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Credit Cards

Young woman just found out the best credit card offer.

Credit Card Offers You Should Think Twice About Taking

By | Credit Cards

When you’ve embarked on the journey to build or improve your credit, choosing the right credit cards is nearly as important as paying your bill on time. Ideally, your credit card should offer low interest or APR (a minimal or nonexistent annual fee), and rewards or other incentives that fit in with your lifestyle. Unfortunately, credit card companies often use misleading language to steer unsuspecting consumers into signing up for credit card offers that do not actually help credit. As you sift through the next stack of credit card offers in your mailbox, make sure you take the time to review the fine print hiding underneath the colorful attention-grabbing headlines and lofty promises. There are certain credit card offers to think twice about taking. We’ll give you the lowdown on the most glaring offenders, so you can separate the good credit card offers from the not-so-good and downright harmful ones.

Tricky Bonus Conditions

Credit card companies count on generous welcome offers to entice new customers into signing up. The problem? If the user does not meet certain conditions — such as never holding a card from that company before — the company reserves the right to deny the bonus. What that means: Think twice before you take a credit card welcome bonus offer. You may not qualify for the offer, based on any other accounts you have ever opened with that issuer. And even if you do qualify now, the card issuer could revoke your eligibility for several reasons. Your best bet is to call up the card issuer and confirm the terms and conditions of the offer, as well as your eligibility. You will also want to hold onto the documentation setting forth the credit card offer guidelines.

Store Credit Cards

Store credit cards effectively solicit consumers with tempting offers, such as 10% or 20% discounts on purchases or the chance to earn store credit. Think about the timing of the offer — right as you are about to drop a significant amount of cash, and it’s likely when you do not have the time to carefully review the rates and the terms you are accepting. Most people only find out about the excessive interest rates after they receive the first bill a month or two later. The average APR on a store credit card can reach around 22.99%. If you do not pay the balance every month, the interest you’ll rack up will easily cancel out any of the benefits.

Low-Rate Intro Offers

Introductory offers are another example of a credit card offer you should think twice about taking. Some cards lure you in with the promise of a low-interest rate during the introductory period — a common offer for cards geared toward appliance or furniture purchases. If you fail to read the fine print, you will not find out when the intro period expires — and the rate that will then take effect. Many people are shocked to find their rates jump exponentially after the intro period. To add insult to injury, the interest usually starts accruing at the time of purchase. If you have not paid off the debt during the intro period, the interest could be charged retroactively at the higher rate.

Rewards Cards

The right kind of rewards card pays off in dividends, allowing you to earn points that can be later redeemed for travel, other high-ticket items, or cash back on the items you purchase the most. However, remember that some rewards cards can come with a hefty price tag in the form of high-interest rates or annual fees. Before you commit to a card with alluring rewards, make sure the card actually gels with your lifestyle — and doesn’t bring with it any exorbitant fees. In addition, be prepared to pay off the balance every month, or the amount you pay in interest will offset the rewards. Think twice about taking a credit card offer that sounds too good to be true.

The best kind of credit card offer can set you up for a healthier credit score. While you are shopping around for the best offer to improve your credit score, check out the rest of the services we can offer you at Ovation Credit. Our team of professionals can whip your credit report into shape quickly and efficiently. Find out how we can help you today with a free consultation here.

credit cards are available for you if you have bad credit

Credit Cards for Bad Credit: What to Look for, What to Avoid

By | Credit Cards

 Credit Cards for Bad Credit: What to Look for, What to Avoid

Having poor credit should not be a life sentence. Now, more than ever, consumers with troubled credit histories have access to a wealth of credit card options. The key, however, is to make sure you find a credit card that will support your credit-building goals, not amplify any existing problems. Finding credit cards for bad credit will require patience, persistence, and a healthy amount of research. You may need to spend more time digging through the fine print to learn what a prospective card is really offering. To save you some time, we rounded up our top tips for selecting a credit card for bad credit.

What to Look For

The best credit card for your situation might not boast top-notch benefits, such as cash back or rewards on your purchases and a low interest rate. Even the most attractive option will come with its own set of drawbacks. However, after you cultivate a decent history of paying your credit card bill every month, you stand a much better chance of qualifying for a card with better perks — and terms — the next time around. Here is what you should be looking for in a credit card for bad credit.

