12 Expenses You Should Never Put on a Credit Card

Just because you have a credit card doesn’t mean you should use it to pay for everything. While credit cards give some awesome perks and benefits when you use them, not all expenses should go on them. Here are just 12 expenses to avoid putting on your credit card.

Due to crazy convenience and service fees, putting taxes on your credit card are a no-no. For those big tax bills that you weren’t expecting, putting them on the credit card may seem like the right idea, but it’s not. Do your best to pay this debt in cash or by debit card/check so you don’t get additional fees.

No matter how tempting it is, don’t put your wedding or honeymoon expenses on a credit card. This will only make starting married life more stressful when you start your marriage off with a huge pile of debt. Only put expenses on your card that can be paid off within the month.

Mortgages can be hefty, which sometimes makes us want to put them on the credit card so we don’t have to deal with them immediately, However, this is bad, especially if the mortgage is above what you can pay each month. You’ll accrue tons of interest that will severely lower your credit score.

Bail bonds or anything else that is considered a cash advance is a huge thing you should avoid putting on your credit card. Whenever you do a cash advance with a credit card, you’re often charged a 3% (or more) service fee, which adds up quickly.

School costs are so expensive nowadays, but you shouldn’t put them on your credit card. Try your best to get government assistance, scholarships, or student loans. Putting tuition costs on your credit card will only hurt you financially in the long run.

Virtual currency like Bitcoin are a really bad expense to put on your credit card. There are numerous reasons for this, but the main one is that virtual currency transactions aren’t always the most trust-worthy. Lots of people have their hands in on virtual transactions, meaning you have more of a chance of credit card fraud occurring.

Although medical bills can often be big and expensive, avoid putting them on your credit card. Instead, talk to the doctor or hospital to try to figure out a payment plan. These charges usually last a long time and, if they’re on your credit card, you’ll accrue lots of interest against yourself.

12 Expenses You Should Never Put on a Credit Card8

Don’t put any kind of down payment on your credit card. If you don’t have the cash to pay a down payment, then you’ll probably never be able to actually repay the whole loan. This is a red flag and means the loan is going to be a burden for a long time.

While it may be more convenient, putting gambling expenses on a credit card is a terrible idea. It’s super easy to lose track of how much money you’ve spent when you’re using a credit card and it’s easy to get out of control with “just one more go.”

If you’re starting up a business, put as few of the expenses on your credit card as possible. If you go into business with a bad credit score or tons of debt and loans, it’s going to be really hard to pay those things off or be taken seriously by potential investors.

Don’t put trip expenses on a credit card unless you have great self-control or have a large cash backup to pay off the charges within the month. It’s just too easy to spend way too much money when you’re putting everything on your credit card on vacation.

Don’t buy an automobile on your credit card. Most dealers don’t even do this and, if they do, they’ll put all of the fees and charges on you, which means the price of your car will increase drastically. Not only that, but these payments are hard to pay off every month and you can often max out your credit card, which lowers your credit score significantly.

12 Expenses You Should Never Put on a Credit Card

10 Useful Tips for Using Credit Cards

We can never be too careful when it comes to using credit cards. I have shared 10 Bad Credit Card Habits and How to Avoid Them, and 4 Good Reasons You Should be Using Credit Cards. So now that you know the good and bad, here are 10 awesome tips to using them the right way!

Tip#1- Be aware

Always know the balance of your credit card, and where you are at with your finances. This shows financial responsibility which is crucial in owning a credit card. This way you will never be surprised by an over due balance. It also protects you against CC theft…if you are constantly aware then you will know immediately if a charge goes onto your card that you did not make.

Tip #2- Pay off your balance every month

There are sometimes emergency situations where we have to charge our credit card with money we may not have…like medical bills for example. Besides those extreme cases you should not ever charge the card if you do not have the money to pay it off at the end of the month. This is where the trap of credit card debt, and ever rising interest happens.

Tip #3- Never miss a due date

There are a few things that you can do to help you with this one….if your due date comes on a bad day of the month then switch it! Maybe to the day after you get paid, or another day that works better for you. Another option is setting up automatic pay..now you only want to do this if you know you will have money in the account that is paying it off otherwise you’ll get charged overdraft fees. Figure out whatever you need to to make sure you get that payment in on time!

Tip #4- Be aware of your own limits

You don’t have to tempt yourself if you know that it will be difficult to make the right decision. Just because you can have a $10,000 limit on your credit card doesn’t mean that you have to! If keeping it small is better for you then do that! If it’s hard not to charge random “wants” then don’t carry it around with you all the time. I don’t know what your limits are, but you do. Having them isn’t a bad thing…..ignoring them is! So find ways to use your credit cards according to your limits and what works for you.

Tip #5- Pay off debt

It’s an unfortunate reality that a good portion of you reading this have some sort of debt, that doesn’t mean you are a horrible irresponsible person, it just means you should have a goal to pay it off! Try to pay more than just the minimum monthly payment, but make sure that you are at least paying that. I know it seems like a never ending road to be debt free, but I promise you can get there…set a goal, and make realistic plans that may need some sacrifice, but it will be well worth it!

Tip #6- Find a rewards card

There are lots of them out there, so figure out which one is best for you. It’s okay to have more than one, but be aware of signing up for too many credit cards. Rewards cards often have super high interest rates, so be sure to use them only if you pay off the balance each month. If you are smart though, they can really pay off and earn you free stuff!

