Reader question: Can I use multiple Priority Pass memberships to bring in extra guests?

Airport lounges provide a comfortable place to relax before your flight or during a layover. You don’t need to fly in business or first class to get airport lounge access, though. Instead, you can use the Priority Pass membership provided by several travel rewards credit cards to access more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. The Priority …

Source: thepointsguy.com

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

On the surface, reward cards are a great way to make a few extra dollars or grab some air miles without increasing your spending or your debt. If you spend a lot of money at a particular shop, store cards will seem like an equally beneficial prospect. But these cards exist for a reason—they’re there to make more money for the providers and the retailers, not you.

Sure, reward/store cards have other benefits if you use them properly, but there are a host of disadvantages and hidden terms that you need to be aware of before signing on the dotted line. 

What are Store Cards?

Store cards are tied to specific stores and offered by chains of retailers. These cards work just like traditional cards and are often branded by networks like Visa and MasterCard. The difference is that they can only be used in the issuing stores and their rewards are tied to those stores.

In essence, they are store loyalty cards that come with a lien of credit attached. 

What are Reward Cards?

Reward cards are also tied to credit card networks, including American Express and Discover, as well as Visa and MasterCard. They award points every time they’re used for qualifying purchases and these points can then be swapped for air travel and other benefits. 

Some reward schemes award a specific amount of cash back, often fixed to 1% or 2% of purchases made on specific items, such as groceries or utility bills.

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

If a provider offers you cash back every time you spend money on your credit card, someone has to foot the bill. Many consumers assume that the credit card network covers the cost, and to an extent, they do. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase, the retailer is charged a fee, often between 1% and 3% of the purchase. This is the network’s charge. With reward cards, this fee increases, and the extra money is used to fund the rewards program.

As a result, retailers are not exactly happy with these programs as they drive their costs up and reduce their profits. The only way around this, is to increase the cost of the product or, more likely, to reward customers who pay with cash/debit. Retailers are not allowed to add a surcharge for credit card use, but there’s nothing stopping them from choosing which cards they do and don’t accept.

Your local Mom & Pop enterprise isn’t being antiquated and old-fashioned by refusing credit cards. They just can’t cover the costs. 5% may not sound like a big deal, but for retailers with minimal buying power and the massive overheads of running a brick-and-mortar store, 5% can be a deal breaker.

Smaller retailers are fighting back against reward cards while bigger ones are embracing them by adopting their own store cards. With a store card, they have more say, more control, and they know that those small losses will be offset by the increased purchases.

Issues with Store Credit Cards

Store cards carry a big risk and have far few benefits than reward cards. The advantages of these cards are obvious: If you shop a lot in a particular place, you can save money via the cash back schemes. 

They can also help with emergency purchases, providing you clear the balance in full. But, while the benefits are obvious, the same can’t be said about the disadvantages.

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

The average credit card interest rate in the United States is around 16%. The average rate for store cards is over 20%. That 4% may not seem like much, but if you don’t repay your balance every month that interest will compound, grow, and cost you a small fortune. 

At 16% with a $10,000 balance and a 60-month repayment term, you’ll pay $243 a month and over $4,000 in total interest.

Increase that rate to 20% and your monthly payment grows by $20 while your total interest increases by nearly $1,500. The longer you leave it and the smaller your monthly payments are, the greater that difference will be.

For example, if you repay just $200 a month on that balance, the difference between 16% and 20% is 26 extra months and close to $5,000. Of course, store cards rarely offer such high limits, but this is just as example to show you how much of a difference even the slightest percentage increase can cause.

It’s worth keeping this in mind if you ever apply for a traditional rewards card. Getting rewards in return for a higher APR is great if you repay your balance in full every month and terrible if you don’t.

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

If you miss a payment on your store credit card you could be hit with a penalty APR as high as 29.99%, as well as a late payment fee of $39. The rates are high to begin with, but these penalty rates are astronomical and will make a bad situation worse.

That’s not all, as some providers are known to be very unforgiven when it comes to missed and late payments. In some cases, your account will default even if you underpay just once and just by a few dollars. 

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

Retailers are not lenders. They don’t have the time, funds or patience to chase debts and deal with collection agencies. As a result, they don’t offer high credit limits and generally you’ll get a fraction of what an unsecured credit card might provide you with.

This might not seem like much of an issue. After all, a smaller credit limit means you’re less likely to accumulate large amounts of debts. However, this has a massively negative impact on your credit score that few borrowers consider.

30% of your credit score is based on something known as a credit utilization ratio. This looks at the total available credit and compares it to the debt that you have accumulated. If you have several cards with a combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, then your ratio is 50%, which is considered to be quite high.

If a store card is your only account and you spend $450 on a $500 limit, then you have a credit utilization ratio of 90%, which will reduce your score. Your credit report is also negatively affected by maxed-out credit cards, a feat that’s much easier to achieve when you have a low credit limit.

Con 4: There Are Better Options

It’s better to have one good reward card than multiple store cards. The former will provide you with far better interest rates and terms, while the latter will hit your credit report with several hard inquiries and new accounts. 