  • Secured cards. Secured cards will require you to pay a cash deposit up front, which will serve as your “credit limit.” This is typically the smartest financial option for someone shopping for a credit card for bad credit. If you do not pay the bill, the card issuer could take the deposit. But when you build up a history of on-time payments, you will eventually earn the deposit back and perhaps be able to upgrade to an unsecured card.
  • Store credit cards. The often-overlooked store credit card can actually be quite useful as a credit-building tool. These typically boast lower barriers to qualification, so a person with bad credit would have an easier time obtaining an approval. They also offer lower credit lines, so it is easier to avoid racking up excessive debt. The catch: Only charge what you can afford and pay the bill in full every month so that you avoid the higher interest rates and late fees that come with these cards.
  • A card that reports to the three major bureaus. Find out if the card you select will report to the three major credit bureaus. After all, you want your credit report and score to reflect all of your hard work and efforts to repair your credit. Typically, the major card issuers will automatically do this, but always ask before you make any commitments.

What to Avoid

Consumers with bad credit are especially at risk for predatory credit card offers. Credit cards for bad credit unfortunately often come with a steep price tag — in the form of high annual fees or interest rates. These are the main areas you should avoid in your search for a credit card for bad credit:

  • Excessive fees. You may not be able to avoid an annual fee when you are shopping around for a credit card for bad credit. Still, it is best to keep the annual fee as low as possible. Aim for a fee under $50. Be on the lookout for any additional fees, such as one-time account opening or processing fees.
  • High-interest unsecured cards. Be wary of any unsecured card offer that promises a quick and painless credit approval, even for those with subpar credit. To protect themselves from risky consumer prospects, these credit card companies charge excessive interest and fees — which will only aggravate your debt and credit problems.
  • Cards with spending requirements. Some credit cards offer welcome bonuses and other rewards if you spend a certain amount during the first few months of card membership. Steer clear of these and any other offers that encourage excessive spending. It may not sound like much fun, but you’ll want to focus on keeping your spending in line with your budget and paying your balance each month.
  • Too many credit applications at once. Each application you submit will register as a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can drag down your score. To avoid that, only apply for cards that you are pre-qualified for — provided they don’t come with any of the risks mentioned above. The pre-screened offers are considered soft inquiries, which will not affect your credit rating.

Take the Next Step

Using your new credit card responsibly plants the seeds for a stronger credit score. If you need assistance tidying your credit report during this process, reach out to the team of specialists at Ovation Credit. We’re happy to dive in and help you restore your credit to good standing. Contact us today.

Man stealing an id

How to Freeze Your Credit for Free

By | Credit Cards

Identity fraud is a growing problem throughout the world and can have a devastating effect on your credit. Identity thieves target personal and financial information to gain access to consumers’ existing accounts or to open new accounts under a false identity. Once they do, they can have free reign over your finances.

Luckily, there are ways you can protect yourself as much as possible against this problem. Common sense is helpful when you receive a phone call or email from someone asking for information while claiming to be from your bank, credit card company, or even the IRS. But even if you have your guard up, you can include an additional level of security by implementing a freeze on your credit report. And best of all, it’s now a free service offered by credit bureaus.

We’ll walk you through the process from start to finish so you know exactly what is included with a credit freeze and how to add one to your own credit report.

What is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze denies creditors access to the information found on your credit report. Since credit card companies and lenders run a credit check before issuing any type of loan or card, any fraudulent application made under your name should be denied if a check can’t be performed. While it’s not a foolproof method, it certainly reduces the chances of having an identity thief successfully open a new account under your name.

Just remember that when you’re ready to apply for an authentic new type of financial product, you’ll need to remove the freeze. That can be anything from applying for your own new credit card or paying an installment loan such as a mortgage or car loan. Build in time prior to submitting your application to get the credit freeze lifted since it can take a few days to go into effect. Once you get approved for the credit, you can put a freeze back on your credit.

This is also a good tactic to use for children. Some identity thieves and scammers target social security numbers of minors because their credit reports typically aren’t checked for years. It can be a huge nuisance for someone in their late teens or early 20s who goes to apply for a credit card or student loan only to find out that their history is already full of credit errors from fraudulent accounts.