Tip #7- Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit

This will help your credit score go up. For example if you have a $1,000 credit card limit then you shouldn’t exceed a balance of about $300. This applies to all of your credit as a whole though…it’s not for each card…so if you have 3 credit cards with a total limit of $10,000 and you have a balance of $3,000 but it’s all on one card….that’s okay because it’s still only 30% of your available credit.

Tip #8- Learn about card benefits

Most credit cards have benefits that you don’t know about, so research the cards you have and find out what they are and use them to your advantage!

Tip #9- Use it to benefit your budget

Use your card for all of your purchases throughout the month, this way you can track all of your expenses and know exactly where all your money has gone. This is only a good idea if you know that you can stick to your budget and spend only what you are supposed to so that you have enough to pay it off each month.

Tip #10- Be aware of hidden fees

This goes for all fees associated with your credit card, but I want you to especially focus on this when traveling outside the country. Find out if you are going to be charged extra fees each time you swipe your card and what they are for. Don’t just assume that every credit card will work the same, do your homework and make sure that YOU are the one in charge NOT the credit card company.

10 Useful Tips for Using Credit Cards

4 Credit Card Traps Most People Don’t Know About

We can never be too educated on something like credit cards, and how to use them properly. They are an amazing tool, but also can be a scary trap. Here are 4 credit card traps that a lot of people don’t know about that can help you in the long run.


We all know about interest (at least I hope you do if you own a credit card), but what you need to be aware of is how credit card companies use it to their advantage. First by having an incredibly high interest rate. They can make it seem like the best deal around, but unless you really take your time and look around you won’t know if you really are getting a good deal on that rate. Also, make sure you know the fine print of their interest charges. Some companies if you are late even one day on a payment can seriously increase your interest rate. Take the time to research….better safe than sorry.


Credit cards usually have 2 kinds of fees….punishment fees, and transaction fees. Punishment fees are usually your fault and can be avoided.. such as late fees, or a returned payment etc. They can be avoided by you being aware of your account and all activity that is taking place. Transaction fees are where credit card companies can really get you, so be aware of what they are with your particular credit card and if they are worth it. Examples include cash advance fees, foreign transaction fees, and annual fees.

Minimum Payment

If you pay your credit card online there is usually a minimum payment due. It’s easy to make that minimum payment and feel like we are good to go until next month. This is exactly how they want you to feel. That minimum payment is such a small % of what you owe that it will take years more to pay it off and the interest you acquire during that time can be ridiculous, and the credit card company is making a lot of extra cash off you! Instead figure out how long until you want to have that card paid off, and you decide what your monthly payment needs to be to get there. Ignore the minimum payment altogether.

No Annual Fees

Some credit card companies will advertise “No annual fees” and this makes us automatically assume that there will be no annual fees for having their card right? Well a lot of times if you read the fine print what they aren’t telling us is that there is no annual fee IF you reach a certain spending limit. So, if you don’t use the card enough you will be charged an unexpected annual fee. Again I can’t stress enough to read the fine print and do your research. Credit card companies…like so many others…will get you to see only what they want you to see.

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10 Bad Credit Card Habits and How to Avoid Them

I talked about some of the benefits of credit cards in a recent post, but now I want to go over the dangers. Credit cards have their place and can make life simpler and give you great rewards if you use them correctly.  Just be sure that you are disciplined and know the credit card pitfalls so you can avoid them. Here are 10 credit card habits that can be bad for your pocketbook.

1. Charging Everything to Your Card

I will be the first to admit that shopping with a credit card is by far the easiest way, but it’s also the most dangerous. Whenever you are shocked by your bills at the end of the month it’s almost always because you spent more money than you expected or had budgeted.  Be sure to have a budget, and know exactly what is going on the credit card, and keep track of your expenses. That way at the end of the month there will be no surprises when it comes time to pay off the balance.  Charging everything to your card each month can work for some, but not if you aren’t careful.

2. Late Payments

Or, the credit card trap! You don’t need to be spending extra money for no reason, but any time you skip a payment or forget to pay it on time that is exactly what you are doing. Don’t allow the credit card companies to charge you interest.  It’s a good idea to set reminders, or set up automatic bill pay so that you can never miss a payment by mistake.  Not only are you charged a late charge, and interest if not paid on time, but most credit card companies will raise the interest rate on your card if you are late making payments.  It will continue to cost you more and more money.  Be punctual with those payments!

3. Having Too Many Credit Card Accounts

If you have too many open credit card accounts you may forget which cards have a balance on them, or what you need to pay off. Too many open lines of credit can also harm your credit.  Credit cards are a great way to build your credit score and history, but be selective in the cards that you have.  For best results, use them to show activity on them, and then pay them off.

4. Not Reading Your Statements

Be on top of that statement and know exactly what every charge is for. This way you can easily detect if there are any mistakes, or expenses that you didn’t make. I have been double charged by businesses and also had fraudulent activity on my credit cards in the past, so it is important to watch those statements.  It will also help you be aware of your spending and know exactly where your money is going.

5. Making Only Minimum Payments 

If you are only making minimum payments on your credit card, you may never get them paid off.  Credit cards are designed to make the CREDITOR a lot of money, not you.  If you are only paying the minimum payment, and consistently using your credit card, it may be hard to climb out of your credit card hole.  Be careful to pay off the balances each month, if you can.  If you can’t, try to budget how much extra you can pay each month to bring the balance down as quickly as possible.  You will pay a lot more interest than you should if you just pay minimum payments each month.