A rewards card will still benefit you when shopping at those stores and will also provide you with a wealth of other benefits.

Con 5: You May Spend More

Store cards are not designed to make your life easier and give you a few freebies. Regardless of what the store tells you, they’re not made to reward loyalty, they’re made to encourage spending. 

This doesn’t always work, and research suggests that many individuals use reward cards just like they would normal cards. But for a small minority, the idea of acquiring points is enough to convince them to spend more than they usually would.

Some good can be good debt, such as when it’s used to acquire an asset or something that won’t depreciate. But very rarely do we use credit cards for this purpose and generally, if you’re spending more on a store card it means you’re wasting more money on things you don’t need.

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

A store card can only be used in that particular store. This renders it redundant as an emergency card and also means you’re encouraged to shop in that one place. You don’t have a chance to shop around and find the cheapest price; you may spend more just to use your card and get the benefits, with those benefits rarely covering the additional money you spend.

What About Reward Cards?

Some reward cards have very high rates as these rates are used to offset the rewards program. However, this isn’t always the case, because, as discussed above, networks often charge retailers more to offset these purchases and therefore don’t always need to cover the costs themselves.

Some credit cards, such as the Discover It, offer solid reward schemes and would also be included on any list of the best non-reward credit cards. It’s a solid all-rounder and it’s not alone. However, many reward cards charge high annual fees and penalty rates, just like you’ll find with a store card.

It’s important to study the small print and make sure the card is viable. If you’re going to clear the balance every month, a slightly higher interest rate won’t hurt, especially if it comes with some generous rewards. But if there is any doubt and even the slightest chance that you won’t clear the balance, it’s always best to focus on a low-interest rate first.

Even the most generous 5% cash back reward card will not offset the losses occurred by paying a few more percentage points of interest.

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

Credit cards trigger hard inquiries, which can reduce your credit score by up to 5 points. This is true for every credit card that you apply for. Rate shopping can combine multiple inquiries into one if they are for the same type of credit, but this doesn’t apply to credit cards.

A new account will also impact your score. This impact is often minimal and if you keep up with your repayments then it will vanish in time. However, if you miss a payment, max-out your card or increase your credit utilization score, it could have a detrimental effect on your score and your finances.

Keep store cards to a minimum and only sign up if you’re 100% sure you’re getting a good deal that will benefit you in the short-term and the long-term.

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

[Targeted] Citi Spending Bonuses: Earn 5x On Selected Categories

Update 2/2/21: Available again, must activate by 2/15/21.

The Offer

No direct link to offer, sent out via e-mail. Subject line is ‘Find Joy Where You Least Expect It.’

  • Citi has sent out offers to some cardholders. Earn 5x Citi ThankYou Points at
      • Consumer Electronic Stores, including purchases on: Home entertainment, tech-savvy gadgets and video communication devices Department Stores, including purchases on: Cold weather basics Clothing Stores Game Stores, Hobby, and Toy Stores The latest gaming consoles, video games and at-home activities
      • Grocery Stores: including curbside pickup and online delivery, Drugstores: including prescription orders made online, Gas Stations, Mass Transit & Commuter Transportation Vendors

The Fine Print

  • Limit 2,500 points
  • Valid until 3/31/2021

Our Verdict

Not a huge maximum, but still useful for those targeted.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

5 Reasons for Credit Card Closure

Here are some reasons for credit card closure.

Having a wallet full of plastic can be a big temptation to overspend, which can lead to missed payments and a decreased credit score. If too many credit cards have you busting your budget, this might be a good reason for credit card closure. On the flip side, closing a credit card may hurt your credit score by messing with your credit history and credit utilization rate.

Depending on your situation, there are reasons for credit card closure. Canceling a credit card isn’t a bad idea if you close accounts that cost more to maintain than they’re worth and do it in a way that won’t significantly hurt your score.

Why Would a Credit Card Company Close Your Account?

While you’re considering your reasons for credit card closure, your credit card issuer might be doing the same thing. A credit card company has the right to cancel your card any time, and you may not get any warning it’s been canceled until it’s declined at the register.

A credit card provider will close your account if you quit paying the minimum monthly amount due. Missing one or two payments may only freeze your account until you’re caught back up, but your account will probably be closed after six months of nonpayment. Credit card companies have many other reasons for credit card closure.

Common reasons that may prompt a credit card issuer to cancel your account include:

  • Inactivity with a zero balance for several months
  • A drop in your credit score, especially due to late payments to other companies
  • Eliminating the type of card you have and closing everyone’s accounts
  • Going out of business because they’re no longer profitable

Do Closed Accounts Affect Your Credit Score?

Closing an account can affect your credit score because it can change your credit history and utilization rate, which are two major factors used to calculate your credit score. Your credit history is based on the amount of time all your credit card accounts have been open, so closing an older account can hurt.

Your credit utilization is based on the amount of available credit you’re currently using, so closing an account with a large credit limit and low balance can hurt even more. When deciding whether you should close a credit card account, consider some reasons why credit card closure makes sense.

