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Five Arizona Title Lenders Sued

MoneyTips

Five loan companies in Arizona have been sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for failing to follow disclosure guidelines in online advertisements. Guidelines state that lenders must follow specific formats for disclosing any interest rate changes in online marketing. The five lenders, which make loans secured by the borrower’s car title, did not include information related to the APR of their loans. Named in lawsuits by the CFPB, the five companies are Interstate Lending, Auto Cash Leasing, Phoenix Title Loans, Presto Auto Loans, and Oasis Title Loans. Allegations against the companies state that the listed rates in the advertisements were lower than those borrowers would be given. All the loans offered by the companies were secured by collateral, in this case, a

Can You Really Start a Business With Just a Smartphone? Yes!

It might seem a bit surprising it’s absolutely possible to start and run a business from your smartphone. At the very least, you can start a business and run the majority of it from a smartphone...

Why I Became a Work-From-Home Mom (& What to Consider if You Aim to Do the Same)

In August I celebrated my one-year anniversary of being a work-at-home mother. I was a career businesswoman before I graduated college. And I’ve spent the last 10 years working in the financial field, with all of its rigors and stresses. By the time I became pregnant with our third child, the bough was breaking. I realized there was no way I could manage two school-aged kids and a newborn, and work full-time in a crazy stressful financial career.

When I was five months pregnant, I left the corporate circus and focused on home. And frankly, I never looked back! Such a radical move promotes cries of “you’re crazy” or “she’s trying to be one of those New Age, stay-at-home, home-schooling mamas!”

Well, yes and no. Leaving the full-time workforce was certainly an ambitious endeavor, but I chose to prioritize how I spent my time devoting it to what best served my legacy. I placed myself and my family in the top position on my list of priorities. And in doing so, I transformed the trajectory of our lives from the mundane to something more special. Of course, a lot went into making that decision. Here’s what I considered before, during and after the switch.

The Costs of Working From Home

First, it all came down to finances. How does a five-person family go from living on two full-time incomes to surviving on one? We made frugal changes, and found ways to supplement our income with me working from home. If you can comfortably afford to be a stay-at-home mom, then, by all means, that is the choice I would highly recommend.

Just keep in mind that the role of a stay-at-home means being at work 24/7. There is no off time, no shift end, no vacation and no sick time. When you are that present and available to the needs of your household, the role of mothering (or fathering) takes on a level of high demand like never before. And what really goes without saying is … it is hard! It’s so hard that I would ward any parent away from adding the work-from-home facet to their life unless they feel they can make it work.

Another Major Decision

While working from home was the right decision, when it came to homeschooling my children, I had to give an emphatic “no.” Don’t get me wrong, this is a noble endeavor. But like becoming a teacher, it is a role one should never enter into lightly. Even though for many children their earliest lessons are learned from their parents, being a good caretaker does not equate to being a good teacher. A good teacher is marked by long-suffering patience, the likes of which I am lacking.

The Hidden Costs of Free Public School

Still, if you’re wrestling with the decision, there are some pros to homeschooling that you may want to consider. Deciding to keep your kids in public school also comes with its own set of costs, and not all of them are physical out-of-pocket ones. Here’s a list of some loosely estimated public school costs, garnered from my personal experience.

  • In New York state, 62% of your property taxes goes toward school purposes. New York property taxes range by location from an estimated $3,000 to $20,000 and up. (In other words, you’re paying for local public schools whether you send your child there or not.)
  • Daily school meal programs:
    • Lunch – $2.50+ per day = $450 in a 180-day school year
    • Breakfast — $2.00+ per day = $360 in a 180-day school year
  • School supplies (an estimated $100)
  • Parent Teacher Association Membership and class party funds (an estimated $35)
  • Back-to-school clothes (an estimated $200)
  • Clubs and after-school programs (an estimated $175 and up)
  • Various extras throughout the year (an estimated $200)
  • Time lost with your children. The time spent at school is almost as long as the time spent each day at a full-time job, which is the majority of our days (priceless)

Homeschooling can eliminate or significantly decrease many of those listed expenses (aside from the property taxes, of course). You’ll also get to structure your lesson plans. If your student (i.e., child) is slow at any subject, you can go at their pace to make sure they understand the lesson.

