Categories
Budgeting & Saving

3 Simple Ways to Travel on a Budget

At some point in your life the travel bug hits you. For some people it happens earlier than for others. I remember always wanting to travel. So much so that my career ambition was to be a travel agent. After speaking with my guidance counselor, I learned that my career of choice was not as viable as I had hoped. So I decided to travel for fun instead. I traveled out of the country for the first time while attending college.

In college I signed up for a study abroad program. If you are still in college I highly recommend this way of travel as a first timer out of the country. It's an easy way to get acquainted with the whole process of leaving the country. Spending time outside of your natural habitat and in unfamiliar surroundings really helps you grow as a person. But travel can be expensive and as a college student or recent graduate, you have to watch every penny. So here are some tips to travel on a budget.

Plan Your Travel Budget

If you are a recent college graduate, then you may not have the money to blow on a five-star vacation to Dubai. But if travel is important to you then you should at the very least have a travel budget. I have a separate 'savings' account that is specifically for my spontaneous travel and each month I put aside 25 dollars. This process is as simple as setting an automatic transfer and at 25 dollars it doesn't affect my normal budget significantly. If there is not enough in my normal discretionary spending for a plane ticket, I can tap my travel savings account. I also try to deposit extra money in that account when I have it. This is savings in addition to my 401k and emergency account savings so I feel absolutely no guilt about emptying it every few months. I recently went to the Bahamas for my birthday and I emptied my travel account to enjoy a dolphin encounter. It was amazing! And I am already beginning to save for my next trip.

I want to make two important notes here. Nothing should trump your normal savings plan and you shouldn't 'dip' into normal savings for a trip. Secondly, it's OK to enjoy what you've worked so hard for! Just don't let it put you off track of your ultimate goal. But traveling doesn't have to be expensive and I'm going to tell you exactly how to budget for travel.

Search for Deals to Fit Your Travel Budget

While saving money for travel is beneficial, it’s important to stretch that travel dollar as far as it will go. Searching for deals on flights and hotels can help you save even more money. Try Kayak.com to find flight deals leaving from your city. You can also set an alert to track the flight prices as they fluctuate. I search for flights with Kayak and watch the confidence meter. It estimates whether the price of a flight will increase or drop over the next seven days. And snagging a good deal while it’s hot is a great method to stretch your travel dollar.

BONUS: Maximize Your Travel Budget

One of the best ways to travel on a regular basis is by using points or Miles that you earn with everyday purchases. For example, with the Discover it® Miles card, you can earn 1.5X Miles on every dollar spent. The card also allows you to fly any airline at any time. And you can also redeem your Miles for a variety of travel purchases including hotels or rental cars! As a new cardmember, Discover will automatically double all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year on your Miles card. Now you can travel even more.

Traveling as a college student or recent college grad does not have to be expensive. If you take the time to search for travel deals and put money aside into a travel fund, you can travel more often this year. And by using a card like the Discover it Miles card, you can even maximize your travel budget.

This post was created in partnership with Discover.

Originally posted 2016-01-27 16:58:57.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

What’s the Deal with the New EMV Cards?

Whenever I shop in Target I always have a goal to spend less than $100.

I swear, I try to limit my purchases but I always seem to find something that I need!

I think it's the bull’s-eye that draws me in.

On a recent trip to Target, I was in the self-checkout line and I swiped my credit card. Normally, as soon as I swipe my card, I see the receipt printed a few moments later and I’m on my way; my wallet approximately one hundred dollars lighter. However, this time, the screen prompted me to insert my card. “What?” I immediately thought. What if the machine eats my card? But I inserted my card and my transaction finalized a few moments later.

You might have had a similar experience in the recent months. On October 1, the U.S. credit card industry completed the formal migration to EMV chip-enabled credit cards. When I swiped my card at Target, I was prompted to insert my card in the terminal so that the chip could generate unique, dynamic data. So what is the deal with these EMV chip cards?

