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ByCurtis Watts

What Happens if You Lie on Your Taxes?

A young man sits at his desk on a laptop computer

NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has extended the federal tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020. The recent relief package passed by Congress may have additional tax implications. Please contact a tax adviser for information you may need to complete your taxes this year. Learn more.

According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2018 was $3,103. When you hear that number and then do your own taxes, you expect your refund to be close to that amount. If it’s not–or worse, you owe money–it can be tempting to fudge the numbers to increase your refund. However, misrepresenting yourself on your return is tax fraud, and it has grave consequences.

Consequences of lying on your taxes can include:

  • Being audited
  • Fines and penalties up to hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • Jail time

Learn more about the penalties below and how to avoid them.

Will I Get Caught if I Lie on My Taxes?

The IRS gets all of the W-2s and 1099s that you receive, so it knows if you don’t report all of your income. Even if the income you’re trying to hide came in the form of cash payments, your financial activity can send up a red flag with the IRS that might trigger an audit.

What Is an IRS audit?

An IRS audit is an extensive review of your taxes and financial records to ensure you reported everything accurately. Though most people have a less than 1% chance of being audited, it’s not worth the risk.

Undergoing an audit is a time-intensive and costly process that involves providing years of documentation and even in-person interviews. If the IRS audits you, you can hire a professional to represent you and your interests.

While the IRS may have only flagged one return for audit, it can review any return from the past six years. If it finds more issues, it can add penalties and fines for every year with problems. If you made tax mistakes for the past several years, you could end up owing thousands for taxes you misrepresented.

Can You Go to Jail for an IRS Audit?

While being audited in itself doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, if you’re found guilty of tax evasion or fraud, that’s a different story. The outcome of an audit is a determining factor in whether or not you will be charged with an offense that carries jail time.

What Is the Penalty for an Incorrect Tax Return?

If the IRS finds errors on your return and audits you, the penalties and fines assessed can be steep.

According to Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting, lying on your taxes to reduce your tax bill or boost your refund may end up costing you more in the long run.

“If you don’t pay your tax liability by the due date, the IRS will charge you a late payment penalty. Even if you file on time, you may still be charged a late payment penalty if you under-report your income and the IRS find out,” Zimmelman said.

In addition to that penalty, the IRS can also charge you interest on the underpayment. “If you’re found guilty of tax evasion or tax fraud, you might end up having to pay serious fines,” said Zimmelman.

While tax evasion or tax fraud is normally imagined as something that affects high earners and big executives, even those with lower incomes need to be careful. When describing the penalties for tax fraud, the IRS does not differentiate between income amounts or how much you underpaid your taxes. If you falsify any information on a return, it can fine you up to $250,000.

Can the IRS Put a Person in Jail?

In addition to owing thousands of dollars in penalties, fees and interest, you may also face criminal charges that result in jail time. While the IRS itself cannot jail offenders, the courts can.

Criminal investigations and charges start when an IRS auditor detects possible fraud during an audit of your returns. Courts convict approximately 3,000 people every year of tax fraud, signaling how serious the IRS takes lying on your taxes.

How Long Is the Jail Sentence for Lying on a Tax Return?

The length of the sentence for lying on a tax return depends largely upon the specific details of your situation. These details determine the exact charge against you. That determines the penalties you may face.

The odds of the IRS charging you for fraud is relatively small. Even if you are investigated, the chances of you facing a criminal charge are pretty slim. However, with the potential consequences being as severe as they are, lying on a tax return is not worth the risk just to get a little extra money in your refund.

Are There Other Ramifications of Lying on Your Taxes?

In addition to massive fines, penalties and potential jail time, lying on your taxes to reduce your income can have other negative ramifications. For example, it can impact your ability to secure lines of credit.

“If you under-report your income, it might hurt you when you try to buy a house or apply for a personal loan,” said Zimmelman. “You might not get it if it looks like you cannot afford to pay it back, so lying on your taxes may hurt in that respect.”

When mortgage companies and banks review your application, they request copies of your tax returns to check your total income. If you lied about your income to lower your tax liability, your full income won’t be on the return. That means you may be denied for the loan you need, hurting your financial future.

Moreover, failing to file a return at all can completely tank your credit report. So, not only do lenders not have an accurate picture of your income, they see a less than stellar credit report as well.

How Can You Get More on Your Tax Return Legally?

Nobody likes owing money to the IRS at the end of the year or getting a miserly refund. However, tax fraud is a serious crime. Glossing over your income, boosting your deductions or any other form of “fudging numbers” is lying on your tax return, and that’s tax fraud.