All of these points sell me on homeschooling, and I have considered it in the past and even as recently as last month. But again, I arrived at the conclusion that it’s not the best course for our family at this time (maybe I’ll do it in the future). I love being at home and available to help supplement (or even correct) the lessons my children are learning at school. This work-from-home schedule allows me to do that, along with forego childcare costs and not miss important milestones.

The point is, at the end of the day, it is up to you. There are plenty of options for your child’s education. Do your due diligence when researching and choose the option that works best for your family.

(Editor’s Note: Staying on top of your credit can help you work toward your financial goals and stay out of debt. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every two weeks, for free on Credit.com.)

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This Simple Trick Can Keep Mortgage Paperwork From Becoming a Huge Hassle

Securing a mortgage requires a laundry list of paperwork. But there’s a way to simplify it.

Every year for your tax returns, you gather together paperwork such as receipts, explanations, paystubs and W-2s. Seventy percent of this information contains the same things you’ll need for getting a mortgage loan. If you do your taxes on time in April and save your documents in a secure, easily accessible location, you can use it to to support your application for a home loan later in the year.

In an encrypted thumb drive, round up all your “mortgage documentation.” (Just remember the password for the thumb drive and, of course, where you ultimately choose to store it.) Within the drive, make subfolders that have the following titles:

  • Tax returns: You can include all pages and schedules of personal returns and corporate returns. Mortgage tip: Make a PDF of this information for future use and store safely.
  • W-2s: same concept, but you’ll need the most recent two years.
  • Pay stubs: every time you get paid, download the pay-stub in PDF format onto the thumb drive and drag and drop it into the folder. It shouldn’t take too long and can save you a ton of time in the future.
  • Bank statements: every month when you pay bills simply download your bank statements in PDF format and similarly add them into the appropriately titled folder.

Be sure to delete any sensitive information that is not properly protected on your computer to minimize your risk should you accidentally download malware onto your computer or otherwise get hacked.

Doing the above things does create a bit more work on an ongoing basis, but it insures you are prepared. These documents can also help your applications for other types of credit in the future, including:

  • car loans
  • student loans
  • personal loans
  • home equity lines of credit
  • credit cards
  • any credit offers

Documentation planning will make the process of obtaining credit less of a scramble, keeping supporting documentation literally at your thumb tips. Save yourself from the need to go “digging.” If applicable, also have this information handy:

  • Your divorce decree: have the divorce decree including all pages, all schedules and the schedule of creditors in a saved folder.
  • Prior foreclosure documents: have the trustee’s sale date deed.
  • Short sale documents: have the final settlement statement from that transaction.
  • Alimony or child support paperwork: have the agreement paperwork.
  • Information on tax debt: have state and/or federal payment plan on file.

Requests for the documentation referenced in this article are consistent with today’s mortgage lending world. Be smart, be prepared and make sure you have the documentation ready before the lender asks for it to minimize hitting any snags.

Remember, too, your credit score will also play into your ability to qualify for an affordable mortgage. You can keep track of how your credit by viewing your free credit report summary, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?

With so many tempting credit card offers out there — we’re looking at you, Chase Sapphire Reserve — who wouldn’t want to take advantage of them and sign up? But some consumers may have reason to wonder if filling out all of those credit card applications may add up to something more concerning: a bad credit score. Is there ever such a thing as too many cards?

To find out, we turned to Rod Griffin, director of education for Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Here’s what he told us.

“It’s not the number of credit cards you have, it’s how you use the cards that you have,” he said via email. “You only need one or two credit cards to have good credit scores. Just what constitutes ‘too many’ depends on the person and their unique credit history.”