6. Using Your Credit Card for Unnecessary Purchases

Your credit card should be used wisely and when needed not for your random “fun” purchases. The best way to keep unnecessary purchases under control is to decide how much each month can be used for “extras” then take out that amount in cash. That way you know that you aren’t spending too much money on things that you really didn’t need to buy.

7. Buying Things You Can’t Afford

This can go along with #6, but is a little different. It is probably the worst credit card habit.  If you don’t have the money…DON’T BUY IT. No questions asked. It is too easy to charge a big amount to your credit card, and think “I’ll pay it off eventually”. This is the credit trap. You don’t want to rack up credit card debt this way…especially if a real emergency happens, such as medical bills, and then you really have no way out.

8. Maxing Out a Credit Card

Believe it or not, having maxed out credit cards hurts your credit score.  The best way to keep your credit score high, is to never let the balance stay over half of the available credit limit.  Keep your debt to available credit ratio at less than 50% or it can negatively affect your credit score. You always want to have more available to you than what you owe.

9. Using it for a Cash Advance

Are you low on cash? Taking a cash advance from a credit card may be tempting, but it is very costly.  Be sure to read the terms and conditions.  In most cases, there is a cash advance fee, and a high interest rate for cash advances.  Also, the cash advance interest rate begins accruing immediately (daily), and not after the statement.   It is expensive money, so unless you have no other options, cash advances are not a “smart money move.”

10. Letting Other People Use Your Credit Cards

Whether it’s family or friends you trust every transaction is being linked to you, so if for whatever reason they can’t pay you back that amount in time then it will be shown on YOUR credit report and history.  Be careful and don’t trust others with your credit.

Here are some great tips and other money-saving options!

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50 Ways to Make Money From Home

10 Bad Credit Card Habits and How to Avoid Them

4 Good Reasons You SHOULD Be Using Credit Cards

I am going to play devil’s advocate here.  WHAT IF… credit cards were good?  So often we hear all the bad and dangers about credit cards.  Today, lets focus on the GOOD associated with credit cards and the reasons you should be using them, responsibly.

1. Credit Cards Establish Credit History

There are many ways you can create credit history, but the easiest is definitely by using credit cards.  For ten years, our goal in marriage was to get completely out of debt and we accomplished this at the 10 year mark- yay us! We were debt free (minus the mortgate) and we were so excited!  We didn’t have any other debt.  In fact, I didn’t even own a credit card.  I am so responsible!  Long story short, after applying for a store credit card for an enormous discount on school clothes, I was given a $200 dollar limit, which was just insulting.  I was shocked and a little confused.  I should have stellar credit!  The truth, is that I had NO credit.  My name wasn’t on most of our previous loans, to make financing simpler.  So we applied for a skymiles credit card and started using it in our everyday life.  All the bills were automatically charged on the card and I pay it off monthly.  My credit score has dramatically increased and I am establishing a credit history, which will make other financing or other things a little easier.

In order to qualify for a home loan, or other financing, you will need a credit history to get approved. Credit history is different from your credit score because it shows how long you have had credit, and whether or not you are using it. So, the best way to create a credit history is by using your credit cards and then paying them off each month before you acquire interest.

2. Simplicity

If you don’t have a credit card, it can make life a little tougher.  You can’t even reserve a rental car without a valid credit card (yes, some will take debit cards.) If you have a credit card, you can use it to pay all of your bills, set up automatic payments, etc.  I am weary of having automatic payments charge my debit cards.  I have had companies maker errors and take out more money than expected, and it can really mess you up if the money comes out of your checking account when you aren’t expecting it.  I like to be able to review my charges and be sure everything looks right and then pay my statement.

Using a credit card for all of your purchases makes paying bills so easy and great!  Each month, you check your statement, review your purchases and pay your statement, and you are all done!  This is a method you should only use if you are very disciplined and do not spend more than you have budgeted each month.  If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself with a balance.  Only do this if you spend less than you make and are good at keeping your expenses less than your income.  It can get away from you pretty quickly, if you don’t pay attention and spend like a sailor, only to find that you are short at the end of the month.

And if you can do this, congratulations.  This shows great self-control and responsibility.

3. Improves Your Credit Score

When you have and use a credit card, it will help you raise your credit score.  As long as you are careful and pay your bill each month on time and are careful not to be late,  your credit score will improve.  Also, if you keep your balance below 50% of your credit limit, and pay regularly, you will have a higher credit score than if you didn’t have or use a credit card at all.  As I mentioned above, it is important to have some sort of credit history.  Don’t let your cards sit dormant.  Use them, pay them off and keep them active.  Be careful not to apply for a million cards, hoping to improve things “quicker.” Each time you apply for a credit card or loan, your credit takes a small hit.  So be thoughtful in which cards or loans you apply for.

4. Credit Card Rewards 

Yes, yes and yes!!  I can’t believe I missed out on credit card rewards for most of my life. About a year ago, I got a Capital One rewards card.  I put absolutely every expense we have on my new rewards card, and we will be able to take my family of 6 on a pretty great vacation next summer, using only our rewards.  If you are spending money anyway, you might as well get paid for it.  I have all of my monthly bills, excluding my mortgage automatically charged to my Capital One rewards card and I get 2 points for every dollar that I spend.  School shopping, Christmas gifts, and oh so many medical bills the past year.  My only regret is not having done it sooner.  If you are wondering what the best credit card rewards program is, you can see my summary of the different offers here.

