Updated page here.
For anyone who has yet to hear about CardMatch, it’s basically a credit card search tool that matches your credit profile with pre-approved offers.
Here are the two most common questions people have about CardMatch:
Because this tool is often misunderstood, I’d like to clear everything up with facts and personal experiences.
CardMatch is a tool offered through the CreditCards.com domain. If you haven’t yet stumbled upon CreditCards.com, it is a huge credit card comparison site, with subdomains in Australia, United Kingdom and Canada.
CreditCards.com is owned by Bankrate. Bankrate (NYSE: RATE) is a massive network that’s a trusted source for financial rates and information, and their data is requently referenced on CNN, CNBC, Fox Business News, etc.
Bottom line is, you can use CardMatch with confidence.
Another common misconception is that using CardMatch can ruin your credit. On the contrary, entering in your personal information to use this service only causes a “Soft Pull” on your credit. Soft Pulls do not affect your credit score in any way, and they are commonly done without your knowledge in other aspects of your financial life. Pre-approved credit card offers, employer background checks, and even when you check your own credit score, all usually involve a “Soft Pull”.
The “Hard Pull“, which DOES affect your credit score, will happen when you actually APPLY for one of the credit cards (the same as applying for credit cards anywhere else).
Regardless of whether or not you’re in a hurry to obtain a new credit card, the main reason CardMatch is unique is that sometimes you’ll get matched up with card offers that aren’t available elsewhere. Usually this is in the form of higher sign-up bonuses compared with regular public offers. Because it doesn’t affect your credit score in any way, it’s best to check often for any new offers.
Not everyone will see the same offers; it’s all dependent on your personal credit profile, and whether the issuer happens to have an available offer at that given time.
Historically, American Express has often provided superb offers on CardMatch.
Here are some examples of offers that have been seen on CardMatch IN THE PAST(may not currently be available!):
Personally, I’ve taken advantage of the 250 Reward Dollars offer for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card last year:
What offers will you see? It all depends on the Soft Pull of your credit that determines what offers will show up for you. Even if you have a favored FICO score of at least 700, you may still not get matched with the more favored offers.
Your chances of seeing good offers from American Express may also depend on your history with American Express. Because I’ve taken advantage of the Blue Cash Preferred offer in the past, I no longer personally see these better offers now (my score is over 800 now too). So if you’ve recently applied for an Amex card for a bonus elsewhere, you may not get all the best matches on CardMatch.
It doesn’t affect your credit, so there’s no harm in looking:
Step 1: Go directly to the CardMatch page.
Step 2: Enter in your First Name, Last Name, Current Address, and the Last 4 Digits of your SSN.
Step 3: View your matched offers.
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Find out how to save money on TurboTax in this write-up.
I use TurboTax for both my Business and Personal tax returns, and have been doing so ever since I got into the job market as a professional. You get to do your taxes from the comfort of your own home and have the ability to send everything in electronically.
In 2014 I decided to go through a professional CPA just to see if there was any advantage for doing so. Not only did I spend 8X more money than I would have if I had just bought TurboTax again, I received no advice and no “secret” deductions or anything to make it worth it.
Furthermore, I had to gather and organize all my tax information in detail before submitting the information to the tax firm. Basically, I did all the same work I would have had to do if I had used TurboTax again. Seems like they simply took all the info I organized and plugged it into a tax software similar, and probably inferior, to TurboTax. Obviously everyone’s tax situation is different, but for me it was really a letdown.
Normally importing all your previous year’s tax information into TurboTax is a breeze (had I used TurboTax), but for the following year after using the outside firm I had to manually enter that in also. Lesson learned.
I’m sticking with TurboTax from now on.
*Update for 2017: The prices directly through TurboTax Vs. Amazon has been shifting a bit on which is cheaper. Definitely compare the two before deciding.
There are several places online to get your TurboTax software legitimately. Surprisingly or not, going directly through the TurboTax/Intuit website won’t nab you the best offer.
Also, you may find some of the free tax calculators and tools on their website useful.
They do offer the TurboTax military discount:
Here’s the current promotion from TurboTax:
You don’t have to be a Fidelity customer to take advantage of this offer. Get up to $20 off (both online and desktop versions), whether you are a current customer or are just visiting Fidelity.com.
They’re partnering with TurboTax to offer this discount because you can import your Fidelity account information into TurboTax and have your refund direct deposited into your account if you choose to.
Click below for the offer page.
*Update for 2017: The prices directly through TurboTax Vs. Amazon has been shifting a bit on which is cheaper. Definitely compare the two before deciding.