How Do You Freeze Your Credit for Free?

Historically, credit freezes cost around $10 to implement with each credit bureau, which is quite an expensive service. New legislation, however, has favored consumers by requiring the credit bureaus to offer credit freezes for free. Contact each credit bureau directly to enact a freeze: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

You’ll receive a PIN that is specific to your account and you’ll need that number anytime you want to lift a credit freeze. It’s a cumbersome process to replace your PIN and verify your identity, so keep it in a safe and secure place until you need it.

Can a Credit Freeze Help with Credit Repair?

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report won’t help with existing credit errors; it’s primarily used for preventative measures. In that way, though, you can better avoid needing a new credit dispute due to potential negative items caused by fraudulent accounts on your credit report.

Another way to help limit damage and improve your credit is to access your free credit reports each year. You can order your own credit reports even if you have a credit freeze in place. In fact, some other third parties such as your existing creditors can also still access your credit report to confirm your eligibility for certain APRs, for example.

Once you get a copy, check your report from each bureau to make sure there aren’t any red flags. If you see an account or balance you don’t recognize, call the listed creditor for more information. If you have been the victim of identity theft, your first step is to get the account stopped so no more spending can take place. From there, work on fixing your credit either on your own or through a professional credit repair company. Unfortunately, even other people’s fraudulent activity can hurt your credit history, regardless of how unfair that seems.

You can help expedite the process and get your financial footing back by talking to a firm like Ovation Credit. Our legal team has the experience to get your credit report back to the way it should be as quickly and efficiently as possible.

While identity theft can be prevented with a free credit freeze, you can fix any incidents that do happen with Ovation. Sign up for a free consultation to learn more.

Sources:

https://www.northwesternmutual.com/life-and-money/you-can-now-freeze-your-credit-for-free/

Woman becomes an authorized user on friends credit card

Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Credit Card — and Build Your Credit Score

By | Budgeting, Credit Cards

These days, improving your credit score can take many different forms. Becoming an authorized user on the credit card of someone else — typically a more-established credit user — can help enhance your score as you work on building up your credit history. Because the other person’s credit habits will reflect directly on you, you might be able to increase your score more quickly and effectively than you would with your own efforts. As an authorized user, you’ll enjoy many of the same privileges accorded to a typical cardholder, such as receiving a card with your name on it and using it to make purchases. For that reason, taking on an authorized user status is an excellent tool for those with limited to no credit history. However, there are some important distinctions that you’ll want to consider before you make your decision. Here’s what you need to know about authorized user status and how you can use it to your advantage.

How It Works

As an authorized user, you hold no responsibility for paying the balance on the credit card bill. That fact alone can make the prospect of becoming an authorized card user very tempting — but it is still a decision that will have significant financial repercussions. Since someone else is forking over the money for your purchases in addition to their own, it’s even more important to follow good budgeting and spending practices. Remember that if the primary cardholder cannot afford to pay off a large balance, your own credit score will take a hit.

Choosing a Financial Partner

The person who adds you as an authorized user could have the power to boost your credit score dramatically — so make sure you’re choosing someone who already practices excellent credit habits. You’ll want to know if the account you’re being added to has been open for a while, typically carries a low balance, and boasts consistent on-time payments. It’s also a good idea to discuss your financial goals in the beginning. For instance, if you plan to be an authorized user for a short period of time (perhaps six months to a year) in order to later qualify for higher-limit credit cards, let the other person know this is a temporary arrangement with a set end date. Establishing clear guidelines and expectations at the start is the smartest way to head off a future conflict.

Effects on Your Credit Report

Before you sign on as an authorized user on someone else’s account, verify that the account is one that is reported to the major credit bureaus. The major card issuers will usually report the entire history of the account on your credit report. You can expect to see a difference in your score as soon as that information shows up on your report, usually within 30 days from your addition to the account. Keep in mind, though, that not all accounts are reported to the credit bureaus. If the account in which you’re an authorized user belongs to a smaller bank or credit union, the credit history may not be reported — and therefore it won’t impact your credit score. Generally, credit score formulas will weigh the primary cardholder’s history as if it were your own personal history, so you would benefit from the longer record of the other person’s timely payments.