Be sure to read all terms and conditions and use the card the way it is intended.  If you rack up a balance and pay lots of $$ each month in interest, it isn’t really worth it.  I only use my card for the purchases I make each month anyway, and then I pay it off on payday each month.  That way, I pay no interest but I get the rewards.  It is perfect for someone that is disciplined enough to spend that way and budget to be sure the money is there to pay off when the statement arrives.

Remember I am not discrediting the warnings against using credit cards. They are a common pitfall for acquiring unnecessary debt. If you can be financially responsible and use credit cards in a positive way, they can benefit you in many ways.

Read more about credit cards, budgeting and more in my Getting Out of Debt Series below:

15 Legit Ways to Make an Extra $1500 a Month

8 Reasons to Get Out of Debt Right Now!

20 Things You Are Forgetting to Budget

12 Expenses You Should Never Put on a Credit Card

10 Useful Tips for Using Credit Cards

12 Ways to Reduce Your Utility Bill

54 Side Hustles to Make Extra Money

10 Personal Finance Tips That Could Will Your Life

4 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

What are the Best Credit Card Reward Offers?

If there’s one thing that everyone has in common, it’s getting those credit card flyers and envelopes in the mail. Seriously though, it seems like every day I come home to a handful of companies wanting to offer me their credit card which is “better than all the others.” Now, that obviously can’t be possible, so I decided to do some research and figure out which credit cards really have the best benefits and rewards. So, without any further ado, here’s my list of the best credit card reward offers and what you can get from them!

  1. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. The great thing about this card is that you get 40,000 miles (equal to $400 in travel) after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. Now, if you have a family this is pretty easy to reach. So you are essentially getting $400 for free for signing up for this card. Not too bad. Not only that, but you get 2x the miles on every purchase, and the miles don’t have a limit or an expiration date. That means you don’t have to stress about planning a vacation within your allotted amount of time. You can also use this card at any hotel and on any airline, which is definitely stress-free. Lastly, there is no foreign transaction fee when using this card out of the country. With an intro fee of $10 and %59 annually after that, this card is a great deal for those of you whole love to travel!
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred. Right away with this card, you can get 5,000 bonus points when you add another user and make a purchase on their card within the first three months. For those of you who are married, this is pretty much free money. Not only that, but you get 50,000 bonus pints when you spend $4,000 in the first three months, or about $625 through Chase travel points. Come one, that’s just awesome! For travelling purchases or restaurant charges, you get double the points back and then 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Like the Venture Card, this also has no foreign transaction fee, so you don’t have to worry about spending more money when you’re outside the country. This card also comes equipped with a chip for extra security, a definitely plus. It costs $0 to enroll with this card and then $95 every year after that.
  3. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. Unlike the other credit cards mentioned so far, this one has no annual fee, which is pretty good for a card with so many rewards. You get 1.5 points for each dollar that you spend, plus there’s no foreign transaction fee either. Even better, is that points don’t expire, so you don’t have to rush to use them. If you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, then you get 20,000 bonus points. That’s valued at $200 that you pretty much get for free! This card also comes with a chip so the security is better than your average card. Also, you can bump up the percentage of points you get back depending on other accounts you have with them and your status. This is definitely a card worth looking into!
  4. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card. If you’re someone who loves getting miles and travel points from your credit card, then this is one you’ll for sure want to check out. It recently added a new feature that allows you and up to six additional passengers get free checked bags; however, there are a few conditions with this, so pay close attention to them. Also, the moment you get approved for this card, you get 25,000 bonus miles! You don’t have to do anything and you already get rewards! This card gives you one mile per dollar you spend on everyday purchases and 3 miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airline purchases. These miles can be redeemed through Alaska Airlines or more than a dozen other airline partners.
  5. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. Yeah, that’s a mouthful, I know, but it’s a good card. Like the others, when you spend an initial $3,000 in the first 90 days, you get 40,000 bonus miles. For every purchase you make with this card, you get 2x miles, and every time you redeem you get 5% miles back for your next redemption. Pretty much, if you’re good at math and understanding the rewards system, this is a great card. It has a high rewards rate, especially when you know how to work the system. It also has chip-enabled security and no foreign transaction fee, so you know it’s safe to use out of the country. However, there is a $45 annual fee, but that’s not asking too much, I don’t think.
  6. Gold Delta Sky Miles Credit Card (from American Express). Within the first three months of using this card, you can earn quite a few rewards. Spend $1,000 and you get 30,000 bonus miles on this card. Also, you get a $50 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase on this card in the first 3 months. Not too bad if you’re already planning to take a trip soon, anyway. Everyday purchases earn you 1 mile per dollar, and purchases through Delta earn you 2 miles per dollar. Another great feature of this card is that you get to check your first bag for free on every Delta flight—that could be up to $200 on a roundtrip for a family of four. Now that’s a good deal. You also get Priority Boarding with this card, so you don’t have to wait in all the lines. The first year is free, but after that this card costs $95 a year. However, you easily make that back if you use this card smartly.

Hopefully this list gave you a quick and helpful glimpse at all the great credit card reward programs out there. While most have some similar features, there are certain aspects of each card that may really fit into your lifestyle. Whether you’re a traveler, a fine diner, or just like to spend money on everyday purchases, there’s definitely a credit card out there that’s perfect for you!