That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with owing or receiving less than you desire. There are a number of legal ways to get a bigger tax refund.

Even if none of those avenues are open to you, it’s still better to tell the truth. Saving yourself a little money at filing time can end up costing you thousands of dollars. It may even land you in jail.

Save yourself the headache and report your information accurately and on time. And, make sure you know what you need to do to avoid common mistakes made on taxes.

The post What Happens if You Lie on Your Taxes? appeared first on Credit.com.

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ByCurtis Watts

How to Make Money Online

You can easily make money online without sacrifices your lifestyle.

Working remotely or online is a rapidly growing trend. Whether you’re out of work and need a new career, or you need a convenient way to make extra cash, find out how to make money online with this guide. You’ll discover the top industries, statistics about the rise of remote work and all the tips and tricks you need to get started today.

The Rise of Online Work

The dramatic increase of communication technologies has caused rapid growth in the number of remote workers. Currently, 70% of all professionals have worked remotely at least one day. Another survey by AND Co and Remote Year found that 55% of remote workers work full-time.

Many people who work online prefer it to traditional work. If you want to know how to make money online and want a happy, more productive work life, online work may be for you.

Who Works Online?

People who choose remote work come from many different industries and backgrounds. Online work can be performed from any location. These are just a few of the types of individuals who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of online work:

  • Stay-at-home parents
  • College students
  • People who can’t drive
  • Residents of rural locations
  • Part-time workers
  • Retired folks
  • Introverts

Many online jobs offer part-time or full-time options. Freelancers, in particular, have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing the number of hours they want to work. Whether you need a full-time alternative career or are simply looking for an easy way to make additional income, there are ways to make money online for your particular situation.

Best Industries for Working Online

You may be surprised at the variety of jobs available for online workers. The latest platforms, like Slack, are designed to help connect remote workers. And you don’t have to be a software developer to find a great online career.

Some industries use jobs boards. These websites host diverse career, job and gig opportunities for nearly any skill level or experience set. You can browse these websites to find odd jobs whenever you need additional income. You can also look for a dedicated career and full-time employment on a site like FlexJobs.com or by simply adding “remote” to a search on any job site. While there are many careers available, here are some common industries with online andremote work opportunities.

Web Development

Web development is a career that easily transitions to an online position. Because all of the work is done via the Internet, it’s easy to conduct your work from home or any location. You’ll need experience developing websites to be successful.

Choose to start your own company and begin advertising immediately, or search for jobs in web development with an established business for a more stable and immediate paycheck.

Multi-Level Marketing

Although this industry isn’t necessarily online, it’s gained popularity in the past decade thanks to social media. Social media has made it far easier to market your business. These jobs rely on people to sell products or services to their friends, family and neighbors.

This career doesn’t require any specialized experience, so it’s a great option for getting started with online work. Those who are most successful know how to create engaging social media posts, vlogs and other promotional materials. It may not begin paying immediately and is usually a part-time income source.

Content Writing

Writing is a popular way to earn income on your own time. If you’re a skilled writer who is excited about exploring new topics and writing dynamic blogs and web pages, you’ll love a career as a content writer.

Finding a high-paying job can require some digging, but there are many content-writing job boards, companies and gig opportunities online. Content writers can also choose to launch their own business, which requires some patience, persistence and marketing skills.

Editing and Proofreading

Do you have an eye for grammar mistakes? Editing is a popular way to earn online for anyone with experience proofreading, correcting mistakes and refining content. Depending on your experience, editing positions typically pay better than writers. However, many editors are required to have previous experience or a degree in English or a related field.

Teaching and Tutoring

Perhaps the most popular and trending industry is online teaching. Most of these positions are teaching English as a second language, but someone with a teaching certificate or experience can also find a position teaching another subject.

Check out companies that operate out of countries all around the world. Whether teaching adults or children in China, Brazil, South Korea, Russia or any other country, this field can be very rewarding. Prepare to plan around time zones and teach at odd hours.

Surveys

Interested in sharing your opinions online? There is a diverse range of survey-taking positions that pay a small amount for every survey. The work may not pay as high as others, but it requires no experience and is easy to find. Testing apps, shopping surveys or surveys about website experiences are all available for anyone interested in filling out forms for some extra cash.

Investing

Just like traditional investment options, there is a diverse range of online investing opportunities. Use affiliate marketing, make online investments or shop for real estate online. It’s a great way to flex your financial muscles, or you can take out a loan to get started. Not only will you be working online, but you can also generate passive income.