Moving on

One major advantage of the arrangement is that authorized users can be removed from the account at any time. You can simply contact the card issuer and request to be taken off the account. This option can be useful if your relationship with the cardholder changes or their financial habits start to suffer. Or you might decide the arrangement has simply run its course and you’re ready to apply for a card in your name only. Depending on the credit scoring model, the entire account and its history might disappear from your credit report entirely — or it could remain for several years and continue to impact your credit score. Either way, you’ve likely gained valuable practice using credit and set a solid foundation from which to continue to build your credit score.

Requesting that someone else add you as an authorized user is one way you can safely and effectively bolster your credit profile with the help of someone else. Give your score an even bigger lift by reaching out to the pros at Ovation Credit, where we help credit users tackle disputes and fix credit issues every day. Set up your free consultation here.

: 5 Worst Life Events for Your Credit Score

5 Life Events That Could Impact Your Credit Score

By | Credit Cards

It’s impossible to control many of life’s setbacks and disappointments — or the impact they could have on your credit score. By the same token, even some of the happiest moments in life can later wreak havoc on your credit score. In most cases, the life event itself is not to blame for the damage to a credit score — but the very change in circumstance often brings on certain conditions that can torpedo a formerly solid score. Regardless of which life event has precipitated your credit score drop, remember that you can reverse the damage with a healthy amount of awareness and persistence. Read on for our roundup of the five worst life events for your credit score.

1. Divorce

The actual separation itself will not be reported on your credit score, and it will not cause you to be denied on any credit applications. However, many people find themselves struggling financially after a marriage dissolves. A divorced spouse may find it tough to make ends meet with a reduced income, leading to missed payments or higher credit card balances. Occasionally, if you hold an account jointly with an ex-spouse and your ex fails to pay, the negative entry could end up on the credit reports of both individuals. That is one reason why after a divorce, experts advise severing ties with the ex-spouse to avoid the possibility of any future joint account problems.

2. Job Loss

Your credit score can take a serious hit if you lose your job. Although your employment status is not specifically listed on your credit report — and will not factor in the overall calculation — you are likely to experience financial troubles during the period in which you are unemployed. Those monetary stresses, in turn, make job loss one of the worst life events for your credit score. Without a reliable income, you may resort to running up balances on your credit cards or attempting to take out a loan to cover your expenses. If money becomes particularly tight, you may not be able to make the monthly payments. Payment history and your credit-to-debt ratio will then be affected — two factors that account for a major percentage of your credit score.

3. Marriage

Getting married is an undeniably joyous occasion — but most people are later surprised to find out that this life event can indirectly sink a credit score. When you merge your finances with someone else, for better or worse, you link yourself with their credit behavior. Merged accounts may be easier to track, but if one of you misses a payment, the other spouse will have that black mark recorded on their credit report for the next seven years, too. In addition, marrying someone with a weaker credit score can affect your ability to qualify for joint loans in the future, since lenders will consider both of your credit histories. That, in turn, could lead to loan denials or higher interest rates.

4. Opening a Business

Although the start of any new enterprise is an exciting time, entrepreneurs may notice an impact to the credit score along with some early financial growing pains. The typical new business owner will likely need to apply for personal loans to kick-start commercial growth. Whenever someone takes out numerous loans or opens credit cards within a short period of time, credit bureaus register these as hard inquiries that can dock credit scores a few points. Falling behind on these payments can seriously plummet a credit score. And since opening a business is often a risky economic move, many business owners may accrue sizeable debt on their own personal accounts if sales start slumping.

5. Identity Theft

Unfortunately, the phenomenon of identity theft has become all too prevalent — and its impact makes it one of the worst life events for your credit score. When thieves take your personal information and use it to incur high balances on your cards, or open accounts that they have no intention of paying, you could see your credit score drop by 100 points — or more. You may not even find out about unpaid collection accounts until you see them show up on your credit report months later. Although you can fight to undo the damage through disputes and credit repair, it can take years to fully restore your credit score to its former level.

Give us a call or send us a message here to find out how we can help you regain your financial freedom.