What Are the Best Credit Card Reward Offers

Top 5 Airline and Travel Credit Cards Out There

A lot of the times, signing up for a credit card can be a grueling and confusing process. Rewards, due dates, balances, fees, etc. all get jumbled together and sometimes make credit cards just not seem worth all the hassle. However, if you’re patient and willing to learn a little bit, there are actually lots of great perks you can get from using a credit card the right way. One of those great perks is rewards for airline passage and other travel expenses. Here is a list of some of the best credit cards out there that give you the most back for all your vacation and travel needs.

  1. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard. This card gives you bonus miles when you make a certain dollar amount in purchases within the first three months of opening the account. For a limited time, the offer is 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000. When you use this card to make American Airline purchases, you will earn double miles every time. For all other purchases, you get one mile per dollar. You also get a free checked back every time you fly with this card, which can save you quite a bit of money if you fly frequently. Along with a free checked bag, this card also allows you access to group 1 boarding priority, so you don’t have to wait in long and obnoxious lines. Also, for those of you who love to have things to snack on when flying, you can get discounted prices on in-flight food and beverages. Depending on how much you use this card, you can qualify for up to 10,000 miles that can be redeemed back to your account. Not too shabby! Plus, with no foreign transaction fee, this is a card that you can take anywhere around the world and reap in the benefits. However, it does have a $95 annual fee, but that is waived for the first year. So, if you have excellent credit, love to travel, and want to earn miles, then this is a great card.
  2. United MileagePlus Explorer Card. While a lot of features on this card are the same as the previous, there are a few differences in numbers that are important enough to note. With this card, you earn double miles on all United ticket purchases and one mile per dollar for all other purchases. After spending $3,000 in the first month, you get 30,000 bonus miles, which isn’t as much s the Platinum Select MasterCard, but still a large amount. This card also gives you your first checked bag for free (saving up to $100 roundtrip) and priority boarding. Okay, so those are the similarities, now here are some great differences! You get a bonus when you add an additional user to this card, so if you’re married then that’s pretty much just free money. The amount depends if they’re running any promotions at the time, but it’s still a great benefit. You also get a 10,000-mile bonus if you spend more than $25,000 on this card annually. That’s pretty much getting paid to spend money! Another great benefit with this card are the two one-time passes you get to the United Club—that’s an airport lounge where you can spend your time waiting for your plane with complementary beverages and food, outlets, good seating, etc. Like the other card, this has a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for your first year.
  3. British Airways Visa Signature Card. As you can tell by the title of this card, this is best for international travelers. If you’re looking for domestic travel perks, then the first two cards mentioned are probably a better fit. Also, this card has a point system called Avios, which some people haven’t liked very much. However, that doesn’t mean you need to forget this card; it has some really great features that can benefit a frequent traveler. Like the others, you get points for the money you spend. If you spend $2,000 in the first three months, you get 50,000 Avios. You also get 3 Avios for each dollar you spend on British Airway purchases. These rewards are higher than the other cards we’ve talked about so far. One of the best things about this card is its Travel Together ticket option. Pretty much, if you spend more than $30,000 a year on this card, you have the option of purchasing a Travel Together ticket. When you book a flight using Avios, you can also book another seat by using your Travel Together ticket— and the only things you have to pay are the applicable taxes and fees! Now that’s a great deal!
  4. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. For travelers with a budget (which is probably most of us), then this is a pretty good card to have around. Beyond the points, you get for every dollar spent on normal purchases, you get double the points for purchases made to Southwest Airlines as well as Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental programs.  For this card, you only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months before getting the reward of 25,000 bonus points. You also get 6,000 bonus points after your card member anniversary every year; so pretty much you make money just by having this card. The points on this card never expire, too, which is nice if you have limited vacation days. One of the best features about this card is that, if you complete 100 qualifying flights or earning 110,000 points in a calendar year, you earn Companion Status, which lets you bring a guest on every Southwest flight for free! Not only is that a terrific reward, it also lots the rest of that calendar year and the next year, so you can really enjoy that benefit.
  5. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (from American Express). We’ve talked so much about airlines, but what if you aren’t traveling by plane? Have no fear, this is a great card if you’re driving but will still stay in a hotel. Like the other cards, you get 1 point for every dollar spent on normal purchases, but you get up to 5 points per dollar spent at a Starwood hotel or resort. You also get 25,000 bonus Starpoints (their branded type of point system) once you’ve spent $3,000 in the first three months. Another great feature of this card is that you can transfer the points to numerous other frequent flier programs, so they don’t have to just go to hotels if you don’t want them too. The annual fee is waived for the first year and then it’s $95 a year.
Top 5 Airline and Travel Credit Cards Out There

How to Clean up Your Credit and Turn Things Around- Useful Tips for a New Start

We all make mistakes, and often times, those mistakes can be reflected in our credit score. While there’s no way to completely erase your credit history and start over (wouldn’t that be nice), there are a few ways to clean up your credit.  Here are just a few useful tips to help you get a new start on your credit!