Benefits of Online Work

Working online offers many great benefits compared to traditional careers. Whether you’re feeling stuck in an office or looking for a way to make some extra money in the evenings, here are some of the common benefits reported by online workers:

  • Ability to travel while working
  • Working beyond retirement age
  • Flexible work/life balance
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Lower stress and higher morale
  • Increased efficiency and productivity

Of course, remote work isn’t for everyone. There are some disadvantages to online work that can cause some people to feel less fulfilled with this career option. Some remote workers experience higher levels of stress, loneliness or an inability to meet personal deadlines. Without a community to keep you accountable, it can be difficult to stay productive.

Successful online workers are able to set their own schedules, be proactive when finding work and manage multiple schedules easily. If you have these skills, even a basic understanding of computers is all you need to start your new and exciting career.

Start Making Money Today

Start your online job today. It’s easy to get started, and most gigs don’t require any additional equipment or software. Once you’ve started earning additional income, leverage your savings with a high-yield savings account. With high interest, you’ll see a greater return on your savings and can take advantage of your extra income today.

The post How to Make Money Online appeared first on Credit.com.

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ByCurtis Watts

What to Know Before Taking Out a Subsidized Loan

Attending college or university is a dream for a ton of people. Yet higher education can be expensive, seemingly putting that dream out of reach for many students and families.

Tuition at American schools has steadily increased for decades, so it can be hard for your average student to afford it. But it’s not only tuition costs that you need to consider: fees, room and board, off-campus living, meal plans, textbooks, living essentials and other supplies all cost money.

Fortunately, there are many different types of financial aid available to help you meet the total costs of attending school.

Grants, scholarships and government programs can all be used to aid your pursuit of higher education. Student loans, including private and federal loans, are also commonly used to fund college. But taking on debt requires more financial planning than other types of aid.

If you’re ready to find the right loan for you and your unique financial situation, we’ve got you covered. We’ll go over everything and anything we think you need to know about subsidized student loans—the basics, how they’re different from unsubsidized loans and much more. 

Student Loans and Rising Education Costs

Having a plan for how you’ll pay for college is pretty important. That’s mostly because the tuition continues rise: 

  • According to The College Board, tuition and fees for a public four-year institution in the academic year of 1989–90 were $3,510, in 2019 dollars. 
  • For the academic year 2019–2020, those costs exceeded $10,000. In the same time span, tuition and fees for a private four-year institution rose from $17,860 to nearly $37,000. 
  • In the last 10 years alone, tuition and fees for four-year public schools have increased $2,020, while costs for four-year private schools have grown $6,210. 

But as we mentioned, total costs include a lot more than tuition, and these other cost items have shown the same upward trend:

  • Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows college textbooks costs increased 88% from 2006 to 2016.
  • Average dorm costs at all postsecondary institutions were $6,106 in 2017, per data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Boarding costs, including meal plans, were $4,765. A decade earlier those costs, respectively, were $4,777 and $4,009.
  • Costs rose 24% for students living off-campus at public four-year universities between 2000 and 2017, according to The Hechinger Report.

The growth in college costs has occurred rapidly, outpacing wagegrowth. This has made a degree unaffordable for many. That’s where student loans come in.

The biggest source of these loans is the federal government. According to Sallie Mae, more than 90% of student loan debt today is tied to federal student loans. While the government offers several loan types, often based on financial need, private lenders such as banks and credit unions also make student loans available.

Find the right student loan for you today!

What is a Subsidized Loan?

To better understand your loan options, let’s explore the specifics of one of the government’s most popular offers: the subsidized student loan.

Officially, a subsidized loan is a type of federal loan offered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program and referred to as a Direct Subsidized Loan. They are made exclusively to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and can be used to pay for college, university or a career school.

Subsidized loans work like most other student loans. They allow college goers to borrow money as they learn, paying the principal and interest back later. Most loans don’t require repayment while you attend school, and provide a grace period of six months after graduation for you to find a job. 

The most notable feature of subsidized loans is that the government pays the interest while you attend school at least part time. This is a quality that’s pretty much unique to federal subsidized loans. 

The government will also pay the interest during the grace period and during periods of loan deferment. You eventually assume responsibility for paying the interest, and principal, once you enter the repayment plan. 

The bottom line for subsidized loans is they carry a lower lifetime cost, because the government pays interest while you’re at school.

Who’s Eligible to Take Out a Subsidized Loan?

Subsidized loans aren’t available to everyone, however. In addition to meeting basic requirements for getting a loan from the federal Direct Loan Program, applicants for subsidized loans must:

  • Demonstrate financial need.
  • Be an undergraduate student.
  • Be enrolled at least half time.