This is where I buy my TurboTax software from. You can choose to have the CD mailed to you, or download it instantly after your purchase. It’s a heavily discounted rate compared to going directly through Intuit. You can go deep into searching around the web for the best ways on saving a few more bucks, but in the end it may not be worth your time.
Here are all the TurboTax versions for 2016:
TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC/MAC Disc [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile Mac download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal + Fed Efile PC/MAC Disc [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation not included
TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal + Fed Efile PC download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation not included
TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal + Fed Efile Mac download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation not included
TurboTax Premier 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC/MAC Disc [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Premier 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Premier 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile Mac download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Home & Business 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Home & Business 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC/MAC Disc [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
TurboTax Home & Business 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile Mac download [Amazon Exclusive] *State preparation included
Please share any discounts, offers and promotions on TurboTax in the comments section below!
Should you pay in US Dollars (USD) or the local currency at international airports? Local or home currency? Euros or dollars? If you’ve traveled abroad, you’ve probably been faced with these questions when paying by credit card.
I’ve been traveling abroad lately and I had no idea which to choose, or whether or not it even mattered at the time. I mean, I have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, so I assumed it didn’t really matter.
For the most part, that $5 coffee and $6 pastry here and there won’t really matter. But since you’re given the choice, at least make the right one.
This last happened to me at the Dubai International Airport, where I was asked if I wanted the purchase charged in US dollars or AED (Arab Emirates Dirham). You’ll get asked everywhere throughout the world as well when using your credit card (e.g. Euros or US Dollars?).
The bill may look more familiar to see the total in US dollars, but you’re going to get charged a separate currency conversion fee, even if your credit card has no foreign transaction fees.
While I didn’t get the impression when asked personally, I’ve read that many merchants would be more eager to bill you in US Dollars instead of the local currency due to an extra profit margin (perhaps 3% or more).
Now, if you don’t happen to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee (you should!), you’re going to get hit with even more fees (~3%)!
Looks like that’s what it’s called when you pay extra fees to see the bill printed in US Dollars.
Apparently this will happen with Visa and MasterCard, where the business can give you a choice of currency during the transaction. American Express doesn’t allow for it.
If you like seeing your receipt in USD, then that’s totally up to you. Personally, I don’t see the logic if you’ve already made the purchase by the time the receipt is in your hand. I’d much rather prefer using a currency conversion app before making any purchase decision anyway (I use this one, it’s free and updates everyday it seems).
I even remember asking the girl at the register my first trip what do most customers choose, and she just shrugged her shoulders and said everyone is different. It didn’t seem like she was acting as if she didn’t want to let me in on the secret, but rather she actually had no idea. So, I suspect many other travelers are also pretty clueless on the matter.
When given the option, always choose to pay for your purchases at international airports (or anywhere else when abroad) in the local currency, rather than in US Dollars. Save that extra 3% or so in fees, and get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees if you don’t already have one!
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In this article I’ll go over the best banks for foreign debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals.
When you’re traveling abroad, paying a premium in foreign transaction fees on your credit card is nothing new. But even savvy consumers might not know that debit card transactions, including ATM withdrawals, can also be subject to expensive transaction fees. Smart cardholders can avoid paying too much in debit card foreign transaction fees by reviewing the fees charged by different banks.
Other helpful bank guides:
Generally, there are two types of fees associated with foreign debit card transactions:
Banks also have two ways of applying foreign transaction fees:
Let’s take a look at the banks with the lowest foreign transaction fees.
This is Capital One’s online-only banking option. Capital One 360 customers don’t pay any flat fees nor any foreign transaction fees when using their debit cards abroad. According to Capital One, MasterCard may assess a percentage fee, but it’s “covered” by Capital One. Keep in mind that this only applies to Capital One 360 customers; consumers who bank with Capital One through a physical branch are subject to normal foreign transaction fees. Read more about the Capital One 360 Checking account here, along with its bonus offers.
Banking with CitiBank means you can use your CitiBank card to withdraw cash at CitiBank-branded foreign ATMs with no additional fees of any kind. Customers of CitiBank will pay a $2 foreign transaction fee plus a 3% conversion charge on any out-of-network ATM transaction. But, there’s good news: CitiBank has a large international presence, and they’ve made it easy to find a CitiBank location abroad online at this page. CitiBank also offers sign-up bonuses as well.
Discover Bank customers can use their debit card at foreign ATMs and make other transactions abroad with absolutely no fees. The catch is that Discover Bank cards only work in a select few locations outside the United States, like Canada and Mexico. Read more about the Discover Checking account.