  1. First off, you need to make sure your credit score accurately represents your use of credit. Believe it or not, it’s very possible for your credit score to have some negative data that simply isn’t true. Now, this isn’t because someone’s out to get you, but credit record keepers are humans. Yes, they sometimes make mistakes in the data that’s inputted into your credit score. So, if your score is lower than what you’d like, go through and check all the records. A recent study actually showed that one in five credit reports have material errors in them. That means it’s very possible that your bad credit isn’t your fault but simply a recording error!
  2. It’s really easy to approach your credit score and get lost in all the legal jargon and details that seems to surround it. However, there are a few laws that are important to understand when it comes to improving your credit score. You don’t need to be an attorney to understand these laws, either; they’re pretty straightforward. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the credit bureaus to provide a free credit report to you each year if you ask for it. You shouldn’t have to pay any fees or charges just to know what your credit score is. The Fair Credit Billing Act means that—if any company or vendor charges you for something you didn’t buy, the incorrect amount, or some other unfair bill—you can both contest those charges and demand that they take charge in getting it cleared off your credit score.
  3. In order for negative information to be applied to your credit score, the company that reported it must have evidence to back that data. So, if you think the company incorrectly charged you or is lowering your credit score without sufficient evidence, then you can fight it. They have the burden of evidence and, if it can’t be produced, then you have the legal right to demand they remove the negative information. This can be especially effective if there was something in the distant past that is lowering your credit score. Because companies go out of business, merge, lose data, etc. over time, it will be harder for them to provide evidence of your bad credit. So, if you feel like some dark splotch has been on your credit report for too long, then go ahead and challenge it. The company is legally obligated to show evidence, which may not even exist!
  4. Another aspect of negative information on your credit score is that is has to be complete. These simply means that it has to accurately represent the whole situation, not just the bad part. For example, if you were billed something twice, but already paid it once, and the company reports the missed second payment as a negative, then that’s simply not fair. While just seeing that you missed a payment may look back, when the full picture is taken into account it’s obvious that it’s not your fault. There are actually lots of situations like this that get put onto credit reports and unfairly lower your credit score.
  5. You should also be aware that, for most negative data on your credit score, it can only be on your report for seven years. However, credit bureaus are notorious for not removing those spots from your score when they should be. So, go through your credit score and make sure it’s up to date. However, remember that bankruptcies stay on for 10 years and any unpaid judgments last 7 years or until the statute of limitations expires—whichever comes last.
  6. If you’ve looked over your credit report and think that there is information that is either inaccurate or should be removed, then make sure you have the sufficient documents to prove it. While the burden of evidence is heavier on the vendor or company to prove that the data is correct, you still need to have at least a small paper trail to speed up the process. Bills, credit reports, bank statements, etc. can all help you prove you point and get your credit score back up. Send the information to both the creditor that’s reported your bad credit and the credit bureau. Hopefully it will stick with at least one of them. Many credit experts suggest that you do this whole process via snail mail because it guarantees your right to see the vendor’s evidence that backs up the negative data. If you contest the information over the phone or on the Internet, then you may lose some of those rights.
  7. While all of this advice is great for improving your credit score after it’s been dealt a bad blow, I always like to say that it’s better to be prevent something bad from happening than having to fix it later. So, instead of letting your credit score fall low, stay on top of it so it never gets low! You can do this by periodically ordering your credit score and analyzing it, or enrolling in a free monitoring service that gives you monthly updates. Program like Credit Karma not only give you access to your credit score, but they also update you when changes occur to your score or other important things happen.

Your credit score and credit history will affect you throughout your entire life.  It is worth the time and energy it requires to check your credit regularly, to be sure that it reflects accurate information.  Also, do what you can to fix your credit score by either paying off bad debts/liens, contacting creditors to fix an error, or to simply start anew.  Be sure you are making payments regularly and don’t get behind on loans or credit cards.  Be sure medical bills are paid before they are sent to collections.  Also, if you don’t have any credit accounts, this can negatively affect your credit score.  Apply for a credit card and use it regularly.  Don’t carry a balance that is close to the credit limit.  It is recommended that you stay below 50% of your credit limit in order to maintain the highest credit score you can.  Don’t be late on any credit card payments.  If you apply for a loan, pay the loan regularly as required, but be sure not to pay it off within 6 months so that it is recorded on your credit history.  When possible, be sure your name is on loans that you are involved in and be diligent in paying them by the due date.

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15 Mistakes People Make When Paying Off Debt

Paying off debt is going to be unique for each person and situation, there isn’t one right method that will work for everyone. However there are definitely some universal methods that will help anyone get out of debt, if followed.  Avoid these 15 mistakes when trying to pay off your debt, and you’ll be debt free before you know it!

1. Not creating an accurate monthly budget.

We all know and have heard how crucial a monthly budget is when wanting to pay off debt (and it is), but we often make the mistake of creating an inaccurate budget. Figure out what you are actually spending and go from there.  Decide what you should be spending or what you want to be spending.  Creating a budget isn’t necessarily just writing down what you spend each month, although that is a great place to start.  You need to make sure that you have a very realistic budget, and have a plan for the money that is planned to be left over each month.  If you don’t have a plan to “save” or invest it, or to use it to pay off other debts, often it will just get sucked into the abyss of extra spending to never be heard from again.  Be sure to budget for life.  This means that budget for birthday gifts, car repairs that might happen, etc.  If you never allow for anything extra, you will continually get frustrated when those expenses come up. Remember, those “unexpected” expenses, are actually “Expected” in life.

2. Not Using a Debt Snowball

A debt snowball is when you take your smallest debt and pay as much as possible to that debt, while still making minimum payments on other debts, until it is paid off. Then once that debt is paid off, you take the amount you were spending on it each month and add it to the payment of your next debt. This will give you the confidence of getting rid of your debts one at a time, and help you to pay more than the minimum payment.  This is tried and true and works for many reasons.  First, it gives you momentum and takes the “guess” work out of figuring out how much to pay on each thing.  It will also reduce the amount of interest you spend overall, because the sooner each debt is paid off, the sooner you are no longer paying interest on that card.