Anyone considering a subsidized loan must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is how the government will establish whether you demonstrate financial need that is sufficient for taking out a subsidized loan.

What Else Should You Know?

There are two other main points to discuss about subsidized loans—loan limits and time limits. Ultimately, your school will decide how much you can borrow. But there are annual limits to what you can borrow through subsidized loans, as well as a maximum for the entirety of your college career.

  • In your first undergrad year you can borrow up to $5,500 through federal loan, no more than $3,500 of that amount can be through subsidized loans.
  • In your second year you can borrow up to $6,500, no more than $4,500 through subsidized loans.
  • In your third year you can borrow up to $7,500, no more than $5,500 through subsidized loans.
  • The limits for your third year apply to your fourth year, and any year after that for which you are eligible to borrow through federal subsidized loans.

Factors influencing what you can borrow include what year you are in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student. 

Importantly, you can only receive subsidized loans for 150% of the published time of your degree program. That means if you attend a four-year bachelor’s program, you can only receive a subsidized loan for six years.

What’s the Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans?

Unsubsidized loans are the other type of loan the government offers. While unsubsidized loans and subsidized have some similarities, unsubsidized loans have some major differences.  

Interest rates for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans are controlled and set by Congress. This makes the interest rates for government student loans among the lowest you will be able to find.

While the federal government pays interest on subsidized loans, you’ll be solely responsible for paying interest on unsubsidized loans. You’ll have to pay interest while you’re in school and during the grace/deferment period.  Here are some other key differences:

  • Unsubsidized loans are available to undergraduate students, as well as graduate and professional students.
  • Students don’t need to demonstrate financial need to apply for an unsubsidized loan.
  • There is no maximum time limit for how long you can receive unsubsidized loans (compared to the 150% rule for subsidized loans).
  • Annual and aggregate loan limits are generally higher for unsubsidized loans.

Private Loans vs. Federal Student Loans

Interested in how private loans stack up to government loans? In a nutshell:

  • Private loans can have variable interest rates, which may make them lower in some cases than even fixed interest rates on government loans.
  • Annual loan limits don’t apply to private loans, as you and your lender will work out a package that is best for you.
  • Being approved for a private loan means submitting to a credit check, or having a parent as a consigner.
  • Often, private loans require payment while you attend school, and may not have the allowance for forbearance and forgiveness as government loans do.

Taking the Next Steps Toward Taking Out a Student Loan

If you or your child is nearing college age, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll pay for higher education. It’s a good idea to look into a few options, including student loans, scholarships, grants and other sources. 

If you want to get started on applying for a subsidized loan, get started on your FAFSA form. And if you’re taking a closer look at private student loans, you can find help here.

Infographic outlining what to know about subsidized loans, including their structure, requirements, and qualifications.

The post What to Know Before Taking Out a Subsidized Loan appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

ByCurtis Watts

Skipping Renters Insurance? Why That’s a Bigger Risk Than You’d Think

As a finance writer, I am surrounded by people who know a lot about managing money. But even those with the most money know-how can still miss financial must-haves.

For instance, in a recent conversation, a few of my coworkers stated they didn’t have renters insurance. This puts them among the 59% of renters who don’t have renters insurance, according to a poll from the Insurance Information Institute. On the other hand, 95% of homeowners carry homeowners insurance.

Granted, renting comes with fewer property responsibilities than owning. But don’t assume you can skip insurance for your home simply because you’re leasing it. Go without it and you’ll expose yourself to some major risks.

See why opting for a policy is protection you can’t live without, and learn how renters insurance can help smooth over the following five major renting crises.

1. Damaged Belongings

If you’re asking yourself whether you need insurance as a renter, a better question might be, Can you afford not to have it?

If the relatively small cost of a renters insurance premium—typically between $15 and $25 per month—seems too expensive, consider the alternative, suggests John Espenschied, agency principal of Insurance Brokers Group.

“Imagine replacing all your clothes, furniture, electronics, food, personal items, and priceless personal memorabilia,” he says. With renters insurance, the insurer will cover most or part of the value of damaged items. Without this coverage, you’re completely on the hook for all those costs.

Espenschied tells a story of one of his clients, a young woman to whom he recommended rental insurance multiple times. She declined the coverage.

Months later, there was an electrical surge in the building. “It took out everything she owned that was plugged in, including the TV, computer, and several other items,” Espenschied explains. These items were permanently damaged and unusable.