Mom help teen learn credit cards

Smart Credit Card Habits for Teens

By | Credit Cards, Personal Finance

If you’re like most parents, you’ve taken the time to instill healthy financial practices in your youngsters. That informal education does not always extend to the use of credit cards — but it should. Right on the heels of proms and college applications, teenagers will soon find themselves thrust into a plastic-saturated world — and having some basic knowledge about smart credit card habits can make a tremendous difference. Smart teen credit card habits will put your kids one step ahead of their peers, allowing for a smooth transition into adulthood and a nice jump start on building a healthy credit history.

Give them a Starter Card

Teens who understand responsible credit card usage in high school will be less likely to fall into the common college debt spiral. One option to teach smart teen credit card habits is with a prepaid debit card, which can be funded directly from the student’s savings. Or you could add your teen as an authorized user to your own account. If you consider your teen responsible enough to hold a credit card, make sure he or she is also capable of maintaining a bank account from which to make the payments. Show them how to set a monthly limit and keep a record of their purchases. Point out when the running tab is nearing too close to the monthly limit of what they can afford to repay.  Be sure to set guidelines on what your teen can and cannot buy with the card — and review the statement each month as it arrives.

Teach Them That Credit Isn’t Free Money

It doesn’t take long for the average consumer to understand that overuse of credit leads to debt. However, teens might be less likely to appreciate this risk. One idea is to ask your teen to hand over the amount of cash (plus a few dollars extra) that he or she spent, or plans to spend, on a credit card. Once your teen sees that amount disappear from a checking account or allowance, he or she might reconsider the purchase. This also helps them to understand that any credit card spending must, eventually, be repaid — and often ends up costing more in the long run, thanks to interest and other fees.

Use the Monthly Statement as a Learning Tool

Just as teens are starting to appreciate the convenience and glamour of credit card usage, it’s time to peel back the curtain and point out some of the stark realities. Dig up one of your latest credit card statements and show them the total amount of your purchases, as well as the amount of interest charged and your APR rate. Most statements will also provide a rundown of how long it will take you to pay the balance — and how much you’ll pay in interest — if you only make the minimum payment every month. That is another good teen credit card habit to learn — how paying your balance in full every month, or making more than the minimum payment, can save thousands of dollars in interest fees.

Resist the Urge to Bail Them Out

If your teenager spends excessively and ends up accruing a mountain of debt, don’t panic — or try to solve the problem alone. Together with your teen, come up with a plan for him or her to repay the outstanding amount — whether through an after-school job or a monthly payment plan. It may seem cruel at first, but in the long run, it can be a momentous lesson for your child. In the real world, parents don’t just sweep in and erase debt problems — and the sooner your child can understand the realities of managing financial responsibly, the better.

Talk About the Importance of Credit Scores

Credit scores will be extremely important in your teenager’s future — and now is an excellent time to explain how their impact penetrates far beyond qualifying for loans and credit card offers. In a few short years, they could be applying for a job or trying to rent an apartment. Explain that employers, landlords, and creditors all use credit checks to verify an applicant’s financial status and level of responsibility. If teens grow into adults who understand the importance of smart credit card habits, they will have no problem achieving a solid credit score.

Set a Good Example

It’s no easy feat to teach kids about smart teen credit card habits. While you’re spending this time educating your child, make sure you take this opportunity to check in with your own credit report. Give us a call today at Ovation Credit and we’ll be happy to offer our wisdom with a free consultation.

Shopping store centers and retail credit

Everything You Need to Know About Retail Store Credit Cards

By | Credit Cards, Personal Finance

Everything You Need to Know About Retail Store Credit Cards

When you shop at a certain store frequently, you might think opening a credit card account there makes solid financial sense. After all, many retail establishments tout incentives as a perk to their loyal credit card holders — such as, for example, Nordstrom’s offer of a $20 gift certificate once shoppers spend $1,000. Other cards dangle discounts to attract bargain-hunting shoppers — perhaps only credit card holders get access to special sales and promotions, or they might receive cash back for certain purchases. But is a retail store credit card really a benefit to your credit — or does it simply encourage you to spend money that you don’t necessarily have?

They can be a good credit-building tool — but proceed cautiously.