The implementation of enhanced security measures such as chip-enabled cards in the United States was prompted by the new “BuySecure” initiative, put into place by executive order. Identity theft is a serious issue. In 2014, the FTC reported identity theft as the top consumer complaint with a total of $16 billion stolen from 12.7 million fraud victims in 2014. The same 2015 Identity Fraud study found that in 2014 a new identity was stolen every 2 seconds. With such a prominent issue affecting Americans, President Obama signed an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft and a component of that “BuySecure” initiative includes implementation of the new chip technology.

Discover has created an EMV resource center to answer questions that you might have as a consumer. Here are a few questions that I had and answers that I learned from Discover.

How does the security of a chip-enabled card compare to a non-chip card?

  • The new chip cards have an extra layer of protection against fraud at point of sale. If you don't have a chip card, or the merchant you are shopping at isn't EMV ready, your magnetic strip card will still work the same way as it always has.

How does the chip-enabled card work?

  • Using a chip card is simple. At chip-enabled terminals, consumers can insert their cards into a terminal and follow the guided instructions on the terminal screen. In the case that a retailer does not have chip-enabled terminal, consumers can use the magnetic stripe on their card as they’ve always done before.

How are EMV cards more secure?

  • The microchip in chip cards generates unique, dynamic data every time a consumer completes a transaction in a store, making it harder for fraudsters to collect their card information. In turn, it is more difficult for hackers to copy and use credit card information.

While it might be an adjustment at first, ultimately, the EMV card technology aims to make each transaction more secure. And even though the technology can’t cure me of my Target shopping addiction, or change how much I spend on each visit, at least I will feel more secure knowing that those purchases are my own.

This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-10-26 10:00:30.

Categories
Earn Extra Income

Top Ways College Students Can Earn Extra Money

Good students spend the extra time to get better grades. Sometimes that means late nights, missing out on fun, and stressful days. But getting good grades can also mean more cash in your pocket. You can often get approved for more financial aid if you have good grades in college, and you may even get scholarships. However, scholarships are not the only way to get paid for good grades. Here are a few more ways to benefit from good grades.

 

Save Hundreds by Skipping College Classes

You can begin earning extra money as early as middle school. If you are a relatively good student and you choose the more difficult classes, you might get an advanced placement in high school. This will allow you to skip some lower level college courses which could save you hundreds. If you skip enough classes, you might even be eligible to graduate early, saving thousands and starting your career early.

 

Get Cash Back on Your Student Loan

If you decide to borrow student loans, consider this: good grades can mean cash. Some student loan servicers offer incentive programs that will give you cash back based on regular payments or auto draft payments. But others will offer cash back simply based on the grades that you earn. Consider the Good Grades program from Discover Student Loans that offers 1% cash back on each new student loan if your GPA is a 3.0 (or equivalent) or higher.

Get Rewarded with Cheaper Insurance

As you begin paying your own bills, you might be surprised to find out that your good grades can earn you cheaper car insurance and even cash back on your credit card. Insurers like Allstate, Nationwide Geico and State Farm, offer discounts up to 25% off your monthly bill. If you pay $100 a month for car insurance, that could mean a savings of up to $300 dollars a year! Add that to the cash back your good grades could earn you via your credit card, and you will have extra cash to grow an emergency fund or save for a short getaway.

 

Get Rewarded with Credit Card Cash Back

The Discover card gives cash back for good grades. Discover card recently launched its Good Grades Reward Program, which exclusively rewards new student cardmembers who apply after July 23, 2015 with $20 in Cashback Bonus® if their grade point average is 3.0 (or equivalent) or higher each year they are enrolled in school, for the first five years from the account opening.

 

The Good Grades $20 Cashback Bonus is in addition to the current rewards structures for the two student credit cards Discover has available:

 

Discover it® chrome for Students offers an automatic 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases quarterly.

 discover it chrome

Discover it® for Students offers 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum in combined purchases, when you sign up.

discover it

Both cards earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

 

Now you have no reason to complain that college only drains your bank account. With these programs you can easily earn extra money as a college student. Making the choice to study on the weekends instead of party? Well, that’s a totally different story.