Had she opted for renters insurance, Espenschied could have helped her submit a claim and get the money to replace those belongings. Unfortunately, without the policy there was nothing he could do.

Don’t put yourself in the same position—get a renters insurance policy. On top of that, take steps to document all belongings and valuables so you can prove ownership in a renters insurance claim.

2. The Temporary Loss of a Habitable Home

Some disasters—such as fires, flooding, and electrical issues—can require extensive repairs and render your rental uninhabitable. Your landlord will usually handle these repairs, but if you lose the use of your home, your landlord might only be required to refund a prorated rent for the days you can’t live in your rental.

But if you’re out of a place to live, your daily rent rate might not cover any decent hotels or other temporary housing options.

But there’s good news: “Most renters insurance policies can help you in the event something happens to your apartment or house and you have to live elsewhere while it’s repaired,” says Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO and cofounder of insurance comparison site PolicyGenius.

Typically, you can find a hotel nearby and your renters insurance will cover the costs of your stay until you can resume habitation of your home.

3. Stolen Belongings

Renters insurance typically includes coverage for theft and burglary too. If your home is broken into or burglarized, you can file a claim with your renters insurance provider to replace any stolen or damaged items.

“It even covers your belongings when they’re not physically in your home,” Fitzgerald says. “So if you take your laptop with you to the local coffee shop or on vacation and it’s stolen, your policy could help cover the costs of getting it repaired or replaced.” Renters insurance will usually be the policy that covers theft of personal items from your car too.

If your home is broken into or your purse is stolen from your car, promptly notifying authorities is an important step—filing a renters insurance loss claim will usually require a police report of the theft.

4. Personal Liability for Legal Damages

The most important protection your renters insurance provides, however, might be personal liability protection.

“If your dog bites someone or a food delivery person slips and falls, you’re covered,” says Stacey A. Giulianti, chief legal officer for Florida Peninsula Insurance. Instead of being held personally responsible for those damages, your insurer will step in and help. “The carrier will even hire and pay for an attorney to defend any resulting lawsuit.”

This can be especially important if you are found responsible for damage to adjacent properties as well, Espenschied says. For example, renters insurance will cover you if your toilet or tub “overflows and leaks into the neighbor’s unit below, causing damage to their personal property and cost to repair the building.” You may also be covered if a kitchen fire in your apartment causes damage to the unit above you.

The damage and loss can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars. In cases like these, renters insurance can be the difference between smooth recovery and huge financial loss or even bankruptcy.

Make sure you understand your coverage. “Every policy is different, so talk to an agent and read your policy terms,” Giulianti warns.

5. An Eviction for Violating Your Lease Agreement

Many lease agreements include a clause in which the tenant agrees to purchase a renters insurance policy. These common clauses usually clarify that the landlord’s property insurance coverage does not extend to your personal belongings.

If you sign a lease with such a clause, you are agreeing to maintain this insurance coverage throughout your residency there. If you fail to get a policy or allow it to lapse, your landlord is within their rights to serve you with a “comply or quit” notice and possibly begin eviction proceedings.

If you don’t currently have a policy, reconsider getting renters insurance. Alongside a healthy emergency fund, having the right insurance can bring vital financial security to your life. For the cost, renters insurance provides protection and peace of mind.

“Most renters can get a policy for around $20 per month,” Fitzgerald says. “That’s a small price to pay when you think about the fact that if you don’t have renters insurance, you’ll be forced to cover the cost of replacing any and all items damaged.”

Procuring a renters insurance policy is a smart step toward financial security. With the right policy, you can avoid debt in an emergency and protect your possessions and your home. If you’re ready to buy a home, learn more about the ins and outs of home mortgages in Credit.com’s Mortgage Loan Learning Center. And to be financially prepared for anything, it’s also a good idea to build your credit score so you can qualify for loans and other credit when necessary. See where you stand with a free credit score from Credit.com.

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ByCurtis Watts

Visa v. Mastercard: How These Financial Tools Are Similar & What Makes Them Different

visa and mastercard difference

You apply for a credit card and the bank sends you one when you’re approved. Whether it’s a Visa, a MasterCard or another type of payment card doesn’t factor into the process. Or does it?

Find out whether you should choose Visa or MasterCard when applying for credit cards and what other information you should know about these companies before selecting a credit card.

The Difference Between Visa and MasterCard

The only real difference that stands between Visa and MasterCard is that your card works on the payment network that the company operates. A Visa card won’t work on MasterCard’s network, and vice versa.

Ultimately, any other differences in cards come from the specific card you have. Not all MasterCard cards are the same, and not all Visa cards are the same.