Banking consumers who have an opening balance of at least $500 and a monthly average balance of $3,500 or more can benefit from First Republic Bank’s lack of foreign transaction fees. First Republic bank offers free use of 800,000 ATMs across the world and free withdrawals to available limits. First Republic Bank will even refund ATM fees charged by other banks, and there is no charge for other kinds of transactions. Remember that you must have an average monthly balance of $3,500 to maintain these benefits.
The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account will reimburse any ATM fees from cash withdrawals worldwide, regardless of the network used. And there are no currency conversion fees for debit card transactions in a foreign currency. You can read more about Charles Schwab’s Checking and Brokerage accounts.
Here’s more foreign ATM withdrawal fees and foreign purchase fees data on other major banks.
|Bank||Foreign ATM Withdrawal Fee||Foreign Purchase Fee|
|Ally Bank||1% of amount||1%|
|Bank of America||$5 + 3% of amount||3%|
|Bank5 Connect||1% of amount||1%|
|Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T)||$5 + 3% of amount
*No flat $5 fee for account holders in Texas
|BMO Harris Bank||$2.50 + 3% of amount
No flat $2.50 fee for those with Portfolio Checking after the fifth relevant transaction
|Chase Bank||$5 + 3% of amount
*No flat $5 fee for those with Premier Platinum Checking
|Citibank||$2.50 + 3% of amount
*No fees for those using a Citigold debit card in participating countries
|Citizens Bank||$3 + up to 1.8% of amount
*No ATM fee for the first relevant transaction for those with Value Checking.
*No ATM fee for the first four relevant transactions on a Circle Gold Checking with Interest account
|Up to 1.8%|
|BBVA Compass Bank||$3 + 1% of amount||3%|
|Fifth Third Bank||$5 + 3% of amount||3%|
|HSBC Bank||3% of amount
*No ATM fee with Premier Checking in most countries
|M&T Bank||Greater of 50 cents or 3% of amount||Higher value: $5 or 3%|
|Nationwide Bank||$1.50 + 1% of amount||1%|
|Regions Bank||$5 + 3% of amount||3%|
|SunTrust Bank||$5 + 3% of amount||3%|
*No ATM fee with Priority Banking or Private Advantage checking
*No fee with Private Advantage
|U.S. Bank||$2.50 + 3% of amount
*No ATM fee for Premium and Platinum checking.
First four non-U.S. Bank ATM uses free with Student Checking.
*If processing foreign currency to U.S. dollars instead, then the fee is 2%.
|Wells Fargo Bank||$5
*Additional 3% of cash withdrawals made through a teller
|3% of value|
You should always talk to your bank before traveling abroad. Even if they usually charge a fee for foreign transactions, many banks will waive such fees for premium customers or customers that consistently carry a large balance. If your bank has a physical branch or partner bank in your destination country, you may be able to use those branches to avoid foreign transaction fees altogether.
Watch out for fees charged by foreign ATM operators, since these are separate from any charges levied by your bank. The ATM itself should notify you if it will charge you a fee like this.
Nobody wants to come home from a vacation to find a bank statement with unexpected charges for foreign ATM and debit transactions. Always double check with your bank and review the best options before using your debit card abroad.
*Tip: Don’t forget to always have merchants charge you in the local currency vs. US dollars when traveling abroad.
If you book your vacations through a travel engine(I prefer Priceline), you may be in the situation where you don’t always fly with one airline. This is simply one of the consequences of always choosing the lowest fare through a travel engine.
By doing so, it may be difficult to rack up enough frequent flyer miles towards the end goal of free travel. In the beginning, I used to not bother signing up with every single airline mileage program.
I’ve definitely changed my ways, and so should you. Because, really, why not? All of the airline loyalty programs are free to join anyway. So, you may as well start that google/excel spreadsheet and organize all your usernames and passwords after signing up with all the free programs below. 🙂
And if you don’t think you’ll ever accrue enough miles to be worth anything, don’t forget about how Points.com can help you out. It’s free to join Points.com, and the site is basically the middle man that allows you to buy, sell, and exchange your loyalty program points/miles. Check out Points.com here (my article on Points.com).
*See hotel promotions from Priceline
Here are the major airlines with great frequent flyer programs you should start with:
Once you muster up more energy in your fingers, open up these free loyalty accounts:
Also, you may want to keep in mind which airline loyalty programs can transfer miles over to the following popular partners: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Knowing this will give you more options with your accrued miles.
Airlines that can transfer miles between these programs:
Well, you’re officially an adult, headed off to college, and ready to be on your way to responsibility. For all of the college students out there, below are some of the most important basics you need to become familiar with in regards to money/finance.
Learn about the differences between debit and credit cards. Debit cards are tied to your Checking account, and your allowable spending is what you have in total deposits. While this helps to keep you out of debt, debit cards do not typically offer rewards, have less security than credit cards, and won’t help to build your credit.