1. You’re Getting Divorced

If you’re getting separated or divorced from a person who shares a joint account with you, close the account. Otherwise, you remain fully responsible for any bills your soon-to-be-ex might run up on the card. Even if your divorce decree says your former spouse will be responsible for the bill, you’re still on the hook as long as the account remains open. The credit card issuer is only interested in collecting the balance and will look to both accountholders for payment.

2. You Don’t Want to Pay the Fees

If your credit card company is charging an annual fee that you don’t want to pay, ask them to waive it. You can also ask them to waive a late fee if you’re accidentally late and you’re rarely late. If the credit card issuer won’t budge on a hefty annual fee, it could be a good reason for credit card closure and taking your business where there’s no annual fee.

3. The Card No Longer Makes Sense

Maybe you have a card you specifically opened to take advantage of frequent flyer miles because you traveled often for business. If your job no longer requires you to jet around the country or you move somewhere not serviced by the airline associated with this account, the card loses its appeal. Most airline rewards cards carry hefty annual fees after the first year, so it makes sense to close these accounts and switch to a card with a more useful rewards program.

4. The Card Has Been Used Fraudulently

Credit card fraud is the best reason for credit card closure. Typically, the credit card issuer automatically closes your account and issues you a new card when your credit card has been lost or stolen. However, this isn’t always the case when your card is used in other potentially fraudulent ways, such as:

  • You subscribed to a product or service online and, despite your best efforts to cancel the subscription, you keep getting hit with a monthly charge for something you no longer want.
  • You provided your credit card number for the collection of monthly payments on a debt, but the company is taking larger payments than you agreed to make.
  • You let your children use your account once for an emergency, and now, they use it every time another “emergency” occurs.

In these and similar situations, you may want to close your account. Otherwise, you risk having to fight to get future charges reversed.

5. You’re Done with Debt

You may have reached the point where you see no other way to get out of debt than to cancel your credit cards. It’s best for your credit score to keep a credit card or two open and just pay the balance in full each month, but this approach may not work for you. If you know you can’t resist the temptation of whipping out the plastic when you want something you can’t afford, it could be a good reason for credit card closure. However, before you make that decision, ask yourself two questions.

Is It Better to Close Unused Credit Cards?

Sometimes it can be better to close an unused credit card, especially if the card has a hefty annual fee. When you don’t use a credit card enough to outweigh the annual fee and come out ahead on its rewards program, the card is costing you money. It’s probably better to close an account in this situation.

Is It Bad for Credit to Close a Credit Card?

It can be bad for your credit to close a credit card if the card your closing is one of your oldest credit accounts and/or has a high credit limit with a low balance. As previously mentioned, closing older accounts hurts your score by lowering the length of your credit and payment history. Closing an account can also hurt your credit by changing the amount of your revolving credit utilization.

How to Exit Gracefully

If you’ve decided that closing a credit card account is the best course of action, try to minimize the damage to your credit score as much as possible. A credit card in good standing offers a lot of positive credit history that stays on your credit reports longer if you keep it open.

Although closing the account doesn’t make the card automatically disappear from your credit reports, you do lose the benefit of the available credit associated with that account. This changes your balance-to-available-credit ratio or revolving credit utilization.

To understand the credit utilization aspect of your credit reports, get a free credit report card from Credit.com. Calculate your balance-to-available-credit ratio by looking at your available credit compared to how much of this credit you’re using on individual cards and all your credit cards combined. When you’re using a significant portion of your available credit, you lose points when your credit score is calculated. Before closing an account, keep these factors in mind.

1. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

An open credit line with a large limit and zero balance helps lower your overall revolving utilization, especially when you’re carrying balances on your other accounts. Keeping utilization at 10% is ideal, but you can still have a good credit score when using up to 25% of your available credit. Before closing an account, calculate how it changes your overall utilization to ensure losing that available credit won’t hurt your score much.

2. Keep Accounts Open

If you have several old accounts, closing one won’t impact your score as much as it would if you only had a couple. Keeping as many of your older accounts open as possible is better for your credit score. If you have only one credit card, it’s seldom a good idea to close your account. About 10% of your credit score is based on the different types of credit you have.

3. Keep Oldest Accounts

Whenever possible, keep your oldest accounts open. Most scoring models consider the age of your accounts, including your oldest and newest accounts, and the average age of all your accounts. A seasoned credit history helps keep your score healthy. A closed account also eventually falls off your credit report, and you lose all the positive history associated with the account.

After weighing the pros and cons, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to keep hanging onto a credit card. Before you close that account, make sure your credit score won’t suffer too badly. Sign up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card and receive the latest tips and advice from a team of credit and money experts. You also benefit from a free credit score and action plan that helps you determine whether closing a credit card account is right for your situation.

The post 5 Reasons for Credit Card Closure appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

American Express Gold card vs. American Express Platinum card

American Express has several different credit cards that can give valuable rewards to travelers. Some Amex cards are co-branded with another hotel or airline partner, but the issuer also has top-notch travel credit cards in its own currency.

Known as Membership Rewards, American Express’s proprietary rewards currency can be very valuable in the hands of the right spender.

Two of the most popular credit cards offering Membership Rewards are the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. In this article, we will compare the two cards – looking at their perks, points earning and redemption options and comparing which card might be right for you.