How Are Visa and MasterCard cards similar?

Visa and MasterCard are both card networks. That means they manage the payment networks on which their cards work, but they don’t actually approve or issue cards to consumers. When you receive a Visa or MasterCard credit card, you get it from a bank such as Chase, WellsFargo or other organizations.

This is in contrast to how cards such as Discover and American Express work. These companies operate payment networks, but they also sometimes issue cards directly.

One benefit of the way Visa and MasterCard work is that they are able to foster much wider acceptance than other credit card companies. Visa’s network is 28 million merchants strong. MasterCard’s network features 30 million merchants. It’s rare that one of the types of cards is not accepted when another is. You’re much more likely to find a merchant that accepts Visa and MasterCard while not accepting Discover or American Express.

Other Similarities Between Visa and MasterCard

Because the specifics of your card depend on what kind of Visa or MasterCard you have, both types of cards offer a variety of options. Here are some of the considerations and options you’ll find whether you choose MasterCard or Visa.

1. Credit scores are required for cards.

The credit card companies don’t decide whether you’re approved for a card or not. It’s the bank sponsoring the card that makes the final call because they’re the one taking the financial risk to extend you credit. Some cards require good to excellent credit scores for approval, while others are approved for individuals with lower credit ratings.

Some banks may even offer credit repair cards for individuals with even lower credit ratings. These tend to have very low credit limits and may come with higher interest rates. Often, cards with the best benefits are approved only for those with good credit ratings.

Find out more about credit scores and what is typically considered a strong score before you apply for any type of credit card.

2. Rewards cards are an option.

Both MasterCard and Visa work with banks that provide rewards credit cards. These can include:

  • Travel rewards, such as points toward discounts on hotel stays, airfare, dining or even Uber rides
  • Store-specific rewards, such as points at retailers like Best Buy or Home Depot
  • Food and beverage rewards, such as free beverages at Starbucks or discounts at favorite restaurant chains
  • Cash back earned on each dollar you spend

The type of rewards you earn with your card depend on the card program, which is offered by the banks, and you can find Visa and MasterCard options for all of the above.

You can find some of the best options for rewards and other credit cards via the Credit.com search tools. That’s true whether you’re looking for MasterCard cards or Visa cards.

3. Fees can range for each card.

Fees are typically set by the banks and not by Visa or MasterCard. What you pay in over-limit, balance transfer, late fees or foreign transaction fees depends on the bank, the credit card offer and the agreement you sign. Don’t rely on the name on the card, and instead, make sure you fully review the offer before you agree to it so you know what fees you’re on the hook for.

4. Apple and Google Pay are options.

Most MasterCard and Visa credit cards work with smart wallet options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. This is good news for credit card holders who are worried about the security risks that come with swiping a card. Instead, you can link your card to the app on your smartphone and pay via your phone at any payment station that accepts these methods.

5. Credit card holder discount programs.

If you use a business credit card, you may be entitled to save money on various purchases. Visa offers its Visa SavingsEdge program which features discounts of up to 15% or more on qualifying merchants that are automatically refunded to cardholders’ statements. Participating merchants include gas stations, hotels and car rental agencies.

MasterCard offers its similar Easy Savings program with discounts for qualifying purchases from gas stations, hotels and car repair chains. In both cases, cardholders must enroll their cards to realize these savings.

Can You Choose Your Own Payment Network?

In cases where banks work with both MasterCard and Visa, you may be able to contact your credit card company to ask for a specific network. This is true even if you were already issued a card on one of the networks already.

Because the bank determines APR, terms and rewards programs, there is often no reason to get into this level of detail when requesting a card. However, Visa and MasterCard both do back some benefits associated with their cards, including rental car insurance, buyer protections, extended warranties and travel insurance. If one of these benefits is extremely important to you, it may be worth it to change to the card network that offers the best option.

Regardless of whether you choose a Visa or a MasterCard card, apply for a credit card right here on Credit.com. Need to know your credit score before applying? Find out by signing up for a free Credit.com account.

The post Visa v. Mastercard: How These Financial Tools Are Similar & What Makes Them Different appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

ByCurtis Watts

3 Ways to Build Credit if You Can’t Get a Credit Card

Credit cards, interest rates, loans, even where you live—these all depend on your credit score. If you have a good credit score, you’re more likely to get better financial offers. But if you have a low or nonexistent score, the chances of getting prime financial offers are pretty slim.