It’s important to know that credit scores today put a big emphasis on utilization, or how much credit you use weighed against how much is actually made available to you. This accounts for 30 to 35% of a consumer’s credit score, Griffin said, so “the number of credit cards you carry is less important than the balances you carry on the cards in your wallet.” (You can see where your own credit stands by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

The Risk of Hard Inquiries 

With these factors in mind, it’s probably not a good idea to apply for a lot of credit cards all at once since multiple inquiries can raise a red flag to lenders, Griffin said. “The underlying questions a lender may have are, ‘Why is the person suddenly applying for a lot of potential new debt? Are they going to charge more than they can afford and not be able to repay the debt?’ ”

Yet the risk associated with applying for multiple cards does vary by your credit standing. If your credit history is already in poor shape, “applying for just two or three cards in a short time might be ‘too many,’ ” Griffin warned. Conversely, a person with a good credit history may not feel much of a burn from submitting two or three credit card applications.

Remember to Swipe Wisely 

Whether you’re using an old credit card or a shiny new one, you’ll want to do your best to use it smartly. That means working to pay your balances off on time, and in full, every month, to help you maintain a low utilization rate, Griffin said. Likewise, avoid carrying a balance near the credit limit on even one card as this can “seriously impact credit scores,” he added. “If you have 10 credit cards, use them to make small purchases, and then pay the balances in full each month. You will have a low utilization rate, which will benefit scores.”

He added, “the right question isn’t really about how many cards is ‘too many.’ The right question is, ‘How do you use the cards you have available to you?'”

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly. Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Help! The Bank Charged Off My Debt — After I Paid It

Q: After I paid a debt to my bank in full, I saw on my credit report that the bank reported it was charged off. What does this mean and how can I get it fixed?

A: It can be jarring to see an account marked as “charged off” when you thought it was paid in full. And if this happens to you, it’s a good idea to dig a little deeper into what’s happening.

“If a bank is indicating an account is charged off, then I would inquire from the bank as to the reason for the charge off,” Troy Doucet, a consumer attorney in Dublin, Ohio, said in an email.

“How much do they contend is still owed? There is likely some amount of money.”

Doucet explained that “a bank would not charge off a debt that has been paid in full because there would be nothing to charge off.” He said that banks charging off an account is their way of “indicating that they believed some amount of money was still owed on it.”

“If a consumer thinks they paid off the entire amount, then the amount of the charge off could be a small amount of residual interest or a later charge,” Doucet added. “Even $1 can be charged off.”

Getting a Debt Charged Off

“Charging off a debt usually means the creditor does not expect to recover payment from the consumer on the balance of a debt owed, and indicates the amount written off as a loss on their income statement,” Doucet said. “Some banking institutions must take this step to comply with regulatory requirements, so their balance sheet does not appear ‘inflated’ with accounts it likely will never be able to collect.”

However, if your report shows your debt marked as being charged off, that doesn’t mean you are getting off scot-free.

“Charging off a debt does not affect the validity of the debt as between the creditor and debtor,” Doucet said. “The debtor is still obligated to pay on the debt.” 

Still Certain it’s an Error?

“If there was absolutely no amount of money owed upon a ‘charge off’ designation, then someone is likely looking at a credit report with an improper designation in it,” Doucet said. “They should write to the credit bureau [reporting] the error and dispute that designation as a mistake.”

It’s a good idea to review your reports from the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — as they can each report different information. (You can get a free copy from each by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.) Look over these reports for any errors and then file a dispute claim for anything you feel is a mistake. You can read this guide for more information on how to dispute an error on your credit report.

What You Can Do if it Isn’t a Mistake

A charge off is seen as a negative mark on your credit report and can damage your ability to get approved for new lines of credit. But all hope is not lost.

It’s a good idea to pay off the remaining balance on your charged-off debt. Doing so will change the status of the charge off to being noted as a “paid charge off.” This shows potential creditors that you’ve put in the work to repay your debt.