See related: Which cards earn American Express rewards points?

American Express Gold vs. American Express Platinum

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Rewards rate
  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, including Uber Eats and select delivery services
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 2 points per dollar on prepaid car rentals through amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com – on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. After that, it’s 1 point per dollar
  • 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com
  • 2 points per dollar on prepaid car rentals through amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Welcome bonus 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 6 months 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months
Annual fee $250 $550
Estimated yearly rewards value (for someone who spends $15,900) $707 $856
Annual credits
  • Up to $120 in annual Uber Cash ($10 each month)*
  • Up to $120 in annual dining credits
  • $200 airline incidental credit on one airline of your choice
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber Cash ($15 each month with a $20 bonus in December)
  • Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit ($50 for purchases made between January and June and another $50 for purchases made between July and December)
Airport lounge access None
  • American Express Centurion Lounges
  • Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta)
  • Airspace Lounges
  • Escape Lounges
  • Priority Pass Select
Other travel benefits
  • $100 property credit and upgrade (when available) when booking hotel stays of two nights or longer through the Amex Hotel Collection
  • Transfer points to American Express travel partners
  • Terms apply
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
  • $100 property credit and upgrade (when available) when booking hotel stays of two nights or longer through the Amex Hotel Collection
  • Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
  • Transfer points to American Express travel partners
  • Terms apply

*Uber Cash benefit applicable to US Eats orders and rides only.  Must add Gold Card to the Uber app in order to receive the Uber Cash benefit.

Earning points

One area where the American Express Gold card shines in this comparison is in earning points on everyday expenses. The Platinum card offers 5 points per dollar spent on flights and hotels (on up to $500,000 in combined purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar), as long as you book with the airline or American Express Travel. If your spending habits include a lot of booked travel, the Platinum card is a great option.

But the Gold card’s 4 points per dollar spent at worldwide restaurants (including Uber Eats purchases) and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point) is one of the best spending category bonuses around. Dining and groceries are two of the top spending categories for many people, and the American Express Gold card delivers with high bonuses in both of them.

Redeeming points

Cardholders of both the American Express Gold card and the American Express Platinum card can redeem Membership Rewards points in exactly the same ways. They can both transfer to American Express’s wide variety of hotel and airline transfer partners. Both cards also can redeem points to book travel through amextravel.com or as gift card purchases or statement credits.

For more inspiration on how to redeem your Membership Rewards, check out our guide on the best ways to spend American Express points.

Bonus perks

There is no question that the perks on the American Express Platinum card are better and more extensive than those on the Gold card. The Platinum card offers up to $200 of annual airline incidental reimbursement, and it also comes with more monthly Uber Cash — up to $200 per year compared to the Gold card’s potential $120 annually. For frequent travelers, the airport lounge access, hotel elite status with Hilton and Marriott and Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit will come in handy.

See related: Guide to American Express lounges

The only bonus perks that the Gold card has that the Platinum card does not are the up to $10 in monthly dining credits and the alternative Rose Gold card design. However, the ongoing dining credits perfectly complement the Amex Gold’s monthly Uber Cash, 12-month complimentary Uber Eats Pass membership (must enroll by Dec. 31, 2021) and 4X points on Uber Eats orders — making it a definitive card for food delivery. On the other side of the American Express Gold vs. Platinum debate, the Amex Platinum carries a higher monthly Uber Cash allowance and provides the same Uber Eats Pass perk, but it doesn’t earn rewards on Uber’s services.

Nevertheless, whether the enhanced perks of the American Express Platinum card are worth its higher annual fee is something that will depend on your specific spending and travel habits.

Annual fee and authorized users

many perks to help offset the high annual cost.

Also worth noting is that there is no additional fee to add authorized user cards on the American Express Gold card (up to five additional cards, then $35 annually for six or more). On the Amex Platinum, you can add up to three authorized users for a total of $175 per year and then an additional $175 annual fee for any following authorized user.

This is an important callout, as authorized users on the Platinum card get their own airport lounge access, Gold status with Hilton and Marriott as well as access to American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts and Hotel Collection. Authorized users do not get the $200 airline credit or any of the other perks that the primary cardholder gets.

See related: How to add an authorized user to an American Express card

Bottom line

The American Express Gold card is definitely more accessible for more people, with its much lower annual fee. But if a $550 annual fee doesn’t faze your budget, take a look at the perks that come with the American Express Platinum card to see if you’ll get enough value to offset the higher cost.

If you travel frequently and don’t already have hotel elite status or a Priority Pass lounge membership, you may see value in the Platinum card. If you’re a foodie who spends a lot on restaurants, groceries and Uber Eats deliveries, the Gold card might be for you.

Or consider that both cards earn valuable Membership Rewards points, and American Express easily lets you combine points earned on different cards. So instead of choosing between the Amex Gold vs. Platinum, you might even find value in having both cards in your wallet.