If you have low or nonexistent credit, improving your credit can seem almost impossible. Because you don’t qualify for the best financial offers, you can’t get the opportunities you need to bump up your credit. Plus, you’ll probably find yourself paying a lot more interest than you’d like.

This might feel like a no-win situation. But there’s good news—there are alternatives to building credit besides credit cards. Those with poor or nonexistent credit can have the opportunity to build up their scores. Learn about good credit scores and how you can work to get your rating in that range.

What Is a Good Credit Score?

If you’re completely unfamiliar with credit, it’s time to learn where your credit score stands. Here’s the breakdown—credit scores range between 300 and 850. According to Experian, an average credit score for Americans is around 675.

Credit scores are ranked as bad, poor, fair, good or excellent. Experian’s numbers are based on a model called VantageScore. The VantageScore model is broken down to the following:

  • Excellent: 750-850
  • Good: 700-749
  • Fair: 650-699
  • Poor: 600-649
  • Bad: 300-599

FICO scores are based on a slightly different model with a range of 300 to 850. The average FICO score in 2018 was 704. For FICO ratings, a good or excellent score is above 740. Here’s the breakdown of FICO Score ratings:

  • Exceptional: 800-850
  • Very good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Very Poor: 300-579

How to Build Low or Nonexistent Credit

It is possible to get a credit card for bad credit. But you’ll find that they’ll either have no rewards, higher interest rates or both. These are worth looking into, but you might want to consider other methods before you commit to a credit card. Here are some great options for building your credit score—that aren’t getting a credit card.

1. Get a CreditStrong Account

In a frustrating turn of events, building or rebuilding credit often requires that you have some credit to begin with. That’s where credit builder loans, such as the ones provided by CreditStrong, come in handy. Credit builder loans allow you to take out a loan without a hard credit pull. The money is placed in a locked savings account to secure the loan.

Once you make the required payments, the savings account is unlocked and you gain access to the funds. In the meantime, you get up to 24 months of positive payment reports to the credit bureaus, helping to build your score.

Each loan payment you make will be reported to all three credit bureaus each month, which will help build your credit history. Because 35% of your credit score is based on payment history, making on-time payments towards a CreditStrong account can improve your score.

2. Try Experian Boost

You already know that payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Experian knows that, too. That’s why they launched Experian Boost earlier this year. This program allows you to include both your cell phone and utility payments in the calculation of your credit score.

Worried that you’ll miss a payment or two? Missed payments will typically harm your credit score, but Experian only counts the payments you’ve made on time. That means that any bill you don’t pay on time won’t harm your score. While you should try to pay your bills on time, this is a life-saver if you accidentally slip up on a payment or two.

3. Improve Your Credit with Rent Track

When you have a low credit score, any payment you continually make on time helps. RentTrack is a great rent reporting tool that will track your rent payments, therefore helping you build your score. RentTrack is often used by property management companies, letting their tenants pay rent online.

How does this help your credit score? When you pay your rent, RentTrack offers to report your payments to all three major credit bureaus. If you choose to do, every payment you make will show up on your credit report. Make your payments on time, and you’ll watch your credit score increase over time.

The post 3 Ways to Build Credit if You Can’t Get a Credit Card appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

ByCurtis Watts

I Was Denied an Auto Loan. Now What?

Bright sunshine shines in the windshield of a car as a person with a backwards baseball cap drives with one hand on the steering wheel.

You’re in the market for a new car but you’ve been denied an auto loan. Now what? Here’s what you need to know about why you may have been denied and what to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Why Do I Keep Getting Denied for Auto Loans?

Unfortunately, there are many reasons a bank might reject your application for a car loan. If your loan application has recently been denied or you keep getting denied, it might be due to one of these common reasons:

  • Application errors. Sometimes, the application could be rejected because of an error you made when filling it out. A missed section, some incorrect information, a missing form or another mistake can mean your loan is ultimately denied.
  • Bad credit. Bad credit is a common reason for auto loan denial. A score below 670 is usually considered a bad credit score, and this damages lenders’ trust in your ability to pay off a loan.
  • Too much debt. A high debt-to-income ratio can make lenders leery. If you have a number of loans or credit cards with large amounts of debt, this raises your DTI and may lower your chance of getting approved for future loans, car loans included.
  • No credit. Lenders look for proof of consistency in paying off past loans when reviewing your application. If you have no credit history, lenders may feel they don’t have enough information about your ability to pay off a future loan.

What Can I Do If My Loan Application Is Denied?

You have a few options when you’ve been denied an auto loan, depending on the reason you were rejected.