Originally posted 2015-09-16 10:00:00.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Get a Free FICO® Credit Score and How to Track Your Credit

The FICO® Credit Score is a credit rating that forms a major part of the information used by lenders in assessing the risks involved in a loan application. This score is used to decide whether to extend a loan or grant credit. FICO® is an acronym for the company that created it, the Fair Isaac Corporation.

The Key Factors to Your FICO® Score

The FICO® Score is computed using various key factors from information available in your credit reports. The components are divided into 5 groups, and each account for a percentage of your overall score:

  • Payment History – 35%.
  • Debts or Amounts Owed –30%.
  • The Age of your Credit History –15%.
  • New credits or inquiries –10%.
  • Types of credit/combination of accounts –10%.

The exact percentages and weights are proprietary to the scoring model; refer to these as approximate weights only.

How Lenders Use Your FICO® Score

The FICO® Score scoring system converts your entire credit history into a three-digit number: lenders use this number to determine your “creditworthiness.” This three-digit number influences the conditions and amounts – if any – that will be offered to you in a credit application. It is used to predict your future behavior; how you will pay, if you will pay, etc.

For lenders, this kind of information is very important. It helps them evaluate how likely a person is to pay his/her bills on time, forecast the accounts which are likely to default, and identify the profitable accounts, among others. In addition, insurance companies often use credit scoring in their business processes to help them to determine which customers are likely to file claims.

In general, payment history and existing loans influence your FICO® Score the most. People who have paid their loans past the due date and are using all of the credit available to them often receive poor credit scores. On the other hand, a missed payment once 5 years ago is unlikely to affect your score greatly. Minor issues, particularly if they happened a few years back, cannot ruin your score.

Where to Get a Free FICO® Score

The credit bureaus that collect and process credit scores; Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, are not required by the law to provide scores to individuals. For this reason, you might conclude that the only way to get your FICO® Score is to pay for it. Fortunately, there are ways to get your FICO® Score or an approximation of it absolutely free.

You can get your approximate FICO® Score by registering for a free service like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma. The score that you see is typically based on the same key factors but it is not a FICO® Score, only an approximation.

Certain credit card issuers offer a FICO® Score for free to customers. For example, as a Discover cardmember you can view up to a year’s history of your FICO® Credit Scores and receive key factors from your credit history impacting the scores – available online and on statements. Discover was the first major credit card issuer to proactively provide free FICO® Scores on cardmembers’ monthly statements. And now with the FICO® Credit Score tracking, you can understand the why behind your personal FICO® Score.

Get a Free FICO® Credit Score and Track Your Credit

Get a Free FICO® Credit Score and Track Your Credit

Have you checked your credit score recently?

 

This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-08-24 10:00:52.

Categories
Young Finances

Parents! Know This Before Borrowing Students Loans for Your Child

It’s almost time for the back to school discussions and families are gearing up to chat about one of the most important topics, money. As students get ready to enter college for the first time, the cost of tuition, books, and room and board is a concern for many parents and students. As a parent of a new college student, here are the top 4 things you should know about paying for college.

1. Discover the Options Available

When I graduated high school I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue, but I knew that I wanted to go to college. My parents agreed. According to a recent study by Discover Student Loans 81% of adults with college age children feel that college is very important to their children’s future. The concrete data supports this emotion. The overall employment rate for those with a college education (72.5%) is higher than for those with only a high school diploma (54.6%). (Source)

Researching the available options is the first step to helping your child fund a college education. According to the Discover Student Loans survey, only 9% of parents say they can afford all of their child’s education. To cover the costs, you may need to look into financial aid and other borrowing options.

2. Understand Co-Sign versus Parent Loan

While it may be tempting to borrow the full cost of your child’s college education on your own, it’s important to understand the difference between co-signing a loan and borrowing a federal Parent PLUS loan.