Beyond that, you can add other positive information to your credit history to help improve your profile, like maintaining a good payment history and keeping your credit utilization in a good place — experts recommend using less than 30% (ideally less than 10%) of your total credit limit. You can see how these behaviors affect your credit profile by taking a look at your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Lunch Is More Expensive Than Ever. Here's the Easy Way to Save

Are you taking your lunch to work? Good. You’re probably saving a lot of money, and very likely calories as well. You’re also part of a growing movement.

It turns out that people aren’t eating lunch at restaurants as often as they used to, according to recent data from NPD Group, a global research firm. Lunch visits to restaurants, which represent 33% of U.S. restaurant traffic during the day, were down by 4% percent in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, according to NPD.

Part of the reason is the rise in the number of people working at home, the research firm said. Add to that more shopping online, which cuts down on foodservice meals and snack breaks, and increases in menu prices, and you get less overall lunch traffic.

A pricing analysis done by NPD Group found that the price point where consumers are most satisfied and most likely to visit is when they feel it is “affordable to eat there often” and “good value for the money.” Average lunch checks in the second quarter of 2016 have increased by as much as 5% compared to the same quarter a year ago. NPD Group said that has also moved them beyond consumers’ “sweet spot” price.

“Simply said, who can afford to go out to lunch on a regular basis when checks have risen for some as much as they have recently,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group, restaurant industry analyst, in a press release. “Historically, foodservice lunch has been the occasion where consumers didn’t want to invest a lot time, money or energy into this meal. It’s apparent by the drop in lunch traffic that the current value proposition isn’t meeting these needs.”

How to Spend Less Than $2 a Day on Lunch

If you’re still buying your lunch most days, chances are you could experience some significant savings with just a little bit of advance planning. In fact, it’s possible to spend less than $2 on lunch every day by making it yourself. You can see how the savings can quickly add up, especially if you’re currently spending $10 or more each time you eat lunch.

That extra money can go toward saving for a dream vacation or a new car. You could even pay down your student loans or credit card debt, which can dramatically improve your credit scores. You can see how your spending habits and debt are impacting your credit by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

5 Credit Cards Worth Writing Home About

Americans are constantly being astounded by the promise of innovative new products such as self-driving cars, wearable electronics and virtual assistants that you can speak with. But truth be told, the credit card industry is not always the most innovative segment of the economy. Credit card issuers tend to release new products frequently, but many are mere copies of their competitors, with incremental improvements at best.

Thankfully, there are still some credit cards that stand out from the pack in some way. These are cards that can offer new ways of interacting with customers, provide unique benefits, or just eliminate fees that are imposed by all other card issuers.

If you’re the kind of person that prefers to use innovative or distinctive products, then you may want to consider one of these five credit cards that truly break the mold. Just remember to read all the fine print carefully to be sure a particular credit card is right for you. It’s also a good idea to check your credit since you typically need a stellar score to qualify for the better cards on the market. (You can view your free credit report summary, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) And, if you’re using a rewards credit card, it’s best t to pay any balances off in full since not doing so can quickly eat away any points, miles or cash back you’ve earned.

With these caveats in mind, here are some cards that stand apart from the rest of the plastic out there in some way.

1. PenFed Promise Visa Card

If you asked people to dream up an ideal credit card, they might imagine a card with no fees at all. And while such a card doesn’t seem quite possible, it actually exists. The PenFed Promise has no fees of any kind, including annual fees, foreign transaction fees, late fees and even cash advance fees. And while it’s not a rewards credit card, new cardholders can receive a $100 bonus statement credit after spending $1,500 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening, as well as 12 months of a 4.99% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) for balance transfers (subject to approval).

PenFed is the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which was created to provide financial services to members of military, defense and government organizations. To apply, you must first join the credit union based on your membership in one of these organizations or by joining a qualifying military support group for a one-time fee of as low as $15.