Source: creditcards.com

How to Contact a Real Person at a Credit Bureau

How to Talk to a Credit Bureau

The information that credit bureaus collect affects just about every aspect of your life. Whether you’re approved for a credit card, get a good mortgage rate, can rent an apartment or even get a job – they all can hinge to varying degrees on your credit score. So when a credit bureau has something wrong, it’s imperative that you tell them. The three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – offer online services and prefer that you use their online forms instead of calling. But sometimes you need to talk to a live person. Here’s how to make contact.

Why Would I Need to Contact a Credit Bureau?

The three big credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – create credit reports that reflect consumers’ creditworthiness. The reporting agencies are for-profit businesses and sell their reports to other businesses, such as insurers, credit card companies, banks and employers.

These businesses in turn factor in these credit reports when making decisions such as whether to offer you a credit card and at what interest rate. So it’s  important to monitor your credit reports and make sure the information on them is correct. If you ever find a mistake, you should contact the credit bureau to correct the information. You may also need to contact to a credit bureau if you think that you’re a victim of credit fraud. That could mean placing a fraud alert on your account or freezing your credit so that no one can open a new line of credit in your name.

Talk to a Real Person at Equifax

talk to a credit bureau

Equifax has multiple phone numbers that you can use to speak with a real person. The number that you use will depend on what you need help with. We recommend trying to contact the correct number. If you call the wrong number, they will simply say they cannot help you and then direct you to call another number. You can find all of Equifax’s contact information on its website, Equifax.com.

If you want to contact Equifax with a general inquiry, you can reach the company via phone at the number 800-525-6285. Just make sure to call between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Equifax has also been in the news recently because it suffered a large data breach in 2017. If you have questions about whether your information was compromised in the breach, Equifax has a dedicated phone line at 888-548-7878. Again, be sure to call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

The table below has some common reasons why you might want to call Equifax and the number that you should call in order to speak with a representative.

How to Speak With a Real Person at Equifax Reason for Calling Phone Number General inquiries 800-525-6285 Canceling a product or service (Equifax customers) 866-640-2273 Request a copy of your credit report* 866-349-5191 Place a fraud alert on your credit card 800-525-6285 Dispute information in your credit report 866-349-5191 Place, lift or remove a freeze on your credit 888-298-0045 Dedicated phone line for information on the 2017 data breach 888-548-7878

*Don’t forget: You can get a free copy of your credit report three times per year.

Talk to a Real Person at Experian

Experian makes it relatively hard to talk to a real person on the phone. The company encourages people to use its website for most things. However, there are three main phone numbers that you should know if you want to talk to someone at Experian.

Call 888-397-3742 if you want to order a credit report or if you have any questions related to fraud and identity theft. The number 888-397-3742-6 (1-888-EXPERIAN) will also work. You can place an immediate fraud/security alert on your credit with this number.

If you have a question about something on a recent credit report (such as incorrect information), you will need to have a copy of the credit report. On the report you will find a 10-digit number. This number is different for each credit report and you will need it for the representative to help with any issues related to your specific report. Once you have that number ready, you can call 714-830-7000 with questions about your report.

If you need help with anything related to your membership account with Experian, you should call the company’s customer service at 479-343-6239. You will need to call while the Experian office is open in order to speak with someone. The hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Saturday and Sunday.

How to Speak With a Real Person at Experian Reason for Calling Phone Number Buying a credit report,

Placing a fraud alert on your credit file 888-397-3742 or

888-397-37426 (888-EXPERIAN) Question about a recent credit report 714-830-7000 Question about Experian membership account 479-343-6239 Talk to a Real Person at TransUnion

TransUnion has one general support number that you can use to talk to a human for help with your credit report (such as to dispute information, freeze your account, or report fraud), your credit score or any general questions. That number is 833-395-693800.

Note that a human representative is only available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET,  Monday through Friday.

You will hear an automated service when you first call this number. Press 4 in order to speak with a representative. Then you will need to press 1 if you have a TransUnion File Number or 2 if you do not have a number.

A TransUnion File Number is a unique identification number that you can find in the top right of your TransUnion credit report. You do not need a number to speak with a representative, but you will need it to do anything related specifically to your credit report. For example, the file number is necessary for disputing incorrect information.

The Takeaway

How to Talk to a Credit Bureau

If you ever need to buy a credit report or address an issue on your report, you will need to contact a credit bureau. Each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, has a website where you can do most things you may need to do. In fact, they prefer that you use online forms instead of calling. But sometimes it’s comforting to speak with a real person who can answer your specific questions.

The first step is figure out what phone number you need. The credit bureaus all have multiple numbers. Not all of the numbers will allow you to solve your specific issue. Of course once you have the right number, you will also need some patience. Hold times can be long, particularly during the coronavirus slow-down. The credit bureaus have also experienced higher phone traffic since the Equifax breach in 2017.

Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

  • Correcting inaccuracies on your credit report by contacting a credit bureau can help to improve your credit score. Another potential way to improve your score is to get another credit card. It will increase your available credit and improve your credit utilization ratio. You can find the best card for you with our credit card tool. Of course, you should only get another card if you can responsibly handle the credit you already have.
  • One good piece of credit card advice is always to avoid as many fees as possible. Fees can make it harder for you to keep your spending down. Higher bills, in turn, could be harder for you to pay back in full. Here are 15 credit card fees that you should avoid.
  • It can be tempting to keep swiping your credit card, but make a budget and stick to it. A financial advisor can help you create a road map to make sure you’re hitting your goals and not getting into debt. SmartAsset’s free matching tool can help you find a person to work with. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Milkos, Â©iStock.com/sturti, ©iStock.com/fstop123

The post How to Contact a Real Person at a Credit Bureau appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Credit Card Payoff Calculator: When Could You Reach Financial Freedom?