An option from financial aid is a federal Parent PLUS loan. However, many people don’t realize there are limits to federal student loans. The limit to what you can borrow is determined by the school and factors in any other financial aid your child may receive.

To help your child with expenses, you can also co-sign a private student loan for your child. When you co-sign a loan, you agree to joint liability for the loan. While your child will be responsible for payments, you are guaranteeing that those payments will continue. Be sure that you are ready to take on full responsibility for the loan if your child cannot make payments. It is important to look for the right loan for your situation. In addition, search for loans that offer rewards for good grades, on-time payments, and zero fees.

3. Encourage Alternative Funding Options

Before you immediately reach for a student loan to cover all expenses, take the time to maximize grants, scholarships, and other free financial aid. I applied for scholarships and used those funds to offset the cost of college. There are also work-study programs to help with college costs. If your child is not eligible for work-study programs, consider suggesting a part time job to help with costs.

4. Help Your Child Research Majors

Choosing a major is just as important if not more important than choosing what college to attend. A study from CareerBuilder.com shows that one-third of college-educated workers do not work in occupations related to their degree. In order to make sure your child does not leave school with a degree they won’t use and will likely not appreciate, it’s important to research majors to find one that fits passions with desired lifestyle.

Watch this video to discover what college majors yield high paying salaries.

The decision to attend college is a large one and it comes with a subsequent conversation about how to pay for college. There are many options and it is important to research them fully. Check into financial aid, grants, scholarships, and finally look into private student loan options to help cover the costs. Making the decision is not easy but there is no doubt that a college degree is worth it. See more from the Discover Student Loan study by clicking here.

This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-07-30 10:00:05.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

I Lost my Credit Card, What Do I Do Now?

Have you ever been somewhere, travelling or even in your own hometown, when you lost your credit card or even your entire wallet?

The moment of panic that ensues while you search frantically for your card is not fun to experience, but this may happen to you at some point or another.

With any luck you will come across your lost card or wallet because it’s simply misplaced. But once in a while, it’s truly lost. When this happens there are some immediate steps you need to take to ensure that your identity and financial information do not fall into the wrong hands.

Call the Credit Card Company ASAP

The first thing you need to do is call your credit card company. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that number memorized or readily available since it’s usually listed on the back of the card you just lost. Some experts suggest writing down the phone number and storing it somewhere separately from where you keep your card.

But often we are not near that safe storage place when we lose our wallets or credit cards. My suggestion is to store it as a contact in your cell phone.

discover freezeitIf you are a Discover customer you can simply use Freeze ItSM an on/off switch that you can access on your mobile app and online to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers in seconds if you misplace your card.

Another option is to use the internet to search for the phone number you need, or to ask a friend or family member for the phone number if they have the same type of credit card.

Request a Hold or Account Freeze

Credit card companies act very quickly when you report a card lost or stolen. They will ask you about your last transaction and then put a hold on your account so nothing else goes through on your card. This will prevent a thief from using your credit card and racking up fraudulent charges.
Sometimes when you lose your credit card it’s gone for several hours, or even days, before you notice it. When this happens you still need to call the credit card company right away. As a Discover customer, the $0 fraud liability guarantee means you are never responsible for unauthorized transactions on your Discover card account. However, you must request an account freeze if your card is lost or stolen.

Document Your Calls

Occasionally mistakes occur and your card does not get cancelled or a hold does not get placed on your account. Whenever you report a card lost or stolen you should keep a written record of when you lost it, when you called the credit card company, and more.

It’s also a good idea to follow up with a written letter to your credit card company as soon as possible so they also have a written record of the activity on your account and they have written confirmation that you want your account frozen or cancelled. If you send a written letter, be sure to follow up to make sure it reached them.

Of course, if you simply use Discover Freeze ItSM, you can immediately verify the account freeze you have requested via your mobile device.
Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with the loss of your wallet or credit card, but chances are it will happen to you at some point in your life. At least with these tips you’ll know exactly what to do when you lose your credit card.

This post was created as part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-06-19 10:36:51.