If you are trying to establish a good credit record, retail credit cards are a relatively safe way to do so. Most retail credit cards have a low barrier to entry — meaning that even if your credit score is less than stellar, it is fairly easy to be approved for one. Using a store credit card judiciously — that is, keeping your spending habits in check and paying at least the minimum amount due every month — can serve as an excellent exercise in building your credit properly. But be careful. If you open up an account at every store, that will end up looking like too much open credit on your credit report. Also, having a store credit card can tempt you to spend money that you don’t have, or go hunting for items that you don’t really need.

You can easily hurt your credit.

Most credit cards offered in-store boast a low credit limit. How much trouble can you really get into with a credit limit that low? Well, you might be surprised. Low limits mean there’s little wiggle room if you happen to overspend one month. Also, if you continually carry a high balance from month to month — and you are close to hitting your max — it will start to negatively affect your credit score, as you will appear to be maxing out your credit limit. And each time you open a new retail store account, it registers as a hard inquiry on your credit report, also known as the store’s check into your creditworthiness, which can lower your credit score.

The interest rates tend to be higher.

Retail establishments certainly tout the benefits you’ll enjoy as a cardholder, but you’re less likely to hear about the interest rate or APR — that is, unless you dig into the fine print. A 2016 report from CreditCards.com found that store credit cards charge an average of 23.84% interest, up from the average credit card interest rate of 15.22%. That means you actually end up spending more money than you’re saving when you don’t pay the full amount due every month.

Some retailers also waive interest for a certain period of time — such as six months or a year — if you promise to pay off the balance in full in that time period. That can be a good benefit if you want to finance a big-ticket item. But again, it can be a risky move if you are unable to pay the full amount within the promotional period. Many retailers will then begin charging you all of the interest that would have accrued from the date of purchase.

Weigh the risks versus rewards.

It helps to weigh the risks versus rewards when you’re deciding whether to open a store credit card. Do you already have a solid track record of paying your debts every month? Then a retail credit card might be a good idea for you, as long as the store is offering you considerable incentives to become a cardholder. However, store credit cards don’t necessarily provide better benefits and loyalty packages than, say, a major credit card that can be used at all establishments. So, you might be better off sticking with one credit card that offers cash-back rewards across a range of different retail stores, rather than just one.

Do your research.

The bottom line: Make sure you do your research before signing up for just any retailer’s offer. Read into the interest rates and compare the incentives and rewards to those offered by other establishments or major credit cards. And be honest with yourself about how responsible you’ll be with a store credit card, so you don’t end up digging a deeper financial hole.

Retail credit cards are just one way you can improve your credit and build a pathway to a smarter financial future. At Ovation Credit, we aim to guide clients through the process of rebuilding credit and becoming a more responsible credit card user. Contact us today for a free consultation to review your credit reports and answer any questions you may have.

Women Curb Spending Habits

3 Easy Ways to Curb Your Spending Habits

By | Credit Cards

Spending less on your day-to-day life can help you put extra savings away, whether for an emergency account, a retirement fund, or even a vacation. But when it comes to actually saying no to swiping your card or hitting a purchase button online, you may have a harder time sticking to your savings goal.

Before you give up, try out these three easy ways to curb your spending habits. They’re not difficult to implement and you’ll notice a major difference in your bank account when you keep up with them each week and month.

1. Purge What You Already Have

It may seem counter-intuitive, but having a ton of stuff in your home can actually lead to buying more stuff. For starters, you probably don’t know everything you have. Think you’re out of shampoo or conditioner? You very well may have a brand-new bottle crammed at the back of your bathroom vanity. Spend a couple of hours to clear your space of clutter and take inventory of what you already have. You may be surprised by what you find. Plus, you won’t be tempted to buy tons of organizing containers and other supplies because you don’t have any clutter. It can be an incredibly freeing experience while simultaneously leading to better long-term spending habits.

2. Reduce Your Food Spending

Another way to curb your spending is to be mindful of what you’re spending on food and make a concerted effort to slash that number. Start off by adding up everything you spent on food and dining out last month. Even if you reduce that number by 10 to 20 percent, you’ll notice huge savings over the course of a year. You don’t have to be a crazy couponer. Instead, try these simple hacks to reduce your food spending.

Prep Your Breakfast and Lunch

The Internet is brimming with easy, budget-friendly breakfast and lunch ideas that are designed to help you avoid picking something up, no matter how busy you are. You can go all out, making and freezing breakfast burritos for a week, or do something as simple as getting a bag of bagels rather than stopping at the bakery on your way to work.