3. Using your Debit Card For Everything

I know that debit cards are much better to use than credit cards, but there have been studies that show that we almost always overspend when we use a card vs cash. This doesn’t mean you need to cut up your debit card and never use it, but find those areas of your budget where you tend to overspend and create a cash envelope. Groceries are usually at the top of the overspending list. If you take a cash envelope with your allotted grocery budget to the store, then you can’t go over what you have planned.  If every time I wanted to go out to eat, I brought cash, I would probably order differently.  Truth.

4. Paying the Payment

It’s easy to set up automatic bill pay, and pretend like those debts aren’t there. If we only pay minimum payments, with interest accruing, it will take years to pay off even the smallest of debts.  Find ways to pay more than just the minimum amount.  Work a side job or make money online from home to allow yourself some extra money to knock out the loans or debts.  Minimum payments are what make credit card companies rich.

5. Losing Momentum.

This happens to everyone.  Getting out of debt is hard and it can take time.  Sometimes, we lose momentum and the motivation to stay on top of it.  I know for my husband and I, when we were paying off our debt, we had to still allow time and money for some dinner dates and a few other extras or we started to get crazy.  We also found that after a really long “financial fast” we would binge-buy something unnecessary.  It was an emotional response to feeling trapped.  What you need to remember is that debt is the trap and you are actually working toward freedom.  Track your progress, write down your goals, and consistently talk about your goals and work toward each milestone. Consider creating a debt sheet, and cross off the payments made, or the accounts that are paid off. The debt snowball is another way to stay motivated as you see your debts disappear one by one. Find something that works for you.

6. Forgetting to cut lifestyle expenses.

Budgeting is more than just knowing the amount of money you are spending in each area of your life. We actually have to cut back on our expenses, if we want to meet our debt goals.  Stop eating out, go on free dates, create a limit on birthday and Christmas gifts, etc. That extra money to pay off debt is not going to come from thin air…you have to create it by spending less.  If you have to go out to eat, consider sharing a meal (this works at some places, not others) and order water.  There are ways to cut back on expenses without being miserable.  Find a balance.

7. Wasting food.

This may seem silly, but grocery bills add up quickly. If you are smart with meal planning and buying, you can save so much money! Be smart with that food you buy…don’t buy too much of things that will go bad, freeze what you can, EAT LEFTOVERS!! Any time you throw away food, you are throwing away money.  There are a lot of recipe websites that will give you new ideas for leftovers, which are pretty cool!  Use up your extras by making it into new things.  Use the rest of your roast and make beef tacos the next day, etc.  This takes a little bit of planning, but once you are in the habit of it, it makes dinner easier, because half of the work is done!

8. Adding to your debt.

This is an easy mistake to make. We are excited to put extra money on the credit card and we pay all of our bills and are left with… not enough money to live on the rest of the month.  Enter: credit card.  Don’t do this!  If we are trying to get out of debt, don’t even use your credit cards.  It is a slippery slope and a dangerous habit. Don’t leave yourself without the money that you need each month, or you will find yourself charging things again to pay for your basic needs.

9. Not Setting Goals

I am in love with goals. Without goals, I would be nowhere.  I set goals and make task lists and it is what keeps me going.  If you don’t have goals, you don’t know where you are headed.  IF you don’t know your destination, you won’t know what path to take.  It is simple, but life-changing.  Set debt goals.  Maybe you want 2 store credit cards paid off by the end of the year.  Maybe you want to pay off your car by your birthday.  Set clear, specific, realistic but uncomfortable goals and lay out a path to get there.  If “I want to pay off my car by my birthday.  In order to do that, I need to pay ($fill in the blank$) amount each month until then.  I don’t have that much extra money each month, so I need a side gig to make some extra cash.” We need to think about our long term goals and plans, so we know where we are headed and we can track our progress along the way.  This is extremely motivating and will keep you on the right path.

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10. Paying bills late.

Be sure that you are still paying minimum payments on time as you pay off your debts.  Don’t focus so much on one debt that you forget about the due dates on the other ones.  Late payments create late fees and increased interest rates.  Whenever possible try and set up automatic bill pay to ensure that you are always on time.

11. Taking the saving too far.

Now I mentioned earlier about “really cutting back” but I also want to give a word of caution about this. Yes, cut back but be realistic as well. If you cut back too much then it won’t take long for an explosion to happen. It’s like when someone goes on an extreme diet, and they do good for awhile, but pretty soon they can’t take it and they splurge on an entire chocolate cake. Instead it’s better to live in moderation.

12. Forgetting that this is a team effort.

If you are married, or in a relationship where your finances affect each other, then you cannot do this alone. You need someone to support you and keep you accountable to your goals. You also want to be there to encourage each other and get excited about your progress.  You also need to be on the same page with how much you are spending and where. So talk together and figure out a plan of attack that you are both okay with.

13. Having a good reason to be debt free.

This comes back to goals.  Why are you getting out of debt?  Is it to live life more freely?  Is it to prepare for retirement?  Is it to reach your next set of financial goals?  We all know that being debt free is good, and that we should do everything we can to pay off debt. You have to find YOUR motivation for being debt free. What motivates you? When it becomes a big desire that you have and not just “what you should do” that’s when the real changes are going to happen.