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Have credit card debt? You’re not the only one. It’s reported that 43 percent of households carry credit card debt month after month. While credit cards can be a great tool to build your credit score, they can easily impact your budget. If you’ve detoured from your financial goals and racked up a hefty bill, now is the perfect time to create a payoff plan. Use our credit card payoff calculator to see when you could be financially free.

Credit Card Payoff Calculator

Enter your card details to calculate your payoff timeline.

Choose One

Please enter your desired payoff date.

Please enter your monthly payment.

Time to Payoff

30 Months

Debt-Free Date

Apr 2023

Monthly Payment

$250.00

Total Paid$7,493.77

Total Principal

$5,000.00

Total Interest

$0.00

See where the rest of your budget is going

to pay off debts that have the highest interest rates to save on added expenses. Use our credit card payoff calculator to see which accounts would cost you more in the long-term.

2. See What Payments Work for Your Budget

Once you have an idea of which accounts you’d like to focus on, figure out the right payments for your budget. Keep in mind, you should still make the minimum payments on debts to keep your credit score in good shape. To calculate how comfortable you are with these payments, download our app and evaluate your budget.

3. Negotiate Your Credit Card Terms

If you have a strong credit score and loyalty to your credit card company, you may be able to negotiate your terms. For example, if you’d like your payment to be due on the 25th instead of the 10th of every month, call a representative and see what they can do. You may not always get what you ask for, but you won’t get what you don’t ask for!

4. Reprioritize Your Budget

After you get a better idea of what your budget looks like, prioritize your expenses. As your wants and needs change, adjust your budget accordingly.

Paying off credit card debt may not be as appealing as buying a new car, but it can be a more responsible financial choice depending on your situation. To ensure you’re staying on track with your biggest financial goals, always keep track of your budget using our app.

The post Credit Card Payoff Calculator: When Could You Reach Financial Freedom? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What is a credit card statement credit?

A recent trend in credit card rewards is increased flexibility in how you can redeem your cash back, points or miles. You can book travel, invest, get gift cards and more – but one of the most common ways a credit card company will issue rewards is as a statement credit.

Statement credits may seem simple, but they’re handled a little differently by each rewards program, and there’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to decide if they’re the best way to redeem cash back or other rewards.

See related: What is cash back?

What is a statement credit?

Put simply, a statement credit is money credited to your account. In its most basic form, a statement credit is not much different from a payment. Like a normal monthly payment, a statement credit is deducted from your card balance, reducing the amount of money you owe. But where cardholders are responsible for payments, credits come from either a merchant or card issuer.

rewards cards also allow you to redeem the points or miles you’ve earned as statement credits. While some cards allow you to use a statement credit to reduce your balance with no restrictions, others only apply credits to your account after you meet certain criteria or make purchases in specific spending categories.

Statement credits on cash back cards

Cash back cards usually make it easy to redeem your points as a statement credit. In most cases, all you need to do is meet the card’s minimum redemption criteria, then choose a statement credit as your redemption method. Once a credit is applied to your account, your card balance decreases accordingly.

If, for example, you were to spend $3,000 with a flat rate 1 percent cash back card, you’d earn a $30 credit; and if you were to redeem this entire credit, $30 would be deducted from your account balance.

While many cards give you the option to request your cash back in the form a check, some only allow you to redeem as a statement credit – so be sure to read your issuer’s terms carefully. After all, when you get your cash back as a check or direct deposit, the money is yours to spend or save as you’d like. With a statement credit, however, the funds are “trapped” in your account and only impact your card balance. If you stop using your card or close your account, you could lose any cash back or points you haven’t redeemed.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for example, allows you to book travel through the rewards center at a rate of 1 cent per mile. But if you redeem your miles for cash back as a statement credit, their value is cut in half to just 0.5 cents per mile.

If you prefer to redeem your rewards as a statement credit, make sure doing so doesn’t dilute the value of your points or miles, as each rewards program grants and values statement credits a little differently.

Statement credits for an introductory bonus

Statement credits also frequently appear as part of a card introductory or annual bonus, when issuers offer to reward you if you spend a certain amount of money within a given timeframe. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, offers a $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 with your new card in the first 3 months. Instead of simply sending you a check for $250, however, American Express credits your account $250 after you’ve met the conditions of the offer. Once received, the credit will cover the next $250 you charge.

Statement credits for card benefits

Many cards also award extra perks in the form of a statement credit. The United Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, each offer up to a $100 credit to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.

In these cases, a statement credit is applied to your account only after you make the eligible purchase and cannot be used for anything else.

