

When a costly emergency strikes, is your first instinct to pull out your credit card? If so, you may want to consider the benefits of building an emergency fund.

Creating an emergency fund is a vital step toward becoming a responsible credit card user. A credit card can be the perfect tool for many financial situations, but confronting large, unanticipated expenses isn't one of them. Even if your interest rate is low, monthly interest charges can still add up quickly. But a well-stocked emergency fund can prevent the need to go into debt when sudden events force you to reach for your wallet.

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund consists of easily accessible assets set aside -- typically in a bank account separate from your normal funds -- to be used only in the case of an emergency. It's not for movie tickets, vacations or video games. It's only for vital, unforeseeable expenses that are not part of your normal monthly budget.

What counts as an emergency?

Simply put, it's any unexpected, essential expense that your budget can't handle. Whether it's a sudden job loss or an accident that injures you or a member of your family, your emergency fund is there to help you cope with difficult times.

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Review: Chase Freedom MasterCard

Published 1/15/13  (Modified 4/8/14)

By Peter Andrew

Editor's Note: Thank you for your interest, this offer expired and is no longer available.

People like their computers for different reasons. Me? It's because mine brings a smidgen of order into a life that would otherwise be unrelentingly chaotic. Calendar alerts, reminder emails, electronic post-it notes -- these are the only reason I deliver work on time and turn up to social events. They're also the only things that stand between me and a constant stream through my front door of debt collectors, repo people and writ servers.

All those e-reminders should mean that I would be able to make the most of a Chase Freedom MasterCard. True, it's a perfectly good rewards credit card without your actively managing it. But, to maximize your cash back, you must take full advantage of the card's 5-percent bonus rate.

Great rewards -- if you work for them

To get the most from that 5-percent cash-back offer, you have to remember to re-register each quarter, when the categories of spending (for example, drug store, gas station and restaurant purchases, among many others) that attract the bonus rate change. It's also advisable to schedule your purchases through the year so that you buy things in the appropriate quarter, and to not bust through the spending cap -- $1,500 at the time of writing -- that limits your ability to earn bonus rewards during those three months.

No amount of electronic prompting would persuade me to jump through those hoops.

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6 steps to erasing holiday credit card bills

Published 1/11/13

6 steps to erasing holiday credit card bills By Justin Boyle

It's hard not to be generous during the holiday season, to ourselves as well as to others. The trouble with that generosity, though, is that it can lead to racking up some lofty balance figures on our credit card statements.

But starting today, you can formulate a solid plan of attack on that extra holiday debt. Here are six steps you can follow to make sure that the personal finance blow-back from your holiday generosity doesn't haunt you throughout the new year.

1. Freeze your spending

Every January 1, my aunt in New York takes whatever credit cards she's used for Christmas gifts that year and chucks them into the icebox. It keeps her from raising her balances any further, she says, while also serving as an effective reminder of her pledge every time she opens the freezer door. Her literal approach to a credit freeze may be a more eccentric gesture than you prefer, but using your own method to halt your spending can help you stop buying on credit as you get things under control.

2. Confront the numbers

Take an hour or so one evening to lay out a roster of your holiday credit cards.

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Review: The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

Published 1/10/13  (Modified 2/4/14)

By Peter Andrew

Editor's Note: Thank you for your interest, this offer expired and is no longer available.

Years ago, I had a platinum American Express card. But it must have issued at a time when AmEx's branding people were going through some sort of collective nervous breakdown, because -- although it looked great -- it was a fairly standard charge card.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN couldn't be more different. If you have the funds and credit necessary to obtain it -- and a lifestyle that can make use of its benefits -- it can deliver a veritable cornucopia of prestige and perks.

A serious card for serious businesspeople

First, the basics:

  1. This is a charge card, as opposed to a credit card. That means its balance has to be zeroed each month -- so no spreading the cost of purchases over a longer period.
  2. No revolving credit means no interest payments, so don't bother asking about the rate.
  3. The annual fee is $450, and it's not waived in your first year of membership. So if you're the sort of person for whom $450 is a king's ransom, this may not be your type of card.
  4. There are no foreign transaction fees.
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Review: Citi Diamond Preferred Card

Published 1/3/13  (Modified 11/22/13)

By Peter Andrew

Editors Note: This offer is expired and is no longer available.

Gosh, I hate this time of year. This is the time when my friends who were running up debt with their credit cards in December must face up to some harsh realities. It's not that I'm judgmental or possess a bah-humbug approach to gift giving -- I'd probably be doing something similar if I had young kids and was struggling to cope with the recession's hangover. It's just that I know I'll be witnessing those friends enduring some hard times (two Dickensian allusions and we're still in the first paragraph!) and horrible stress well into the New Year.

What would I suggest, were those pals to ask me for advice? I'd recommend they check out zero interest balance transfer credit cards, provided their credit scores were still good enough for them to stand a reasonable chance of getting approved. And at or near the top of the list I'd give them would be the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card.

Escaping interest charges

It's easy to forget just how much high credit card rates cost you: If you carry a balance of $5,000 throughout year, and are paying the average APR for a rewards credit card, you're probably having to find more than $900 a year in interest. The Citi Diamond Preferred Card could give you a break from this burden -- both for balance transfers and new purchases -- for a whopping 18 months.

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