Application Error

If you were rejected because of an application error on your part, you should contact the bank as soon as you can. Hopefully, the mix-up can be resolved and your request will be approved. If not, the lender will tell you when you can reapply.

Poor Credit

If you were rejected because of poor credit, check your credit report so you can determine what is negatively impacting your score. Depending on what your report says, look into ways to improve your credit so you can be approved next time. Pay your bills on time, and use your credit cards to make and then repay smaller purchases. Keep in mind that building or rebuilding your credit can take a while. Don’t be disappointed if it takes months or even a year or two to really get your score where you want it.

If you need a loan sooner, consider adding a cosigner to your application that can be your backup if you fail to pay the loan. Lenders feel more comfortable with this method, and it’s a good way to prove dependability.

Debt

If you were rejected because you already have too much debt, it’s important to reduce that amount in steady increments. Set a budget and stick to it, tackling the largest debts first. Avoid adding any debt to what you already have. Examine your credit card usage for any unnecessary expenses and cut back on those in the future.

No Credit

If you don’t have a credit history, now’s the time to start. There are a lot of ways to start building your credit: you might be able to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card or find a co-signer for your loan, for example. You also might want to apply for a secured credit card or credit card for no credit.

Find the right credit card for your needs. Learn more.

Does Getting Denied a Loan Hurt My Credit?

Getting denied for an auto loan doesn’t in itself hurt your credit score. The lender didn’t extend anything, so there’s nothing that can hurt your score. However, multiple denied applications at once could hurt your score.

A bank conducts a “hard inquiry” when you apply for a loan. This can cause a drop in your credit score slightly—about five to ten points—whether you’re accepted or not. If you apply for too many loans, numerous hard inquiries on your credit can cause a larger drop.

What Are My Other Options?

If you don’t have time to build or rebuild your credit, can’t get a co-signer, and need a car fast, there are two options to be considered as a last resort.

“Buy Here Pay Here” Dealers

Stop by your neighborhood “Buy Here Pay Here” (BHPH) auto dealer, and one way or another, it will probably get you into a car. It won’t be a new car, and it will probably have lots of miles on it, but at least you’ll get a car you desperately need to get you to and fro.

The BHPH dealer won’t want to talk to you about interest rates. Your local BHPH will focus on your expected monthly payment and ask for a really big down payment. They mostly care about whether or not you have a current, steady income. Based on that, they’ll determine how much they are willing to lend and which car options are available to you. It’s not a great way to buy a car, but for millions of Americans, it is the only way they can make this significant a purchase.

Unfortunately, purchasing a car at a BHPH dealer isn’t a credit boost at all. They usually don’t report anything positive to credit reporting agencies, but they will report negative actions like a missed payment or repossession. Always ask about their late payment policies before making a decision.

Alternative Credit Bureaus

If your credit score is low or your credit history is light based on traditional credit trade lines (credit cards and loans), but you have a solid history of paying your everyday bills, you may be able to take advantage of alternative credit scoring methods. If you can prove your creditworthiness by having your everyday bills verified, some companies will work with alternative credit scoring methods to offer credit. Alternative credit generally doesn’t carry the same weight as traditional credit lines, so interest rates likely will not be as competitive.

At this point, you can go to any dealer and buy the car you really want instead of being limited to the inventory on a BHPH lot. If you can afford the payments, you can buy a new car that’s under warranty and has no mileage on the odometer. If you can continue to work on your credit and improve your credit score, refinancing may even be available down the road.

However, many lenders still do not use alternative credit and don’t view it as proof of reliability. Most of these alternative credit companies also don’t report your findings to the major credit bureaus. So, while these alternative creditors may be a short-term option, building credit through traditional methods should be a priority.

Why Would I Get Rejected for a Car Refinance?

If you were denied for refinancing, it’s probably because of a poor credit score or a high DTI. Usually, these are the same as the reasons you might be denied an auto loan. Your score may have been satisfactory when you purchased the vehicle but taken a few hits since its purchase.

How to Get Approved Next Time

Before you reapply for an auto loan, make sure all your information is in order. Gather your records and make sure everything is ironed out and correct before you go to a lender. For a better shot at loan approval, your credit score should be in a comfortable range, and you shouldn’t have any large outstanding debts. Always check your credit score before you apply. If it’s not high enough for loan approval, work to improve your credit first. Then, make sure you’ve determined what type of payments and interest you can afford.

If you do get denied, don’t worry! By making sure you meet all of the income, credit and debt requirements for an auto loan, you can increase your chance of getting accepted the next time you apply.

The post I Was Denied an Auto Loan. Now What? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com