How statement credits work with the major rewards programs

Here’s how some of the major rewards programs treat statement credits:

Rewards program Can you redeem rewards as a statement credit? Minimum redemption Rewards rate when redeemed as a credit
Discover cards Cashback Bonus Yes None 1:1
Bank of America Cash Rewards Yes None ($25 for automatic redemptions) 1:1
American Express Membership Rewards Yes $25 1:0.6
Chase Ultimate Rewards Yes $20 1:1

Should I redeem my points as a statement credit?

Once you know what a statement credit is and how it’s treated by your rewards program, you’ll probably wonder if it’s smart to redeem your points or miles in this form. While the answer will depend on your spending habits, goals and financial situation, it makes more sense in certain circumstances.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should redeem your points as a credit statement, consider the following:

  • Are you going to carry a balance? If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to pay off your balance in full by the due date, redeeming your points as a statement credit makes sense. You’ll knock a chunk off your balance and make it easier to pay in full and avoid interest charges. Keep in mind, however, that statement credits are not usually considered payments, so if you can’t help carrying a balance, you’ll still have to make a minimum out-of-pocket payment.
  • Does your card offer an incentive for redeeming points as a statement credit? Some cash back cards offer redemption bonuses when you opt for a statement credit over “true” cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit. If that’s the case, and you plan to continue using the card, go with a statement credit to get more mileage out of your cash back rewards.
  • Are your points worth less when redeemed as a statement credit? If you’re using a card with a more flexible rewards program, redeeming your rewards as a statement credit is likely possible, but not necessarily wise. Check your issuer’s terms to see if your points lose any value when redeemed as a statement credit. If 1 point is worth 1 cent when used for travel purchases, but only 0.5 cents when redeemed as a statement credit, you’re missing out on a lot of the value you’ve earned. If you have no interest in travel, see if you can get full value out of your points in a roundabout way, like redeeming points for gift cards at stores you frequent.

Other ways to redeem your credit card rewards

Many cards offer several other options for redeeming your rewards. In addition to statement credits, you may be able to redeem cash back, points, or miles for:

  • A direct deposit – You can link your bank account so that when you hit “redeem,” that money goes directly to your account. For some, this is more satisfying than receiving a statement credit.
  • A check – If you don’t mind waiting, many credit card issuers will mail a check for the value of your rewards.
  • Gift cards – Some credit cards allow you to exchange your points or cash back for gift cards. Make sure that you’re getting the same or more value before you choose this option – sometimes the dollar value of gift cards is different from what you would get redeeming for a statement credit or direct deposit.
  • Merchandise – Credit card issuers sometimes have shopping portals that give you the option to use your cash back or points to pay for merchandise. This is another option that you should approach with caution. Do the math to make sure you’re getting the same dollar value as you would with a direct deposit or statement credit.
  • Travel – Travel redemption options vary from card to card, but there are two main methods, one of which is receiving a statement credit for travel purchases you’ve already made. The other is using the issuer’s portal to book travel, such as flights or hotels, online.

Final Thoughts

A statement credit is just one way you can receive bonuses and redeem the rewards you’ve earned. If you’re using a cash back card, it could be a smart, low-maintenance way to reduce your balance and build good spending habits. If you’re using a more flexible rewards or travel card, though, make sure redeeming as a statement credit still gets you fair value for your points or miles.

Source: creditcards.com

Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps

Two smiling women look at credit monitoring apps on their cellphones.

Maintaining a healthy credit score requires a good bit of focus, determination and hard work. There’s a lot to keep up with: We need to pay our bills on time, reduce debt and maintain a low debt-to-credit ratio, among other requirements—all to ensure a top-notch credit score. We can use all the help we can get! To that end, here are eight credit monitoring apps that can help keep your credit building on track.

1. Credit.com

One of the only truly free credit monitoring apps—most others require you to have a paid subscription to their digital service in order to use the “free” app—the Credit.com mobile app allows you to access your entire credit profile, including your credit score and insight into how it compares to your peers. You’ll see where you currently stand, see how your score has changed—and why—and get credit information and money-saving tips tailored to your score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

2. myFICO

The myFICO app is free, but it requires an active myFICO account, which means it effectively costs $20 per month or more, depending on which features you want. With this app, though, you can view and monitor your FICO scores—the most widely used credit score—and credit reports. They also provide a FICO Score Simulator, which shows you how your score may be affected if you take certain actions.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires an active myFICO account

3. Lock & Alert from Equifax

Lock & Alert from Equifax lets you lock and unlock your Equifax credit report to protect against identity theft and fraud. You’ll get an alert any time your account is locked or unlocked so you know you’re the one in control. A credit lock is not as secure as a credit freeze, but it does offer some level of protection and is generally easier to turn on and off. This app works only for your Equifax credit report, so if you want to lock all three reports, you’ll have to work with TransUnion and Experian separately.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

4. Experian

The Experian mobile credit monitoring app lets you track your Experian credit report and FICO score, with an automatically updated credit report every 30 days. The app also comes with Experian Boost, which can help you boost your score. The app alerts you when changes to your report or score occur, and offers suggested credit cards based on your FICO score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but some features require a paid Experian account