Leftovers for lunch are always easy (and prevent you from growing a mold experiment in the back of your refrigerator) and it’s simple to keep some sandwich materials on hand. With so many grocery delivery services available, you can do your shopping in 15 minutes online, see how much you’re spending before you check out, and avoid last-minute impulse buys.

Preplan How Often You’ll Eat Out

Depending on your financial situation, you likely don’t need to deprive yourself of ever going out to eat again. If you’re regularly struggling to make ends meet, you may want to take a total hiatus until you regain your financial footing. But if you just want to curb your spending in general, all you need to do is set guidelines for yourself and follow them.

Maybe that means allowing yourself one happy hour a week and one night out with friends. Or perhaps you commit to a single family date night twice a month. Figure out how much you want to save each month and use that number to create your social calendar.

Shop Your Pantry

Chances are, you have some kind of pantry space holding non-perishable food items. Before you do your weekly grocery shopping (remember, online makes it easy!), first figure out what food you already have and use it to inspire your grocery list. Also note what may be going bad in your refrigerator soon, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. See how low you can get your grocery list by shopping your own kitchen first.

3. Hide Your Credit Cards

Credit cards make it all too tempting to buy things we don’t need or can’t afford. If you’re really having trouble curbing your spending, hide your credit cards. Stick them in a drawer or go the extra mile and freeze them in a bowl of water. To really do this well, however, you also have to go to your online accounts and delete your saved credit cards (Amazon Prime, we’re looking at you!). That way there’s no temptation whatsoever to mindlessly shop from your sofa while watching Netflix.

Have debt and overspending affected your credit score? Ovation Credit may be able to help. Reach out for a free consultation today.

6 Rewards Credit Card Mistakes You’re Making

By | Credit Cards

Rewards credit cards typically hook you in with an enticing premise — the chance to build your credit and rack up points that you can later redeem for purchases you already make. When used judiciously, these cards can do just that. It’s no wonder that rewards cards are one of the more popular offerings in credit cards today. In fact, over half of consumers alter their spending habits depending on the rewards in play, according to a 2017 study from TD Bank. However, rewards credit cards do bring their own unique set of risks. If you toss away the fine print that the credit card issuer includes with your rewards credit card, chances are you could be missing out on some of the benefits you signed on just to receive. We’ve zeroed in on the top mistakes you could be making with your rewards and cash-back credit cards, so you can maximize the benefits and limit those risks.

1. Ignoring the Terms of the Sign-On Bonus

Many rewards cards dangle an introductory bonus to make signing up an even more attractive prospect. However, you may not realize just how much spending you have to do in order to qualify for that bonus. Usually you’ll have to reach a certain spending threshold, such as $5,000 within the first three months, in order to cash in on the bonus. Before you sign up for this kind of offer, be sure you’ll be able to pay back such a high balance without causing financial distress. And even if you do cash in on the initial bonus, you’ll want to review the other benefits the card has available and decide whether those perks fit in with your lifestyle.

2. Not Paying the Balance

When you carry a balance from month to month, the amount you’re racking up in interest probably cancels out the benefit of a cash-back rewards program. Also, if you aren’t careful, you could end up accumulating a mountain of credit card debt. The best bet: be strict with your rewards card purchases. Aim to charge only what you can afford to pay off, and don’t let yourself get swayed by unnecessary purchases just to earn more points. If you don’t think you can handle the temptation, a rewards card may not be the best choice for you.

3. Letting the Rewards Expire

Some consumers let their rewards points languish on their credit cards, thinking they can save up for a larger reward. Unfortunately, that strategy can often backfire if the rewards carry an expiration date. This is one area where it’s smart to carefully peruse your rewards card terms and conditions. The last thing you want is to work months or years toward a certain goal, only to see your points evaporate thanks to a “hidden” clause in the contract.

4. Not Shopping Around for the Right Fit

Patience is key. You don’t want to sign up for a card that offers benefits you won’t really use or that will tempt you to make purchases you don’t really need. The card that is best for your particular situation is likely one that offers benefits on the categories where you spend the most, such as groceries or gas. You could also opt for a card that will reward you with points or cash back regardless of the type of purchase.