2. Barclaycard Ring MasterCard

One of the gripes that many people have with their credit cards is the experience dealing with long waits on hold and poorly trained customer service representatives. But with the Barclaycard Ring, cardholders interact with each other, along with Barclaycard’s product manager, as part of an online community. The Barclaycard Ring community discusses issues related to credit cards, while voting on changes to the card’s terms and conditions. Furthermore, the card has an exceptionally low interest rate of 8.25% that applies to purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. There’s no annual fee for this card, no balance transfer fee, and no foreign transaction fees.

3. The Plum Card from American Express OPEN

There are many credit cards for small business owners, and these cards are often just like consumer cards, but the Plum card from American Express is different. With this card, business owners have the option of paying early and earning a 1.5% discount, or taking up to 60 days to pay with no interest. There’s a $250 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

4. Journey Student Rewards From Capital One

This student card does a few things that you don’t normally see. It offers 1% cash back on all purchases, but if cardholders pay on time, they can boost those earnings to a total of 1.25% cash back that month. The card also offers cardholders access to a higher credit line when they make their first five payments by their due date. Capital One also differs from most other card issuers in that it doesn’t impose foreign transaction fees on any of its cards. There is no annual fee for this card.

5. Discover it

In 2013, Discover started over with a new line of cards simply called Discover it. The standard Discover it card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made each quarter in featured categories, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Discover card has other distinctive features such as no penalty interest rate, and automatic waiver of your first late payment fee. There is no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees. Discover is also currently matching all the cash back new cardholders earn dollar for dollar at the end of their first year.

At publishing time, the PenFed Promise, Barclaycard Ring, American Express OPEN Plum, Capital One Journey Student Rewards and Discover it credit cards offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly. Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

The 'World's Best Airline' Is About to Start Charging to Pick Your Seat

Emirates, lauded as the world’s best airline with the world’s best in-flight entertainment, plans a major booking change beginning next month that flyers may or may not like.

Beginning in October, Emirates will charge flyers to choose their seats. An Emirates spokesperson told Credit.com by email that the Dubai-based, government-operated airline will introduce “a minimal charge for those looking to select their Economy seat in advance, for tickets issued on or after October 3, 2016.”

The charge, the price range of which the spokesperson hadn’t confirmed by press time, will apply specifically to Special and Saver fares in the Economy Class, and “will vary depending on the duration of the flight,” they noted. Passengers checking in online two days before departure will not pay the fee.

According to the carrier’s site, Special fares are the company’s lowest and carry restrictions. Meanwhile, “a Saver fare is slightly more flexible than a Special fare,” the site says. (Emirates defines its fares as the price of a ticket, and not the ticket itself.)

The Emirates fee may be new, but the precedent for charging customers was set long ago by other international carriers. Baggage fees are increasingly common among airlines like Aer Lingus and Air Canada, while others like British Airways are known for charging so-called service fees for cancelling, booking or changing a flight.

Brett Snyder, author of the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier, said via email that we can thank economics for these fees. To him, Emirates’ latest change proves “that when economics get involved, it’s too hard to ignore the revenue benefit for charging for services that may be included in the ticket price today. Emirates is seeing revenue softness,” he added, “and is trying to boost its bottom line.”

Matthew Ma, co-founder of the travel deals site, The Flight Deal, agreed, noting the practice will likely only continue. “More airlines will charge for services they used to give for free,” he said over email.

Tips for Avoiding Airline Fees 

With the price of travel soaring ever higher these days, consumers owe it to themselves (and their wallet) to check the total cost of tickets before signing up. That means factoring in charges for baggage fees and meals, as well as any fees for bringing pets or carrying an infant on your lap, for instance.

One way to cut down the price of airfare is by putting miles from airline rewards credit cards to use. Some cards will grant you the VIP treatment, offering access to airline lounges and waiving baggage fees away. Just remember, your credit needs to be solid before you apply as these cards are typically extended only to those with good credit. You can see where you currently stand by viewing a free summary of your credit report on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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