14. Not using extra money.

Chances are you’ll eventually get a tax return, a raise, birthday money, etc. So, you can go out and spend the money, or apply it to your debt and pay it off that much faster! The choice is yours.  No judging here 🙂

15. Forgetting to enjoy the journey.

Finances are stressful… and they can be really stressful. It is so important to be smart about your money and budget, and pay off debt……but you still need to live.  Find joy in the journey and be happy.   You can find joy in life even when you’re in debt believe it or not! So be creative with your saving and frugal living and make it enjoyable!

Here are a few other related posts to getting out of debt:

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10 Bad Credit Card Habits and How to Avoid Them

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15 Mistakes People Make WHen Paying Off Debt

15 Money Mistakes to Stop Right Now!

We’ve all struggled with money. Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably made a decision or two in which you were throwing your money away. It’s always a good idea to evaluate and analyze your cash flow every now and then to make sure you’re getting the most bang for each buck. Here are some money mistakes that we all make and that we should stop making right now!

Not Having a Budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one.  Without a budget, you won’t know what you’re spending your money on, and knowledge is power when it comes to finances. Look at your monthly income, and make categories that fit all your wants and needs (cutting any wants, if necessary).

Using Credit Cards without Paying Them In Full. When possible, only use your credit on things that you can pay off in full. Having a credit card is a good idea because it builds credit and you can get some nice rewards, but don’t max it out just because you can. Instead, buy things on your credit card, but pay them off in full before the deadline—this will prevent unneeded interested accruing against you.

15 Money Mistakes to Stop Right Now!2

Not Having a Savings Account or Emergency Fund. Having a savings funds or emergency money is great, but don’t just store away all your cash like that. This makes your money become stagnant, making it less valuable as inflation increases. Instead, put some money aside for emergencies, and then invest the rest in stocks or something similar.

Buying Expensive (new) Cars. If you’re out looking for a car, consider looking at a used model. Even a car that’s a year old is going to be a much better deal than this year’s newest model. Cars can never increase in value, they only depreciate, so buying a new car similar to throwing money out of the window.

15 Money Mistakes to Stop Right Now!3

Spending Too Much on Food. Food can be a huge hidden expense. Try to sit down and make a meal plan for the week. This will keep you focused so that, instead of buying a $10 meal at lunch, you can pack your own for a fraction of the price. Over a year, this can save you thousands of dollars.

Not Setting Financial Goals. To get your financial life on track, it’s important to set financial goals. This are things that you can work towards so that your money is being spent or saved with purpose. Make some financial goals and then stick to them!

Not Discussing Finances as a Couple. If you’re married, then sit down with your spouse and talk to him or her about your finances. I cannot stress how important this is! Not only will it help your marriage, but you’ll see your money start to bulk up. There are 6 Critical Financial Discussions every married couple should have. Once you’re both on the same page, there will be less frustration between both of you and you’ll have twice as much energy and will power to reach your goals.

Not Paying off Debt in a Smart Way. Debt has a nasty way of sticking with us and ruining any happy financial prospects we may have. If you have debts, don’t spread your money across all of them, but focus on the smallest one until it’s gone. That way, you won’t be paying interest on it anymore, which gives you more money to throw at your larger debts.  This is called a debt snowball and it really works.

Being Complacent at Work. We live in a very competition driven world these days. That can sometimes be frustrating, but it can also work to your advantage. If you feel like you deserve a raise at work, then talk to your boss. One huge money mistake we make is not being aggressive enough in the workplace.  If you are worth more than you are being paid, talk to your superiors. If you aren’t satisfied with your pay, look elsewhere for work that will pay you what you are worth.

Focusing on Everyone Else’s Finances. It’s way too hard to work on your own financial goals while you are working hard to “keep up with the Jones’ is probably the least productive thing you can do with your time and energy.  Everyone’s life is different—that’s a fact of life. So trying to compete with someone else is only going to make you upset and, probably, in debt. Focus on yourself and your situation and do what works for you.

15 Money Mistakes to Stop Right Now!6

Spending too Much on Gifts. You don’t need to spend tons of cash to show your friends and family that you love and appreciate them. It might be tempting to buy a really nice present or gift for a loved one, but don’t do it if you can’t afford it. Showing love in a different way for them.

Not Investing in Your Retirement. Start now, no matter how old you are, to invest in a retirement plan. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough money when you’re older to actually support yourself when you stop working. The way you choose to invest your money now can greatly affect how happy and stress-free your life down the road will be.

Buying Things at Full Price. Whenever possible, don’t buy things at full price. That’s not always going to be the case for everything, but you can often find great deals or gently used items that are much more cost-savvy than brand new ones. Even if you have to wait a few weeks for something to go on sale, it will be worth it in the long run.

Not Being Able to Say “No.” Remember that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. If you don’t have the money to invest in your best friend’s new business or you can’t afford a nice vacation this year, that’s okay. Financial situations change, and be honest and upfront with yourself and others (when necessary) if some cuts and changes need to be made.

Your Happiness from Relying on Money. Lastly, remember that money doesn’t equal happiness. Don’t get so wrapped up in your finances that you forget to enjoy life! Yes, it’s important to have a plan for your money, but that doesn’t need to consume your life. Be responsible with your money, and then focus on what makes you happy.

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15 Money Mistakes to Stop Right Now!