5. Not Maximizing the Full Benefits

When people sign up for rewards credit cards, they’re typically looking to earn points or cash back toward high-dollar purchases, such as airfare and hotel stays. By focusing on these categories, you might be missing out on maximizing the full benefits of your card. You can often earn several points per dollar on other categories, such as gas, dining, restaurants, and entertainment. Make sure that you review the list of merchants that offer extra points when you use your card — it can actually make good financial sense to use plastic in these scenarios.

6. Overlooking the Annual Fee

Some rewards cards come with a steep annual fee in exchange for certain travel perks, like airport lounge access or TSA pre-check-in. But if you aren’t going to use these benefits on a fairly regular basis, you’re better off searching for a different card that offers a minimal or no annual fee.

A rewards credit card can be a very helpful tool as part of your overall credit-building game plan. For some additional assistance fine-tuning your credit report, reach out to Ovation Credit for a free consultation.

Spend Smarter: How to Use Credit Cards to Your Advantage

By | Credit Cards

Credit cards can be used for far more than an additional line of credit, but if this is the only way you’ve ever thought of using them, you’re not alone. To help increase your financial know-how, and maybe even fix your credit score, we’ve listed out all the ways credit cards can help you beyond just being financial safety nets. Become a wizard with these little-known credit card hacks.

1. Pay Down Debt Faster

If you’re already swamped with credit card debt, taking on another line of credit may seem counterintuitive to fixing your credit. However, it’s really not if the purpose is to transfer existing debt and consolidate your monthly payments. Choose a card with a better interest rate and more of your monthly payments will be put toward the principal, hence shortening the amount of time it would take pay everything off. Doing this will also improve your credit score. Even if you make your payments on time, too much debt can hurt you.

2. Credit Repair

A lot of people would rather own than rent, but the one major thing keeping them from purchasing their own property is bad credit. Either they can’t get approved for a loan or the interest rate pushes the monthly payments up too high. Of course, many people are also victims of credit errors and have to go into the process of credit disputes, which can take time and money.

To expedite the process, a faster way to repair your credit would be to take out a line of credit. Maintain on-time monthly payments, and your payment history will go up a bump. If your credit is too low for a standard credit card, get a secured credit card at first. Use it for your everyday purchases, pay it off each month, and in about half a year you should qualify for an unsecured card.

3. Pay for Travel

Choose a credit card with a great points system, and all of your normal, everyday purchases can help pay for your next hotel, rental, or flight. Each card is different, so be sure to verify which purchases earn you the most points. Just be sure you pay the card off each month so you don’t accumulate debt!

4. Roadside Assistance

Some credit cards offer roadside assistance to any car the cardholder is a driver or passenger in (just as long as it’s not a company car). Whether your car needs a quick jump start, tire change, or short-distance tow, you can get roadside assistance free of charge. Next time you’re on the side of the road, call your credit card customer assistance number (better yet, put their roadside assistance department in your contacts). The perks are not as great as having a AAA membership, but for free, you can’t beat the price.

5. Save Money When Renting

Car rental agencies are able to cushion their bank accounts by selling insurance to renters. Yes, insurance is always a smart thing to have, but it’s not smart when it’s a redundant purchase. Many credit cards offer free, comprehensive rental coverage to their card members. So the next time you need to rent a car for a long getaway, you could save yourself as much as $40 a day by declining an agency’s optional coverage plans.

6. Purchase Protection/Warranty Coverage

If you purchase an item and it breaks through no fault of your own, your credit card likely has a third-party claims program that you can go through instead of the original retailer (who too often fight returns tooth and nail). Your credit card company will then either refund you the full amount for the repair or reimbursement. Of course, verify any limitations your card has before your next purchase, but for many cardholders warranty coverage is a waste of money.

7. Stop Paying Top $$$ for Currency Conversion

If you’re a frequent traveler, your credit card can save you money on currency conversions. Many credit card companies only charge 5%, but others waive the fees altogether. Stop making visits to foreign banks or travel kiosks that overcharge you. Use your credit card to save time and money. For many people, this perk is the sole reason they take out certain credit cards in the first place.

Ready for Next Steps?

Talk to one of our credit specialists to learn how you can take back your financial freedom. Contact us at Ovation Credit to get your free consultation.

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