Credit cards function as borrowed money from the issuer, which may lead to overspending. If you are responsible enough to handle a credit card, consider getting one to start you on your way to building necessary credit for the future, and earn rewards along the way.
Keep tabs on all your spending. Monitoring your Checking account either online or through a mobile app is as necessary as attending classes. The last thing you need is more added stress with unforeseen fees and penalties.
Choose a bank or credit union with limited/no ATM fees. Those couple of dollars every time you hit the grocery store will add up over the semester. See some Checking account options here.
The Prepaid Card option. Prepaid cards are another option for responsible spending. The spending limit with these cards is also constrained to your (or your parents’) deposits. They are accepted just about anywhere credit/debit cards are accepted also. They can be reloaded with reload packs that you find at supermarkets, drug stores, etc. by you or your folks. Some also offer rewards and bonuses.
Avoid cash advances with your credit card(s). This is the process of obtaining cash by borrowing money with your credit card via an ATM, or by cash advance checks deposited into your bank account. Cash Advances come with extremely high interest rates, which often go into effect immediately as opposed to regular spending that only accrues interest when carrying a monthly balance.
Choose a credit card with no annual fee and zero liability fraud protection. As a student your spending typically won’t be great enough to offset the annual fee involved with some rewards credit cards on the market. Fraud protection is always a good backup plan in case your card gets lost/stolen.
Protect your future by planning ahead. Making early mistakes with credit will lower your credit score, and could make it difficult later on in life when securing a house, car, and other important transactions.
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If you are looking for a list of free budgeting software, I’ve got a few below to get you started.
Until a few decades ago, people usually kept track of their finances by keeping a journal or diary in which they noted down all their expenditure, investments, savings, etc. In today’s multitasking world, where you may have more than one income stream, more than one earning member in your family, or a whole lot of investments, keeping track of all these in one place is the most important thing you can do to keep your life and wallet organized!
This list of free budgeting software will give you an idea of some of the best free budgeting software out there, so that you can study them, compare and choose what best suits your lifestyle.
This is a free and web-based personal finance program that gives you a bird’s eye view of where all your money is-whether it be in your credit cards, banks, or investments including stocks and mutual funds. It is available only in the United States of America and Canada. This gets into our list of free budgeting software because it has many useful features that not only help you track your money, but also potentially control your spending. You can plan a budget for yourself or your family and it would notify you if you have spent more than the limit set by you. It also suggest ways to save money.
Moneydance is fast becoming one of the more popular free budgeting software available today. Through Moneydance, you can even make all your online payments, so you already have a record of your expenditure automatically on the software. It also features multiple, international currencies, which makes it easier to track your foreign investments and expenditure. You will be reminded to pay your bills and can even print out checks through this software. You can download it for free, with a limit of 100 transactions manually entered.
Budget Simple makes it to our list of free budgeting software because it is so smart that you can feed it your budget or finances, which it then analyzes to give you a workable budget that will help you save more! It will give you tips and tricks to cut corners. You have the option of manually entering your transactions or of automatically syncing it with your bank account.
GnuCash is completely free as well as open source. It is available on all operating systems from Linux to Windows. It gives you reports and graphs that are very detailed, so if you are a visual sort of person, this would be the software for you. You can also schedule transactions that are recurring, so you can plan ahead and pay your bills on time. You can use GnuCash both for your personal finances as well as to keep track of your small business transactions.
With this list of free budgeting software, your finances will firmly be under your control!
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Creditcards.com did an interesting poll this year to see how different age groups are paying for purchases under $5. It looks like cash is king when people are making smaller valued transactions. While I prefer using credit cards for all possible purchases to earn rewards, most consumers don’t feel the same way.
Though I’m not entirely sure it’s everyone’s main reason for doing so, using cash helps to minimize chances of identity theft, especially with all the data breaches this year.
There are two important points I’d like to bring up about the above study.
One is that the 65+ age group is most likely to choose cash over using credit cards. It appears as though they’re not as concerned with building their credit and earning rewards, which isn’t too surprising.
The issue that stands out the most from the study is the fact that the 18-29 age group depends much more on debit cards over credit cards. One likely reason is that this typical demographic prefers a more secure way of limiting spending.
I’m all for responsible spending, but everyone should realize that debit cards typically don’t offer rewards for purchases and provide less protection compared to credit cards. When fraud does happen, cardholders could be liable for unauthorized charges of $500+ with debit cards, versus the usual max of $50 with credit cards. Again, debit cards also don’t help to improve credit, which I would say is definitely important for this age group.
If you’re in the 18-29 age group, consider opting for your credit card over your debit for all transactions involving a swipe. 🙂
Update page here.