5. Lexington Law

If you’ve signed up for credit repair services with Lexington Law, you can use their free mobile app to keep track of your progress. In addition to providing access to your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and updates on ongoing disputes, the money manager feature, similar to Mint, helps you track your income, spending, budgets and debts.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid Lexington Law account

6. TransUnion

The TransUnion mobile app allows you to refresh your credit score and credit report daily to see where you stand. It offers instant alerts if anything changes and offers Credit Lock Plus, which allows you to lock your TransUnion credit report to avoid identity theft and fraud. The Debt Analysis tool lets you calculate your debt-to-income ratio, and it allows you to view public records associated with your name.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid TransUnion Credit Monitoring account

7. ScoreSense Scores To Go

ScoreSense offers credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus and daily credit monitoring and alerts to changes on your reports. This app also provides creditor contact information so you can address errors on your report quickly and efficiently. Score tracking features let you review how your score changes over time and how it compares to your peers.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid ScoreSense account

8. Self

Self helps you build—and track—your credit, making it great for people just establishing their credit profile or trying to rebuild damaged credit. Self offers one- and two-year loan terms, but instead of getting the money up front, the amount is deposited into a CD. You make regular payments for the term of the loan (at least $25 per month), and then get access to the money. There is no hard inquiry to open the account, but your payments are reported to all three credit bureaus, helping build your credit. Plus, while you are repaying your loan, you will have access to free credit monitoring and you VantageScore so you can track your progress.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a Self loan repayment of at least $25 per month

Credit Monitoring Apps to Fit Your Needs

With so many different options, you’re sure to find a credit monitoring app that meets your needs. And don’t forget: you can always check your score for free using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card.

The post Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The packages have been opened. The kids are loving their new toys.  You are enjoying your coffee one morning and reading your mail when you see them…

THE BILLS! Yikes!

It seems you went a little over your budget. It was fun and the joy you brought to your kids’ faces was worth it.

However, now you need to find a way to recover from overspending during the holidays. It is not fun, but is necessary. Here are nine steps you can take to recover from any spending mistakes you made during the holiday shopping season.

1. Put the credit cards on ice – literally

The first thing you need to do is stop spending.  You need to put the credit cards away. Take them out of your wallet and put them in the safe.

Or, if you want to make sure you really do not use them – freeze them in a block of ice! That way, if you do feel the pull to shop, it will take time to thaw out and the urge to spend my pass by then.

2. Calculate the damage

You can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to seeing the damage done to your budget. Face it head-on.

Total every receipt and credit card statement to find how much was spent. While it may be painful to see the balance due, it is necessary.

When you see that figure in writing, it helps you know what you are facing and where you may need to cut back.

3. Review the budget

 Once you know the amount you need to pay off you also need to review (or create) your monthly budget.   That means including those new monthly payments to the credit card companies.

Make sure your budget is balanced, in that you are not spending more than you take in each month.

4. Create a repayment plan

Up next, you have to create an exit strategy – which will be to pay off those credit card bills. Grab the statements for each and then list them by including the balance and the interest rate.

You may be tempted to pay the highest balance first (which is what I recommend when it comess to getting out of debt). However, when it comes to this debt you just incurred, I recommend starting with the highest interest rate first.

By eliminating that bill quickly, you are reducing the amount of interest you will pay to the credit card company. There is no need to pay them any more than you need to!

Once the first card is paid in full, roll the monthly payment amount into the payment for the next card. Repeat until they are all paid in full.

You’ll not only pay them off quickly but also minimize the total interest paid as well!

5. Reduce your spending

When you have bills to pay it means you need look at the budget to find areas where you can cut back.

It may mean cutting cable or eliminating dining out. You may need to cancel the subscription to the gym or find frugal date night options.

Be willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains as the sooner you can eliminate these bills, the better.

6. Use your bonuses

If you are fortunate enough to get a holiday bonus don’t blow it on what you want. Use that to pay off your holiday bills.

If you don’t get a bonus then use any of that Christmas cash you received for your bills! Look ahead to see if any other money will be coming your way such as birthday money or a tax refund. Earmark that to pay off your holiday spending.

7. Get a side-hustle

If you need to tackle your balances then a side-hustle may be the solution – even if temporary. Look around the house for items to sell. If you are a teacher, consider tutoring students.

Every penny earned can be money used to put towards that holiday spending.

8. Build your savings

You don’t want to find yourself in this same situation again next year. It is not a fun cycle of rinse and repeat.

The holidays come at the same time each year. It is not a surprise or an unplanned expense.  You need to plan for it.

Review the total spent this year and divide that by 12. Focus on saving that amount each month, all year long, and you’ll be able to pay CASH next year and not even use the credit cards.

9. Save using the coin challenge

One simple way to save money for holiday shopping is to switch to a cash budget. Then, save the change and any “leftover” money each pay period.

For example, if you budget $300 for groceries and spend only $270, don’t blow that left-over $30…put it back for the holidays!

The same premise works with change. If the total is $7.49, hand over $8 and put $0.51 into your savings jar.

Saving doesn’t have to be hard

Simple tricks can help you quickly build your savings!

It is easy to spend too much during the holidays but with some smart strategies, you can get your budget back on track.

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com