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5 Secrets About Credit Cards Your Bank Would Not Tell You

5 Secrets About Credit Cards Your Bank Would Not Tell You

Credit cards be an enigma. Powerful tools if you use them right, but dangerous weapons if you’re not careful. On top of that, every card is loaded with tons of fine print you probably don’t know about (and your banks would rather you not know). Here’s a few secrets about your credit card that your bank won’t tell you.

Annual Fees Are Negotiable

Don’t feel like paying your card’s annual fee? Don’t do it. Call up your provider and ask nicely – and lots of times they’ll waive it. Use this script:

Customer Service [CS]: Hi, this is Mary with MasterCard. How can I help you?

You: Hi Mary, I’ve had this card for a while and I really like it. I’ve been a [Bank Name] customer for the last [number of years]. I’ve spent [$x] on this card and I’d really like to keep using it, but I didn’t realize there would be a fee. Is there anything you can do about that?

CS: Let me check.

A lot of times, they’ll say or act like they can’t do anything about it. This is where most people give up. Not you, stick around and be persistent.

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You: You said you’re not sure if you’re able to get the fee waived?

CS: Yes, that’s correct.

You: Well, can you check?

CS: I’m pretty sure we can’t waive the fee sir / ma’am.

You: Can you check with your manager please?

When the manager comes on, ask again with the first script. Be confident, but polite – they’re not going to want to do favors for jerks. When in doubt, be patient, polite and don’t give up until you get a direct answer from the manager in charge of the card. Often, they like to keep loyal customers and waiving the annual fee to keep one as a customer is a no-brainer. That said, it doesn’t work 100% of the time, so your mileage may vary, but it’s definitely worth trying. If they’re not going to waive the fee, then you can go on to the next tip.

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You Don’t Have To Cancel The Card

If you have an annual fee you don’t want to pay, but also don’t want to cancel the card (and want to keep your credit clean), you don’t have to cancel the card. Ideally, you’ve already had the conversation above. If so, continue on with this script:

You: Hi, well I’d really prefer not to pay an annual fee. Is there another version of this card without the fee?

CS: Oh, yes, there’s the _______ card.

You: Can you please confirm that there’s no annual fee with this card?

CS: Yes.

You: Can we do that?

CS: Sure, we’ll have that card out to you in the next 7-10 days.

You: Thanks for your help [their name].

Voila.

You Don’t Actually Have To Spend Money

If you want to hit the minimums on your card – you don’t have to spend tons of money to hit credit card bonuses for sign-ups and accrue lots of miles or points. The infamous buy $1,000 of coins from the US mint trick sadly no longer works – but there are other options out there. There are other techniques you can use to essentially spend money on your credit cards and accrue points or miles without having to pay tons of cash out of pocket.

The Vanilla Card Churn Strategy

Essentially, you load up vanilla reload cards at $500 each. Each one has a $3.95 sign up fee. You can typically load up to $5,000 on different cards. So basically, you’ve bought 5,000 miles for $39.50. That’s a mileage value of .008/mile – which is pretty darn good considering most miles are valued at about .002 each. You then transfer vanilla card balances to a bluebird debit card and use that money to pay off your credit card balance. There’s more in-depth information on this entire vanilla churn strategy here.

The Paypal Load Strategy

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This is similar to the vanilla, except you can use it in your Paypal account without paying the ridiculous Paypal credit card and international fees. If you have international employees – it’s often cheaper to load up a Paypal reload card and pay your employees with that balance than it is to pay an international + credit card fee if you tried to use your credit card directly on the site. There’s always more of these on the way as well. If you plug into the great community at flytertalk, you can get wind of when these types of opportunities pop up.

You Can Use Your Card To Travel For Free

If you start stacking up enough miles in your various mileage bank accounts, you can start to do pretty neat things as far as travel goes. Sure you can use those points and get cash back, but if you turn them into miles, you can book a RTW ticket like Steve did for just a few hundred bucks (which would normally cost thousands). Miles were also a huge way that Chris Guillebeau traveled to every country in the world.

Some of these trips start at just 140,000 miles – which is essentially 3 large signup bonuses for different cards. Even if traveling to the world’s ends isn’t your thing – you can still get a free flight or two out of strategically using your cards. Not too shabby.

You Can Use The Same Card Twice

If you have a card that gives you good perks, you can sign up for it twice. If you wait 9-18 months, you can re-apply and get the annual fee waived. This is great for mileage-accruing cards that give big signup bonuses. If you cycle the cards every 9-18 months, you can get 25,000-50,000 bonus points from each card (without paying the annual fee). Pretty cool!

Well there you have it – five credit card secrets your bank would rather you not know.

Do you have any secrets that you’ve found work magic with your bank?

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Featured photo credit: Bitzcelt via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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